This morning, the new head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, sent the following Tweet: “My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost.”
The Pope has this exactly wrong. The profit motive is responsible not for causing unemployment, but for facilitating all the jobs that people do have.
A business owner hires an employee because he hopes to expand production and make more money, and the employee accepts a job in order to gain the financial and spiritual rewards of performing the work. That is, employer and employee negotiate terms of employment precisely so that both parties can profit.
What, then, causes unemployment? Leaving aside the small amount of normal turnover in the job market, the cause of chronically high unemployment is government coercion that deters or forbids individuals and businesses from profiting by freely negotiating terms of labor. Such coercion includes payroll taxes, employment mandates, and wage controls.
If Pope Francis wishes to condemn those responsible for causing chronic unemployment, he should first remove the plank from the eye of the Catholic Church, which, in various ways supports the coercion in question. As just one example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops proclaims, “Catholic bishops have supported increasing the minimum wage over the decades.”
The Catholic Church lends its faithful and political support to (among other employment-throttling policies) laws forbidding the free negotiation of employment contracts—laws that have crushed employment opportunities particularly among minority youths.
If Pope Francis does not wish employers to gain a profit by hiring employees, what does he wish them to gain? A loss? And how long does he expect business owners to continue providing jobs if they operate at a loss? Perhaps he expects a miracle.
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