Sunday, April 10, 2005

"Economic" Evaluation of John Paul II

by Tom Bozzo

While it's nice to be wanted, I really hadn't intended to touch the legacy of the late Pope in this forum with — ready rimshot! — a ten-foot pole.

As the Bishop of Madison is, among other Catholic Church luminaries, rushing to put the "John Paul the Great" appellation in circulation, I'd like to see a counterfactual analysis of the John Paul II papacy myself. (That is, evaluate John Paul II in comparison to the job that hypothetically would have been done by best candidate that the electors could have chosen in the alternative.)

For as little as is known about the causal mechanisms underlying economics, it looks like a comparative snap to evaluate Alan Greenspan in such terms.(*) It's technically possible to find an eligible candidate to remedy nearly any complaint, given the enormous latitude Canon 332.1 provides the electors in selecting a Pontiff. The response of the human institution would seem on the intellectual turf of my sociology pals. I will say that I agree with Kristof in today's Times that reforming the priesthood to include women and married men is warranted (if not overdue), and less troublesome on balance than the current-law alternative of having vanishingly few notionally celibate male priests.

Jeremy also wonders about the information content of the online betting markets' quotes on papal candidates. This is a case where the wisdom of crowds appears to be substanitally worthless, unless you happen to be part of one particular crowd. I'm inclined to agree with Jeremy that the Italian candidates are overpriced, and would add that the 'field' of other individuals is arguably underpriced, but what do I know?

I won't be at all happy if Ratzinger or a Ratzinger protégé is elected.


(*) As the follow-up post on Greenspan suggested, Paul Volcker's actions departed much more from simple monetary policy rules than Greenspan's (and everyone else's), implying that Greenspan's contributions are not likely to have been indispensible.
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