The Problem with Socialism


In his encyclical “Rerum Novarum,” Pope Leo XIII discussed the issues concerning rights and duties of capital and labor. He was writing this letter during a time of great revolutionary changes in the industrial world as well as the new political changes in Europe and America. Pope Leo states that civil society exists for the common good, and hence is concerned with the interests of all in general, albeit with individual interests also in their due place and degree. He was also safeguarding the Church from advocating any specific form of government, because man’s salvation comes through Christ and not through the political power of men.

Socialist types of government, especially, inhibit the rights of people to fulfill their ends towards the right to work, private property and free worship of God. Pope Leo comments, “to remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversies that were they carried into effect, the working man himself would be among the first to suffer.” In a society that depends more and more on the government to take care of its needs, the freedom to work, right to private property and freedom of worship will get sacrificed on the altar of serving the State.