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.
Photo courtesy of CNS photo/Ernie Mastroianni.