How Could Pope Francis Be so Wrong on Capitalism?

I have to say that I was saddened by Pope Francis’s recent assertion that “rampant capitalism” is a source of many of the world’s ills.

I say this as a former Catholic, who still appreciates the Church and the spirit of Jesus which I think Pope Francis embodies (as far as I can see) to a much greater degree than Pope Benedict who was put to pasture for good reason. I believe that Francis has his heart in a good place, and that his efforts to reform the Church (to the degree he can) are long overdue.

I say this not as one who pays particular attention to the Vatican, but as a lay person who picks up bits and pieces of policy from the news. My general perception is not an informed one, but one of feel. I could be wrong with Francis.

But what is absolutely clear to me is that Francis is very wrong on his economics. Not only is he wrong, but his assertions are potentially dangerous, as he does not appear to understand the inherent justice–yes justice–of markets. He (I believe unintentionally) gives fodder to the controllers of mammon, the denizens of the state.

It is clear to me at least that Francis comes from a position of good will. I believe he cares for the world’s poor. I believe he honestly wants a better world, a more just world. And in part of the quote he’s right, we should attack the “structural causes” of inequality, not that financial “inequality” (and there is an important difference between equality under the law and economic equality) is necessarily bad.

But the rest of the quote reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of markets, deeply rooted in 20th Century statism, which still clings to the minds of many people today. (Especially in my experience older folks.)

The reason people tend to be poor is not because of “unfettered capitalism.” People don’t tend to be poor when people are free to voluntarily trade goods and services. People do not tend to be poor because people engage in the “win win” exchanges which are at the heart of capitalism. No, people are poor because people with power seek to restrict the flow of information and to institute privilege through the state (which can take many forms). People are poor where there isn’t capitalism. From the slums of Chicago to Kolkota this is true.

Read the rest of the story at Against Crony Capitalism.


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