Skip to comments.The Pope Is Wrong about Capitalism: Free Markets Are Best for the Less Fortunate
Posted on 12/02/2013 7:41:24 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Forget the debate over whether Obama is a socialist.
Now were discussing whether Jesus is for big government. Or, to be more accurate, the Pope has started a debate about whether free markets are bad, particularly for the poor.
Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute wrote about the underlying theological issues in an article for National Review, but I hope I also contributed to the secular aspect of the debate in this BBC interview.
Editor's Note: I'm Catholic... Conservative, Traditional Catholic. Mitchell's right; Pope wrong. This is not a matter of doctrine. We are all free to disagree with the Pope. In this instance he's just another dude with an opinion.
The first thing I said was the rather obvious point that theres a lot more to life than accumulating wealth.
My most important point was that capitalism is the only successful model for creating broadly shared prosperity and I used examples from the Popes home region of Latin America to show that nations with more economic liberty are far more successful.
But I emphasized that supporters of freedom have a challenge because many people mistakenly associate capitalism with cronyism and bailouts for big business. In reality, free markets are a system based on voluntary exchange and private property, which means no special favors for any industry or company.
To bolster my point that economic growth is the best way to help the poor, I cited Hong Kong as a role model, both for creating growth and for enabling upward mobility.
My second most important point, which came near the end of the interview, was that genuine compassion is when you give away your own money, not when you vote for politicians who will use coercion to redistribute other peoples money. I should have used the opportunity to cite the data showing that Americans are far more compassionate in the right sense than their European counterparts.
Im sure Libertarian Jesus would have agreed.
Now we need to get others to climb on the freedom bandwagon. I suspect that Pope will be more receptive to that message than politicians, though the Vatican sometimes has been very good on these issues and at times very disappointing.
P.S. I was worried I made up a word when I stated that I wanted to make a theologic point, but its actually in the dictionary, so I got lucky. But even if it turned out it wasnt a word, it wouldnt have been nearly as embarrassing as the time in the 1990s when I wanted to say annals and pronounced it anals.
P.P.S. Thomas Sowell has some insightful analysis on whether Obama is a socialist.
The Pope may be confused along with a lot of other people as to what Capitalism truly is and should be. I prefer to use the term “free enterprise, something that America hasn’t had for a long time and we are suffering for it. Fascism and over-regulation of businesses is where we are at now, and no one but the Oligarchs will benefit very much from that system before it all crashes and burns...which it will, as planned. Latin America is a prime example of that, so can understand why the Pope doesn’t think that Business helps the little guy.
I’m a Mitchell fan.
The average Argentine has his knickers in a perpetual wad over the IMF and demands that the country repay the international banks for years of credit extended to an irresponsible government.
That government in turn has scapegoated the IMF and the banks as the boogey men, which most average people have swallowed hook, line and sinker. Hence His Holiness, like most of his countrymen, sees something evil and sinister in the existing world economic order.
The Pope is right and wrong. Under a true free enterprise system, with no gimmicks...the system works.
In our current gimmick free enterprise system....once folks have been in the low wage for years and start to look for anything to move up...there’s fresh new illegals or immigrants to take the low-paying job.
Five decades ago, you had to keep inching wages up every five to ten years. There wasn’t any choice. Today? You just advertise the same wage as fifteen years ago, and keep going because you’ve got the players to take the lower pay.
We developed the free enterprise system into a gimmick. It’s not free market any more...we’ve twisted every true mechanism into something that hurts trends, limits futures, and led into over-regulation.
Small towns throughout America used to have small industry operations...up until the 1980s. The NAFTA agreement took that, and screwed up the whole idea of free enterprise working like the book says. Guys sit around today....waiting for $12 jobs to appear, and they just won’t come. Gimmick after gimmick created....to make us believe free enterprise and capitalism works as advertised. We still repeat the Reagan slogans and believe in the speeches. But that era of true capitalism went out in the 1990s. We are fake capitalists today...for better or worse.
You make a good point in substituting ‘free enterprise’ for ‘capitalism’. It paints a different picture.
This article is taking a misunderstanding of what the Pope said and then applies additional misunderstanding.
Unfettered capitalism is NOT a free market. And the Pope NEVER made a statement against free markets.
Unfettered captialism is capitalism in which there are no anti-monopoly laws. Unfettered capitalism allows insider trading. The absence of anti-monopoly laws and insider trading regulations results in CLOSED markets; in unregulated capitalism those with wealth can use their wealth to CLOSE markets to competition. This is undesirable,as it leads to inefficiencies,higher prices and removes the motivation for innovation.
OTOH, capitalism that is mildly regulated - so that competition is encouraged IS a free market and IS the most desirable economic model.
The full text of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation can be found here:
The word — CAPITALISM is NOWHERE TO BE FOUND IN THE TEXT.
Instead, we have statements about The Markets such as these:
“...some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other peoples pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone elses responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”
“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves.”
“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises. Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the worlds problems or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”
“We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.”
“In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics a non-ideological ethics would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: Not to share ones wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.
“Nor can we overlook the fact that in recent decades there has been a breakdown in the way Catholics pass down the Christian faith to the young. It is undeniable that many people feel disillusioned and no longer identify with the Catholic tradition. Growing numbers of parents do not bring their children for baptism or teach them how to pray. There is also a certain exodus towards other faith communities. The causes of this breakdown include: a lack of opportunity for dialogue in families, the influence of the communications media, a relativistic subjectivism, unbridled consumerism which feeds the market, lack of pastoral care among the poor, the failure of our institutions to be welcoming, and our difficulty in restoring a mystical adherence to the faith in a pluralistic religious landscape.”
Unfortunately the Cardinals selected a “liberation” theologian as Pope. They should have found another Urban II instead.
The Pope doesn't use the word 'capitalism' either. OK, so the mindless pundits say he does, but he doesn't. The Pope used the word 'marketplace' like the Bible does, but while he talks like markets are somehow bad, the Bible considers markets simply part of life itself.
RE: Unfettered capitalism is NOT a free market. And the Pope NEVER made a statement against free markets.
How do you understand this statement?
We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market. Growth in justice requires more than economic growth, while presupposing such growth: it requires decisions, programmes, mechanisms and processes specifically geared to a better distribution of income, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality. I am far from proposing an irresponsible populism, but the economy can no longer turn to remedies that are a new poison, such as attempting to increase profits by reducing the work force and thereby adding to the ranks of the excluded.
He asked everyone to give willingly. Giving because one is forced by the government to do so is NOT a Christian act; neither is advocating that people be forced to give.
IMO, part of practicing Christianity is working to develop within oneself a willingness to give, and then acting upon that willingness - but the last time I checked it was not the job of the government to "help" us practice Christianity.
Anyone who confuses Christian charity with government-mandated welfare programs is seriously missing the point.
The Church has always called upon individual Christians, acting in their capacity as business owners or other active parts of the economy, to exercise sound moral and ethical judgment, and to avoid making decisions strictly based on the bottom line removed from other considerations.
What troubles me about the Pope’s recent statement is that he clearly seems to be calling for Government to take a more active role in forcing this to happen.
The Pope also used the phrase “free market”.
In the capitalistic United States, the most pressing health concern for the poor is rampant, morbid obesity. I’d like to hear the Pope’s musings on that. His meaning and context are clear; there is no getting around it. The Pope has very little understanding of economics. It’s not part of his job, and he should probably avoid the subject.
Frequently, when the Pope speaks, people are saying ‘”Aw! he didn’t mean that”. Maybe the Pope ought to have think carefully about what he says before he says it. We didn’t have that problem with John Paul or Benedict. It seems as if abortion, gay marriage and politics is not as important as sharing the wealth, ie socialism.
"...some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system."
Correct. He certainly appears to have a negative opinion of the free market.