Update 7/31/2014: At some point during July 30, 2014, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry deleted the “Tweet” that I quote below. Whether that deletion came in response to this post or for other reasons, I do not know. Please keep that fact in mind when reading the following.
Though unlikely, it is possible that Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry (PEG) can’t read, or at least not well. After apparently reading yesterday’s post, “Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s Dissent From CST,” this is what he so charitably posted on Twitter:
Idiot proves my point by citing Papal statements I agree with and angrily denouncing me for not agreeing with them. http://t.co/AKKMG4KwSc
— PEG ن (@pegobry) July 30, 2014
This is a perplexing claim for two reasons. First and foremost, nothing in my previous post came from a feeling of anger toward PEG. While I happen to disagree strongly with both PEG’s socio-economic views and his tendency to fly off the handle when faced with criticism (or, really, anything he doesn’t happen to agree with), that’s not enough to spark anger in yours truly. I think the most negative feeling toward him that I can muster is “vexation” or maybe just “annoyance”; the world, after all, could use a few less neo-Catholic apologists for liberalism. Still, he’s young; he has time to rethink his position on a lot of things. Far be it for me to write him off at this relatively early stage in the game.
The second puzzling claim that PEG makes is that he actually agrees with the Papal statements I posted in the previous message. I don’t know how to take that because he so clearly doesn’t. Perhaps he means that he “agrees with” them in the way other economic liberals, ranging from the Catholic folks at the Acton Institute to radical libertarians like Jeffrey Tucker and Tom Woods, claim to agree with Catholic Social Teaching (CST). In other words, by applying a hermeneutic of selectivity, they accept what appears to either substantially or superficially agree with economic liberalism while discarding — or artfully reinterpreting — everything else. Charity compels me, however, to test PEG’s claim of agreement in the light of other things he has written. I confess upfront that this is not a comprehensive journey through the extant works of PEG in the light of the Church’s entire social magisterium, but I believe what follows raises a flag of doubt over the ingenuousness of PEG’s (angry?) rebuttal to this “idiot.”
In the interest of blogging economy, I am going to take just one Papal statement I quoted yesterday: Paragraph 8 of St. Pius X’s motu proprio Fin Dalla Prima Nostra:
VIII. The following are obligations of justice binding on capitalists: To pay just wages to their workingmen; not to injure their just savings by violence or fraud, or by overt or covert usuries; not to expose them to corrupting seductions and danger of scandal; not to alienate them from the spirit of family life and from love of economy; not to impose on them labor beyond their strength, or unsuitable for their age or sex.
Focus, for a second, on St. Pius X’s call for workers to be paid a just wage and compare it with PEG’s Forbes article, “Should We Tie Corporate Tax Rates to CEO/Worker Pay Ratios?” In it, PEG expresses initial skepticism concerning whether or not workers should ever be paid a just wage before launching into a spirited defense of Amazon.com’s decision to push its workers’ wages down to the lowest level the market will bear:
Amazon is also famously known as a stingy employer in terms of wages, even as it recruits in the highly-competitive, even frothy, computer engineering labor market. The reason why Amazon is stingy with its wages is because it has an ethos of passing on as many savings as possible to its customers–the same ethos that has made it a very successful company, and the same ethos that has delivered lots of social value for the world. I am firmly convinced that Jeff Bezos is doing The Right Thing by paying his employees what the market will bear, and not a penny more. The question for us pundits is: is Amazon providing social value in excess of the financial value it captures for itself? And the answer is yes.
Now, to this “idiot” it seems very difficult, if not impossible, to hold these sentiments while agreeing with the text of Fin Dalla Prima Nostra quoted above. Moreover, I have found nothing in PEG’s works which indicates that he opposes usury or supports regulations which would uphold the social and familial values Pius X sets forth. I suppose what puzzles me most of all is that PEG is open to, and indeed has, openly criticizing aspects of Pope Francis’s economic teachings while also attempting to develop his own quasi-social teaching while doing an end-run around the existing magisterium under the “guidance” of free-market ideology. If PEG is in agreement with CST, it’s a very partial agreement at best, and not a terribly convincing one.