Pope Francis, Employment, And The Balance Sheet

No "unjust unemployment" among them, I am told...

No “unjust unemployment” among them, I am told…

“That [38 Euros] is what the people who died were being paid. This is called slave labour,” he said. “Today in the world this slavery is being committed against something beautiful that God has given us – the capacity to create, to work, to have dignity. How many brothers and sisters find themselves in this situation!

“Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at balance sheets, only looking at how to make a profit. That goes against God!

“There are many people who want to work but cannot. When a society is organised in a way that not everyone is given the chance to work, that society is not just.”

Another faux pas from the Pontiff and, alas, one which shows an amount of superficiality and shallow thinking that cannot but greatly alarm.

The start is good, with the Pope rightly lamenting the exploitation to which too many are still exposed, most notably in the Third World. One could discuss at length to which extent the decolonisation is responsible for it, but there is no denying the Holy Father expresses here a perfectly legitimate concern. The fraud on the pay is a sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance, and I am unable to see how shameless exploitation of a situation of great need would not amount to it.

Where the Pontiff derails in an embarrassing manner – and you see all the difference with a refined thinker like his predecessor – is in the easy populism, sweeping generalisations and general anti-Capitalist sentiment with which he builds on the premise. These slips into easy populism show a mediocrity of reasoning that would rapidly kill even the prospects of a Labour politician. Decidedly, this Pope bears all the marks of the Jesuit from South America.

The first one is the slip with the balance sheet. Every company who wants to survive looks at the balance sheet first, second and third. Those who don’t, fail. Prudence in expensive decisions – like the one whether to hire – is the Alpha and Omega in a company’s success. This prudence, this insisted looking at the balance sheet, is what makes companies and all their stakeholders – shareholders, employees, clients, & Co. – also thrive. When the Pope blames companies who “look only at the balance sheet” he is certainly not thinking at sweat shops in Sri Lanka, but rather at Capitalism as an economic phenomenon, because here he is not complaining about exploitation, but about decisions from which the life itself of a company depends.

What else should a company look at, one would want to ask the Pontiff, if not at the balance sheet? If General Electric were to say “come on, let us hire one person we don’t need for ten we do; we can’t look only at the balance sheet after all”, how long does the Pontiff think General Electric would survive? And where does he think would be the profit if this company were, in the long term, to whither and then die? Will, then, this “not looking only at the balance sheet” be very profitable to the hundreds of thousands of families deprived of one, or all income? Make no mistake, this is nothing resembling Catholicism: third is third-rate Peronism of the kind that causes hyperinflation, widespread misery and military coups.

Then there is the other pearl, the one with the unjust society that does not give work. What the Pope says is that if a society fails to ensure full employment, this society – and the economic system it uses – is unjust.

Where I hail from, this is called diritto al lavoro, meant as “right to be employed by someone”. The decade-long flag of the Italian Communist Party, this most cretinous slogan has been for decades the epitome of everything that is absurd, albeit it clearly aimed at something positively evil but not at all absurd: communism.

Now as then, the stupid readily believe such crap, as the idea that work be something they just have an entitlement to is very appealing to them. This goes, in my experience, together with another observation: that those so ready to talk about their right to have a job aren’t generally very noted for their desire to work hard, and vice versa. I wonder if there is a link?

Now, I do not want to say Vatican populism in matters of employment has started with this Pope; but it is fair to say such South-American whiffs of Anti-Capitalism are fairly new not only in the virulence of the attack, but most importantly in the incredible superficiality of the delivery. This isn’t even parish priest level; this is incompetent parish priest level, and frankly gives ground – not for the first time – that this is by far not the smart brain that was sold to us. Smart people are smart even when they go around sloganeering. This one tried to swim once where he can’t touch, and almost drowned.

This is what happens when the Cardinals pick as Pope a Jesuit from South America. Mark my words, this Papacy won’t be any fun. Except, of course, for those blessed by a strong sense of humour and able too see the Pope’s exploits sub specie aeternitatis.


Posted on May 3, 2013, in Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Capitalism – at least in its neo-Liberal form – is no more Catholic than Communism. Both are built on the assumption that society is merely an outgrowth of the market; the two grow from the same materialist root. The Church distinguised itself in its stand against Communism, but until now has done little or nothing about neo-Liberalism. It is the Catholic position that society trumps the market, and it’s good that there is finally a pope in the Vatican who recognizes that, however imprecise his thinking on the matter may be. By the way, I myself am a traditionalist, Tridentine Mass attending, confession going Catholic who was not pleased with the elevation of a Jesuit to the Holy See. I may have been wrong.

    • You haven’t been wrong.
      Unbridled Capitalism does not exist in the West, and even what you call Neo-Liberalism (which is: return to sanity) is a world perfectly compatible with Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, made by a Pope who did not want, and never established, even public healthcare.

      This neo-Liberalism, which you do not describe, seems to be rather similar to sane Capitalism. It is, therefore, not a mystery the Church never did anything against it. There is simply nothing to say against it.


  2. I cringed too when I read the Pope’s comments and for the same reasons. I think in this case Pope Francis could do with a lesson or two from Welby who at least knows a fair bit about economics.

  3. Sadly, this post is right on the money. The Pope’s economic ignorance (and his willingness to expose it) is very, very unsettling.

  4. The way he thinks is, indeed, puerile. Those people didn’t die because they didn’t have a job, so how he jumps from one thing to the other without any logical coherence is more than a little annoying. That seems to be a common elocutionary trait of this Pope.

    Pat Buchanan, however, is able to provide the reason, which indicates the root of the injustice, that Pope Francis’ intellectual capacities are unable to provide: in short, unrestricted trade.


    • I am not a friend of “globalisation” myself, thinking that it is in the end better to pay attention to what we purchase than having tons of cheap third world wares thrown at us. For example, I remember when socks really cost money, but hey, there was a prosperous textile industry in Europe.

      Still, I do not doubt in the end globalisation is, on a pound-per-pound scale, useful. But in the end, there’s more to life than pound-per-pound, like for example the better morality of having more people employed than (again) having cheap socks and more people living on welfare.

      Every close system (like the EU: a very closed system, and perfectly self-sufficient; and no, it’s nothing to do with the Euro) can decide where it sets the barriers.

      Mind, though, the Third World will accuse you of wanting to starve them, and the Pope will be the first to complain that we don’t buy cheap wares from the Third World anymore.

      As to the Pope, I agree with you: puerile. Though I think I know why he makes the “jump”: anti-Capitalistic reflex. Very well spread in my country until the end of the Seventies, and truly the rhetoric of the Pope is another throwback to those times.

      Last time I looked, Esabelita Peron didn’t do very well, either..


  5. vermontcrank1

    Dear Mundabor. I would say I am more with the Holy Father on this. It is hard to ignore the collapse of Capitalism (state sponsored usury) all around us and Capitalism began in England with the theft of Church property and those who successfully seceded from the English Crown and established this crummy secular state were Judaised Calvinists whose idea of christianity was that wealth was a sign of divine election.

    There is no such thing as a free market – unless you are thinking of The Agora in Greece – but even there I imagine one has to pay for space to sell their goods but the myth that there is a free market is puissant amongst American Catholics.

    One very easy to read and understand book that introduces Catholics into how to think about these matters is Ethics and the National Economy by a great Jebbie, Dr. Heinrich Pesch, whom too few Catholics have ever heard of for they are buying the lies of those who follow the economic ideas of agnostic Jews.

    • Collapse of Capitalism? I have heard people talking of collapse of capitalism for the last forty years at every hiccup of the economy: they always forget what they were talking about when the economy recovers. For the record, the entire West still is at level of wealth and power never seen before in history.

      There are no absolutes on this world. There could be no perfect free market more than there could be “perfect” communism. But Capitalism works, and it is absurd to accuse it of being “unjust” unless you have a system (one that really exists, not some strange dream) that works better.

      For the record, the most liberal Capitalist system in the West (probably the United States, or parts of it) is still vastly more plague by Statism than the Papal States ever were.

      When the Pope criticises unbridled exploitation, he has a point.

      When he criticises Capitalism, he is dreaming, and showing a worrying degree of economic incompetence.


  6. vermontcrank1

    Dear Mundabor. The Thirteenth Century was far superior in terms of economy and culture than either the economy or culture in the dying pagan west of today; and, yes, capitalism has absolutely collapsed and is now running on debt fumes and theft.

    The Banksters are raping what is left of the Middle Class via socialised risk and privatised profits and not one of those miserable bastids are in the slammer where they belong. For crying out loud, there has been a steady stream of unindicted corporate criminals going back and forth from the Board Rooms of Goldman Sachs to the Treasury Department for more’n a score of years and they had laws lifted (such as Glass-Stealgall) that had prevented Banksters from gambling via CDOs and other faux “instruments” that the every banks who issued then were shorting them all the while they were using the material gains derived from labor as chips in an international gambling house at which they never lose – for if their exotic economic scams they rolled-out came-up snake eyes, they’d threaten to pull down the country and so the state pays-off their gambling loses.

    For a nation to have an economy worthy of the name it must be substantially involved in farming, mining, and manufacturing -well, were is that being done in America today?

    The fact is that Dr Heinrich Pesch, S.J. has a complete economic system that is not only infinitely superior to the Manchester Liberalism routinely hawked by the heretics of the Acton Institute and the lunatic libertarians at Lew Rockwell but few are aware of it because of dynamic silence (intentionally ignoring it so the ignorant won’t be drawn into considering it seriously).

    Here is a review of a popular economics book by Dr. Woods (historian, not an economist) and which text is being taking by Catholics to be Doctrinally definitive.


    • Oh for heaven’s sake, vermontcrank, you are having a nightmare

      This last “crisis” had a negative effect that would have been considered a breeze in 1848, or in 1872, or in 1930, and possibly in 1974. The GDP is vastly higher than it was before, and shows once again that no crisis has been able to arrest the advance of Capitalist and the immense creation of wealth it enables.

      As what you call “banksters”, “raping” etc., this is fantasy talking, and rather crank at that, and is nothign to do with criminal reality. If you are looking for abuse, every pre-capitalistic society will give you infinitely more and more brutal examples than the one you manage to mention.

      As to economic systems, everyone can dream one. But I do not care for people’s dreams, I care for reality.

      Find me a reality working better than Capitalism, and you’ll have an argument.

      Up to then, I suggest we agree to disagree.


  7. Sorry, Mundabor, but you are guilty of the fallacy of equivication, redefining words as your case requires; your definition of capitalism appears to be whatever turns out to be sane, and then you are calling THAT thing neo-Liberalism. Why? Because that form of exploitation is preferable to communism. In fact, neo-Liberalism never existed anywhere at any time in any place as a natural phenomenon. It was and remains an entirely man-made, completely artificial form of capitalism which was brought about by massive deployment of state power into the natural market place for the succor and benefit of a small, monied elite. I repeat: it is no more Catholic than communism and the Holy Father is right to point up its failings.

    • Martin, it seems to me that you are guilty of the same mistake of which you accuse me. Your definition of Neo-Liberalism is as arbitrary as the assertion that it be a “form of exploitation”, nor do you explain how you would see a “natural” form of Capitalism which, evidently, does not occur in nature.

      In that the Pope points out to the failings of ruthless exploitation he is obviously right, and I have pointed this out first. But when he starts to criticise the beautiful reality of Capitalism – bringing more wealth and security to more people than every other economic system ever realised by man – he is simply dreaming, or more like being an armchair economist with little knowledge of economic realities, and a great desire to please the masses.

      Having said that, your points have been duly noted and adequately published, so that every reader will be able to form an opinion – the right or the wrong one, if you ask me – about the matter, and draw their own conclusion concerning the opportunity for them to follow a blogger who is an enthusiastic supporter of Capitalism, and considers it far superior to every other economic system ever appeared on the planet, and outside of the fantasies of dreamers.


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