The Pope vs. Capitalism and Human Progress: Q/A with Cato's Marian Tupy


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"The culture of prosperity deadens us," wrote Pope Francis in December's widely discussed papal exhortation, Joy of Gospel. "We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else's responsibility and not our own."

The proprietor of HumanProgress.org, a website that aggregates and updates ongoing improvements in global living standards, says the pope is flat-out wrong in at least two ways. First, argues Marian Tupy of the Cato Institute, Pope Francis doesn't apprehend the massive increases in human well-being, especially among the poorest people on the planet. For instance, milk consumption per person in the developing world has increased over 50 percent in the past 30 years and the infant mortality rate has been halved over the same period.

Second, Tupy says that Pope Francis doesn't appreciate the leading role capitalism, free trade, and globalization has played in making all this happen. Instead, says Tupy, the pope rails against "autonomous" markets and "unfettered" capitalism, incorrectly implying that one person's gain can only come at another's loss.

"If you look at the history of our species, the fact that one day the world should be so prosperous, even though the population is increasing – that is really astonishing," says Tupy, who admits that most people share the pope's dim view of the world today.

The goal of HumanProgress is to present basic facts about improvements and to outline the reasons for those improvements. In countries with greater economic freedom, says Tupy, "the poor are richer, they own a greater share of national wealth, [and] there is less corruption." The pope, he concludes, "should be advocating for more economic freedom, not less." 

About 6 minutes.

Produced by Joshua Swain. Camera by Swain and Reason's Burton Gray intern, Alyssa Hertig.

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