Pope Francis Denounces Market-based Capitalism

By:  Thomas R. Eddlem
12/02/2013
       
Pope Francis Denounces Market-based Capitalism

Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation that condemned free market economics, causing great gloating among establishment socialists.

Pope Francis issued an apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) November 24 that explicitly condemned free market economics with an epithet against “trickle-down” economics, causing establishment socialists to gloat prolifically.

Evangelii Gaudium — largely about evangelization within the Catholic Church — touched on a sweeping variety of issues, including pastoral care, the mentality of evangelists, international immigration, why women can't be priests, and many other issues. But the brief parts condemning the free market have caught the attention of the press. 

Francis wrote:

Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.

“Trickle down economics” has never been a term ever used by supporters of a free market to describe their views, but rather it has always been an insult deployed by opponents of free markets to ridicule their opponents. Thus, the pope's letter received choruses of amens from the Washington Post's leftist Eugene Robinson and huzzahs from the far-left ThinkProgress; and The Atlantic cheered the “Vatican's journey from anti-communism to anti-capitalism.”

The “apostolic exhortation” (which is not an “infallible” ex cathedra pronouncement, and is even lower in authority than an encyclical letter) is a teaching document issued by a pope to address Catholics, but it doesn't define any doctrines. As such, Catholics are not bound to accept the details of the letter. In practice, however, many Catholics will be persuaded they must do so by the mainstream media.

But was Pope Francis correct in his condemnation of a free market when he wrote that “we can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market”? The first question one must ask is “what unbridled free market is he talking about”? Most governments banished even vaguely pure free markets decades ago. In the United States, Americans enjoyed a largely free market until the 1930s, and a free market somewhat diminished after that, and enjoyed the greatest improvement in human living standards the world had ever witnessed. By way of contrast, controlled markets in most other countries remained mired in widespread poverty.

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