In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you, I am a practicing Catholic and I raise my children Catholic, but I’m not a great Catholic. I follow the rules of the Church to the best of my ability and try to live by the spirit of Christ’s teachings, but I struggle with faith and am not versed in every nuance of the Church’s tenets. I do, however, respect those Catholics who still keep the faith in the same tradition my parents upheld and I benefit greatly from the culture they create in the Catholic community. For this reason, I never want my skin-of-the-teeth Catholicism in any way to diminish the Catholic culture or reflect poorly on it, so I try to stay away from public discussions on religion. Recently, however, many people of different creeds and political stripes have asked me what I think of Pope Francis, and I’m happy to respond, but I must emphasize, this is, of course, only my opinion. I’m not trying to represent the Church or libertarians, or preach or criticize–I’m just recording my observations for those interested in reading them.
I always give the Pope the benefit of the doubt, but boy are my doubts mounting! Here are the main issues I have with some of the positions the Pope is reported to have taken….
Not too long ago, I sifted through all the relevant writings I could reasonably assess in order to see if any Pope had openly advocated for government redistribution of wealth. From what I could tell, many had come close but no Pope had gone all the way–until now.
This alarms me. The modern state’s use of violence and the threat of violence to take property from its rightful owners (assuming there are any objective laws left in this world, there are clearly defined rightful owners at least of the fruits of their labor) and give it to someone else not only breaks the sixth and eighth commandments, but also makes it impossible for able-bodied producers to live Christ’s exhortation to charity as well as reduces the poor from a default state of virtue (assuming money really is the root of all evil), to being receivers of stolen goods.
As progressive taxation comes closer to absorbing all surplus wages and putting them at the disposal of the modern state, even the highest earners may no longer have the means to engage in meaningful charity. And with what result? The governments in the United States, for example, spend approximately 40% of the country’s production (GDP), the vast majority of which is redistribution of wealth.
(I include public schools in this category–I pay for private schools, yet I also have to pay for public schools for the children of others.)
At this level of redistribution, the bottom half of the country should be about as wealthy as the top half (stopping short of the very top economic echelon), but they aren’t. That’s not really the point. The government is not a Church or a charitable institution. It has it’s own goals–power, self-preservation, offering privileges and profits to the well-connected, etc. Religion, on the other hand, is voluntary. Billions of people declare themselves members of religious organizations that demand at minimum two things: control over one’s own behavior and a commitment to care for those who can’t take care of themselves. This voluntary arrangement is not only moral, but it’s more effective than the centralized, corruptible, coercive state. Religious solutions should be the first line of defense for a religious leader who can, with all authority, impress upon us that charity is a moral obligation first and foremost, rather than venturing to suggest that it should be a legal one which would negate free will and rely on violence.
Is it possible that this highly educated man doesn’t understand the simple concept that redistribution of wealth by force is wrong?
Government Regulation of Capitalism
I’m beginning to believe that 90% of the suffering in this world comes from the top. From national governments to quasi-governmental institutions like the UN, the IMF and the World Bank, to government-corrupting multinational corporations in industries such as finance, energy, defense and now technology, to oligarchs and super-wealthy industrialists who bend government to their wills, to powerful individuals and families including monarchies and ruling elites the world over. I have concluded that the great increase in crop yields that began in the 1960s and the peaceful power inherent in the nuclear deterrent, mean this world could really be on a road to peace and prosperity if the great powers (governmental, corporate and private) were not committed to keeping alive insecurity, both financial and physical, to justify their existence or maintain the hierarchy. (JFK’s last speech hints at this, as does The Report from Iron Mountain.)
Don’t get me wrong–I’m an anarcho-capitalist–I believe that unbridled capitalism would result in the greatest prosperity, equity, liberty and justice possible on earth, but that’s not what we have today. What we have today is the capture of government by rich and powerful institutions and individuals around the world. In a state of unbridled capitalism, there would be a race to the bottom as a descent to zero economic profit would result from competitive forces in any industry experiencing surplus return on capital or labor. In other words, innovators and first movers could get ahead of the curve and accumulate considerable wealth, but very quickly their industry would yield to competitive forces and their power would abate. It’s not for nothing that the Titans of Tech clink glasses with Obama–it’s the political means that keep first movers on top and start-ups out.Often, these big companies maintain their market dominance by promoting “regulatory barriers to entry” such as those requiring accounting, legal and environmental departments that start-ups simply don’t have the money to establish given the risk of failure for new firms. A possible recent example of this may be the new law that requires telecom companies to store data for the government. That’s a big, non-productive use of capital that a start-up might not have the resources to fund: advantage Big Guy.
As I observe this system, I can’t help but wonder why the Pope would want to give the power to control industry to captive government. Seems to me that every government in the world is now corrupted (or being destroyed) by the great corpo-governmental continuum. If government is captive–and it clearly is, even (if not especially) at the UN/IMF level–giving them more control over industry is sure to make the problem worse. A casual observation of 50 years of socialism in the US and elsewhere shows an increase in the concentration of wealth, does it not? Even if the Pope might prefer to label the current regimes of the West fascist rather than socialist, isn’t that more of a reason not to give government total power over business? Again, does the Pope simply not get this? (Surely he would not call a government that deploys 40% of a country’s productivity “laissez-faire?”)
Pope Francis is the leader of over a billion people around the world and has influence over billions more. Why does he call upon compromised politicians to use force and naively hope for the best when he could use his own power to effect peaceful, voluntary change? Here’s one idea: the Pope could use his power and resources as the leader of the Church to create for every country a list of companies with immoral practices and another one of companies with moral practices and use his position to influence the voluntary action of over one billion Catholic consumers to keep companies honest–that could actually work! (There could even be an app for that–and you wouldn’t have to be Catholic to use it!)
Calls for World Government
Nothing terrifies me more than the idea of world government.
During the term of Pope Benedict, the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace called for polyarchic government, or a world government overlaid atop national governments, complete with a world currency. Pope Benedict called for a “true world political authority,” and Pope Francis quoted these words in his encyclical on climate change. (Incidentally, the Report from Iron Mountain, cited above, called for an environmental hoax to create a global crisis that would justify a world government.)
These proposals by the Popes and the Vatican fly in the face of the sublime Catholic principle of subsidiarity: problems should be solved at the most local level possible, starting with the individual then up to the family, then the parish, etc. Furthermore, if the “true world authority” is established on the principle advocated by Heidi Cruz in her Council on Foreign Relations task force’s report, Building a North American Community, the laws adopted by a union of nations would default to the most restrictive, not the least. How could we maintain the Bill of Rights (especially the crucial Second Amendment) in the face of such change? It’s hard enough to defend it here at home against fellow Americans! (That’s why the concept of world government terrifies me.)
Feeding the Memes
Finally, I am alarmed that the Pope consistently validates media story lines that are false, trumped up, misreported or exploited for the purpose of promoting war. Does he not know the truth? Is that believable for a man who has an intelligence service some say rivals the CIA?
I’m thinking specifically of the Pope’s mass for the Egyptian Christians allegedly beheaded in Libya. The Egyptian air force killed seven clearly innocent people in retaliation for this–and it was a hoax! According to Fox News, that video was fake–a short clip was looped over and over to show more people, there was a green screen, fake blood! If I know this and Fox knows it, how could the Pope not know it?
Similarly, the Pope’s focus on the refugee crisis feeds into the build up toward war. Our allies have been destroying Syria since March 2011, creating a massive refugee crisis for years, yet no press until now. Furthermore, the current coverage has all the earmarks of an operation with a specific propaganda design: to gain consent for a war to effect regime change in Syria. By accepting at face value media reports of this crisis, the Pope adds his voice to the call, “Something must be done!” Unfortunately, the something that will be done will be war.
What To Make of the Pope?
Some say the Pope is chronically mistranslated or misunderstood, that the media is making him out to be a secular humanist and a socialist but he really isn’t. I have no way of knowing because I only speak English and am at the mercy of the translators and the corrupt media on this one. Time will tell if the Pope’s words have good results or bad…my philosophy predicts that the outcome of his reported policy recommendations, if enacted, would be bad. If the results are clearly defined, measurable and good, I will have to reevaluate my philosophy. If they are bad, however, we would still be left with a question beyond the ideological: Is the Pope the victim of a wrong ideology, or is he a witting member of that super elite who work tirelessly in word and deed to keep the money and power at the top? Perhaps time will tell.
For videos of the Pope’s recent visit, see The Pope’s American Tour.