Tomorrow and Tomorrow
The missing third alternative.


The decisive concrete issue today is that Latin America desperately needs jobs, and neither traditionalists nor so­cialists can create them. It is now impossible for all Latin Americans to find employment in the traditional way, on the land. Given the children al­ready born, some sixty million new jobs will have to be created during the next 15 years. An explosion of local entrepreneurship, small businesses, local industrial establishments, and the man­ufacture of all sorts of goods is urgent.

Further, the social base of democ­racy (effectively limiting the power of the state) lies in independent free­holders in a relatively free economy: independent craftsmen, owners, build­ers, creators. This, too, is the basis of the vital sphere of cultural freedom, civil argument, dissent, compromise, and hard-won cooperation. In short, a lib­eral economy.

Pope John Paul II, of course, con­centrates on the spiritual, not the tech­nical and institutional, criteria of his Third Alternative. Before him, some in the Church imagined that the Catholic “Third Way” would be a stage be­yond socialism and capitalism. No longer. As the Pope made clear in Latin America, it is a stage beyond socialism and traditionalism.

The free nations of the world have shown that their free economies are compatible with, indeed indispensable to, a working democracy. Such polit­ical economies provide for free unions, social security, pensions, and those dy­namics of social mobility that steadily churn up the fixed inequitable distribu­tions of income so visible in tradition­alist societies. These are precisely the few concrete worldly criteria for the Third Alternative that the Pope named in Latin America.

The Pope regards “Marxist analy­sis” as a deception, whose mur­derous conclusions are implicit in its beginnings. Those who blame Latin America’s condition on “depen­dency” on Europe and North America — and who therefore counsel “class struggle” on the international level — dig themselves into a darkness that, in his experience, is no liberation at all.

Latin America has its own genius. Freed from both traditionalist and so­cialist straitjackets, its people’s creativ­ity can make of their territory’s vast natural resources a new wonder of the world. The battle in Latin America is a battle of the human spirit. It will be won or lost as a war of ideas. In this battle, the Pope does not need sol­diers; his ideas cut cleaner than any sword. It’s a pity then that his crucial Third Alternative keeps getting lost on the cutting-room floors of the press.

– Michael Novak’s new book, tentatively entitled No One Sees God, will be published by Doubleday in 2008.