I found it necessary to respectfully disagree with Pope Francis the last time he took a swing at capitalism. On that occasion, it seemed likely that his remarks were more specifically directed at sweatshop exploitation in the Third World, which had recently taken a horrible toll in human life. But of course, the Left seized upon him as a new champion of socialism who wanted to throw down against economic liberty in general.
The Pope went into the ring against capitalism again the other day, and this time it was more clear that his remarks were meant as a broad critique, although the lefties who even more seized on his comments to push their ideology are reading way too much into them. Shikha Dalmia at the Washington Examiner provides a good summary of what the Pope said, before usefully reminding him that capitalism is the engine of wealth that provides the money for Catholic (and every other) charity:
For about the sixth time since assuming office eight months ago, the pope this week offered a sweeping condemnation of “unfettered” capitalism, blaming its alleged obsession with the “golden calf” for perpetuating poverty, oppression, tyranny and much else.
The pope claims that the “opinion” that “economic growth, encouraged by the free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness” has “never been confirmed by the facts.” (He obviously hasn’t been listening to Bono, which speaks well of his taste.)
Therefore, governments “charged with the vigilance of the common good” must take strong steps to “exercise any form of control,” including redistributive taxes, to stop the march toward a society where “those excluded are no longer its underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised — they are no longer even part of it.”
No doubt such purple prose about “exclusion” will gain him adoring fans among the left — notwithstanding the irony that he is speaking for an institution that excludes half of humanity — women — from the ranks of priesthood. But is capitalism the cause of poverty and is redistribution the cure?
No and nyet.
One of the problems here is that every single abuse committed by anyone who is not a government official, anywhere in the world, is taken as an indictment of “capitalism.” Conversely, socialism is never discredited by the failure of any leftist government, even when they soak the earth with the blood of their murdered citizens. The system of capitalism is endlessly condemned by the “greed” of individuals, while the system of socialism receives endless credit for good intentions, no matter how much poverty, corruption, unemployment, and injustice it creates.
This double standard is fueled by the belief (which I don’t ascribe to Pope Francis, but rather to the people trying to beat the plowshare of his commentary into swords for collectivist tyranny) that everything a suitably left-wing government does is, by definition, “justice.” Social justice is whatever the ruling class says it is. They’ll seize your property even though you have committed no crime, skim a huge amount off the top for themselves, and give it to whoever they believe is “deserving” – a definition that always turns out to be absurdly mutable and selective. In the United States, only a small percentage of the vast social welfare apparatus has anything to do with keeping the desperately poor from starving, freezing to death, or dying from illness.
Of course, it’s beyond disgusting to see secular liberals suddenly “embrace” Pope Francis because he said something they find politically useful. Any of you pinheads feel like embracing Francis’ teaching on abortion? What’s that? Speak up, I can’t hear you, liberals. Before you answer, remember that the Pope would be the first to tell you that his Church’s teachings are not a buffet, to be picked over and consumed according to taste.
But even on the subject of capitalism, let us remember that American liberals and their secular messiah, Barack “Get In Their Faces” Obama, are the ones who wanted to turn Thanksgiving dinner tables into political battlegrounds in the service of ObamaCare – a program that mandates the purchase of a product, health insurance, from capitalist corporations, and which features a craptastic website built with no-bid contracts handed over to crony capitalist computer companies, which took the money and ran, making it necessary to hand out more no-bid contracts to cronies to perform hasty fixes. Obama liberals think government power sanctifies capitalism, but his record proves the reverse – he’s created a form of soft fascism that is fabulously expensive, unbelievably incompetent, and deeply corrupt.
Instead of using the Pope as a weapon against economic liberty, let’s talk about all the money that could be used to help the poor, but which is wasted on lavish perks for government officials, fraud-riddled programs, and giveaways to political contributors. Let’s talk about welfare programs such as ObamaCare that spread dependency on government giveaways into the formerly independent middle class, bleeding away even more resources that could be used for the benefit of the truly needy. That accounts for hundreds of billions of dollars out of our three-and-a-half trillion dollar mega-government. Clean all that garbage up from the poisonous Great Society machine you’ve created, liberals – get the welfare state running as efficiently as something like Catholic Charities – and let’s see how much we can do for those who have been “excluded” from general prosperity. That means you’ll have to give up the glittering palaces you’ve built in Washington D.C., which is now among the richest cities in America. You’ll have to give up all your lovely vote-buying cash, luxury perks of office, politically directed crony-socialist programs, and all the other implements of power.
But of course, none of them are willing to take that deal. They want to give crackpot sermons about Christ the Tax Collector while venerating the State as the true and just repository of all money and ambition. And they certainly don’t want to talk about how the abuse of government power is what causes the unemployment Pope Francis mourns, not the lawful ambitions of hard-working, risk-taking free people. With all due respect to the Holy Father, in a Constitutional capitalist system, nobody in the private sector has the power to “exclude” anyone. That’s what the government does. There most certainly are crony capitalists who love to purchase or rent that exclusionary power for their own benefit – there will always be big bucks on the table to purchase anti-competition – but let’s not kid ourselves about who actually wields the power.
And would the Pope care to show me some of that “unfettered” capitalism he’s talking about? I don’t know if that’s even a defensible description of the Third World exploitation he usually criticizes. It’s absolutely laughable to think “unfettered capitalism” exists anywhere in the Western world.