Competition and Cooperation in Catholic Social Teaching
The Church calls for cooperation over and against competition. Dozens of citations could be listed, but we must limit ourselves here to a few. The interested reader will have no problem extending the list on his own.
“Just as the unity of human society cannot be founded on an opposition of classes, so also the right ordering of economic life cannot be left to a free competition of forces. For from this source, as from a poisoned spring, have originated and spread all the errors of individualist economic teaching. Destroying through forgetfulness or ignorance the social and moral character of economic life, it held that economic life must be considered and treated as altogether free from and independent of public authority, because in the market, i.e., in the free struggle of competitors, it would have a principle of self direction which governs it much more perfectly than would the intervention of any created intellect. But free competition, while justified and certainly useful provided it is kept within certain limits, clearly cannot direct economic life—a truth which the outcome of the application in practice of the tenets of this evil individualistic spirit has more than sufficiently demonstrated.”
“Individual initiative alone and the mere free play of competition could never assure successful development. One must avoid the risk of increasing still more the wealth of the rich and the dominion of the strong, whilst leaving the poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed…an economy of exchange can no longer be based solely on the law of free competition, a law which, in its turn, too often creates an economic dictatorship. Freedom of trade is fair only if it is subject to the demands of social justice.”
With respect to cooperation we may add the following:
“Economic initiative is an expression of human intelligence and of the necessity of responding to human needs in a creative and cooperative fashion. Creativity and cooperation are signs of the authentic concept of business competition: a ‘cumpetere’, that is, a seeking together of the most appropriate solutions for responding in the best way to needs as they emerge.”