All Commentary
Monday, September 21, 2015

The Pope’s Laughable – and Dangerous – View of Nature

Earth is hostile, not just indifferent, to human life

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

On the opening page of your website today you ask readers to register their agreement or disagreement with this statement of Pope Francis: “This is our sin: Exploiting the Earth and not allowing her to give us what she has within her.”*
This claim is laughable. History testifies unmistakably that the earth is extremely stingy in volunteering to humans “what she has within her.”
Indeed, what the earth has within her are mere raw materials, by themselves useless unless and until human creativity discovers not only how to transform them into actual resources and outputs that improve human well-being (ever try fueling your jet with crude oil?) but also how to “exploit” the earth so that she releases her materials to us at a reasonable cost.
The Pope is vocal about helping the world’s poor. I believe that he’s sincere.
So I sincerely hope that he comes to realize that the greatest of all sins against humanity would be the suppression of those capitalist institutions that have proven to be the only practical means of transforming what the earth has within her into a bounty of goods and services that allows the masses, for the first time in history, to live lives of material abundance and dignity upon her.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University

Cross-posted from Cafe Hayek.

  • Donald J. Boudreaux is a senior fellow with the F.A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, a Mercatus Center Board Member, and a professor of economics and former economics-department chair at George Mason University.