Americans are searching for answers for the disintegration of the family, falling participation in religious and civic institutions, drug dependency, suicide, and economic dislocation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., believes he has found the answer to the social crises of our time in Catholic social teaching. He describes his own reading of Catholic social teaching as “Common-Good Capitalism,” drawing principally on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum emphasizing both the need to focus on the common good of all citizens and the intrinsic dignity of work that each contributes to our communities.
Sen. Rubio’s interest in Catholic social teaching should be applauded as any thinking through of our social and economic problems should be grounded in authentic teaching about the human person and the market economy. Too often our politicians’ approach to social problems is simply reactive to current crises, failing to discern both the rights and responsibilities of persons and the role of both formal and informal institutions in shaping our life together. Sen. Rubio’s economic analysis is, however, flawed.