Friday, May 15, 2015

Francis’s Upcoming Global Warming Encyclical Proves Why Capitalism Needs a Moral Defense

If you ever doubted that to defend capitalism and save liberty, one must condemn altruism and defend selfishness, Pope Francis’s latest initiative should remove that doubt.

In advance of the expected release of a global warming encyclical by Pope Francis, The Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences put out a declaration titled Climate Change and the Common Good. As Michael Bastasch observes in Vatican Paper: Ditch Capitalism To Stop Global Warming for The Daily Caller:

A Vatican declaration [was] authored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) and others who attended a meeting Tuesday on global warming. The document from participants of the meeting pushes for ditching market economies to fight global warming and environmental degradation.

The declaration reiterates common Church dogma:

“Present economic systems [market economies] have been accompanied by the development of unacceptable gaps between the rich and the poor,” the PAS writes, “the latter still lacking access to most of the scientific and technical benefits that we have developed in the industrial world.”

“We should be prepared to accept a reallocation of the benefits and burdens that accompany humanity’s activities both within nations and between nations,” according to the PAS document.

Since markets, to the extent they are free, allocate “benefits and burdens” according to the commulative voluntary choices of the millions and billions of producers and consumers interacting egoistically, “reallocation” can mean only one thing: Individuals will no longer be free to control their own lives, trade voluntarily with each other, and keep and use the property they earn in support of their own lives. They are to be subordinated to the dictates of global tyrants, who will decide how the product of the labor of all productive people will be distributed. In fact, the Vatican doesn’t even acknowledge individual effort. “We,” you see, “have developed . . . the industrial world.”

There is nothing new here. The Catholic Church has long been virulently anti-capitalist, it’s agenda in tune with the global totalitarian aspirations of communism, albeit through the political mechanism of fascism. Why the hostility toward free market capitalism? It all comes down to the Church’s view of free markets as inherently immoral:

“Market forces alone, bereft of ethical values, cannot solve the intertwined crises of poverty, exclusion, and the environment,” the document adds. “The move to a sustainable world will not be cost-free for all: the options we face are not ‘win-win.’”

There you have it. Market forces are immoral. Why?  

Markets are defined by voluntary trade, which is inherently win-win. Market forces involve the mutually beneficial, selfishly motivated exchange of economic values; i.e., the trader principle. But, according to Christian ethical dogma, morality is defined by self-sacrificial service to others; specifically, the duty to transfer—unrewarded—the wealth one has earns to anyone who is in need. Lose-win. If self-sacrifice, or altruism, isn’t present, it’s not ethical. It’s selfish, and therefore evil, according to Christian ethics. The people who have achieved a flourishing life—“Unsustainable consumption,” the declaration calls it—forever must sacrifice to those who haven’t achieved it. Therefor, market forces, which are “bereft” of altruistic self-sacrifice, must be forcibly overridden. Egoism and voluntarism, the ethical essence of capitalism, must be replaced with its antipode, altruism and force. This, the declaration explains, is “for the common good.”  

All of the evidence of free markets, up to and including modern China and India, proves that free market capitalism unshackles the political restraints that enable average people to lift themselves out of poverty. The Church can no longer deny capitalism’s prosperity-spreading heritage. Of course, market forces are not “bereft of ethical values.” But neither can it accept capitalism’s driving moral force—the pursuit of personal gain and its corollary, free trade. From the Church’s altruistic moral perspective, Francis has no choice: It is ethically mandatory to shackle the market-oriented economies and their prosperity, rather than unshackle the still-poor nations of the world and give them a non-sacrificial, win-win shot at individually self-generated, self-interest motivated “unsustainable consumption”—i.e., prosperity.

As I said, there's nothing new about the Church’s anti-capitalism. From Pope Paul VI in his 1967 Encyclical Populorum Progressio, to Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2009 Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, to Francis’s Evangelii-Gaudium, the Church has railed against free market capitalism and demanded statism. What is new is Francis’s incorporation of global warming into its anti-capitalist dogma.

The Pope has been roundly criticized for pushing the Church into the global warming political and scientific quagmire, as Bastasch notes. But global warming synergizes nicely with the Church’s usual hostility toward free markets. Marx’s notion that capitalism impoverishes the masses has been thoroughly discredited. And the history of recent decades has shown that expanding free markets is the path to lifting the third world poor out of poverty, discrediting the a string of Popes’ incessant calls for global wealth redistribution as a cure for poverty. So, how to attack immoral capitalism? Enter Environmentalism’s philosophy of privation, which holds that capitalism causes too much prosperity, threatening the planet.  Implicitly acknowledging that free markets lead to broad prosperity (“unsustainable consumption”), Francis will turn to global warming to advance the Church’s statist political goals. Why? Global warming dovetails perfectly with the Church’s altruistic, prosperity-smothering, freedom-crushing morals. Thus, the PAS declaration calls for destroying capitalism to head off “irreversible and catastrophic climate impacts”.
In Pope Francis’s anti-win-win world, there is room for the environment, which he labels “Creation,” but no room for prosperous, happy, non-sacrificial, free man. As Objectivists have long understood, one cannot defeat the enemies of “market forces . . . bereft of [altruistic] ethical values”—free market capitalism and its corollaries, individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government—without defeating the ethics of altruism, and upholding in its stead the ethical foundation of capitalism, egoism. The Pope makes that clear enough.

Related Reading:

Response to Pope Francis’s Intervention into Global Warming—James H. Rust, The Heartland Institute

Capitalism and the Moral High Ground—Craig Biddle, The Objective Standard

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