Class Warfare

Class Warfare

The clash between union members and politicians around the country has revived issues I thought we’d settled ages ago. It’s been decades since we’ve heard people talk in such stark terms about “workers” and “capitalists” and everyone’s rights and responsibilities in the economic system—at least in this country. Take a look at this passage:

Rights must be religiously respected wherever they exist, and it is the duty of the public authority to prevent and to punish injury, and to protect every one in the possession of his own. Still, when there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand less in need of help from the State; whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason that wage-earners, since they mostly belong in the mass of the needy, should be specially cared for and protected by the government.

Can you believe that? The “richer class” have lots of ways to defend themselves—they don’t need the government’s protection, while the poor “must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State.” If you think this sounds like something from the turn of the last century, you’re right. If you think it sounds like Marx or Engels, think again. It’s Pope Leo XIII, in Rerum Novarum.

Maybe the poor ain’t so bad.

Photo courtesy of CNS photo/Ernie Mastroianni.


About the Author

Kathleen M. Carroll is the managing editor for the book department at Franciscan Media. She loves reading, gardening, animals, babies, baby animals, and extreme recycling. She is the stay-away-from-home mother to four really good-looking children. And no, she will not read your manuscript.
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  • Margie

    I believe the poor deserve our special attention – they bring Christ alive in our hearts. But I do not believe that the government should legislate how we are to resolve this problem by taxing us based on a structure that breeds class warfare and fosters the sin of envy! I do not believe it is the government’s responsibility. It is our individual responsibility to care for those less fortunate. God loves a cheerful giver and when our earnings are taken from us, it breeds bitterness and contempt. We do much better when we have free will and compassion present in our actions. We do not need to government to demand our money through taxes to fund programs that are poorly managed. We the people, with the Spirit of God guiding our thoughts and actions, can accomplish much more than any government-legislated program. Amen.

    • Katie

      Thanks for the comment, Margie! It is difficult to find the line between personal and societal justice, but I’m grateful for those who consider the question with compassion and intelligence.

  • carrie

    Our country is finding itself in a very precarious and unfortunate situation. We are hopelessly in debt, mainly to China, and yet we continue to spend like the crisis doesn’t exist. When I was growing up, if we didn’t have the money for something, we decided to forego it. As a country, we must face some measures of austerity right away. The US dollar is in danger of not being the global currency anymore. (BTW, read up on the British economy in the 1970s; see if that doesn’t sound all too familiar) If that happens, our US economy, our way of life as we know it will be forever changed. And very few people understand this very simple economic principle. Soon enough, it will be too late…..

    • Katie

      Hi Carrie!

      Clearly you’ve looked into this, and I applaud you for that! I do remember, though, the work of John Kenneth Galbraith (especially The Affluent Society) radically changing the way we think of government’s role, particularly as it relates to spending. For example, we couldn’t “afford” World War II, but we didn’t forgo it, either. There is an upper limit to capitalism and its power to create wealth, but I don’t think we’re there yet. Meanwhile, the gap between rich and poor grows, which creates what I think is a greater danger to the social order (and that’s leaving social justice out of the equation entirely). I hope one day America will be described as The Just Society.

      Thanks for the comment!