Pope Francis and Obama Are Both Wrong
A recent Washington Post article reflected on Pope Francis as he struggles to make the Church more humble and focused on the poor. He wants to rid the monolithic Church of the huge bureaucratic administration, putting the face of the ‘every-man’ on it rather than the colossal hierarchy it is currently cloaked in. He’s doing this through modernization of its canon and ancient rules. He wants a clearer direction for the congregation.
I’m pleased he’s moving the Church in a simpler direction as it is in need of an overhaul. I was raised in the Church but haven’t practiced in many of years. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the principals of Catholicism, I do, but what drove me away was the silly archaic rules, and the loyalty to a thousand years of canon. The idea, for example, of priests not marrying was establish around the 11th or 12th century by a bunch of earnest men with good intentions. The celibacy rule was not established by God or the Bible or some ancient precedent. It just doesn’t make sense to me to usurp God’s nature.
And so the Pope has recognized the many flaws of the Church and is trying to bring it into the 21st century as best he can. His very noble attempt to try to help the poor is enough for saint-hood in my book. He’s worked tirelessly his whole life for their benefit. What a great man. However, he’s been laboring against a melting snowball in an uphill climb to overcome the impossible in a Central America autocracy, a country not known for its capitalism or equal treatment of people.
In their book, How Nations Fail, Acemoglu and Robinson argue that countries like those in Central America are extractive, as compared to inclusive countries like Australia or the U.S. Accordingly, extractive societies are generally ruled by oligarchs or authoritarian presidents-for-life (dictators), who build up large bank accounts from foreign aid and the sale of the country’s natural resources. Income is kept and distributed to the few while the masses fend for themselves.
It was in this environment that Father Bergoglio (the future Pope Francis) worked with the poor every day. He’s had no experience in a capitalistic society where the poor have elevated themselves up the success ladder through opportunity and work. Instead, he’s had to deal with a repressive society that extracted what it could for its leaders at the expense of population, particularly those less fortunate. There isn’t a non-capital system in place that allows the opportunity for folks to work themselves out of poverty. Typically, people born into poverty, die in poverty.
The good Father, according to the Washington Post article, has “denounced the evils of ‘trickle-down economics’ and the evils of unfettered capitalism as ‘a new tyranny’ and asked world leaders to solve the poor’s problem of poverty and inequality.” It is much the same rhetoric President Obama has used to infuse his anti-poverty policies by increasing food stamps, minimum wages, healthcare, and taxes on the middle and wealthy classes. He’s used women, children, immigrants, fairness, equality, and a level playing field as an argument for his failed policies, completely missing what has worked historically.
By comparison to Pope Francis’s background, Barack Obama worked in the streets of Chicago helping the poor, who by contrast, had a lot more than did Father Bergoglio’s poor people. Typically, the Chicago folks could afford a flat screen TV, a car, a cell phone, housing, medical care, baby sitting, food allowances, et al. However, according to standards set by the U.S. government, these people were considered poor and needed more help. And that’s what Mr. Obama did. As a community organizer, he helped them get more from the government. He’s carried that career into his presidency.
Both of these men have good intentions, but they are ignorant of the tools humans have used to make the best parts of this world work. Both of these men believe that interference in human nature is the better answer to the people’s struggles, rather than what has been successful in the past. They forget that people, particularly Americans, have an innate sensibility toward charity for the less fortunate. That when they combine their capital of talent, innovation, and money, the poor get richer. Just compare the Chicago poor with those of Central America and ask yourself, why are they considered poor? They both forget that powerful leaders are powerful because of money, power, greed, ego, and an elite sensibility. Combine the money of business with the power of government bureaucracy and we get crony capitalism; not a winning combination, but one that controls most of the world’s economy.
Where would the Catholic Church be today if it weren’t for capitalism? Where would their immense riches have come from? The churches and cathedrals were largely built with private donations. Part of the gain of wealth, as Adam Smith said came by the invisible hand and their own self-interest. And their gift of charity came about from their core sensibility and their belief in a benevolent God.
We wouldn’t have had Thanksgiving this week if Governor William Bradford and the Pilgrims hadn’t recognized that the collective socialism they lived for two years was literally killing them. The Governor wrote, “set corn every man for his own particular,” and property was assigned to each family. What economist’s call “the tragedy of the commons” came to an end and capitalism in the U.S. was born. The Pilgrims celebrated their bounty, restoring their lives and that became known as our Thanksgiving.
Both President Obama and Pope Francis miss the simple, uncomplicated nature of how people govern themselves, believing they can do it better. History has shown them both wrong. The Soviet society collapsed under central planning. Look at Nogales Arizona versus Nogales Mexico, or North and South Korea, or Greece and America. When will they learn that capitalism is what lifts society up?
The secret for success lies in who has control of the state? The leaders or the people? The Founders wrote the Constitution, not to express what the Federal Government can do, but rather what it can’t do. To protect the people from the government. The document says, in essence, this is what the government can’t do, all else is left to the states, and after that, to the people. It’s time to reign in the overreach of the Executive, Congressional, Judicial, EPA, IRS, Education, the Fed, et al, through an amendment process at the upcoming Convention of States.
“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence.” Napoleon Bonaparte