“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.