Things to Read on the Morning of December 3, 2013
The Short Run and the Long Run: Savings Gluts, Investment Shortfalls, too-Low Inflation Targets, Reduced Risk-Bearing Capacity, and the Failures of Our Public Sphere...: Monday Focus

Morning Must-Read: Ryan Avent on the Social Gospel and Its Critics

Ryan Avent: Economic growth: On the inevitability of justice:

The Pope... offered a lengthy statement on economic justice.... 'Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world...This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacra­lized workings of the prevailing economic system.'

On Saturday Greg Mankiw... weighed in.... 'It is sad to see the pope using a pejorative, rather than encouraging an open-minded discussion of opposing perspectives.Third, as far as I know, the pope did not address the tax-exempt status of the church. I would be eager to hear his views on that issue. Maybe he thinks the tax benefits the church receives do some good when they trickle down.'

This is just the sort of response that leads non-economists to detest economists: condescending, callous, and, worst of all, intellectually lazy. It is also an example of some truly epic point-missing.... The Pope does not appear to be attacking growth. Rather, he is attacking the view that 'economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world'.... Mankiw... certainly seems to be displaying precisely the viewpoint that the Pope is warning about: don't worry about the outcomes of growth (and for heaven's sake don't do anything about them), because growth is pretty rad.

But let's be clear. Historically it has taken quite a lot of hard work to ensure that economic growth does bring about greater justice and inclusiveness.... Mankiw might argue that growth enabled the generosity the led to social pressure for change.... If you want to praise growth as justice-enhancing because growth improves our moral intuition, then you also have to praise those who act on their moral intuition in an effort to create institutions that deliver greater justice. Mr Mankiw would rather be snide and complain that the Pope is name-calling...