the social market

An excellent lecture by the British philosopher Roger Scruton is available here. Titled "Röpke's Humane Economics: Lessons for the European Union," it deals with community, economy, the state and the common good - some of our favorite subjects around here.

Some samples to encourage you to listen:

On the concept of subsidiarity:
Pius XI intended this word, subsidiarity, as a description of the Church’s own organization, through the episcopate, according to which decisions are always taken at the subsidiary level, the lowest level compatible with unified government. But he also implied that economic and political life might be similarly organized, so that power was always passed up from the bottom and never imposed from above. All that might sound like a call for the empowerment of civil society rather than the state, and so it was interpreted by Röpke, who took the concept of subsidiarity as foundational for his doctrine of de-centrism.

However, it should be noted that Quadragesimo Anno marked the first inclusion of genuinely socialist ideas into the teachings of the Church. Economic freedom, the encyclical argued, does not lead of its own accord to the common good, but stands in need of true and directing principle. That principle, according to Pius XI, is social justice. Behind that phrase lurks the whole egalitarian agenda, which, in search for an equality of condition, looks eventually to the state to impose it.

(Interestingly enough, in the first draft of the encyclical was composed by Ausfeld von Broening, [sp] a professor of moral theology at the Jesuit school in Frankfurt, and a thinker deeply influenced by Marxist theory of exploitation.)
On the term social justice:
Many of those Röpke influenced were unaware of the poisonous nature of the weasel-word, social, as Hayek was later to call it. Weasel meaning a word which sucks the meaning from every word to which it is attached, as a weasel sucks eggs. Social justice, as now understood, is no more a form of justice than fool’s gold is a form of gold. It is not what justice was for Aristotle, a matter of giving to each his due, and taking account of rights, obligations and deserts; rather, social justice, as commonly understood, means the reorganization of society with the state in charge, there being no other agent with the requisite power or authority, and with equality as the ultimate goal.
On the social market:
For what the social market amounts to in practice is the intrusion in the economy of another big, anonymous entity, the state, which is quite as capable of externalizing its costs as any other. Not only that, but the state can silence its critics as no corporation can. Thus the social market as practiced in Europe requires the state to step in and provide for those without work, and to provide for the mothers of children who have no resident father. …These are inevitable results of transferring the responsibility for charity from the community to the state, which is itself an inevitable result of the attempt to make a humane economy rather than a humane society.
These selections do not adequately summarize his argument, but they give you a hint of the subject matter.

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