March 16th, 2014
Pope Francis is quoted in the March 8 2014 Economist:
“While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by the happy few,” he has written. “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.”
No, “the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation” is precisely what we don’t have. As an old-time socialist friend once said, “The main problem with capitalism is that we don’t have it.”
His Holiness has it exactly backwards, and in two independent ways at that.
First, “the earnings of a minority growing exponentially” is not a problem unless it comes at the expense of others. Reminds me of “Tax the rich, feed the poor/ till there are no rich no more”; it is poverty that we want to eliminate, not wealth.
Second, and less obviously, the reason crony capitalists have enormous fortunes is precisely because politicians do have the power “for the common good, to exercise any form of control”.
As long as politicians have power, whether “for the common good” or with any other excuse, to pick winners and restrict competition, people will find ways to corrupt politicians to get these goodies.
Whatever the original motivation, regulators are always and everywhere captured by the regulated, who write regulations for their own benefit.
Capitalism works for the public good only when people are allowed to freely trade with one another without permission or blessing from heavily armed government thugs.
The things Pope Francis doesn’t like about capitalism are not part of capitalism. They are part of the doomed attempts to “regulate” it. His Holiness doesn’t understand what capitalism is. Neither do most capitalists. Or most Republican “defenders of capitalism“. Maybe we need a new word.