Pope Francis urged leaders Monday to devise “more inclusive and equitable economic models,” praising those who seek ways “to make capitalism become a more inclusive instrument for integral human wellbeing.”
A just economy would “permit each person to share in the resources of this world and have opportunities to realize his or her potential,” the pope said in his address to participants in a meeting of the Council for Inclusive Capitalism in Rome.
The Council is a result of a 2016 Forum promoting “an exchange of ideas and information aimed at creating a more humane economy and contributing to the eradication of poverty on the global level,” Francis noted.
Seeking ways to make capitalism more inclusive entails “overcoming an economy of exclusion and reducing the gap separating the majority of people from the prosperity enjoyed by the few,” the pontiff remarked.
Francis acknowledged that “business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world” and can be “a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”
At the same time, authentic development cannot be restricted to economic growth alone “but must foster the growth of each person and of the whole person,” he said.
The economy must focus on the good of the human person, he said, and an economic system “detached from ethical concerns does not bring about a more just social order, but leads instead to a ‘throw away’ culture of consumption and waste.”
As he has done on other occasions, Pope Francis insisted that just economic systems must address “rising levels of poverty on a global scale,” reflecting a common myth regarding the state of poverty around the globe.
Last June, the pope said that with the passage of time, the number of poor people increases rather than diminishes and “the poor are always poorer, and today they are poorer than ever.”
As a Brookings Institution report noted late last year, however, 2019 began “with the lowest prevalence of extreme poverty ever recorded in human history — less than 8 percent,” adding that in all likelihood, “this level will set the ‘ceiling’ for a new era of even lower single-digit global poverty rates for the foreseeable future.”
In the world today, less than ten percent of the global population lives in extreme poverty, according to the widely used “international poverty line,” whereby people are considered to be in “extreme poverty” if they live on less than $1.90 per day.
Just 30 years ago (1990), on the other hand, some 37 percent of the world lived in extreme poverty. Two centuries ago nearly everyone in the world lived in extreme poverty.
While in the year 1800 almost 90 percent of the world’s population subsisted on less than $1 a day, that percentage had been constantly falling, dropping below 20 percent in 2000 and below ten percent in the present day.
It is not only “extreme poverty” that is falling, however. The global poverty rate has been falling across every single poverty line, whether the bar is set at $1.90 a day or $10 a day.
It must also be acknowledged that there is no “gap” between the wealthy and the poor, as the vast majority of people live somewhere in the middle.
Poverty is not created. It is the natural state of human beings and has always existed. Widespread affluence is the novelty that needs to be explored and replicated.
The reason there are fewer poor people today is that wealth has been created. There is no point in searching for the causes of poverty but rather in investigating, implementing, and propagating the causes of prosperity.