"... the right of private property may never be exercised to the detriment of the common good." When "private gain and basic community needs conflict with one another," it is for the public authorities "to seek a solution to these questions, with the active involvement of individual citizens and social groups."
- Pope Paul VI.
An encyclical issued on March 26, 1967 "on the development of the peoples". It addresses the situation of the poor nations when compared to the rich ones, and how it is our duty to rectify this situation for moral and theological reasons.
While stressing that the Church is seperate from the State and therefore cannot be involved directly in the implementation of the policies it sets out, it provides a telling philosophy on private property and issues of the redistribution of wealth.
"God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should flow fairly to all." All other rights, whatever they may be, including the rights of property and free trade, are to be subordinated to this principle."
The message in the above, taken from paragraph 26, is clear: Man's right to private property and to dispose of the property as he wishes, ie. by trade, is null until every man has the basic necessities of life. The encyclical does not describe who should provide these necessities for the poor men who lack them. It is stated that while one man goes hungry, no other man has a right to food beyond what he himself needs to survive.
While not condemning industrialization, the encyclical does condemn certain "economic concepts" which have arisen with it, such as free competition and unconditional private ownership of the means of production. There is a strong argument that the Industrial Revolution would not have occured if it were not for these driving forces, which motivate men to increase efficiency and productivity - but the encyclical denies this link.
"We must repeat that the superfluous goods of wealthier nations ought to be placed at the disposal of poorer nations."
The answer to the inequity between the poor and rich nations is for the rich nations to give as much as they can to the poor - because, as stated above, they have no right to their wealth while others starve! There are problems inherent in this conclusion. Firstly, is it moral to expect people in the rich nations to labour for the benefit of those in the poor nations? Secondly, and more importantly (because obviously the Pope thinks it is moral), will they be willing to? What will make people want to strive for bigger and better things in science and the arts, if the fruits of their labours are distributed among the collective?
The Pope specifically states that he is not advocating a planned economy, and recognises the problems with such. Unfortunately, then, he is demonstrating a profound lack of understanding of human nature: for he expects men to strive for their best in a mixed economy even more aligned to the altruist principle than our current one - where they retain nothing but the basics of existence for themselves. Many would argue that the janitor who sweeps the floor of the research lab and the research scientists themselves should get different rewards for their work.