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The Pope and the Party

ALBERTA – As the twentieth century neared, Pope Leo XIII, grieving for humanity’s choice between atheistic socialism and venal liberalism, commissioned Catholic intellectuals to devise a better solution. Named Corporatism and set forth in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, Leo’s interwar successor, Pius XI, recounted that it “laid down for all mankind the surest rules to solve aright that difficult problem of human relations called ‘the social question.’”

Corporatism (which should be distinguished from the tripartite bargaining structures that emerged in many countries in the 1970’s under the name “neo-corporatism”)became the most influential ethically motivated intervention into economics in modern history. As Catholic social doctrine until the late twentieth century, Corporatism still shapes constitutions, laws, and attitudes throughout the world. It can be distilled into four tenets:

·         Equality is a cruel illusion: people are happiest if rightly placed in a hierarchy legitimized by Catholic teachings.

·         Competition is spiritually demeaning. Associations – committees of Catholic business owners, labor leaders, and officials – must set quotas, prices, and wages within vertically connected swaths of the economy called corporations. A typical Corporatist economy might contain thirty or so corporations – foods, heavy industry, textiles, chemicals, etc. – each encompassing raw materials, production, distribution, and retailing firms. International trade and new firms are undesirable, because they undermine associations’ power.