Skip to comments.Occupy the Vatican? A progressive pope? Not really
Posted on 11/30/2013 10:38:44 AM PST by SeekAndFind
American conservatives perhaps to a person were outraged and disappointed by Pope Franciss tough statement about free markets and capitalism and his highlighting of the harm caused by inequality, consumerism, and trickle-down economics. Habemus Anti-Capitalist Papam!
No, wait. Thats not quite correct. American progressives perhaps to a person expected American conservatives to freak out. Pope Francis basically just endorsed the de Blasio agenda! and such. But conservatives pretty much didnt react that way. Not surprising, really. Christians on the right are accustomed to Sunday sermons denouncing crass materialism, and exhorting the faithful to help the poor, orphans, widows. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, demands the Gospel of St. Matthew. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. And this, a few verses later: No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and money.
Conservatives whether churchgoers or not are not utopians, They understand market economies will never turn the world temporal into Paradise (while at the same time realizing that command-and-control economies have frequently produced a kind of hell on earth). Conservatives value the safety net to help those whom the pope calls the excluded. But conservatives also want to reform the safety net so more resources are devoted to raising the living standards of the truly needy rather than subsidizing the rich, moving the jobless toward work and self sufficiency, and increasing social mobility and equality of opportunity.
Likewise, few conservatives would disagree with this bit of the popes statement: The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
Conservatives embrace markets because they support a free society but also because market economies produce the sort of prosperity that enables true human flourishing, one where we can better define our future as we see fit and achieve success on the basis of merit and hard work. After all, it was innovative capitalism something the pope surely understands even if actual anti-capitalists dont that raised the average real income of the West over the past two centuries from $3 a day to $140. That might not qualify as a miracle, but it is surely a wonder one that has given us lots better stuff and lots more opportunity to lead lives of deep fulfillment.
And progressives are kidding themselves if they think the pope was somehow embracing an Elizabethian (Warren) agenda of sky-high tax rates and an endlessly expanding welfare state. (Indeed, the pope denounced a simple welfare mentality.) How cramped an interpretation. Pope Franciss vision transcends such parochial concerns. He is a global figure looking at crony capitalism in South America, massive youth unemployment in big government Europe, tremendous wealth disparities in state capitalist Asia, and deep poverty in Africa.
As the Christian and libertarian economist Deirdre McCloskey writes in The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, the good society can be built on the cardinal and theological virtues that also support a prosperous commercial society. The virtue of Courage, for example to venture on new ways of business to overcome the fear of change, to bear defeat unto bankruptcy, to be courteous to new ideas, to wake up the next morning and face fresh work with cheer. And Hope to imagine a better machine to see the future as something other than stagnation or eternal recurrence, to infuse the days work with a purpose, seen ones labor as a glorious calling. The claim here is that modern capitalism does not need to be offset to be good. Capitalism on the contrary can be virtuous. In a fallen world, the bourgeois is not perfect. But it is better than any available alternative.
McCloskey goes on to write that capitalism needs to be inspired, moralized, completed. That sounds exactly like what Pope Francis is trying to do.
Family get together yesterday. The mother of my husband’s first cousin once removed’s mother (got that?) was there. She’s been active in liberal politics for decades. She somehow discovered I was a Catholic and says don’t I just love Pope Francis and starts in on how wonderful Francis is and that the Church finally has a Pope who wants to help the poor. Mr. Mercat says I did a good job. I said I have loved every pope in my lifetime. She said “oh, well did you hear what he said last week?” I said, I heard what the MSM said he said. etc etc. Finally she made the comment about the Church finally doing something about the poor. I said, very sweetly, that the Catholic Church has been helping the poor for centuries, millennium and that it was part of who we are. I started to offer her some books on Church history but I could tell she was done so I stopped. We started discussing the deserts.
Not a good idea to argue over politics during mealtime ( and NOT in Thanksgiving). :)
Thanks for another interesting thread. Methinks the good Holy Father is quite guilty of breaking the Western cardinal rule that demands Western “nuance”, and Western pandering.
Francis often models the proverbial “bull in the china closet” with his proclamations, and certainly in observing our American self-centric reaction to everything he says, he appears to also have some Rhett Butler in him—wherein he might well say to the West, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.
The man is not PC. Neither was, you-know-who.
LOL got me
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Kind of an interesting slant when given the massive wealth the Catholic Church has amassed over the centuries. Even more amazing when, I know that the Church exhorts others to give of themselves while holding onto its own wealth. I was stationed in S. Italy in the late '70s and our unit sponsored a Catholic orphanage. The Church owned the facility, which was in terrible repair with many windows were just rough holes without even frames for pane, and a leaky roof, and dysfunctional plumbing, etc. The Church supplied one priest and 3 nuns and allowed use of the "facility" under the conditions that charitable contributions paid all the bills (including feeding/clothing the staff).