The Argentine Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been Bishop of Rome since March 2013. The Jesuit is different from many of his predecessors. This has already been expressed in the choice of his papal name, Francis. The ascetic from Buenos Aires worships the mendicant Francis of Assisi. With his humble conduct of office and the renunciation of any pomp, he has earned a lot of sympathy. As admirable as his advocacy for the poorest in the world is, Pope Francis, with his deep disdain for the market economy, is always a source of irritation. His economic worldview is simple: the source of all suffering is capitalism.
The fact that the hardship in poor Argentina shaped this attitude may serve as a reason, but not as a justification. Because it is nowhere near as simple as the crude view of the Pontifex Maximus suggests. Now Francis has stepped up again: In his recently introduced encyclical, the hater of capitalism castigates the pursuit of money and profit. But as right as he is where capitalist excesses harm society, he is fundamentally wrong. Because striving for more is the mainspring of all existence, human or otherwise, and also the basis for the successful fight against poverty and hunger.
A look at those countries that consistently focus on socialism has shown us for generations that there is no alternative to the market economy if we want to give as many of the more than eight billion people as possible the chance of a future worth living. That the Pope denies this is alarming, because his authority is particularly great where socialist ideologies fall on fertile ground anyway.
Hope only through entrepreneurial pursuit of profit
Especially in times of a worldwide pandemic, a church leader is needed who explains to the 1.3 billion believers, many of whom live in emerging and developing countries, that the path to a better life only leads through a market economy, private property and competition, and the solution does not lie in state fantasies of omnipotence, the incapacitation of citizens or socialist hostility to performance. “This economy kills”, Francis once said about capitalism shortly after his inauguration. The worsening was due to the aftershock of the global financial crisis. Fortunately, he does not repeat this today. But nothing has changed in his attitude.
In Corona times, there are enough illustrative examples even for economic laypeople to prove that hope can only germinate through entrepreneurial pursuit of profit. Never before has so much money gone into research and development, never before have so many companies researched a virus at the same time in order to find effective drugs or a vaccine. Regardless of how you feel about all of this, whether you consider the activities to be hysteria or greed for profit, they show one thing: only where the individual can expect something from his commitment will things move forward. It is right that the Pope calls for more solidarity and charity. A world out of joint needs this more than ever. To seek the way out of the many crises, injustices and conflicts of our day in socialist promises of salvation, is to forget about history and is extremely dangerous.
Opportunity for an important social impulse
Criticism is even loud from those around the Pope. And it is not only in Canada that his words shake heads with economists. Anyone who sees capitalism as a “disease” instead of recognizing that only medical and technological progress, which would not exist without free markets, enables the cure of diseases, falls back into the dark times before the Enlightenment, in which the fatalistic slogan that one shouldn’t mess with God in the trade that brought so much suffering and death to people.
The Pope’s encyclical contains a lot of truth and addresses important issues. In linking all injustices and problems with the market economy, however, Francis misses the great opportunity for an important social impulse. Instead of showing approaches to reforms to put a globalization that is partly out of control back on track, instead of denouncing government action that undermines democratic principles and thus only enables excesses, such as those that led to the financial crisis, instead of encouraging that individual striving for economic improvement can lead us out of the crisis, the Pope limits himself to a hate speech that negates all successes that were only possible through the social market economy.
Socialist systems create poverty and lack of freedom. This should not have remained hidden from an 84-year-old in the rooms of St. Peter’s Basilica, which are shielded from the world. It is a disturbing realization that the Pope is putting himself at the head of those who want to force a worldwide overthrow of the system, sometimes in cheap clothes. The Catholic Church has seldom been further from its own ideals.