Pope Francis recently created some controversy when he issued a document that took to task the free market for creating unjust inequality. Instead of unfettered capitalism and unbridled consumerism, the pope wants the world’s wealth to be shared more equally. That sounds a lot like the socialism that I learned in college – “from each according to their ability; to each according to their needs.”
My friend Mike Callen, who is a Catholic but not a Catholic apologist, called me yesterday to defend the pope against the slanderous attacks of conservatives in the media, including Rush Limbaugh. Apparently, Limbaugh had called him a Marxist.
Although I don’t listen to Limbaugh and didn’t hear the context of his charge against the pope, my initial reaction was to think the pope was getting into areas where he was not well grounded. Later in the day, I did some online research and found an article that expressed my views much more persuasively and eloquently than I possibly could. The article by Bill Frezza in Forbes is titled “Pope Francis is no economist.” Two sentences are especially fine:
- “Too bad that in his formal writing the new Holy Father couldn’t resist biting the invisible hand that feeds a lot more poor people than the Vatican ever has.”
- “But when it comes to economics, the Pontiff’s expertise isn’t much to go by, judging by his ahistorical, populist attack on an economic system that has done more to alleviate poverty than a thousand Mother Theresas ever could.”
Coincidentally, an Austin friend, Robert, earlier today sent me a link to a guy who attempts to make an argument against monstrous inequality of wealth in America. My friend suggested that the current level of inequality is acceptable if it is not created by unfair government policies, and he wondered if I agreed. I agreed and added:
- “I would like to see more equality, but I am afraid that the total economic pie will actually get smaller if we deviate too much from capitalism toward socialism (from each according to their ability, to each according to their needs). Improved equality needs to come from ensuring that the disadvantaged have the opportunity and motivation to succeed (and don’t ask me how to do that).”
The pope and I will have to agree to disagree.