There is no polite way to describe Pope Francis’s recent tirade against free enterprise, except to say his heart is in the right place in wanting to help the world’s poor and downtrodden. However, in venturing as boldly as he does into economic and political commentary, the pope makes a number of serious misjudgments.
In his 50,000-word “Apostolic Exhortation,” released by the Vatican on November 24, Pope Francis follows in the well-trod footsteps of a long line of left-wing commentators in leveling a series of wild charges against free-market economics.
He says, for instance, that “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.”
In the same way, Barack Obama continually attacks what he calls “the economic philosophy” of those who “say we should give more and more to those with the most and hope the prosperity trickles down to everyone else.”
Depressing news about black students scoring far below white students on various mental tests has become so familiar that people in different parts of the ideological spectrum have long ago developed their different explanations for why this is so. But both may have to do some rethinking, in light of radically different news from England.
The November 9th-15th issue of the distinguished British magazine "The Economist" reports that, among children who are eligible for free meals in England's schools, black children of immigrants from Africa meet the standards of school tests nearly 60 percent of the time -- as do immigrant children from Bangladesh and Pakistan. Black children of immigrants from the Caribbean meet the standards less than 50 percent of the time.
At the bottom, among those children who are all from families with low enough incomes to receive free meals at school, are white English children, who meet the standards 30 percent of the time.
"The Economist" points out that, in one borough of London, white students scored lower than black students in any London borough.
Karl Marx got lost in dreams of leading a proletarian revolution that would make him a hero to the working class. It’s an old fantasy of the intelligentsia — the wise and articulate leader of the unwashed, the Great White Father among the natives. Watch Hillary Clinton shoring up votes among African-Americans to see the contemporary version.
As for Marxist economics, it was never more anything more than a misunderstanding. I remember working in a paper box factory in my youth and thinking in Marxist terms of how any improvements we made in the manufacturing process would be gobbled up by the owners as “excess profits.” Then it suddenly hit me — they would much more likely be passed along to consumers as lowered prices. In fact, it made much more sense and was much fairer that improvements should be passed along to consumers in general rather than monopolized by a few workers that happened to be employed there at the time. It was this general permutation of wealth that made capitalism such a great system.
Everybody projects their hopes on the future. Do we impose our wishes on the past, too? The man who killed John Kennedy fifty years ago today wasn’t a CIA operative or a John Birch Society member in good standing. He was a Communist who migrated to the Soviet Union, took a Russian wife, and littered the streets of New Orleans with handbills in praise of Fidel Castro. Facts can really mess up a narrative, which is why conspiracy theories were invented.
Rather than accept the reality that a “silly little Communist,” as Jacqueline Kennedy aptly put it, killed the president, great numbers of small people weave elaborate, politically flattering fictions that usually involve dark cabals comprised of caricatures of those they hate most—shadowy intelligence operatives, ribbon-chested devotees of the military-industrial complex, Texas oil millionaires, etc. This is a form of narcissism, in which one’s own devils become the devil figures for larger-than-life leaders.
June 24, 1985. The home of Senator Edward M. Kennedy in McLean, Virginia. The event? An endowment fundraiser of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Present was the Kennedy “A-Team.” The host, of course, was Senator Kennedy. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was front and center with her two children, Caroline and John. Ethel — Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy — was there, her oldest child, daughter Kathleen, on stage with her. The audience? The men and women of the Kennedy New Frontier, the larger circle of family and friends. And, of course, wealthy endowment donors.
At the center?
President Ronald Reagan and First Nancy Reagan.
There was a reason for Reagan’s presence, a particularly touching reason at that.