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Monday, December 9, 2013

Pope Francis vs His Predecessors on Capitalism, Part 1

I am getting sick of all the so-called "conservative" Catholics and their dimwitted supporters in the comboxes lambasting Pope Francis for what he said in his recent Apostolic Exhortation.

If any of them read this blog and those words, they will undoubtedly think I'm a liberal. Well, all I can say is search the term "Obama" on this blog and see what turns up. Search "abortion." Search "tyranny." Go ahead, read them words, too.

I say "so-called" and "dimwitted" because they seem to think that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were capitalists. JP-II, OF COURSE, was a capitalist, they would say, because he grew up under and worked against the Communists in Poland! But it is a liberal fallacy that if you oppose one thing you must therefore support its direct opposite. If you oppose Social Security, you want to push Grandpa off a cliff in his wheelchair. If you oppose Obamacare, you want poor people to get sick and die. So here come "conservatives" saying that if JP-II opposed Polish Communism, he must therefore love capitalism.

Bull. JP-II did grow up under Communism and he did fight hard against it. His role in bringing down the Iron Curtain is underappreciated by the media. But what has he SAID about capitalism? Could it be, as I mentioned the other day, that capitalism, too, has its problems? That communism and capitalism stand as opposite extremes? One overemphasizes community and the other freedom, both of which are Christian values, but each when it is destructive of the other becomes destructive of human goods generally.

So I thought it might be useful to do what these brilliant pundits have failed to do, and conduct a little research. Here's what I did - and I suggest you do it, too. I went to the Vatican website and searched for the term "capitalism."

Let's start with Leo XIII and Rerum Novarum of 1891. EIGHTEEN NINETY ONE. That's the height of the industrial revolution, and 122 years ago. Old Man Potter was a bright young thing at the time. Communism and socialism was on the rise. And this document is contrary to socialism. The word "capital" appears only 5 times, and two of them are in the title and first heading. So, it condemns socialism in no uncertain terms - does it thereby endorse capitalism? Let Leo XIII speak for himself:
19. The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. [He will go on to suggest that the perpetual conflict may be the fault of the bosses.] Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.

20. Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers - that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this - that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain [what he means is pay people squat because you can, because they're poor and are desperate for work - they should be paid a living wage regardless of "market conditions"], and to gather one's profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. "Behold, the hire of the laborers... which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes? [In other words, greedy capitalists have only themselves to blame if they makeselves the adversaries of their workers, who are thereby driven to unionize and become socialists to be treated fairly.]

21. But the Church, with Jesus Christ as her Master and Guide, aims higher still. She lays down precepts yet more perfect, and tries to bind class to class in friendliness and good feeling. The things of earth cannot be understood or valued aright without taking into consideration the life to come, the life that will know no death. [In other words, there are eternal consequences to being an Old Man Potter.]
Let us move on to Pius XI and Quadragessimo Anno, published on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Perhaps Pius XI has come to his senses, and endorsed capitalism? After all, it is now 1931, and Russia has been demonstrating the wondrous benefits of atheist socialism on a national scale for 14 years. Speak, O Pius XI:
[53. He cites Rerum Novarum on the interdependency of capital and labor.] Wherefore it is wholly false to ascribe to property [i.e., capital] alone or to labor alone whatever has been obtained through the combined effort of both, and it is wholly unjust for either, denying the efficacy of the other, to arrogate to itself whatever has been produced. [He thus condemns both extremes: unbridled capitalism and socialism/communism.]

54. Property, that is, "capital," has undoubtedly long been able to appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker enough to restore and renew his strength. For the doctrine was preached that all accumulation of capital falls by an absolutely insuperable economic law to the rich, and that by the same law the workers are given over and bound to perpetual want, to the scantiest of livelihoods. It is true, indeed, that things have not always and everywhere corresponded with this sort of teaching of the so-called Manchesterian Liberals [HAH! Unbridled capitalism is LIBERAL!!!]; yet it cannot be denied that economic social institutions have moved steadily in that direction. That these false ideas, these erroneous suppositions, have been vigorously assailed, and not by those alone who through them were being deprived of their innate right to obtain better conditions, will surprise no one.

55. And therefore, to the harassed workers there have come "intellectuals," as they are called, setting up in opposition to a fictitious law the equally fictitious moral principle that all products and profits, save only enough to repair and renew capital, belong by very right to the workers. [Capitalism and communism--opposite errors, but equally errors, both of them. AND, if workers become marxists, it's because they have not been treated justly by the capitalists.] This error [communism], much more specious than that of certain of the Socialists who hold that whatever serves to produce goods ought to be transferred to the State, or, as they say "socialized," is consequently all the more dangerous and the more apt to deceive the unwary. It is an alluring poison which many have eagerly drunk whom open Socialism had not been able to deceive. ... 
58. To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice.

OK, so it's only 1931, we've only taken a look at one document from each of two popes, and so far, Francis seems to be in perfect alignment with them. Indeed, if Pius XI had said paragraph 58 today instead of in 1931, he'd be called a Marxist and Rush Limbaugh would be ripping what little hair he has out.

Let us skip over a few popes and decades to Blessed John XXIII and Mater et Magistra of 1961. Commenting on the economic conditions under which Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, he said the following:
11. As is well known, the outlook that prevailed on economic matters was for the most part a purely naturalistic one, which denied any correlation between economics and morality. Personal gain was considered the only valid motive for economic activity. In business the main operative principle was that of free and unrestricted competition. Interest on capital, prices—whether of goods or of services—profits and wages, were to be determined by the purely mechanical application of the laws of the market place. Every precaution was to be taken to prevent the civil authority from intervening in any way in economic matters. The status of trade unions varied in different countries. They were either forbidden, tolerated, or recognized as having private legal personality only. 

12. In an economic world of this character, it was the might of the strongest which not only arrogated to itself the force of law, but also dominated the ordinary business relationships between individuals, and thereby undermined the whole economic structure

13. Enormous riches accumulated in the hands of a few, while large numbers of workingmen found themselves in conditions of ever-increasing hardship. Wages were insufficient even to the point of reaching starvation level, and working conditions were often of such a nature as to be injurious alike to health, morality and religious faith. Especially inhuman were the working conditions to which women and children were sometimes subjected. There was also the constant spectre of unemployment and the progressive disruption of family life. 

14. The natural consequence of all this was a spirit of indignation and open protest on the part of the workingman, and a widespread tendency to subscribe to extremist theories far worse in their effects than the evils they purported to remedy. ...
18. They concern first of all the question of work, which must be regarded not merely as a commodity, but as a specifically human activity. In the majority of cases a man's work is his sole means of livelihood. Its remuneration, therefore, cannot be made to depend on the state of the market. It must be determined by the laws of justice and equity. [Workers should be paid justly--not based solely on market forces. It would be exploitive to underpay people because they are desperate for work and income.] Any other procedure would be a clear violation of justice, even supposing the contract of work to have been freely entered into by both parties.
19. Secondly, private ownership of property, including that of productive goods, is a natural right which the State cannot suppress. But it naturally entails a social obligation as well. It is a right which must be exercised not only for one's own personal benefit but also for the benefit of others. [Your own property is not simply speaking your own--beause you simply speaking are not entirely autonomous. Your moral obligation is to use your property well--it's not so much that others have a legitmate say in what you do with it, as much as what your duty is. Just because it is left to your prudential judgment, that doesn't mean anything you choose to do is equally moral or equally satisfies that duty.]

20. As for the State, its whole raison d'etre is the realization of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters. On the contrary, it must do all in its power to promote the production of a sufficient supply of material goods, "the use of which is necessary for the practice of virtue."
Now let's go to 1964 and the document from Vatical II called Gaudium et Spes:
[67]...Since economic activity for the most part implies the associated work of human beings, any way of organizing and directing it which may be detrimental to any working men and women would be wrong and inhuman. [this covers "any way" that dehumanizes the workers--that would include socialism as well as capitalism.] It happens too often, however, even in our days, that workers are reduced to the level of being slaves to their own work. This is by no means justified by the so-called economic laws. The entire process of productive work, therefore, must be adapted to the needs of the person and to his way of life, above all to his domestic life, especially in respect to mothers of families, always with due regard for sex and age. The opportunity, moreover, should be granted to workers to unfold their own abilities and personality through the performance of their work. Applying their time and strength to their employment with a due sense of responsibility, they should also all enjoy sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social and religious life. They should also have the opportunity freely to develop the energies and potentialities which perhaps they cannot bring to much fruition in their professional work. [Workers in justice deserve a living wage--and the opportunity to actually live outside the workplace. Now, it should be clear that capitalism gave us the 35-hour work week and 4 weeks of vacation for those high enough up the ladder--but it was also capitalism that has taken my 35-hour work week and made it 40 hours again, and which makes it 8.5 hours a day to get half a day off every other Friday during the summer months. Pretty much the whole world has an 8-hour day and a 40-hour week, and not the whole world is capitalistic.]

68. In economic enterprises it is persons who are joined together, that is, free and independent human beings created to the image of God. Therefore, with attention to the functions of each—owners or employers, management or labor—and without doing harm to the necessary unity of management, the active sharing of all in the administration and profits of these enterprises in ways to be properly determined is to be promoted. Since more often, however, decisions concerning economic and social conditions, on which the future lot of the workers and of their children depends, are made not within the business itself but by institutions on a higher level, the workers themselves should have a share also in determining these conditions.
A few years later, Paul VI published Populorum Progressio.  Under the heading "Unbridled Liberalism" (yes LIBERALISM!), he says:
26. However, certain concepts have somehow arisen out of these new conditions and insinuated themselves into the fabric of human society. These concepts present profit as the chief spur to economic progress, free competition as the guiding norm of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right, having no limits nor concomitant social obligations.

This unbridled liberalism [!!!!] paves the way for a particular type of tyranny, rightly condemned by Our predecessor Pius XI, for it results in the "international imperialism of money."

Such improper manipulations of economic forces can never be condemned enough; let it be said once again that economics is supposed to be in the service of man.

But if it is true that a type of capitalism, as it is commonly called, has given rise to hardships, unjust practices, and fratricidal conflicts that persist to this day, it would be a mistake to attribute these evils to the rise of industrialization itself, for they really derive from the pernicious economic concepts that grew up along with it. We must in all fairness acknowledge the vital role played by labor systemization and industrial organization in the task of development.
OK, I'm gonna stop there for now. I'll get to JP-II and B-XVI in a future post, hopefully tomorrow.

But -- check this out -- unbridled capitalism in the minds of the mid-20th Century people who were living it -- is LIBERALISM. So what idea of liberalism is at work here? Only this: That "I" get to decide what is right and wrong, good and evil, and no one has the right to tell me otherwise. What is conservativism then? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What is conservativism then? In an American context:

    It is the difference between The Articles of Confederation & the Constitution.
    It is the difference between Anarchy and Rule of Law

    Conservatism is about limited government rather than unlimited government or no government. Government that upholds and defends self evident truth and individuals' God given unalienable rights and all that necessarily derive form these.

    1. Yeah, that's the political description. Conservative approach to government. But if unbridled capitalism is liberal, according to more than one pope, then conservativism would bridle capitalism, no? Governments should be small enough to manage. But to keep government small, people really must govern themselves effectively. If everyone is law-abiding, we don't need much police. If everyone obeys traffic lights, we don't need traffic cams. If big businesses don't use exploitative or harmful practices to keep profits high, then we don't need regulations. Conservative government steps in when it has to, to the degree it has to. I am a free-markets, small-government kind of guy, but to make that work, people in business and government must be virtuous and honorable and have more than their own profits or power but also the common good as a goal of their efforts.