The Pope’s recent caution against love of money is way more complicated than some people are making it out to be, Michael Gerson writes in his current column. Pope Francis keeps freaking people out by, for example, talking about his time working as a bouncer in a bar, roadie for The Grateful Dead, etc. This is one hip pope. But Gerson finds that the pope does acknowledge that capitalism can be good for the world — lifting people out of poverty, for example — just that capitalism has other, harsher goals, too, so can’t really be a guiding principle for goodness.
Or that is PostScript’s interpretation of Gerson’s interpretation of what the pope said. Because as the comments make clear, people have massively different versions of what the pope said. He is, apparently, Pope Rorschach.
I still do not see the Pope as being against free markets. He criticizes a “deified market” and a “crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power”. I am certain he agrees with the 1% paying more in federal taxes, while some in the 49% not being required to pay federal taxes, which is the case in the U.S. and other free market democracies. However, I believe he would be equally critical of governments that run up trillion dollar debt that cause infants to be born with responsibility for thousands of dollars of national debts caused by active government role, especially without true budget considerations.
I think Gerson almost gets the point. The Pope said nothing about capitalism. He was slamming those who think free-market, libertarian (or laissez-faire ) capitalism is good for society. He basically said conservative economic policies are immoral. There is no need to quibble. That is what he said. That is also what the previous popes said.
The hell he did (no pun intended). He said capitalism with no soul is immoral. And do you know where that’s practiced? In China, a capitalist system without property rights, the rule of law, and clean government. He is reaching out to those in business without condemning what they do. That’s what the Marxist wannabees here are missing.
Francis identified the shortcomings of “trickle-down economic theories” not because of their reliance on the free markets or the lack of economic growth but due to the growing economic and political failure to extend a life supporting share of the economy to the extremes. Francis claimed to be speaking about “something new” which is, “no longer simply about exploitation and oppression”. The exclusion of some distorts rational behavior for all.
The “excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it.” The economic exclusion and the desperation that comes with it “kills” with misguided support for terrorism, abortion and abandonment of the elderly.
And then, depending on what the Pope meant, we might also disagree with him.
Words are one thing – action is another (besides washing parishioners’ feet, which has been given an amazing amount of air time, considering that it’s a nice, but petty – and somewhat screwy – gesture).
I’m no fan of trickle-down. But the Pope presides over his own obscenely rich dominion. When I see the Church divest itself of even a fraction of its tens of trillions of dollars in real estate, gold, jewels, art and other holdings to give to the poor – even limiting the largesse to its own needy flock – then I’ll be impressed.
As individuals do we not have a moral responsibility to be charitable AND to live lives and run our countries in responsible, decent ways so we do not unnecessarily burden others? The Pope, like Gerson and other “Progressives” make a key mistake. Jesus speaks to us as individuals and calls us to his way and his salvation as individuals. There is no collectivism in the New Testament. We are not saved by ideology, political parties, churches, movements or taxation by the threat of government force.
Depending on what the pope meant, we might agree with him:
Not all have bowed to the God of Commerce. Man does not live by bread alone. Sometimes the tables of commerce (my house shall be called a house of prayer) have to be turned over in order for the truth to be seen. Congrats to the Pope and Michael for a reflective moment. Government must do what the private sector won’t do or refuses to do. A homeless man or a hungry child can’t wait for the private sector.
Even in the midst of profound disagreement on the lessons of Christianity, both of the last two commenters have lumped Gerson in with the pope. “The Pope, like Gerson, makes a key mistake” and “Congrats to the Pope and Michael.” If PostScript were Gerson, she’d put that on her Christmas card.