Pius XI 1922-1939

Capital and Labor *


[From the same Encyclical, “Quadragesimo anno,” May 15, 1931]


2259 Far different is the nature of the labor which is hired out to others and is exercised on another’s capital. This statement is especially in harmony with what Leo XIII says is most true, “that the riches of the state are produced only by the labor of the working man.” *


Neither without the other is able to produce anything. Hence it follows that unless one performs labor on his own property, the property of the one should be associated in some way with the labor of the other; for neither effects anything without the other. And this Leo XIII had in mind when he wrote: “There can be no capital without labor, nor labor without capital.” * Therefore, it is entirely false to ascribe to one or the other alone whatever was obtained from the combined effort of both; and it is entirely unjust that either deny the efficacy of the other, and arrogate to himself whatever has been accomplished. . . .


2260 The directive principle of just distribution. Without doubt, lest by these false decisions they block the approach to justice and peace, both should have been forewarned by the wise words of Our predecessor: “Although divided among private owners, the earth does not cease to serve the usefulness of all.* . . .” Therefore, wealth which is being continuously increased through economic and social progress should be so distributed to individual persons and classes of men, that the common good of all society be preserved intact. By this law of social justice one class is forbidden to exclude the other from a share in the profits. None the less, then, the wealthy class violates this law of social justice, when, as it were, free of all anxieties in their good fortune, it considers that order of things just by which all falls to its lot and nothing to the worker; and the class without property violates this law, when, strongly incensed because of violated justice, and too prone to vindicate wrongly the one right of their own of which it is conscious, demands all for itself, on the ground that it was made by its own hands, and so attacks and strives to abolish ownership and income, or profits which have not been gained by labor, of whatever kind they are, or of whatever nature they are in human society, for no other reason than because they are such. And we must not pass over the fact that in this matter appeal is made by some, ineptly as well as unworthily, to the Apostle when he says: “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” [2 Thess. 3:10]; for the Apostle utters the statement against those who abstain from work, even though they can and ought to work; and he advises us that we should make zealous use of time and strength, whether of body or mind, and that others should not be burdened, when we can provide for ourselves. But by no means does the Apostle teach that labor is the only title for receiving a livelihood and profits [cf. 2 Thess. 3:8-10].


To each, then, is his own part of property to be assigned; and it must be brought about that distribution of created goods be made to conform to the norms of the common good or social justice. . .

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