July 22, 2012

Ethics and Capitalism: An Interview with James A. Sadowsky, S.J.—Part 7 of 9

Private Property and the Common Good
You say private property is an imperative of human nature.
I’ve already cited Leo XIII. It’s the only rational way to allocate resources.  If people aren’t allowed to keep the fruit of their labor, they’ll have little incentive to produce. Private property rationalizes production and increases well-being.
If private property is that central to being human, what happens to those human beings who don’t have any?
They’re in a better situation than if no one did. In most cases, everyone has some private property.  But, even so, the fact that someone has private property benefits those who have none.
Just how does the private property of a few benefit the whole?
The benefit isn’t a function  of the paucity of property owners, but from the very existence of private property. The market constrains producers to produce for the satisfaction of society.
Do you believe that the right of property ought to be limited for the common good?
It is important that the owner administer his property in such a way that it benefits the commonweal. How is that brought about? The problem is not whether or not controls exist, but rather whether they are exercised by market forces or by state regulation and intervention.  I maintain that the market solves this problem perfectly. Producers who do not adequately satisfy society’s needs very soon find themselves without property.
Do you believe the laws of the market ought always to function without intervention?
Yes, except when it results in harm to others, like fraud, pollution, etc.
But during wartime, for example, we resort to rationing and controls.
I agree with Henry Hazlitt, who held that precisely in times of war it is imperative that the market works freely. The greater the emergency, the greater the necessity not to intervene in the market’s functioning.  Rationing ought never be permitted, because it results in shortages.
The Church seems to favor the laws of the market, except when it comes to wages, and so she asserts that there ought to be a “living wage,” a just wage that permits dignified living.  What is your opinion?
There should be no intervention in the setting of wages. It is good to create conditions that permit adequate compensation for labor. But I don’t believe that that’s accomplished by intervening in labor markets. That only creates benefits for some at the expense of others or in the idleness of those “benefited. If employers have the capacity to pay an adequate salary, the market obliges them to pay it.
To Be Continued