4/09/2005

President Bush Praises Pope's Stance On Communism-- Ignores Stance On Capitalism

Since the Pope's death last week, I have been reading quite a bit in the press about his life and accomplishments. I just saw this article about President Bush recently praising the Pope's stance against communism throughout his lifetime. He did play a somewhat significant role in the dismantling of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia. It is interesting to note that while the Pope was dedicated to preaching about the evils of communism, he was equally vocal about the corruption of capitalism-- stating that communism and capitalism are "flipsides of the same coin". He often would make the plea to the United States to lower our standard of living and give our surplus to needier nations.

I respect the Pope's works, beliefs, and opinions; however, on this matter, I really couldn't disagree more. With communism, the people are oppressed, forced, and constrained (at least the way we've seen it established), but with capitalism, there is prosperity, progression, and competition in a free market. Naturally, as a business student, I would take this position, but I just wanted to raise the issue to see what others thought about the Pope's view on the relationship of these two very different economic systems.

3 comments:

Mack said...

Perhaps the pope said that they are different sides of the same coin because both can be used to oppress poor people. For example, the United States using its capitalistic power controls many poor 3rd world countries. I think that the pope really wanted us to use our power to help, not oppress. He wasn't condemning how we became powerful.

C-Dizzle said...

Perhaps the Pope was not denouncing merely capitalism but the greed that comes with it. Capitalism is an “everyone for themselves” kind of idea. It’s important that we emphasize good ethics while supporting capitalism so that we will think of other people besides ourselves.

Dr. Tufte said...

OK ... time for me to really tick some people off.

There are many people - not just the Pope - who attempt to use (typically ancient) religious scripture to draw conclusions about modern economies.

The problem with that is that such things were written in an age without economic growth. Fundamentally, they are about how you divide the pie, not if and how you can make it bigger.

The idea that you may be better off by getting a smaller portion of a larger pie is simply not in those writings. Therefore, they have great difficulty in application of religious understanding to problems involving investment, saving, trade, and technological improvement.

There simply isn't a basis in religion to make moral judgements about most of the workings of economies. Moral judgements are fundamentally about making decisions after the revelation of outcomes regarding the inputs that led to those outcomes. Religion tends very strongly to be missing the black box linking inputs to outcomes when it is applied to contemporary economic questions. Religious discussions need to focus more on the input side of things - as mentioned by Meg's discussion of ethics - rather than on the outcome side.

I think the world would be a better place if economic growth in the modern era was consigned to a list of things on which religion can't have much to say because it is postdated by it (along with calculus, whole language education, sugar-free foods, whether satellite is better than cable, the electoral college, and so on).