5.3.5 Response to Exercise



*  ##22-24:  Ownership of property

The right to private property is subordinate to the truth that “God intended the earth and everything in it for the use of all human beings and peoples” (#22, quoting GS #69).  In other words, that right is subject to the universal destination of goods (cf. 1.3.6), and so is “not absolute and unconditional” (#23).  Here PP is reiterating what a section of GS about property had spelt out (GS, ##69-71), including about the possible legitimacy of land reform, as long this enhances a country’s common good and not the overseas bank accounts of corrupt government personnel (#24).

*  ##25-26: The importance of industry and its distortion by economic liberalism

Industrialization is highly positive, but a wrong understanding of economic life distorts it badly, namely one which subjects all that happens in business to profit and sees private ownership as absolute and carrying no social obligations.  This is “unchecked” or “unbridled” liberalism, “a type of capitalism” that is a source of “excessive suffering, injustices and fratricidal conflicts” (#26).1. Note that the text is not at all negative about private business as such, only about its distortion by economic liberalism.

*  ##27-28: The inherent goodness of work and the need to recognize workers’ dignity

The role that God has given human beings, as those made ‘in the image of God’, is co-operation “in completing the work of creation” (#27).  This involves work of all kinds, through which human persons themselves develop and also find great unity with co-workers.  But, like business, work can be distorted and so “can threaten man’s dignity and enslave him” (#28); it must urgently be rescued from such distortion.



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  1. “Unbridled” is used in the translation at www.vatican.va.  Otherwise the translation is the Paulist edition.