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Pope John Paul II condemns neoliberalism in Ecclesia in America, as social sin that cries to heaven

Pope Condemns Neoliberalism

“More and more, in many countries of America, a system known as “neoliberalism” prevails; based on a purely economic conception of the human person, this sytem considers profit and the law of the market as its only parameters, to the detriment of the dignity of and the respect due to individuals and peoples. At times this system has become the ideological justification for certain attitudes and behavior in the social and political spheres leading to the neglect of the weaker members of society. Indeed, the poor are becoming ever more numerous, victims of specific policies and structures which are often unjust.”
from Ecclesia in America (No. 56), Report of the Synod of America


Neoliberalism is known in the United States as neoconservatism. Its Catholic proponents are Fr. John Neuhaus, George Weigel, Michael Novak and Fr. Robert Sirico. Their publications are available through the American Enterprise Institue, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Acton Institute and First Things magazine.

1. The ideology of the Invisible Hand of the Market. The authority of the market is unchallenged. For many it is higher than God–an ‘idolatry of the market’ (Centesimus Annus, n.40).

2. Slave wages and unsafe working conditions in poor countries in maquiladoras (factories which belong to companies in the U.S. or other highly developed countries) and in some parts of the United States.

3. It is amazing that “free market” proponents are opposed to big government, but depend on the governments of wealthy nations for their protection in reaping enormous profits at the expense of the poor. Rather than laissez-faire, it is government- supported capitalism for the few.

4. Privatization of all public and state-owned enterprises.

5. Control of women’s reproduction by companies, especially maquiladoras. Proof of no pregnancy frequently required.

6. Tax free zones (no help for the local community) and blackballing of union organizers wherever there are maquiladoras-arranged by the U. S. government.

7. Harsh austerity programs (Structural Adjustment) imposed on poor countries related to repayment of irresponsible loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

8. A World Trade Organization controlled by rich nations to the detriment of poorer ones. A “Group of Eight” well-to-do countries whose representatives meet regularly to plan the world economy.

9. Enormous transnational companies and trade agreements which destroy small businesses.

10. Agribusinesses, operating on a huge scale, which make it im-possible for small farmers to succeed in any country. Large companies patent seeds and plants, which have been developed for centuries by indigenous peoples, stealing them from the poor of the earth.

11. Huge discrepancies between CEO’s making millions of dollars and the salaries of their workers in the United States, as well as in maquiladoras. (A Wal-Mart clerk would have to work 312 years to match the 1997 pay of the Wal-Mart CEO).

12. Government economic policies separated from the common good, making the defeat of inflation the goal above all other economic goals (e.g., Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department). A Catholic neoconservative has stated publicly that slave wages must be paid in poor countries in order to keep down inflation.

13. In neoliberalism the realization of social and ethical ideals is only in the response of the individual. It frees the state from any social and ethical responsibility. Thus, social policy is not necessary.

14. Neoliberalism is a cousin, maybe a first cousin of social Darwinism, where the fittest dictate all and take all.

15. Solidarity is out. Those who make money easily in this system with government support disavow the needy, deny funds for social needs, and blame the poor or their character or culture for their lack of material goods. Those who receive large stock bonuses often forget the worker who produced them.

16. Pernicious consumerist materialism promoted by advertising, even in poor, developing countries.

17. Neoliberalists/neoconservatives declare that the only alternatives are their policies are socialism or Communism. Not true! There are other ways! (e.g., Jeff Gates, The Ownership Solution, Addison Wesley, 1998.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIX, No. 2, Mar.-Apr. 1999.