Friday, November 29, 2013

Dear Pope Francis

Far be it from me, a devout Catholic, to teach you your job, but, before joining the conga line of pontiffs who have criticized capitalism, might it not have been advisable to have a chat with, say, Thomas Sowell? Capitalism – to be more precise, free enterprise – did not create poverty, but has lifted untold millions of people out of it. Where, in the whole wide world, are we seeing the emergence of a “new tyranny” of “unfettered capitalism”? Certainly not in the United States, where an enthusiastic booster of smiley-faced socialism presides over a government that has been trying to assert control over a huge sector of the economy (health care), with deplorable results for the distinctly non-wealthy. And what to make of the “Great Society” (American style), which has spent enormous sums of money on welfare programs that have wound up trapping generations of families in a vicious cycle of hopeless dependency, subjecting them to increasingly destructive social pathologies and making them easy prey for the parasites who play on their desperation in order to obtain power and wealth?

Is mass starvation in North Korea the result of capitalism? How about the grinding poverty among the vast majority of people who are not members of the ruling class in Cuba? In Argentina, where Your Holiness spent many years working selflessly to draw attention to the needs of the poor, is the problem free enterprise, or is it the collusion of economic oligarchs – crony capitalists, we call them in the United States – with a long series of corrupt governments in an attempt to unfairly divide up the nation’s wealth? And the teeming poor of the Middle East clearly are not providing foot soldiers for terrorist movements out of a fanatical allegiance to the principles of Adam Smith.

I do not doubt your pity and your love for the poor, and in this you are a living admonishment to all of us who, as individuals, can do more to assist those who are less fortunate than ourselves. However, with respect, I would posit that, to single out for condemnation the one form of economic organization that has done more than any other, not only to feed and clothe the poor, but to offer so many of them the opportunity for permanently raising themselves from poverty, is a pastoral error that grows increasingly tedious in its repetition.


kc said...

You don't have a "like" button - but I like what you say here, and thank you for it.

Anonymous said...

From The Volokh Conspiracy:

Ever since the Galileo incident, the Catholic Church has generally tried to be careful to get its science right before it opines on ethical matters related to science. It takes seriously questions of bioethics and has developed internal expertise on those issues. Yet when it comes to economics, the Church seems to have no qualms about opining on issues of economics without even the slightest idea of what it is talking about.


Well darn that John Paul II for helping to bring freedom to Poland and getting rid of all those “decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes” that were so beneficial to the Poles under Communism. Now they just trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. And look what that’s gotten them? Uh, never mind...

Couldn't have said it better. (How is the command economy doing in your home country of Argentina, Mr. Pope?)

mojo said...

Speaking as a sometimes-Protestant:

More Papal Bull.

bruce said...

There's a much bigger perspective to this Frere Paco. Which we should really talk about.
Here in Australia, we had a Conservative Catholic political group which was union-based, anti-Communist and anti-Capitalist both, because obviously the Capitalists were all Protestants.
'Social Justice' was introduced by Catholic Archbishop Manning:
Catholics have tended to be masses of poor, exploited in their eyes by Protestant individualists.

American exceptionalism includes a lot of what the Church has always seen as anathema, which means the idea of America and Catholicism are in opposition: You could say the Church really aims at/ functions best in a feudal '3rd World', which the US and its liberal ancestors in Europe have always opposed and worked to overthrow.

One of the most vocal groups of Catholics in the postwar world are the American ones, but only people like Pat Buchanan really grasp the problem. So this contradiction between America and traditional Catholicism never gets discussed.

Max Weber's Protestantism and the Capitalist Spirit is an interesting read.

I do think the USA is a Protestant nation. I also think wealth is a mixed blessing, with certainly many profound advantages. But I know directly, in my and related families and my 30 years in the 3rd World, that people were happier when they were poorer. It's one of those 'tragic' facts VDH talks about.

Nothing personal here, just a discussion of ideas (my mum is Catholic, my dad a Scottish individualist - I'm on both sides).

rinardman said...

You should post this on the Pontiff's facebook page.

Paco said...

Bruce: I quite agree that wealth is a mixed blessing. We see daily examples of how the love of money and material things can have evil results (one doesn't have to look much farther than the ridiculous, and increasingly dangerous, near-riots at our major stores on the day after Thanksgiving). And I agree that there has always been an undercurrent of tension between the Catholic Church and classic liberalism (i.e., liberalism in its 19th century sense), and there are many unfortunate historical reasons for this antipathy. Still, popes, perhaps even more so than other public figures, should be guarded in painting with a broad brush, particularly when it comes to subjects that they clearly have not mastered. There are already too many leaders who conflate Our Lord's call for individual charity with the presumed moral superiority of the provider state; the pope, of all people, should rise above such confusion.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Catholic and I fear that Pope Francis is a dumbass socialist.

Oh, and he also just said that we should embrace Muslim immigrants "with affection and respect"; presumably as one might embrace rattlesnakes with affection and respect.

I'm so damn tired of very stupid, socialist leadership.

bruce said...

You'll find that many outside the Anglosphere - leftists but also Catholics in Europe - very readily talk about the 'problem' with 'Anglo-Saxon Culture' and see this as synonymous with 'Capitalism' and liberalism.

Which is weird because most of us anglos are Celts, Irish or Scottish, Protestant or Catholic. (And the Anglo-Saxons are Germanic, yet most Germans see them as 'opposite to German culture' - who knows what they're on about?)

But that's what the ordinary people in Europe all say ad nauseum: "Les Anglo-Saxonnes' are the big problem.

bruce said...

I'll spit the dummy if Pope Francis supports Gay Marriage!

And there are signs that he just might!

Dad29 said...

To Volokh's point: economics is NOT a science. It's dollar-denominated sociology.

To the main point: if he's trying to call attention to greed and selfishness, fine; there's plenty of that to go around.

However, there is no pure 'capitalism' on earth. What is truly criminal is 'crony capitalism' which necessarily requires Government.

RebeccaH said...

Religious leaders are always expected to preach charity and self-sacrifice. The Dalai Lama preaches the same. (Caveat: Muslim religious leaders preach other people's sacrifice, apparently), but their outlook is no less authoritarian.