Feb 162014

This Freakonomics Radio podcast takes a look at Pope Francis’s critique of the free-market system in “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), his first apostolic exhortation.

The pontiff’s 224-page document covers a wide range of topics, but a small sub-section discussing “some challenges of today’s world” has captured the most attention. Using fiery language, Pope Francis condemns a global economy that “kills,” promotes inequality, and allows “the powerful [to] feed upon the powerless.” (Rush Limbaugh argued that this sounds like “pure Marxism.”) Here is a sample passage of “Evangelii Gaudium”:



Stephen J. DUBNER: Hey podcast listeners. We know you’re a pretty smart group of people. But how smart? Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Of course you are. But are you smarter than … an economics Ph.D. who’s won all kinds of gaudy economics awards? I think you are! Let me explain. A few months ago, we asked you for the first time to go to Freakonomics.com and make a donation to support Freakonomics Radio. And Steve Levitt — he’s my Freakonomics co-author, the guy with the economics Ph.D. — here’s what he thought would happen:

Steven D. LEVITT: The chance that someone’s going to get done with their run, go back and take a shower, and then log onto a computer and give you money? I think that is really close to zero.

DUBNER: So, you think we’ll raise close to zero dollars?

LEVITT: I do, actually.

DUBNER: Well, Levitt was wrong. We raised more than zero dollars — quite a bit more, I’m happy to say. In fact, Levitt and the people here at WNYC, our public-radio station, they were kind of shocked by how supportive you were. So to those of you who did give — thanks! And if you haven’t donated yet — let’s shock them some more. Just go to Freakonomics.com, hit the donate button, and there’s still time to claim your donation on this year’s tax return. And now you have a good New Year’s resolution too: keep proving smart people wrong. Now for today’s program.



DUBNER: Every once in a while, the Pope issues some kind of statement reflecting the views of the Catholic Church. Usually, it’s just the hardcore faithful who pay much attention. This time was different…

Brian WILLIAMS: Pope Francis is getting a lot of attention tonight for the mission statement he issued for the Catholic Church he would like to see in the future.

Lawrence KUDLOW: I just was so surprised because that language…I understand… the pope’s job is not to proselytize about free market capitalism. Ok, I get that.

John ALLEN: The strongest language of this document called has to do with critiquing what he calls a kind of crude and naive faith in the free market. And insisting that the Church has to be a change agent on things like income inequality, spreading unemployment, the environment, war and peace.

DUBNER: You may be wondering what the Pope is expecting to happen when he talks about the miseries of the free-market system. Yeah, we were wondering that too.


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