15A053 Bogus Pope, Bum Steer by Jim Davies, 9/24/2015


Any visitor to this Land of the Free is welcome, of course - or should be. This week a man from Argentina has arrived, and a lot of people here like him: Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Because he's popular with them, the media hope to boost ratings or circulation by covering his trip.

It's courteous, though, when visiting a country, so say complimentary things about it, or at least not to be rude or demeaning or to criticize how it arranges its affairs. Mr Bergoglio has fallen short of that standard; he signaled that capitalism has caused poverty and damaged the environment. America is hardly capitalist any longer, but it has a reputation as the heartland of capitalism, so that's a direct snub to his host.

Quick definition: by "Capitalism" I mean the process in which a person freely exchanges goods or services for money, then saves some of his earnings for later investment, in his own enterprise or someone else's, for return or profit. I do not refer to what prevails today in its name - a sinister association between large companies and government, better known as "crony capitalism," "state capitalism," "mercantilism" or, best, "Fascism." True capitalism is what created the immense prosperity in this country and others, lifting rich and poor alike to unprecedented standards of living.

He is an economic ignoramus. Known as "Pope Francis", Jorge Borgoglio has precisely inverted the utility of free capitalism. For all its faults, the somewhat capitalist USA has a GDP per capita (a poor measure, but the only one available) of $54,597. Jorge's homeland, although both colonized then made independent at roughly the same time and by no means short of natural resources, has one of $14,760 or less than one-third of ours, after being riddled with one powerful government after another, so in effect repressing free capitalism. His first visit on this tour was to Cuba, which he praised; there, capitalism has been systematically persecuted for half a century, and (surprise!) prospers only with $6,848 per person, a rate little more than one eighth of ours, even though placed a mere 90 miles off Florida. Despite all this, His Holiness wants us to stop "worshipping" capitalism.

Capitalism works, government (especially the Communist sort) does not. If Jorge really wanted to help the world's poor, he would humbly learn from our success instead of demeaning it, and take the lessons everywhere he goes and preaches. For good measure, he might reflect that real, free capitalism was well boosted in early America by the "Protestant work ethic."

His brand of Christianity is questionable. It's of no importance to market anarchists what religious people believe or whether they do so truly to their stated faith, but since this one has strayed way outside his domain into that of freedom and prosperity, I hope he'll not mind if I repay the compliment and stray into his. He claims to be a Christian - leader, indeed, of one of its most prominent divisions. My e-book Which Church (if any)? traces the development of all the major denominations for the benefit of readers interested in an overview of the religion, and Roman Catholicism doesn't stack up too well. There are several serious differences between its doctrines and those of the New Testament. These conflicts were well identified by Luther in the Reformation, but only some of them have been resolved in the five centuries since.

So there's a great deal of repair work Jorge needs to do back in the office, before launching diatribes against the most successful society in human history; physician, go home and heal thyself.

He belittles human desires and progress - and while self-denial is another common fault of some Roman Catholics, I hasten to add that it's not universal; some do earnestly favor the free market. The market however is driven by wishes and desires and greed (to acquire things honestly, of course) and Jorge Bargoglio says they're trivial. The encyclical which he published before setting out on his tour says this planet is our home and should not be treated badly (fair enough) but His Holiness appears to have swallowed the environmentalist fable whole.

Progress he calls a "myth" (para 60.) Sorry, Papa, but the converse of progress is regress; and mere absence of it is called stagnation. The glory of mankind is that we do not accept our environment as it is, but find ways to improve it, with technology. It's one of the ways in which we are superior to other animals, and a key part of human nature. If it's too cold, we find fire, and tame it; if raw food brings short life we cook it, using that fire; if rain and snow cause discomfort we build houses, and if it's too hot and humid for comfort we cool their air. These are wonders, and man has made them and progress is wonderful. Yet this "leader" calls all that "harmful" and "self-destructive" (para 55.) And the beauty of it all is that if you don't want it, you don't buy it. The market, what is left of it, operates by choice; choice of the buyer, who is always sovereign and to whose whim the vendor is always subject.

Jorge's anti-market (hence, anti-freedom) bigotry is well exemplified in a quote in his para 56, from an "Apostolic Exhortation" of 1913: “whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule". Seems the Roman Church's opposition to liberty goes back at least a century, and that quote may give the key: it despises markets precisely because they rival his God; they are "deified." I prefer the word "sovereign", but never mind. In a free market the customer is king, the supplier his servant; choice and discrimination are at work, and claims for products and services are very rightly scrutinized. Quite possibly, the claims of Roman Catholicism are getting a bit too much scrutiny for its comfort. Little wonder.

So the Pope is just one more arrogant elitist; he wants to over-rule the choices of plain people and tell them what is wise and good, and resents and fears loss of that control to another "god", the market. It's the same fear as that of more secular rulers. State and Church; "twin vultures," they've been called, though that's unkind to that useful and harmless bird, the scavenging vulture.


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