Thursday, 6 August 2009

Vatican vs. Capitalism

This may probably be seen by some as part of my continuing polemic against religion but it seems to me, at least, that I am simply presenting the case for the defence here. Throughout the post-industrial revolution period it seems the church has attacked those seeking to make a profit and be successful.

The main encyclical to this effect appeared in 1967 when Pope Paul VI recommended redistribution of wealth on a mass scale in order to achieve "Populorum Progressio" (The Development of Peoples) as the document was called. This was attacked beautifully at the time by Ayn Rand in her "Requiem for Man" but now the church is once again moving from the theological to the political in Pope Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, “Caritas in veritate”.

This new piece from the Vatican seems to be continuing on the same theme that profit is evil but is given a modern spin by criticising globalisation as well. The call for globalisation, and capitalism generally , to be 'properly managed' seems to be particularly well timed as people are blaming the apparently 'free' market for the global recession. No one of course considers it was the perpetuation of a 'mixed economy' that ultimately collapsed in on itself; but that's for another time.

Capitalism is based on hard, cold logic and I believe it is this that the church fears most when we get down to it. The best way to explain this is to look at those on the right who believe that it is possible to defend capitalism while putting faith before reason and by advocating self-sacrifice, not self-interest, as the essence of morality. The hypocrisy involved by harbouring such a belief is self-evident but goes a long way to showing the church's long standing antipathy towards capitalism.

I'll leave you with a quote from the aforementioned "Requiem for Man":

"Consider the proposal to condemn Americans to a lifetime of unrewarded drudgery at forced labor, making them work as hard as they do or harder, with nothing to gain but the barest subsistence — while savages collect the products of their effort. When you hear a proposal of this sort, what image leaps into your mind? What I see is the young people who start out in life with self-confident eagerness, who work their way through school, their eyes fixed on their future with a joyous, uncomplaining dedication — and what meaning a new coat, a new rug, an old car bought second-hand, or a ticket to the movies has in their lives, as the fuel of their courage. Anyone who evades that image while he plans to dispose of “the fruit of the labors of people” and declares that human effort is not a sufficient reason for a man to keep his own product — may claim any motive but love of humanity."