Archive for November, 2013

Pope Francis attacks ‘tyranny’ of unfettered capitalism, ‘idolatory (sic) of money,’ ” blared the CNBC headline. “Really,” I thought to myself, “I bet he’s Catholic too.” The new pontiff has wasted no time in leveling his guns at capitalism. Not that that’s any big surprise. As John Robbins documented in his book Ecclesiastical Megalomania, Popes have explicitly railed against capitalism, the economics of the Bible, for over 100 years.

Even a cursory review of the exhortation shows the Pope has roughly the same view of economics as the Occupy Wall Street crowd: the 1% have enriched themselves at the expense of the 99% and the free market is to blame. Writes the Pope,

“In this context, 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.”

Of course as a Scripturalist, I prefer to make my appeals to the Word of God, not to “the facts,” but even at that, the Pope’s words fail the test of history. It was capitalism – an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production – not the socialism of the Roman Catholic Church State, that brought a previously unknown level of prosperity to common people in the nations touched by the Reformation.

The Pope continues his attack on free markets and free men by linking capitalism to contemporary economic problems.

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.

Now far be it from me to defend the current financial system. It’s an ongoing disaster chock full of bailouts, Quantitative Easing, theft (but I repeat myself), and market manipulation, all rigged for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. But what it isn’t is capitalism. The Wall Street folks rescued from bankruptcy n 2008, were saved not by capitalism – capitalism would have seen their assets liquidated and their offices closed – but by massive government intervention in the economy. The very sort of thing the Occupy Wall Streeters, the Pope and other socialists seem to think is the cure for what ails us.

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Although the study of history is currently a matter of great interest, such was not always the case. The ancient Greeks showed little interest in the subject. Writing in the early nineteenth century, G.W.F. Hegel stimulated modern interest in the subject. Karl Marx, one of Hegel’s students, developed a system of dialectical materialism in which the notion of class struggle took center stage. The fundamental proposition of Marxism is that the mode of economic production at a given time is the basis for the political and intellectual history of the era. Clark casts doubt on this assertion by pointing out that, while the economic organization of most nations until very recently have been largely similar (most have been agricultural economies), the intellectual history of these nations have differed significantly.

The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Frederich Hegel (1770-1831) is best known today for his dialectic. For Hegel, the world – ideas, religion, the arts,, the sciences, the economy, institutions, society itself (most of my discussion of Hegel is taken from The Story of Thought by Bryan Magee, pp.158-163) – was in a constant state of flux or change. This change did not occur randomly, but was the result of the dialectical process or simply the dialectic. The dialectic took place in three stages: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The first stage, thesis, is the initial state of affairs in a particular field. This state of affairs always provokes a reaction, which Hegel termed the antithesis. The conflict between the two views then resolves itself in synthesis, which as the name suggests, is a new state of affairs that combines elements of the prior thesis and antithesis. The synthesis then becomes the new thesis, which provokes a further antithesis resulting in still another synthesis, and so on and so forth. This three stage process is sometimes referred to as a triad.

Karl Marx, the best known student of Hegel, took the Hegelian dialectic and applied it to economics. In Marx, the conflict between the haves and the have nots was substituted for the thesis and antithesis of ideas in Hegel. Hence the term “dialectical materialism” referenced by Clark on page 35, paragraph 2.

Clark, quoting Frederick Engles, provides for us the fundamental proposition of Marxism,

“In every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained the political and intellectual history of that epoch.”

Clark proceeds to cast doubt Marxism by attacking this claim on its own terms. This is a type of argument known as ad hominem, Latin for “to the man.” Ad hominem is not so uncommon a term as to appear completely foreign to many people, but the sense in which I’m using it may seem a bit unusual to some. Usually when we hear the term ad hominem, the word is used in the sense of “personal attack,” where one man seeks to undermine the credibility of another’s argument by means of character assassination. This tactic is more accurately called an ad hominem abusive argument and is considered an informal logical fallacy.

Ad hominem in the sense Clark uses it is no fallacy, but an effective means of refuting an opponent’s position. Clark does is to assumes the Marxists’ premise on history and then demonstrates that their conclusions do not follow from it. Clark writes,

“in fact, until the recent past all countries have been mainly agricultural, and the methods have been basically the same; yet the intellectual histories of China, Persia, Russia, and France show much greater difference than the Marxist theory would lead one to expect”…

Perhaps Marx could defend his position by showing that the method of welding in Russia differs from the American method, and that Russian welding causes atheism, while American welding allows the churches considerable freedom” (CVMT, pp. 36, 37).

Clark ends this section by crediting Marx with at least recognizing the problem of history and making an attempt to solve it.




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Obamacare Ad Nauseum

I’ve gotten to the point where I can scarcely go to the workplace refrigerator to get my lunch. I dread opening the break room doors, for behind them horror awaits. Vile. Unspeakable. I’m referring, of course, to CCN’s incessant, breathless, blow-by-blow coverage of the Obamacare website mess.

And the more I hear it, the more I think this may be a blessing in disguise for the medical socialists. The enormous website fail has given them the opportunity to redirect the conversation, so that now everyone is abuzz about how to fix healthcare.gov instead of how shut it down forever. It would seem the Obama folks have taken to heart Rahm Emanuel’s saying, never let a good disaster go to waste.

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A King’s Faith

He trusted in the LORD God of Israel. – 2 Kings 18:5

As a long time history buff, the historical writings of the Old Testament have always had immediate appeal to me. In the Pentateuch, God gave us doctrine. In the historical books, he shows the practice, or non-practice as the case may be, of that doctrine by the children of Israel.  Reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles one finds example after example of kings either acting in faith or rejecting God and going their own way. And as readers, were not left to interpret the examples on our own, but God provides a summary commentary on the lives of the kings, passing judgment on their thoughts and their actions.

A review of the Bible’s commentary on the lives of the kings of Israel and Judah reveals that a distressingly high percentage of these rules not only lacked faith, but were actively evil in their doings. Among the most damning of these commentaries was that on the life of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat. Now Jehoshaphat was one of Judah’s best kings, but his son was an appalling individual. Of Jehoram it was said, “He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chron. 21:20). How would you like that as your epitaph?

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