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Pope Slams Rampant Inequality, 'Economy That Kills'

'The socioeconomic system is unjust at its root'

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Pope Francis has issued a new document in which he rails against growing inequality, trickle-down economics and the current socioeconomic system that "is unjust at its root."

"Today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Pope Francis wrote in a new document. (Photo: © European Union 2013 - European Parliament)Issued on Tuesday, his 224-page document, called an apostolic exhortation, is titled The Joy of the Gospel, and follows previous remarks the pontiff has made against inequality.

From the document:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. 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? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Further, the Pope writes, "the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root," and thus spawns violence.

"Until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence," he wrote.

Security is impossible in a state with rampant inequality, and cannot be provided through the surveillance state or militarism, he continued:

When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts.

As for adherents to so-called trickle-down economics and austerity policies, he says:

... some 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. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

While some have welcomed Pope Francis' comments against inequality and war, he has been the target of criticism as well, including accusations of ties to Argentina's rightwing junta during the country's military dictatorship.

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