December 06, 2013

Oh No! Not More on the Pope and Economics! Please Say It's Not So!

I have no idea why this picture is here.
Oh delicious, ye work days! You gentle hills and swales of Average day spent fulfilling the “holy purposes” of prayer, work, and meal. Building body, soul and mind. Oh I shall miss you someday, you work, I say only half-kiddingly!

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Just read a bit of the Pope's nutritious exhortation! Gosh but he knows how to exhort. Has a lively style and is disarmingly honest.

He writes of how sweet a God is who says in Scripture (Sirach):
“My child, treat yourself well, according to your means… Do not deprive yourself of the day’s enjoyment.” (Sir 14:11, 14)
Of course the downside of Bible commentaries is they often throw cold water. The NABRE mention “three realities govern Ben Sira's advice on wealth”, one being the lack of post-earthly life reward or punishment.  The Collegeville chips in similarity, pointing out that Ben had a traditional Jewish view of death as the end and thus of the “enjoy it while you've got it” philosophy:
In his teaching on the good use of wealth (vv. 11–19), Ben Sira is no Christian ascetic, practicing evangelical poverty. Rather, he acknowledges the wealth and position of his disciples and counsels them on the best way to live in their conditions. First of all, enjoy wealth (v. 11, the theme). The motive, surprisingly, is the approach of death.
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On the Pope and economics, I'm completely confused by all the cross-talk and chatter, some folks saying the Pope didn't even use the word capitalism and thus this was all about consumerism, and others calling him a Marxist and still others defending the Pope by saying he's not a Marxist but isn't a fan of unfettered capitalism and then someone else saying there is NO SUCH THING as unfettered capitalism given the government beast and that seems true and so I'm more confused than ever, and it hasn't been helped by my not reading the Exhortation yet, nor by my not reading it in the original Latin where supposedly the term “trickle-down” doesn't appear.

I's so confuzed!

But one thing's for sure: I'm not so much bothered by the pope's view of economics as the seeming lack of humility around the issue. I think it'd been grand if he said something to the effect that he wasn't an economist and that many people differ on these questions. Somebody wrote that the Church, for all her incredible works, has done less to lift people out of poverty than the free market. Perhaps one should feel a smidgeon of gratitude for something that has benefited so many, it seems like. The Church in general seems skimping in its praise of science, especially in advances in economics and medicine. On the other hand science is as nothing compared to religion given that the comfort of our earthly lives are as nothing compared to the importance of our eternal fate. Pretty hard to get worked up over a cure for polio when more and more souls are potentially damned.

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But.... when Heather King expounded on the minimum wage, there wasn't even the slightest nod that it could possibly cost jobs. (Although perhaps more likely the increase in wages will get passed on to the consumer, which is certainly much preferable to lost jobs.) But to have not even mentioned that that is a possibility seems to show a lack of nuance and ignorance at best, or a lack of charity towards ideological opponents at worst. Either way it's needlessly off-putting but could be addressed simply by admitting you're not an expert and that there these things are debated among people of good will on both sides.

In the end, I suppose everyone thinks they can play economist, much like everyone feels they could be a opinion columnist.  And certainly there's tremendous disagreement within the profession given the likes of the Austrian school versus a Paul Krugman.

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So there was Adoration, where I prayed for poor a Therese, a blogger/writer suffering from a depression intense and enduring. She says in an interview with OSV:
People who told me to find meaning in suffering meant well, but it contributes to self-hatred because I thought they were right, that it was a blessing to hurt and that I should want to hurt for Jesus.
It was nice though to be reminded by God that He loves her far more than I do, knows her far more than I do.  And providentially I came upon some beautiful Scripture in the Morning Prayer: “I will turn their mourning into joy…never again shall they languish…Then the virgins shall be merry and dance.” And the depressives as well!

Also liked this, from Isaiah (the book of the season of Advent):
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor.
I like this because it says in the first part the savior, the righteous one, will not judge by the senses. It's the polar opposite of my one-time lament, some 20 years ago, daring God to be as real to me as the raging of my hormones.

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I wrote something for Mrs. D's blog on her annual “I remember Mrs. Darwin…” theme but, as always, I find what Elizabeth Duffy writes so witty: 
You reached out your thin wrinkled and freckled hand and said, “Sometimes I wish I'd spent less time with my kids and more time building my personal brand. The kids are a thankless bunch, but the internet was always appreciative.” 
She's a laugh riot!

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UPDATE:  Peggy Noonan rules! She writes of Pope Francis:

The pope has a way of colorfully saying, through words and actions, that the church is on the side of the poor—the materially and spiritually poor—and always has been. I think he's saying that here: that the Church has a bias for the poor and impatience toward those who would abuse them. And he is speaking not infallibly but as a matter of a worldview rightly shared.
The popes of the modern era have been more or less European social democrats, of the economic left. I've never heard a pope worry about the depressive effects of high tax rates, have you? Or the dangers of high spending? Popes are sometimes geniuses but not economists.
And priests are like soldiers. I've never met a member of the military who cared much about taxing and spending. Their general view is that taxes should be high enough to allow a great nation to support a first-rate military and keep you safe, end of story. Soldiers aren't really paid commensurate with their responsibility and importance; it's not as if they're in the 60% bracket. Priests tend to be like that, too. They're not paid much, they're housed and fed by their order or parish. Taxes are more or less abstract to them. How high should taxes be? High enough for a first-rate country to help its citizens get the good things they need, end of story.

Related Video

Declarations columnist Peggy Noonan on what the President should do to end the Healthcare.gov rollout debacle. Photo: Associated Press
Priests know what's important in life, and it isn't money. You have to factor that in when you talk economic policy with them, just as you have to factor in that soldiers would give their lives for you.
Back to Francis, previous popes and economic policy. Our experience forms us. It shapes our thoughts and assumptions. John Paul II and Benedict XVI came from a particular 20th-century European experience. In their youth it was the rise of Nazism, and through their adult lives it was the constant threat of Soviet communism, which was both expansionist—it took John Paul's Poland and half of Benedict's Germany—and atheistic. They saw communism as a limiter of freedom and a distorter of the human heart.
The great foe of Soviet communism? America and the West, which had the wherewithal and spiritual strength to resist it. The West brought with it—was rich because of—free-market capitalism. John Paul and Benedict, whatever their private thoughts on how nations should arrange themselves economically, came to have a natural appreciation and respect for what made the West wealthy. They understood its positive utility.
Francis may turn out to be different in this regard. It is possible his appreciation for the wider apparatus of economic freedom does not run so deep. He is from Argentina, not a frontline state in the Cold War, and not necessarily a place—Peronism, corporatism, the military's influence, the intertwining of money and government—that would give you a dreamy sense of free-market potential. Trickle-down didn't always work so well there.

4 comments:

mrsdarwin said...

But at least you wrote something! Thank you!

I think that next year will be the last installment of I Remember MrsDarwin. Either it's run its course, or the blog has run its course, or blogging in general has run its course -- so few people who want to leave a comment anymore, even to have fun. And ten seems like the right number to go out on.

TS said...

Yes, it does seem that blogging in general has to some extent gone the way of all flesh. Facebook and Twitter seem to be a part of its demise even though I think of them as serving different porpoises than blogging.

Tom said...

If you've been doing something for ten years or so, it's natural to ask yourself what you've gotten out of it. And if you haven't gotten a Patheos gig or book deal, well, maybe it's not quite as important as it used to be.

TS said...

True, does take a bit of the excitement out of it when that potential for a gig/book deal ends.