Pope Francis, on a visit to South America last week, called unfettered capitalism “the dung of the devil.” [telegraph.co.uk 7/11/15, CNN.com 7/10/15]
It’s interesting that the Pope would go after unfettered capitalism. Unhampered capitalism has never existed anywhere. The closest was the United States during its inventive and expansive era of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The quality of human life improved during that time as never before, or since. America has advanced and grown since that time, but not as rapidly or dramatically as in the era with the most capitalism.
What, exactly, does the Pope have against capitalism?
Capitalism is the social-economic system under which all property, including the means of production, is privately owned. The only exceptions are government buildings, courthouses, military bases and the like. To the Pope, maybe private ownership seems selfish. It is selfish. But why is that so bad?
Self-interested parties are the most responsible parties. Why? Because they have the most to lose. The kind of person capable of creating a million or billion dollar for-profit enterprise is not an unstable, dishonorable person. You cannot create billion dollar empires with qualities of low or no character, and you cannot maintain them, either.
The Pope, like other Catholics, supposedly favors honesty. “Thou shalt not lie” or “bear false witness” are one of the 10 Commandments the Catholic faith claims to uphold. In unfettered capitalism, the business owner is obliged to please the customer. Fraud is punished, if not first by a proper government who protects its citizens against fraud, then certainly by the consumer population who will not tolerate known dishonesty if they are paying customers. (Only politicians or political dictators get away with such things as fraud and murder.)
Unfettered capitalists are the best kind. They are the ones who seek to make and maintain profits by relying on employees and others to help them accomplish what they want. They want no pull, favors or subsidies from the government. This selfish, self-responsible motivation creates jobs, and allows a society to grow from a savage wilderness of mud huts to a civilization of glorious skyscrapers, jets, suburbs and whatever might yet come from economic and scientific progress. It’s called motivation. Capitalism is the only system that permits the free-thinking of the self-responsible, rational mind to flourish. Unless the Pope actually wants people to stagnate and starve, exactly what does he mean when he equates this social system with celestial excrement?
Many conservative Catholics and others favor capitalism. Some probably favor unfettered capitalism; more of them want a greater dose of capitalism than we presently have, where there is heavy taxation, regulation and control by the government of all semi-capitalist societies.
Despite the lack of freedom in today’s world for unfettered capitalism to do its thing, countries with hampered capitalism — places like France, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the United States — are infinitely superior places to live when compared to impoverished tribes in Africa and South America, for example, where no capitalism was ever permitted. And the wretched failures of Marxist socialism in Russia, North Korea, China and Cuba speak for themselves.
If the Pope is such a loving and compassionate man, then why does he say such hateful and spiteful things against the only social and economic system that ever gave humankind a chance to live beyond the age of 25, to say nothing of all the other benefits economic growth and development have provided and sustained? What’s wrong with him?
Some are puzzled that this Catholic Pope is such a friend of Marxist ideas, and socialist thinking. Pope John Paul II, they point out, opposed Communism in his homeland of Poland. But Communism outlaws religious practices, because Communism is in competition with them. Communism, like any other form of socialism, requires a blind adherence and obedience to the religion of the state. The Church requires a different kind of obedience, which is why, obviously, the Catholic Church and Communist government clashed so bitterly in the past.
Even the Pope himself may be confused. “Vatican officials appear to have been flummoxed after Pope Francis was presented with a communist crucifix depicting Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle by Bolivia’s [socialist] president Evo Morales.” [theguardian.com 7/9/15]
The Vatican should not be confused, and neither should the Pope. On the doctrine of original sin, Communists and Catholics can agree. From a religious point of view, “original sin” means that man is born flawed and basically evil, regardless of what any individual human being does in his or her own life. Catholicism has counted on the guilt fostered by this viewpoint to encourage people to submit, and follow the dictates of the Church, for centuries.
Although Marxist communism does not subscribe to the theological doctrine of original sin, its adherence to — and reliance upon –unearned guilt is the same. The idea behind Marxism: the more capable you are, the more you must give– the more you must give as a duty. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is the explicit credo of Marxism. Instead of psychologically walloping you for Adam and Eve’s disobedience against God, Marxism throttles you for being white, or rich, or middle class, or American. It’s Original Sin in a different, more secularized form — with the precise same psychological motive: to encourage submission to authority.
Guilt is always the weapon for advancing such views. It goes much further than even guns, tanks or prison camps.
Capitalism, unlike either Catholicism or Marxism, upholds and depends upon the morality of the rational, thinking and autonomous individual. It fosters self-reliance, self-sovereignty, and inalienable, individual rights, including the absolute right to property both the Pope and his fellow Marxists oppose. At root, it means having and cherishing a self. Ultimately, both religion and Marxism must clash with these values of rationality and individualism, on a very fundamental level.
A Christian cross with the symbol of Communism, the hammer and sickle? The hammer and sickle refers to sacrifice of the individual; so too does the Christian cross. It makes more sense than you think.
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