This is in response to Garrett Hardin's article (Opinion, Nov. 3), "Feeding the World's Hungry Only Makes Hunger Worse."
In this article the devil quotes Scripture to suit his own purposes. This article epitomizes the kind of economics in which people do not matter at all, and degrades economics to the most dismal of sciences. The Catholic bishops' pastoral letter on Catholic social teaching and the U.S. economy takes on great importance in the face of an article like this.
The article looks upon hunger as a hopeless cycle in which suffering is only increased by those who would relieve it. It makes villains out of the naive do-gooders who would feed the hungry instead of recognizing that in so doing they are only increasing fertility now and the numbers of the hungry for the future. The banal truth in this article has been common knowledge since Adam Smith, and far before him, since Ecclesiastes, the most dismal book of the Bible.
The bishops, by contrast, awaken our consciences and challenge us to find new solutions. The bishops are committed to no social or political program, but to the infinite value of every human life, and the right of every life to survival in dignity. They try to do their moral duty by giving a voice to the poor who cannot speak for themselves. They apply the principles of democracy to the economy by asserting the right of all to participate in it. They refuse to view the economy as an inhuman mechanism moving in inexorable cycles that relegate many to the status of discarded chaff. They avoid making policy and stick to the job of articulating moral principles.
Even so, there is a message in Hardin's article that the bishops would do well to heed. Fertility must be controlled, and it is the duty of the bishops to give Catholics and others a sexual ethics that will allow the rational control of the numbers of population. Strapped by its own inner mechanisms, the Catholic church cannot see a way of discarding the baggage of the past in moral matters. Yet, it, above all institutions, is morally bound to show the world a way out of the senseless proliferation of life that is born to starve.
Meanwhile, our domestic policy and our foreign policy have to balance the projections of economists and behavioral scientists against a duty in distributive justice to provide for the living, for those who have already been born, and who carry in their emaciated bodies the same dignity as those who participate so fully and articulately in the economic process. We cannot afford the luxury of perfect economic theory as we try to keep an economy strong while we also do something for those to whom life promises nothing.
ROBERT E. DOUD