The concept of “sustainability” appears repeatedly in the encyclical, unsurprisingly without a useful definition (e.g., ¶159). Francis argues also that “We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations, while limiting as much as possible the use of non-renewable resources, moderating their consumption, maximizing their efficient use, reusing and recycling them.” (¶22). And: “The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production.” (¶32).
Those passages are deeply problematic. Consider, as noted above, the late Julian Simon’s view that human inventiveness and ingenuity — people — are the “ultimate resource,” expanding true resource availability. Technological advance means an expansion in the ability to do more with less, and self-interest — the profit motive — means that the search for ways to economize on the use of costly resources is relentless. Yes, institutional arrangements have to complement such private incentives: People must be able to enjoy the fruits of their work and investments, contracts must be enforceable, and so forth. But the view that the finite quantity of given resources means that eventually they will be depleted is unsupportable analytically. Technological advance means that the discovery and production of resources become cheaper; the US revolution in the production of gas and oil from deep shale formations is only the most obvious example of this effect.
But in “Scandinavian Unexceptionalism: Culture, Markets and the Failure of Third-Way Socialism,” Nima Sanandaji argues that all these wonderful qualities of Scandinavian society “predated the development of the welfare state” and that “all these indicators began to deteriorate after the expansion of the Scandinavian welfare states and the increase in taxes necessary to fund it.”
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane explains how the minimum wage inflicts significant harm upon poor Puerto Ricans. A slice – which “Progressives” should, but will not, understand to offer a solid reason for them to realize that their enthusiasm for labor-market interventions is toxic to ordinary people:
Puerto Rico’s dysfunctional labor market is not only due to the relatively high minimum wage. Also killing the demand for, and supply of, labor are the island’s onerous overtime, paid-vacation and job-security regulations.