Monday, May 12, 2014

The Pope is wrong to urge shifting of wealth to the poor

On May 10 Pope Francis was reported to have called for "government to redistribute wealth and benefits to the poor in a new spirit of generosity to help curb "the economy of exclusion" that is happening today." The Editorial Board of the Toronto Star demonstrate they are as economically illiterate as the Pope, when they make positive statements about the Pope's position.  I will make just a few points to illustrate this.

Generosity is the willingness to give to others and as such must be of a voluntary nature. It is not being generous when one is acting under coercion or threat.  Thus, the Pope contradicts himself when he says that government should be redistributing from those who have money to those who do not. His moral implication is that the use of force against innocent citizens is a moral role of government - if they do not voluntarily give enough to others to meet some arbitrary amount deemed as enough, then they must be forced against their will to give until someone else, presumably the Pope in this case, decides it is enough.

This morality is what philosopher Ayn Rand calls the morality of self-sacrifice, known as altruism. In an essay in her book "Philosophy, Who Needs It" Rand states "What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value. Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice—which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction—which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good."

In an interview Rand said "But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very—how should I say it?—dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith."

Another of the Pope's contradictions is clear in his statement that a more equal form of economic progress can be had through " the legitimate redistribution of economic benefits by the state , as well as indispensable cooperation between the private sector and civil society."  Not only does this statement reiterate the notion that citizens are mere vessels of the will of the state and do not have a right to their own life, liberty and property, but it creates an artificial and improper separation between private individuals and so-called "civil society".  The implication is that when acting alone in furtherance of their own life and goals individuals are not part of "civil society" and that they are only moral when they are acting collectively to coerce others.  This is the recipe for totalitarian dictatorship such as the Church held over citizens for a thousand years during the dark ages.

So an all-out attack on individual rights, human progress and economic freedom (capitalism) is Pope Francis' first formal writing as newly elected Pope. While he has given some signs of relaxing a few of the more severe tenets of the Catholic Church, this Pope is clearly little different from the long line that has come before him and he should be criticized for his denial of basic human rights.

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