God Bless Cardinal Pell. (And Margaret Thatcher. And, for that Matter, Capitalism.)

 

From an article in the London Spectator describing the changes Pope Francis is making in the curia:

154078-cardinal-george-pellThe Pope has begun his attack on the Curia by placing its scandal-ridden financial structures under the control of a new department with unprecedented powers: the Secretariat for the Economy. Its first prefect is Cardinal George Pell, the conservative former Archbishop of Sydney.

Further

The blunt-spoken Pell is a close friend of Tony Abbott and, like the Australian prime minister, a climate change sceptic. In an interview with the Catholic News Service earlier this month, he said: ‘I remember Margaret Thatcher’s comment, that the Good Samaritan, if he hadn’t been a little bit of a capitalist and had his own store of money, couldn’t have helped. We can do more if we generate more.’ (One can only imagine how this went down with the bishops of England and Wales, whose politics and financial acumen are those of the 1980s public sector.)

Not that the pontiff has inquired into my state of mind, but if he’s going to continue spouting left-wing nonsense on the economy, and his trip to Korea last week indicates that he’s going to do just that, then the appointment of Cardinal Pell, who understands the virtues of economic liberty, makes me feel a lot more at ease.

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  1. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Joseph Stanko:

    Western Chauvinist: The truth is, no one (no single human being, nor any group of human beings (esp. in government)) has enough information to say whether the distribution of wealth is “fair,” or not, in a given place at a given time.

    I think I could say that certain distributions are unfair at a given place and time.

    For instance, imagine a remote Pacific island where one man owns the entire island. That would essentially make all the rest of the tribe into his slaves, since he has a monopoly over all the food and fresh water since they are all on his property. In fact he could banish anyone from the island by simply declaring they were trespassing on his property.

    Right. I’m speaking about potential real-world solutions from a top-down perspective in a national economy. There really aren’t any. The best any nation has ever done for the most people, arguably, was the post-WWII, Judeo-Christian, (relatively) free-enterprise US. Which is not to say that inequities didn’t or don’t exist, only that it’s the best “system” ever somewhat organically grown. Christian virtues — free enterprise — bottom-up.

    • #61
  2. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    1) Katievs: I listen to catholic radio regularly. It is their interpretation of CST that I’m going by. Every other word is “greed”, every sentence is  a denouncement of capitalism. 

    2) The catholic church opposes “centralized governments” only because they are alternatives to their “centralized church”. I.e., the reasons why is more important than the fact that they do

    3) CST creates a caricature of real world economic interactions by pretending that “greed” runs all things. It takes no brave person to say “I oppose greed”. It does take a heck of a lot more to figure out what…greed is…and how it actually works in the real world

    4) Capitalism is not greed. Capitalism is the opposite of greed. Capitalism says that if you don’t forego pleasure now, if you don’t invest in meeting the needs of other people, you yourself will not prosper economically. 

    5) “Libertarianism” and “economic absolutism” are strawman arguments. All economics is already “moral”. The moral is: you can only help yourself by helping others. So saying that “economics should be moral” betrays an ignorance of economics on part of the catholic Church, and a simplistic model of the world.

    • #62
  3. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Manny: However what they don’t realize is that real poverty is pretty much eliminated in the western world.

    It’s worth keeping in mind however that papal encyclicals address the entire world, and real poverty very much still exists around the globe.

    • #63
  4. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Of course this brings us to a deeper divide that goes well beyond this current Pope.

    Blaming the divergent economic and political fates of the Protestant West  and the Catholic world on “Islam” is of course absolutely untrue. By the time the economic divide occurred, islam was a distant memory in Europe. Nor was there any Islam to be fought in latin America. 

    Nor is using examples of Liberia etc. useful. Those are exception to a pretty obvious trend. 

    The fundamental difference was that Protestantism placed the emphasis on the individual. The Catholic church placed its emphasis on obedience to a central authority. All else flowed from there. Economic institutions, political institutions, legal institutions. 

    There were no parallels developed in the Catholic world to the views of John Calvin on the role of economic activity. There were no parallels to John Locke’s “life, liberty and property” in the Catholic world. 

    The Catholic position on this is that these are “human institutions” designed to “replace” the authority of the Church. The Protestant position is that these are self-evident facts revealed from God himself. 

    This divide is fundamental. And particularly important in America…today.

    • #64
  5. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Joseph Stanko: It’s worth keeping in mind however that papal encyclicals address the entire world, and real poverty very much still exists around the globe.

     It does however ignore the obvious that “poverty” is pretty much eradicated precisely in the places where capitalism thrives, and poverty thrives where capitalism does not.

    Yet the Catholic Church’s interpretation of all this is: capitalism causes poverty! :) Justified by creating a caricature that says that “capitalism” lacks morals, is all about greed, and therefore leads to “poverty”. 

    I’m not sure how any of this fits with the real world, or how exactly it differs from Das Kapital.

    • #65
  6. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    AIG:

    4) Capitalism is not greed. Capitalism is the opposite of greed. Capitalism says that if you don’t forego pleasure now, if you don’t invest in meeting the needs of other people, you yourself will not prosper economically.

     

    Exactly, but I don’t even approve of the term ‘greed.’ It is defined in Webster’s as “an excessive, extreme desire for something, often more than one’s proper share.”
    Oh my! One’s proper share? Who gets to determine what this is?

    • #66
  7. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    katievs: He is repudiating libertarian absolutism and a brand of capitalism that wants “market forces” to operate outside the ethical limits of the humane society.

    But no one advocates this.  Even the most hard-core Randian or anarcho-capitalist doesn’t advocate a moralless society.  It’s a total strawman.

    • #67
  8. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Western Chauvinist: The best any nation has ever done for the most people, arguably, was the post-WWII, Judeo-Christian, (relatively) free-enterprise US.

    Why do you single out “post-WWII” America?  It seems to me the 19th century was the golden age of free-enterprise capitalism in the U.S., and it ended with the rise first of the Progressive movement and then FDR’s New Deal.

    By the post-WWII era we already had a welfare state (Social Security, soon to be joined by Medicare), extensive centralized regulation (e.g. the FDA), the Federal Reserve system, a heavily unionized work force under pro-labor laws, and top income tax brackets approaching 90%.  And the U.S. economy boomed anyway, at least for a while, perhaps in part because our global competition had been so devastated by two world wars.

    • #68
  9. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    katievs: He is repudiating libertarian absolutism and a brand of capitalism that wants “market forces” to operate outside the ethical limits of the humane society.

    But no one advocates this. Even the most hard-core Randian or anarcho-capitalist doesn’t advocate a moralless society. It’s a total strawman.

    I don’t think that’s what Katie said.  The question is whether market forces should be constrained by ethical limits or not.  That doesn’t imply there are no ethical limits in other areas of life.

    • #69
  10. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    AIGYet the Catholic Church’s interpretation of all this is: capitalism causes poverty!

    You heard this on … Catholic radio?

    • #70
  11. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Joseph Stanko: I don’t think that’s what Katie said.  The question is whether market forces should be constrained by ethical limits or not.  That doesn’t imply there are no ethical limits in other areas of life.

    Understood, but I meant the former, actually.  I’ve never encountered anyone who believes markets shouldn’t operate outside of moral considerations.  I think there’s a pretty good argument to make that markets can only operate within moral frameworks that abjure fraud, force, broken promises, etc.  And — assuming a free market — one’s ability to exploit others is severely limited (they’ll just go somewhere else).

    • #71
  12. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Joseph Stanko:

     It seems to me the 19th century was the golden age of free-enterprise capitalism in the U.S., and it ended with the rise first of the Progressive movement and then FDR’s New Deal.


    ——————————————–

    Primarily because the Industrial Revolution undeniably caused economic dislocations for many people. There were some fundamentally unjust circumstances (company towns) which Katie refers to in her piece on CST. These were, imo and in the opinion of the writer who recently authored a book on sweat shops, a necessary (or, at least, natural) step toward a more competitive free-enterprise system which developed later.

    Obviously labor laws and unionization were a corrective to that exploitation. I’m not sure they’re necessary now.

    I won’t fight over the period, though. Just the location. Tremendous wealth expansion happened here and it happened because of capitalism.

    Socialism is soul-killing for individuals and nations. It is fundamentally immoral and the Church shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I understand Katie’s point to be that CST doesn’t promote socialism. Unfortunately, many bishops seem to, including the Bishop of Rome. The State is not competent to resolve distribution problems. Period.

    • #72
  13. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: And — assuming a free market — one’s ability to exploit others is severely limited (they’ll just go somewhere else).

    That depends on one’s means and situation.

    If a man has no property, no savings, and a wife and kids to feed, and is facing an economy with high unemployment (e.g. the Great Depression), then I’d imagine he’d put up with quite a bit of exploitation rather than lose his job, fearing he may not be able to find another one.

    Of course in modern-day America no man need fear his wife and children will starve, because they can always fall back on a generous safety net provided by the welfare state.  But that welfare state is (one possible) expression of a limitation on market forces, expressing the idea that no one should starve to death as a result of the periodic depressions and recessions that seem to afflict the free market throughout history.

    • #73
  14. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Western Chauvinist: There were some fundamentally unjust circumstances (company towns) which Katie refers to in her piece on CST. These were, imo and in the opinion of the writer who recently authored a book on sweat shops, a necessary (or, at least, natural) step toward a more competitive free-enterprise system which developed later.

     These circumstances were “fundamentally unjust” but also “necessary?”  Is injustice ever really necessary?  That sounds suspiciously like “you need to break some eggs to make an omelette” to me, and like doing evil that good may come.

    • #74
  15. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Joseph Stanko: That depends on one’s means and situation.

    If a man has no property, no savings, and a wife and kids to feed, and is facing an economy with high unemployment (e.g. the Great Depression), then I’d imagine he’d put up with quite a bit of exploitation rather than lose his job, fearing he may not be able to find another one.

    Conceded in part, but I’m still not sure who these radical, moralless libertarians are who think it’s okay to mistreat people.  I’m less sure why they keep getting mentioned in his writing.

    • #75
  16. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:  I’m less sure why they keep getting mentioned in his writing.

     That’s precisely the point. It’s all strawman arguments. Not only that, but they are very simplistic and shallow arguments. As I said, it takes no brave man to say “I’m against greed”, “I’m for more fairness” etc. But these are all empty words. The real question is, what is “greed”? What is “fair”? Where is this “greed”?

    I’ve read Catholic commentators describe a scene at an American mall  as an example of “greed”. Why? Because these people are engaged in shopping, in trade, in transactions. Is that “greed”?  

    All platitudes and meaningless words.  

    Of course, the deeper issue is that the Catholic Church does view the world as 2 separate worlds: its clergy, and the secular world. The secular world is the corrupt “greedy” one. The clerical world, however, sits on a pedestal and passes moral judgement. I know, I know, lots of counter-examples to this. Of course, but its a question of dominant ideologies. The dominant ideologies of the Catholic Church are not ones that are concerned with the “secular” world. 

    • #76
  17. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Joseph Stanko:  These circumstances were “fundamentally unjust” but also “necessary?”  Is injustice ever really necessary?

     These are again empty meaningless words. What is the “injustice” here? 

    If you lived in a rural society, living day by day on the knife’s edge of starvation, and some “evil capitalist” came by and offered a…well-paying job!…compared to what else is available to you, would you think him “unjust” because he doesn’t pay you the going wage in San Jose? 

    Why is it that there are lines of people outside of every “sweat shop” waiting for more work? 

    So a lot deeper thought is needed here. And you know…the Bible is not exactly “light” on examples of this sort of thing. Quite a few examples of what “fairness” meant when treating your employees, or servants, or whatever the equivalent may have been in that context. 

    • #77
  18. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Conceded in part

    Which part?

    • #78
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Joseph Stanko:

    Western Chauvinist: There were some fundamentally unjust circumstances (company towns) which Katie refers to in her piece on CST. These were, imo and in the opinion of the writer who recently authored a book on sweat shops, a necessary (or, at least, natural) step toward a more competitive free-enterprise system which developed later.

    These circumstances were “fundamentally unjust” but also “necessary?” Is injustice ever really necessary? That sounds suspiciously like “you need to break some eggs to make an omelette” to me, and like doing evil that good may come.

    No, ideally it wouldn’t be necessary. It’s just that we haven’t seen millions of people pulled up from material poverty without some intermediate step involving what looks like exploitation (see China) — even in the predominantly ethical, law-abiding, Judeo-Christian West. Maybe there’s a way around it. I’m of the opinion it requires more personal conversions, not top-down imposition of structural changes.

    • #79
  20. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m still not sure who these radical, moralless libertarians are who think it’s okay to mistreat people.  

    I think the crux of the issue may lie in the definition of “mistreat.”  In many libertarian formulations consent negates any consideration of mistreatment, and mistreatment can only mean forcing someone to do something w/o their consent.

    In the scenario I outlined where a man is willing to do almost anything to keep his job, the key question is: what, if anything, could his employer do to him that would qualify as “mistreatment” or “exploitation?”

    • #80
  21. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Western Chauvinist: I’m of the opinion it requires more personal conversions, not top-down imposition of structural changes.

     What’s the meaning of “conversion” in this example?

    I’ve noticed that Westerners speak of these things through moral repugnance at the fact that there are poor people out there, working, to make themselves better, but aren’t being paid the wages and the lifestyles of the US. I don’t get it.

    I have personal experience with this sort of thing. I have relatives who live in remote villages in Old Country, who lived in pretty bad poverty. Italian shoe manufacturers opened factories in their village, what we would call “sweat shops”. Everyone in my relative’s family worked there. This was years ago. Today they have a relatively “middle class” life by the standards of Old Country. Multi-story house, a car, smart phones. Sweat shops did it. They still work there. 

    Why would an American, or the Pope, be repulsed by this?

    • #81
  22. AIG Inactive
    AIG
    @AIG

    Joseph Stanko: In the scenario I outlined where a man is willing to do almost anything to keep his job, the key question is: what, if anything, could his employer do to him that would qualify as “mistreatment” or “exploitation?”

     Your scenario is also a strawman. Everyone is technically “exploited” at work, even if you make $300k. You have a boss who tells you what to do, whether you like it or not. 

    The question is: is this a better alternative than what you had before? 

    This is as if when Jesus said give the shirt on your back to the guy without a shirt, the guy without a shirt turned around and said “yeah, about that, do you have one in a different color?”

    These are arguments that only a well-off American, or a well-off Pope, can afford to have. 

    • #82
  23. user_3444 Coolidge
    user_3444
    @JosephStanko

    AIG: Your scenario is also a strawman. Everyone is technically ”exploited” at work, even if you make $300k. You have a boss who tells you what to do, whether you like it or not. 

    Indeed, but there are also limits to what my boss can tell me to do.  For instance, it is against the law for a boss to demand sexual favors from an employee.

    • #83
  24. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    AIG:

    Your scenario is also a strawman. Everyone is technically ”exploited” at work, even if you make $300k. You have a boss who tells you what to do, whether you like it or not.

    The question is: is this a better alternative than what you had before?

     No. That’s not how it works. 

    Capitalism is based on the premise that if an employer doesn’t satisfy his workers, they’ll go elsewhere. That’s what keeps employers honest. Logically, then, the willingness of an employee to evaluate the fairness of his job isn’t a sign of his ungratefulness; it’s an integral part of the system. Capitalism depends on being able to bring pressure on employers to keep wages at a level where his employees can survive, or they walk.

    When you hear calls for fairer redistribution, they almost always come because individual workers feel powerless to bring any pressure. They see companies increasing profits but their paychecks stay the same. 

    Of course, in my view, what’s needed is for the job market to present alternatives so that employees have a credible threat to move, forcing employers to pay them more. We need more jobs.

    • #84
  25. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    katievs: He is repudiating libertarian absolutism and a brand of capitalism that wants “market forces” to operate outside the ethical limits of the humane society.

    But no one advocates this. Even the most hard-core Randian or anarcho-capitalist doesn’t advocate a moralless society. It’s a total strawman.

     It’s not a strawman, just as decrying greed isn’t a straw man. (Identifying legitimate self-interest with greed is.) Hard-core Randians and anarcho-capitalist may not openly advocate a moralless society, but their views of economics are in fact amoral and corrosive of the common good. Capitalism as such is amoral. Capitalism, as such, makes no distinction between good and evil, between, say, legitimate self-interest and greed.

    Capitalism, as such, is concerned with profit, not with the good of persons. Hence, in order for it to operate toward the good of persons (which, unlike marxism and socialism, it can do), it has to be deliberately ordered toward the good of persons and the common good by ethical people—individually and collectively. 

    • #85
  26. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    Western Chauvinist:

    Joseph Stanko:

     

    Socialism is soul-killing for individuals and nations. It is fundamentally immoral and the Church shouldn’t have anything to do with it. I understand Katie’s point to be that CST doesn’t promote socialism. Unfortunately, many bishops seem to, including the Bishop of Rome. The State is not competent to resolve distribution problems. Period.

     

     You are misreading the Pope. Saying the government has a legitimate role to play in ensuring a just distribution is not advocating statism. That’s a leftist reading that doesn’t comport with CST. CST opposes socialism. When you respond to the Pope as if he’s advocating socialism, you are adding to the confusion and spreading contempt for the Church, whose wisdom on these issues the world urgently needs.

    For instance, would you agree that the state has a role in establishing free markets and restraining crony capitalism? Does the state have a role in setting monetary policy? Does the state have a role in setting tax policy? Do you advocate dependent child tax credits? Tax deductions for churches and non-profit charities?

    If yes, then you are agreeing with the Pope.

    • #86
  27. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    AIG, it’s ironic that you keep denouncing the Church for having a caricatured view of capitalism, while admitting that you get your view of Church teaching from a radio show.
    Quoting my own article:

    Keep in mind that the “the Catholic idea” is the idea that emerges from the doctrines and authoritative documents of the Church and “lives” naturally in the minds of faithful Catholics (i.e. Catholics who conscientiously conduct their lives according to those teachings). It is not to be confused with the ideas of many or even most people who identify themselves as Catholic. Many Catholics, like the population generally, have been infected with the leftist idea of social justice, so that very often Catholics’ ideas are markedly out of step with Catholic ideas, if you follow me. Regardless of how many members practice and/or defend birth control—to take a parallel case—it remains true that the Church opposes contraception unequivocally as inimical to the mystery of life and love. Similarly, no matter how many nuns, priests and parochial schoolteachers, say, may be infatuated with liberation theology and “the social gospel,” the authentic Catholic notion of social justice remains something very different.

    • #87
  28. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Joseph Stanko: I think the crux of the issue may lie in the definition of “mistreat.”  In many libertarian formulations consent negates any consideration of mistreatment, and mistreatment can only mean forcing someone to do something w/o their consent.

    In the scenario I outlined where a man is willing to do almost anything to keep his job, the key question is: what, if anything, could his employer do to him that would qualify as “mistreatment” or “exploitation?”

    There are situations that can be inherently exploitative.  If, as you said earlier, we’re dealing with genuinely starving people with no alternatives, you can get them to do things they either wouldn’t agree to freely, or wouldn’t agree to at a given price.  They might still be better off than if the monopoly didn’t exist, but that doesn’t alleviate the responsibility for perpetuating the suffering.

    It’s a general problem with monopolies, or in systems where choice and movement are restricted.

    • #88
  29. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    katievs: Capitalism, as such, is concerned with profit, not with the good of persons. Hence, in order for it to operate toward the good of persons (which, unlike marxism and socialism, it can do), it has to be deliberately ordered toward the good of persons and the common good by ethical people—individually and collectively. 

    I’ve had a post rattling around in my head that’s in direct response to this and that I need to write.  Short version: capitalism has an extraordinary ability to promote the good of persons even in its coldest, most materialistic forms, provided markets are free and that there are basic rules of conduct.

    • #89
  30. katievs Inactive
    katievs
    @katievs

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    katievs: Capitalism, as such, is concerned with profit, not with the good of persons. Hence, in order for it to operate toward the good of persons (which, unlike marxism and socialism, it can do), it has to be deliberately ordered toward the good of persons and the common good by ethical people—individually and collectively.

    I’ve had a post rattling around in my head that’s in direct response to this and that I need to write. Short version: capitalism has an extraordinary ability to promote the good of persons even in its coldest, most materialistic forms, provided markets are free and that there are basic rules of conduct.

     Those “basic rules of conduct” are, precisely, not given by capitalism (nor do they suffice, since we need not only rules, but values). And capitalism exercised outside the ethical limits of the civil society does harm, not good, even if it “creates wealth.”

    It’s possible for a person’s (or community’s) material condition to improve at the expense of his overall well-being as a person, right?

    Capitalism, useful as it is and beneficial as it can be within due limits, is not our religion. 

    • #90
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