Manon's Econ Blog

The Pope against condoms – trying to increase the gap of the positive externality?

Posted on: April 26, 2010

The Pope and the Vatican is strongly opposed against the use of condoms, and thus because of problems with the religious ethics (see Article). For instance, Catholic religion “steadfastly opposed to the use of condoms for any reason.” Nevertheless, the use of condoms is a positive externality of consumption as shown on the diagram below.

As shown on the diagram above, the MPB differs from the MSB, with the MSB being greated than the MPB, which creates the positive externality. The MPB differs from the MSB because condoms can stop diseases such as HIV or AIDS. If less people have the disease since they used condoms, there is a greater change that less people in general will have it, since condoms largely reduce the risk of transferring the disease.

Nevertheless, the usual goal of economies is to increase demand (so Marginal Private Benefit) and make it closer to the Marginal Social Benefit. However, the goal of the Pope and the Vatican is to shift the demand curve the other way, as shown on the diagram below.

The Pope is hoping, and advertising people to do so, to shift the demand from D1 to D2, and thus reduce the quantity of condoms consumed from Q1 to Q2. He appeals to the people following religion to not use condoms, even though it has a positive externality on society and we should try to increase demand.

The Pope, by following so strongly its religious beliefs, is going against the economy and is not beneficing the society. It inforces the gap between the private benefit and the social benefit, instead of reducing it, which is quite surprising.

2 Responses to "The Pope against condoms – trying to increase the gap of the positive externality?"

I disagree, as the only reason the pope says that is because he believes and the roman catholic religion believes that people should only be having sex with one partner and when they love each other as well as to procreate. The problem in Africa – a huge percentage are catholic and have many sex partners and are getting preganant or trasnmitting STDs. The use of condoms will reduce the negative externality although will not bring the people closer to their religion, to what their religion offers.

An interesting use of economics to challenge a religious practice. From the Pope’s point of view using condoms has a negative externality — what must that be?

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