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Monday, June 30. 2014
I like Pope Francis, and I think he has said and done many good things to date. I think his comments on Capitalism were misplaced, and so is his current commentary on Communists.
Points in time like these remind me why we need to teach basic Economics in our schools. Capitalism has done more to reduce poverty and improve the economic prospects of the poor than Communism ever did.
More importantly, and this is where Pope Francis goes veering off the rails, Communism forces people to 'be good', rather than allowing them the right to choose the proper path of behavior. It is true that certain miseries and unfair behaviors take place under Capitalism, but these are more than mitigated by the greater gains of all individuals across society. Communism, on the other hand, uses force and coercion to fix perceived inequalities and creates a permanent political class system which is not just economic in nature, but capable of enforcing its whims on those who are not part of the class.
It's worth remembering that Economics was originally called "Moral Philosophy." While Adam Smith is considered the father of Economics, he considered himself a Moral Philosopher and was merely seeking to determine how people made their decisions to act in certain ways. As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out:
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I think the Pope is saying that 20th century style communists have hijacked the term "communism". The early church was poor and communal, see, Acts. the kingdom of God, the church teaches, is not of this world, so the concept of social justice does not endorse this political system or that economic system, but is an intensely personal issue: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in".
Pope Francis has claimed he is not a Marxist, but has been vocal in opposing 'unfettered capitalism' without really explaining why unfettered capitalism is a problem, but relying on tropes which really are more about government alignment with business.
Perhaps he is saying 20 century communists hijacked the term, but that's a bit misleading, isn't it? After all, the term was hijacked by Marx when this was fully idealized.
I don't think Marx was hijacking anything, nor do I think the communists are. They are opposed to religion, even if they may like parts of Christian ethic. So I doubt Pope Francis was going that route.
What I think he was doing was naively seeking to say communists want to help the poor, ignoring the methods by which they have implemented their vision, because it does suit his calls so well.
If Pope Francis had said "Communists have utilized a portion of Christian thought to push their agenda, but their agenda as a whole is at odds with the whole of Chrisitan thought," I'd probably be inclined to agree with you.
Based on his commentary, it's clear he's making apologies for the use of force because the root intention is in line with a fundamental Christian ethos.
I want to make a clear distinction between communal practices of the early church and modern communism. I could have referenced "marxism", but that mid-19th century theory was itself hijacked and reworked by lenin-stalin-mao into the brutal modern communist parties that survive today. the term "marxist" is misleading in that respect, but its a minor point of terminology.
except on the most superficial level, Communists today share nothing with Christians. Communism has been thoroughly proved a tragic failure in almost every aspect.
before I go on, I'd like to make sure we're talking about the Pope's commentary in Evangelii Gaudium
It seems to me that the Pope himself is confusing Communism with Communalism, since he doesn't seem to differentiate the flaws of Communism from the tenets he says they hijacked.
They are not closet Christians, even in their idealized version. Yes, I agree with you that Marxism (the theory behind Communism, Socialism, etc.) may have a Christian ideal at its core regarding how we should lift up the lowly, but the Pope didn't differentiate. That's his fault, that's his error.
Marxism wasn't hijacked, it was never implementable. The big joke, if you get into a room with economists, is that unlike other theories, Marx never left a blueprint. He ignored the concept of self-organizing behaviors, and called for the centralized implementation of a scheme without explaining how this would happen.
So nothing was hijacked. All that occurred were different people who agreed with Marx trying to implement their schemes using whatever methods they felt could work - and only force works. Even Allende's Chile, which was one of the more peaceful impositions, required force (and sadly force was used to oust him - but this only begs the question of whether there was much difference between the two opposing factions).
Pope Francis' original comments about capitalism were, as you suggest, from Evangelii Gaudium. His recent comment about communists and closet Christians is from a blog post at The Economist.
As you can see from the link above, Pope Francis is poorly educated when it comes to what Capitalism is - suggesting it requires war to survive. As Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Joseph Schumpeter all pointed out, war is anathema to Capitalism. Capitalism requires what Schumpeter called "Creative Destruction", not "Total Devastation".
I wouldn't call any CEO naive or uneducated, especially the Pope, who didn't get there by being stupid or naive.
the Pope is not arguing for Communism or against capitalism and the Economist blogger even backs away from the initial claim that the Pope is supporting Communism. the press reports aren't orthodox christian and are reporting on the document from a non-christian point of view.
you can't understand Evangelii Gaudium except from an orthodox christian perspective, and this is not lip service, this means exactly what it appears to: the kingdom of God is not of this world. He's not offering particular reforms to economic systems, this (para. 203) is a call to personal accountability that criticizes both: "The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies..
...The dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies. At times, however, they seem to be a mere addendum imported from without in order to fill out a political discourse lacking in perspectives or plans for true and integral development. How many words prove irksome to this system! It is irksome when the question of ethics is raised, when global solidarity is invoked, when the distribution of goods is mentioned, when reference in made to protecting labour and defending the dignity of the powerless, when allusion is made to a God who demands a commitment to justice. At other times these issues are exploited by a rhetoric which cheapens them. Casual indifference in the face of such questions empties our lives and our words of all meaning. Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by a greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all."
this is not a call to revise the Uniform Commercial Code, it anticipates the more important challenge, when I was hungry/naked did you, Bulldog or Frigate or chuck feed/clothe me?
I agree with everything you wrote, except for your first sentence (though not specifically in reference to Pope Francis). Nothing I wrote is specifically at odds with the rest of your comment.
However, the Pope DID call for reforms and he DID criticize some ideologies without necessarily calling out others. That, alone, is why I feel comfortable saying his viewpoint is naive. His inability to understand the moral underpinnings of Capitalism (the primacy of choice) and the capability of Capitalism to raise up millions of people in a few short years while essentially providing an apology for Communists is, in short, naive. Whether he is a Communist or not is immaterial. It's the positioning of his commentary which is important, and his understanding of the course material he is discussing that is meaningful.
He knows his business well - that it's up to us to help people, that helping the poor is a Christian theme and a righteous motivation. He does not know his economics well at all. Unfettered Capitalism is not the great danger he claims it is, nor is it driven by war. The great danger he alluded to is completely driven by political ties to business interests and so is war. Profits are a side business, the 'reward' for politically motivated behaviors.
You can have profits without the political relationship, but the political relationship helps lock in a form of long term monopoly profits. That is the real issue he should be addressing. Not Capitalism or Communism.
Communism, at its core, is fine. As long as you enter into voluntarily and you are not forced to remain part of the communal arrangement, and are free to leave at any time. Free markets allow for this. Capitalism allows for this. There are plenty of co-ops doing very well in modern society.
I understand the larger motivation of his commentaries (growing up Catholic is a huge benefit here), but he needs to improve his PR and his communication. The message isn't being sent properly, and he doesn't seem to care.
BTW, plenty of CEOs have reached the top being naive and/or uneducated. I've worked for at least one, and I could make a case for several others. My wife makes the same comment to me all the time "you can't be stupid and be successful." Then I remind her of a few of her past bosses, and the discussion ends quickly.
It's easy to destroy a business if you don't care about the message you're sending or how you're running it. If 'getting what's yours' is all that matters, you can reach the top very quickly.
I just can't argue religion, which is shame, since I enjoy these arguments. but in honestly exploring these issues, I'd only giving ammunition to asshatted bigots, of whom there are several already on this thread spewing the usual know-nothing bullshit.
I will, however, be happy to demonstrate a connection between warrior nations like the USA and GB and capitalism.
I won't dispute the connection, never did.
I merely said capitalism fails when it comes to war. The idea that destruction is a beneficial concept is anathema to the ideology and implementation.
Connecting the US and GB as warrior nations, and then connecting them to capitalism would mean you're connecting 2 nations with imperial political DNA that have also convinced enought CEOs that joining a corporatist/political can produce some profits (ignoring all the while that others' profits will be impacted negatively, ultimately yielding less for all). This is not capitalism.
It's called capitalism by those who don't know better for one reason. They are unable to fathom how a corporation can exist outside of capitalism. But it can, and often does. Neither the US or GB are capitalist nations. We were much closer to being capitalist nations in the late 1800's. WWI changed everything, WWII changed it even more, and the fear of communism changed it even more.
I'm not sure why we felt mimicking portions of communist thought would help us defeat communism, because while it led to a temporary reprieve, it was clearly never defeated, and we're much weaker now because of it.
BTW, Pope Francis' comment on 'closet Christians' would have been acceptable to me if he used it to describe those holding pure Marxist positions. That is, the original ideology. Because that was really a core value of the original Marxist view, though he despised religion. Yet he despised it because he felt religion was in cahoots with capital. Now what are we seeing? Quite the reverse...
As a result, I see naivete in Pope Francis' comment not just in terms of his understanding of capitalism, but also in his ability, or lack thereof, to differentiate Marxism from communism or even socialism.
thanks for the civil dialog, although I disagree.
whether there was much difference between the two opposing factions
Well, yes there was. Allende violated the constitution and the Congress called in the army, which was constitutionally required to act. Apart from that, the leaders were from different classes. Allende came from the upper middle class. I believe Allende was also a fascist as a youth, as many South American lefties were in the days before Castro when Peron was an icon. All and all, I think Chile did far better with Pinochet than it would have with Allende, if only because communists would have been far harder to get rid of.
I was merely questioning whether there is much difference between either side which thinks they need to utilize force to get what they need.
Certainly there were political and ideological differences.
But in the end, neither side was comfortable letting the native processes work themselves out and both used armed coercion.
Whether Chile did better with Pinochet (and that's highly questionable, depending on how you define 'better' - perhaps economically, but not so much with regard to human rights) isn't a rationale for his armed force being 'better' than Allende's.
It's that reason which leads me to the conclusion neither was preferable, both in many ways similar.
I conclude that you simply don't despise communism to the extent that you should. Look at the record. And the communists were moving to take over. Allende himself might have become a victim later on. I simply don't understand sympathy for Allende, he and his political allies broke with the constitution, armed non-governmental groups, took over banks and businesses, and gave every indication of being standard left wing assholes. They reaped what they sowed.
I didn't profess sympathy for Allende. I merely stated that the methods used, on either side, were hardly justifiable.
I think my cred in terms of despising communism is fairly evident. Just because I happen to think there is more than one way to handle a situation does not mean I necessarily have sympathy for the loser in that particular situation. There's no question Allende got what he deserved, given his methods. But then you have to wonder were all the bodies in the aftermath justifiable?
You may think so. I don't. That's all.
What he should have said is something like communism is a heresy of the Christian concept of charity except the communist version subsumes everything to the state, is inevitably corrupt, removes individual responsibility and the elites have always and everywhere implemented and defended their system with extreme violence to their benefit. Communism also by design crowds out Christianity. This also should be a major red flag for Francis to raise.
So far I like Pope Francis and believe his heart is in the right place with his messages but he could be more careful with clarifying context.
I have described communism as a Christian heresy. Viewing it that way gets you around a lot of the conflict between the overlap of some values combined with its hatred for religion.
As Lewis noted in Screwtape, it is hard to invent a new virtue. You can only twist the old ones.
That's exactly what the underlying ideology is. It acts as other heresies where a particulary Christian concept, in this case charity, is taken out of context and out of other balancing principles to become the ideology itself. This always and everywhere leads to failure.
I think there are Christian influences in Communism, but atheism, earthly utopia, proliferation of secular gods, dispensing with the soul, despising personal morality, and committing mass murder makes it a perversion of Christianity rather than a natural development. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a deeper analysis of timeless human nature than anything written in the Communist Manifesto.
The catholic church in all of South and Central America is closely aligned with the Marxist Socialist philosophy which by default makes them anti-capitalist. I don't think that you have to be naive to believe Marxism/socialism/communism is good but you have to be evil. The good people who believe Marxism/socialism/communism is good are obviously naive. So the choice really is; is the pope a good person who is naive or a bad person who hopes to use a Marxist/socialist philosophy to take power and money away fromthose who have it. I don't know the answer but I'm not sure one has to know the answer because it doesn't matter. Either way it should be fought against and exposed for what it is.
Well, to be fair, it wasn't the communism that was bad. It's the Socialism. They sold it as communist because quickly ran riot to socialist as that is the way to power. Communism means equality, but, in the Communist countries, equality lasted about a the time it takes a bullet to traverse a skull. But they needed a patsy so communism was it. The allowed the control freaks to keep selling socialism.
That Communism is essentially negative, confined to the prohibition that one shall not have more than another. Socialism is positive and aggressive, declaring that each man shall have enough.
It purposes to introduce new forces into society and industry; to put a stop to the idleness, the waste of resources, the misdirection of force, inseparable, in some large proportion of instances, from individual initiative; and to drive the whole mass forward in the direction determined by the intelligence of its better half.
As for the Pope, kind of sad he's such an idiot.
Christianity, as a late writer has pointed out in words well chosen, is the only system of socialism which commends it self as having a rational basis, and its founder the most practical teacher of it that the world has ever seen. " The aim of all socialism is the securing of equality in the social condition of mankind, and if equality is to be secured at all it will be secured only by changing the hearts of men, and never by setting to work, in the first instance, upon the conditions." But the present impulse of socialism is not Christian, but rather one willing to put an end to Christianity. And it is a system of machinery, like the kingdom of a tyrant, not of souls, like that of Christ. Now the Christian system did not rest on force at all. It was communistic, but not socialistic, as the word is properly used; for its very essence was the freedom of the individual will.
Socialism and Legislation, Westminster Review, January, 1886.
Dear Bull Dog:
Thank you for starting this conversation. I am posting this entry late at night, but hope that others interested in this conversation will return in the morning.
MF folks still have not addressed the question of why it is that US Corporations are so willing to stand by and enable the hard left to do so much damage in their march toward socialism/communism. It is my belief that it is because we have a fairly new topic of study within the social sciences--systems theory. The Russians tried Systems theory and failed, but today every corporate guru on the lecture circuit wants to teach leader to "this systemically". Corporations can see how wonderfully easy it is to manage when leadership has control of all the systems in which a corporation finds itself engaged. In order to control systems each individual must be on the same page. Of course, it is always better to collaborate with the unions than to have them come after the corporation with a vengeance! Soo corporate leaders let the socialist/communists play on and then expect them to look the other way. It seems that both the unions and the corporations hunger for the ability to control "the systems".
I have a different view. I think at the corporate level 'systems theory' works just fine. It's not a bad thing to teach or even necessarily learn.
At a macro level, however, it's very problematic, and I agree with your premise regarding the Socialists and Communists trying to utilize it to order society.
Today, here in the US, Behavioral Economics is being twisted to do the same thing. A classic example from Freakonomics is the study which was designed to give children free books at an early age because studies had shown that homes with books had higher achievers. This kind of classic "Correlation is Causation" error is repeated time and time again in social policy circles. Behavioral Economics is, in reality, not a horrible thing, except when it's used poorly or like a sledgehammer.
Very few of us, including Libertarians like me, would be opposed to taxing vices. We'd likely opposing taxing them punitively, but taxing them to a small degree is going to prevent some people from taking their use to an extreme or causing themselves severe physical harm. I'd argue we shouldn't engineer social policy in this way on a large scale, but there are actually some long run benefits to the concept in very specific cases. That is a good application of Behavioral Economics.
At this point, I'd add I've always felt Behavioral Economics actually grew out of the Austrian School of Economics, because the basic premise of the Austrian School is that people make decisions based on particular needs (not necessarily rational ones). Pure Austrians would stipulate any intervention in the price mechanism would lead to unintended consequences and misallocation of resources. But sometimes the unintended consequences are good. The downside, of course, is the money goes to the government, and generally speaking we see this as a 'bad'.
It's here that Schumpeter's views on the future of Capitalism are worth noting. Schumpeter was mildly related to the Austrian School, as a supporter of free markets. But he was not as deeply ingrained as others. Schumpeter, I believe, answered your question about why corporations allow the Left to undermine our economy.
He pointed out that as corporations become more deeply involved in politics, the relationship undermines the necessary freedoms which allow them to be flexible and act properly in a free market.
However, the relationships with politics creates a limited form of monopoly profits. The corporations get the regulations they want which guarantee them a perceived higher income level 'now'. Schumpeter pointed out this may seem all well and good, but in the long run it requires more regulations, more laws and eventually freedoms are undermined.
The corporations become willing and naive partners in the drive toward a Socialist-style outcome because they seem to believe they are 'saving' the free market simply because they still exist.
But the existence of a corporation does not, in any way, prove a free market, or even a market, exists. It's no surprise there are precious few corporations giving money to Libertarian causes. We don't oppose corporations, but we do oppose their cozy political relationships.
Leftists assume Libertarians are naive, that the corporate relationship necessitates a cozy political relationship, and our support of corporations means we are simply shifting blame to government.
However, we are not. We do blame government, but we also blame greedy business people who think government provides income, and can assure income. In the short run, perhaps it seems that way. In the long run, the Leftists win because either the corporations fall in line to save their skin and a pseudo-Socialist (fascist) arrangement is reached, or the Leftists convince enough people that corporations are evil and manage to get a punitive ruler in place to 'make things right' (can you say Bill di Blasio?).
Thanks Bulldog--that is a good read and I appreciate your time. However, perhaps i am just more focused on the process of collaboration. When I look at Seattle-the corporations that have grown there: Boeing, US Bank, Costco, UPS, Microsoft, Amazon, etc., etc. and I see how tightly controlled WA state is ruled I am then also aware of the immense power this generation of communists in that state have had--they are the people who put the O in office and they worked hand in hand with their supporting corporations. Why do these corporations shelter and support the strongest group of communists in the free world?
Seconds: I keep coming back to China. Oh those ports of Seattle--how blessed they are to host Chinese imports! Oh the drive to have China business. . .
WA state even had the first Chinese/American governor (two terms of course) who then went on to be on the O's team. You know how the Chinese feel about free speech, etc., do you suppose Seattle trades off our liberty to make the Chinese happy? Those are awfully big ports--
Because they don't view it as communism if it benefits them. And in benefiting themselves, many people feel that is capitalism.
In reality, it is just a form of fascism, which is tightly related to socialism.
Remember how closely the businessmen of Nazi Germany protected the ruling party? Because it benefited a cozy few.
In the near term, it will end badly. In the long run, I suppose we are likely to learn some useful lessons from all this. Hopefully we'll put those lessons to good use.
I'm Catholic. Most serious Catholics know that the economic thinking of Pope Francis, like many Catholic leaders is based upon Pope Francis is a Distributist. Distributist philosophy grew out of Rerum Novarum (written in 1891). Rerum Novarum was seen as a Catholic response (self defense) to the philosophy of Marx and Engels which at the time was like a tsunami washing across all of Western thinking. Pope Francis is definitely not a communist in any serious sense. -He may be trying to co-opt/subvert socialist thinking. -He may be influenced by Liberation Theology, although L.T. was rather harshly dealt with by Pope John Paul 2, it had already infected much of the thinking in Catholic South America. The whole idea of "social justice" enforced by gov't is a problem for many Christians & Catholics, yet naively supported by many others.