Pope Francis is an amazingly productive author. On October 3 he released a new encyclical letter (All Brothers), now he published a new book, Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future.
We learn from UCL that the Pope commends in the book Mariana Mazzucato’s work and that in the book:
The Pope … states that Mazzucato’s The Value of Everything “provoked a lot of reflection” within him as the book issues a direct challenge to the wealth creators of our world, urging them to reprioritise ‘value’ over ‘price’. In other words, ‘taking’ wealth is not the same as ‘making’ wealth, and the world has lost sight of what value really means.
That a Pope praises an economist is always a news item, though this is not a first. If I’m right, John Paul II mentioned in public several times his friend and advisor Michael Novak, who, though not an economist, provided him with help in crafting the encyclical letter Centesimus Annus. In that letter, however, the then-Pope did not quote economists, but reasoned on the compatibility between Catholic social thinking and the market economy. Francis, on the other hand, as in his last encyclical, prefers quoting himself and is quite parsimonious with references to the Catholic tradition, including the Scriptures.
In a book that deals largely with Mazzucato, The Myth of the Entrepreneurial State, Deirdre McCloskey and I have a chapter in which we sort of anticipated Pope Francis was to fall in love with Mazzucato’s work. Here’s a dash of our argument:
We disagree on the matter with the priest and with Zamagni and with Mazzucato and other good-hearted folk. We note that the independence of the individual in a liberal economy lets people exchange as they wish with free will—and it results in the great and good interdependence of modern life. Catholic social teaching of the sort Zamagni retails doesn’t get the point. One-to-one cooperation is splendid, and certainly subject to “intentionality.” You give virtuously to the worthy beggar, intentionally, consciously, in full knowledge of who is benefited. But one-to-many cooperation is by far more significant in life beyond the Desert Fathers in their hermitages. Your shoes, TVs, books, and whatever come of course from the voluntary paid work of thousands of people worldwide. They and you are cooperating every day, for producing a baguette out of self-interest and pride of craft. Interdependence gives everyone a mutually voluntary access to the talents and resources of everyone else. People do not know personally their benefactors, who grind the flour for their baguette or drive the truck to deliver it to the baker. As Hayek explained, in his somewhat Germanic English, “in an order taking advantage of the higher productivity of extensive division of labour, the individual can no longer know whose needs his efforts do or ought to serve, or what will be the effects of his actions on those unknown persons who do consume his products or products to which he has contributed.” Nonetheless the buyer receives the correct signal from its price, learning the cost to other people that is to be compared with the gain to the very buyer. Benefit minus cost is gain to the person and to society. It is, to use the business jargon, “value creating.” The economist’s word is simply “profit.”
For the rest, read the book. If you like it and you’re Catholic, please consider buying an extra copy and sending it to Pope Francis in Vatican City. You know, the way of providence.