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Efficiency

One of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use — not abuse — of natural resources, based on a realization that the notion of “efficiency” is not value-free.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #50.

The Church, moreover, intervenes directly in behalf of the poor, by setting on foot and maintaining many associations which she knows to be efficient for the relief of poverty. Herein, again, she has always succeeded so well as to have even extorted the praise of her enemies. Such was the ardor of brotherly love among the earliest Christians that numbers of those who were in better circumstances despoiled themselves of their possessions in order to relieve their brethren; whence “neither was there any one needy among them.”

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #29.


 

For is it not plain that the enormous volume of goods that makes up human wealth is produced by and issues from the hands of the workers that either toil unaided or have their efficiency marvelously increased by being equipped with tools or machines? Every one knows, too, that no nation has ever risen out of want and poverty to a better and nobler condition save by the enormous and combined toil of all the people, both those who manage work and those who carry out directions.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931, #53.


 

Obviously, any firm which is concerned for the human dignity of its workers must also maintain a necessary and efficient unity of direction. But it must not treat those employees who spend their days in service with the firm as though they were mere cogs in the machinery, denying them any opportunity of expressing their wishes or bringing their experience to bear on the work in hand, and keeping them entirely passive in regard to decisions that regulate their activity.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #92.


 

For although many unjust and inhuman economic and social imbalances still exist in our day, and there are still many errors affecting the activity, aims, structure and operation of economies the world over, it is an undeniable fact that, thanks to the driving impulse of scientific and technical advance, productive systems are today rapidly becoming more modernized and efficient–more so than ever before. Hence a greater technical skill is required of the workers, and more exacting professional qualifications. Which means that they must be given more assistance, and more free time in which to complete their vocational training as well as to carry out more fittingly their cultural, moral and religious education.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #94.


 

The individual productive concerns, regardless of their size, efficiency and importance in the State, form but a part–an integral part–of a nation’s entire economic and social life, upon which their own prosperity must depend.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #98.


 

The productive efficiency of many national economies has been increasing rapidly. Justice and fairness demand, therefore, that, within the limits of the common good, wages too shall increase. This means that workers are able to save more and thus acquire a certain amount of property of their own. In view of this it is strange that the innate character of a right which derives its force and validity from the fruitfulness of work should ever be called in question–a right which constitutes so efficacious a means of asserting one’s personality and exercising responsibility in every field, and an element of solidity and security for family life and of greater peace and prosperity in the State.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #112.


 

Increase in production and productive efficiency is, of course, sound policy, and indeed a vital necessity. However, it is no less necessary–and justice itself demands–that the riches produced be distributed fairly among all members of the political community. This means that everything must be done to ensure that social progress keeps pace with economic progress. Again, every sector of the economy–agriculture, industry and the services–must progress evenly and simultaneously.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #168.


 

The political community and the church are autonomous and independent of each other in their own fields. They are both at the service of the personal and social vocation of the same individuals, though under different titles. Their service will be more efficient and beneficial to all if both institutions develop better cooperation according to the circumstances of lace and time. For humanity’s horizons are not confined to the temporal order; living in human history they retain the fullness of their eternal calling.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #76.


 

It is for the international community to coordinate and stimulate development, but in such a way as to distribute with the maximum fairness and efficiency the resources set aside for this purpose. It is also its task to organize economic affairs on a world scale, without transgressing the principle of subsidiarity, so that business will be conducted according to the norms of justice.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #86c.


 

On another side, we are witnessing a renewal of the liberal ideology. This current asserts itself both in the name of economic efficiency, and for the defense of the individual against the increasingly overwhelming hold of organizations, and as a reaction against the totalitarian tendencies of political powers. Certainly, personal initiative must be maintained and developed. But do not Christians who take this path tend to idealize liberalism in their turn, making it a proclamation in favor of freedom? They would like a new model, more adapted to present-day conditions, while easily forgetting that at the very root of philosophical liberalism is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty.

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #35.


 

Overcoming the temptation to wish to measure everything in terms of efficiency and of trade, and in terms of the interplay of forces and interests, man today wishes to replace these quantitative criteria with the intensity of communication, the spread of knowledge and culture, mutual service and a combining of efforts for a common task. Is not genuine progress to be found in the development of moral consciousness, which will lead man to exercise a wider solidarity and to open himself freely to others and to God?

Octogesima Adveniens (“A Call to Action”), Pope Paul VI, 1971, #41.


 

The structure of the present-day situation is deeply marked by many conflicts caused by man, and the technological means produced by human work play a primary role in it. We should also consider here the prospect of worldwide catastrophe in the case of a nuclear war, which would have almost unimaginable possibilities of destruction. In view of this situation we must first of all recall a principle that has always been taught by the church: the principle of the priority of labor over capital. This principle directly concerns the process of production: In this process labor is always a primary efficient cause, while capital, the whole collection of means of production, remains a mere instrument or instrumental cause. This principle is an evident truth that emerges from the whole of man’s historical experience.

Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1981, #12.


 

Capacity for work–that is to say, for sharing efficiently in the modern production process–demands greater and greater preparation and, before all else, proper training. Obviously it remains clear that every human being sharing in the production process, even if he or she is only doing the kind of work for which no special training or qualifications are required, is the real efficient subject in this production process, while the whole collection of instruments, no matter how perfect they may be in themselves, are only a mere instrument subordinate to human labor.

Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1981, #12.


 

Efficiency and competition in the marketplace must be moderated by greater concern for the way work schedules and compensation support or threaten the bonds between spouses and between parents and children. Health, education and social service programs should be scrutinized in light of how well they ensure both individual dignity and family integrity.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #93.


 

The Catholic tradition has long defended the right to private ownership of productive property. This right is an important element in a just economic policy. It enlarges our capacity for creativity and initiative. Small and medium-sized farms, businesses, and entrepreneurial enterprises are among the most creative and efficient sectors of our economy. They should be highly valued by the people of the United States, as are land ownership and home ownership.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #114.


 

The laity must seek to instill a moral and ethical dimension into the public debate on these issues and help enunciate the ethical questions that must be faced. To weigh political options according to criteria that go beyond efficiency and expediency requires prayer, reflection, and dialogue on all the ethical norms involved. Holiness for the laity will involve all the sacrifices needed to lead such a life of prayer and reflection within a worshiping and supporting faith community. In this way the laity will bridge the gap that so easily arises between the moral principles that guide the personal life of the Christian and the considerations that govern decisions in society in the political forum and in the marketplace.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #336.


 

Positive signs in the contemporary world are the growing awareness of the solidarity of the poor among themselves, their efforts to support one another, and their public demonstrations on the social scene which, without recourse to violence, present their own needs and rights in the face of the inefficiency or corruption of the public authorities. By virtue of her own evangelical duty the Church feels called to take her stand beside the poor, to discern the justice of their requests, and to help satisfy them, without losing sight of the good of groups in the context of the common good.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #39.


 

In the sphere of economics, in which scientific discoveries and their practical application come together, new structures for the production of consumer goods had progressively taken shape. A new form of property had appeared–capital; and a new form of labor–labor for wages, characterized by high rates of production which lacked due regard for sex, age or family situation, and were determined solely by efficiency, with a view to increasing profits. In this way labor became a commodity to be freely bought and sold on the market, its price determined by the law of supply and demand, without taking into account the bare minimum required for the support of the individual and his family.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #4.


 

The inefficiency of the economic system… is not to be considered simply as a technical problem, but rather a consequence of the violation of the human rights to private initiative, to ownership of property and to freedom in the economic sector. To this must be added the cultural and national dimension: it is not possible to understand the human person on the basis of economics alone, nor to define the person simply on the basis of class membership. A human being is understood in a more complete way when situated within the sphere of culture through language, history, and the position one takes towards the fundamental events of life, such as birth, love, work and death. At the heart of every culture lies the attitude a person takes to the greatest mystery: the mystery of God.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #24.


 

It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are “solvent,” insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are “marketable,” insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #34.


 

The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm’s condition. It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order, and yet for the people–who make up the firm’s most valuable asset–to be humiliated and their dignity offended. Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm’s economic efficiency.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #35.


 

The integral development of the human person through work does not impede but rather promotes the greater productivity and efficiency of work itself, even though it may weaken consolidated power structures. A business cannot be considered only as a “society of capital goods”; it is also a “society of persons” in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company’s activities or take part in such activities through their labor.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #43.


 

This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency. Looking at the situation from this point of view, it is possible to speak in a certain sense of a war of the powerful against the weak: a life which would require greater acceptance, love and care is considered useless, or held to be an intolerable burden, and is therefore rejected in one way or another. A person who, because of illness, handicap or, more simply, just by existing, compromises the well-being or life-style of those who are more favored tends to be looked upon as an enemy to be resisted or eliminated. In this way a kind of “conspiracy against life” is unleashed. This conspiracy involves not only individuals in their personal, family or group relationships, but goes far beyond, to the point of damaging and distorting, at the international level, relations between peoples and States.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #12


 

In the materialistic perspective described so far, interpersonal relations are seriously impoverished. The first to be harmed are women, children, the sick or suffering, and the elderly. The criterion of personal dignity–which demands respect, generosity and service–is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they “are”, but for what they “have, do and produce”. This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #23.


 

We recognize that we are not acting on the basis of any superiority or greater personal efficiency, but because the Lord has graciously enabled us to do so. There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. #35

Deus Caritas Est (“God is Love”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2005, #35.


 

One of the greatest challenges facing the economy is to achieve the most efficient use — not abuse — of natural resources, based on a realization that the notion of “efficiency” is not value-free.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #50.


 

When the sole criterion of truth is efficiency and utility, development is automatically denied. True development does not consist primarily in “doing”. The key to development is a mind capable of thinking in technological terms and grasping the fully human meaning of human activities, within the context of the holistic meaning of the individual’s being. Even when we work through satellites or through remote electronic impulses, our actions always remain human, an expression of our responsible freedom.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009, #70.


 

If we really want to achieve a healthy world economy, what is needed at this juncture of history is a more efficient way of interacting which, with due regard for the sovereignty of each nation, ensures the economic well-being of all countries, not just of a few.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013, #206.


 

The notion of the common good also extends to future generations. The global economic crises have made painfully obvious the detrimental effects of disregarding our common destiny, which cannot exclude those who come after us. We can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity. Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 4, #159.


 

Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy. Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015, Chapter 5, #189.

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