School of Theology and Seminary Faculty Publications

The Priority of Labor over Capital: Some Needed Extensions

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2009


Arts and Humanities | Catholic Studies | Economics | Ethics in Religion | Religion | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The most controversial conflict in modern market economies is that between employers and workers. The interests of these two groups are not always opposed to each other, but even in Adam Smith’s rendition of the benefits of self-love, the self-interest of the butcher, the brewer, and the baker predictably conduces to the well-being of their customers, not their employees. This paper will address only a few of the issues implicit in the relation of workers and employers, focusing on a particular argument within Catholic social thought, one championed by Pope John Paul II in Laborem Exercens, concerning the “priority of labor over capital.”