If The Catholic Church chooses to reduce itself to being just another boring Left-wing interest group that shills for the collective immiseration of mind, body and spirit that Marxism typically entails, then it needs and deserves condign replacement as a legitimate moral authority. This is quite the radical proclamation, but only when viewed through the lens of credulous, rather than skeptical faith. This week President Obama deems the Pope infallible. It’s not the world’s first conversion based on expedience and a leader in any walk of life is fairly judged by the company he chooses to keep. This should be seen as endorsement of neither Barack Obama nor the current Pontifex Maximus.
To understand why our academic Leninist-In-Chief who has dedicated his life and career to the agglomeration of property and power in the hands of an overdetermining state, would suddenly admit to the presence of a higher power that doesn’t regularly join him in caucus, we sample some of Pope Francis’ theology prior to Laudato Si.
“Economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain, which fail to take the context into account, let alone the effects on human dignity and the natural environment,” the pontiff writes. “Here we see how environmental deterioration and human and ethical degradation are closely linked. Many people will deny doing anything wrong because distractions constantly dull our consciousness of just how limited and finite our world really is. As a result, ‘whatever is fragile, like the environment is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.’”
The Pope has raised an interesting question. Does Capitalism rot and befoul the God-breathed verdure of our world? It deserves a proper and thoroughgoing response. Economist Deirdre McCloskey offers a part of what the question merits.
Hear again that last, crucial, astonishing fact, discovered by economic historians over the past few decades. It is: in the two centuries after 1800 the trade-tested goods and services available to the average person in Sweden or Taiwan rose by a factor of 30 or 100. Not 100 percent, understand—a mere doubling—but in its highest estimate a factor of 100, nearly 10,000 percent, and at least a factor of 30, or 2,900 percent. The Great Enrichment of the past two centuries has dwarfed any of the previous and temporary enrichments.
OK, so we’ve got swag in our pockets. Isn’t it still possible we acquire temporary baubles at the expense of precious Gaia and are the species that Agent Smith described us as in The Matrix. This would be the upshot of Laudato Si without the prettified language of the clerisy.
So are human beings salacious, parasitical monkeys that need Big Brother to lock them back in their cage? Do we need to be sent to a big, long time out from gainful economic self-betterment because The Pope loves us and wants us to behave? Let’s examine more data. George Will offers us a skeptical riposte to Pope Francis’ demeaning, anti-humanistic environmental theology.
Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, notes that coal supplanting wood fuel reversed deforestation, and “fertilizer manufactured with gas halved the amount of land needed to produce a given amount of food.” The capitalist commerce that Francis disdains is the reason the portion of the planet’s population living in “absolute poverty” ($1.25 a day) declined from 53 percent to 17 percent in three decades after 1981. Even in low-income countries, writes economist Indur Goklany, life expectancy increased from between 25 to 30 years in 1900 to 62 years today. Sixty-three percent of fibers are synthetic and derived from fossil fuels; of the rest, 79 percent come from cotton, which requires synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. “Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides derived from fossil fuels,” he says, “are responsible for at least 60 percent of today’s global food supply.” Without fossil fuels, he says, global cropland would have to increase at least 150 percent — equal to the combined land areas of South America and the European Union — to meet current food demands.
To undo the supposed evils of Capitalism, intellectualism, and creative economic destruction would be to undo the entire network of interactions that currently feeds and educates an 8 Billion person world. This would leave Pope Francis with the choice of having about ½ of that world die, or having about 1/3 of it enslaved and utterly despoiled to feed the rest. Is this a Hobson’s choice that any believing Christian would feel good about making?
In essence, Pope Francis’ theology is the theology of failure. It fails to make the vital distinction between humility in lifestyle and degradation of being. The world without plastics, modern agriculture, and fossil fuels would be more comprehensible, but vastly more ignorant and miserable. That a man with the control fetish that drives Barack Obama would like this is easily imaginable. I wonder what perverts a more reasonable and purportedly holy man such as Francis into having such a diabolical view of humanity. It brings to mind a short and sparse verse from The Book. John 11:35.