The economist Adam Smith maintained in his book ‘The Wealth of Nations’ that an economy can work well in a free market scenario where everyone will work for his/her own interest. The unobservable market force (an invisible hand) would help the demand and supply of goods in a free market to reach equilibrium. This was later used as an excuse for unbridled selfishness, with the argument that it would contribute to the common good. Smith was, however, strongly convinced that free enterprise required strong moral and ethical underpinnings and that most market participants needed to be people of “propriety, prudence, and benevolence,” in order for the system to work properly. And he is correct.
In the encyclical letter CARITAS IN VERITATE OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF BENEDICT XVI (2009) the Pope writes: “7. To love someone is to desire that person’s good and to take effective steps to secure it. Besides the good of the individual, there is a good that is linked to living in society: the common good. It is the good of “all of us”, made up of individuals, families and intermediate groups who together constitute society. It is a good that is sought not for its own sake, but for the people who belong to the social community and who can only really and effectively pursue their good within it. To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity…The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practice this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly.