Blessed Are the Rich

Samuel Gregg's 'Tea Party Catholics'

The Catholic Case for Limited Government, a Free Economy, and Human Flourishing
Samuel Gregg
Crossroads, $24.95, 260 pp.

Christianity has always been skeptical toward arguments that defend the selfishness, greed, or self-interest of the rich and powerful as a necessary condition for the peace and prosperity of all. In his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis denounced a contemporary version of this kind of argument, describing “trickle-down economics” as an opinion that “has never been confirmed by the facts.” This theory has failed, he writes, to bring about “greater justice and inclusiveness.” Recent economic history supports the pope’s judgment. In the past three decades, deregulation and tax cuts for the rich have not helped the poor, while cuts to social-service programs have predictably hurt them.

But not everyone has noticed. The Acton Institute, a Catholic think tank based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is devoted to reconciling trickle-down economics with the church’s social teachings. In the gospel according to Acton, the church’s preferential option for the poor is really a preferential option for laissez-faire economic policy, which they believe is a sure path to universal prosperity. Blessed are the poor, for they shall enjoy the fruits of free enterprise if only governments will get out of the way.

The institute’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, has recently written a catechism of the Acton creed,...

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About the Author

Charles M. A. Clark is professor of economics at St. John’s University in New York.