In a speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social activists, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists, Pope Francis said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them.
Pope Francis next praised co-operatives which he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor. Francis calls for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order. Francis’ critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.
Pope Francis makes a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. The economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons. Capitalism comes in many flavors, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we want to have.
In a February address, Pope Francis encouraged the growth of co-operatives as an economic model that serves the common good. Francis said that co-operatives are "enterprises based on the principle of solidarity and social relations," that act as "the lever that raises and develops the weakest part of local communities and civil society," and provide "new welfare solutions" that support, facilitate and even encourage family life, because "money if it is well managed, can be used to promote the common good."