Some git who is presumably being paid money to do something or other for the American Enterprise Institute, the bastion of pseudo-thought for right wing causes, announced the other day that Pope Francis doesn’t understand the value of “free market capitalism” in creating a “moral society.” I swear, that is what he said.
Let us start with the oxymoron, “free market capitalism.” The correct term is “laissez faire capitalism.” To call it “free”, you have to seriously abuse the word “free” to mean allowing capitalists to do whqtever they want to do. What they want to do has nothing to do with freedom in any sense. The most casual glance at what capitalists have done historically will show that capitalists desire, most of all, monopolies. The practice of laissez faire capitalism has been to drive out all competition and drive up prices as high as the market will allow them. I give you, as a trite example, the recent disclosure that the drug companies were charging, five hundred dollars for a drug that, when produced generically, went on the market for eleven dollars. You might also want to review the “free market” conduct of the mortgage brokers pre-2008 or the “free market” conduct of a deregulated banking industry. You might also want to look at the marvelous things “free market” capitalism are doing for morality in the emerging nations. The air quality in Beijing might be a good place to start. In fact, China is a perfect example of what the “free market” capitalists do to a country.
Oddly enough, what the AEI guy called “free market capitalism” is quite in sync with a Communist political regime. These are the same people who use their money to promote the restriction of voting rights and the continuing impoverishment of the lower economic classes for the benefit of the upper one percent. That kind of elitism is precisely the cancer that pervaded Communist Russia and Communist China. Laissez faire capitalism is far more compatible with dictatorship than with the American ideal. Just ask yourselves why it is that the United States has historically supported dictatorships over those who protested the violation of their rights. Cuba, Argentina, South Africa. The list is very long, and the story is always the same, capitalists insisting on protecting their property in dictatorships.
Second step: Please let us stop confusing capitalism with democracy. Capitalism is an economic theory, and democracy is a political theory. American democracy is grounded in the principle of inherent human rights, and I dare you to find in any writing by any theorist of capitalism any mention of inherent human rights. Capitalism justifies itself in answer to the question: how is a large money economy best organized and operated? Democracy justifies itself in answer to the question: how are a people best served by a government? Capitalism is a tool in service to a people. It is not a moral or even a political principle. If anything, the appropriate model for laissez faire capitalism is war, which is properly defined as the abandonment of morality.
Final step: Morality is the overarching question to which all other principles and theories are in service. Morality is the principle of fundamental human value. The United States was not founded on capitalism. It stands, perhaps alone in the history of the world, as a nation founded on a moral principle, on what, in fact, I consider the fundamental principle of all human value: each and every human being, by virtue of simply being human, has inviolable rights. To say that differently, my value rests entirely in the fact that I am responsible to every human being. The American ideal is not contained in the term “laissez faire.” It is, rather, the over-arching principle by which we judge and control the conduct of capitalists.
Ask yourself this: who are our heroes? Donald Trump? Carl Icahn? Michael Milliken? No. Nelson Mandela? Mohandas Gandhi? Mother Theresa? Yes. Why? Because of their commitment to laissez faire capitalism? No, more likely because they knew the difference between laissez faire capitalism and morality. Capitalism, properly regulated and controlled, is an effective tool to be used in service to the rights of human beings. Laissez faire capitalism, alway hiding behind the term “free” when it is anything but that, is the abandonment of human rights in service to power.
I wish someone would explain that to the git from AEI.