Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013 12:00 a.m. MST
" No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love
the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot
serve God and mammon."--Matthew 6:24 Christians seem to forget
I've been active LDS all my life. For the first time ever, I've
become envious of my Catholic friends. I have respect for his predecessors in
my lifetime, but Francis is an incredible breath of fresh air in reminding us
where Christian discipleship should focus, and emphasizing that our faith
requires us not to turn a blind eye to the failings of capitalism, nor to become
indifferent to casualties of the economic Darwinism so many espouse.
Capitalism again gets thrown under the bus. Why? Because its critics have no
clue what true capitalism looks like. The U.S., for instance, is NOT
capitalistic. It is a mixed economy which can more accurately be described as
crony-capitalism. It has more in common with fascism than capitalism. The closer
an economy comes to pure capitalism, the more humane it becomes.
SEY: "The closer an economy comes to pure capitalism, the more humane it
becomes."Agreed, pure capitalism works, in theory, to perfectly
distribute resources. Pure communism does as well. But neither economic system
exists in its pure theoretical form, nor can they. Flawed human nature makes
that an impossibility. That said, imperfect capitalism is generally better than
imperfect communism at allocating resources, but capitalism's excesses
still need to be reined in sometimes. That can be done by regulation or by
moral suasion, such as the admonishments of Pope Francis.Economic
theory defines the conditions that free markets need to operate properly (e.g.
multiple buyers and sellers, perfect knowledge of the full costs of products,
etc.). These rarely occur in the real world outside of econ textbooks. Market
failure exists (e.g. misallocation of resources due to externalities). It is
within the legitimate scope of society at large (government, spiritual or moral
leaders, etc.) to influence economies to steer them back towards something
approaching what you call "humane." That is what the pope is doing.Just out of curiosity, is there any particular time and place in history
where "pure capitalism" as you define it existed?
"Because its critics have no clue what true capitalism looks like. The U.S.,
for instance, is NOT capitalistic."This approaches the "No
True Scotsman" fallacy. Funny thing is that communists make the same
complaint about the USSR and their economic preferences."It has
more in common with fascism than capitalism." Someone needs to
sit down and have a serious look at what fascism looks like. Besides, I thought
the conservative complaint is that we're on the highway to socialism. I do
wish people would stop throwing these words around that they don't
understand."The closer an economy comes to pure capitalism, the
more humane it becomes."There's a whole bunch of evidence,
from Dickensian England to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory to Bangladeshi
sweatshops, suggesting that's utter nonsense. The prophetess of pure
capitalism, Ayn Rand, sneered at compassion: "Compassion is a wonderful
thing. It's what one feels when one looks at a squashed caterpillar. An
elevating experience....Compassion is the greatest virtue. It justifies
"Absent a moral commitment to human dignity, justice and compassion,
capitalism is conducive to materialism, individualism and selfishness. It is a
system that depends on virtues it does not create."This is
perhaps the best thing Gerson has ever penned. I have read Pope Francis's
commentary on what he calls the "economy of exclusion." He hit the nail
on the head again and again. My primary thought, when I read this document, was
"Why is this enlightened view coming from the leader of the Catholic Church
and not from the leader of the LDS Church?" I agree wholly with
Unreconstructed Reb. This pope is a breath of fresh air in a stale world.
Mr. DeForrest: "Why is this enlightened view coming from the leader of the
Catholic Church and not from the leader of the LDS Church?"I'll tell you why. God calls prophets and apostles to reveal the Gospel
of Jesus Christ to "every nation, kindred, tongue and people" regardless
of their form of government and regardless of their economic structure.
Governments do not make men good. A man can accept Christ as his Savior under
any form of government. It is not the calling of a prophet or of an apostle to
stir insurrection or insubordination among the citizenry of any nation.
KC DeForrest: "This is perhaps the best thing Gerson has ever
penned."I'm not a regular reader of his column, and I
don't often agree with him (but find him, along with Kathleen Parker,
generally a thoughtful conservative compared to some other columnists), but I
would second your comment. The quoted passage is an elegantly stated summation
of the downside of capitalism. Very nicely put.Linus: "It is
not the calling of a prophet or of an apostle to stir insurrection or
insubordination among the citizenry of any nation."If an appeal
to human dignity and justice and a criticism of materialistic consumerism
constitute insurrection and insubordination, then we are living in a world where
rebellion is definitely called for.
I was pretty sure I'd be the designated punching bag for this discussion.
Much of what has been said to counter my remarks only confirm my belief that
most critics of capitalism don't have a clear understanding of what it is.
Ayn Rand, for instance, is not who I'd choose as a spokesperson for
capitalism. Rather, I'd suggest Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises.Of course "pure capitalism" has never existed in real life, sorry not
to take that bait. But there have been historic instances when capitalism
existed in purer form than others. The so-called excesses of capitalism turn out
to be excesses of government intervention, including suspending regulations and
contracts that held the system together. They do it under the guise of
"taming unfettered capitalism." It's a ruse that works every time
(as illustrated in the comments on this article). Every serious
panic, recession and depression can be traced back to government intervention.
Examples abound throughout the 19th century, including the England of Charles
Dickens. If you want a readable exposition of this idea, I suggest the book
"How Capitalism Saved America" by Thomas DiLorenzo. It will challenge
your (incredibly) conventional views.
@SEY, Anyone who makes the immediate leap to fascism simply
isn't to be taken seriously. And the notion that economic disruption is
entirely traceable to government intervention is a very minority view among
economists. Even the very free market Chicago School economists like Milton
Friedman would disagree with that proposition.If you can't take
some gentle chiding about caring for the poor from the Pope, your ideology has
become your own religion.
Res: I understand your point. However, I didn't say we live in a fascist
society, it's just that we're so distant from true capitalism that
we're closer to living in a fascist economy (not political fascism, a
significant difference). And my response was not to a pope's "gentle
chiding" but rather to Michael Gerson's economic ignorance. And
finally, you make my point again in asserting that Milton Friedman is "very
free market." Friedman prescribed GREATER intervention to prevent the Great
Depression. The Chicago School is actually a watered-down version of
Keynesianism, which is highly interventionist. After all, it was he who said to
Richard Nixon, "We're all Keynesians now." I challenge you to do
your homework regarding government intervention in disrupting the economic
So, crass commercialism raises its head, again. Don't like it? Cut your
holiday spending to have a simple, meaningful Christmas or other holiday that
money cannot buy, after all. Enough people do this- maybe business will get the
idea. The way we use our money is very persuasive.
SEY, you're clearly a follower of the Austrian School. That's fine,
but there are reasons that their ideas have never taken hold and that most
economists today view their macro approach as outdated and unworkable. Starting
with the lack of empirical evidence for their theories. In that sense
they're right up there with the communist economic theorists. And as has
been pointed out, both groups respond to criticisms with complaints that their
ideas have never truly been implemented. No True Scotsman, indeed!I
challenge you not to assume I've done no homework on economic theory.
Res: I suggested you research economic history, not theory. Of course most
economists dispute the validity of Austrian theory, but does that make them
right? Most religionists dispute that Mormons are Christians, does that make
them right? Far from being outdated and unworkable, no school of thought has a
better grasp of the causes of boom and bust cycles, recessions and
depressions.The way out of our current malaise is prescribed by Austrian
economists but, of course, the concepts don't fit into the current
crony-capitalist paradigm. So we'll just have to wait for the Keynesian
model to implode. So I guess you haven't done your homework after all.
@SEY,Economic history is precisely where the validity of the
Austrian School breaks down. It doesn't work in practice, which is why it
has been discarded in favor of models that better explain economic tendencies.
Your Mormons vs Christians analogy has nothing to do with it and has the same
applicability as me countering that most people think that flat-earthers
completely deny science and observed reality, but does that make them right?Your views are fringe, even by your own admission. Stop assuming that
just because people disagree with your opinion, they haven't studied the
same issues you have.
@SEY"The closer an economy comes to pure capitalism, the more humane
it becomes."Pure capitalism didn't have 40-hr workweeks,
didn't have weekends, didn't have a minimum wage, didn't have
workplace safety standards... these things were mandated by the gov't and I
think they made the workplace more humane.
DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.— About comments