Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Pope Francis: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

When Joseph Stalin was asked how he planned to gain the support of Pope Pius XI against the then increasing threat of Fascism, he reportedly replied with dripping sarcasm, “The Pope! How many divisions has he got?”

The Papacy has learned a great deal since the days of Stalin. Though the Vatican still does not possess an Army as it did in the days of yore, it has certainly learned to master the art of soft power.

In the eight months since Cardinal Bergoglio has been elected pope – Pope Francis, as he has chosen to be called – he has caused quite the stir in the Catholic world. For one thing, he has called on Catholic bishops to eschew opulence to show their solidarity with the poor. Pope Francis himself did away with the famous bulletproof papal Mercedes limousine and chose instead to drive a 1984 Renault 4 as well as refusing to sit on the customary papal throne and preferring his simple white cassock over the more colorful clothes that his predecessor usually adorned. He also got the world’s attention when he said that the Catholic Church could not “interfere spiritually” in the lives of homosexuals and that he would not judge gay priests, asking rhetorically, “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”

One can almost hear Michael Buffer smoothly yelling into his microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to HUMBLE!!!!”

Who could possibly hate this man?


Pope Francis’ antics have been charmingly quaint. However, he has recently chosen to enter into another fray; one that is close and dear to my heart – economics.

In a document supposedly called an “apostolic exhortation,” Pope Francis claimed that unfettered capitalism is “a new tyranny,” and that capitalism is nothing more than the “idolatry of money.” He said that politicians had to “strive to provide work, healthcare, and education to all citizens;” and then called on the rich to share their wealth because “an economy of exclusion and inequality… such an economy kills.” Consistently with his logic, he called for action “beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

He later added that “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.”

Never mind that greater minds have already dealt with this question, this being just one example among many.



To honestly understand what Pope Francis is condemning, however, we have to know its exact nature. So what is capitalism? As I have already said in one of my previous posts, capitalism is an economic system whose fundamental philosophy is voluntary action. It is based on voluntary action because it is an economic system whereby people are free to choose to either cooperate or not cooperate with each other in order to satisfy their mutual interests. Due to it being based on voluntary trade, capitalism requires people to rely on their own rational mind and rational minds, in turn, can only exist under free conditions. A rational mind cannot work under compulsion. An individual can choose to obey his jailer or refuse to do so. Refusal, however, is almost always punished.

In essence, therefore, what Pope Francis despises is freedom. According to Pope Francis, individuals voluntarily trading with one another, exchanging values for values in the hopes of making profit in order to improve one’s own living conditions is a form of tyranny.

Furthermore, when Pope Francis exhorts politicians to “strive to provide work, healthcare, and education to all citizens,” from where does the good pope think that those things spring up from? His book seems to suggest that manna will somehow miraculously rain from the heavens to feed and clothe us helpless mortals. For the rest of us who do not believe in childish fairy tales, however, we have to contend that, as argued by Parmenides, ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing comes from nothing.

To have jobs, healthcare, and education, they have to be created by people. People have to think, organize, work, and produce for anything to come into existence. It is because of these few individuals who thought, organized, worked, and produced (chief of them being to have thought) that the rest of humanity has been able to rise up to where we are now. And how does Pope Francis think that such people ought to be rewarded? Rewarded? Pope Francis wants politicians, people who produce nothing besides trouble, to provide those things to all citizens. He does not want them rewarded. He wants them chained.

Somewhere I hear the ghost of Galileo weeping.

"It still turns."


“Of course the Pope doesn’t want those people chained to slavery. He wants good hearted, noble men and women to take on their public tasks with great humility in order to serve the best interests of all of humanity,” his defenders will clamor. Of course! The men and women of noble hearts; the angels that each and every one of us strives to be. But where does Pope Francis think that he will find such men and women? Why is it assumed that bureaucrats are less motivated by personal interest than a trader? Does anyone assume that a president appoints his/her cabinet members or judges or ambassadors based on their individual virtues, or based on their political clout? Is political self-interest somehow nobler than economic self-interest?

Of course Pope Francis never gives an answer to this. Perhaps he will pray for a miracle.

In the midst of his mindless rant, Pope Francis then goes on to say that what this world needs is a “more ethical financial system.” Hardly surprisingly, he never goes on to explain what this new ethical financial system might look like. Considering how Pope Francis despises freedom and thinks that capitalism ought not be given “absolute autonomy,” I can only imagine that it would look a lot like slavery.

“But it’s for the common good,” his apologists will counter. But just what exactly is the common good? Brotherhood and good will to all men? Please. Anyone can show a pretense of sentimentality. Just what exactly is the common good? The common good implies that something is good for the whole society. But what is society if not a collection of individuals? Can every single person in the world ever agree on what the common good is? It is impossible. What the common good in practice comes down to is that some people’s idea of what is good takes precedence over that of others. In other words, it comes down to the good of the majority as against the minority or the individual.

But the good of the majority assumes that what is good comes down to a simple numbers game. The bigger gang is right, and the smaller gang is wrong. So one has to ask: Is Pope Francis the leader of a movement that believes in objective right and wrong, or is he nothing more than just another populist demagogue?




But surely giving to charity cannot possibly be argued against? Firstly, Pope Francis is not just hoping for more charity. As he said, what he wants is “beyond a simple welfare mentality.” Though he never gives a name to what this thing beyond a simple welfare mentality is, I cannot help but imagine a golden sickle and hammer.

Is there anything wrong with charity? Certainly not. There is nothing wrong with helping others, if and when they are worthy of the help and when we can afford to help them. But that is not enough for Pope Francis. What he wants is for the misery of others to hold a mortgage on the lives of those who are better off. He wants charity not to be voluntary, but an obligation. Instead of being proud of one’s own virtues and accomplishments, he wants people’s self-esteem to come from each handout that they are forced to give to others. Never mind that the image of inherited wealth is mostly a thing of the past. As far as Pope Francis is concerned, the rich owe others for having been allowed to be rich.

It has been most amusing to see the rest of the world’s reaction to this pope. After having seen a few symbolic gestures of what passes as humility, so many in the world seem to be more than ready to forget the Church’s great many sins and crimes. The sexual abuse of children? Who wants to hear of it? The Pope refuses to sit on an elevated throne! The Church’s unchanging position on condom-use in Africa? Why be so morose? The Pope washed a Muslim woman’s feet. If Pope Francis is so concerned about income inequality and the poor and wants to help them, then why is it that His Holiness has not yet auctioned off the Vatican’s unquantifiable assets? Or why hasn’t Pope Francis condemned his own bishops’ support for the minimum wage despite the fact the minimum wage is one of the culprits that keeps the poor where they are? But why question logical consistency? He’s already picked most everyone’s favorite villains, the rich (which the Church curiously does not appear to count as being part of) to foot the bill!

It would appear that the Catholic Church has succeeded in its PR campaign beyond its own wildest expectations. When Pope Benedict XVI threw in the towel, the Vatican was in desperate need of a PR makeover and who better to lead this makeover than a man who can make the fickle masses forget about the Church's crimes by giving mushy homilies without actually doing anything? It’s still the same morally bankrupt institute of charlatans but, oh, who cares? The Pope drives a beaten-up second-hand car and who could not relate to that?

I hate to end this by quoting a mass murdering tyrant but it has to be asked – just how many divisions has the Pope got? More than anyone suspected that he had, I fear.

Definitely more than that!

15 comments:

  1. It's a big leap to say that anyone who distrusts the ability of pure unalloyed selfishness to bring about human happiness must therefore despise freedom. You have to realize what an absolutist position you're taking. In fact what you're saying applies not only to the Pope but to anyone else who doesn't ascribe to a complete and total free market philosophy.

    There are no freedoms that exist in modern society that are absolute. You can speak freely but you can't shout 'Fire!' in a crowded whatever. You can worship any way you like but polygamy and human sacrifice are out. You can freely assemble, but over here and not over there ... there are limits to everything, including how much of the money you make you will be allowed to keep.

    The largest mass of human beings alive today, and throughout history, are engaged and nothing more than a struggle for survival. And many there are who are failing that struggle, and simply die - for no other reason than the lack of money. Well, that’s what we are talking about. That's what Pope Francis was talking about when he asked why the stock market is news but an elderly person dying of exposure from inability to pay a heating bill is not.

    I think you asked rhetorically what capitalism is and here is your answer: its a system in which people who own things have power over people who do not. And sometimes that power means life and death.

    What exactly is the common good? It's not very complicated. Its a realization that when everyone is better off then EVERYone is better off. No, not merely the majority, not the Benthamite doctrine of the greatest number - everyone.

    I have no idea what's going on with the Pope, and I wouldn't worry too much about it. The Catholic Church does occasionally start to pay attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ regarding the poor, but it seldom translates into anything tangible or useful. Generally speaking, the countries where the Church is most powerful are also countries where there is the greatest lack of social justice.

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    1. I was planning to comment on this but you've done a fine job. Thanks

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    2. Sorry for the late reply, Bob. I was sick and was really busy as I had to settle in to a new job. I hope that my reply isn’t too late.

      Firstly, I think your use of the word “distrust” here does not meet the Pope’s comments. To distrust something implies skepticism – meaning to hold off on trusting something until having been provided enough evidence to change one’s opinion. Pope Francis, however, did not express skepticism. What he expressed was a moral condemnation. He isn’t skeptical. He firmly believes that capitalism is “a new tyranny.”

      (If capitalism is a new tyranny, then what does that make the Catholic Church, I wonder.)

      Secondly, I am very aware that I am taking an absolutist position. In the field of morality, there is wrong and there is right. I can see no rational reason as to why people would pick a combination of the two. If I come across someone who is genuinely skeptical about capitalism, I will usually either try to educate them or will let them figure things out on their own. When I come across people like the Pope, however, who make such moral statements that are clearly based on irrational thoughts, then I will take the position to call them out on their positions and premises.

      Thirdly, you say that there are no freedoms that are absolute. However, I think you are talking about something else when you say “freedom.” There is political freedom – the right to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – that are based on negative rights. You will notice that negative rights are rights that people can enjoy without infrigning on the rights of others. Then there are positive rights, which are rights that come at the expense of others (for example, a “right” to prevent homosexuals from marrying one another comes at the expense of other people, which by definition cannot be a right). The latter are not so much freedoms as they are whims that people have confused with freedom.

      You will also notice that the examples that you gave, except for the last one, involves the violation of other people’s rights and/or the harming of their persons. Yelling “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire can be argued that it is call to incitement an action that leads to the physical harm of others, or at the very least fraud or the spread of false news/rumors. Human sacrifice is out because, naturally, human sacrifice requires the direct violation of persons. Polygamy, at least in some societies, is out because it is a violation of contracts. The freedom of assembly is also not guarateed to all places. People can freely assemble in a public park (provided that they have the right permits) but they do not have the right to assemble in my home. If they do, that would be a violation of my privacy and my rights to private property.

      It is because those actions that you cited result in the violation of people’s rights or persons, they are not freedoms but rather whims that are curtailed. However, you also mentioned that people cannot be allowed to keep all of their money because (and you consciously or subconsciously implied) that is one of the freedoms that are actually whims that ought to be curtailed. My question is this: Do I not own the right to my own life? And in having the right to my own life, do I not have the right to keep the fruits of my own labor? If I do not have the right to my own money, then I need you to tell me why you think you or anyone else has the right to my money. Or why I or anyone else has the right to your money.

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    3. Why does the fact that others are in need give them the right to my life? If I (or anyone) else wishes to give to charity, that is my (or other people’s) prerogative. No one has the right to force me to give charity. For one thing, the moment it is forced, it is no longer charity. It is a tax. For another, as I said, the violation of the rights of some for the privileges of others is not and cannot be a right. And yes, taking something without having earned it (no matter how meager, is a privelege).

      I asked the rhetorical question as to what capitalism is. I answered that it is an economic system whereby people engage in voluntary trade with the goal of accomplishing mutual benefit. I reject your definition through and through. Capitalism is the economic system that has allowed the great masses to accomplish feats that were not seen in any time in human history. The people who are considered poor today would have been seen as bourgeois sixty years ago.

      To prove that capitalism is a system where “people who own things have power over people who do not... and sometimes that power means life and death,” you need to prove that the fact that someone is rich makes me poor. In other words, you have to prove that the creation of wealth in a capitalist economy is a zero-sum game. Otherwise, your definition does not hold water.

      Your definition of the common good as “being a realization of when EVERYONE is better off” is the actual definition of common good. But what does it mean in practice? When a family of four cannot even agree on where to have dinner without resulting in some kind of compromise or pout lips, how do you expect a whole country of people to unanimously agree on when everyone is better off? It is impossible. That is why when it comes to practice, it means “the good of the majority.” And that is precisely why politicians like to use that phrase – it makes people think that it means the good of everyone that everyone can agree on but in reality, because it has such an elastic meaning, it can mean whatever they want it to mean.

      And it is precisely because the Catholic Church has the most influence in countries where theere is the greatest lack of social justice that the Pope should always be called out for everything that he believes or utters. The man does not represent an alternative that is good. He is another moral hack who feeds the masses what they want to hear and because of the history of the office that he holds, that makes the man very dangerous.

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    4. To some extent we are all free to see our world in stark edges of black and white, but perhaps I should warn you, it won't work - and in some respects it could even be even somewhat dangerous. Its not reality, you see. The universe exists as a place of unending shades of grey, not to mention a multiplicity of colors bright neon 2 dole pastels.

      In the realm of morality, a lot of people still today do continue to see things in a binary manner, but nevertheless most of us have come to realize that right and wrong does very often alter according to context and, yes, even historical fashion. You can say that there's no such thing as being a little bit pregnant, but even though there's still a fair amount of controversy over the matter, most of us do see great differences in right behavior with regard to first vs third trimesters. Even murder gets divided between criminal negligence, 2nd degree manslaughter, and premeditated homicide.

      The theft of a loaf of bread from a prosperous grocery with intent to feed one family is generally same as less vile than the embezzlement of several billion from a factory purely from personal greed that results in the loss of livelihood of a thousand families. To some, possibly, they are the same - the rest of us tend to look at a larger picture that includes the overall effect of an action and such things as malicious intent.

      Now, yes, you can object that law is not the same as morality, but those of us who recognize that absolute values seldom apply anywhere except within the mind within the realm of cybernetics - well, we're far more interested in what works and what doesn't, what does and does not adequately describe what we see around us so that we can exist optimally with in it, manipulate to the extent we can, and all the things to better suit our needs and desires . . . and an absolutist perspective as you seem to see subscribe to simply does not work, not in science and not in history, and no, not in morality either.

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    5. Money is a concept of human minds and cultural traditions, and as such exists at the service of people. Rules and attitudes concerning it are malleable, subject to alterations in order to better serve people. Money is not a real thing in the sense that a rock or a tree is real, it is simply an idea, one that only exists while people agree that it does. That means that by making money a part of your life, you are part of a society (yes, true, despite Margaret Thatcher's denial of the reality of the word) and as a part of this larger mass of beings you gain massive benefits compared to living on a desert island or living in a cabin at the top of a mountain.

      Because of these benefits, you also have responsibilities to the rest, all those who have agreed to assign value and importance to small green pieces of paper, and who therefore cooperate maintaining a collective fiction that represents a means for us all to do things together that we can't do alone.

      Well, bearing these things in mind, here's a question I can ask in response:

      Why do you believe you should keep ANY of the money you make? Did you really ‘make’ it, in the sense of creating something that wasn't there? Or aren't you really participating in a process that includes everyone around you? As such, perhaps the amount of money or other kinds of wealth you are allowed to hold onto for yourself becomes a collaborative decision – not just between you and whoever paid you the money, but between you and all the rest of the people who make up this world.

      In short, you did not make that money in a vacuum – you were and are part of something bigger than yourself, and the money is a product of that larger thing.

      There is at large in the world a (to me) rather odd article of faith, and I’ll call it that because it is believed without question, and lacks provability. It goes like this: hard work + brains = financial success. It seems to make sense, and it tends to agree with a lot of the core mythology that we Americans tell ourselves about our place in the world and the correctness of our present world supremacy.

      And, of course we usually work the equation backwards as well, reflecting that a fabulously wealthy person must have also worked fabulously and been fabulously smart. It amuses, too, because we can easily find many individual examples where such is not true.

      It puzzles, moreover, because of what it leaves out, which are very important parts of the picture – some people are lucky, and some people get help. And yes, the converse is also true, that people were smart and worked hard, but they were not lucky and they did not get help, and so they failed. Most often, however, at least in America, financial failure is seen as a result of defects of character. If people are poor, they ‘deserve’ to be poor.

      It’s not only fallacious. It is monstrous. But this is what we have in America, and this is what a lot of people believe today.

      Yes, some of this was at the core of Mr. Obama’s speech last year, the ‘You didn’t build that’ trope that the Repuglicans turned on its head with the claim of ‘We Built it!’ at their convention a month later. To my mind, the GOP and especially Mitt Romney were never able to adequately answer this, and despite attempts to distort Obama’s message of community and working together for shared prosperity, it is to me most telling that theirs was the party that lost the election for the White House, a defeat that, to many people, signaled the end of any further credibility for supply-side economics.

      I’ll quote just one line from Obama’s speech, and the drop a couple of links. Here it is: “The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.’

      http://www.factcheck.org/2012/07/you-didnt-build-that-uncut-and-unedited/
      http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/hendrikhertzberg/2012/08/we-built-it.html
      http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2012/08/31/160370383/gops-we-built-it-refrain-is-both-puzzling-and-telling

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    6. If there is no black and white, there can be no gray – since gray is merely a mixture of the two. The degree of grayness, these unending shades of gray, is a matter of how much black and how much white has been mixed. Of course, black and white here refers to moral goodness and moral evil. Now, if you know what is morally good and what is morally evil, then what is the justification for choosing a mixture of the two? If an individual honestly thinks that he is choosing good when he is, in fact, choosing evil, he is still forgivable (at least morally, though perhaps not legally). But if an individual chooses evil all the while knowing that he is choosing evil, then would that person be forgivable? I would think not. Furthermore, if one deliberately chooses evil knowing all the while that he/she is choosing evil, does morality then even apply to him/her? Again, I would think not.

      The law, for good or for ill, does punish people’s intent. As such, depending on the severity of the crime, the punishment doled out oftentimes differ (unless, of course, the courts are handicapped by something as stupid as political decisions such as mandatory minimum sentences). What does not change is that despite the difference in intent between a man who merely wants to feed his starving family and a man who embezzles money for the sake of satiating an unearned desire at the expense of other people’s rights is the fact that both men are still punished. And that is precisely because morality, ie. a set of values that determine what is right and what is wrong, matters.

      And when you say “right and wrong does very often alter according to context,” what you are implying is that there are two (or perhaps more) sides to every issue and that we should take those other sides into consideration. But does that mean that both (or all) sides of an issue are equally valid? I do not think so. Yes, there are complex issues but those are the times when people must focus even more on morality; not abandon it.

      What I do not understand is how you can claim that people in cybernetics are far more interested in what works and what does not work, and then claim in the same breath that absolutism does not work. How much more absolutist does it get than “this works, this does not?”

      We have to remember that morality applies to one thing only – human choices. A mountain can be neither moral nor immoral. It just is. Don’t you think that you are taking for granted that these unending shades of gray are merely all the different degrees of choices that people have made to not be moral? I certainly think so, and I find it abominable.

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    7. Let’s say that you are driving a car. And after a while of driving, a group of people that you meet tell you that the car that you are driving does not exist. Does the fact that they think the car does not exist actually negate the car’s existence? Of course not. The existence of existence is not dependent on our ability to perceive it.

      But what is a car? We can call it a vehicle, a transportation device made out of moving parts, etc. But metaphysically, a car, like all other man-made things, is the physical embodiment of an idea. It started as an idea in someone’s mind, and this mind took action to turn that idea into a reality, and the car is now a man-made tool.

      Money is also an idea that was made into a reality. If people stop agreeing that money exists, will that actually negate the existence of money? What we use as money, or at the very least, the value we give the money as it currently exists will certainly change, but it will not negate its existence. But even then, it is still based on the same premise – the value of money is based on how much another individual is willing to trade you his effort in return for yours.

      And money does not exist at the service of people. “Existing at the service of people” is an action that can only be chosen to be made by people. By saying that money “exists at the service of the people,” intentionally or not, you are giving money anthropomorphic properties that it does not actually possess. Money does not exist at the service of people any more than car exists at the service of people. These things exist, but they exist as inanimate tools that people choose to use.

      Now money is certainly based on an idea. But what is this idea? The fact is that people’s continued existence, due to the fact that we are neither omniscient nor omnipotent, depends on our ability to rely on each other’s expertise. I am, of course, referring to the specialization of labor and trade. Due to the problems that existed in the barter system, money was invented, which later evolved (and continues to evolve) into the fiat money that we know today. So when we trade, we use money to buy and sell from and to each other.

      But we have to go back to the specialization of labor. This isn’t a phenomenon that occurred spontaneously. It wasn’t a revelation that suddenly dawned on people at once at some fixed point in time. It is the result of choices that people have made using their minds. You have to use your mind to think before you can act. And because the choice of producing, consuming, and trading are part of the choices that people make using their minds, the money that each individual earns belong to them individually precisely because people use their own individual minds. Naturally, I am only referring to the legitimate earning of money that does include fraud or theft.

      In other words, money, and the ownership of it, rests on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. If you decide to buy a car, it is a decision that is based on your conscious choice to use your own mind. And it is your actions (saving money, improving your own credit score, negotiating a lower price for the car, etc.) that result in the buying of that car. Would you accept my insistence on your sharing of your car with me based on my argument that part of my taxes had been used to pave the roads that allows you to drive a car? Of course not. The same applies to money.

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    8. When you claim that because of the benefits that we receive from being a part of society, we also have responsibilities to other people, I am not sure if you realize that the assumption that that thought is based on is that people have helped you for no charge. A baker does not bake bread in order to give his bread away to anyone who wants it out of pure altruism. The vast majority of people in the world produce and sell with the intention of preserving their own selves and the vast majority of people do not work for free. In fact, no one does anything without getting paid (helping a hot co-ed move in next door because she promised to go out to have a drink with you later in the evening is also a payment; people always get paid, just not always with pieces of paper.)

      So if people already got paid their wages or salary or commission or net profit for doing whatever it is that they do, then what further moral responsibilities do you have toward other people (besides general good will)? If YOU feel that you still owe the rest of humanity something more, then that is your business. But to impose that kind of moral responsibility on others, who can and do correctly reject that additional responsibility, is wrong.

      In regards to your point about luck, there is no doubt that luck plays a role in people’s lives. Some people are born rich and some are born poor. Now if there are indeed people who think that the rich deserve to be rich and the poor deserve to be poor, for any reason, then they are clearly in need of having their heads examined. No one deserves anything that they have not earned for themselves. But again, the fact that people are born poor does not give them the right to other people’s possessions. As I said, there is nothing wrong with voluntary charity if those who want to give are willing and able and think that the people that they choose to help are deserving of their help. But that does not give the poor a right to force other people to give.

      Lastly, the Republican defeat in the last national elections was the result of the incompetence of Republican politicians. The party that once boasted itself as the party of ideas, admittedly a mixed bag of some good and mostly bad ideas, has abandoned ideas. It has promoted the most vile, morally and intellectually bankrupt politicians who are constantly competing with each other over who can pander the most to the lowest common denominator. The Democrats did not win. The Republicans lost.

      As for your comment about “the end of any further credibility for supply-side economics,” far too many people have paid far too many obituaries to ideas of all stripes based on one election, which really is a blink of an eye compared to the length of time involved in the war over ideas, only to be proven wrong time and time again. If history is anything to go by, the eulogy you gave might just prove to have been a bit premature.

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  2. Elsewhere on the Internet, I received this comment:

    "This pope really has been a huge improvement over Pope Palpatine. Are you saying it's wrong for religious leaders to live humbly? He's the leader of the Catholic Church, not the economy, so what would you have him say? Every man for himself? And the trickle-down theory is about as dead in the water as Stalinism. As an atheist who prefers him to other popes, I'm receptive to seeing the Catholic Church finally ready to enter the 20th century."

    Firstly, I find it utterly intolerable when people's argument boils down to "This pope is better than the last one." How different is that from saying "at least Obama is better than Bush." Why is it that when politicians engage in this kind of behavior, people recognize it as a cynical way of manipulating people's expectations but when the pope does it, it's just a huge improvement? The Catholic Church is engaging in the same political mind games as any politician would.

    Secondly, I never said that the Pope should not lively humbly. If he decided to auction off every single asset that is owned by the Vatican and then gave it all away so that he and the rest of his ilk decided to live on handouts, I wouldn't care one bit. However, he called on for others to give, not out of charity, but based on “beyond a simple welfare mentality.”

    Thirdly, to reduce capitalism to a caricature as "every man for himself" is so ludicrous a statement that it does not require a response.

    Fourthly, who says that trickle down economics is "dead in the water?" Alternet? Michael Moore? Barack Obama? Hardly economists. I would much rather listen to the likes of Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Milton Friedman, James Buchanan - all of them distinguished economists - than demagogues.

    Fifthly, I am the most disappointed with atheists who have begun a love affair with this pope. The fact that he smiles more and seems kinder does not make him an irrational mystic. Are they so eager to give up the fight for objective truth that they would lay down their intellect as soon as they come across a smiling face? It would seem that they are!

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    1. “Fourthly, who says that trickledown economics is ‘dead in the water?’”

      More than a few people have been saying this, and not just recently. A lot of people think Mitt Romney killed it. (You don’t gain points by just calling people who don’t agree with you ‘demagogues, you know.) Economists don’t decide when an idea has died, by the way. Ideas have life when people ascribe to them and use them to explain things and solve problems – this is an idea that has not lived up to its hype or its promises, and in fact has failed even to live up to its own predictions.

      You are free to pick and choose who you will to agree with on the basis of personal preference and perhaps self-interest, but if you ask ‘who says?’ then there are a lot of answers …

      OECD calls time on trickle down theory
      http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/oecd-calls-time-on-trickle-down-theory/article620491/

      Trickle-Down Economics is Dead: Yes, Mitt, it’s Official
      http://bluntandcranky.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/trickle-down-economics-is-dead-yes-mitt-its-official/

      Trickle-down economics died last Tuesday.
      http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/13/michael-tomasky-on-how-mitt-romney-finally-killed-reaganomics.html

      Trickle-down economics died last Tuesday.
      http://themoderatevoice.com/168120/the-death-of-trickle-down-economics/

      Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us
      http://www.amazon.ca/Zombie-Economics-Ideas-Still-among/dp/0691154546

      The Lie of "Trickle Down" Economics
      http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/07/25/1113576/-The-Lie-of-Trickle-Down-Economics#

      The trickle-down is dead
      http://100gf.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/the-trickle-down-is-dead-bank-of-america-to-axe-30000-more-jobs/
      c082011
      Trickle down theory is dead – OECD
      http://treasureislands.org/trickle-down-theory-is-dead-oecd/

      This one’s actually pretty old … Trickle Down Economics: Four Reasons Why It Just Doesn’t Work
      http://www.faireconomy.org/research/TrickleDown.html

      I’ll try to get back to discussing some of the other points you brought here today, but I’ll need to do it later, not just now.

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    2. I will readily admit that I regretted my decision to post that without having edited or changed the phrase, "who says that trickledown economics is dead in the water." Obviously many people have.

      And obviously economics has been, for good or for ill, made even more dismal by being influenced by competing ideologies. I have thought things through and I have come to the conclusion that my side is right, and as such, will be sticking to my guns.

      Of course, this argument has been going on long before any of us were born, and will continue long after we are gone.

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  3. By the way, I DO think that Obama is better than Bush, and better than McCain, and definitely better than Romney. That’s how we vote, you know, it is how we decide. We look at the choices and decide which is better. Hell, it’s how we choose dinner. I think pasta carbonara is probably going to be better than a hot dog, so I’ll go for the pasta if both are put in front of me.

    I’m fully aware that anyone who wins is going to be a politician, sure, and that means that the rest of us will always be losers in any election. I confess I was among those who cast the yea for Obama who were thinking, ‘Ah, maybe this time, maybe something different …’ But I don’t find it intolerable that the reality that came about was the one that history has shown us was most likely.

    But you find it intolerable, and that makes me curious. Is it that absolutism you seem so proud of? The world is not that way.

    The lesser of two weevils is still a smaller insect, and less able to damage the crop. When we can, when we have to choose, we crush the larger one. Yes, I'm making a pun, but I am serious here.

    The Catholic Church has always been a political animal, right from the get-go. Look at the history - the world's first and oldest corporation - the way it has aligned itself with the political powers, mostly to its own advantage. There are people who argue that the schools and hospitals and orphanages they have put out in the world have had a positive effect on the world that outweighs the other damage. Personally, I keep going back and forth on this. Education, medical care, rescuing destitute children – I can’t help but think these are positive things that happen, no matter the motivation of some larger structure that made it happen.

    It’s an interesting question, but I usually find myself in favor whenever rhetoric moves in the direction of helping people, and encouraging others to do the same. I think I’m cynical enough, comes down to it, but I do also think that before the world can be better there have to be people who think it CAN be better, and we can tolerate some disappointments along the way, if we need to.

    Everything starts with intention, doesn't it? We have to have that, at least. We have to want to make this a better place. We start from there. Then, we go on.

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    1. Whether or not someone prefers one thing to another is not at issue here. Unless one is purely driven by emotion, a kind of person that I have yet to encounter in my life, all decisions that people make, preferences included, are a result of a logical thought process (whether or not the logic was based on rational principles is another matter). And unless insane, people will always prefer things that they think are better (in whatever capacity “better” is being measured) than those that are worse.

      Furthermore, the preferences that I am talking about is not simply a matter of personal taste. Preferring pasta carbonara to hot dogs is merely just that – a matter of personal taste. What I am talking about is preferences that involve one’s morals. And consequently, what IS at issue here is the satisfaction that people feel with the less than mediocre choices that people have before them (not that I’m saying that Pope Francis was elected by the masses, of course he wasn’t).

      Your statement about choosing the lesser of two evils (or weevils to be specific) being the choice that we have is a statement of fact. No one can deny that. But accepting that choice is what allows those in power to constantly give us nothing but false choices. For example, in the US, every election cycle, the people are given a choice between two main choices – Democrats or Republicans. Contrary to what the politicians want us to believe, and I know that you know this to be true, “Democrat vs. Republican” does not equal “Progressivism vs. Conservatism.” In reality (and in hindsight), we see that the differences between the contenders are actually paper thin. They sound the most different while they campaign, but once one of them wins and the other concedes, it almost always ends up going back to business as usual.

      And going back to the pope, the point that I unfortunately only hinted at in my article is that the lesser of two evils is still evil; that we should not allow ourselves to be satisfied with anything less than good, that we should not settle for what is merely better.

      Despite the fact that I obviously strongly disagree with the standard of ethics and morality that the Catholic Church represents, I recognize that the Church is not entirely devoid of good. As you mentioned, the Church has and continues to fund and operate numerous orphanages and hospitals around the world. But motivation, intent, and philosophy matter. What are they trying to promote? What do they condemn? Can the good that the Church does outweigh its evils? Even if were possible, should it matter? Would that not force us to resort to utilitarianism?

      So, of course, what I do agree with you on is that intention does indeed matter. I will concede that it is possible that I am overly jaded but, though I agree that it is important that people have to believe that the world can be better before it does get better, mere rhetoric that is not matched by action stinks of politics. However, even if the Catholic Church’s actions do match the pope’s rhetoric in the future, I still will not be won over by the pope or the Church but that is because, aside from the aforementioned opposition to the Church’s standard of ethics and morality, I do not agree with the philosophical basis of this pope’s (or any other pope that came before him) rhetoric.

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  4. Unfortunately the pope comes from argentina and he can not help being a product of how argentinian society raises most of its children; with no understanding and even less the ability to put in practice what it takes to create a stable, well educated, prosperous society.

    To overcome the deep shortcomings of his argentinian upbringing and see first hand how you create reasonable societies with a balance between capitalism and distribution of wealth he should spend a few months every year in northern europe and japan. Interestingly Japan is th. country with smaller differences between rich and poore. Interestingly Japan is not Catholic. Interestingly the next group of countries with fewer such differences are the northern european countries.

    Interestingly all those countries have between 60 and 90% of populations who do not believe in god. Somehow catholic countries do not show the way. So before the pope preaches of the evils of capitalism someone should tell him capitalism is the answer to a moderate degree of dignity. the danger with capitalism when badly managed is growing inequality and control by capitalists of society, the reasonable balance (however imperfect) can be found in Japan and northern europe and some anglosaxon countries (the us is not in the group).

    By the way, the Jews, the people who invented both communism and catholicism practice neither, they practice work as hard as you can and make some money to ensure prosperity for your children. Unfortunately, jewish society inside and outside israel has not got the knack to create reasonably balanced societies. As Israel is very unequal and the US, a society where jews, as a result of their efforts have great economic and social influence, is an even more unequal society.

    Why people instead of going to Harvard Business School and Harvard School of government do not go to "Japan university", "northern europe university" is beyond me. Its is obvious the priests, the rabbis, the imans, the hindu priests, etc do not know how to create the reasonable fair an prosperous societies theis doctrines preach about. In the case of the vatican the wealth it holds does not help the poor.

    If this pope really wishes to have credibility he should sell the vatican and all church property and set up a new catholic church that would modestly live of part of the income of the foundation and the rest of the income used to help the poor abandon poverty and the hungry hunger and the sick the illness. I mean jesus was net strong on economics but certainly showed the way on how the pope who represents him should live.

    Divesting of the vatican, etc. , will also facilitate that the pope set the vatican for a few years in japan and northern europe to really understand what sort of capital-social blend it takes to erradicate poverty and much of the social injustice around the world or at least in mostly catholic countries, such as argentina, for example.

    He should also be far more specific; for example, argentinian capitalism and social practices are far greedier and abusive than in northern europe.

    As a matter of fact the figure of the pope for i do not know how many centuries is more a symbol of capitalistic wealth than of the poverty of jesus. I understand this pope belongs to the jesuits, the "Jesus order". how about taking a firm step in the direction of Jesus and abandon toe oppulency practiced by the most extravagant and selfish capitalists?

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