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Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism

Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013

News Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Recommended books Recommended Links Casino Capitalism Two Party System as polyarchy Ayn Rand and Objectivism Cult
Financial Crisis of 2008 as the Crisis of Neoliberalism Gangster Capitalism: The United States and the Globalization of Organized Crime The Great Transformation Psychological Warfare and the New World Order Jeremy Grantham On The Fall Of Civilizations Alternatives to Neo-liberalism Globalization of Corporatism
Elite Theory Compradors Fifth column Color revolutions Anti-globalization movement Right to protect If Corporations Are People, They Are Psychopaths
Supply Side or Trickle down economics Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism America’s Financial Oligarchy Inverted Totalitarism Disaster capitalism Neoliberalism as a Cause of Structural Unemployment in the USA Neoliberalism and inequality
Corporatist Corruption: Systemic Fraud under Clinton-Bush-Obama Regime Harvard Mafia Friedman --founder of Chicago school of deification of market Republican Economic Policy Monetarism fiasco Small government smoke screen The Decline of the Middle Class
Libertarian Philosophy Media domination strategy Neoliberalism Bookshelf John Kenneth Galbraith History of Casino Capitalism Humor Etc

Pope Francis recently took issue with neoliberalism and related pseudo theory called trickle-down economics, which is designed to mask abject inequality usually created by neoliberal regimes (and resulting National Security State, where under the disguise of protecting citizens from terrorism  protects top 1% financial gains). He stressed that so-called supply side economics is a smoke screen for redistribution of wealth up by the financial oligarchy. As Eugene Patrick Devany noted in his comment to Paul Krugman's post The Case for Techno-optimism (Nov 27, 2013. NYT):

It seems that, "a persistent shortfall on the demand side" is a euphemism for the fact that half the population will remain near bankruptcy for quite sometime.

Pope Francis said two days ago

"To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others ... a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion ..."

One may consider the Pope less qualified to "pontificate" about technology than Prof. Krugman who "tracks technology" and sees that "smart machines are getting much better at interacting with the natural environment in all its complexity ... [and concluding] that a real transformative leap is somewhere over the horizon" Pope Francis said,

"This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power."

"This epochal change" seems to be a reference to "fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries" and to people forced to live "with precious little dignity".

The "anonymous kinds of power" could be a reference to "American Exceptionalism" - that connotes business success to Americans and unbridled power to many developing countries.

The best description of supply side or “trickle down” economics I ever heard was by JK Galbraith:

“trickle down economics is the idea that if you feed the horse enough oats eventually some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.”

That makes the Pope an economic realist ;-).

Not everybody was convinced by the sermon. Some suggested that Pope subject himself to a mortal danger proselytizing this way:

Phil429

27 November 2013 3:23pm

Uh oh. The guy clearly doesn't understand that the church elects Popes for the same job as any other politician in any other system--to uphold the world order that benefits the upmost 1% everywhere. His job is to keep the proles in their place and keep them convinced they shouldn't try to change it. The last thing they want is for a guy in his position to genuinely believe all that stuff about Jesus's teachings and helping the poor. I can't help fearing for his safety if this keeps up.

Skylark Everdeen -> Phil429

I would employ many food tasters if I were Pope Francis I.

Skylark Everdeen -> Liberator37

I am an atheist but I applaud one thing Francis I did, one of his first acts as pontiff: he fired the Vatican accountants and ordered an audit to clean up all of the dirty deals.

I think the reason people find it so hard to believe that Francis I might actually be a good person is that we so rarely see one in a position of power.

jayant

He may understand economics, but does he understand capitalists? They are not interested equality or justice. Their aim is maximisation of profit by all means necessary and reap big bonuses and golden parachutes.

So in the end it will be simply words with little or no effect. Good for the church's image re-branding PR exercise though.

Quotes

... Such an [neoliberal] economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

54. In this context, 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.

Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

No to the new idolatry of money

55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.[55]

58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings.

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.

60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.


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[Jan 13, 2017] They pretend to make statements that corresponded to reality, and we pretend to believe them.

Notable quotes:
"... For him, the Soviet Union was once a stable, entrenched, conservative state and the majority of Russian people -- actually myself included -- thought it would last forever. But the way people employ language and read ideologies can change. That change can be undetectable at first, and then unstoppable. ..."
Jan 08, 2017 | www.amazon.com

Igor Biryukov on November 1, 2012

A cautionary tale

" In America there was once a popular but simplistic image of the Soviet Russia as the Evil Empire destined to fall, precisely because it was unfree and therefore evil. Ronald Reagan who advocated it also once said that the Russian people do not have a word for "freedom". Not so fast -- says Alexei Yurchak. He was born in the Soviet Union and became a cultural anthropologist in California. He employs linguistic structural analysis in very interesting ways. For him, the Soviet Union was once a stable, entrenched, conservative state and the majority of Russian people -- actually myself included -- thought it would last forever. But the way people employ language and read ideologies can change. That change can be undetectable at first, and then unstoppable.

Yurchak's Master-idea is that the Soviet system was an example of how a state can prepare its own demise in an invisible way. It happened in Russia through unraveling of authoritative discourse by Gorbachev's naive but well-meaning shillyshallying undermining the Soviet system and the master signifiers with which the Soviet society was "quilted" and held together. According to Yurchak "In its first three or four years, perestroika was not much more than a deconstruction of Soviet authoritative discourse". This could a cautionary tale for America as well because the Soviet Union shared more features with American modernity than the Americans themselves are willing to admit.

The demise of the Soviet Union was not caused by anti-modernity or backwardness of Russian people. The Soviet experiment was a cousin of Western modernity and shared many features with the Western democracies, in particular its roots in the Enlightenment project. The Soviet Union wasn't "evil" in late stages 1950-1980s. The most people were decent. The Soviet system, despite its flaws, offered a set of collective values. There were many moral and ethical aspects to Soviet socialism, and even though those values have been betrayed by the state, they were still very important to people themselves in their lives. These values were: solidarity, community, altruism, education, creativity, friendship and safety. Perhaps they were incommensurable with the "Western values" such as the rule of law and freedom, but for Russians they were the most important. For many "socialism" was a system of human values and everyday realities which wasn't necessarily equivalent of the official interpretation provided by the state rhetoric.

Yurchak starts with a general paradox within the ideology of modernity: the split between ideological enunciation, which reflects the theoretical ideals of the Enlightenment, and ideological rule, which are the practical concerns of the modern state's political authority. In Soviet Union the paradox was "solved" by means of dogmatic political closure and elevation of Master signifier [Lenin, Stalin, Party] but it doesn't mean the Western democracies are immune to totalitarian temptation to which the Soviet Union had succumbed. The vast governmental bureaucracy and Quango-state are waiting in the shadows here as well, may be ready to appropriate discourse.

It is hard to agree with everything in his book. But it is an interesting perspective. I wish Alexei Yurchak would explore more implications of Roman Jacobson's "poetic function of language" and its connection to Russian experiment in communism. It seems to me, as a Russian native speaker, that Russians put stress on form, sound, and poetics. The English-language tradition prioritizes content and meaning. Can we speak of "Hermeneutics" of the West versus "Poetics" of Russia? Perhaps the tragedy of Russia was under-development of Hermeneutics? How does one explain the feeble attempts to throw a light of reason into the loopy texts and theories of Marks, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin? Perhaps the Russians read it as a kind of magical text, a poetry, a bad poetry -- not Pasternak or Blok -- but kind of poetry nevertheless?

Nils Gilman on April 23, 2014

A brilliant account of the interior meaning of everyday life for ordinary soviet citizens

Just loved this -- a brilliant study of how everyday citizens (as opposed to active supporters or dissidents) cope with living in a decadent dictatorship, through strategies of ignoring the powerful, focusing on hyperlocal socialities, treating ritualized support for the regime as little more than an annoying chore, and withdrawal into subcultures. Yurchak demolishes the view that the only choices available to late Soviet citizens were either blind support (though his accounts of those figures who chose this path are deeply chilling) or active resistance, while at the same time showing how many of the purported values of Soviet socialism (equality, education, friendship, community, etc) were in fact deeply held by many in the population. While his entire account is a tacit meditation on the manifold unpleasantnesses of living under the Soviet system, Yurchak also makes clear that it was not all unpleasantness and that indeed for some people (such as theoretical physicists) life under Soviet socialism was in some ways freer than for their peers in the West. All of which makes the book function (sotto voce) as an explanation for the nostalgia that many in Russia today feel for Soviet times - something inexplicable to those who claim that Communism was simply and nothing but an evil.

The theoretical vehicle for Yurchak's investigation is the divergence between the performative rather than the constative dimensions of the "authoritative discourse" of the late Soviet regime. One might say that his basic thesis is that, for most Soviet people, the attitude toward the authorities was "They pretend to make statements that corresponded to reality, and we pretend to believe them." Yurchak rightly observes that one can neither interpret the decision to vote in favor of an official resolution or to display a pro-government slogan at a rally as being an unambiguous statement of regime support, nor assume that these actions were directly coerced. People were expected to perform these rituals, but they developed "a complexly differentiating relationship to the ideological meanings, norms, and values" of the Soviet state. "Depending on the context, they might reject a certain meaning, norm or value, be apathetic about another, continue actively subscribing to a third, creatively reinterpret a fourth, and so on." (28-29)

The result was that, as the discourse of the late Soviet period ossified into completely formalist incantations (a process that Yurchak demonstrates was increasingly routinized from the 1950s onwards), Soviet citizens participated in these more for ritualistic reasons than because of fervent belief, which in turn allowed citizens to fill their lives with other sources of identity and meaning. Soviet citizens would go to cafes and talk about music and literature, join a rock band or art collective, take silly jobs that required little effort and thus left room for them to pursue their "interests." The very drabness of the standardizations of Soviet life therefore created new sorts of (admittedly constrained) spaces within which people could define themselves and their (inter)subjective meanings. All of which is to say that the book consists of a dramatic refutation of the "totalitarianism" thesis, demonstrating that despite the totalitarian ambitions of the regime, citizens were continually able to carve out zones of autonomy and identification that transcended the ambitions of the Authoritative discourse.

[Jan 13, 2017] Hypernormalisation

Notable quotes:
"... Normalisation is what has historically happened in the wake of financial crises. During the booms that precede busts, low interest rates encourage people to make investments with borrowed money. However, even after all of the prudent investment opportunities have been taken, people continue borrowing to invest in projects and ideas that are unlikely to ever generate profits. ..."
"... Eventually, the precariousness of some of these later investments becomes apparent. Those that arrive at this realization early sell up, settle their debts and pocket profits, but their selling often triggers a rush for the exits that bankrupts companies and individuals and, in many cases, the banks which lent to them. ..."
"... By contrast, the responses of policy-makers to 2008's financial crisis suggest the psychology of hypernormalisation. Quantitative easing (also known as money printing) and interest rate suppression (to zero percent and, in Europe, negative interest rates) are not working and will never result in sustained increases in productivity, income and employment. However, as our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions, they have to pretend that they are working. ..."
"... Statistical chicanery has helped understate unemployment and inflation while global cooperation has served to obscure the currency depreciation and loss of confidence in paper money (as opposed to 'hard money' such as gold and silver) that are to be expected from rampant money printing. ..."
"... The recent fuss over 'fake news' seems intended to remove alternative news and information sources from a population that, alarmingly for those in charge, is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is . Just this month U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law. United States, meet your Ministry of Truth. ..."
"... Great article. I think it does describe the USSA at the present time. Everything works until it doesn't. ..."
"... The funny thing is I had almost identical thoughts just a few days ago. But I was thinking in comparison more of East Germany's last 20 years before they imploded - peacefully, because not a single non-leading-rank person believed any of the official facts anymore (and therefore they even simply ignored orders from high command to crush the Leipzig Monday demonstrations.) ..."
"... I'm ok with a world led by Trump and Putin. ..."
"... I recall the joke from the old Soviet Union: "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work." In the USSA these last few years, Barry pretends to tell the truth. Libtards pretend to believe him. ..."
"... Wrong. They believe him. Look at the gaggle of libtard/shiteaters at Soetero's Friday night bash at the White House. ..."
"... Reagan used to quip that in the Soviet Union, the people pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. We're not the Soviet Union, but we have become a farce. Next stop - the fall. Followed by chaos, then onto something new. The new elites will just be the old elites, well, the ones that escape the noose. ..."
"... The real ugly problem with the Soviet Union is that whatever they broke it into isn't working well either. ..."
"... Russia's problem post collapse was the good ol' USSA and its capitalist, plunderer banking mavens. ..."
"... The only way to normalize banking in a contemporary banking paradigm of QE Infinity & Beyond is to start over again without the bankers & accountants that knowingly bet the ranch for a short term gain at the expense of long term profitability. In Japan an honourable businessman/CEO would suicide for bringing this kind of devastation to the company shareholders. ..."
"... In America they don't give a shit because it is always someone else other than the CEO that takes the fall. ..."
"... This, after I'd point out his evasion and deflection every time I addressed his bias and belief in the MSM propaganda mantras of racism, misogyny, xenophobia - all the usual labeling bullshit up to insinuating Russia hacked the election ..."
"... I've been using the term Hypernormalisation to describe aspects of western society for the last 15 years, before Adam Curtis's brilliant BBC documentary Hypernormalisation , afflicting western society and particularly politics. There are lies and gross distortions everywhere in western society and it straddles/effects all races, colours, social classes and the disease is most acute in our politics. ..."
"... We all know the hypernoprmalisation in politics, as we witness stories everyday on Zerohedge of the disconnect from reality ..."
"... It is called COGNITIVE DISSONANCE .. ..."
"... "When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit with the core belief." ..."
"... During their final days as a world power, the Soviet Union allowed cognitive dissonance to rule its better judgment as so many Americans are doing in 2012. The handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for Gorbachev. The Soviet economy was failing. They did none of the necessary things to save their economy. In 2012, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear for the American people. The economy is failing. The people and the Congress do none of the necessary things to save their economy. Why? Go re-read the definition of cognitive dissonance. That's why. We have a classic fight going on between those who want government to take care of them who will pay the price of lost freedom to get that care, and those who value freedom above all else. ..."
"... to me the PTB are "Japanifying" the u.s. (decades of no growth, near total demoralization of a generation of worker bees (as in, 'things will never get any better, be glad for what little you've got' etc... look what they've done to u.s. millenials just since '08... fooled (crushed) them TWICE already) ..."
"... But the PTB Plan B is to emulate the USSR with a crackup, replete with fire sale to oligarchs of public assets. ..."
Jan 08, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Submitted by Bryce McBride via Mises Canada,

This past November, the filmmaker Adam Curtis released the documentary Hypernormalisation.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/-fny99f8amM

The term comes from Alexei Yurchak's 2006 book Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation. The book argues that over the last 20 years of the Soviet Union, everyone knew the system wasn't working, but as no one could imagine any alternative, politicians and citizens were resigned to pretending that it was. Eventually this pretending was accepted as normal and the fake reality thus created was accepted as real, an effect which Yurchak termed "hypernormalisation."

Looking at events over the past few years, one wonders if our own society is experiencing the same phenomenon. A contrast with what economic policy-makers term "normalisation" is instructive.

Normalisation is what has historically happened in the wake of financial crises. During the booms that precede busts, low interest rates encourage people to make investments with borrowed money. However, even after all of the prudent investment opportunities have been taken, people continue borrowing to invest in projects and ideas that are unlikely to ever generate profits.

Eventually, the precariousness of some of these later investments becomes apparent. Those that arrive at this realization early sell up, settle their debts and pocket profits, but their selling often triggers a rush for the exits that bankrupts companies and individuals and, in many cases, the banks which lent to them.

In the normalisation which follows (usually held during 'special' bank holidays) auditors and accountants go through financial records and decide which companies and individuals are insolvent (and should therefore go bankrupt) and which are merely illiquid (and therefore eligible for additional loans, pledged against good collateral). In a similar fashion, central bank officials decide which banks are to close and which are to remain open. Lenders made freshly aware of bankruptcy risk raise (or normalise) interest rates and in so doing complete the process of clearing bad debt out of the system. Overall, reality replaces wishful thinking.

While this process is by no means pleasant for the people involved, from a societal standpoint bankruptcy and higher interest rates are necessary to keep businesses focused on profitable investment, banks focused on prudent lending and overall debt levels manageable.

By contrast, the responses of policy-makers to 2008's financial crisis suggest the psychology of hypernormalisation. Quantitative easing (also known as money printing) and interest rate suppression (to zero percent and, in Europe, negative interest rates) are not working and will never result in sustained increases in productivity, income and employment. However, as our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions, they have to pretend that they are working.

To understand why our leaders are unable to consider alternative policy solutions such as interest rate normalization and banking reform one only needs to understand that while such policies would lay the groundwork for a sustained recovery, they would also expose many of the world's biggest banks as insolvent. As the financial sector is a powerful constituency (and a generous donor to political campaigns) the banks get the free money they need, even if such policies harm society as a whole.

As we live in a democratic society, it is necessary for our leaders to convince us that there are no other solutions and that the monetary policy fixes of the past 8 years have been effective and have done no harm.

Statistical chicanery has helped understate unemployment and inflation while global cooperation has served to obscure the currency depreciation and loss of confidence in paper money (as opposed to 'hard money' such as gold and silver) that are to be expected from rampant money printing.

Looking at unemployment figures first, while the unemployment rate is currently very low, the number of Americans of working age not in the labour force is currently at an all-time high of over 95 million people. Discouraged workers who stop looking for work are no longer classified as unemployed but instead become economically inactive, but clearly many of these people really should be counted as unemployed. Similarly, while government statistical agencies record inflation rates of between one and two percent, measures that use methodologies used in the past (such as John Williams' Shadowstats measures) show consumer prices rising at annual rates of 6 to 8 percent. In addition, many people have noticed what has been termed 'shrinkflation', where prices remain the same even as package sizes shrink. A common example is bacon, which used to be sold by the pound but which is now commonly sold in 12 ounce slabs.

Meanwhile central banks have coordinated their money printing to ensure that no major currency (the dollar, the yen, the euro or the Chinese renminbi) depreciates noticeably against the others for a sustained period of time. Further, since gold hit a peak of over $1900 per ounce in 2011, central banks have worked hard to keep the gold price suppressed through the futures market. On more than a few occasions, contracts for many months worth of global gold production have been sold in a matter of a few minutes, with predictable consequences for the gold price. At all costs, people's confidence in and acceptance of the paper (or, more commonly, electronic) money issued by central banks must be maintained.

Despite these efforts people nonetheless sense that something is wrong. The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump to the White House represent to a large degree a rejection of the fake reality propagated by the policymaking elite. Increasingly, people recognize that a financial system dependent upon zero percent interest rates is not sustainable and are responding by taking their money out of the banks in favour of holding cash or other forms of wealth. In the face of such understanding and resistance, governments are showing themselves willing to use coercion to enforce acceptance of their fake reality.

The recent fuss over 'fake news' seems intended to remove alternative news and information sources from a population that, alarmingly for those in charge, is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is . Just this month U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act into law. United States, meet your Ministry of Truth.

Meanwhile, in India last month, people were told that the highest denomination bills in common circulation would be 'demonetized' or made worthless as of December 30th. People were allowed to deposit or exchange a certain quantity of the demonetized bills in banks but many people who had accumulated their savings in rupee notes (often the poor who did not have bank accounts) have been ruined. Ostensibly, this demonetization policy was aimed at curbing corruption and terrorism, but it is fairly obvious that its real objective was to force people into the banking system and electronic money. Unsurprisingly, the demonetization drive was accompanied by limits on the quantity of gold people are allowed to hold.

Despite such attempts to influence our thinking and our behaviour, we don't need to resign ourselves to pretending that our system is working when it so clearly isn't. Looking at the eventual fate of the Soviet Union, it should be clear that the sooner we abandon the drift towards hypernormalisation and start on the path to normalisation the better off we will be.

DontGive Jan 7, 2017 9:03 PM

CB's printing is not a bug. It's a feature.

Long debt bitches.

Doña K TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:05 AM

I did not learn anything from that movie. One man's collage of events.

We just take revenge on the system by living well.

Luc X. Ifer TBT or not TBT Jan 8, 2017 12:06 AM

Correct. I seen with sufficient level of comprehending consciousness the last 5 years of it - copy-cat perfection with the current times in US(S)A, terrifying how similar the times are as it is a clear indication of the times to come.

HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 9:06 PM

Great article. I think it does describe the USSA at the present time. Everything works until it doesn't.

malek HRH Feant Jan 7, 2017 11:40 PM

The funny thing is I had almost identical thoughts just a few days ago. But I was thinking in comparison more of East Germany's last 20 years before they imploded - peacefully, because not a single non-leading-rank person believed any of the official facts anymore (and therefore they even simply ignored orders from high command to crush the Leipzig Monday demonstrations.)

navy62802 Jan 7, 2017 9:14 PM

I'm ok with a world led by Trump and Putin.

christiangustafson Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM

Great piece!

I was just thinking that the whole economic world sees us in a sort of equilibrium at the moment. There will be some adjustments under Trump, but nothing serious. We shall see ..

Eeyores Enigma Jan 7, 2017 9:17 PM

Repeat something often enough and it becomes hypernormalised. With that in mind the number of eyes/minds/hits is all that matters. This has been known and exploited for hundreds of years.

That a handful of individuals can have a monopoly over the single most important aspect of whether you live or die is the ultimate success of hypernormalisation. CENTRAL BANKING.

Manipuflation Jan 7, 2017 9:22 PM

Mrs.M is of the last Soviet generation. Her .gov papers say so. There is never a day when I don't hear something soviet. She still has a her red pioneer ribbon. I have tried to encourage her to write about it on ZH so that we know. Do you think she will? No. She's says that we can't understand what it was like no matter what she says.

Mrs.M was born in 1981 so she has lived an interesting life. I married her in 2004 after much paperwork and $15000. I wanted that female because we got along quite well. She is who I needed with me this and I would do it all over again.

Needless to say, I do not support any aggression towards Russia. And to my fellow Americans, I advise caution because the half you are broke ass fucks and are already ropes with me.

That is the only news anyone needs to know.

wisebastard Jan 7, 2017 9:25 PM

the monkeys made me think ZH should make a post with monkeys evolving into humans that then de-evolve into Paul Krugman

GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 9:34 PM

I recall the joke from the old Soviet Union: "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work." In the USSA these last few years, Barry pretends to tell the truth. Libtards pretend to believe him.

BabaLooey GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:05 PM

Wrong. They believe him. Look at the gaggle of libtard/shiteaters at Soetero's Friday night bash at the White House.

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2017/01/07/stars-obamas-white-hou...

Fucks. ALL of them.

max_leering GeezerGeek Jan 7, 2017 11:35 PM

Geezer, I'd change only one thing... I believe libtards bought Barry's bullshit hook, line and sinker... it was the rest of us who not-so-subtly were saying WTF!!!

Salzburg1756 Jan 7, 2017 9:35 PM

White Nationalists have lived in the real world for decades; the rest of you need to catch up.

JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:06 PM

Reagan used to quip that in the Soviet Union, the people pretend to work and the government pretends to pay them. We're not the Soviet Union, but we have become a farce. Next stop - the fall. Followed by chaos, then onto something new. The new elites will just be the old elites, well, the ones that escape the noose.

evokanivo JustPastPeacefield Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM

what noose? you think joe 6p is going to identify the culprits? i think not. "no one saw this coming!!!" is still ringing in my ears from the last time.

jm Jan 7, 2017 10:14 PM

I really don't know how people can keep on getting clicks with this tired crap. It didn't happen in 2008 just get over it. The delusional people are the people that think the world is going to end tomorrow.

wwxx jm Jan 8, 2017 6:08 AM

Maybe the world has ended, for 95 million? I haven't paid a single Fed income tax dollar in over 8 yrs., for a specific reason, I refuse to support the new normal circus, and quite frankly I would have gotten out during the GWBush regime, but I couldn't afford to at the time.

wwxx

EndOfDayExit Jan 7, 2017 10:17 PM

The real ugly problem with the Soviet Union is that whatever they broke it into isn't working well either. Same with the USSA. No one really knows what to do. Feudalism would probably work, but it is not possible to go back to it. My bet is that we will end up with some form of socialism, universal income and whatever else, just because there is no good alternative for dealing with lots and lots of people who are not needed anymore.

BingoBoggins EndOfDayExit Jan 8, 2017 6:15 AM

Do you mean useless eaters or fuckers deserving the guillotine? Russia's problem post collapse was the good ol' USSA and its capitalist, plunderer banking mavens.

NAV Jan 7, 2017 10:23 PM

The Soviet Union pushed its old culture to near destruction but failed to establish a new and better culture to replace it, writes Angelo M. Codevilla in "The Rise of Political Correctness," and as a result the U.S.S.R fell, just as America's current "politically correct" and dysfunctional "progressive utopia" will implode.

As such, Codevilla would agree that the US population " is both ever-more aware that the system is not working and less and less willing to pretend that it is."

As for the U.S.S.R., "this step turned out instead to destroy the very basis of Soviet power," writes Codevilla. "[C]ontinued efforts to force people to celebrate the party's ersatz reality, to affirm things that they know are not true and to deny others they know to be true – to live by lies – requires breaking them , reducing them to a sense of fearful isolation, destroying their self-esteem and their capacity to trust others. George Orwell's novel 1984 dramatized this culture war's ends and means : nothing less than the substitution of the party's authority for the reality conveyed by human senses and reason. Big Brother's agent, having berated the hapless Winston for preferring his own views to society's dictates, finished breaking his spirit by holding up four fingers and demanding that Winston acknowledge seeing five.

"Thus did the Soviet regime create dysfunctional, cynical, and resentful subjects. Because Communism confused destruction of 'bourgeois culture' with cultural conquest, it won all the cultural battles while losing its culture war long before it collapsed politically. As Communists identified themselves in people's minds with falsehood and fraud, people came to identify truth with anything other than the officials and their doctrines. Inevitably, they also identified them with corruption and privation. A nd so it was that, whenever the authorities announced that the harvest had been good, the people hoarded potatoes; and that more and more people who knew nothing of Christianity except that the authorities had anathematized it, started wearing crosses."

And if you want to see the ruling class's culture war in action today in America, pick up the latest issues of Vogue Magazine or O, The Oprah Magazine with their multitude of role reversals between whites and minorities. Or check out the latest decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court forcing people to acknowledge that America is not a Christian nation, or making it "more difficult for men, women and children to exist as a family" or demanding via law "that their subjects join them in celebrating the new order that reflects their identity."

As to just how far the ruling class has gone to serve the interests and proclivities of its leaders and to reject the majority's demand for representation, Codevilla notes, "In 2012 no one would have thought that defining marriage between one man and one woman, as enshrined in U.S. law, would brand those who do so as motivated by a culpable psychopathology called 'homophobia,' subject to fines and near-outlaw status. Not until 2015-16 did it occur to anyone that requiring persons with male personal plumbing to use public bathrooms reserved for men was a sign of the same pathology

"On the wholesale level, it is a war on civilization waged to indulge identity politics."

http://www.claremont.org/crb/article/the-rise-of-political-correctness/

Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:11 PM

This article is so flawed! People[impoverished] aren't trying to jump over a wall patrolled by guards into Mexico -YET. Tyler, why do you repost shit like this?

daveO Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 12:56 AM

That's because the Yankees, fleeing high taxes, can move to the sunbelt states w/o freezing. The USA went broke in 2008. Mexico got a head start by 22 years when oil prices collapsed in '86.

MASTER OF UNIVERSE Jan 7, 2017 11:28 PM

The only way to normalize banking in a contemporary banking paradigm of QE Infinity & Beyond is to start over again without the bankers & accountants that knowingly bet the ranch for a short term gain at the expense of long term profitability. In Japan an honourable businessman/CEO would suicide for bringing this kind of devastation to the company shareholders.

In America they don't give a shit because it is always someone else other than the CEO that takes the fall. 08 was proof that America is not equipped to participate in a Multinational & Multipolar world of business & investment in business. America can't get along in business in this world anymore. Greed has rendered America unemployable as a major market participant in a Globally run network of businesses.

America is the odd man out these days even though the next POTUS promises better management from a business perspective. Whilst the Mafia Cartel bosses trust TrumpO's business savvy the rest of the planet Earth does not.

Yen Cross Jan 7, 2017 11:53 PM

Are you kidding me??? >

Hypernormalisation I think we need a few MOAR syllables connected by fake verb/adjective < reverse /destruction- of the English language.

Manipuflation Yen Cross Jan 8, 2017 1:23 AM

Yen, I have a bottle of Bacardi rum here. It was on sale. Should I open it up? We could become experts....well at least I could.:-)

BingoBoggins Jan 8, 2017 8:12 AM

A liberal friend laid this movie on me to show me why he supported Hillary. A smart cookie, a PHd teaching English in Japan. A Khazarnazi Jew, he even spent time in Kyiv, Ukraine pre-coup, only mingling with "poets and writers". He went out of his way to tell me how bad the Russians were, informed as he was prior to the rejection of the EU's usurious offer.

He even quite dramatically pulled out the Anti-Semite card. I had to throw Banderas in his face and the US sponsored regime. I had respect for this guy and his knowledge but he just - could - not - let - go the cult assumptions. I finally came to believe Liberal Arts educators are victims of inbred conditioning. In retaliation, he wanted to somehow prove Putin a charlatan or villian and Trump his proxie.

This, after I'd point out his evasion and deflection every time I addressed his bias and belief in the MSM propaganda mantras of racism, misogyny, xenophobia - all the usual labeling bullshit up to insinuating Russia hacked the election. Excerpts from a correspondence wherein I go full asshole on the guy follow. Try and make sense of it if you watch this trash:

HyperNormalization 50:29 Not Ronald Rayguns, or Quadaffi plays along. Say what? They're, i.e. Curtis, assuming what Q thought?

1:15 USSR collapses. No shit. Cronyism in a centralized organization grown too large is inevitable it seems. So the premise has evolved to cultural/societal "management". Right. USSR collapses but let's repeat the same mistakes 'cause "it's different this time". We got us a computer!

Then Fink the failed Squid (how do Squids climb the corporate ladder?) builds one and programs historical data to,,,, forecast? I heard a' this. Let me guess. He couldn't avoid bias, making his models fallacious. Whoops. Well, he does intend to manipulate society, or was that not the goal? Come again? Some authority ran with it and ... captured an entire nation's media, conspired with other like-minded sycophants and their mysterious masters to capture an election by ... I may be getting ahead of myself.

Oh, boy, I have an inkling of where this is going. Perceptions modified by the word, advanced by the herd, in order to capture a vulnerable society under duress, who then pick sides, fool themselves in the process, miss the three hour tour never to live happily ever after on a deserted isle because they eschew (pick a bias here from the list provided). The one you think the "others" have, 'cause, shit, we're above it all, right? " Are we not entertained" is probably not the most appropriate question here.

Point being, Curtis, the BBC documentarian, totally negates the reality of pathological Imperialism as has been practiced by the West over the last half century, causing so many of the effects he so casually eludes to in the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Russia, the US and elsewhere. Perhaps the most blatant is this; Curtis asserts that Trump "defeated journalism" by rendering its fact-checking abilities irrelevant. Wikipedia He Hypernormalizes the very audience that believes itself to be enlightened. As for my erstwhile friend, the fucker never once admitted all the people *killed* for the ideals he supported. I finally blew him off for good.

To Hell In A Ha... Jan 8, 2017 7:06 AM

I've been using the term Hypernormalisation to describe aspects of western society for the last 15 years, before Adam Curtis's brilliant BBC documentary Hypernormalisation , afflicting western society and particularly politics. There are lies and gross distortions everywhere in western society and it straddles/effects all races, colours, social classes and the disease is most acute in our politics.

We all know the hypernoprmalisation in politics, as we witness stories everyday on Zerohedge of the disconnect from reality...

jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 7:44 AM

It is called COGNITIVE DISSONANCE ..

Allow me to quote something here ..

Enter Operation Stillpoint: William Colby, William Casey and Leo Emil Wanta.

At the time it started, President Reagan wanted to get a better handle on ways to keep the Soviets from expansionary tactics used to spread Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin's philosophy of communism around the world. He looked to his Special Task Force to provide a means of doing so. One thing was certain: The economy of the Soviets had never been strong and corruption, always present in government and always growing at least as fast as a government grows, made the USSR vulnerable to outside interference just as the United States is today.

According to Gorbachev's Prime Minister, Nikolai Ryzhkov, the "moral [nravstennoe] state of the society" in 1985 was its "most terrifying" feature: "[We] stole from ourselves, took and gave bribes, lied in the reports, in newspapers, from high podiums, wallowed in our lies, hung medals on one another. And all of this – from top to bottom and from bottom to top."

Again, it sounds like today's America, doesn't it?

Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze made equally painful comments about the lawlessness and corruption dominating the Soviet Union. During the winter months of 1984-85, he told Gorbachev that "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed."

"Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong," Frantz Fanon said in his 1952 book Black Skin, White Masks (originally published in French as Peau Noire, Masques Blancs). "When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn't fit with the core belief."

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

During their final days as a world power, the Soviet Union allowed cognitive dissonance to rule its better judgment as so many Americans are doing in 2012. The handwriting on the wall was pretty clear for Gorbachev. The Soviet economy was failing. They did none of the necessary things to save their economy. In 2012, the handwriting on the wall is pretty clear for the American people. The economy is failing. The people and the Congress do none of the necessary things to save their economy. Why? Go re-read the definition of cognitive dissonance. That's why. We have a classic fight going on between those who want government to take care of them who will pay the price of lost freedom to get that care, and those who value freedom above all else.

On one day we have 50 state attorneys general suing Bank of America for making fraudulent mortgages, and on the next we have M.F. Global losing billions upon billions of customer dollars because they got mixed with the firm's funds – which is against the law – or we have J.P. Morgan Chase losing $2 billion (or is it $5 billion?) in bad investments. As Eduard Shevardnadze said, "Everything is rotten. It has to be changed." As I would say it, "There is no Rule of Law in America today. There has been no real Rule of Law since George Herbert Walker Bush took office."

No one listened then; no one is listening in America now. The primary reason? Cognitive dissonance. -- Chapter 2, "Wanta! Black Swan, White Hat" (2013)

Okay then, forget what was said in 1985, that was later reported in 2013 ..

Let's fast forward to Oct. 30, 2016 ..

Shall we? I mean, it is a bit MOAR -- relevant!

https://youtu.be/8tYTSR9gheQ

And, for those that must have further amplification .. (And, some .......... fun!)

https://www.youtube.com/user/fooser77/playlists

BingoBoggins jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 8:20 AM

You reminded me I bookmarked this on Chrome, so I dared to venture there to retrieve it;

https://books.google.com/books?id=cbC_AwAAQBAJ&pg=PP21&lpg=PP21&dq=crony...

Vageling jcdenton Jan 8, 2017 9:16 AM

Lee Wanta. I've heard of him before. He was screwed over for some bullshit charges. And the CIA made a firm warning... How long did that dude spent in jail?

Just looked up his story as it was blurry. Cronyism at its finest. So now that I got my refreshing course. Trump stole/adopted (however you want to look at that) his plan and the project the gov (DOT) proposes sucks donkey balls compared to Wanta's.

So where are all the climate hoaxers now by the way? You'd figure they'd be all over this.

American Gorbachev Jan 8, 2017 10:10 AM

to me the PTB are "Japanifying" the u.s. (decades of no growth, near total demoralization of a generation of worker bees (as in, 'things will never get any better, be glad for what little you've got' etc... look what they've done to u.s. millenials just since '08... fooled (crushed) them TWICE already)

But the PTB Plan B is to emulate the USSR with a crackup, replete with fire sale to oligarchs of public assets. They will Japan as long as they can (so it will be difficult to forecast any crackup anymore than six months beforehand). Hope they have a Gorbachev lined up, to limit the bloodshed

[Dec 16, 2016] Pope Francis has some sensible things to say

Dec 16, 2016 | economistsview.typepad.com
December 16, 2016 at 07:48 AM
I'm an environmental scientist, not an economist, but it seems to me that Pope Francis has some sensible things to say, as in the following from Laudato si:

IV. POLITICS AND ECONOMY IN DIALOGUE FOR HUMAN FULFILMENT

189. Politics must not be subject to the economy, nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy. Today, in view of the common good, there is urgent need for politics and economics to enter into a frank dialogue in the service of life, especially human life. Saving banks at any cost, making the public pay the price, foregoing a firm commitment to reviewing and reforming the entire system, only reaffirms the absolute power of a financial system, a power which has no future and will only give rise to new crises after a slow, costly and only apparent recovery. The financial crisis of 2007-08 provided an opportunity to develop a new economy, more attentive to ethical principles, and new ways of regulating speculative financial practices and virtual wealth. But the response to the crisis did not include rethinking the outdated criteria which continue to rule the world. Production is not always rational, and is usually tied to economic variables which assign to products a value that does not necessarily correspond to their real worth. This frequently leads to an overproduction of some commodities, with unnecessary impact on the environment and with negative results on regional economies.[133] The financial bubble also tends to be a productive bubble. The problem of the real economy is not confronted with vigour, yet it is the real economy which makes diversification and improvement in production possible, helps companies to function well, and enables small and medium businesses to develop and create employment.

190. Here too, it should always be kept in mind that "environmental protection cannot be assured solely on the basis of financial calculations of costs and benefits. The environment is one of those goods that cannot be adequately safeguarded or promoted by market forces".[134] Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention. Moreover, biodiversity is considered at most a deposit of economic resources available for exploitation, with no serious thought for the real value of things, their significance for persons and cultures, or the concerns and needs of the poor.

191. Whenever these questions are raised, some react by accusing others of irrationally attempting to stand in the way of progress and human development. But we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development. Efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term. If we look at the larger picture, we can see that more diversified and innovative forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable. It is a matter of openness to different possibilities which do not involve stifling human creativity and its ideals of progress, but rather directing that energy along new channels.

192. For example, a path of productive development, which is more creative and better directed, could correct the present disparity between excessive technological investment in consumption and insufficient investment in resolving urgent problems facing the human family. It could generate intelligent and profitable ways of reusing, revamping and recycling, and it could also improve the energy efficiency of cities. Productive diversification offers the fullest possibilities to human ingenuity to create and innovate, while at the same time protecting the environment and creating more sources of employment. Such creativity would be a worthy expression of our most noble human qualities, for we would be striving intelligently, boldly and responsibly to promote a sustainable and equitable development within the context of a broader concept of quality of life. On the other hand, to find ever new ways of despoiling nature, purely for the sake of new consumer items and quick profit, would be, in human terms, less worthy and creative, and more superficial.

193. In any event, if in some cases sustainable development were to involve new forms of growth, then in other cases, given the insatiable and irresponsible growth produced over many decades, we need also to think of containing growth by setting some reasonable limits and even retracing our steps before it is too late. We know how unsustainable is the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity. That is why the time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth. Benedict XVI has said that "technologically advanced societies must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency".[135]
194. For new models of progress to arise, there is a need to change "models of global development";[136] this will entail a responsible reflection on "the meaning of the economy and its goals with an eye to correcting its malfunctions and misapplications".[137] It is not enough to balance, in the medium term, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures simply delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress. Frequently, in fact, people's quality of life actually diminishes – by the deterioration of the environment, the low quality of food or the depletion of resources – in the midst of economic growth. In this context, talk of sustainable growth usually becomes a way of distracting attention and offering excuses. It absorbs the language and values of ecology into the categories of finance and technocracy, and the social and environmental responsibility of businesses often gets reduced to a series of marketing and image-enhancing measures.

195. The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very concept of the economy. As long as production is increased, little concern is given to whether it is at the cost of future resources or the health of the environment; as long as the clearing of a forest increases production, no one calculates the losses entailed in the desertification of the land, the harm done to biodiversity or the increased pollution. In a word, businesses profit by calculating and paying only a fraction of the costs involved. Yet only when "the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations",[138] can those actions be considered ethical. An instrumental way of reasoning, which provides a purely static analysis of realities in the service of present needs, is at work whether resources are allocated by the market or by state central planning.

196. What happens with politics? Let us keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity, which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power. Today, it is the case that some economic sectors exercise more power than states themselves. But economics without politics cannot be justified, since this would make it impossible to favour other ways of handling the various aspects of the present crisis. The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society. For "the current model, with its emphasis on success and self-reliance, does not appear to favour an investment in efforts to help the slow, the weak or the less talented to find opportunities in life".[139]

197. What is needed is a politics which is far-sighted and capable of a new, integral and interdisciplinary approach to handling the different aspects of the crisis. Often, politics itself is responsible for the disrepute in which it is held, on account of corruption and the failure to enact sound public policies. If in a given region the state does not carry out its responsibilities, some business groups can come forward in the guise of benefactors, wield real power, and consider themselves exempt from certain rules, to the point of tolerating different forms of organized crime, human trafficking, the drug trade and violence, all of which become very difficult to eradicate. If politics shows itself incapable of breaking such a perverse logic, and remains caught up in inconsequential discussions, we will continue to avoid facing the major problems of humanity. A strategy for real change calls for rethinking processes in their entirety, for it is not enough to include a few superficial ecological considerations while failing to question the logic which underlies present-day culture. A healthy politics needs to be able to take up this challenge.

198. Politics and the economy tend to blame each other when it comes to poverty and environmental degradation. It is to be hoped that they can acknowledge their own mistakes and find forms of interaction directed to the common good. While some are concerned only with financial gain, and others with holding on to or increasing their power, what we are left with are conflicts or spurious agreements where the last thing either party is concerned about is caring for the environment and protecting those who are most vulnerable. Here too, we see how true it is that "unity is greater than conflict".[140]

[Sep 15, 2016] The globalization of the technocratic paradigm

Jun 23, 2015 | EconoSpeak

From Encyclical Letter Laudato Si' of the Holy Father Francis, On Care For Our Common Home:

The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that "an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed"

"The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behavior shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion. At the same time, we have "a sort of 'superdevelopment' of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation", while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth."

[Sep 14, 2016] Laudato si (24 May 2015)

w2.vatican.va
In 1971, eight years after Pacem in Terris, Blessed Pope Paul VI referred to the ecological concern as "a tragic consequence" of unchecked human activity: "Due to an ill-considered exploitation of nature, humanity runs the risk of destroying it and becoming in turn a victim of this degradation".[2] He spoke in similar terms to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations about the potential for an "ecological catastrophe under the effective explosion of industrial civilization", and stressed "the urgent need for a radical change in the conduct of humanity", inasmuch as "the most extraordinary scientific advances, the most amazing technical abilities, the most astonishing economic growth, unless they are accompanied by authentic social and moral progress, will definitively turn against man".[3]

5. Saint John Paul II became increasingly concerned about this issue. In his first Encyclical he warned that human beings frequently seem "to see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption".[4] Subsequently, he would call for a global ecological conversion.[5] At the same time, he noted that little effort had been made to "safeguard the moral conditions for an authentic human ecology".[6] The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement. Every effort to protect and improve our world entails profound changes in "lifestyles, models of production and consumption, and the established structures of power which today govern societies".[7] Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and "take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system".[8] Accordingly, our human ability to transform reality must proceed in line with God's original gift of all that is.[9]

6. My predecessor Benedict XVI likewise proposed "eliminating the structural causes of the dysfunctions of the world economy and correcting models of growth which have proved incapable of ensuring respect for the environment".[10] He observed that the world cannot be analyzed by isolating only one of its aspects, since "the book of nature is one and indivisible", and includes the environment, life, sexuality, the family, social relations, and so forth. It follows that "the deterioration of nature is closely connected to the culture which shapes human coexistence".[11] Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behaviour. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that "man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature".[12] With paternal concern, Benedict urged us to realize that creation is harmed "where we ourselves have the final word, where everything is simply our property and we use it for ourselves alone. The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves".[13]

United by the same concern

7. These statements of the Popes echo the reflections of numerous scientists, philosophers, theologians and civic groups, all of which have enriched the Church's thinking on these questions. Outside the Catholic Church, other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.

8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for "inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage", we are called to acknowledge "our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation".[14] He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: "For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God's creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth's waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins".[15] For "to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God".[16]

9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which "entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God's world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion".[17] As Christians, we are also called "to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God's creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet".[18]

... ... ...

I. TECHNOLOGY: CREATIVITY AND POWER

102. Humanity has entered a new era in which our technical prowess has brought us to a crossroads. We are the beneficiaries of two centuries of enormous waves of change: steam engines, railways, the telegraph, electricity, automobiles, aeroplanes, chemical industries, modern medicine, information technology and, more recently, the digital revolution, robotics, biotechnologies and nanotechnologies. It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for "science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity".[81] The modification of nature for useful purposes has distinguished the human family from the beginning; technology itself "expresses the inner tension that impels man gradually to overcome material limitations".[82] Technology has remedied countless evils which used to harm and limit human beings. How can we not feel gratitude and appreciation for this progress, especially in the fields of medicine, engineering and communications? How could we not acknowledge the work of many scientists and engineers who have provided alternatives to make development sustainable?

103. Technoscience, when well directed, can produce important means of improving the quality of human life, from useful domestic appliances to great transportation systems, bridges, buildings and public spaces. It can also produce art and enable men and women immersed in the material world to "leap" into the world of beauty. Who can deny the beauty of an aircraft or a skyscraper? Valuable works of art and music now make use of new technologies. So, in the beauty intended by the one who uses new technical instruments and in the contemplation of such beauty, a quantum leap occurs, resulting in a fulfilment which is uniquely human.

104. Yet it must also be recognized that nuclear energy, biotechnology, information technology, knowledge of our DNA, and many other abilities which we have acquired, have given us tremendous power. More precisely, they have given those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world. Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used. We need but think of the nuclear bombs dropped in the middle of the twentieth century, or the array of technology which Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes have employed to kill millions of people, to say nothing of the increasingly deadly arsenal of weapons available for modern warfare. In whose hands does all this power lie, or will it eventually end up? It is extremely risky for a small part of humanity to have it.

105. There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means "an increase of 'progress' itself", an advance in "security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture",[83] as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that "contemporary man has not been trained to use power well",[84] because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. "The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should"; in effect, "power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom" since its "only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security".[85] But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint.

II. THE GLOBALIZATION OF THE TECHNOCRATIC PARADIGM

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth's goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that "an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed".[86]

107. It can be said that many problems of today's world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology "know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race", that "in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all".[87] As a result, "man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature".[88] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one's alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[89] At the same time, we have "a sort of 'superdevelopment' of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation",[90] while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today's world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that "realities are more important than ideas".[91]

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people's concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

III. THE CRISIS AND EFFECTS OF MODERN ANTHROPOCENTRISM

115. Modern anthropocentrism has paradoxically ended up prizing technical thought over reality, since "the technological mind sees nature as an insensate order, as a cold body of facts, as a mere 'given', as an object of utility, as raw material to be hammered into useful shape; it views the cosmos similarly as a mere 'space' into which objects can be thrown with complete indifference".[92] The intrinsic dignity of the world is thus compromised. When human beings fail to find their true place in this world, they misunderstand themselves and end up acting against themselves: "Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given, but, man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed".[93]

116. Modernity has been marked by an excessive anthropocentrism which today, under another guise, continues to stand in the way of shared understanding and of any effort to strengthen social bonds. The time has come to pay renewed attention to reality and the limits it imposes; this in turn is the condition for a more sound and fruitful development of individuals and society. An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our "dominion" over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship.[94]

117. Neglecting to monitor the harm done to nature and the environmental impact of our decisions is only the most striking sign of a disregard for the message contained in the structures of nature itself. When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a poor person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected. Once the human being declares independence from reality and behaves with absolute dominion, the very foundations of our life begin to crumble, for "instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature".[95]

118. This situation has led to a constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings. But one cannot prescind from humanity. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature without a renewal of humanity itself. There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. When the human person is considered as simply one being among others, the product of chance or physical determinism, then "our overall sense of responsibility wanes".[96] A misguided anthropocentrism need not necessarily yield to "biocentrism", for that would entail adding yet another imbalance, failing to solve present problems and adding new ones. Human beings cannot be expected to feel responsibility for the world unless, at the same time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will, freedom and responsibility are recognized and valued.

119. Nor must the critique of a misguided anthropocentrism underestimate the importance of interpersonal relations. If the present ecological crisis is one small sign of the ethical, cultural and spiritual crisis of modernity, we cannot presume to heal our relationship with nature and the environment without healing all fundamental human relationships. Christian thought sees human beings as possessing a particular dignity above other creatures; it thus inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others. Our openness to others, each of whom is a "thou" capable of knowing, loving and entering into dialogue, remains the source of our nobility as human persons. A correct relationship with the created world demands that we not weaken this social dimension of openness to others, much less the transcendent dimension of our openness to the "Thou" of God. Our relationship with the environment can never be isolated from our relationship with others and with God. Otherwise, it would be nothing more than romantic individualism dressed up in ecological garb, locking us into a stifling immanence.

120. Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? "If personal and social sensitivity towards the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away".[97]

121. We need to develop a new synthesis capable of overcoming the false arguments of recent centuries. Christianity, in fidelity to its own identity and the rich deposit of truth which it has received from Jesus Christ, continues to reflect on these issues in fruitful dialogue with changing historical situations. In doing so, it reveals its eternal newness.[98]

Practical relativism

122. A misguided anthropocentrism leads to a misguided lifestyle. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I noted that the practical relativism typical of our age is "even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism".[99] When human beings place themselves at the centre, they give absolute priority to immediate convenience and all else becomes relative. Hence we should not be surprised to find, in conjunction with the omnipresent technocratic paradigm and the cult of unlimited human power, the rise of a relativism which sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one's own immediate interests. There is a logic in all this whereby different attitudes can feed on one another, leading to environmental degradation and social decay.

123. The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labour on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same "use and throw away" logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.

The need to protect employment

124. Any approach to an integral ecology, which by definition does not exclude human beings, needs to take account of the value of labour, as Saint John Paul II wisely noted in his Encyclical Laborem Exercens. According to the biblical account of creation, God placed man and woman in the garden he had created (cf. Gen 2:15) not only to preserve it ("keep") but also to make it fruitful ("till"). Labourers and craftsmen thus "maintain the fabric of the world" (Sir 38:34). Developing the created world in a prudent way is the best way of caring for it, as this means that we ourselves become the instrument used by God to bring out the potential which he himself inscribed in things: "The Lord created medicines out of the earth, and a sensible man will not despise them" (Sir 38:4).

125. If we reflect on the proper relationship between human beings and the world around us, we see the need for a correct understanding of work; if we talk about the relationship between human beings and things, the question arises as to the meaning and purpose of all human activity. This has to do not only with manual or agricultural labour but with any activity involving a modification of existing reality, from producing a social report to the design of a technological development. Underlying every form of work is a concept of the relationship which we can and must have with what is other than ourselves. Together with the awe-filled contemplation of creation which we find in Saint Francis of Assisi, the Christian spiritual tradition has also developed a rich and balanced understanding of the meaning of work, as, for example, in the life of Blessed Charles de Foucauld and his followers.

126. We can also look to the great tradition of monasticism. Originally, it was a kind of flight from the world, an escape from the decadence of the cities. The monks sought the desert, convinced that it was the best place for encountering the presence of God. Later, Saint Benedict of Norcia proposed that his monks live in community, combining prayer and spiritual reading with manual labour (ora et labora). Seeing manual labour as spiritually meaningful proved revolutionary. Personal growth and sanctification came to be sought in the interplay of recollection and work. This way of experiencing work makes us more protective and respectful of the environment; it imbues our relationship to the world with a healthy sobriety.

127. We are convinced that "man is the source, the focus and the aim of all economic and social life".[100] Nonetheless, once our human capacity for contemplation and reverence is impaired, it becomes easy for the meaning of work to be misunderstood.[101] We need to remember that men and women have "the capacity to improve their lot, to further their moral growth and to develop their spiritual endowments".[102] Work should be the setting for this rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today's global society, it is essential that "we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone",[103] no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning.

128. We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment. Helping the poor financially must always be a provisional solution in the face of pressing needs. The broader objective should always be to allow them a dignified life through work. Yet the orientation of the economy has favoured a kind of technological progress in which the costs of production are reduced by laying off workers and replacing them with machines. This is yet another way in which we can end up working against ourselves. The loss of jobs also has a negative impact on the economy "through the progressive erosion of social capital: the network of relationships of trust, dependability, and respect for rules, all of which are indispensable for any form of civil coexistence".[104] In other words, "human costs always include economic costs, and economic dysfunctions always involve human costs".[105] To stop investing in people, in order to gain greater short-term financial gain, is bad business for society.

129. In order to continue providing employment, it is imperative to promote an economy which favours productive diversity and business creativity. For example, there is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world's peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing. Economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing smallholders to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production. To ensure economic freedom from which all can effectively benefit, restraints occasionally have to be imposed on those possessing greater resources and financial power. To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practise a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute. Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the areas in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.

New biological technologies

130. In the philosophical and theological vision of the human being and of creation which I have presented, it is clear that the human person, endowed with reason and knowledge, is not an external factor to be excluded. While human intervention on plants and animals is permissible when it pertains to the necessities of human life, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that experimentation on animals is morally acceptable only "if it remains within reasonable limits [and] contributes to caring for or saving human lives".[106] The Catechism firmly states that human power has limits and that "it is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly".[107] All such use and experimentation "requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation".[108]

131. Here I would recall the balanced position of Saint John Paul II, who stressed the benefits of scientific and technological progress as evidence of "the nobility of the human vocation to participate responsibly in God's creative action", while also noting that "we cannot interfere in one area of the ecosystem without paying due attention to the consequences of such interference in other areas".[109] He made it clear that the Church values the benefits which result "from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics, and its technological application in agriculture and industry".[110] But he also pointed out that this should not lead to "indiscriminate genetic manipulation"[111] which ignores the negative effects of such interventions. Human creativity cannot be suppressed. If an artist cannot be stopped from using his or her creativity, neither should those who possess particular gifts for the advancement of science and technology be prevented from using their God-given talents for the service of others. We need constantly to rethink the goals, effects, overall context and ethical limits of this human activity, which is a form of power involving considerable risks.

132. This, then, is the correct framework for any reflection concerning human intervention on plants and animals, which at present includes genetic manipulation by biotechnology for the sake of exploiting the potential present in material reality. The respect owed by faith to reason calls for close attention to what the biological sciences, through research uninfluenced by economic interests, can teach us about biological structures, their possibilities and their mutations. Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order "to favour its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God".[112]

133. It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM), whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations. The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application. Genetic mutations, in fact, have often been, and continue to be, caused by nature itself. Nor are mutations caused by human intervention a modern phenomenon. The domestication of animals, the crossbreeding of species and other older and universally accepted practices can be mentioned as examples. We need but recall that scientific developments in GM cereals began with the observation of natural bacteria which spontaneously modified plant genomes. In nature, however, this process is slow and cannot be compared to the fast pace induced by contemporary technological advances, even when the latter build upon several centuries of scientific progress.

134. Although no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings, and in some regions their use has brought about economic growth which has helped to resolve problems, there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated. In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to "the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production".[113] The most vulnerable of these become temporary labourers, and many rural workers end up moving to poverty-stricken urban areas. The expansion of these crops has the effect of destroying the complex network of ecosystems, diminishing the diversity of production and affecting regional economies, now and in the future. In various countries, we see an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products needed for their cultivation. This dependency would be aggravated were the production of infertile seeds to be considered; the effect would be to force farmers to purchase them from larger producers.

135. Certainly, these issues require constant attention and a concern for their ethical implications. A broad, responsible scientific and social debate needs to take place, one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name. It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological. This makes it difficult to reach a balanced and prudent judgement on different questions, one which takes into account all the pertinent variables. Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future. This is a complex environmental issue; it calls for a comprehensive approach which would require, at the very least, greater efforts to finance various lines of independent, interdisciplinary research capable of shedding new light on the problem.

136. On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.

[Jul 24, 2016] The Immorality and Brutal Violence of Extreme Greed

Notable quotes:
"... By #SlayTheSmaugs, an elected Bernie delegate in Philly. ..."
"... #STS believes that the billionaire class are Smaugs (the greed incarnate dragon of The Hobbit), immorally hoarding wealth for no reason beyond ego gratification. To "Slay" the Smaugs, we need a confiscatory wealth tax, stronger democratic institutions to impose it, and a shared moral agreement that #GreedIsEvil to justify it. ..."
"... More; charitable foundations are not the same thing, in many cases, as true charity. Instead foundations often function as hoard preservers as well, and enrich their leadership too. ..."
"... After a certain level of accumulation money is simply ego gratifying points, it's not money any more. ..."
"... Wealth on this scale has nothing to do with financial security or luxurious living. For the trivial, it is (as per D. Trump) a game and money is how you keep score. For the serious, it has to do with power, with the ability to affect other people's lives without their consent. That is why the Smaugs' wealth is absolutely our business. It should be understood that we're talking about taking very large amounts of money and power away from very rich people, people for whom money and power are pretty much the only things they value. It will not be pretty. ..."
"... If we fail to prevent the imposition of this transnational regime there will only be three classes of humans left: kleptocrats, their favored minions, and slaves. ..."
"... A more modern similarity of the US is Rome. Vassals have been going full retard for several years now, traitors sell international competitors military secrets while the biggest merchants buy off the Senate. ..."
"... Isn't there an idiom about cutting off the head of the snake? Once you deal with the strongest opponents, it's easier to go after the others. Too big to fail is nothing short of feeding the beast. ..."
"... I disagree strongly with your premise that some sort of pure and natural meritocracy has ever existed, or could ever exist in human society. Corrupt and oppressive people will always define as "meritorious" those qualities that they themselves possess– whether wealth, "gentle birth," "technical skills," or whatever. We all possess the same merit of being human. ..."
Jul 22, 2016 | Naked Capitalism

... ... ...

By #SlayTheSmaugs, an elected Bernie delegate in Philly.

#STS believes that the billionaire class are Smaugs (the greed incarnate dragon of The Hobbit), immorally hoarding wealth for no reason beyond ego gratification. To "Slay" the Smaugs, we need a confiscatory wealth tax, stronger democratic institutions to impose it, and a shared moral agreement that #GreedIsEvil to justify it.

Worshiping Wealth

When Gordon Gekko proclaimed that 'Greed is Good' in 1987, it was an obvious rejection of several millennia of teachings by traditional prophets and priests. Yet when Gekko preached greed, he was merely reinforcing the current cultural norm; greed had already been rebranded a virtue. (Still, the speech was to remind us Gekko was a bad guy). Consider that Madonna had proclaimed herself a Material Girl three years earlier, and "Living Large" was cool. Conspicuous consumption is walking the talk that greed is good.

Why had greed become good? I blame the creation of a credit-fueled culture of constant consumption that necessarily praises coveting stuff, plus the dismantling of the regulatory state that had kept Wall Street and wannabe oligarchs in check.

Our healthy cultural adoration of the self-made man, of respect for success, warped into worship of the rich. They are not the same. Wealth can be inherited, stolen through fraud and other illegal activities, or harvested from bubbles; none of these or myriad other paths to riches is due respect, much less worship. Paired with another 80's definition-government is the problem-worshiping wealth facilitates all the dysfunction in our government.

Remembering Greed is Evil

Thirty years later, the old social norm-the one that protected the many from the few, the one that demonized greed as a deadly sin-is resurgent. We have a Pope who preaches against greed, and who walks his talk . We had a Presidential candidate of a major party-Bernie Sanders-who railed against those living embodiments of greed, the Billionaire Class, and walked his talk by rejecting their money. At the convention, he has invited delegates to four workshops, one of which is "One Nation Now: Winning the Fight Against Racism and Greed". We have a late night comedian-John Oliver- ridiculing the prosperity gospel and taking on the debt industry . We have mass consciousness rising, reflected in Occupy, the label "the 99%", BLM and more.

But we need more voices insisting #GreedIsEvil. We need to teach that basic message at home, in school, and in houses of worship. We need to send the right signals in our social interactions. We need to stop coveting stuff, and start buying with a purpose: Shopping locally, buying American, buying green and clean, and buying less. We need to waste less, share more and build community. We need to re-norm-alize greed as evil, make it shameful again. Then we will have redefined ourselves as citizens, not consumers.

But make no mistake: America cannot become a just nation simply by the 99% becoming more virtuous. The cultural shift is necessary but not sufficient, for norms alone do not deliver social and economic justice. Shame will not slay the Smaugs; we need structural change in the political economy.

Extreme greed, the greed of Smaugs, is categorically different than the petit greed underlying the irrational, constant consumption and the worship of wealth. Extreme greed manifests as a hoard of wealth so great that "purchasing power" is an irrelevant concept; a hoard so great it lacks any utility other than to be sat upon as a throne, gratifying the Smaug's ego and symbolizing his power. That greed must be understood as an intolerable evil, something so base and malevolent that the full power of the state must be used against it.

This essay is my contribution to the cause of returning extreme greed to its rightful place in the pantheon of ultimate evils. Here is the thesis: extreme greed must be 'slain' by the state because extreme greed is brutally violent.

The Stealth Violence of False Scarcity and "Cutting Corners"

Greed's violence is quiet and deadly: The violence of false scarcity and of "corner cutting". Scarcity is not having enough because there just isn't enough to go round, like the nearly 50 million people who don't reliably have food during the year, including 15 million kids. False scarcity is when actually, there's plenty to go around, but people generally don't have enough because of hoarders.

It's a concentrated version of what happened to pennies in 1999. People keeping pennies in piggy banks created a shortage felt throughout New York City . If only people had broken open their piggy banks, and used their pennies, there would have been plenty of pennies in circulation, and shopkeepers wouldn't lose money by rounding purchases down. In this piece, I'm focusing on false scarcity of dollars, not pennies, and the maiming and premature death that results from false dollar scarcity. But the idea is essentially the same; there's just far fewer relevant piggy banks.

By the quiet violence of 'corner cutting', I'm referring to unsafe, even deadly, workplaces that could be safe if the employers invested in safety.

Sporadically, greed also drives overt, and sometimes profoundly bloody violence to protect the hoard. Think of employer violence against unions and union organizers, a la Henry Ford , or John D. Rockefeller . Nonetheless in this country now, the violence of greed tends to be more covert. It is that quiet violence, in both forms, I want you to hear now.

As Sanders often reminds us, in this, the richest nation in the world, nearly 50 million people are living in poverty; roughly one in seven Americans. And as Sanders explained, in a speech in West Virginia , 130,000 people die each and every year as a result of poverty. I have not read the study Sanders referred to, so I don't know how much it overlaps with the rise of suicide that accelerated after 2006 and which appears to be correlated with financial stress. Nor do I know how it overlaps with the documented increase in white mortality that also appears to correlate with financial stress. Regardless of overlap, however, each of these studies reflects the quiet violence of false scarcity. Naked Capitalism has featured many posts documenting the damage of greed; this is a recent one .

Chronic and acute financial stress from false scarcity maims, and kills. And Smaugs create false scarcity to feed money to their egos and maintain their oligarchic power.

As Lambert often says, they don't call it class warfare for nothing.

But wait, you might insist, how false is the scarcity, really? How much do a few billionaires matter? Ranting that greed is evil is all well and good, but really, can a relative handful of people be manufacturing scarcity where there is none, shortening and taking millions of lives in the process? Aren't you making your target too narrow in going after the Smaugs?

In order: Very false, a lot, yes and no.

The Falsity of Dollar Scarcity

In 2015 the Institute for Policy Studies determined that the richest 20 American billionaires had hoarded as much wealth as 152 million people had managed to scrape together combined. Think on that.

Twenty people had hoarded $732,000,000,000. America is a nation of about 300,000,000 people. That means 20 people could give a combined $2,370 to every American, and still hoard $1 billion each. I'm not suggesting that's how the redistribution should be done, but it's notable that in an era when some 200 million Americans haven't been able to save $1000 for an emergency, twenty people could give everyone over two grand while remaining fabulously wealthy.

Now, these 20 monstrous people, these full grown Smaugs, are not alone in their extreme greed. Adding in the assets of the next 380 richest Americans brings the total wealth hoarded to $2.34 trillion. That number is so large it's hard to process , so let's think this through.

First, imagine that we took all of that money with a confiscatory tax, except we again left each of the 400 people with $1 billion. They would still be obscenely rich, so don't pity them.* Our tax thus netted $1.94 trillion. Since that's still an unimaginable number, let's compare it to some recent government spending.

In December 2015, Congress funded five years' worth of infrastructure construction. Congress and President Obama were very self-congratulatory because our infrastructure is a mess, and building things involves good paying jobs. So, how much did five years of infrastructure building and job creation cost? $305 billion . That's less than the $400 billion we let the 400 Smaugs keep at the start of this thought experiment. With the $1.94 trillion we imagine confiscating, we could keep building at the 2015 pace for 32 years. Or we could spend it much faster, and create an economic boom the like of which this nation hasn't seen in generations.

Even Bernie Sanders, he of the supposedly overly ambitious, unable-to-be-paid for initiatives, only proposed spending $1 trillion on infrastructure over five years -a bit more than half what our tax would net. (Nor did this supposed radical call for a confiscatory wealth tax to fund his plan.) Sanders estimated his proposal would create 13 million good paying jobs. With nearly double the money, surely we get nearly double the jobs? Let's be conservative and say 22 million.

In sum, we could confiscate most of the wealth of 400 people-still leaving them obscenely rich with $1 billion each-and create 22 million good paying jobs over five years. But we don't; we let the Smaugs keep their hoards intact. Now consider this is only taxing 400 people; what if we taxed the richest 2,000 people more justly? What if we taxed corporations effectively? What if we stopped giving corporate welfare? A confiscatory wealth tax, however, simply isn't discussed in polite company, any more than a truly progressive income tax is, or even serious proposals to end corporate welfare. The best we can do is agree that really, someday soon, we should end the obscenity that is the carried interest loophole.

False scarcity isn't simply a failure of charity, a hoarding of wealth that should be alms for the poor. False scarcity is created through the billionaires' control of the state, of public policy. But the quiet violence of greed isn't visited on the 99% only through the failure to pay adequate taxes. Not even through the Smaugs' failure to have their corporations pay adequate wages, or benefits. Predatory lending, predatory servicing, fraudulent foreclosure, municipal bond rigging, and pension fund fleecing are just some of the many other ways immoral greed creates false scarcity.

While false scarcity has the broadest impact, it is not the only form of stealth violence used by the billionaires in their class war against the rest of us. The Ford and Rockefeller style violence of fists and guns may be rare in the U.S. these days, but a variant of it remains much too common: Unsafe workplaces, the quiet violence of "cutting corners". Whether it's the coal industry , the poultry industry , or the fracking and oil industries, or myriad other industries, unsafe workplaces kill, maim and sicken workers. Part of the political economy restructuring we must do includes transforming the workplace.

Feel the Greed

Let us remember why this stealth violence exists-why false scarcity and unsafe workplaces exist.

People who have more money than they hope to spend for the rest of their lives, no matter how many of their remaining days are "rainy"; people who have more money to pass on than their children need for a lifetime of financial security, college and retirement included; people who have more money to pass on than their grandchildren need for a similarly secure life–these people insist on extracting still more wealth from their workers, their clients, and taxpayers for no purpose beyond vaingloriously hoarding it.

Sure, some give away billions . But even so they retain billions. For what? More; charitable foundations are not the same thing, in many cases, as true charity. Instead foundations often function as hoard preservers as well, and enrich their leadership too.

In Conclusion

Greed is evil, but it comes in different intensities. Petit greed is a corrosive illness that decays societies, but can be effectively ameliorated through norms and social capital. Smaug greed is so toxic, so potent, that the state is the only entity powerful enough to put it in check. Greed, particularly Smaug greed, must be put in check because the false scarcity it manufactures, and the unsafe workplaces it creates, maim and kill people. The stealth violence of Smaug greed justifies a tax to confiscate the hoards.

#GreedIsEvil. It's time to #SlayTheSmaugs

*One of the arguments against redistribution is that is against the sacrosanct efficient market, which forbids making one person better off if the price is making someone else worse off. But money has diminishing returns as money after a certain point; the purchasing power between someone with one billion and ten billion dollars is negligible, though the difference between someone with ten thousand and a hundred thousand, or a hundred thousand and a million is huge. After a certain level of accumulation money is simply ego gratifying points, it's not money any more. Thus taking it and using it as money isn't making someone 'worse off' in an economic sense. Also, when considering whether someone is 'worse off', it's worth considering where their money comes from; how many people did they leave 'worse off' as they extracted the money? Brett , July 22, 2016 at 10:07 am

After a certain level of accumulation money is simply ego gratifying points, it's not money any more.

It quite literally isn't "money" as we regular folks know it beyond a certain point – it's tied up in share value and other assets. Which of course raises the question – when you decide to do your mass confiscation of wealth, who is going to be foolish enough to buy those assets so you actually have liquid currency to spend on infrastructure as opposed to illiquid assets? Or are you simply going to print money and spend it on them?

Thomas Hinds , July 22, 2016 at 10:33 am

Wealth on this scale has nothing to do with financial security or luxurious living. For the trivial, it is (as per D. Trump) a game and money is how you keep score. For the serious, it has to do with power, with the ability to affect other people's lives without their consent. That is why the Smaugs' wealth is absolutely our business. It should be understood that we're talking about taking very large amounts of money and power away from very rich people, people for whom money and power are pretty much the only things they value. It will not be pretty.

Ranger Rick , July 22, 2016 at 10:37 am

People become rich and stay that way because of a market failure that allows them to accumulate capital in the same way a constricted artery accumulates blood. What I'm wondering, continuing this metaphor, is what happens when all that money is released back into the market at once via a redistribution - toxic shock syndrome.

You can see what happens to markets in places where "virtual money" (capital) brushes up against the real economy: the dysfunctional housing situation in Vancouver, London, New York, and San Francisco.

It may be wiser to argue for wealth disintegration instead of redistribution.

a different chris , July 22, 2016 at 11:52 am

Yes I was thinking about that … money is just something the government prints to make the system work smoothly. But that, and pretty much any view of money, obscures the problem with the insanely "wealthy".

If these people, instead of having huge bank accounts actually had huge armies the government would move to disarm them. It wouldn't re-distribute the tanks and rifles. It would be obviously removing a threat to everybody.

Now there would be the temptation to wave your hands and say you were "melting it into plowshares" but that causes an accounting problem - that is, the problem being the use of accounting itself. Destroying extreme wealth and paying for say roads is just two different things and making them sound connected is where we keep getting bogged down. Not a full-on MMT'er yet but it really has illuminated that fact.

And no, as usual l have no solutions.

John Merryman , July 22, 2016 at 12:55 pm

The western assumption is that money is a commodity, from salt to gold, to bitcoin, we assume it can be manufactured, but the underlaying reality is that it is a social contract and every asset is presumably backed by debt.
Here is an interesting link which does make the point about the contractual basis of money in a succinct fashion;
http://rs79.vrx.palo-alto.ca.us/opinions/ideas/economics/jubilee/

Since the modern commodity of money is backed by debt and largely public debt, there is enormous pressure to create as much debt as possible.
For instance, the government doesn't really budget, it just writes up these enormous bills, attaches enough goodies to get the votes and the president can only pass or veto it and with all the backing and no other method, a veto is a weak protection.

To budget is to prioritize and spend according to ability. What they could do would be to break these bills into all their various "line items," have every legislator assign a percentage value to each one, put them back together in order of preference and then the president would draw the line.
It would balance the power and reduce the tendency to overspend, but it would blow up our financial system, which if anyone notices, is based on the sanctity of government debt.

If instead of borrowing the excess money out of the system, to spend on whatever, if the government threatened to tax it out, people would quickly find other ways to store value than as money in the financial system.

Since most of us save for the same general reasons, from raising children to retirement, we could invest in these as public commons, not try to save for our exact needs. This would serve to strengthen communities and their environments, as everyone would be more dependent on those around them, not just having a private bank account as their personal umbilical cord.

We treat money as both medium of exchange and store of value. As Rick points out above, a medium is like blood in the body and it needs to be carefully regulated. Conversely, the store of value in the body is fat and while many of us do carry an excess, storing it in the circulation system is not wise. Clogged arteries, poor circulation and high blood pressure are analogous to a bloated financial system, poor circulation and QE.
Money is not a commodity, but a contract.

Julian , July 22, 2016 at 11:00 am

Do you realize that this supposed billionaire wealth does not consist of actual US dollars and that, if one were to liquidate such wealth (in order to redistribute it in "fair" equal-dollars) that number might drastically change?

The main thing these people (and indeed your pension funds) are actually hoarding are financial assets, and those, it turns out, are actually "scarce". Or, well, I don't know what else you would call trillions of bonds netting a negative interest rate and an elevated P/E stock market in a low-growth environment.

It's a bit of a pickle from a macro environment. You can't just force them to liquidate their assets, or else the whole system would collapse. It also kind of escapes the point that someone has to hold each asset. I would be excited to see what happens when you ask Bill Gates to liquidate his financial assets (in order to distribute the cash). An interesting thought, for sure. And one that would probably bring the market closer to reasonable valuations.

It is simply a wrong conclusion to say "Wealth is x, and if we distribute it, everyone would get x divided by amount of recipients in dollar terms". Now if you wanted to redistribute Bill Gates' stake in Microsoft in some "fair" way, you could certainly try but that's not really what you proposed.

Either way you can't approach wealth policy from a macro perspective like this, because as soon as you start designing macro-level policy to adjust (i.e. redistribute) this wealth, the value of it will fluctuate very wildly in dollar terms and may well leave everyone less well off in some weird feedback loop.

JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 11:05 am

"The full power of the state must be used against" #extremegreed: Except, of course, "L'etat c'est moi…"

Of course as a Bernie supporter, the writer knows that, knows that it is a long game to even start to move any of the hoard out of Smaug's cave, that there are dwarves with glittering eyes ready to take back and reduce to ownership and ornamentation the whole pile (maybe they might 'share" a little with the humans of Lake Town who suffered the Dragon's Fire but whose Hero drove a mystical iron arrow through the weak place in Smaug's armor, all while Sauron and Saruman are circling and plotting and growing hordes of genetically modified Orcs and Trolls and summoning the demons from below…

The Elves seem to be OK with a "genteel sufficiency," their wealth being useful durable stuff like mithril armor and those lovely houses and palaces up in the trees. Humans? Grabbers and takers, in Tolkien's mythology. I would second that view - sure seems to me that almost any of us, given a 1000-Bagger like Zuckerman or Jobs or that Gates creature fell into, or Russian or Israeli or African or European oligarchs for that matter (pretty universal, and expected given Davos and Bilderberg and Koch summits) the old insatiable lambic system that drives for pleasure-to-the-max and helps our baser tribal drives and penchant for violence to manifest and "thrive" will have its due. Like 600 foot motor yachts and private-jet escape pods and pinnacles islands with Dr. No-style security provided by guns and accountants and lawyers and faux-legitimate political rulers for hire…

Lots of analysis of "the problem." Not so much in the way of apparent remedies, other than maybe lots of bleeding, where the mopes will do most of it and if history is any guide, another Smaug will go on around taking all the gold and jewels and other concentrated wealth back to another pile, to sit on and not maybe even gloat over because the scales are just too large…

Still hoping for the emergence of an organizing principle that is more attractive that "take whatever you can and cripple or kill anyone who objects…"

Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 11:38 am

"People who have more money than they hope to spend for the rest of their lives, no matter how many of their remaining days are "rainy"; people who have more money to pass on than their children need for a lifetime of financial security, college and retirement included; people who have more money to pass on than their grandchildren need for a similarly secure life–these people insist on extracting still more wealth from their workers, their clients, and taxpayers for no purpose beyond vaingloriously hoarding it."

These are people who are obscenely wealthy as opposed to merely wealthy. The fastest way to challenge their toxic power would be to help the latter group understand that their interests are not aligned with the former. Most millionaires (as opposed to billionaires) will eventually suffer when the last few drops of wealth remaining to the middle and working classes are extracted. Their future prosperity depends on the continued existence of a viable, mass consumer economy.

The billionaires imagine (in my view falsely) that they will thrive in a neo-feudal future– where they own everything and the vast majority of humanity exists only to serve their needs. This is the future they are attempting to build with the new TPP/TISA/TTIP regime. If we fail to prevent the imposition of this transnational regime there will only be three classes of humans left: kleptocrats, their favored minions, and slaves. Most neoliberal professionals, who imagine that they will be in that second group, are delusional. Did the pharaohs have any need for people like Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd?

a different chris , July 22, 2016 at 11:59 am

Yeah unfortunately they did. It wasn't just the pharaoh and peasants, there was a whole priestly class just to keep the workers confused.

Now the individuals themselves weren't at all necessary, they have always been easily replaceable.

FluffytheObeseCat , July 22, 2016 at 12:36 pm

Pharaohs didn't need a middle/professional class as large as the ones in most western democracies today. But, we are going in the pharaonic direction.

The problem our polite, right wing professional classes face is that they are increasingly too numerous for society's needs. Hence the creeping gig-i-fication of professional employment. The wage stagnation in all but the most guild-ridden (medicine) professions.

It's so reminiscent of what happened to the industrial working class in the late 70s and 80s. I still remember the "well-reasoned", literate arguments in magazine op-eds proclaiming how line workers had become "excess" in the face of Asian competition and automation. How most just needed to retrain, move to where the jobs are, tighten their belts, etc. It's identical now for lawyers, radiologists, and many layers of the teaching professions. If I weren't part of that "professional" class I'd find the Schadenfreude almost too delicious.

HotFlash , July 22, 2016 at 1:54 pm
If we fail to prevent the imposition of this transnational regime there will only be three classes of humans left: kleptocrats, their favored minions, and slaves.

Sounds about right, but you are overlooking the fact that the largest class will be The Dead. They will not need nearly so many of Us, and we will be thinned, trimmed, pruned, marooned, or otherwise made to go away permanently (quietly, for preference, I assume, but any way will do).

Ergo, the violence of ineffectual health care, toxic environment, poisonous food, dangerous working conditions and violence (for instance, guns and toxic chemicals) in our homes, schools, streets, workplaces, cities and, well, everywhere are not only a feature, but a major part of the plan.

And I'm actually feeling rather optimistic today.

Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:23 pm

It has been extensively documented that the merely wealthy are very upset at the obscenely wealthy.

If the author is truly focusing on a tax for obscene wealth I'd like to know a specific threshold. Is it 1 Billion and up? annual limit how many times the median income before it kicks in?

#SlayTheSmaugs Post author , July 22, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Well, I'm happy to have a discussion about at what threshold a confiscatory wealth tax should kick in; it's the kind of conversation we have with estate taxes.

I'm thinking a one off wealth tax, followed by a prevention of the resurrection of the problem with a sharply progressive income tax. Is $1 billion the right number for this initial reclamation? maybe. It is about the very top few, not the merely wealthy.

#SlayTheSmaugs

Vatch , July 22, 2016 at 5:32 pm

$1 billion is a reasonable amount of assets for determining whether to confiscate a portion of a person's wealth in taxes. Or perhaps we could base it on a percentage of GDP. The U.S. GDP in 2015 was approximately $17.9 trillion. Anyone with $1.79 billion or more in assets would have 1% of 1% of the U.S. GDP (0.01%). That's a lot of wealth, and surely justifies a heavy tax.

Quantum Future , July 22, 2016 at 4:15 pm

To your question Ulysses

'Professionals, who imagine that they will be in that second group, are delusional. Did the pharaohs have any need of Paul Krugman'

Sure they did. Those were called Priests who told the people what the gods were thinking. And since Pharoah's concluded themselves gods. The slaves revolt by working less. Anybody notice the dropping production levels the last couple of years? Whipping the slaves didn't turn out well for the Egyptians.

A more modern similarity of the US is Rome. Vassals have been going full retard for several years now, traitors sell international competitors military secrets while the biggest merchants buy off the Senate.

Ceasar becomes more a figurehead until one leads a coup which has not happened yet. Aquiring more slaves begins to cost more than what the return in general to the society brings but the Smaugs do not care about that until the barbarians begin to revolt (See Orlando for example, the shooter former employee of DHS. Probably pissed some of his comrades were deserted by US in some manner.

Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

My point was that the category of people in this priestly caste will likely be far, far smaller than the millions of credentialed neoliberal professionals currently living large in the top 10% of the developed world.

Interesting mental image– to see Paul Krugman chanting praises to the new Son of the Sun God the Donald!!

#SlayTheSmaugs , July 22, 2016 at 12:07 pm

Look, there's a simple way to #SlayTheSmaugs, and it's a confiscatory wealth tax coupled with a sharply progressive income tax, as part of an overall restructuring of the political economy.

Simple, is of course, not easy; indeed my proposal is currently impossible. But like Bernie I'm trying to change the terms of political debate, to normalize what would previously be dismissed as too radical to be countenanced.

I don't think the looting professional class needs to be slain, in the #SlayTheSmaugs sense. I think they can be brought to heel simply by enforcing laws and passing new ones that are already within acceptable political debate, such as one that defines corruption as using public office for private gain. I think norms matter to the looting professional class as well. Another re-norm-ilization that needs to happen is remembering what a "profession" used to be…

Sylvia Demarest , July 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Friends and neighbors!! Most of this "wealth" is ephemeral, it is based on the "value of assets" like stocks, bonds, real estate, et al. If all of this "wealth" gets liquidated at the same time, values would collapse. These people are fabulously wealthy because of the incredible inflation we have seen in the "assets" they hold.

Remember, during the Great Depression the "wealth" wasn't confiscated and redistributed, it was destroyed because asset values collapsed and over 2000 banks failed wiping out customer accounts. This also collapsed the money supply causing debt defaults, businesses failures, and worker laid offs. No one had any money because there was none.

The US was on the gold standard limiting the creation of liquidity. President Roosevelt went off the gold standard so that he could work to increase the money supply. It took a long time. The result of the depression was decades of low debt, cheap housing, and hard working people who remembered the hard times. The social mood gradually changed as their children, born in more prosperous times, challenged the values of their parents.

Yves Smith , July 22, 2016 at 10:02 pm

Even though the bulk of what the super rich hold is in paper assets, they still hold tons of real economy assets. They've succeeded in buying enough prime and even merely good real estate (like multiple townhouses in Upper West Side blocks and then creating one monster home behind the facade) to create pricing pressure on ordinary renters and homeowners in the same cities, bidding art through the roof, owning mega-yachts and private airplanes, and most important of all, using the money directly to reshape society along their preferred lines, witness charter schools.

GlassHammer , July 22, 2016 at 12:21 pm

If you are going to fight against the "Greed is Good" mentality, you are going to have to address the habits of the average middle class household. Just take a look at the over accumulation of amenities and creature comforts. The desire to signal ones status/wealth through "stuff" is totally out of control and completely divorced from means/income.

#SlayTheSmaugs , July 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm

Fair, and I do propose that:

"But we need more voices insisting #GreedIsEvil. We need to teach that basic message at home, in school, and in houses of worship. We need to send the right signals in our social interactions. We need to stop coveting stuff, and start buying with a purpose: Shopping locally, buying American, buying green and clean, and buying less. We need to waste less, share more and build community. We need to re-norm-alize greed as evil, make it shameful again. Then we will have redefined ourselves as citizens, not consumers."

dots , July 22, 2016 at 2:09 pm

Isn't there an idiom about cutting off the head of the snake? Once you deal with the strongest opponents, it's easier to go after the others. Too big to fail is nothing short of feeding the beast.

Punxsutawney , July 22, 2016 at 12:45 pm

There was a time not that long ago that I would have opposed a "confiscatory wealth tax". After looking at what most of those in the .1% are doing with their wealth, and their contempt for the average person, those days are long gone. Plus it's good economics.

The only question is what is "obscene wealth". Well like pornography, I think we know it when we see it.

Alfred , July 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I am wondering about the distribution of all this concentrated wealth; how much of it is spread around in the equities and bond markets?

And if that amount was redistributed to the general public how much of it would return to the equities and bond market?

I'm thinking not very much which would have catastrophic effects on both markets, a complete reordering. This would undoubtedly crush the borrowing ability of our Federal government, upset the apple cart in other words. With less money invested in the equities market it would undoubtedly return to a lower more realistic valuation; fortunes would be lost with no redistribution.

Oh the unintended consequences.

#SlayTheSmaugs Post author , July 22, 2016 at 3:34 pm

Fair to ask: How do we achieve a confiscatory wealth tax without catastrophic unintended consequences? But that's a very different question than: should we confiscate the Smaug's wealth?

One mechanism might be to have a government entity created to receive the stocks, bonds and financial instruments, and then liquidate them over time. E.g. Buffett has been giving stock to foundations for them to sell for awhile now; same kind of thing could be done. But sure, let's have the "How" conversation…

Quantum Future , July 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

If lobbying were outlawed at the Federal level the billionaires and multi millionaires would need to invest in something else. That signal has a multiplier effect.so your right eboit enforcement of mostly what is on the books already. A 'wall' doesnt have to be built for illegal immigrants either. Fine a couple dozen up the wazoo and the signal gets passed the game is over.

But until a few people's daughters are kidnapped or killed like in other 3rd world countries, it wont change. That is sad but reality is most people do not do anything until it effects them. I started slightly ahead of the crowd in summer of 2007 but that is because a regional banker told me as we liked discussing history to look at debt levels of 1928 and what happened next. On top of that, we are the like the British empire circa 1933 so we get the downside of that as well.

Pain tends to be the catalyst of evolution that fully awakens prey to the predators.

juliania , July 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm

"As Sanders often reminds us. . ."

I am sorry, Sir Smaug slayer. The underlying theme of your lengthy disquisition is that Sanders is the legitimate voice of the 99%, and his future complicity within the Democratic Party is thereby ameliorated by his current proposals within it. This is the true meat of your discourse ranging so far and wide – even with the suggestion early on that we the 99% need tutoring on the evils of greed.

Not so. That ship has sailed. Our Brexit is not yet upon us, but that it is coming, I have no doubt. The only question is when. To paraphrase a Hannah Sell quote on such matters. . . for decades working class people have had no representation in the halls of Congress. All of the politicians . . . without exception, have stood in the interests of the 1% and the super-rich.

Bernie Sanders included. Hannah's remarks were more upbeat – she made an exception for Jeremy Corbyn. Unfortunately, I can't do that. Bernie has folded. We need to acknowledge that.

amousie , July 22, 2016 at 2:16 pm

One of the arguments against redistribution is that is against the sacrosanct efficient market, which forbids making one person better off if the price is making someone else worse off.

I think you mean downward redistribution here since upward redistribution seems to be rather sacrosanct and definitely makes one person better off at the price of making many someones worse off to make it happen.

Tim , July 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Confiscatory wealth tax is too blunt an instrument to rectify the root causes discussed in this article, and you do not want a blunt impact to the effect of disincentivizing pursuit of financial success.

Further Centralization the populous' money will incite more corruption which is what allows the have's to continue lording it over the have nots.

What are alternatives?
Instead Focus on minimizing corruption,
Then it will be possible to implement fair legislation that limits the options of the greed to make decisions that results in unfair impacts on the lower class.

Increase incentives to share the wealth, (tax deductible charitable giving is an example).

We do need to encourage meritocracy whenever possible, corruption and oppression is the antithesis to that.

We need to stop incentivizing utilization of debt, that puts the haves in control of the have nots.

JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 6:25 pm

"Financial success. " As long as those words go together, and make an object of desire, the fundamental problem ain't going away.

Of course the underlying fundamental problem of human appetite for pleasure and power ain't going away either. Even if a lot of wealth was taken back (NOT "confiscated") from the current crop and hopeful horde of kleptocrats…

JTMcPhee , July 22, 2016 at 6:27 pm

How long before the adage "A fool and his money are soon parted" kicked in?

Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm

"We do need to encourage meritocracy whenever possible, corruption and oppression is the antithesis to that."

I disagree strongly with your premise that some sort of pure and natural meritocracy has ever existed, or could ever exist in human society. Corrupt and oppressive people will always define as "meritorious" those qualities that they themselves possess– whether wealth, "gentle birth," "technical skills," or whatever. We all possess the same merit of being human.

An Egyptologist, with an Oxbridge degree and extensive publications has no merit– in any meaningful sense– inside a frozen foods warehouse. Likewise, the world's best frozen foods warehouse worker has little to offer, when addressing a conference focused on religious practices during the reign of Ramses II. Meritocracy is a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy.

NeqNeq , July 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm

An Egyptologist, with an Oxbridge degree and extensive publications has no merit– in any meaningful sense– inside a frozen foods warehouse. Likewise, the world's best frozen foods warehouse worker has little to offer, when addressing a conference focused on religious practices during the reign of Ramses II. Meritocracy is a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy.

I am confused.

You claim meritocracy is "a neoliberal myth, intended to obscure the existence of oligarchy", but (seemingly) appeal to meritocratic principles to claim a warehouse worker doesnt offer much to an academic conference. Can you clear up my misunderstanding?

I agree, btw, that Idealized meritocracy has never existed (nor can). Follow up question: There has never been an ideal ethical human, does that mean we should stop encouraging ethical behavior?

Ulysses , July 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Meritocracy is not the same as recognizing greater and lesser degrees of competence in various activities. It is absurd to deny that some are more skillful at some things than others. Assigning the relative "merit" to various competencies is what I find objectionable.

Encouraging ethical behavior has nothing to do with ranking the "merit" levels of different occupations. While some occupations are inherently unethical, like that of an assassin, most can be performed in such a way as to do no harm to others, and some are nearly always beneficial to society at large.

Someone who did nothing but drink whiskey all day, and tell funny stories in a bar, is far more beneficial to society at large than a busy, diligent economist dreaming up ways to justify the looting of the kleptocrats.

Pierre Robespierre , July 22, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Wealth Redistribution occurs when the peasants build a scaffold and frog march the aristocracy up to a blade; when massive war wipes out a generation of aristocracy in gas filled trenches or in the upcoming event.

Roland , July 22, 2016 at 10:23 pm

"Fair to ask: How do we achieve a confiscatory wealth tax without catastrophic unintended consequences?"

Answer: Do it and find out. Some things can only be determined empirically. First, do what needs doing. We can take care of the Utility afterwards.≥

Barry , July 22, 2016 at 11:00 pm

I would like to see a financial settlements tax like Scott Smith presidential candidate recommends. http://www.scottsmith2016.com/

[Oct 10, 2015] Alliance of Vladimir Putin and The Russian Orthodox Church agaisn neoliberalism

Religion is definitely a useful tool fight neoliberalism. Actually outside of far right and religious fundamentalists almost any tool that is useful for fighting neoliberalism should be viewed positively. Currently Catholicism opposes neoliberalism more actively and probably somewhat more successfully due to the statute of Pope Francis then Orthodox Church.
Notable quotes:
"... The conflict between Russia and the West, therefore, is portrayed by both the ROC and by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts as nothing less than a spiritual/civilizational conflict. ..."
May 21, 2015 | Forbes

Amidst the geopolitical confrontation between Vladimir Putin's Russia and the US and its allies, little attention has been paid to the role played by religion either as a shaper of Russian domestic politics or as a means of understanding Putin's international actions. The role of religion has long tended to get short thrift in the study of statecraft (although it has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance of late), yet nowhere has it played a more prominent role – and perhaps nowhere has its importance been more unrecognized – than in its role in supporting the Russian state and Russia's current place in world affairs.

And while much attention has been paid to the growing authoritarianism of the Kremlin and on the support for Putin's regime on the part of the Russian oligarchs whom Putin has enriched through his crony capitalism, little has been paid to the equally critical role of the Russian Orthodox Church in helping to shape Russia's current system, and in supporting Putin's regime and publicly conflating the mission of the Russian state under Vladimir Putin's leadership with the mission of the Church. Putin's move in close coordination with the Russian Orthodox Church to sacralize the Russian national identity has been a key factor shaping the increasingly authoritarian bent of the Russian government under Putin, and strengthening his public support, and must be understood in order to understand Russia's international behavior.

The close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and the Russian state based upon a shared, theologically-informed vision of Russian exceptionalism is not a new phenomenon. During the days of the Czar, the Russian ruler was seen as God's chosen ruler of a Russian nation tasked with representing a unique set of value embodied by Russian Orthodoxy, and was revered as "the Holy Orthodox Czar". Today, a not dissimilar vision of Russian exceptionalism is once again shared by the ROC and the Kremlin, and many Russians are beginning to see Vladimir Putin in a similar vein – a perception encouraged both by Putin and by the Church, each of which sees the other as a valuable political ally and sees their respective missions as being interrelated.

... ... ...

When Putin came to power he shrewdly noted the ROC's useful role in boosting nationalism and the fact that it shared his view of Russia's role in the world, and began to work toward strengthening the Church's role in Russian society. Early in his presidency the Russian Duma passed a law returning all church property seized during the Soviet era (which act alone made the ROC one of the largest landholders in Russia). Over the past decade and a half, Putin has ordered state-owned energy firms to contribute billions to the rebuilding of thousands of churches destroyed under the Soviets, and many of those rich oligarchs surrounding him are dedicated supporters of the ROC who have contributed to the growing influence of the church in myriad ways. Around 25,000 ROC churches have been built or rebuilt since the early 1990′s, the vast majority of which have been built during Putin's rule and largely due to his backing and that of those in his close circle of supporters. Additionally, the ROC has been given rights that have vastly increased its role in public life, including the right to teach religion in Russia's public schools and the right to review any legislation before the Russian Duma.

The glue that holds together the alliance between Vladimir Putin and the ROC, and the one that more than any other explains their mutually-supporting actions, is their shared, sacralized vision of Russian national identity and exceptionalism. Russia, according to this vision, is neither Western nor Asian, but rather a unique society representing a unique set of values which are believed to be divinely inspired. The Kremlin's chief ideologue in this regard is Alexander Dugin (see a good summary of the historical roots of Dugin's philosophy and of his impact on the Russian government here.) According to this vision of the relationship between church, state, and society, the state dominates, the ROC partnering with the state, and individuals and private organizations supporting both church and state. This has provided the ideological justification for Putin's crackdown on dissent, and the rationale behind the Church's cooperation with the Kremlin in the repression of civil society groups or other religious groups which have dissenting political views. And the ROC's hostility toward the activities in Russia of other religious groups have dovetailed with that of Putin, who views independent religious activity as a potential threat to his regime.

Internationally, Russia's mission is to expand its influence and authority until it dominates the Eurasian landmass, by means of a strong central Russian state controlling this vast territory and aligned with the ROC as the arm of the Russian nation exercising its cultural influence. This vision of Russian exceptionalism has met with broad resonance within Russia, which goes a long way to explaining Putin's sky high polling numbers. Putin has successfully been able both to transfer to himself the social trust placed by most Russians in the ROC and has also to wrap himself in the trappings of almost a patron saint of Russia. The conflict between Russia and the West, therefore, is portrayed by both the ROC and by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts as nothing less than a spiritual/civilizational conflict. If anyone thought Europe's wars over religion were finished in 1648, the current standoff with Russia illustrates that that is not the case.

[Sep 26, 2015] Full text of Pope Francis speech before Congress

Notable quotes:
"... A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. ..."
"... All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. ..."
"... We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today's many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. ..."
"... If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. ..."
"... At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family ..."
Sep 26, 2015 | UPI.com

... ... ...

Each son or daughter of a given country has a mission, a personal and social responsibility. Your own responsibility as members of Congress is to enable this country, by your legislative activity, to grow as a nation. You are the face of its people, their representatives. You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics. A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk. Legislative activity is always based on care for the people. To this you have been invited, called and convened by those who elected you.

... ... ...

All of us are quite aware of, and deeply worried by, the disturbing social and political situation of the world today. Our world is increasingly a place of violent conflict, hatred and brutal atrocities, committed even in the name of God and of religion. We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. This means that we must be especially attentive to every type of fundamentalism, whether religious or of any other kind. A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within. To imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place. That is something which you, as a people, reject.

...We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today's many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.

The challenges facing us today call for a renewal of that spirit of cooperation, which has accomplished so much good throughout the history of the United States. The complexity, the gravity and the urgency of these challenges demand that we pool our resources and talents, and resolve to support one another, with respect for our differences and our convictions of conscience.

In this land, the various religious denominations have greatly contributed to building and strengthening society. It is important that today, as in the past, the voice of faith continue to be heard, for it is a voice of fraternity and love, which tries to bring out the best in each person and in each society. Such cooperation is a powerful resource in the battle to eliminate new global forms of slavery, born of grave injustices which can be overcome only through new policies and new forms of social consensus.

...If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance. Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. I do not underestimate the difficulty that this involves, but I encourage you in this effort.

... ... ...

The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. I know that many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem.

It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. "Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world. It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good" (Laudato Si', 129). This common good also includes the earth, a central theme of the encyclical which I recently wrote in order to "enter into dialogue with all people about our common home" (ibid., 3). "We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all" (ibid., 14).

In Laudato Si', I call for a courageous and responsible effort to "redirect our steps" (ibid., 61), and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I am convinced that we can make a difference and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a "culture of care" (ibid., 231) and "an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature" (ibid., 139). "We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology" (ibid., 112); "to devise intelligent ways of . . . developing and limiting our power" (ibid., 78); and to put technology "at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral" (ibid., 112). In this regard, I am confident that America's outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead.

... ... ...

...At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

... ... ...

[Sep 24, 2015] Don Quijones: Uruguay Does Unthinkable, Rejects TISA and Global Corporatocracy

Notable quotes:
"... 1.TiSA would "lock in" the privatization of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands. ..."
"... 2.TiSA would restrict signatory governments' right to regulate stronger standards in the public's interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses. ..."
"... 3.TiSA would limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry, at a time when the global economy is still struggling to recover from a crisis caused primarily by financial deregulation. More specifically, if signed the trade agreement would: ..."
"... 4. TiSA would ban any restrictions on cross-border information flows and localization requirements for ICT service providers. A provision proposed by US negotiators would rule out any conditions for the transfer of personal data to third countries that are currently in place in EU data protection law. In other words, multinational corporations will have carte blanche to pry into just about every facet of the working and personal lives of the inhabitants of roughly a quarter of the world's 200-or-so nations. ..."
"... 5. Finally, TiSA, together with its sister treaties TPP and TTIP, would establish a new global enclosure system, one that seeks to impose on all 52 signatory governments a rigid framework of international corporate law designed to exclusively protect the interests of corporations, relieving them of financial risk and social and environmental responsibility. In short, it would hammer the final nail in the already bedraggled coffin of national sovereignty. ..."
"... So, not to be snarky or anything but when does the invasion of Uruguay begin. ..."
"... In the US, corporations largely have replaced government since WWII or so, or at least pretend to offer the services that a government might provide. ..."
"... Neoliberalism that we have now as a dominant social system is a flavor of corporatism. If so, it is corporations which now represent the most politically powerful actors. They literally rule the country. And it is they who select the president, most congressmen and Senators. Try to ask yourself a question: to what political force Barak "change we can believe in" Obama serves. ..."
"... "And the banks - hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created - are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place" ..."
"... This is such a huge, huge, vital issue. Privatisation of public assets has to rank as one of the highest crimes at the government level. It is treason, perhaps the only crime for which i wouldn't object capital punishment. ..."
"... What's more, we now have some 40 years of data showing that privatisation doesn't work. surely, we can organise and successfully argue that privatisation has never worked for any country any time. There needs to be an intellectual assault on privatisation discrediting it forever. ..."
Sep 24, 2015 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on September 23, 2015 by Lambert Strether

Lambert here: A little good news on the trade front, and a victory for open discussion and critical thinking.

By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at Wolf Street. Originally published at Wolf Street.

Often referred to as the Switzerland of South America, Uruguay is long accustomed to doing things its own way. It was the first nation in Latin America to establish a welfare state. It also has an unusually large middle class for the region and unlike its giant neighbors to the north and west, Brazil and Argentina, is largely free of serious income inequality.

Two years ago, during José Mujica's presidency, Uruguay became the first nation to legalize marijuana in Latin America, a continent that is being ripped apart by drug trafficking and its associated violence and corruption of state institutions.

Now Uruguay has done something that no other semi-aligned nation on this planet has dared to do: it has rejected the advances of the global corporatocracy.

The Treaty That Must Not Be Named

Earlier this month Uruguay's government decided to end its participation in the secret negotiations of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). After months of intense pressure led by unions and other grassroots movements that culminated in a national general strike on the issue – the first of its kind around the globe – the Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez bowed to public opinion and left the US-led trade agreement.

Despite – or more likely because of – its symbolic importance, Uruguay's historic decision has been met by a wall of silence. Beyond the country's borders, mainstream media has refused to cover the story.

This is hardly a surprise given that the global public is not supposed to even know about TiSA's existence, despite – or again because of – the fact that it's arguably the most important of the new generation of global trade agreements. According to WikiLeaks, it "is the largest component of the United States' strategic 'trade' treaty triumvirate," which also includes the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Pact (TTIP).

TiSA involves more countries than TTIP and TPP combined: The United States and all 28 members of the European Union, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.

Together, these 52 nations form the charmingly named "Really Good Friends of Services" group, which represents almost 70% of all trade in services worldwide. Until its government's recent u-turn Uruguay was supposed to be the 53rd Good Friend of Services.

TiSA Trailer

TiSA has spent the last two years taking shape behind the hermetically sealed doors of highly secure locations around the world. According to the agreement's provisional text, the document is supposed to remain confidential and concealed from public view for at least five years after being signed. Even the World Trade Organization has been sidelined from negotiations.

But thanks to whistle blowing sites like WikiLeaks, the Associated Whistleblowing Press and Filtrala, crucial details have seeped to the surface. Here's a brief outline of what is known to date (for more specifics click here, here and here):

1.TiSA would "lock in" the privatization of services – even in cases where private service delivery has failed – meaning governments can never return water, energy, health, education or other services to public hands.

2.TiSA would restrict signatory governments' right to regulate stronger standards in the public's interest. For example, it will affect environmental regulations, licensing of health facilities and laboratories, waste disposal centres, power plants, school and university accreditation and broadcast licenses.

3.TiSA would limit the ability of governments to regulate the financial services industry, at a time when the global economy is still struggling to recover from a crisis caused primarily by financial deregulation. More specifically, if signed the trade agreement would:

4. TiSA would ban any restrictions on cross-border information flows and localization requirements for ICT service providers. A provision proposed by US negotiators would rule out any conditions for the transfer of personal data to third countries that are currently in place in EU data protection law. In other words, multinational corporations will have carte blanche to pry into just about every facet of the working and personal lives of the inhabitants of roughly a quarter of the world's 200-or-so nations.

As I wrote in LEAKED: Secret Negotiations to Let Big Brother Go Global, if TiSA is signed in its current form – and we will not know exactly what that form is until at least five years down the line – our personal data will be freely bought and sold on the open market place without our knowledge; companies and governments will be able to store it for as long as they desire and use it for just about any purpose.

5. Finally, TiSA, together with its sister treaties TPP and TTIP, would establish a new global enclosure system, one that seeks to impose on all 52 signatory governments a rigid framework of international corporate law designed to exclusively protect the interests of corporations, relieving them of financial risk and social and environmental responsibility. In short, it would hammer the final nail in the already bedraggled coffin of national sovereignty.

A Dangerous Precedent

Given its small size (population: 3.4 million) and limited geopolitical or geo-economic clout, Uruguay's withdrawal from TiSA is unlikely to upset the treaty's advancement. The governments of the major trading nations will continue their talks behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of the people they are supposed to represent. The U.S. Congress has already agreed to grant the Obama administration fast-track approval on trade agreements like TiSA while the European Commission can be expected to do whatever the corporatocracy demands.

However, as the technology writer Glyn Moody notes, Uruguay's defection – like the people of Iceland's refusal to assume all the debts of its rogue banks – possesses a tremendous symbolic importance:

It says that, yes, it is possible to withdraw from global negotiations, and that the apparently irreversible trade deal ratchet can actually be turned back. It sets an important precedent that other nations with growing doubts about TISA – or perhaps TPP – can look to and maybe even follow.

Naturally, the representatives of Uruguay's largest corporations would agree to disagree. The government's move was one of its biggest mistakes of recent years, according to Gabriel Oddone, an analyst with the financial consultancy firm CPA Ferrere. It was based on a "superficial discussion of the treaty's implications."

What Oddone conveniently fails to mention is that Uruguay is the only nation on the planet that has had any kind of public discussion, superficial or not, about TiSA and its potentially game-changing implications. Perhaps it's time that changed.

The timing could not have been worse.

Read… Is Brazil About to Drag Down Spain's Biggest Bank?

Selected Skeptical Comments

ella, September 23, 2015 at 9:28 am

So, not to be snarky or anything but when does the invasion of Uruguay begin. Wondering: don't they want to pay $750.00 per pill for what cost $13.85 the day before? Aren't they interested in predatory capitalism? What is going on down there?

Jim Haygood, September 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm

Most symbolic is that the eighth round of multilateral trade negotiations under GATT (now WTO) kicked off in Punta del Este, Uruguay in Sep. 1986.

It went into effect in 1995, and is still known as the Uruguay Round.

susan the other, September 23, 2015 at 1:21 pm

And will international corporations issue their own fiat; pass their own laws; and prosecute their own genocide? Contrary to their group hallucinations, corporations cannot replace government. And clearly, somebody forgot to tell them that capitalism, corporatism, cannot survive without growth. The only growth they will achieve is raiding other corporations. They are more powerless and vulnerable than they ever want to admit.

hunkerdown, September 23, 2015 at 8:13 pm

And will international corporations issue their own fiat; pass their own laws; and prosecute their own genocide?

Sure. There's prior art. Company scrip, substance "abuse" policies, and Bhopal (for a bit different definition of "prosecute").

In the US, corporations largely have replaced government since WWII or so, or at least pretend to offer the services that a government might provide.


likbez, September 24, 2015 at 10:54 pm

They are more powerless and vulnerable than they ever want to admit.

You are dreaming. Neoliberalism that we have now as a dominant social system is a flavor of corporatism. If so, it is corporations which now represent the most politically powerful actors. They literally rule the country. And it is they who select the president, most congressmen and Senators. Try to ask yourself a question: to what political force Barak "change we can believe in" Obama serves.

As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) aptly noted:

"And the banks - hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created - are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place"

gordon, September 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm

The TISA has a history. It's really just a continuation of the MAI treaty which the OECD failed to conclude back in the 1990s.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilateral_Agreement_on_Investment

Joe, September 24, 2015 at 2:38 am

What I don't get is why all those countries want to sign up to these agreements. I can see what is in it for the US elites, but how does it help these smaller countries?

likbez, September 24, 2015 at 10:43 pm

Elites of those small countries are now transnational. So in a way they represent the fifth column of globalization. That explains their position: own profit stands before interests of the country.

vidimi, September 24, 2015 at 4:19 am

This is such a huge, huge, vital issue. Privatisation of public assets has to rank as one of the highest crimes at the government level. It is treason, perhaps the only crime for which i wouldn't object capital punishment.

What's more, we now have some 40 years of data showing that privatisation doesn't work. surely, we can organise and successfully argue that privatisation has never worked for any country any time. There needs to be an intellectual assault on privatisation discrediting it forever.

[Jul 14, 2015] Francis in America: a radical pope journeys to the heart of the [neoliberal] machine

Notable quotes:
"... Note the adjective " unfettered ". Anything that is not sanctioned by the rule of law is not good for anyone. The challenge today is extractive capitalism. Some of this can be addressed by tax policy. Bankruptcy law needs to be changed to hold liable those executives who take out excessive amounts of funds from an enterprize. Personal property needs need better protection. Existing environmental laws need to be enforced. ..."
"... My understanding is that Pope Francis (I am not Catholic) has spoken about the inherent unfairness of "unrestricted" capitalism. He has not denounced capitalism. His words are painstaking, accurately stated & precise. ..."
"... I like his moves, promoting climate change, making a point in visiting the poorest countries on Earth, and naming Capitalists as members of a greedy system, not capable of taking on the role of providing goods and services to the Needy, and of course, the Pontiff heaps religious obscenities upon the War Mongers, mainly in the West. I am going to give my Bible another chance, here's hoping . ..."
"... He seems to be pointing out a few realities. Which, as others have pointed out is causing much wriggling by those who have complete faith by the dollar in the sky. ..."
"... Of course all the corporate politicians both Republican and Democrat are going to oppose the Pope. Forget the politicians and let's see how the American people react. I expect the Pope will be warmly received as a man of empathy and humanity who shows concern for the poor. I hope that when he addresses congress he does not pull any of his punches. ..."
Jul 14, 2015 | The Guardian

LivinVirginia -> Ken Barnes 13 Jul 2015 20:27

I do not mean to misquote him. Pope Francis is a good man, but before he lectures the US on capitalism, he needs to remember that the Vatican bank has been embroiled in their own banking scandals. I was raised Catholic. I do not have a good impression of the men who run the church. They spend a lot of time asking for money, and I always wonder if they are spending it hiring lawyers for pedophile priests. I like the Pope though. He seems better that the rest of the lot. I think the tax exemptions for religions should be stopped. Religions spend too much time discriminating against certain segments of society. I think they are wolves in sheep's clothing.

RoachAmerican 13 Jul 2015 20:19

Note the adjective " unfettered ". Anything that is not sanctioned by the rule of law is not good for anyone. The challenge today is extractive capitalism. Some of this can be addressed by tax policy. Bankruptcy law needs to be changed to hold liable those executives who take out excessive amounts of funds from an enterprize. Personal property needs need better protection. Existing environmental laws need to be enforced.

William Brown 13 Jul 2015 20:05

I imagine The Pope will say something about an 'eye of a needle'

brianboru1014 13 Jul 2015 19:52

Wall Street via the New York Times and the WS Journal is well on the way to denigrating this man. Even though most Americans support him, these publications will do everything to belittle him.

CaptainWillard -> CaptainWillard 13 Jul 2015 19:36

The US government gives "only" tax exempt status. On the other-hand, citizens of the US very likely raise more money for the Catholic Church than the citizens of any other country.

Ken Barnes -> LivinVirginia 13 Jul 2015 19:30

My understanding is that Pope Francis (I am not Catholic) has spoken about the inherent unfairness of "unrestricted" capitalism. He has not denounced capitalism. His words are painstaking, accurately stated & precise. It helps no one in a discussion to change what another has said & then attempt to debate the misquote.

Greenshoots -> goatrider 13 Jul 2015 19:29

And a shedload of other "purposes" as well:

The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals. The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

Richard Martin 13 Jul 2015 19:20

Francis really follows in the footsteps of the First Fisherman, radicalised in God's format .
I like his moves, promoting climate change, making a point in visiting the poorest countries on Earth, and naming Capitalists as members of a greedy system, not capable of taking on the role of providing goods and services to the Needy, and of course, the Pontiff heaps religious obscenities upon the War Mongers, mainly in the West. I am going to give my Bible another chance, here's hoping .

John Fahy 13 Jul 2015 19:16

He seems to be pointing out a few realities. Which, as others have pointed out is causing much wriggling by those who have complete faith by the dollar in the sky.

goatrider -> LivinVirginia 13 Jul 2015 19:01

As it does every other religion----

TerryMcGee -> Magali Luna 13 Jul 2015 19:00

Up until this pope, I would have agreed with you. But this pope is different. In one step, he has taken the papacy from being a major part of the problem to a major force for good. We can't expect him to fix all the problems in the church and its doctrines - that's not the work of one generation. But if he can play a major part in fixing the two massive world problems he has focussed on - climate change and rampant capitalism - he will have done enough for one lifetime.

And I get the impression that he's only warming up....

LivinVirginia -> goatrider 13 Jul 2015 18:34

"The US government gives the Vatican nothing...".

Not quite. The US Government gives the Church tax-exemption.

David Dougherty 13 Jul 2015 18:13

Of course all the corporate politicians both Republican and Democrat are going to oppose the Pope. Forget the politicians and let's see how the American people react. I expect the Pope will be warmly received as a man of empathy and humanity who shows concern for the poor. I hope that when he addresses congress he does not pull any of his punches.

Cooper2345 13 Jul 2015 17:59

I like the gift that Morales gave to the Pope, the crucifix over the hammer and sickle. It shows the victory of Christianity over Soviet communism that one of Francis' predecessors helped to shepherd. It's a great reminder of a wonderful triumph and reason to be thankful for the genius of St. John Paul II.

[Jul 12, 2015] In Fiery Speeches, Francis Excoriates Global Capitalism

The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.
Notable quotes:
"... The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy. ..."
"... "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said on Wednesday. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment." ..."
"... "I'm a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have," said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government ..."
"... "What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?" he asked. "A lot! They can do a lot. ..."
Jul 11, 2015 | msn.com

ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay - His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the "dung of the devil." He does not simply argue that systemic "greed for money" is a bad thing. He calls it a "subtle dictatorship" that "condemns and enslaves men and women."

Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism - even as he called for a global movement against a "new colonialism" rooted in an inequitable economic order.

The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.

"This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop," said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.

The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II's anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.

Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor - a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis' increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed - yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.

Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.

Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.

"I think the pope is singing to the music that's already in the air," said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. "And that's a good thing. That's what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system."

Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical "Rerum Novarum" - or, "On Condition of Labor."

Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, "We've been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening."

Francis has such a strong sense of urgency "because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas," Mr. Schneck said. "That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff."

Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social advocates, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a "throwaway culture" tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.

In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. "How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!" he said on Wednesday night.

It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si'," released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion - while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.

"I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor - rather than just jumping from the reality of people's misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem," said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.

Francis' sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American Communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis' speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit - even as Francis seemed startled and caught off guard when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.

Francis' primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and reposition it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church's complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country's corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.

Inevitably, Francis' critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.

The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, "Capital in the Twenty-First Century," that rising wealth inequality was a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.

Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis' critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. "Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy," he said on Wednesday. "It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment."

Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said that he saw Francis as making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a "social mortgage" on accumulated wealth - a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for reforms both for moral and pragmatic reasons. "I'm a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have," said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.

Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. "All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don't prescribe a remedy," said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new "recipe" to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a "process of change" undertaken at the grass-roots level.

"What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?" he asked. "A lot! They can do a lot. "You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands."

[Jul 10, 2015] Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope Francis

"...He said he supported their efforts to obtain "so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three "Ls": land, lodging and labour"."
"...he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil", and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries. "
"..."Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change," the pope said, decrying a system that "has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature"."
"...The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain 'free trade' treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor"
"...A lot of us are awaiting the 3rd WW, between Russia and the US, between China and the US, between the West and the East, while the war is on. ... Is it work of Capitalism? I think that capitalism in it's modern form lies near this war, and both are made by the same people."
"...Still, the subject of my comment was not the predominance of Christians, but how much poverty exists in this predominantly Christian nation. They ignore the most fundamental teachings they profess to believe--the admonitions of Jesus to feed, clothe, and generally help the poor."
"...There is a reason the US has over 900 bases across the world, and that is to insure its business interests."
"...An economic system is not a matter of either-or. Those who profit from "Laissez Faire" capitalism like to push the idea that the only alternative is communism. Pope Francis is obviously a proponent of a "mixed economy" as most people in the US on the left are. He is attacking "unbridled capitalism" not an adequately regulated free-market economy."
"...Animal farm is not about the failure of either Communism or Fascism....it is a commentary on the corruption of power; not a uniquely Communist problem. The machinations of politics also feature quite heavily...divide and rule, propaganda, double standards and the use of language to achieve ones aims...these are abuses of power that both the left and the right have been guilty of. Hitler's Germany was Fascist (right wing extremism), Stalin's Russia was Communist (left wing extremism)..."
Jul 10, 2015 | The Guardian

Pope Francis has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a "new colonialism" by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the "sacred rights" of labor, lodging and land.

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the "so-called conquest of America".

The pontiff also demanded an immediate end to what he called the "genocide" of Christians taking place in the Middle East and beyond, describing it as a third world war.

"Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus," Pope Francis said.

"In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end."

Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil", and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.

Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical Laudato Si on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem.

Pope Francis shakes hands with a mining worker's leader watched by Bolivia's president Evo Morales, right, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Photograph: Rodrigo Abd/AP

Francis made the address in the city of Santa Cruz to participants of the second world meeting of popular movements, an international body that brings together organisations of people on the margins of society, including the poor, the unemployed and peasants who have lost their land. The Vatican hosted the first meeting last year.

He said he supported their efforts to obtain "so elementary and undeniably necessary a right as that of the three "Ls": land, lodging and labour".

His speech was preceded by lengthy remarks from the left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales, who wore a jacket adorned with the face of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara. He was executed in Bolivia in 1967 by CIA-backed Bolivian troops.

"Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change," the pope said, decrying a system that "has imposed the mentality of profit at any price, with no concern for social exclusion or the destruction of nature".

"This system is by now intolerable: farm workers find it intolerable, labourers find it intolerable, communities find it intolerable, peoples find it intolerable. The earth itself – our sister, Mother Earth, as Saint Francis would say – also finds it intolerable," he said in an hour-long speech that was interrupted by applause and cheering dozens of times.

Since his election in 2013, the first pope from Latin America has often spoken out in defence of the poor and against unbridled capitalism but the speech in Santa Cruz was the most comprehensive to date on the issues he has championed.

Francis' previous attacks on capitalism have prompted stiff criticism from politicians and commentators in the United States, where he is due to visit in September.

The pontiff appeared to take a swipe at international monetary organisations such as the IMF and the development aid policies by some developed countries.

"No actual or established power has the right to deprive peoples of the full exercise of their sovereignty. Whenever they do so, we see the rise of new forms of colonialism which seriously prejudice the possibility of peace and justice," he said.

"The new colonialism takes on different faces. At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain 'free trade' treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor," he said.

Last week, Francis called on European authorities to keep human dignity at the centre of debate for a solution to the economic crisis in Greece.

He defended labor unions and praised poor people who had formed cooperatives to create jobs where previously "there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy".

In one of the sections on colonialism, he said:

"I say this to you with regret: many grave sins were committed against the native peoples of America in the name of God."

He added: "I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offences of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.

"There was sin and an abundant amount of it."

The audience gave Francis a standing ovation when he put on a yellow miner's hat that was given to him at the end of his speech.

The pope made his speech at the end of his first full day in Bolivia, where he arrived on Wednesday. On Thursday morning he said a mass for hundreds of thousands of people and said that everyone had a moral duty to help the poor, and that those with means could not wish they would just "go away".

Francis praised Bolivia's social reforms to spread wealth under Morales. On Friday, he will visit Bolivia's notoriously violent Palmasola prison.

The pope looked bemused on Wednesday night when Morales handed him one of the more unusual gifts he has received: a sculpted wooden hammer and sickle – the symbol of communism – with a figure of a crucified Christ resting on the hammer.
Francis leaves on Friday for Paraguay, the last stop on his "homecoming" trip.


Westonboy 10 Jul 2015 09:01

The Pope didn't actually say "unbridled capitalism is the dung of the devil" did he?
So why is that the headline of this piece?


valeronfreza 10 Jul 2015 08:46

Actually, I find one of his thoughts really interesting. A lot of us are awaiting the 3rd WW, between Russia and the US, between China and the US, between the West and the East, while the war is on. The whole civilized world takes part in this mess, the thing is that this war looks different from what we're used to see. I mean, we get information, made by those, who wants us to see it different, like something, that happening far away, though it's dangerous as hell.
Is it work of Capitalism? I think that capitalism in it's modern form lies near this war, and both are made by the same people.


cblyth79 10 Jul 2015 08:41

he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil"

He has hit the nail on the head. This is everything that is wrong with society. Every decision is taken with regards to making as much money as possible. However, the great irony is that even if people do make money, their constant desire for more means they are never happy or fulfilled. Meanwhile, socially and environmentally we suffer greatly due to this ultimately fruitless pursuit of as much money as possible.


PM782_ -> Greenshoots 10 Jul 2015 08:40

Generally speaking, you are right of course.

I have very little time for virgin men in silly hats & dresses, carrying crucifixes and expecting everyone to take them seriously when history shows us they cannot be trusted to act in an ethical way, and will (as always) be more concerned about amassing money and influence than doing any good in the world.

The whole thing is ludicrous and you should be ashamed that you believe in it. It is really astonishing.

Greenshoots -> Drew Layton 10 Jul 2015 08:39

Atheist trope. One could as easily say "Religion compels unreasonable people to do reasonable things".


Westonboy -> pol098 10 Jul 2015 08:37

I'm happy to salute the personal contributions you make but, of course, the computer that you will have used to write or test your software is a product of capitalism.
Also, most of the the goods you recycle or give away are no doubt the products of capitalism.
Anti-capitalists don't seem to have any alternative method of wealth creation.


EnglishChapin 10 Jul 2015 08:26

In the article:

Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil"

In the headline:

"Unbridled capitalism is the 'dung of the devil', says Pope Francis"


kycol1 -> natsirtguy 10 Jul 2015 08:24

As a Unitarian/Universalist I am equally, if not more, wary of that practice. Francis, however, is a public figure who has the right to express his opinion. While he was definitely speaking to a Catholic audience, he was not giving his words the weight of a Papal Encyclical. Also, it is the accepted and expected belief of Catholics that the Pope directs their thinking as far as faith goes. I do not see his words being a act of forcing his will on me, personally. All public figures have the right to express their opinion on that subject. I also believe that regulation should go further than dealing with "negative externalities" unless you view the financial crisis of 2008 as a negative externality . While the causes of the crisis were complex and varied, lax regulatory oversight during the Reagan and Clinton Administrations played a role in creating the conditions for it.

lesmandalasdeniki -> hollyjadoon 10 Jul 2015 08:13

Why do you want poor people to rise up? On what sense? Revolution to topple world governments, what's next? What kind of governmental system will we apply to ensure law and order? Will it be one world government by the Vatican?


GallopingGournmet -> citizen_1111 10 Jul 2015 08:09

I'm glad you set everyone straight on this. We were all thinking capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. But clearly capitalism involves greed for money, exploitation and environmental destruction. The very fact you've attempted to pick at this shows you're missing the overarching point. The Pope is criticizing how our unregulated "socioeconomic system" - which was capitalism the last time I looked - for being responsible for ruining society, enslaving men and women and destroying human fraternity. All of which is pretty spot on. Excuse me for having to clarify this for you.


citizen_1111 10 Jul 2015 07:48

Wouldn't it be great if newspapers like the Guardian printed the truth, rather than spin. The pope did not say that "unbridled capitalism is the dung of devil". Here's the actual paragraph. It's nothing like the Guardian's deceptive headline.

Today, the scientific community realizes what the poor have long told us: harm, perhaps irreversible harm, is being done to the ecosystem. The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished.

And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called "the dung of the devil". An unfettered pursuit of money rules.

The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people's decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

So he's actually referring to greed for money - a moral sin .... not capitalism, which is basically meritocratic mechanism of funding businesses.


HobbesianWorld -> Drew Layton 10 Jul 2015 07:41

Wrong, it's a predominantly Christian nation. Christians don't own it. Under the Constitution, all beliefs in matters of religion are equal.

Still, the subject of my comment was not the predominance of Christians, but how much poverty exists in this predominantly Christian nation. They ignore the most fundamental teachings they profess to believe--the admonitions of Jesus to feed, clothe, and generally help the poor.

Capitalism isn't a sacred arm of Christianity, yet many (most?) Christians tend to favor Wall Street's gluttony and greed while millions of children live in poverty. Is that what we should see in a "Christian" nation? It's the epitome of hypocrisy.


PM782_ 10 Jul 2015 07:33

The guy in charge of 1 billion plus devout catholics, with all the riches of the Vatican, preaches to us about how excessive capitalism is a bad thing.

This pope seems more reasonable than his predecessors however until he actually DOES something that makes the world a better place and in some way makes up for the history of atrocious behavior that the Catholic church has engaged in, I'm simply not interested.

It is strange though, seeing how many people are hoodwinked by a few choice words, when the organization he represents has been an utter blight on humanity since it began.


heretoeternity -> natsirtguy 10 Jul 2015 07:32

There is a reason the US has over 900 bases across the world, and that is to insure its business interests.

Laurence W 10 Jul 2015 07:18

Devout capitalists/corporatists may not see the symmetry between John Paul II's defiance of the bankruptcy of unbridled Communism and Francis's defiance of the bankruptcy of unfettered Capitalism. They cling to their irrational faith (and that is what it is) in Adam Smith's "invisible hand." The collapse of Communism does not somehow validate Capitalism. It seems Capitalism's true believers must be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st. Century.


ideation2020 -> PeterAB12 10 Jul 2015 07:11

In the West there is a marked reduction in family size since about 1965. There are also far more women at work, the workforce has adapted to almost full attendance of female workers. We generally have accommodated an increase of 70% by reducing family size and equally as important is the accommodation and full attendance of single a and" won't marry" adults.

SmileyFace2 -> natsirtguy 10 Jul 2015 07:10

But Capitalism has resulted in a Plutocracy which leads to rule by the top 1%. So it is not quite a simple as you seem to think hence the need for a mixed economy.


HobbesianWorld 10 Jul 2015 07:08

While I wouldn't put it that way, the Pope is correct that unfettered capitalism is the major source of injustice, especially the injustice of poverty.

It's a source of dark humor for me to hear Christians call the U.S. a "Christian nation" even as they fight to maintain and enhance the cause of poverty--unbridled corporatism; profit over humanity, wealth over justice and selfishness over honor.


Brian Milne -> Kevin Lim 10 Jul 2015 06:59

How much time have you spent in South America? I spent 18 years going back and forth as part of my job, must admit I have not spoken to a Liberation Theology priest (he was actually a Jesuit originally) since October. So perhaps I am just a little bit out of synch.

Life paths include being allowed to express one's sexuality openly and not risk excommunication and denunciation by the church, to be allowed to have abortions and use contraception without being told that you will go to Hell, to be allowed to 'formally' leave the church (some countries still require religion on official document) and to follow political streams that the church condemns as unchristian to name but just a few. By using the pressure of condemnation in the afterlife people are to this day controlled by fear.

Sure nobody is obliged to put money in the dish but too many still fear the stigma of not doing so. If this man can end that then it would be a job well done, but he will not, will he?


cblyth79 -> Manjush 10 Jul 2015 06:51

I agree that overpopulation is a problem, but to me the real problem is the capitalist consumerism of first-world countries and the damage this is causing to the planet. Even if the populations of third-world countries doubled they would not get anywhere near the CO2 that we produce. And that's not even to mention the fact that we have caused climate change and they haven't. To blame overpopulation is to out the blame on third-world countries, when it should be squarely on us.


VivF -> dysro1 10 Jul 2015 06:50

Animal farm is not about the failure of either Communism or Fascism....it is a commentary on the corruption of power; not a uniquely Communist problem. The machinations of politics also feature quite heavily...divide and rule, propaganda, double standards and the use of language to achieve ones aims...these are abuses of power that both the left and the right have been guilty of. Hitler's Germany was Fascist (right wing extremism), Stalin's Russia was Communist (left wing extremism)...

"Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
- Lord Acton


Drew -> Layton 10 Jul 2015 06:48

Yay! Religion has done something that isn't rape, muder, burning at the stake, ripping people's breasts off, implement, beheading, shooting people on beaches, blowing things up, being homophobic, sexist, racist or generally being a complete twat! Let's all jump up and down and burn a pilot! YAY!


Kathy -> Foulds 10 Jul 2015 06:42

We are in very new times....Pope Francis is not afraid to challenge the status quo...Alleluia.


Tony Menezes 10 Jul 2015 06:24

The national interest of the unbridled capitalists has sidelined morality and justice. The third world war has started albeit piecemeal.
This is a strong wake up call from someone that must be listened to.


Greenshoots -> rgrabman 10 Jul 2015 06:23

I can only speak for the UK where I have yet to find a Catholic friend who is not immensely supportive of what the Pope has to say, whatever prominent Tory Catholics may have to say. Catholics on the whole tend to vote Labour.

If you want to see a precursor to what the Pope is now saying, read the Catholic bishops document "The common good" from 1996:
"As at the end of the 19th century, Catholic Social Teaching is concerned to protect the poor and vulnerable from the chill winds of economic forces. The defeat of Communism should not mean the triumph of unbridled capitalism."

"The Catholic doctrine of the common good is incompatible with unlimited freemarket, or laissez-faire, capitalism ...".


Unconstituted -> natsirtguy 10 Jul 2015 06:22

Massively disagree with that bit about him being a non-scientist etc.

If skeptics are still unsure after all the science that has been thrown at them, then perhaps they aren't influenced that way. They follow figures that they personally respect.

And the Pope has a huge following. I am certain that he will have given a lot of people pause for thought recently.

Like many here, as an atheist, I'm no fan of the guy. But causes like social justice, climate change etc need more than just reams of studies. It needs PR.


Greenshoots -> clogexpat 10 Jul 2015 06:17

Which is incorrect because the left is not, and never has been, an identifiable tribe in British politics.
I agree that many people are not tribal about being left wing. They are willing to partner with people whom they disagree with on some issues but where there is a common cause.
However, you just have to read many of the posts in this thread to see that, for many other people, it is a form of tribal allegiance because they, in response to the Pope saying something they probably do agree with, they cannot refrain from attacking him on unrelated issues. They are not interested in supporting the common cause.


Longasyourarm -> MaximTS 10 Jul 2015 06:15

Well spotted but many here are in it for the opportunity to exercise their demons of hatred, bigotry and racism. Most don't even read the article and jump right to the comments in their haste to slag off Catholics, the Pope, Religion in general. I suppose it is still better than invasion of other countries and stealing their stuff, isn't it Tony?


domrice 10 Jul 2015 06:13

Finally, a pontiff brave enough to enunciate the core values of Jesus Christ. Oh that the world had political leaders who weren't shameless slaves to the moneylenders.


discreto -> SmileyFace2 10 Jul 2015 06:11

That is because the Free Trade is not Fair Trade, this is what Pope Francis is talking about. Capitalism is Free Trade it is not Fair Trade with the People who work to ensure the Goods are there to trade are not getting what is a Fair and Just Living wage, they are being used by the Corporations who make Millions out of their hard work. I support Pope Francis and his Courage in speaking up for the People in developing Countries who are made to depend on Capitalism against their will. At last he is the Pope who is acknowledging the sins of the Church both past and present, with a strong voice of Apology. It would be good if he could sit down with The First Nations of America to take part in their native Ritual of Smudging from Smoke of burnt Herbs and grasses for forgiveness and Peace. I pray for Pope Francis's Protection.


kycol1 -> natsirtguy 10 Jul 2015 06:02

An economic system is not a matter of either-or. Those who profit from "Laissez Faire" capitalism like to push the idea that the only alternative is communism. Pope Francis is obviously a proponent of a "mixed economy" as most people in the US on the left are. He is attacking "unbridled capitalism" not an adequately regulated free-market economy.


ID1780902 10 Jul 2015 05:55

Why so many negative comments? Here we have an extremely high profile figure publicly rallying people all over the world to help with climate change, and to oppose some of the excesses of capitalism.

Regardless of what you think of the Catholic church, many people will listen to what he says, and take it very seriously. If he only changes the mind of a single climate-change denier that would be enough, but I think he will do a lot more than that, particularly in the US.

[Jun 23, 2015] Bill Black: A Harvard Don is Enraged that Pope Francis is Opposed to the World Economic Order

Notable quotes:
"... By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with http://neweconomicperspectives.org " rel="nofollow">New Economic Perspectives ..."
"... laissez faire. ..."
"... The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein ..."
www.nakedcapitalism.com
Posted on June 23, 2015 by Yves Smith

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with http://neweconomicperspectives.org" rel="nofollow">New Economic Perspectives

A New York Times article entitled "Championing Environment, Francis Takes Aim at Global Capitalism" quotes a conventional Harvard economist, Robert N. Stavins. Stavins is enraged by Pope Francis' position on the environment because the Pope is "opposed to the world economic order." The rage, unintentionally, reveals why conventional economics is the most dangerous ideology pretending to be a "science."

Stavins' attacks on the Pope quickly became personal and dismissive. This is odd, for Pope Francis' positions on the environment are the same as Stavins' most important positions. Stavins' natural response to the Pope's views on the environment – had Stavin not been an economist – would have been along the lines of "Pope Francis is right, and we urgently need to make his vision a reality."

Stavins' fundamental position is that there is an urgent need for a "radical restructuring" of the markets to prevent them from causing a global catastrophe. That is Pope Francis' fundamental position. But Stavins ends up mocking and trying to discredit the Pope.

I was struck by the similarity of Stavins response to Pope Francis to the rich man's response to Jesus. The episode is reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in similar terms. I'll use Matthew's version (KJAV), which begins at 19:16 with the verse:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Jesus responds:

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

The young rich man wants to know which commandments he needs to follow to gain eternal life.

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

The young, wealthy man is enthused. The Rabbi that he believes has the secret of eternal life has agreed to personally answer his question as to how to obtain it. He passes the requirements the Rabbi lists, indeed, he has met those requirements since he was a child.

But then Jesus lowers the boom in response to the young man's question on what he "lacks."

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

We need to "review the bidding" at this juncture. The young man is wealthy. He believes that Jesus knows the secret to obtaining eternal life. His quest was to discover – and comply – with the requirement to achieve eternal life. The Rabbi has told him the secret – and then gone well beyond the young man's greatest hopes by offering to make him a disciple. The door to eternal life is within the young man's power to open. All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor. The Rabbi goes further and offers to make the young man his disciple. In exchange, the young man will secure "treasure in heaven" – eternal life and a place of particular honor for his sacrifice and his faith in Jesus.

Jesus' answer – the answer the young man thought he wished to receive more than anything in the world – the secret of eternal life, causes the young man great distress.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

The young man rejects eternal life because he cannot bear the thought of giving his "great possessions" to "the poor." Notice that the young man is not evil. He keeps the commandments. He is eager to do a "good thing" to gain eternal life. He has "great possessions" and is eager to trade a generous portion of his wealth as a good deed to achieve eternal life. In essence, he is seeking to purchase an indulgence from Jesus.

But Jesus' response causes the young, wealthy man to realize that he must make a choice. He must decide which he loves more – eternal life or his great possessions. He is "sorrowful" for Jesus' response causes him to realize that he loves having his great possessions for his remaining span of life on earth more than eternal life itself.

Jesus offers him not only the means to open the door to eternal life but the honor of joining him as a disciple. The young man is forced by Jesus' offer to realize that his wealth has so fundamentally changed him that he will voluntarily give up his entry into eternal life. He is not simply "sorrowful" that he will not enter heaven – he is "sorrowful" to realize that heaven is open to him – but he will refuse to enter it because of his greed. His wealth has become a golden trap of his own creation that will damn him. The golden bars of his cell are invisible and he can remove them at any time and enter heaven, but the young man realizes that his greed for his "great possessions" has become so powerful that his self-created jail cell has become inescapable. It is only when Jesus opens the door to heaven that the young man realizes for the first time in his life how completely his great possessions have corrupted and doomed him. He knows he is committing the suicide of his soul – and that he is powerless to change because he has been taught to value his own worth as a person by the extent of his great possessions.

Jesus then makes his famous saying that captures the corrupting effects of great wealth.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

The remainder of the passage is of great importance to Luther's doctrine of "justification by faith alone" and leads to Jesus' famous discussion of why "the last shall be first," (in which his anti-market views are made even more explicit) but the portions I have quoted are adequate to my purpose.

Pope Francis' positions on the environment and climate are the greatest boon that Stavin has received in decades. The Pope, like Stavins, tells us that climate change is a disaster that requires urgent governmental action to fix. Stavins could receive no more joyous news. Instead of being joyous, however, Stavins is sorrowful. Indeed, unlike the wealthy man who simply leaves after hearing the Rabbi's views, Stavins rages at and heaps scorn on the prelate, Pope Francis. Stavins' email to the New York Times about the Pope's position on climate change contains this double ideological smear.

The approach by the pope, an Argentine who is the first pontiff from the developing world, is similar to that of a "small set of socialist Latin American countries that are opposed to the world economic order, fearful of free markets, and have been utterly dismissive and uncooperative in the international climate negotiations," Dr. Stavins said.

Stavins' work explicitly states that the "free markets" he worships are causing "mass extinction" and a range of other disasters. Stavins' work explicitly states that the same "free markets" are incapable of change – they cause incentives so perverse that they are literally suicidal – and the markets are incapable of reform even when they are committing suicide by laissez faire. That French term is what Stavins uses to describe our current markets. Pope Francis agrees with each of these points.

Pope Francis says, as did Jesus, that this means that we must not worship "free markets," that we must think first of the poor, and that justice and fairness should be our guides to proper conduct. Stavins, like the wealthy young man, is forced to make a choice. He chooses "great possessions." Unlike the wealthy young man, however, Stavins is enraged rather than "sorrowful" and Stavins lashes out at the religious leader. He is appalled that an Argentine was made Pope, for Pope Francis holds views "that are opposed to the world economic order [and] fearful of free markets." Well, yes. A very large portion of the world's people oppose "the Washington Consensus" and want a very different "world economic order." Most of the world's top religious leaders are strong critics of the "world economic order."

As to being "fearful of free markets," Stavins' own work shows that his use of the word "free" in that phrase is not simply meaningless, but false. Stavins explains that the people, animals, and plants that are the imminent victims of "mass extinction" have no ability in the "markets" to protect themselves from mass murder. They are "free" only to become extinct, which makes a mockery of the word "free."

Similarly, Stavins' work shows that any sentient species would be "fearful" of markets that Stavins proclaims are literally suicidal and incapable of self-reform. Stavins writes that only urgent government intervention that forces a "radical restructuring" of the markets can save our planet from "mass extinction." When I read that I believed that he was "fearful of free markets."

We have all had the experience of seeing the "free markets" blow up the global economy as recently as 2008. We saw there, as well, that only massive government intervention could save the markets from a global meltdown. Broad aspects of the financial markets became dominated by our three epidemics of "accounting control fraud."

Stavins is appalled that a religious leader could oppose a system based on the pursuit and glorification of "great possessions." He is appalled that a religious leader is living out the Church's mission to provide a "preferential option for the poor." Stavins hates the Church's mission because it is "socialist" – and therefore so obviously awful that it does not require refutation by Stavins. This cavalier dismissal of religious beliefs held by most humans is revealing coming from a field that proudly boasts the twin lies that it is a "positive" "science." Theoclassical economists embrace an ideology that is antithetical to nearly every major religion.

Stavins, therefore, refuses to enter the door that Pope Francis has opened. Stavins worships a system based on the desire to accumulate "great possessions" – even though he knows that the markets pose an existential threat to most species on this planet and even though he knows that his dogmas increasingly aid the worst, most fraudulent members of our society to become wealthy through forms of "looting" (Akerlof and Romer 1993) that make other people poorer. The result is that Stavins denounces Pope Francis rather than embracing him as his most valuable ally.

Conclusion: Greed and Markets Kill: Suicide by Laissez Faire

The old truths remain. The worship of "great possessions" wreaks such damage on our humanity that we come to love them more than life itself and act in a suicidal fashion toward our species and as mass destroyers of other species. Jesus' insight was that this self-corruption is so common, so subtle, and so powerful that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Today, he would probably use "economist" rather than "camel."

Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet.

Adam Smith propounded the paradox that greed could lead the butcher and baker (in a village where everyone could judge reputation and quality) to reliably produce goods of high quality at the lowest price. The butcher and baker, therefore, would act (regardless of their actual motivations) as if they cared about their customers. Smith observed that the customer of small village merchant's products would find the merchant's self-interest a more reliable assurance of high quality than the merchant's altruism.

But Stavins makes clear in his writing that this is not how markets function in the context of "external" costs to the environment. In the modern context, the energy markets routinely function in a manner that Stavins rightly depicts as leading to mass murder. Stavins so loves the worship of the quest for "great possessions" that he is eager to try to discredit Pope Francis as a leader in the effort to prevent "mass extinction" (Stavins' term) – suicide by laissez faire.

(No, I am not now and never was or will be a Catholic.)

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Clive June 23, 2015 at 6:04 am

The Pope's recent comments stirred an old memory from when I was a child, for some reason. Growing up in England in the 1980's, it didn't escape even my childish notice that the series "Dr. Who" was often a vehicle for what would now been deemed outrageously left wing thinking and ideas.

One such episode was The Pirate Planet. The plot's premise was that a race had created a mechanism for consuming entire planets at a time, extracting mineral wealth from the doomed planet being destroyed in the process and using energy and resources for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite with the remnants being offered as trinkets for the masses.

A small subset of the evil race was subliminally aware of what was happening. One of the lines spoken by a character really stuck in my mind, when he said after the reality of their existence was explained to him "so… people die… to make us rich?"

At the time, it was intended I think more as an allegory on the exploitation of South African gold miners under apartheid than as a general critique of capitalism by the prevailing socialist thinking in Britain in that era (it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country. Perhaps it was…). No wonder the Thatcher government aggressively targeted the BBC (who produced the show), seeing it, probably rightly, as a hotbed of Trotskyite ideology.

But the point the show was trying to make is as valid now as it was then and is the same point the Pope Francis is making. A great deal of our material wealth and affluence is built on others' suffering. It is wrong. And the system which both perpetrates the suffering and the people who benefit from it needs to change. Us turkeys are going to have to vote for Christmas.

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 6:43 am

Nice post, Clive. But I thought Brits ate goose at Christmas, and Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving ;-)

Yes, where have all the leftists gone? Is Cornel West the only one "left" in America? Forty years ago I was moving to the Right, in reaction to the Left. The Cold War was still on, patriotism et al.

The current paradigm is insane … so nature will not allow it to continue much longer. G-d not so much. The US today is qualitatively different than it was in the 70s.

Trotsky was one of the first people to understand Hitler. Stalin not so much. Our current crop of elder pundits of Neoliberalism … originally were Jewish trotskyites back in the 60s. Neoliberalism was perhaps pragmatic back then, but has outlived its usefulness.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 7:59 am

old queen vic introduced the turkey to britain and it has supplanted the goose as a christmas special. i prefer goose, though.

James Levy June 23, 2015 at 10:36 am

My friend Tracey and her family still had "joint of beef" for Christmas.

James Levy June 23, 2015 at 6:47 am

The overweening arrogance of the Thatcherites and the neoclassical ideologues that are in evidence at Harvard is their insistence that what they peddle is not a set of values, but a "science", and that their set of values is the only set of values even worth considering (TINA). The Pope's job is to remind us all of another possible set of values and organizing principles. No one said you have to believe in them. But they have a right to be on the table when we collectively chose what kind of world we want to live in.

John Smith June 23, 2015 at 6:13 am

"All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor." Bill Black

No. He is to sell all he owns but Jesus does not say that he is to then give away ALL the money. The rich guy's problem is his possessions, not money. Note that Matthew, another rich guy, did not give away all his money yet he was a disciple of Jesus.

As for "free markets", what is free market about government-subsidized/privileged banks?

Patricia June 23, 2015 at 6:35 am

Don't know if this has been linked at NC; it is another righteous rant on the subject:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/06/19/in-the-usa-i-cannot-write/

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:18 am

Nice. Takeaway? … "no true feelings" … insightful description of the people around me. The West in a state of nervous breakdown.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

something didn't read right about this piece to me. hard to put my finger on it, but it came across as a bit hypocritical and a lot bitter. apart from that, the style is eclectic and the thoughts are scrambled all over the place. more a rant than a coherent argument.

It all began when I arrived. After travelling some 48 hours from South Africa to Southern California, carrying films and books for the conference, I was not even met at the airport. So I took a taxi. But nobody met me at the place where I was supposed to stay. I stood on the street for more than one hour.

in this passage he sounds like he suffers from affluenza. in those poor but righteous third world countries, he is treated like a rockstar. in the rotten US, he is dismayed at the lack of attention. although no doubt he has a point, it smacks a bit of entitlement.

not vltchek's best work, but then again, he did admit to writing most of it on the plane.

Synoia June 23, 2015 at 6:42 am

it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country.

True. And greed, as described by Bill Black. has no limits.

Moneta June 23, 2015 at 6:56 am

Free markets and world economic order in the same sentence?

Disturbed Voter June 23, 2015 at 7:10 am

Irony perhaps? But then actual free markets are only in the imagination of Adam Smith.

William C June 23, 2015 at 7:28 am

I seem to remember plenty in WoN about businessmen conspiring against the public.

Eric Patton June 23, 2015 at 8:22 am

Very awesome essay.

Ulysses June 23, 2015 at 8:52 am

"Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical "free markets" that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing "mass extinction" is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain "great possessions" even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet."

This is an extremely important point. We cannot combat neoliberal ideology as if it were simply a set of rational assumptions, albeit flowing from flawed premises. No, it is a religious dogma of greed, set up to combat all of the more communitarian and gentle schools of religious thought– including the Christianity of Pope Francis, or the environmentalism of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecologists.

diptherio June 23, 2015 at 9:39 am

Good to see that someone else pulls out the "rich young man" bit occasionally. Not many Christians I've talked to seem to be aware of it, much less of the implications. Good on ya'.

vidimi June 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

fundamentalists like to take things in the bible literally, but they know that jesus didn't mean it when he said that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God"

Garrett Pace June 23, 2015 at 10:05 am

Maybe he didn't realize that his possessions owned him, but the rich young man knew that *something* was wrong. For all his virtue and good works, he could feel things weren't right inside himself.

Vatch June 23, 2015 at 10:30 am

Pope Francis probably hasn't read The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein. If he had read it, he would know that investment bankers are doing God's work.

[Jun 18, 2015] Pope encyclical, climate-change live reaction and analysis

The Guardian

3.00pm BST10:00

Our Rome correspondent Stephanie Kirchgaessner has filed a new report on the encyclical and reaction to it. Here's an extract:
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the pope's top official on social and justice issues, flatly rejected arguments by some conservative politicians in the US that the pope ought to stay out of science.

"Saying that a pope shouldn't deal with science sounds strange since science is a public domain. It is a subject matter that anyone can get in to," Turkson said at a press conference on Thursday.

The pontiff's upcoming document is being hailed as a major intervention in the climate change debate – but what exactly is an encyclical?

In an apparent reference to comments by Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, who said he did not take economic advice from the pope, Turkson said that politicians had the right to disregard Francis's statement, but said it was wrong to do so based on the fact that the pope was not a scientist.

"For some time now it has been the attempt of the whole world to kind of try to de-emphasise the artificial split between religion and public life as if religion plays no role," he said. Then, quoting an earlier pope, he said the best position was to "encourage dialogue between faith and reason".

I'm going to finish up the liveblog now and we'll be switching to rolling news coverage on the Guardian's environment site.

Ban Ki-moon reacts:
The secretary-general welcomes the papal encyclical released today by His Holiness Pope Francis which highlights that climate change is one of the principal challenges facing humanity, and that it is a moral issue requiring respectful dialogue with all parts of society. The secretary-general notes the encyclical's findings that there is "a very solid scientific consensus" showing significant warming of the climate system and that most global warming in recent decades is "mainly a result of human activity".

Ban called on governments to "place the global common good above national interests and to adopt an ambitious, universal climate agreement" at the UN climate summit in Paris this December.

There are shades of the Pope's own language there. In the encyclical, he says: "International [climate] negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good".

2.38pm BST09:38

Suzanne Goldenberg

US church leaders said they saw the message as an urgent call for dialogue and action – one they intend to amplify on social media and in the pulpit.

"It is our marching orders for advocacy," Joseph Kurtz, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Archbishop of Louisville. "It really brings about a new urgency for us."

Church leaders will brief members of Congress on Thursday, and the White House tomorrow on the encyclical.

Kurtz deflected criticism from Republican president contenders such as Jeb Bush that the Pope was straying from the pulpit into political terrain.

"I don't think he is presenting a blue print for saying this is exactly a step by step recipe," Kurtz said. "He is providing a framework and a moral call as a true moral leader to say take seriously the urgency of this matter."

2.33pm BST09:33

Suzanne Goldenberg

Here's a selection of some more US faith group reaction:

Most Reverend Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Stockton:

This document written for all people of good will challenges institutions and individuals to preserve and respect creation as a gift from God to be used for the benefit of all.

Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund, San Francisco:

I'm inspired and grateful for the Pope's high profile leadership and commitment to environmental justice.

Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego:

Local and National Muslim Leadership support policies that both halt environmental degradation and repair that which has already occurred. We stand with any leader, secular or spiritual, who is willing to speak out against this issue.

2.23pm BST09:23

Cardinal Vincent Nichols in the UK has echoed US Archbishop Joseph Edward Kurtz in his view of what the Pope's central message is: what sort of world do we want to leave for future generations to inherit?

The Press Association reports:

Speaking at Our Lady & St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, in Poplar, east London, against the backdrop of the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said one of the key messages of the document was asking "what kind of world we want to leave to those who come afterwards".

The pope's message challenged the idea that infinite material progress was possible, with more goods and more consumption, that "we have to have the latest phone", said the cardinal, who is head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

2.13pm BST09:13

The US House of Representatives' Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition says – in an apparent reference to climate denial on the US right – that "the political will of many is still askew" when it comes to tackling global warming. It hopes the Pope's encyclical might change that:
For those unmoved by the science of climate change, we hope that Pope Francis' encyclical demonstrates the virtue and moral imperative for action. Today's announcement further aligns the scientific and moral case for climate action, yet the political will of many is still askew. The time to act on climate is now, and failure to do so will further damage the planet, its people, and our principles.

Michael Brune, the executive director of the US-based Sierra Club, which has more than 2m members, and has waged a very effective campaign against coal power plants, said:

Pope Francis's guidance as a pastor and a teacher shines a light on the moral obligation we all share to address the climate crisis that transcends borders and politics. This Encyclical underscores the need for climate action not just to protect our environment, but to protect humankind and the most vulnerable communities among us. The vision laid out in these teachings serves as inspiration to everyone across the world who seeks a more just, compassionate, and healthy future.

Updated at 2.16pm BST

2.06pm BST09:06

And talking of short reads, I've written a little piece on eight things we learned from the encyclical.

1.54pm BST08:54

In case you don't have enough time to read the 100+ page encyclical itself (the length varies depending on the language and font size of the versions kicking around),

1.53pm BST08:53

Some more reaction from UK charities on how governments meeting in Paris later this year should listen to the Pope.

Adriano Campolina, chief executive of ActionAid International, said:

The Pope's message highlights the important links between climate change, poverty and overconsumption. They are part of the same problem and any lasting solution to climate change must tackle these fundamental issues.

The powerful truth in Pope Francis' message reaches far beyond the Catholic Church or climate campaigners. Action on climate requires both environmental and social justice. As negotiators work on a climate deal for Paris, our leaders must show the same moral and political courage that Pope Francis has.

Christian conservation group A Rocha said: "national governments should follow the Pope's example and take 'meaningful action' on climate change".

One of the most senior figures in the US Catholic church, Joseph Edward Kurtz, Archbishop of Louisville, has been speaking at a US press conference. He said that that perhaps the central message of the encyclical is: what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?

Here are some highlights from Kurtz:

It's really a very beautiful and very extensive treatment of what Pope Francis has called our common home.

...

The Pope over and over again says that care for the things of this Earth is necessarily bound with care for one another and especially those who are poor. He calls it an interdependency.

...

He speaks on very indivudal choices as well as the public sphere

...

Over and over again he talks about the world as a gift

...

He uses a phrase he's used very often: to reject a throwaway culture.

...

He talks about very specific things, about slums in which people are forced to live, the lack of clean water, about the consumerism mentality.

And that perhaps this is the centre of his message: what kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us?

...

Our pope is speaking with a very much pastor's voice and with a deep respect for the role of science.

Three essential areas that our Catholic community is being called to being involved in:

1) to advocate, a local, national and global level, to advocate for the common good. We know that faith if done well, actually enriches public life. And we know that technology tells us what we can do, but we need moral voices that tell us what we should do

2) [the video cut out at this point so I'm afraid I missed his second point]

3) The use of our resources, in whole we build buildings, should honour the Earth

Here's the Pope himself on that issue of what we leave future generations:

Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us. The issue is one which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.

We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet's capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.

Summary

Updated at 2.21pm BST

1.20pm BST08:20

World Bank group president Jim Yong Kim said:
Today's release of Pope Francis' first encyclical should serve as a stark reminder to all of us of the intrinsic link between climate change and poverty. We know the scientific, business and economic case for action to combat climate change and I welcome the pope's emphasis on our moral obligation to act.

He added:

The pope's encyclical comes at a pivotal moment in the lead up to December's Paris meeting on climate change.

1.06pm BST08:06

Here's some more reaction from religious groups, who say people should heed the Pope's call to action.

Dr Guillermo Kerber of the World Council of Churches, which has previously promised to rule out future investments in fossil fuels, said:

The World Council of Churches welcomes Pope Francis' encyclical which catalyses what churches and ecumenical organizations have been doing for decades on caring for the earth and climate justice issues. By affirming human induced climate change and its impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable communities, the Encyclical is an important call to urgently act as individuals, citizens and also at the international level to effectively respond to the climate crisis.

Dr. Steven Timmermans, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, said:

We affirm Pope Francis' moral framing of the threats posed by climate change. We have too many brothers and sisters around the world living on the edge of poverty whose livelihoods are threatened-and too many little ones in our congregations set to inherit a dangerously broken world-to believe otherwise. For too long the church has been silent about the moral travesty of climate change. Today, the Pope has said, 'Enough is enough,' and the Christian Reformed Church welcomes his voice.

Sister Pat McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, said:

We welcome Pope Francis' critique of the current, dominant economic model that prioritizes the market, profit and unharnessed consumption and regards Earth as a resource to be exploited.

Updated at 3.49pm BST

1.02pm BST08:02

Rev. Mitch Hescox, president of the US-based Evangelical Environmental Network, which lobbies American politicians on environmental issues, welcomed the Pope's encyclical. He said:
It's time to make hope happen by fuelling the unstoppable clean energy transition, stopping the ideological battles, and working together.

Creating a new energy economy that benefits all and addresses climate change is not about a political party but living as a disciple of Jesus Christ. We urge all people of good will, especially fellow Christian conservatives to read and study these timely words from Pope Francis.

12.55pm BST07:55

The New York Times' Justin Gillis says (fairly, in my opinion) that the Pope is more cautious on the science behind climate change than many scientists.
...amid all his soaring rhetoric, did the pope get the science right?

The short answer from climate and environmental scientists is that he did, at least to the degree possible in a religious document meant for a broad audience. If anything, they say, he may have bent over backward to offer a cautious interpretation of the scientific facts.

For example, a substantial body of published science says that human emissions have caused all the global warming that has occurred over the past century. Yet in his letter, Francis does not go quite that far, citing volcanoes, the sun and other factors that can influence the climate before he concludes that "most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases" released mainly by human activity.

The world's most authoritative body on climate science, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, found in its landmark report last year that global warming is "unequivocal" and humanity's role in causing it is "clear".

12.47pm BST07:47

The Pope is surprisingly specific on what he does like, and sees as part of the solutions to climate change.

For instance, he name-checks energy storage, something that Tesla's Elon Musk made waves with over his recent announcement of a home battery, and is seen in some quarters as important to help alleviate the intermittent nature of some renewable power.

Worldwide there is minimal access to clean and renewable energy. There is still a need to develop adequate storage technologies.

And he likes community green energy schemes, akin to one in a UK village that was the site of the country's biggest anti-fracking protests but now hopes to build a sizeable solar power installation:

In some places, cooperatives are being developed to exploit renewable sources of energy which ensure local self-sufficiency and even the sale of surplus energy. This simple example shows that, while the existing world order proves powerless to assume its responsibilities, local individuals and groups can make a real difference.

12.16pm BST07:16

Bob Perciasepe of US thinktank Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, has blogged on the unique role the Pope can play in the climate change arena and how he might influence American minds:
Scientists, environmentalists, politicians, business executives, and military leaders have all raised concerns for years about the real risks of climate change. But few individuals are as influential as the pope. By calling on people to act on their conscience, Pope Francis provides a powerful counterpoint to what has become a largely ideologically-driven debate, especially here in the United States.

12.12pm BST07:12

Nicholas Stern, the economist and author of an influential report on climate change, said the encyclical was of "enormous significance".
The publication of the Pope's encyclical is of enormous significance. He has shown great wisdom and leadership. Pope Francis is surely absolutely right that climate change raises vital moral and ethical issues. It is poor people around the world who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as an intensification of extreme weather events. And the decisions that we make about managing the risks of climate change matter not only for us, but also for our children, grandchildren and future generations.

He added:

Moral leadership on climate change from the Pope is particularly important because of the failure of many heads of state and government around the world to show political leadership.

And here's what the Pope himself says about world leaders' failure to act on climate change and environmental problems:

Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change.

Updated at 12.12pm BST

12.09pm BST07:09

John Hooper

The pope's effort to sever the link between population growth and environmental deterioration should not, however, detract from the importance of what else he has to say. This is the first encyclical to be devoted entirely to environmental issues, though it is certainly not the first time a pope has spoken out on the destruction of the environment.

As the encyclical notes, Paul VI first raised the issue as long ago as 1971, describing it as a "tragic consequence" of uncontrolled human activity. Saint John Paul II and his successor, Benedict XVI, inveighed against mankind's ill-treatment of nature – or as they viewed it, creation.

Far more explicitly than his predecessors, however, Francis heaps the blame on to the part of humanity that is rich. He accepts that the poorer nations should "acknowledge the scandalous level of consumption in some privileged sectors of their population and combat corruption more effectively." They ought also to develop less pollutant sources of energy.

12.00pm BST07:00

The Pope suggests that you can't care about nature and support abortion, which the Catholic church strongly opposes:
Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?

The other elephant in the room is birth control and overpopulation, though the Pope seems to have anticipated criticism on that. He takes the line, supported by many environmentalists, that consumption is the problem, not overpopulation. The encyclical says:

To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues.

Updated at 1.14pm BST

11.56am BST06:56

The head of the UN's environment programme, Achim Steiner, has echoed the UN's climate chief in saying today's text should be a clarion call for action.
This encyclical is a clarion call that resonates not only with Catholics, but with all of the Earth's peoples. Science and religion are aligned on this matter: The time to act is now.

We (UNEP) share Pope Francis' view that our response to environmental degradation and climate change cannot only be defined by science, technology or economics, but is also a moral imperative. We must not overlook that the world's poorest and most vulnerable suffer most from the changes we are seeing. Humanity's environmental stewardship of the planet must recognise the interests of both current and future generations.

Updated at 12.02pm BST

11.53am BST06:53

The Pope on biodiversity loss, GM and more

On the loss of species and ecosystems

Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever. The great majority become extinct for reasons related to human activity.

...

a sober look at our world shows that the degree of human intervention, often in the service of business interests and consumerism, is actually making our earth less rich and beautiful, ever more limited and grey, even as technological advances and consumer goods continue to abound limitlessly. We seem to think that we can substitute an irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something which we have created ourselves.

On GM
It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM) ... The risks involved are not always due to the techniques used, but rather to their improper or excessive application ... This is a complex environmental issue
On water quality
One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances.
On fossil fuels
We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.

Updated at 11.58am BST

11.49am BST06:49

At the Vatican press conference, Peter Turkson, a Ghanian cardinal of the Catholic church, says US climate sceptics are entitled to their view.

"The other big thing about Republicans and presidential figures saying they will not listen to the Pope is that is their freedom, their freedom of choice," he said, in an apparent reference to Jeb Bush (see 11:21).

He said "it's easy to say because the Pope is not a scientist he shouldn't talk about science", and said "I would not attach much credibility" to those criticisms.

11.42am BST06:42

At 1.30pm BST, Donald William Wuerl, one of five cardinals who lead the US archdiocese, will be holding a press conference on the encyclical. I'll try to summarise some of it here on the blog.

11.39am BST06:39

The pontiff included a personal handwritten note in his communication. It ended with a plea for help: "United in the lord, and please do not forget to pray for me."
- Rocco Palmo (@roccopalmo) June 18, 2015

"In bond of unity, charity and peace," Pope entrusts #LaudatoSi to world's bishops w/ personal note, asks prayers: pic.twitter.com/bJ9fXGvbnC

11.37am BST06:37

On technology and business

One recurring motif throughout the encyclical is a general scepticism or outright hostility to technological solutions to environmental challenges, and to the role that big business should play in tackling climate change.

For example:

Technology, which, linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create others

...

To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

He doesn't like carbon trading either. In this passage he seems to be referring to the only current global carbon trading scheme, the CDM:

The strategy of buying and selling "carbon credits" can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.

And some sections sound like they could have been ghostwritten by Guardian columnist George Monbiot:

Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations?

11.33am BST06:33

The Pope isn't just concerned about climate change. He has some very colourful turns of phrase about other environmental problems, such as pollution and waste:
The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.

11.31am BST06:31

The Pope on climate change and the science

Here's the English version of the encyclical on the Vatican's site.

The Pope makes reference to the huge body of work by national science academies and international bodies such as the IPCC on climate science:

A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.

He warns of serious consequences if we don't act on climate change:

If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us.

As many studies have already pointed out, the Pope notes that the world's poor are expected to suffer most from global warming:

It [climate change] represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing and forestry.

11.28am BST06:28

Suzanne Goldenberg

Suzanne Goldenberg

The message brought an outpouring of support from environmental groups, climate scientists, and leaders of all religions, eager to counter a series of pre-emptive attacks on the Pope from conservatives.

The response was a first glimpse of a vast and highly organised mobilisation effort around the letter visit, and a papal visit to the US in September.

The Pope will get an another chance to exhort leaders to act – this time in person – when he addresses both houses of Congress.

With that high profile visit in mind, campaigners argued the Pope's intervention had re-set the parameters of the discussion surrounding climate change, from narrow political agenda to broader morality. The Pope's message was above religion, they said.

"The Pope's message applies to all of us," said Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "He is imploring people of good will everywhere to honour our moral obligation to protect future generations from the dangers of further climate chaos by embracing our ethical duty to act," she said.

Cafod, the Catholic charity went so far as to suggest that that was the Pope's design all along.

"The Pope has deliberately released the encyclical in a year of key UN moments that will affect humanity," said Neil Thomas, director of advocacy. "He is reading the signs of his times and telling us that the human and environmental costs of our current way of life are simply too high."

Ray Bradley, the climate scientist, said: "He has no political agenda. He speaks from the heart (not the Heartland) with unimpeachable moral authority. Who else can address this issue without the taint of politics? Moreover, Pope Francis has a particular responsibility to those without a voice at the centres of power in affluent countries.

But the Pope's message is expected to resonate most strongly among the environmental campaigners operating within the Church.

For activist priests and nuns, who have lobbied oil companies and called on their own parishes to divest, the encyclical puts the Vatican's stamp of approval on years of effort, often at the sidelines.

That on its own has galvanised campaigners, said Sister Joan Brown, a Franciscan in New Mexico who has worked on climate change for more than 20 years.

"I've never seen anything like this in the faith community or otherwise," she said.

The pope's message set off a flood of new activity that has been more than a year in the planning.

In deference to the Pope, mainstream environmental groups will be operating in the background.

"We've been asking environmental groups to hold back on this...so that the message isn't one that would maybe cause more polarisation, rather than less," Sister Joan said.

But the Catholic church – and activist wings among other religious communities – are jumping in to try and amplify thePope's message and build momentum for action on climate.

The archbishop's office in Atlanta signed up scientists and engineers to help parishes, and parishioners, reduce their carbon footprint. The Bishop of Des Moines is planning to hold a press conference at a wind farm.

The Evangelical Environmental Network also came out strongly behind the Pope.

More than 300 rabbis signed on to a letter calling on Jewish institutions and individuals to divest from "carbon Pharaohs" or coal-based electric power, and buy wind power instead.

Updated at 11.48am BST

11.27am BST06:27

Observers of the climate talks and Christian, development and environment groups have warmly welcomed the Pope's encyclical.

Former UN general secretary Kofi Annan, said:

As Pope Francis reaffirms, climate change is an all-encompassing threat: it is a threat to our security, our health, and our sources of fresh water and food ... I applaud the Pope for his strong moral and ethical leadership. We need more of such inspired leadership. Will we see it at the climate summit in Paris?

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam's deputy chief executive, said:

The Pope is right – climate change is a problem for all of humanity that is hitting the world's poorest hardest. His words could and should add real urgency to efforts to protect people and planet. World leaders meeting at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year should be in no doubt that the world expects them to put aside short-term national interest and move us all closer to a safer and more prosperous future.

Andrew Steer, president and chief executive of the US-based World Resources Institute:

The pope's message brings moral clarity that the world's leaders must come together to address this urgent human challenge. This message adds to the global drumbeat of support for urgent climate action. Top scientists, economists, business leaders and the pope can't all be wrong.

Updated at 11.54am BST

11.21am BST06:21

The encyclical is unimpressed by those who deny the science of climate change:
regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. Obstructionist attitudes, even on the part of believers, can range from denial of the problem to indifference, nonchalant resignation or blind confidence in technical solutions.

The pushback from Republican and the rest of the US right, where climate scepticism is a badge of honour, has already begun. Jeb Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, said yesterday: "I hope I'm not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don't get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope."

And as our US environment correspondent Suzanne Goldenberg found out last week at a gathering of US climate sceptics, the Pope's encyclical is at the top of their list of concerns.

Suzanne Goldenberg visits the Heartland Institute's conference in Washington, an annual gathering of climate sceptics, to hear what delegates – including US senator James Inhofe and blogger Marc Morano – think about the Pope's encyclical on the environment and climate change

11.14am BST06:14

The Pope has invited his 6m Twitter followers to take notice of his encyclical today, too:
- Pope Francis (@Pontifex) June 18, 2015

I invite all to pause to think about the challenges we face regarding care for our common home. #LaudatoSi

As a mock movie trailer for the encyclical put it earlier this week, he's "an easy man to follow and a hard man to silence".

11.12am BST06:12

The Pope on UN climate talks

Christiana Figueres, the UN's climate chief, says the Pope's intervention should act as a "clarion call" for a strong deal at Paris:

Pope Francis' encyclical underscores the moral imperative for urgent action on climate change to lift the planet's most vulnerable populations, protect development, and spur responsible growth. This clarion call should guide the world towards a strong and durable universal climate agreement in Paris at the end of this year. Coupled with the economic imperative, the moral imperative leaves no doubt that we must act on climate change now.
Christiana Figueres. Photograph: Martin Godwin/Martin Godwin

But the Pope isn't very impressed by more than 20 years of UN climate talks. He says the annual summits have produced "regrettably few" advances on efforts to cut carbon emissions and rein in global warming. The encyclical says:

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.
I've just uploaded the English version of the encyclical on Scribd. I'll be posting some of the highlights here on the live blog shortly.

11.02am BST06:02

John Schellnhuber, Angela Merkel's climate adviser and a leading climate change scientist, is punning his way through a presentation at the encyclical's launch, "praying" his Powerpoint will work.

Of the encyclical, he said:

it is very unique in the sense that it brings together two strong powers in the world, namely faith and moral and on the other reason and ingenuity. It's an environmental crisis but also a social crisis. These two things together pose an enormouse challenge. Only if these two things work together, faith and reason, can we overcome it

10.58am BST05:58

A spokesman for the Vatican told a packed press conference in the Vatican audience hall this morning that in his 25 years there he has worked there, he has never seen as much prolonged, global and intense anticipation for a single document, AP reports.

The press conference is being live-streamed on YouTube:

10.54am BST05:54

At 11am the Vatican will publish the Pope's long-awaited encyclical on the environment, following its leak earlier this week by an Italian magazine.

The more-than-100 page text is wide-ranging, majoring on climate change, but also touching on pollution, biodiversity loss, the oceans, man's modern relationship with nature, the dangers of relying on the markets and technology, and overconsumption.

In case you're wondering what an encyclical is, our southern Europe editor John Hooper, has a great Q&A here on their history and the importance the documents carry.

The more than 190 countries involved in the international climate change will be keenly watching the text too – it could have a big impact on the talks ahead of a major summit in Paris later this year.

Updated at 1.32pm BST

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[Jun 18, 2015] Pope Blames Markets for Environments Ills

Notable quotes:
"... "Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it," he adds. ..."
WSJ

Pope Blames Markets for Environment's Ills

Pontiff condemns global warming as outgrowth of global consumerism

Pope Francis said human activity is the cause of climate change, which threatens the poor and future generations.

Updated June 18, 2015 9:46 p.m. ET

772 COMMENTS

ROME- Pope Francis in his much-awaited encyclical on the environment offered a broad and uncompromising indictment of the global market economy, accusing it of plundering the Earth at the expense of the poor and of future generations.

In passionate language, the pontiff attributed global warming to human activity, blamed special interests for holding back policy responses and said the global North owes the South "an ecological debt."

The 183-page document, which Pope Francis addresses to "every person living on this planet," includes pointed critiques of globalization and consumerism, which he says lead to environmental degradation.

"The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth," he writes.

The encyclical's severe language stirred immediate controversy, signaling the weight the pontiff's stance could have on the pitched debate over how to respond to climate change.

"Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain," he writes. "As a result, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of the deified market, which become the only rule."

The Vatican published the document, titled "Laudato Si" ("Be praised"), on Thursday. The official release came three days after the online publication of a leaked version by an Italian magazine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, had described the leaked Italian text as a draft, but the final document, published in eight languages, differed only in minor ways, while the pope's main points were identical. An encyclical is considered one of the most authoritative forms of papal writing.

In the encyclical, Pope Francis wades into the debate over the cause of global warming, lending high-profile support to those who attribute it to human activity.

A "very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climactic system," contributing to a "constant rise in the sea level" and an "increase of extreme weather events," he writes.

"Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it," he adds.

While acknowledging natural causes for climate change, including volcanic activity and the solar cycle, Pope Francis writes that a "number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity."

The pontiff goes on to argue that there is "an urgent need" for policies to drastically cut the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases and promote the switch to renewable sources of energy.

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[Jun 17, 2015] Why we fight for the living world: it's about love, and it's time we said so George Monbiot

Pope Francis reminds us that our relationship to the natural world is about love, not just goods and services

Who wants to see the living world destroyed? Who wants an end to birdsong, bees and coral reefs, the falcon’s stoop, the salmon’s leap? Who wants to see the soil stripped from the land, the sea rimed with rubbish?

No one. And yet it happens. Seven billion of us allow fossil fuel companies to push shut the narrow atmospheric door through which humanity stepped. We permit industrial farming to tear away the soil, banish trees from the hills, engineer another silent spring. We let the owners of grouse moors, 1% of the 1%, shoot and poison hen harriers, peregrines and eagles. We watch mutely as a small fleet of monster fishing ships trashes the oceans.

Why are the defenders of the living world so ineffective? It is partly, of course, that everyone is complicit; we have all been swept off our feet by the tide of hyperconsumption, our natural greed excited, corporate propaganda chiming with a will to believe that there is no cost. But perhaps environmentalism is also afflicted by a deeper failure: arising possibly from embarrassment or fear, a failure of emotional honesty.

‘We have all been swept off our feet by the tide of hyperconsumption, our natural greed excited, corporate propaganda chiming with a will to believe that there is no cost’.

I have asked meetings of green-minded people to raise their hands if they became defenders of nature because they were worried about the state of their bank accounts. Never has one hand appeared. Yet I see the same people base their appeal to others on the argument that they will lose money if we don’t protect the natural world.

Such claims are factual, but they are also dishonest: we pretend that this is what animates us, when in most cases it does not. The reality is that we care because we love. Nature appealed to our hearts, when we were children, long before it appealed to our heads, let alone our pockets. Yet we seem to believe we can persuade people to change their lives through the cold, mechanical power of reason, supported by statistics.

I see the encyclical by Pope Francis, which will be published on Thursday, as a potential turning point. He will argue that not only the physical survival of the poor, but also our spiritual welfare depends on the protection of the natural world; and in both respects he is right.

I don’t mean that a belief in God is the answer to our environmental crisis. Among Pope Francis’s opponents is the evangelical US-based Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, which has written to him arguing that we have a holy duty to keep burning fossil fuel, as “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork”. It also insists that exercising the dominion granted to humankind in Genesis means tilling “the whole Earth”, transforming it “from wilderness to garden and ultimately to garden city”.

There are similar tendencies within the Vatican. Cardinal George Pell, its head of finance, currently immersed in a scandal involving paedophile priests in Australia, is a prominent climate change denier. His lecture to the Global Warming Policy Foundation was the usual catalogue of zombie myths (discredited claims that keep resurfacing), nonsequiturs and outright garbage championing, for example, the groundless claim that undersea volcanoes could be responsible for global warming. There are plenty of senior Catholics seeking to undermine the pope’s defence of the living world, which could explain why a draft of his encyclical was leaked. What I mean is that Pope Francis, a man with whom I disagree profoundly on matters such as equal marriage and contraception, reminds us that the living world provides not only material goods and tangible services, but is also essential to other aspects of our wellbeing. And you don’t have to believe in God to endorse that view.

In his beautiful book The Moth Snowstorm, Michael McCarthy suggests that a capacity to love the natural world, rather than merely to exist within it, might be a uniquely human trait. When we are close to nature, we sometimes find ourselves, as Christians put it, surprised by joy: “A happiness with an overtone of something more, which we might term an elevated or, indeed, a spiritual quality.”

He believes we are wired to develop a rich emotional relationship with nature. A large body of research suggests that contact with the living world is essential to our psychological and physiological wellbeing. (A paper published this week, for example, claims that green spaces around city schools improve children’s mental performance.)

This does not mean that all people love nature; what it means, McCarthy proposes, is that there is a universal propensity to love it, which may be drowned out by the noise that assails our minds. As I’ve found while volunteering with the outdoor education charity Wide Horizons, this love can be provoked almost immediately, even among children who have never visited the countryside before. Nature, McCarthy argues, remains our home, “the true haven for our psyches”, and retains an astonishing capacity to bring peace to troubled minds.

Acknowledging our love for the living world does something that a library full of papers on sustainable development and ecosystem services cannot: it engages the imagination as well as the intellect. It inspires belief; and this is essential to the lasting success of any movement.

Is this a version of the religious conviction from which Pope Francis speaks? Or could his religion be a version of a much deeper and older love? Could a belief in God be a way of explaining and channelling the joy, the burst of love that nature sometimes inspires in us? Conversely, could the hyperconsumption that both religious and secular environmentalists lament be a response to ecological boredom: the void that a loss of contact with the natural world leaves in our psyches?

Of course, this doesn’t answer the whole problem. If the acknowledgement of love becomes the means by which we inspire environmentalism in others, how do we translate it into political change? But I believe it’s a better grounding for action than pretending that what really matters to us is the state of the economy. By being honest about our motivation we can inspire in others the passions that inspire us.

Articles Pope Francis, Thomas Jefferson, and Capitalism By Frank Ryan

December 15, 2013 | americanthinker.com

For those who have decided to only read partial excerpts from the Pope's exhortation, I would also encourage you to understand that the Pope's perspective on poverty is somewhat different than our perspective on poverty.

In my travels to Haiti, the Caribbean, the Far East, and the Middle East, the true extent of poverty becomes clear. Our perception of poverty, while real for those feeling pain and deprivation, is significantly different than the poverty that the Pope is discussing.

This does not however alter his message. He is saying that as Catholics we have a responsibility to place our faith above our material goods. Pope Francis is concerned about our salvation, not our bank account. I would have it no other way from my spiritual leader.

When one places great value in material things, the focus is lost on how you can selflessly help another. This is precisely the image of being a good parent in which the parent is more concerned about their child than they are about themselves. Pope Francis is merely concerned about his flock.

In a similar vein, Thomas Jefferson, our third president, recognized the great threat in which a government would attempt to be too strongly influenced by a religion. Thomas Jefferson understood that they must be separate, as does Pope Francis.

The Pope's similarity with Thomas Jefferson is more significant than you may think. In our founding principles, we already were a Judeo-Christian nation guided by our faith individually because of our individual character. The government was influenced by the character of those with faith and not by their religion directly. It is not a government of faith but a government in which its leaders are influenced and guided by their faith.

... ... ..

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at FRYAN1951@aol.com and twitter at @fryan1951.

Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up by Patrick J. Deneen

Dec 5, 2013 | The American Conservative
Since the release of Evangelii Gaudium there have been countless articles and commentary about the economic portions of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation. Some of the commentary has been downright bizarre, such as Rush Limbaugh denouncing the Pope as a Marxist, or Stuart Varney accusing Francis of being a neo-socialist. American conservatives grumbled but dutifully denounced a distorting media when Pope Francis seemed to go wobbly on homosexuality, but his criticisms of capitalism have crossed the line, and we now see the Pope being criticized and even denounced from nearly every rightward-leaning media pulpit in the land.

Not far below the surface of many of these critiques one hears the following refrain: why can’t the Pope just go back to talking about abortion? Why can’t we return the good old days of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI and talk 24/7/365 about sex? Why doesn’t Francis have the decency to limit himself to talking about Jesus and gays, while avoiding the rudeness of discussing economics in mixed company, an issue about which he has no expertise or competence?

There are subtle and brash versions of this plea. At “The Catholic Thing,” Hadley Arkes has penned a characteristically elegant essay in which he notes that Francis is generally correct on teachings about marriage and abortion, but touches on these subjects too briefly, cursorily and with unwelcome caveats of sorts. At the same time, Francis goes on at length about the inequalities and harm caused by free market economies, which moves Hadley to counsel the Pope to consult next time with Michael Novak. The upshot—be as brief as the Gettysburg Address in matters pertaining to economics, and loquacious as Edward Everett when it comes to erotics.

On the brash side there is Larry Kudlow, who nearly hyperventilates when it comes to his disagreement with Pope Francis, accusing him of harboring sympathies with Communist Russia and not sufficiently appreciating Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. (R. R. Reno, who is briefly allowed to get a word in edgewise, wisely counseled Kudlow not to fight the last war—or, the one fought three wars ago, for that matter.) Revealingly, Kudlow counsels the Pope to concentrate on “moral and religious reform,” and that he should “harp” instead on “morality, spiritualism and religiosity,” while ceasing to speak about matters economic. Similarly, Judge Napolitano, responding to a challenge from Stuart Varney on why the Pope is talking about economics, responded: “I wish he would stick to faith and morals, on which he is very sound and traditional.”

These commentators all but come and out say: we embrace Catholic teaching when it concerns itself with “faith and morals”—when it denounces abortion, opposes gay marriage, and urges personal charity. This is the Catholicism that has been acceptable in polite conversation. This is a stripped-down Catholicism that doesn’t challenge fundamental articles of economic faith.

And it turns out that this version of Catholicism is a useful tool. It is precisely this portion of Catholicism that is acceptable to those who control the right narrative because it doesn’t truly endanger what’s most important to those who steer the Republic: maintaining an economic system premised upon limitless extraction, fostering of endless desires, and creating a widening gap between winners and losers that is papered over by mantras about favoring equality of opportunity. A massive funding apparatus supports conservative Catholic causes supporting a host of causes—so long as they focus exclusively on issues touching on human sexuality, whether abortion, gay marriage, or religious liberty (which, to be frank, is intimately bound up in its current form with concerns about abortion). It turns out that these funds are a good investment: “faith and morals” allow us to assume the moral high ground and preoccupy the social conservatives while we laugh all the way to the bank bailout.

The right’s contretemps with Pope Francis has brought out into the open what is rarely mentioned in polite company: most visible and famous Catholics who fight on behalf of Catholic causes in America focus almost exclusively on sexual issues (as Pope Francis himself seemed to be pointing out, and chastising, in his America interview), but have been generally silent regarding a century-old tradition of Catholic social and economic teaching. The meritocracy and economic elite have been a main beneficiary of this silence: those most serious about Catholicism—and thus who could have brought to bear a powerful tradition of thinking about economics that avoids both the radical individualistic presuppositions of capitalism as well as the collectivism of socialism—have spent their energies fighting the sexual/culture wars, even while Republican-Democratic ruling machine has merely changed driver seat in a limousine that delivers them to ever-more exclusive zip codes.

In the past several months, when discussing Pope Francis, the left press has at every opportunity advanced a “narrative of rupture,” claiming that Francis essentially is repudiating nearly everything that Popes JPII and Benedict XVI stood for. The left press and commentariat has celebrated Francis as the anti-Benedict following his impromptu airplane interview (“who am I to judge?”) and lengthy interview with the Jesuit magazine America. However, in these more recent reactions to Francis by the right press and commentariat, we witness extensive agreement by many Catholics regarding the “narrative of rupture,” wishing for the good old days of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

But there has been no rupture—neither the one wished for by the left nor feared by the right. Pope Francis has been entirely consistent with those previous two Popes who are today alternatively hated or loved, for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI spoke with equal force and power against the depredations of capitalism. (JPII in the encyclical Centesimus Annus and Benedict XVI in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.) But these encyclicals—more authoritative than an Apostolic Exhortation—did not provoke the same reaction as Francis’s critiques of capitalism. This is because the dominant narrative about John Paul II and Benedict XVI had them pegged them as, well, Republicans. For the left, they were old conservatives who obsessed with sexual matters; for the right, solid traditionalists who cared about Catholicism’s core moral teachings. Both largely ignored their social and economic teachings, so focused were they on their emphasis on “faith and morals.” All overlooked that, for Catholics, economics is a branch of moral philosophy.

I think it is because of the left’s “narrative of disruption” that the right is panicked over Francis’s critiques of capitalism. These Vatican criticisms—suddenly salient in ways they weren’t when uttered by JPII and Benedict—need to be nipped in the bud before they do any damage. Of course, all along Catholic teaching has seen a strong tie between the radical individualism and selfishness at the heart of capitalism and liberationist sexual practices, understanding them to be premised on the same anthropological assumptions. (If you don’t believe Catholics about this, just read Ayn Rand.) While Hadley Arkes laments that Pope Francis did not speak at more length on sexual matters, if one reads his criticisms of the depredations of capitalism with care, one notices that he uses the same phrases with which he criticized abortion—namely, that abortion is but one manifestation of “a throw-away culture,” a phrase as well as in Evangelii Gaudium in his critique of capitalism (Section 53). If one attends carefully to Francis’s criticisms of the economy’s effects on the weak and helpless, one can’t help but perceive there also that he is speaking of the unborn as much as those who are “losers” in an economy that favors the strong. Like John Paul and Benedict before him, Francis discerns the continuity between a “throw-away” economy and a “throw-away” view of human life. He sees the deep underlying connection between an economy that highlights autonomy, infinite choice, loose connections, constant titillation, utilitarianism and hedonism, and a sexual culture that condones random hook-ups, abortion, divorce and the redefinition of marriage based on sentiment, and in which the weak—children, in this case, and those in the lower socio-economic scale who are suffering a complete devastation of the family—are an afterthought.

The division of the fullness of Catholic thought in America has rendered it largely tractable in a nation that was always suspicious of Catholics. Lockean America tamed Catholicism not by oppression (as Locke thought would be necessary), but by dividing and conquering—permitting and even encouraging promotion of its sexual teachings, albeit shorn of its broader social teachings. This co-opted the full power of those teachings, directing the energy of social conservatives exclusively into the sexual-culture wars while leaving largely untouched a rapacious economy that daily creates few winners and more losers while supporting a culture of sexual license and “throw-away” children. Without minimizing the seriousness with which we need to take issues like abortion, gay marriage, and religious liberty, these are discrete aspects of an overarching “globalization of indifference” described by Francis. However, we have been trained to treat them as a set of autonomous political issues that can be solved by one or two appointments on the Supreme Court. Francis—like JPII and BXVI before him—has upset the “arrangement.” Rush and the gang are not about to go down without a fight. If only they could get that damn Marxist to talk about sex.

[Nov 30, 2013] The Case for Techno-optimism

November 27, 2013 | NYT

Eugene Patrick Devany
Massapequa Park, NY

It seems that, "a persistent shortfall on the demand side" is a euphemism for the fact that half the population will remain near bankruptcy for quite sometime.

Pope Francis said two days ago

"To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others ... a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion ..."

One may consider the Pope less qualified to "pontificate" about technology than Prof. Krugman who "tracks technology" and sees that "smart machines are getting much better at interacting with the natural environment in all its complexity ... [and concluding] that a real transformative leap is somewhere over the horizon" Pope Francis said,

"This epochal change has been set in motion by the enormous qualitative, quantitative, rapid and cumulative advances occurring in the sciences and in technology, and by their instant application in different areas of nature and of life. We are in an age of knowledge and information, which has led to new and often anonymous kinds of power."

"This epochal change" seems to be a reference to "fear and desperation, even in the so-called rich countries" and to people forced to live "with precious little dignity".

The "anonymous kinds of power" could be a reference to "American Exceptionalism" - that connotes business success to Americans and unbridled power to many developing countries.

[Nov 28, 2013] Pope Francis understands economics better than most politicians

27 November 2013 | The Guardian

Pope Francis is a pontiff who has constructively broken all the rules of popery – so far to widespread acclaim. He's faulted the Catholic church for its negative obsession with gays and birth control, and now he has expanded his mandate to economics with a groundbreaking screed denouncing "the new idolatry of money".

As the Pope wrote in his "apostolic exhortation":

The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings.

His thoughts on income inequality are searing:

How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality.

The pope's screed on "the economy of exclusion and inequality" will disappoint those who considers themselves free-market capitalists, but they would do well to listen to the message. Francis gives form to the emotion and injustice of post-financial-crisis outrage in a way that has been rare since Occupy Wall Street disbanded. There has been a growing chorus of financial insiders – from the late Merrill Lynch executive Herb Allison to organizations like Better Markets – it's time for a change in how we approach capitalism. It's not about discarding capitalism, or hating money or profit; it's about pursuing profits ethically, and rejecting the premise that exploitation is at the center of profit. When 53% of financial executives say they can't get ahead without some cheating, even though they want to work for ethical organizations, there's a real problem.

Unlike Occupy, which turned its rage outward, Pope Francis bolstered his anger with two inward-facing emotions familiar to any Catholic-school graduate: shame and guilt, to make the economy a matter of personal responsibility.

This is important. Income inequality is not someone else's problem. Nearly all of us are likely to experience it. Inequality has been growing in the US since the 1970s. Economist Emmanuel Saez found that the incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% in the three years after the financial crisis, while the majority of people struggled with a disappointing economy. The other 99% of the population grew their incomes 0.4% during the same period.

As a result, federal and state spending on social welfare programs has been forced to grow to $1tn just to handle the volume of US households in trouble. Yet income inequality has been locked out of of the mainstream economic conversation, where it is seen largely as a sideshow for progressive bleeding hearts.

In the discussions of why the US is not recovering, economists often mention metrics like economic growth and housing. They rarely mention the metrics that directly tell us we are failing our economic goals, like poverty and starvation. Those metrics of income inequality tell an accurate story of the depth of our economic malaise that new-home sales can't. One-fifth of Americans, or 47 million people, are on food stamps; 50% of children born to single mothers live in poverty; and over 13 million people are out of work. Children are now not likely to do as well as their parents did as downward mobility takes hold for the first time in generations.

The bottom line, which Pope Francis correctly identifies, is that inequality is the biggest economic issue of our time – for everyone, not just the poor. Nearly any major economic metric – unemployment, growth, consumer confidence – comes down to the fact that the vast majority of Americans are struggling in some way. You don't have to begrudge the rich their fortunes or ask for redistribution. It's just hard to justify ignoring the financial problems of 47 million people who don't have enough to eat. Until they have enough money to fill their pantries, we won't have a widespread economic recovery. You can't have a recovery if one-sixth of the world's economically leading country is eating on $1.50 a day.

It's only surprising that it took so long for anyone – in this case, Pope Francis – to become the first globally prominent figure to figure this out and bring attention to income inequality.

Income inequality is the issue that will govern whether we ever emerge from the struggling economy recovery and it determine elections in 2014. The support for Elizabeth Warren to rise above her seat in the US Senate, for instance, largely centers on her crusade against inequality. The White House's chirpy protestations that the economy is improving are not fooling anyone.

Into this morass of economic confusion steps Francis with clarifying force:

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. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.

It's a historic and bold statement, mainly because it's rarely heard from clergy. Money has always been at odds with religion, going back to the times when God had a fighting chance against Mammon. Moses grew enraged by the golden calf, Jesus by moneychangers in the temple, Muhammad by lending money at interest, or usury. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, the Bible tells us.

There have been criticisms from prominent men of religion before, but they didn't stick. in 2008, the Archbishop of Canterbury endorsed Marx against the forces of "unbridled capitalism", and the Archbishop of York disdained traders as "bank robbers and asset strippers", but those cries went unheeded in the subsequent flood of corporate profits.

At the time, those criticisms seemed extreme, throwing pitchforks into frozen ground. Francis is speaking at a when the ground has been thawed. Outrage against the financial sector is lurking so close to the surface that the US government can extract a $13bn fine from the nation's largest bank, throwing it into its first financial loss in nine years, and find significant approval.

Still, popes have been largely content to leave these particular issues of economic inequality behind in favor of focusing on social issues. There was, after all, a problem of throwing stones. The church's rich trappings and vast wealth, as well as its scandal-plagued Vatican bank, made an ill fit to preach too loudly about austerity.

Pope Francis, in his simple black shoes and unassuming car and house, is the first pontiff in a long time to reject flashy shows of power and live by the principle of simplicity. That makes him uniquely qualified to make the Vatican an outpost of Occupy Wall Street. His message about spiritual salvation applies mainly to Catholics but it would be sensible for economists and lawmakers to recognize his core message about the importance of income inequality applies to those even those who have no belief in religion.

Capitalism has always seen itself as an amoral pursuit, where the guiding stars were not "good" or "bad", but only "profit" and "loss". It's going to be harder to sustain that belief over the next few years.

succulentpork

Capitalism has always seen itself as an amoral pursuit, where the guiding stars were not "good" or "bad", but only "profit" and "loss".

This is simply not true. The advocates of capitalism have frequently in the past made the case that it is a morally good system, or at least the best one that can be achieved. The argument is that where it is applied to free markets capitalists can only make profit by giving to consumers those things which they value most highly, and achieving this through cooperation under a system of division of labour. The morality of this is that it does not use coercion to give people benefits, it requires this cooperative process from people free to pursue their own interests. Clearly the Pope never read Adam Smith who explained all this long ago. Many would see this approach to individualism as deeply moral, especially compared to the alternative of religious collectivism.

Andrew Fitzgerald -> succulentpork

Coercion was a major focus of Friedman's in Capitalism and Freedom, which I agree was a work of moral philosophy (that I happen to disagree with).

As for the Pope, I don't think his disagreement with capitalist theorists is clear evidence that he didn't read them.

Frehley Ernekid

I have warmed to him, but we must remember the vast wealth the Catholic Church is sitting on. However, it is also exactly what the 'Vicar of Christ' should be saying, especially to the wealthy. Pope Francis should be bellowing Leviticus 25:35, as the poor have extended a helping hand to the financial sector, the wealthy should now be doing the same for the poor.

frontalcortexes -> Ernekid

I like this Pope, he's starting the baby steps of reform the Catholic Church desperately needs, I know any change will be tiny and marginal but its in the right direction

Look the Catholic Church won't make any significant impression on the world's economic and monetary problems because it won't get down to determining exactly what mechanisms and balances are needed. Instead it repeatedly turns to the Bible which not only was written a very long time ago and therefore not dealing with our modern world but can basically be construed in large part as simply cheer leading for human cooperation. Well and good but it's the detail (including the logic) of how we can persuaded, nudged and even coerced to cooperate that human societies desperately need.

AnActuary

Wow - a global figure makes a comment on global inequality and then this:

" Economist Emmanuel Saez found that the incomes of the top 1% grew by 31.4% in the three years after the financial crisis, while the majority of people struggled with a disappointing economy. The other 99% of the population grew their incomes 0.4% during the same period. "

Why did the journalist have to boil it down to inequality within the top few percent of the worlds population (i.e. just by being a citizen of a major developed economy like the US or the UK puts you in this top percentage).

I somehow think the Pope was focusing on inequality at a gloabal level (although here in the UK most seem more concerend about inequality within the top 1% and not about the rest of the world).

Sometimes i wish people would accept how lucky we have it compared to 98-99% of the planet

GreatGrandDad -> SheepEuro

Write article on lessons learned by x to help those of us who would otherwise not been informed.

It is what newspapers (and their websites) are for.

Perhaps the Pope has read John McMurty's The Cancer Stage of Capitalism and is spreading the message without mentioning the taboo 'c' word.

Either way-----this article spreads good news.

billforsyth

Because the Catholic church is vehemently anti Communist it is assumed to be pro Capitalist and many capitalist Catholics believe they have the blessing of the church .The church in fact believes that materialism and consumerism are as wrong as Communism .The possession of wealth or power is not of itself evil or wrong as many who do not possess either wish and strive with a desire to own both and far from rejecting them are envious of those who do own them.

If you believe that man merely has dominion or stewardship of the worlds riches then it follows that to deny the bounty of the earth to others for whatever reason, political or economical is not only wrong but sinful.

panpipes billforsyth

Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with Pope Francis' namesake and his teachings on wealth. St. Francis (who is known as the most Christ-like of all the Saints) not only renounced his wealth but taught that money was evil. The Legend of St Francis includes the story of a member of his order who accepted a donation in order to buy food for the poor. Francis, seeing that the Brother had broken his rule on not touching money, ordered the monk to throw the coins into a pile of dog manure and then pick it up with his tongue in order to fully teach him the vile nature of money.

Or...you could just go to the New Testament and the words attributed to Jesus:

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Frehley -> StevHep

I think this message should resonate with all, regardless of confession. The outcome of religious conservationism resulted in people of 'faith' not seeing any problem with mass pecuniary inequality. It reminds me of Glenda Jackson's speech claiming Margaret Thatchers was the fount of 'greed, selfishness, sharp elbows, sharp knees' and that London had now become a city William Hogarth would easily recognise. Francis and Welby should be decrying such wanton cruelty shown by 'the powers that be' upon the poor and infirm. The conservative reaction to this recession has been nothing but wicked and cruel.

EllisWyatt

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

Which only someone with a fundamental misunderstanding of trickle down would assert. No economist defends trickle down benefits on the basis of greater equality or, less tangibly, greater justice. Its about delivering better overall standards of living for everyone at the risk of greater inequality between the top and bottom.

By its very definition trickle down won’t close the gap between rich and poor, what it permits is the liberalisation of markets, which means that some agents will get very rich indeed but the overall pie has got larger, enabling even those at the bottom to do materially better than they would had we tightly controlled and allocated growth on the basis of fairness.

Now I think there is some truth in that proposition, but its far from conclusive. However the Pope has effectively created a strawman and predictably the Guardian has leapt all over him as the latest “saviour speaking out against capitalism” following on the illustrious heels of Occupy, UK Uncut and Russell Brand…

Phil429 EllisWyatt

No economist defends trickle down benefits on the basis of greater equality or, less tangibly, greater justice. Its about delivering better overall standards of living for everyone

...except that it's a total failure by that standard as well.

richardwelbirg -> EllisWyatt

I think you give your opponents some ammunition here Ellis. "Trickle-down" economics was a narrow political theory dreamt up to justify US Republicans giving significant tax breaks to the rich. It was nonsense.

What you're describing is actually just the increasing liberalisation of markets and, contrary to what Phil suggested above, it has been a success in delivering improved living standards in most of the world.

guest88888 -> richardwelbirg

What you're describing is actually just the increasing liberalisation of markets and, contrary to what Phil suggested above, it has been a success in delivering improved living standards in most of the world.

You care to back that statement up with facts? Consider the fact that we're in Great Depression Round 2 right now in most of the world, directly caused by "liberalization."

Greg451

An interesting quote from Thomas Jefferson about Americans who:

"having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of '76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and monied incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry."

I fail to understand how anyone can argue how unregulated capitalism isn't the source of economic inequality.

LordJimbo

It didn't take so long, Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict expressed their thoughts on capitalism/neoliberalism and poverty in the world and they weren't the first to do so.

Pope Benedict covered the thoughts of some of his predecessors on this subject in Caritas in Veritate (Charity in Truth), published on June 29, 2009 where he stated the most important capital is and always will be human beings.

Point 40 of that document states:

"John Paul II taught that investment always has moral, as well as economic significance[96]. All this — it should be stressed — is still valid today, despite the fact that the capital market has been significantly liberalized, and modern technological thinking can suggest that investment is merely a technical act, not a human and ethical one. There is no reason to deny that a certain amount of capital can do good, if invested abroad rather than at home. Yet the requirements of justice must be safeguarded, with due consideration for the way in which the capital was generated and the harm to individuals that will result if it is not used where it was produced[97]. What should be avoided is a speculative use of financial resources that yields to the temptation of seeking only short-term profit, without regard for the long-term sustainability of the enterprise, its benefit to the real economy and attention to the advancement, in suitable and appropriate ways, of further economic initiatives in countries in need of development. It is true that the export of investments and skills can benefit the populations of the receiving country. Labour and technical knowledge are a universal good. Yet it is not right to export these things merely for the sake of obtaining advantageous conditions, or worse, for purposes of exploitation, without making a real contribution to local society by helping to bring about a robust productive and social system, an essential factor for stable development."

ErnestHemingway

This column is dead on. If we take out the retired and minors, the average income in the U.S. should be about 70,000.00 dollars per year. The problem is not lack of funds but distribution of funds. The idea that some earn immense incomes which they are not worth and have not earned is the root of the problem. This will resolve itself during the next 2-3 decades... the easy way or the hard way.

From a global perspective, the problem is much more difficult. The issue is that some societies are simply more competent than others. I think intra national income redistribution is possible. International is going to be much more difficult.

[Nov 26, 2013] What Pope Francis Gets Wrong About Capitalism By

Yahoo

We get it: Pope Francis cares about the little guy. He speaks passionately about the rights of the dispossessed, and more than that, shows solidarity with them through his own humble lifestyle and rather unpapal rejection of pomp.

The pope has gone a bit overboard, however, in his recent attack on free-market capitalism. In a lengthy “apostolic exhortation,” Pope Francis rails against “an economy of exclusion” and a “ financial system which rules rather than serves.” The pope points out that, in a time of miraculous technological progress, alarming numbers of people still live in misery and desperation.

“The culture of prosperity deadens us,” the pope writes. “We are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.”

The pope clearly follows the news, because income inequality and the growing wealth gap, which he refers to several times, are hot topics nearly everywhere. But the pope has failed to notice a few other important trends. First, he’s hardly the only one who’s concerned about the plight of the have-nots. Income inequality has become a powerful political force in the United States and many other countries, for the very reasons the pope cites. As those economic trends worsen, pressure from below may very well cause political upheaval that at least somewhat reverses the rise of the rich.

Generous fat cats

The pope’s generalizations bring to mind the cartoonish image of a fat cat in a pin-striped suit smoking a cigar as he steps over a beggar in a gutter. But a lot of fat cats are quite sympathetic toward the disenfranchised, and some are putting their money where their hearts are. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are the most obvious examples, with well over 100 barons of capitalism publicly committed to their “giving pledge,” agreeing to donate the majority of their considerable wealth to charitable causes.

Charity only goes so far, of course. But there are also many efforts to rework the rules of capitalism in the United States and other wealthy countries so the middle and lower classes have better economic opportunities and a fighting chance to improve their living standards. This is very hard to do, for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s not easy to pinpoint the causes of growing income inequality, which means fixing the problem is almost never as simple as just taking one person’s money and giving it to something else. It’s also important to safeguard what’s good about capitalism — such as the rewards for innovating and the ability to create wealth rather than just moving it around — while fixing what doesn’t work. And of course those benefiting most from the current system have a vested interest in keeping it that way — along with high-priced lobbyists on the payroll who are skilled at doing so.

Still, machinery is grinding forward in an effort to roll back the latest incarnation of capitalism's excesses. In the United States, the 2009 Dodd-Frank reforms were an effort to rein in the financial sector, much as the pope advocates. Progress is slow and some problems, such as powerful banks deemed "too big to fail," may escape solutions. But if you ask Wall Streeters, they feel as if they're under siege, even if their paychecks remain inflated. It's a start, and it seems likely the U.S. financial sector is going to face tougher scrutiny and tighter limits on greed for the foreseeable future.

Switzerland, meanwhile, recently voted on a referendum that would have severely limited CEO pay and linked it to the wage levels of others in the same company. The measure failed at the ballot box, but the mere fact that Switzerland -- a bankers' haven -- would even consider such a scheme shows that the least among us are gaining at least a little bit of leverage.

Marxism is over

Finally, for all of capitalism’s flaws, there’s basically no other system that offers the world’s poor a better shot. The argument in favor of Marxist economies is basically over (despite the hysterical cries of “socialism!” by some frightened American conservatives regarding the Obama administration). A global century-long experiment with Marxism that ended around 1989 proved that it generates stagnation and corruption and oppresses the human spirit in the bargain. Even China, which has a communist government in both name and practice, has embraced capitalism as the economic system by which it hopes to become a dominant world power.

The pope doesn’t have much to say about what would be better than capitalism. He decries the “new idolatry of money” (new? really?) while encouraging those with wealth and power to share both with those who have less. Liberal idealists have been calling for that for centuries.

What has been a lot more effective at raising the living standards of billions, however, is cold, hard-edged capitalism and the riches dangled before those able to exploit it. Even now, in the raw aftermath of a global financial crisis, capitalism is improving lives throughout China, India, Brazil, many African nations and other long-suffering corners of the globe.

Capitalism need not be unregulated, and in fact it rarely ever is. A true free-market is freer, and crueler, than anybody really needs. With the right guidelines, capitalism is the best system ever devised for improving lives and speeding human progress. It’s the guidelines we need to reevaluate, not the free market itself.

Rick Newman’s latest book is Rebounders: How Winners Pivot From Setback To Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

[Nov 26, 2013] Pope attacks 'tyranny' of markets, urges renewal in key document by Naomi O'Leary

See full text at Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013
Yahoo News

Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.

The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.

In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".

He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.

"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?"

The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion".

"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.

In July, Francis finished an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict but he made clear that it was largely the work of his predecessor, who resigned in February.

Called "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis' simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church's central mission of preaching "the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ".

In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the Church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, "is not a question open to discussion" but women must have more influence in Church leadership.

POVERTY

A meditation on how to revitalize a Church suffering from encroaching secularization in Western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope's native Latin America.

In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.

"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems," he wrote.

Denying this was simple populism, he called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality" and added: "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."

Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.

He chose to be called "Francis" after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.

Stressing cooperation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II's idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox such as "synodality" or decentralized leadership.

He praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.

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Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013