Which economist would Jesus follow? If he's anything like the Pope, it's not exactly Hayek.
Pope Francis released Tuesday his first official document since becoming pope in March. The document, entitled "Evangelii Gaudium" or "The Joy of the Gospel," makes the usual calls to Christians, asking Catholics to renew their relationships with God and evangelize, but it also takes a firm stance against persistent economic inequality.
The document contains sections entitled "No to an economy of exclusion," "No to the new idolatry of money," and "No to the inequality which spawns violence."
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" Pope Francis writes in the 224-page document.
Perhaps most strikingly, Francis lashes out specifically against one of the more famous economic theories of the 20th century – the trickle-down economics embraced by the Reagan administration. Not only does he argue that he does not believe in this theory; he argues there is no evidence that it works.
"[S]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system," he writes. "Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting."
Though a lecture on economics from the pope may be unexpected, it is perhaps more fitting from this particular pontiff. Pope Francis is known for his advocacy on behalf of the poor and those on the fringes of society – on Holy Thursday this year, he washed the feet of 12 juvenile inmates in a Rome detention center. In his latest writing, he also extends the theme of economic justice to the environment.
"In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule," he writes.
It wasn't just supply-side economics that took a bruising in the pope's first official document: he also took a swing at the idea of the "end of history," an argument made famous by political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his 1992 book in which he argued that governance had found a pinnacle in liberal democracy. Persistent and heavy inequality, Pope Francis writes, are evidence that humanity has far to go.
"Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. ... We are far from the so-called 'end of history,' since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized," Pope Francis writes.