Michael Miller’s essay in Christian Theology and Market Economics focuses on “Business as a moral enterprise.” In part, he offers a summary of John Paul II’s teaching on economics and business, especially as expressed in the encyclical Centessimus Annus . As one might expect, John Paul puts business into the context of a personalist theology and anthropology. According to the Pope, this determines the meaning and place of economic freedom: “Economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, when man is seen more as a producer or consumer of goods than as a subject who produces and consumes in order to live, then economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person and ends up by alienating and oppressing him” (116).

It also affects his assessment of capitalism. The Pope “rejects the Marxist term ‘capitalism,’ which was focused on structures, ‘labour’ and ‘capital.’” Instead, he places emphasis on the person: “If capitalism means ‘an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property . . . as well as free human creativity in the economic sector’” then it should be defended and adopted as an economic system.” But if “capitalism” does not put economic freedom “at the service of human freedom in its totality,” then it is a distorting system. In general, John Paul prefers the terms “market economy,” “free economy” or “business economy,” and most fundamentally he wants to shift away from any “mechanistic vision of man . . . o a vision of individual persons and groups meeting their own needs through creative private initiative” (116).

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Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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