Catholic scholars, professional economists, politicians, and writers will soon have access to the full text of the massive 5-volume work by the German Jesuit Heinrich Pesch, "Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie" (Textbook of National Economics) which has been termed the most comprehensive treatment of economics ever written. Constituting almost 4,000 pages in length and comprising a veritable "Summa Economica", this remarkable work by Pesch bids to make a great Catholic thinker and economist better known to the English speaking world whose economies fall far short of the imperatives of Christian morality. The "Lehrbuch" will be published by the scholarly Edwin Mellon Press, Lewiston/Queenston, N.Y.
Fortunately, Dr. Rupert Ederer, Professor Emeritus of the State
University College, Buffalo, New York, has already provided readers with relevant
selections from Pesch's "Lehrbuch" in a volume "Heinrich Pesch on
Solidarist Economics: Excerpts from the 'Lehrbuch der Nationalokonomie'"
(University Press of America, Lanham/ New York/ Oxford, 1998). It is presently available in a hardcover edition from Fidelity Press, 206 Marquette Ave., South Bend, IN 46617 ($46 plus $3.50 S&H).
For Dr. Ederer, there can be no question that Heinrich Pesch was "probably the greatest economist who ever lived", developing "an economics in total harmony with the teachings of the Catholic Church about Christianity." This is no mean tribute from Dr. Ederer who has himself devoted much of his own scholarship to analyzing the import of the Papal Social Encyclicals, translating the works of that pioneer of modern Catholic social thought (the great German Bishop Wilhelm von Ketteler), and introducing readers via various articles to the "Economics of Solidarism" of Heinrich Pesch, S.J.
As Dr. Ederer notes in his 1998 volume, Pesch was a trained economist, and:
"On the basis of his social philosophy termed solidarism, he went on to develop an economic system called solidaristic or social system of human work. It was designed to alleviate what the Jesuit scholar saw as the devastating effects of economic liberalism in the capitalistic order, and to avert the preposterous alternative suggested by Marx and his followers."
Diagnosing the great social question of the 19th century (namely the plight of the working classes subjected to the injustices of laissez-fare capitalism fueled by the materialistic philosophy of the Enlightenment), Pesch refuted the errors of individualistic liberal capitalism and foresaw the emergence of reactionary Socialist systems which were to soak the earth with the blood of countless millions. As the "Apostle of Solidarism", he expounded an authentic Catholic socio-economic philosophy which opposed both the individualism of the "autonomous man" and the collectivism of an "inhumane state socialism."
His rejection of "values-free economics" and his themes of personalism, solidarity, subsidiarity, and "social justice and social charity" (all emphasizing the need for cooperation among all the members of society to achieve the common good) were to clearly influence the social thought of the Papal encyclicals of the modern era and the social thought of Pope John Paul II in particular. One has only to read Pope John Paul II's "Laborem Exercens" (1981), "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" (1987), and "Centesimus Annus" (1991) to note the remarkable similarity of ideas in the writings of the Pontiff and the German Jesuit. Who, moreover, does not know that "solidarity" has become an endless refrain on the lips of the Polish Successor of Peter?
Pesch's erudition in the "Lehrbuch" focuses on major social and economic issues which remain at the heart of the political controversies being waged between the major parties in many nations today. The moral foundation for human dignity and the sanctity of human life, the limits of government, the excesses of modern liberalism and conservatism, the social use of private property, the market economy and plutocracy, free or fair trade, protectionism, the family wage, the just price, the just wage, women in the work force, the place of unions in a solidaristic economy, inflation and usury are among the matters treated with the profundity of a master who is both theologian and economist.
Pesch's defense of the family is one of the most appealing aspects of his social thought, and one that is most needed today. The following extract will give the flavor of Peschian economics which assuredly deserves the study not only of professional economists but of every layman called by the Church to foster a true "civilization of love" according to Christian precepts:
"The capitalistic era has served to loosen the sacred bond holding together that most intimate moral community, the family, which is the original cell-unit of human society. Moreover, communistic socialism (as advocated by certain of its exponents) wants to dissolve that bond completely. The social system of human work, on the other hand, requires the restoration of the family. It calls for the solidarity and unity of the family so that parents can be to their children and children can be to their parents what the natural order of things calls for. The reform of the family is not primarily the responsibility of the economic system, but the way in which an economy is organized must not at any time stand in its way or contribute to the destruction of the family. In the very nation where "natural freedom" became the big thing, the engineer and economist LePlay urged the state to intervene and regulate child and female labor. He called for a new social policy which would everywhere restore the woman, the mother, and the children to the bosom of the family; and he urged an end to Sunday labor, and also shorter hours of work so that the father would again become a part of the family. He urged that a family wage be paid to the father, which would enable him to act as and remain its sole support. It is, of course, easier for the father to take his rightful place in the family where he has that measure of economic independence which was the priceless advantage enjoyed by the middle class in earlier times and the upper classes before the age of the factory worker dawned. The maintenance and strengthening of the middle class is, therefore, not a mere economic issue. It goes beyond that, and is a problem of great moral and social significance."
In answering the appeals of Pope John Paul II and the Magisterum of the Church to apply the social doctrine of the Catholic Church to contemporary society, the laity will find in Heinrich Pesch's solidarist economics a powerful resource of thought and action to help bring about the social reign of Christ in the nations of the Third Millennium.
- Jesus to Satan - (Matt. 4:4)