In his recent address to representatives from the United Nations, Pope Francis called for “the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the State” in order to alleviate poverty. The pope believes economic inequality is wrong and that government should forcibly remedy the problem.
But the pope is wrong on both counts.
First, coercive wealth redistribution (i.e., “redistribution of economic benefits by the State”) is inherently illegitimate because it violates individuals’ rights to keep or use their own wealth as they see fit, a right derived from the requirements of man’s life and happiness on Earth. Second, there is nothing wrong with economic inequality.
Invariably, in the course of pursuing their personal values and goals in life, some individuals will acquire more wealth than others; but as long as they do not gain it by violating rights—that is, by initiating physical force or committing fraud or the like—it is morally theirs to keep. Some jobs or careers are more lucrative than others. An investment banker typically makes more money than a cashier. An orthodontist usually makes more money than a nurse. This is not a problem; it’s simply a matter of different interests, different skills, different choices. Some people might feel that certain professions are underpaid or that others are overpaid, but the morally correct payment for someone’s work is always a matter of voluntary agreement between the parties involved.
But not according to the pope. The pope believes that inequality of wealth is unjust and that the solution is (as Obama puts it) to spread the wealth around. Why does the pope believe this? Because the Bible tells him so. . . .