Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Pope Hates Money? No

Sometimes people say the stupidest things, especially when they talk in thoughtless bumper-sticker speak. The headlines say the Pope did that this week, but he didn't. Actually, what he said was interesting. Let’s discuss.

For generations now, people on the left and religious figures have referred to money as “the root of all evil.” St. Francis of Assisi called money “the devil’s dung.” And in so doing, these people showed that they fundamentally misunderstand the nature of money and they utterly devalue the ability of individuals to save for their futures.

Why do I say that?

Think about what money represents. To these leftists, money represents some evil tool invented by capitalists to represent wealth, which they then use to deny poor people a share of wealth, but that’s bunk. What money really represents is stored value of a person's own labor. To understand this, think about how one gets money. One gets money by trading their labor, or the product of their labor, for an agreed upon amount of money. In other words, you provide services (or trade goods you acquired or made) to a buyer, who gives you money, i.e. you sell your labor. The more labor you sell, the more money you get. Simple.

Now consider what would happen if there was no money. Rather than getting paid in money, you would need to find someone whose labor you wanted and who just happened to want yours in return. Then you would need to agree upon a rate of exchange. And once one party provided as much labor as the other person needed, the exchange would stop, whether the other party had more labor to give or not. Not so simple.

This is also fraught with problems. For one thing, without money as a convenient means of exchange, the value of your labor would be a lot lower because you could only trade it to certain people... fewer buyers, lower prices. And the costs of finding those people would be prohibitive for most people. Indeed, what exactly can most people provide that others would want and how would you find someone who needs your services as much as you need theirs? This would make people vulnerable to exploitation by the predatory rich, who can afford to hire desperate laborers they don’t need. Moreover, the rate you get for your labor would not be based on some fair market value for labor, it would be skewed heavily toward the party that holds the upper hand. For example, suppose you are selling fruit you have grown. You need someone to fix your tractor or you will lose your ability to keep making fruit. If the man you found who can fix your tractor can wait, he's going to get a heck of a deal on your labor as you become increasingly desperate to unload your fruit before it spoils and becomes worthless.

The result of all this is that a world without "evil" money would be a world of utter poverty and hopelessness, a world where few could sell their skills and those that could would find that their labor is worth far less than in our market-based society. This would be a world where the rich could easily exploit the have-nots and could buy armies of labor at slave rates, and where anyone with a sharp trading sense could exploit anyone against whom they had the upper hand. So how evil is money really? And how stupid are those who rail against money?

Anyway, this stuff should be obvious to anyone who stops to think even for a few minutes. So I was not pleased to read a headline that said that the new Pope had “railed against money” and “advocated a cooperative society.” Ug. Anyway, I decided to look up what the Pope really said and, surprise, it has again been distorted. What the Pope really said was this:
“When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices. It makes him a slave.”
In other words, the Pope isn’t anti-money, he’s anti-money-worship or anti-obsession with money. Those are actually conservative values. In fact, unless you’re part of the “God wants you to have an SUV” crowd, most religious conservatives claim to value charity and want everyone in society to value things like faith and family higher than money. They just don’t whine stupidly like leftists that one needs to live in poverty to achieve that.

In terms of what the Pope said about cooperatives, it was essentially similar. He said, that:
“Money at the service of life can be managed in the right way by cooperatives, on condition that it is a real cooperative where capital does not have command over men but men over capital.”
In other words, money is fine when it is put to good uses and when it isn’t a tool to give people power over others. Again, outside of knee-jerk talk radio, I doubt very many conservatives would disagree with that... if we are to be believed about loving individual rights and freedoms rather than concentrations of power. (Knee-jerk talk radio seems to worship macho corporate power acting in the most abusive way.)

This is a message conservatives should embrace and enhance. In fact, rather than buying into the headlines and continuously trying to define Catholicism as an enemy of conservatism, and thereby teaching headline-only-readers to see Catholicism as a leftist force, why not embrace the Pope's comments thusly:
"The Pope himself has embraced the power of capitalism to raise humanity, provided that money is used to serve the rights, freedom and dignity of individuals rather than as a force for control by a concentrated power. We should be working toward a society that is more free, more respecting of the rights and dignity of individuals, and in which our economy is given the freedom to let all who work keep the benefits of their labor so they can employ their neighbors and make a richer, stronger society."


Critch said...

The love of money is the root of all evil,,,,yes I love they way people twist what this good man says....

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, What frustrates me is that the leftist MSM is turning him into a communist hero by distorting his words, and rather than cleaning up the mess they are making, our side seems happy to attack him too. We should be claiming him!

Most of what he's said has been entirely consistent with conservatism. Yes, at times, his language is a little less rhetorically pro-capitalism than I would like, but he's never actually said anything we don't support. Moreover, we also need to remember that he is a religious leader whose primary concern is talking about our emotional connections to each other and to God. So his language will necessary be more flowery than a conservative talking head.

AndrewPrice said...

What frustrates me is that the things he says really are consistent with conservatism. We should be celebrating the fact that he is giving capitalism the human dimension that it so rarely gets. We need people like to fill that area that conservatives are so often so poor at filling.

But rather than realize this an embrace his words, too many want to dismiss him as a gay-loving commie, and thereby we send the message that Catholicism and conservatism are in opposition, when they really aren't.

If anything, Catholicism and leftism are in opposition.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Timothy 6:10 says, "The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." But as with most layered thoughts, this has been unwound or wrongly simplified and you will see it all over the popular culture as "money is the root of all evil."

Kit said...


Sorry I deleted it. Noticed a goof.

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

Kit said...


This one is going to be a tad long.

Anyway, this leads me to something I notice on the Left and in some Christian circles where the hatred of "money" leads to some amazing stupidity such as the romanticization of poverty and the barter system among the poor.

They talk about poor people using a barter system as if it was this great secret they've unlocked to living that we stupid, greedy middle-class and rich people, with our love of money, haven't figured out when the real reason they use barter system is BECAUSE THEY ARE TOO POOR TO USE MONEY.

They have to use a barter system. I have a feeling they would much rather be using cash than bartering over items.

It reached a fascinating level of idiocy when a writer at the left-wing io9 wrote this:
"The secret of the Inca's great wealth may have been their unusual tax system. Instead of paying taxes in money, every Incan was required to provide labor to the state. In exchange for this labor, they were given the necessities of life."


The American South had a very similar system for organization black labor; the black laborers would work in the fields and, though they received no pay, they were given the simple, bare necessities of life.

James Lileks describes the "secret of the Inca's great wealth" in better terms: "It’s a slave state."

Kit said...

Slavery has been one of the few constants of human history. Not, the history of "white, westerners" but human history and in the ancient world its existence was universal.

Rant finished.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, On your quote, see my comment above. :) Also, let me add that what the Pope has said is entirely consistent with your quote, i.e. the quote from Timothy, i.e. the Bible. So once again, this is no reason to blast him as some are doing. This is reason again to use his words to bring the debate to the people and remind them why capitalism does have a heart and why it is so superior to any other system.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I concur entirely with your view of the left. They romanticize poverty and act like somehow poverty brings true happiness and gets everyone to work together in perfect harmony. That's total crap. Poverty leads to short life spans, high cram, high disease rates, suicide, drug use, hopelessness, abandoned children, etc. That's all statistically true.

Fascinating quote about the Incas. It seems the left can't get enough slave labor. Every leftist regime seems to do it. Even here they advocate it. Think about how often you hear that someone has "made enough" and we should take the rest... like doctors who may need to be forced to participate in Obamacare. Or think about their obsession with forcing people to "volunteer" to get a college degree.

Kit said...


There is quote by William F. Buckley: "The left favors anything so long as it's coercive."

Critch said...

I agree with you Andrew about the Holy Father. It also has to be pointed out that he is not speaking in English, it's translated from Latin or maybe Italian and sometimes the nuances aren't there. He has to be Pope to 1.3 billion Catholics but it should be pointed out that many other Christian and non-Christian religions hang on his every word. The Left tries to make him out to be one of them, but he isn' to the conservatives, well, I wish they would find their backbone.

Koshcat said...

Completely agree. There are many who try to make money the 8th deadly sin but what they are really talking about is already well covered including greed, envy, gluttony and pride. It is funny how so many on the left villainize religion and then rail against the same sins Christian religions have warned about for centuries. What is really frustrating is they act like they discovered these sins all by themselves.

tryanmax said...

Koshcat, not only does the left rail against religion, but it does so while trying to claim the Pope--of all!--as one of it's own.

BevfromNYC said...

True stuff here today. I like Pope Francis, but as Critch points out, I do think he suffers somewhat from translation issues. I am sure that those who wish him to denounce the rich and evil money are just looking at what he is doing by making his Cardinals and Bishops live within their earthly means. And leading by example from day one, he has shed the royal robes, living arrangements and other trappings (including the Pope-mobile). That MUST mean he hates money....and because he states he loves the sinner, but renounces the sin (Gay, divorced, unwed Catholics), he must be a radical liberal Marxist plant sent to destroy the Church from within. Nah, he is a breath of fresh air determined to bring people back to the Church and to bring the Church closer to the people. But, I say all of this as a non-Catholic.

Anthony said...

I always associated economic cooperatives with liberalism. That being said I doubt the Pope fits comfortably into any of America's political boxes.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Buckley is spot on... as always.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, True. He is being translated and that always opens the door to further confusion and error too, especially if the translator has an agenda.

You are right. The left tries to claim him as their own even though I can't imagine him endorsing anything they want. As for conservatives, I wish they would get back to doing the heavy lifting of explaining our beliefs to people. If they did that, I think they would see him as an ally for the most part. The one thing we should not be doing is buying into the left's meme and confirm that Catholicism somehow is opposed to conservatism.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, It's amazing how the left will deny the wheel and then rediscover it and force it on us for our own good... over and over and over again. It's like some sick joke.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, They are nothing if not lacking in consistency.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I couldn't agree more. I too see him as a good man determined to refocus the Church on its true mission, which is bringing people to God... rather than engaging in the business of religion. And ultimately, I think he will be very successful in reviving a Church that was suffering from many self-inflicted wounds without giving up their fundamental beliefs.

AndrewPrice said...

BTW, Bev, I'm shocked at how much it's bothered some people whenever he's eliminated some trapping of wealth. There's something really wrong with that mindset that it's wrong for Church officials not to live in opulent surroundings.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, The boxes in America are much more varied than people want to believe. Ultimately, I suspect that the Pope would be a "moderate" conservative in the Reagan sense if you considered all of his views (as compared to the squishy baby-splitting "moderates.")

Rustbelt said...

"The media distorts Pope Francis." -again.

Now that I'm done rolling my eyes, all I can say is that I'm not surprised. Leftist sites are trying to paint the Bishop of Rome as a closet socialist and their guy. Rightist sites are trying to paint him as a traitor. Again...

There's not too much I can say that hasn't been said on the thread so far. Except that, as a practicing Catholic, this really isn't anything new coming out of the Vatican these days. Saint John Paul II said many similar things. Basically, he said that while capitalism is probably the best economic system available, the late Holy Father called on businessmen not to forget that people are involved in economic systems and not to think solely in terms of profit margins.

That being said, with the constant twisting of Church messages, (of the sitting pontiff, a former pope, or another teacher of the Church), it's a wonder Catholics don't abstain from American politics altogether. Many Catholics began voting Democrat back in the 30's when the GOP was WASP to the core- and FDR offered tokenism instead. Of course, JFK becoming the first Catholic president was also enough to solidify "Republican bad, Democrat good" in many eyes of the faithful. Nowadays, with the Dems going all-out Marxist in some areas, some Catholics are just refusing to vote at all. Though there are exceptions...
I mean, I knew members of my church in college who voted for John Kerry in 2004 solely because he was Catholic. I, however, didn't care that Bush was Methodist and voted for the sitting Prez anyway; even though I was almost scorned at times for doing so.
(It should be noted that there are still many Catholics who hold deep prejudices of the GOP being a "Protestant's Only" club, still fighting the battles from the Reformation and that all of its members are closet Klansmen who want all Catholics lynched. The twisting of Pope Francis' words by sites like Breitbart isn't exactly helping this issue.)

Koshcat said...

The only other comment I have comes from Catholics who run business if you will such as hospitals, schools etc. There is a mantra "No Margin No Mission."

Doesn't sound very socialist to me.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, Without profits, enterprises cannot grow and they lack the cushion they need to cover the unexpected. It's that simple, and the only people who don't get that are doctrinaire leftists.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, That's how I saw it for most of my life too, though lately, Catholics seem to be drifting toward the GOP... or away from the Dems.

I'm glad you agree with my analysis! I really wish conservatives would embrace the Pope and use his words as a way to sell our own views and the kind of world we want. That would open a LOT of eyes.

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