Yesterday we noted that the usual sorts of foreign aid to alleviate poverty do just that: they alleviate it, they do not, despite the rhetoric, end it. Bono of the Irish rock group U2 seems to understand this. While he is by all accounts astonishingly generous both in giving and in raising money to help the poor, the sick, the naked, etc., he seems to realize that, necessary as this sort of thing is, it is not a solution.
As Moses Maimonides pointed out, simply giving alms is the “lowest,” albeit most urgent form of charity, but,
“[t]he greatest level [of charity], above which there is no greater, is to support [your fellow man] by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others.” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14.)
If we understand Bono’s comments correctly, then, he seems to be saying that if you really want to end poverty, go with something that puts people to work producing a marketable good or service. Just giving them money simply keeps them poor. Capitalism, because it is geared toward production, is more effective at putting people to work than simply redistributing what has already been produced.
In other words, give a man a fish, and you feed him for one day. Teach him how to fish and send him off with a six-pack, and he’s out of your hair forever. Or something like that.
If that is, in fact, what Bono means (we don’t want to put words in his mouth — something we’ve had done to us far too often), then we are in qualified agreement. Yes, capitalism is more effective than the need-based redistributions that the Catholic Church recognizes as legally obligatory only in "extreme cases" (Rerum Novarum, § 22).
Nevertheless, capitalism has some serious problems that "bend" the natural law, although without "breaking" it as does socialism. That is why the Church harshly criticizes capitalism, but condemns socialism outright.
Unfortunately, trapped within what Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler called the slavery of past savings, the only possibilities are capitalism and socialism. Further, seeing the overwhelming yet incidental evils of capitalism, and ignoring the profound and inherent evils of socialism, far too many people assume that the Church is condemning capitalism and endorsing socialism! The neo-distributists, Professional Chestertonians, social crediters (spelled that way to distinguish from the usual meaning of the term "creditor"), neo-solidarists, and a large number of others have fallen into this trap.