Religion

Capitalism, Poverty and Christian Charity

Why is capitalism so often in the firing line of Christian churches? Perhaps they believe that Bible’s enjoinment to share with the poor does not sit easily with the acquisitiveness that drives capitalism. If so, they need to think it through

By no later than the thirteenth century, the leading Christian theologians had fully debated the primary aspects of emerging capitalism—profits, property rights, credit, lending, and the like … Capitalism was fully and finally freed of all fetters of faith.
                                                    Rodney Stark, The Triumph of Christianity

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capitalism IIRodney Stark is a fan of both Roman Catholicism and capitalism. He sees the former as being instrumental in the rise of the latter and much more profoundly so than Weber’s Protestant work ethic. Whether Catholicism or Protestantism was most responsible for spurring economic progress in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and beyond can be debated. What I believe to be true is that across all of its denominational variants, Christianity is bound together in a holy and secular alliance with capitalism. This is not universally appreciated. It should be, as I hope to explain.

Christianity views this life as the “testing ground” for the afterlife. Ergo, this free-willed life is definingly consequential. And part of our earthly job, as the parable of the talents makes clear, is to make the best use of the resources at our disposal. On a wholesale material level this leaves us, I would argue, with one option, which is capitalism. The alternative produces demonstrably awful material results and, as Hayek peerlessly set out, the loss of individual freedom.

You might think that the original acceptance of its essential elements, as described by Stark in the opening quote, would have led Christian churches to embrace capitalism. As we know, this has not been the case. It has been, and is, a fractious relationship. The perceived outcomes of capitalism do not always sit well with Christian charity and, accordingly, with Christian leaders; most of whom, it is fair to say, have not studied economics at Chicago. Putting capitalism, poverty and charity into proper perspective is my theme.

Unlike Stark, Pope Francis is no fan of capitalism. He laid out his disdain in his encyclical Laudato Si’ (On care for our common home) in May 2015. And he backed this up with blunt language in a speech in Bolivia in July of the same year:

The earth, entire peoples and individual persons are being brutally punished. And behind all this pain, death and destruction there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called “the dung of the devil”. An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home.

No one favours an unfettered and greedy pursuit of money, even though they might not describe it in such colourful terms as “the dung of the devil”. But greed must be distinguished from obtaining the best reward for one’s goods or services. Searching for the best price is part and parcel of how capitalism works. Morality is not at stake, per se, in that process.

Let me quote St Thomas Aquinas, quoting St Augustine, in Summa Theologica: “The greedy tradesman blasphemes over his losses; he lies and perjures himself over the price of his wares. But these are vices of the man, not of the craft, which can be exercised without these vices” (my emphasis). Of course, Aquinas says a lot about “the just price” which might not always sit well with market outcomes. But that simply means that it is important to have rules and oversight which combat anti-competitive and corrupt practices.

Level-headiness is needed and the Pope himself, perhaps unwittingly, provides it in paragraph 109 of his encyclical. “By itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” That is exactly right. It is, as logicians might say, a category error to assume otherwise. Capitalism’s claim is modest when set against the full gamut of human needs. It simply produces more goods, more services, more jobs and more wealth, than can any other economic system. And, more­over, it does this in ways which ensure that resources are ever plentiful.

Capitalism is not the answer to the suffering of man on this earth. And no pretence should be held out that it is or that it claims to be. Or, importantly, that it can be made to be; which prompts a brief segue into hot air. In particular, in this case, into a conference called “Making Capitalism More Inclusive”, held in London in May 2014. Inclusive Capitalism was a concept developed in 2012 by the Henry Jackson Society, a British “neo-conservative” think-tank, or so it is described by Wikipedia. Unfortunately, it is a deeply flawed concept, driven by the latter-day hysteria over inequality. It is ideally made for a takeover by those with leftist tendencies.

Accordingly, the conference was opened by Prince Charles and featured Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney and Lawrence Summers. There was hardly a “neo-conservative” in sight. It is no surprise either that Justin Welby is a fellow traveller. So far two conferences have followed: in London in June 2015 and in New York in October 2016. Presumably another is pending, though the website for the “Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism” does not say when or where this will occur.

Welby participated in the 2015 conference. Here he is at that conference describing what is required of capitalism: “A generosity of spirit that doesn’t always seek the greatest return … that meets the needs of the poor and the excluded and the suffering.” And, among a number of follow-up statements, he reportedly said this last year: “Capitalism in Britain is broken and needs urgent reform because it is leaving young people worse off than their parents.” The Archbishop might consider massive low-skilled immigration as a factor depressing wages and creating unemployment and poverty among many of his fellow citizens. Though that might be too factually confronting, as consequences often are.

As extraordinary as it seems, this is Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, at the 2014 conference: “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, and fairness across generations.” Relative equality of outcomes? How in the world does this pass muster outside of a communist agitprop conference?

Capitalism is adversarial. We depend upon entrepreneurs and businesses vigorously competing with each other and seeking out the very best deal for themselves and their companies. We need more, not less, of this honest expression of commercial self-interest. In the end result, it brings the greatest benefit for the greatest number. Capitalism cannot be moulded into a generous outreach to the poor and disadvantaged. At the same time, as Michael Novak puts it in an afterword to the 1991 edition of his book The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, “it is the most practical hope of the world’s poor: no magic wand, but the best hope”.

Capitalism’s principal competitor in producing wealth is not some illusory halfway house between capitalism and socialism emerging formlessly out of elitist talkfests. It is socialism itself. And socialism has an unremitting history of abject failure. Unfortunately, not everyone has taken the trouble to look objectively at the historical record. Cock-eyed hope springs eternal when it comes to Marx’s legacy. It is a resilient mirage on the hill forever promising plenty for all.

New generations of idealistic youth latch onto it led by ageing patriarchs like Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, and even by the odd ageing matriarch, such as Elizabeth Warren of Pocahontas fame. Of course, it is not only the young and the old who suffer from utopianism. There’s a fair swag of those in-between who can’t blame either their youth or advanced age for their historical dyslexia. Take the ex-president of the International Union of Socialist Youth, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, now aged thirty-seven.

Ms Ardern recently put poverty and homelessness in New Zealand down to “a blatant failure of capitalism”. Nothing is more certain than that doses of socialism will make matters worse. Along with the current Pope and many other Christian church leaders, politicians like Ardern, and throw in the middle-aged Bill Shorten, don’t understand capitalism. In fact, most people don’t understand it. This allows those with socialist leanings in powerful positions to rail against cruel fortune, blame capitalism, and generate unfulfillable expectations.

Let me put capitalism in a nutshell. If you only have a dollar on a bitterly cold night and a cup of coffee costs two dollars, tough, you don’t get the coffee—short of a good Samaritan opportunely strolling by. Capitalism rewards those with the ability to pay. You don’t get things because you deserve them or desperately need them. You only get them if you can pay the going price. How cruel is that? Not as cruel as any alternatives man can devise. It is the least worst way of deciding who gets the goods, at least on the first pass. Any other way degenerates into nepotism, cronyism, corruption and ultimately misery.

Not all is rosy. Market forces, left unconstrained in pursuit of profit, can lead to unconscionable practices and outcomes—dirty air and rivers, child labour, and other unthinkable abominations, like human trafficking and the sale by Planned Parenthood in the US of aborted-baby body parts. But, shorn of its unethical excesses, capitalism is enormously beneficial. Market prices guide resources to where they can be used most productively and they trigger discoveries, inventions, innovations and investments. Out pours an ever-growing flow of goods and services and the opportunity for many to lift themselves out of poverty and off welfare dependency. However, it’s worth re-emphasising, it doesn’t achieve the unachievable. It doesn’t rid the world of poverty. That’s not within its remit.

Poverty is pervasive. The World Bank reported in 2016 that those living on less than its revised benchmark of $1.90 per day (in 2011 US purchasing-power dollars) dropped from 35 per cent of the world’s population to 11 per cent between 1990 and 2013. That’s obviously a good thing, but imagine the difficulty of living on ten times this amount in most places. And, taking official data at face value, the picture is mixed. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN reported last year that “the estimated number of undernourished people increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016”. Grinding poverty is not confined to poor countries.

In Australia, with a population of just 24 million or so, ACOSS reported in 2016 that over 700,000 children were living in poverty. Now this figure is based on arbitrary and contestable OECD criteria and undoubtedly exaggerates the problem. Nevertheless, it still gives a stark-enough picture to put Bob Hawke’s goal of ridding Australia of child poverty by 1990 into the crowded assemblage of failed utopian-socialist promises. Leave aside statistics. They can desensitise the mind.

Frank Field, member of parliament for Birkenhead in England, across the Mersey from Liverpool, where I was born and lived my formative years, began an organisation at the end of 2014 to tackle the effects of poverty. “Feeding Birkenhead” is a coalition of churches, community groups and other organisations working together to eliminate hunger in Birkenhead. This is Field writing in the Spectator in October last year:

In the early days of Feeding Birkenhead, we found families needed to take home candles to light their homes … Lack of food and fuel, often against a backdrop of debt, is so endemic amongst families that FB is in the process of establishing a Citizen’s Supermarket, which will give families access to good food that would otherwise be wasted, but at a fraction of the normal price.

This story of poverty amidst plenty exists most everywhere. It is a never-ending story from Australia to Birkenhead and, for another example, skip across the Atlantic from Birkenhead to the US capital.

Beverley Wheeler is director of “DC Hunger Solutions”, which brings together government agencies and community and faith-based organisations to combat hunger in Washington. Wheeler was reported in the Washington Post on September 19 last year as asking, “How can there be any hunger in the capital of the wealthiest, most powerful country in the world?” Apparently, DC Hunger Solutions found that 27 per cent of households had experienced periods over 2014 and 2015 when they were unable to afford food. Here is an interesting comment from the author of the Washington Post article, Courtland Milloy: “Some would say that is how capitalism works: The haves have, the have-nots don’t. Besides, there are federal food subsidies and charitable organisations to help the poor.”

Mr Milloy was commenting sardonically to make a point. But he is essentially right. That is precisely the way capitalism works. But don’t blame capitalism for simply being capitalism. Reach a balanced conclusion. That conclusion is that we need governments to encourage and nurture (ethical) capitalism in order to make the best use of resources, grow economies and provide employment opportunities. At the same time, governments must provide measured assistance to those who fall by the wayside and also provide a supportive environment for charities to flourish at both national and community levels. These are all complementary, not clashing, facets of government policies.

Christian leaders rightly throw light on the plight of the poor. At the same time, they are mistaken in blaming capitalism. They see poverty and they see capitalism and wrongly put the two together. Perhaps it is unfair to conjoin all Christian leaders in this error. It is noteworthy, for example, that Michael Novak, in a CIS dialogue, reported Pope John Paul II as attributing the “many faults which socialist thinkers attribute to capitalism … to a moral-cultural system that is analytically distinct from capitalism.” Spot on. But, it is fair to say, I think, that John Paul is not representative of recent popes and other Christian church leaders.

Poverty in much of the world stems from corrupt and dysfunctional cultures, as John Paul intimated. But put cultural issues aside. Individual disabilities, frailties and sheer misfortune are by-products of human existence and will always result in poverty. Often, too, misguided government intervention makes matters worse rather than better. A free-of-poverty nirvana is not achievable.

It must be kept uppermost in mind that capitalism bakes the pie. Those wanting to cut and distribute the resulting pie to achieve so-called “social justice” need to tread carefully. The creation and distribution of wealth are part of one market process. They are not separate and can’t be ripped apart. Human resources move to where they are paid most. Accordingly, some people get rich. However, on balance, the movement of resources to where the rewards are greatest also means that most value is added. Reward and the generation of economic value are inextricably linked.

While capitalism doesn’t cure poverty, it does create wealth and jobs. And, beyond that, it provides the wherewithal for both governments and charities to lessen the extent and severity of poverty. Capitalism isn’t perfect. Nothing is or will be. But the alternative, whenever tried—in the old Eastern Europe, in Cuba, in Venezuela—always produces abject misery.

Socialism has been a curse on the poor. Surely this is no secret. So why is capitalism so often in the firing line of Christian churches? Perhaps they believe that the emphasis in the Bible on sharing with the poor does not sit easily with the acquisitiveness that drives capitalism. They need to think it through.

There are many passages in the Bible that advocate giving to the poor. One well known one recorded in Matthew (19:21), in Mark (10:21) and in Luke (18:22) has Jesus advising a “rich young ruler” to give away all of his possessions to the poor and follow Him. This proved too demanding, as it would, no doubt, for all but a rare few of us. Personal redemption for the young man in question lies at the heart of this passage and it is difficult to generalise its import. However, there is another passage in Acts (4:32–37) which presents a more generalised picture of charitable giving and which, superficially at least, in the wrong hands, creates a tension between Christianity and capitalism.

In the passage, a multitude of believers, all possessors of land and goods, sell them and pass the proceeds to those in need. Now, when I first heard this story, as a Christian and a supporter of capitalism, I inwardly asked whether anything was known of those who, in particular, had bought the land. If the land had been bought by those who could exploit it more productively then the set of commercial transactions and charitable giving might possibly be of net social benefit, even accounting for the dissipation of investable capital it entails. On the other hand, if the land was used less productively then society as a whole would certainly suffer. You see, you have to take a long and consequential view. The generous gesture on the part of landowners might, depending on the circumstances, go on to engender more rather than less poverty. “The common good”, as Catholic teaching puts it, might not end up being best served.

The key to having anything to distribute is production. For that we need landowners to work their land, not to give it away. Giving it away, in itself, creates nothing. When billionaires give money to charities that is fine and generous but it is reasonable to ask whether they could do more good by investing the money in productive enterprises. You can’t draw hard and fast lines. Charity has its place alongside business investment. But, to state the obvious, wealth has to be first made before it can be given away. Mind you, the obvious appears not to be universally appreciated.

As societies have become wealthier, and wealthier still, a disconnect has arisen in the minds of many between the vast array of commodities on show and available every day and the processes of making and delivering them. A cargo cult, almost, has taken hold. This is most acutely seen, in my view, among the Greens. However, to varying extents, this mentality is widespread. It is prevalent among charity and church leaders who otherwise display no tendency to believe in magic.

Quite apart from the drift of industry to Asia, manufacturing and transport industries have become so labour-saving that they are remote from the lives of most people living in the Western world. Far fewer people are now down mines, or on factory floors, or on the wharves, or on commercial ships. Accordingly, most people don’t see these processes at work. I sailed on a container ship from Hong Kong to Southampton in 2013. With a carrying capacity of 10,000 standard containers, it had just twenty-eight officers and crew—and they were predominantly from Croatia and the Philippines.

The growing lack of awareness of what it takes to make and transport commodities has proved fertile ground for breeding an infantile mindset, which is as divorced from economic reality as is the mindset of primitive cargo cultists. Greens are probably beyond the incursion of reality. I like to think church leaders are not. Let me humbly suggest a rider to the import of 2 Corinthians 9:7, which reads: “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” The rider is that in the general course “a cheerful giver” must first invest his capital, time and effort in making stuff before having anything to give away.

Entropy, poverty and misery are always waiting in the wings unless free markets guide the process of creating and distributing wealth. Rodney Stark is right, I believe. Capitalism’s development and growth would not have occurred but for Christian values. In turn, capitalism has provided material riches and remains the key to alleviating poverty.

Christianity, charity and capitalism go hand in hand. It is beyond time for a renewal of the rapprochement of the thirteenth century, as described by Stark, between the pillars of capitalism and Christianity. Christians who complain about capitalism need to go back to basics. Poverty will always be with us. “For you have the poor with you always” (Matthew 26:11). Charity will always be required. Meanwhile capitalism is peerless at providing the wherewithal to support charity while progressively reducing, though never ending, the need for it. It is a match made in heaven and earth.

Peter Smith is a frequent contributor. He wrote the article “Robotic Reductio ad Absurdum” in the January-February issue.

 

 

 

22 comments
  • Jacob Jonker

    Oh dear, oh dear, what a performance. One would have thought western society had nearly moved on from this cult of unreconstructed, unabashed and stridently unapologetic free enterprise capitalist fundamentalism. To even answer a portion of this regurgutated mass of, say, capitalist propaganda. I would say sick mirroring Islamic extremist votive offerings, would take some doing. I happen to believe in social-democratic sovereign nation-states, whatever one makes of that, and support in principle the system of free enterprise capitalism, but not when it in fact is a cover for a hijack of government, bureaucracy and most of the body politic in the, nominally, democratic nation-state. There is no need to refute the claims and assertions made in defence of this kind of capitalism and that kind of Christianity. Events will see to that. The author and his fifty or more years worth of corporate- and before that plain robber-baron-,funded think-tanks output, with all his sources and references, leaves me singularly unimpressed. It is so much spruiking which will be its own undoing as the facts as they be render this kind of spin increasingly ridiculous-Untenable it is already. My perspective on the Establishment in the West has been shaped over a period of fifty adult years. I have long been of the opinion that they have lost the plot. The new generation of Establishment movers and shakers have built their whole edifice like a house of cards on shifting sand. Now, Trump is a wild card, and non-conforming in a way, but he cannot stop, or even stay, the movement of geopolitical tectonic plates. For the rest of the Establishment and all the new boy and girl billionaire political operators, they are running hither and thither and scarcely know what next to devise, proffer and offer distract the mob while desperately manoeuvring to gain some measure of increased control as things are leaving their grasps.
    The new world order is part of the old order. It is the beginning of the end for the old paradigm. Yes, don’t laugh. Globalisation and the internet has set forces in train which the elites in the West have no hope of channeling to their advantage. People in the West are getting heartily sick of the elites. The rest of the world is a little behind, but moving faster in that regard.
    Now for the arguments advanced by Peter Smith and Co, for capitalism and Christianity both, it is one-sided self-serving and self-defeating spin. Where ot start? Just look at Christian religious institutions, people who called themselves Christians or do not object being rated as such, and then look at the principles supposed to be the basis of Christian faith, both the O.T. version and the N.T. version. Nary a Christian would see that the O.T. And the N.T. are incompatible if taken literally, from an ethical perspective. Do ethics matter to Christians such as are also avowed fundamentalist capitalist propaganda spinners. Their quoting the Bible notwithstanding, I hear clanging cymbals and self-justifying trumpeters. Christians true can be capitalists in a modified social-democratic fashion. However, if they start quoting from the O.T., they will be judged by O.T. standards. An eye for an eye. The oil companies in the US have half decided they should invite anyone who feels disadvantaged by these companies’ doings to sue them. Are they running scared? Looking back a few hundred years, western capitalists may have some wrongs to right. Perchance, the people who feel disadvantaged, going back three, nay, four generations, might find their own way to redress injustices, going back to the third, and yea, the fourth generation of exploiters, warmongers,etc. The Old Testament God so loved His people, He allowed them to smite other people and take their land. The rest is not history, but will be some day. Christians have something to deal with yet. Their hypocrisy is astounding, their institutions are rotten, their principles not even honoured in the breach. Most who call themselves Christian would not know a principle from a political advantage. Anyway, the capitalist Christians who profess to be both with fervour are welcome to their trade. Feverish and constant self-justification is their lot.

    • Jody

      Oh dear, oh dear; what an anti-capitalist, anti-christian rant.

      • whitelaughter

        Thanks for the sum up Jody, I tuned out after the first couple of lines, so good to know I didn’t miss anything.

  • [email protected]

    The Rise of Reason, How the West Won, God’s Battalions to add more fascinating reading… And I thought it started with Protestants,
    silly me, well , never too late to learn. And, besides, Rodney S. is not even Catholic.

  • Jim Kapetangiannis

    Well done Peter,

    Without capitalism and a (relatively) free market, there is no real helping of the poor at all. If we all lived only for our needs what surplus could we share with others? Without the surplus, it would require that we sacrifice something of which we ourselves are in need and thus, we could all be abjectly poor together! Such is the reality of “socialism” – a mere dream and phantom which seeks to capture a “market share” as an earthly alternative to the eternal kingdom. Nothing original at all as you have pointed out.

    I too have often wondered where the early church experiment with communism ended up. I can only think that this short pericope was included in the New Testament for didactic purposes. Its’ primary purpose was to teach us that the Church is a “universal” institution. That is to say that as the Christians of Jerusalem and Judea gave up the ability to produce what was required for their immediate needs to live experimentally in a kind of earthly pre-figurement of heaven (dare I say, a socialist Utopia)by giving away their possessions, when the realities of human existence hit (and hit hard) they were dependent on the gifts of the Macedonian and other Greek Christians for their survival. Thus, an opportunity arose for one branch of the Church to share with another. Their abundance made up for the others lack, but both branches of the family would have equally suffered if there was no surplus to share!

    I’m no economist but blind Freddy can see that the only economic system that has lifted millions out of poverty, enabled their broader education and raise their living standards has been some form of capitalism. That is the reality.

    As for the attacks on Christianity – I expect that in the West they will get more intense and you and I and others like us can expect to cop a lot more anger directed towards us. We (as a civilisation) have chosen the darkness and eventually (and without repentance) it will be our reward. But Christianity is not dying – quite the opposite. It is growing and growing very rapidly in other parts of the world which are now on target to overtake the West both economically, militarily and intellectually.

    As Qoholeth said three thousand years ago…”there is nothing new under the Sun”. Civilisations rise and fall. Our turn is coming to an end and as we become an increasingly dull people, we will “deserve” a dull and oppressive system of government – you know, the one in which we are all “equal”!

  • sabena

    “Let me put capitalism in a nutshell. If you only have a dollar on a bitterly cold night and a cup of coffee costs two dollars, tough, you don’t get the coffee—short of a good Samaritan opportunely strolling by. Capitalism rewards those with the ability to pay.”
    And if the example was explored further,in all probability the inability to pay would arise from some exclusionary practice eg price fixing,wage fixing or other interference in the free market.

  • en passant

    Peter (and Jakob),
    In 1972 the ‘Great Gough’ began paying aboriginals a compensatory ‘pension’ for having been ‘robbed’ of their land. A friend of mine at the time obtained Sandalwood from a remote aboriginal community and exported it to Asia (for joss sticks, I think). His business died with that first payment of ‘sit down money’. This was also when alcoholism and the cultural destruction began (that included my friend and his life).

    Finland has just cancelled a 2-year failed experiment to GIVE substantial payments to the long term unemployed so they have the freedom to take time to seek work, improve themselves without the pressures of money worries. It was their version of ‘sit down money’ as people just spent it until it was gone then stuck their hand out for more. Sounds like Rudd’s GFC cheque to us all – that he borrowed and we have had to pay back.

    Many years ago I took an unpaid ‘vacation’ to work on a project for a ‘Christian’ charity in an exotic location (that I am visiting for the second time just next week).

    Suffice to say that the experience was such that I have NEVAAAA donated a single $$ to any charity since. I expected (and enjoyed) the primitive existence, the aesthetics, if you like, but what was intolerable was the hypocrisy of the many photo ops of the Charity’s senior executives with the poor, their generous pay, high-living, disdain for the volunteers and extensive (and expensive) travel to conferences. A forerunner of the Climate Cult Criminals. I lived in a hut in the country side, they lived in a 5***** hotel in the city.

    I still support capitalism, though I had two near-death financial experiences (from which I recovered) that could have ruined me, my family and … well, everything. We came back for the third time and succeeded in securing our future. All it took was working 7-days a week for 24-years, including 8-years I spent away from home working in foreign lands.

    Now of course, there is a thought-bubble (by the taxpayer-funded and well-superannuated) Shorten and the Dark Green Orcs to take a substantial portion of this uber-wealth I have saved by forfeiting much else such as holidays and family time as I have accumulated an ‘unfair’ portion of the nation’s wealth that I have clearly not deserved.

    • lloveday

      Turnbull, Shorten, Di Natale, Hanson, Leyonhjelm, Bernardi and every other MHR or Senator elected at or since the 2004 election receive an employer superannuation contribution of 15.4%, accessible on the same conditions as other Australians.

      They are thus no better superannuated than members of the Australian Public Service who joined since 1/7/2005; ep may know that, but I get fed-up with Letters Editors of newspapers such as The Australian and Daily Telegraph publishing letters from people falsely accusing any and all of being on, or eligible for, the Pension Scheme – they are not, unlike Howard and Latham, the architects of closing the Pension Scheme to newcomers while ensuring they were both eligible – in Latham’s case a particular mis-use of public funds as he received the life-long, indexed pension, with a substantial residual pension to a widow and minor children, at the age of 44 and after less than 11 years as a MP.

      • Jacob Jonker

        So in due course we will find out how these politicians and public servants fare, who since 2004 are receiving the same benefits as the Australian public. Possibly, the other ways and means by which the people on the tax- and consumer-funded gravy train are looked after have become established well enough for the super super to be retired from the scams.
        Some like Trumble were already cashed up. The majority who do the globalising corporates’ bidding do well outside or alongside their public service career. In fact, it would be interesting to have a look at the financial/economic lifetime career of such politicians and public servants who have overtly and covertly supported big business over the interest of the nation and all citizens equally. If they don’t do well, it is as likely as not they are not with it. Generally, people who are not “with it” don’t get a look in in politics or anywhere in the public service these days. Even in private enterprise, the weeding out of employees who are not “with it” has been going on for more than forty years- since the beginning of the Eighties in my opinion, speaking from experience.

  • [email protected]

    First off we need to define what we mean by capitalism. The natural law supports private property. St Thomas Aquinas supports trade as long as it is done at a fair price. He is however opposed to speculation – the buying of goods to hold so that they can be sold later at a higher price. Aristotle also called this practice unnatural.

    Adam Smith’s definition of capitalism based on modernism has consistently been opposed by the catholic church. Pope francis is just one of a long list of popes who have derided his theories. Indeed both pope Benedict and JP2 were even more strident in their opposition. All three popes rely heavily on st thomas Aquinas in their criticism.

    First off adam smith’s science of economics has been a failure from the beginning. Human beings do not behave in the way that smith assumes – selfishly, atomistlicly. AS to establish his science must do away with man’s reason, morality. This is made clear in the wealth of nations where he removes God. A man’s character is measured by his wealth, not his virtues.

    Unfortunately, liberal economics, despite its evident failures has a cult like following. People refuse to see the theory’s failings. It is in the end little different to marxism, marxism comindg from the sme philosophical foundations as AS. Both are utopian. Both dispel the natural law and man’s higher reason.

    • en passant

      Sert,
      Sigh …

      I don’t think we read the same version of Adam Smith, or we interpreted it differently.

      Firstly, Smith was the first real economist and as such was an explorer trying to understand, categorise and explain what he observed. He was not concerned with any god’s views (altruistic, or more likely, totalitarian and evil), medical science, space travel, geographical exploration or other factors outside of his focus on economics. Maybe that is a fault, sort of like Climate pseudo-‘scientists’ and rent-seeking conmen ignoring the Sun, clouds and water vapour as factors in our climate, but I think not as he expanded his views in later essays. Also, Hume, Ricardo and others entered the debate as a result of his pioneering work.

      The essence of what he observed was that economies are chaotic and unplannable because the outputs change daily and so, therefore, must the input factors. That is chaotic and unplannable, but the capitalist economies work because of an ‘invisible hand’ that responds to these rapid changes and meets them through initiative, risk-taking, investment and judgment. Get it wrong and the consequences are creative destruction.

      A few years ago I read an article concerning the 40th anniversary of the ‘Fortune 500’ list of companies. Shockingly, after only 40 years 70% of the world’s largest and most powerful corporations and businesses no longer existed having either closed or been taken over. For instance, Bear Stearns, DEC and Zenith. Compaq was not even in existence on the first list, was there for 30-years and had imploded and been taken over by H-P before the 40th year. It is hard reading, but plough through “Built to Last” for an insight into generational survival of businesses.

      The best example I have seen of the difference between central planning and the unplanned capitalist economies was a article comparing the old socialist USSR central economic planning and Paris. I have a photo of a Russian supermarket when I was there in 1990. Row after row of bare shelves. The fresh food section would not have made the Woolies trash bin. Yet a few streets away was a thriving black market supervised by some well-fed police …

      The article compared this to buying a bagel in Paris, a city of comparable size. Nobody in the French Interior Ministry set out the number of bagels to be baked on any day, but enough always were. Sufficient flour was delivered and the bagels were baked. The Invisible Hand at work. If central planning is possible, tell me within + or -10% how many bagels Paris needs on 1st June 2018 …

      Nowhere did Smith say that capricious and greedy capitalism should be allowed to thrive (see Oz Royal Commission into Financial Services and Banking), but that the poor, the disabled and special categories such as ‘carers’, the sick and the retired should be assisted, but not the lazy, the work shy or the conmen. Note the word assisted. Not working and contributing to society, but being paid for your choice by the taxpaying workers should not ever be a lifestyle choice. No problem if you are rich enough to be self-funded.

      The country in which I now live has no social security, per se, but it also has few homeless and nobody is starving. If you are unemployed and have no money & no job, no problem. Turn up at 06.00am at the local Council depot. They will drive you somewhere and give you a broom, a shovel and a cart and you clean a 1km stretch of road and trim the trees. At 4.00pm they come back, inspect your work and pay you. Repeat until you find a better job. Last Xmas I gave a present of some money to the young woman who is a regular in front of my apartment. Apart from the street front which she keeps immaculately clean, it is a pleasure to pass her as she sings to herself while sweeping. There is dignity in what she does, and does well.

      The churches priests like to feel good, so they are happy to take your money and legacies while making you feel guilty . They have no solution, but a bit of self-flagellation, coupled with flogging their congregation is a good substitute for reality and a lack of a recent message from any god.

  • en passant

    I just cut this [abbreviated] comment from ‘Jihad Watch’. A good summary of the godly’s position in condemning money-grubbers at any cost …

    “The U.S. Catholic bishops submitted a brief to the Supreme Court declaring that President Donald Trump’s ban on migration from five Muslim countries was ‘blatant religious discrimination’.

    They are completely in line with Pope Francis, who has claimed risibly that “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

    This has become a superdogma in the Catholic Church: if you don’t believe that Islam is a Religion of Peace, you will be ruthlessly harassed and silenced by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the hierarchy elsewhere as well.

    The bishops of the Catholic Church are much more concerned that you believe that Islam is a religion of peace than that you believe in, say, the Nicene Creed.

    And so what possible reason could there be to be concerned about these “refugees”? It’s a religion of peace!

    The bishops, of course, have 91 million reasons — indeed, 534 million reasons — to turn against the truth and disregard the safety and security of the American people: “In the Fiscal Year 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) received more than $91 million in government funding for refugee resettlement. Over the past nine years, the USCCB has received a total of $534,788,660 in taxpayer dollars for refugee resettlement programs.”

    Organized crime justified in the name of a sky dragon …

    • lloveday

      I have ceased attending Mass because of this pope, but as to “a sky dragon”:

      Einstein (so famous for his genius that I don’t need to use his first name) said “I am not an atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds”.

      If it’s too much for Einstein’s brain, it’s far too much for the brains of me and 99.99999% of others, so I think anyone who denies the possibility of God, whatever “God” is, (generally by proclaiming him/herself an atheist, and so often by ridiculing those who profess a belief) does not know the meaning of “atheist”, or, and, is deluded as to their knowledge and analytical ability.

      Even the self-promoting “famous atheist”, Richard Dawkins, in his book “The God Delusion” has a chapter “Why there is almost certainly no God”, thus leaving open the possibility of there being a God, and in his computation of the probability of God’s existence, assigned it a probability of 14%. Horses win at 7.0 every day and, in my opinion, Dawkins outed himself as an agnostic.

      There are an estimated (by some) 200,000,000,000 galaxies in the Universe, one of which is the Milky Way.
      There are an estimated (ditto) 100,000,000,000 stars in the Milky way, one of which is the Sun, around which the Earth orbits.
      That’s 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars if each galaxy has the same number of stars as the Milky Way.
      There are an estimated (ditto) 20,000,000,000,000 living creatures on Earth, of which an estimated 130,000,000,000 are mammals of which 7,500,000,000 are humans.

      Yet some of those insignificant humans categorically state there is no God anywhere in the Universe; the presumptuousness, even arrogance, astonishes me.

      I’m with Einstein.

      • Jacob Jonker

        Einstein did not always get it right. God does not play dice, he is said to have remarked. Stephen Hawking was a step further. He suggested that one day we may get to know The mind of God. Hawking might be seen to be presumptuous, at the very least. Then, which God are we talking about? Looking at humanity, is it credible to believe that there is only one God? How would we know? The God of the Jews was a jealous god. Is the Christian God the same god, a jealous god? What is a universal constant? Does it even exist? How do super-positions come about? Are they created by thought? In the beginning was the word… Maybe super-positions can be thought and un-thought. Maybe it is feelings which do the trick, or the Universal Reconciliator keeps a tab on what is happening and which super-position needs to be reconciled with which condition. Einstein was flummoxed, frankly, on physics.

  • en passant

    LBLoveday
    I have a very good friend who considered being a priest (a long time ago), but instead got married and has five children. At 57 he has finally wrenched himself away from church on Sunday (because of Frank). He requires spirtuality, so he has tried the Lutherans and now somewhere else, but remains unsatisfied with the choices in the suermarket of gods. He has not turned to allah – yet, but I have high hopes for him.

    I am with Einstein too, but I am not concerned with the unknowable question of whether or not a god or god exists, but with the outcomes of believing that a god exists for you. Three examples:

    1. Frank was chosen by the invisible hand of god guiding the cardinals ouija board. Yet he is killing his own church and turning away the believers in droves. If there was a god I would recommend a quick recall and a sensible replacement.

    2. I was sent an email after 911 of god’s miraculous ways. One person recounted that he had an overwhelming urge to stop for coffee before going to work. He did and missed the carnage – and thanked god. Nowhere was the case of the guy mentioned (take that Morrison!) who was late for work, but his regular bus driver waited for him. He made it to the office on time and died. The helping hand of …

    3. I bought a book at a ‘remainders’ stall in Adelaide that lists 5,500 religions, sects, cults and other beliefs. Not a bad range of choices, though many are dead, like Zeus. I use it as a reference and sometimes to marvel at the weirdness that people can adopt. I read it in small bits

    The description of the religions indulging in human sacrifices, murderous cults, the self-destructive aesthetes, martyrs, hermits and zealotry of the bigots are more convincing of widespread mental illness than any carig-sharing god interested in YOUR life and wellbeing.

    I covered all this in my comment at: at: https://quadrant.org.au/magazine/2018/01-02/robotic-reductio-ad-absurdum/

    The only extract I will quote shows the absurdity of an uncaring or powerless god:

    “Let’s have one quick look at the ‘power of prayer’. 300,000 muslims around the Indian Ocean prayed 5 times per day = 1,500,000 prayers every day, 547,500,000 prayers a year for decades. A tectonic plate shifts and they are all dead. Men, women, children, families, the good, the bad and the ugly. The Imam of Banda Aceh (who survived the Tsunami) put his finger on the problem within days – not enough prayer and devotion. What was god thinking when he either caused this wave or did nothing when he saw it coming? The answer is obvious: he is either non-existent or powerless.”

  • lloveday

    A (deceased) friend and I used to discuss the problem of God while solving the world’s problems over a beer or 15, specifically what form is God? We both heeded and accepted Einstein’s “God does not play dice with the Universe” and could not imagine there not being some controlling force behind the Earth, but what form did God, or as we preferred, the Creator, take? We came up with many possible scenarios of what the Creator might be, how He created Earth, what level of control He maintains, but you seem, to me, to have in your “only extract” honed in on one particular possibility when you ask “What was god thinking when he either caused this wave or did nothing when he saw it coming?” – maybe Creator neither caused the wave nor saw it coming; maybe Creator, inter many alia possibilities, created the Earth then went on to other projects, leaving it to develop as it will, a bit like me creating an ant or worm farm, but on a grand scale, or a diverse Jurassic Park.

    One of the scenarios we pondered that I liked was likening Creator to my daughter playing The Sims (an early computer game) as she did then, creating and simulating the daily activities of virtual persons, and us being virtual persons in God’s creation.

    “.. they are all dead”. No! they were not, as you indicate by “(who survived the Tsunami)”; in fact the majority in the affected areas survived, and even in the worst hit towns and islands hundreds survived, some by what were described as “miracles”. Many Muslims died, many Muslims survived; many non-Muslims died, many non-Muslims survived. To cite one Iman’s explanation is no more useful than citing the Hindu guru who said that the recent rumblings of Mt Agung were due to a pair of Honkeys fornicating on its slopes, and their explanations have no more authority or credibility, in my opinion, than my friend’s and my ponderings.

    “The answer is obvious: he is either non-existent or powerless”.

    The answer is far from obvious to me – here are a few other, to me, obvious possibilities:

    God is a vengeful God as described in the Koran and was punishing the “bad” and sparing the “good”.

    God is like Emperor Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo who, in Flash Gordon, declares that he will play with and destroy Earth by remotely causing natural disasters. Like a kid smashing the sandcastle he built?

    As above, God created Earth then went on to other projects, leaving it to develop as it will.

    There are multiple Gods, each having created parts of Earth’s animate and inanimate objects, each controlling parts of Earth, maybe competing for control, maybe acting independently.

    God was doing something else at the time; checking Earth was on tomorrow’s agenda.

    • en passant

      Given your final options: what good is this god guy. He does nothing worthwhile, so move right along and get on with YOUR life.

      • lloveday

        Far from being my “final options”, I merely gave “a few other, to me, obvious possibilities”, describing them as such intending to indicate I was not limiting the options, and certainly not putting them forward as exhaustive (or final).

        God may or may not do something worthwhile; I don’t know, but I’d like to know. Pondering, reading other’s research and opinions and analysing them, discussing with others, contemplating… IS getting on with my life; it is an integral part of my life.

        Archaeologists study the past. Aren’t they getting on with their lives? One could say that there is nothing worthwhile in knowing what tools were used in Australia 50,000 years ago, what animals roamed Earth 10 million years ago, what happened to a far-away star 100 million years ago, what caused the ice ages, interglacial periods, Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age and Anasazi drought…. But I don’t.

        People climb Mt Everest “because it’s there”, and some of us will always seek to find out more about God for a similar, or other, reason; to tell us to desist, to get on with our lives is condescending at best; advice (instruction?) rejected!

        • en passant

          LBL,
          I also enjoy esoteric debates, so I did spend some time studying the subject of religion. In fact, when I lived in the desert I wrote 10 essays intended to be combined into a book called “On …”. I still have the draft – and most of the conclusions I reached many years ago have come true or are still ‘correct’.

          I also read a 660 page book on paleonotology before I was a teen – and all 12 volumes of “Pictorial Knowledge”. I learned to play chess and won a State a National title – because chess was a challenge and … it was there. I never finished my Economics degree (first because family and work commitments had priority and secondly I concluded I had passed the point of reality and was now in the realms of fantasy – try studying Econometrics with a straight face). Then again, I was awarded a degree by a college for which the entry is by selection on merit.

          I devised and delivered a unique management system to one of the top 50 companies in the world. I intermittently studied weather and climate over 50 years before getting serious and spending two years analysing every sides claims and evidence. Conclusion? Catastrophic climate change and mankind’f effect on it is a hoax.

          You get the point, I have an open mind, enjoy knowledge for knowledge’s sake and have some degree of logic and intellect.

          So let me finish with an absolutely current event which I swear is true.

          There is a 3-day Buddhist funeral going on within sight of my balcony.
          Day-1 – We had a 30-minute blackout (the first in 3-years) at 9.00pm in the middle of the final prayer of the day. A sign? Well, it traumatised me as I thought I had been spirited to South Australia.
          Day-2 – It is the dry season, but out of a clear blue sky 30-seconds of rain dumped on a stretch of land 500m x 200m – including the funeral house – and me. I have occasionally been rained on out of the blue (sky), but never like this. A sign?
          Day-3 – Today. It is the dry season, but a monsoonal black squall, with some lightning (but no thunder!) lashed down for 15-minutes on a 3km x 1km stretch that flooded the streets and hit with such force I had to slow down as it was painful a 40kph. It covered the area of the funeral – and me on my motorbike. A sign, or aimed at me …?

          If it is a sign then it is settled that god is a Buddhist …, so more likely it is about me, me, ME.

          • Jacob Jonker

            Funny you should say that, en passant. Buddha Gautama has a sense of humour, as well as the wherewithal to educate. So what about God, or capitalism so-called, or Christianity. No need to turn over a stone or kick a log to find this mysterious God. He/She is everywhere, but has no name as such, because people make a mess of it describing the phenomenon, ascribing the phenomenon and proscribing the phenomenon, politicising it first, and once accepted by listeners and followers the personalisation does the rest. Christianity alone is said to be composed or to contain ten thousand dnominations, or a hundred thousand, depending which way you look at it. I know many good Christians, but that is not the point with Christianity. I get accused of offering a rant on Christianity and/or capitalism, by people who are taken in by the sociopolitical-psychological fraud being played on them. They will wake up in their own good time or never.

            All this trouble with God and religion could have been avoided if from the beginning people had inserted the o for orgasm. Then the argument would have been about good or bad. In a debate, there are many levels of engagement which few people are able or willing to acknowledge. This applies to the dabate about God, religion, religious institutions, politics, exonomics, etc.,etc. if people are unaware of the level of the argument put, they engage at their own level and reply accordingly. They don’t get it, and probably, experience tells us, never will. That is for the next generation or two, or three. More often, people have a personal and political belief to defend, making sensible and useful debate impossible. Even if they do understand the point being made, they might not engage with it because they would lose the argument. Usually, bad faith in religious, political, economic etc. debate is obvious, but hard to prove to people who will not accept the evidence for personal political reasons. Of course, there are any number of reasons in any number of combinations why people will not see the obvious on purpose. Money and power and vice-versa are the driving force behind, underneath, in front and above, and all around, false argumentation. It was ever thus, but does not need to be. It’s a democratic choice people make, willy-nilly out of habit, but subconsciously if barely switched on, except, many people know very well they are not being straight. That’s how it is. People, by and large, are dead-set on learning the hard way. Look at the West, and weep.

  • whitelaughter

    In answer to what happened to the land under the new owners: The Romans trashed the place. Josephus records 1.1 million in deaths in Judea, another 100,000 up in Galilee, and another 97,000 sold into slavery.

    Christianity survived because Jesus had told His followers to “head to the hills”. (Given that the majority of Jewish towns fell to hunger, that probably also improved the lot of those who stayed behind: though they wouldn’t have said that!)

    The primary economic concern of both church and state should be to protect *peace* – economic success depends on military protection, on a low crime rate, and on minimal corruption. Frank the Hippie Pope should consider the differences between his corrupt homeland and successful democracies before opening his mouth.

    • Jacob Jonker

      Quite! It’s a good thing that Christianity survived, and that capitalism, at least in theory, is still with us. Without Christianity the world is unthinkable, though we may thank God there is plenty of competition, because if there is anything worse than no end of disagreement about who or what this God is, and a Babylonian mish-mash of hydra-headed religions fighting each other, it is Christian religious institutions with no competition. At least Luther saved us from that terrible tyranny. As to capitalism, there is no credible alternative, unfortunately. If only we could try it, instead of the kleptocracy that goes under the guise of capitalism. It’s a wonder that they who would uphold Christianity and Capitalism are so brainwashed or dishonest as to defend the indefensible, but there it is. That’s why we are in the state we are in. The new Christians in the second- and third world countries will perhaps renew the Faith. As for capitalism, it is total politics which non-Europeans do naturally. The merging of commerce and state might, conceivably, be able to be dealt with under democratic parliamentary rule, but both democracy and capitalism will go under if the transnational kleptocratic mafia succeed in taking full control.

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