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Monday, October 24, 2016

If the United States has a state religion, it’s capitalism.

That hasn’t always been so, but few adults under the age of 60 would know that Ayn Rand was once reviled by believers, that the working poor were once seen as honorable folk, and that churchgoing Christians did not always believe it their duty to defend the ways of Big Business. Indeed, there was once a time when even the U.S. Supreme Court looked askance at the depredations of large corporations.

Our recent history, however, has seen little of that. The end of the Soviet empire not only highlighted capitalism’s superiority over communism, but it also encouraged the notion that capitalism is perfect. It didn’t help that Ronald Reagan, who played a role in forcing the collapse of the Soviet system, popularized the idea that poor people were impoverished because of their innate flaws.

Taken together, those strains of thinking allowed business executives and their political allies, especially those in the Republican Party, to enshrine capitalist enterprise as a new religion — to be untouched by state regulation, to be left to work its will, to be allowed to run (and perhaps ruin) the planet.

The decades-long idolization of an amoral system helps explain the outrage on the right to the recent apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis, whose 200-odd page “Joy of the Gospel” includes a stinging critique of capitalism. Rush Limbaugh, right on cue, rushed to denounce it as “pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope.” A more thoughtful rejoinder came from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic, who wrote: “When it comes to lifting the poor out of poverty, global capitalism, faults and all, has a better track record by far than any other system or approach.”

But the Pope’s analysis — and he did not mince words — still rings true. “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” he wrote.

  • Paul Ryan already denounced Ayn Rand, as soon as he found out she was opposed to organized religion. Then he immediately claimed more kinship with Thomas Aquinas, and since then has not been made aware that Aquinas was as critical of unbridled capitalism as Pope Francis now is.

    • docb

      Who cares what these cretins think about the Pope who has shown more humanity and chrisian values in the months he has been Pope than all of them put together..ever!

      This sheds light on those good professed values of the rabid right and their greedy inhumane actions…

    • ORAXX

      Ryan’s religiosity simply does not square with the policies he advocates, and exemplifies the disconnect between religion and morality.

  • Dominick Vila

    Well, if Dr. Limbaugh concluded that Christian values such as loving your fellow man, helping the infirm and the poor, and ensuring everyone has access to some of the most basic necessities in life constitute communism, I reckon Jesus and all the other prophets were communists!
    I support private enterprise, in fact, I believe it is the key to prosperity, the catalyst that influences innovation and productivity, and until a better socio-economic system emerges, it is the best we can hope for at the moment. The problem with capitalism is not the concept but the out of control greed of those who stop at nothing to accumulate more wealth, often at the expense of those who cannot afford to lose what little they have.
    Contrary to what President Reagan insinuated, people are not poor because they want to be poor or because they are lazy. Most of our poor are unable to assimilate into mainstream America because of physical or mental impairments, inadequate skills, government policies that stifle motivation, and a society that looks down on those who have been left behind.
    Unfortunately, the materialism that is often an integral part of capitalism makes it almost impossible for our government to pursue solutions conducive to income equality, increased opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens, investment in areas that benefit all members of our society and guarantee our privileged position in the world for generations to come, and a more effective education system.

    • daniel bostdorf

      Nicely posted!

      “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ……Nelson Mandela

      • sigrid28

        Where the pope and Nelson Mandela join ranks is in the idea that “an economy of exclusion and inequality . . . kills,” words from “The Joy of the Gospel” by Pope Francis, which Cynthia Tucker cites above. This emphasis on the mortal consequences of poverty is required, because from this cause stem actions that will depose tyrants and dismantle social structures cherished by the right in the U.S., as they were by the white minority in South Africa. So in the last week rightwing media in this country have done whatever they might to tarnish the reputations and philosophies of these two world leaders. Both the super wealthy and the dirt-poor base of the far right, which keeps people like the Koch brothers and xxxx Pope of Georgia secure in their riches, are justified in the fear that is the basis of these intemperate remarks; because in South Africa, Nelson Mandela–after years of seeking to end Apartheid through nonviolence–finally concluded that violence would be necessary to assert the rights of the majority in his country. White South Africa eventually resigned without a fight only because they were outnumbered beyond any Syrian-style oppression to save them.

    • midway54

      Well stated and so very correct. The “Doctor Limbaugh” was humorous: He, Hannity at Fox “News” and Beck now out foraging on his own having been dropped at Fox, are three uneducated buffoons who are earning fortunes duping the mentally vulnerable into a frenzy against “them un-American libruls and that black Kenyan Muslim socialist in the White House”.

      • rustacus21

        AGREED!!! I just read about the decades-long hate campaign by conservatives against Nelson Mandela (see & it carries the exact same tone as here. My question is simple: when are we ALL going to stop even giving these lunatic psychopaths the consideration received, that helps them keep thinking they’re so important as to even be listened to ANYWAY?! They’re wrong about everything they opine on!!! When will we finally get it & put them in mass therapy (isolation & relegated to intensive medical treatment) until they PROVE they’re sane enough to COMPETENTLY interact w/the rest of civilization?!?!

  • John Smith

    Essentially, the Pope came out against unrestrained greed. And it really pissed off the right.

    • ORAXX

      Yup. Although I’ve little use for religion, the man is clearly doing something right.

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      If not the entire Right, at least the urestrained greedy ones.

  • rustacus21

    Scoundrels. Hypocrites. Criminals. These are the people the Pope is referring to, who are pushing the envelope poverty-wards, but most importantly, the people we’re electing to public office, charged w/the duties of crafting policies to end the Depression of 2008 & the lingering effects of the recessions of the 1980’s & early 1990’s, as well as the post Vietnam recession of the 1970’s. The ignorant & plain stupid among the citizenry who refer to EITHER our political or religious fundamentals as ‘capitalism’ are simply insane to believe such. Period! We know the difference between right & wrong, in a supposed moral & religious nation as ours. So did we/do we need the Pope to tell us what we already know? This is a bold & courageous admonition by such an important figure as the Pope & vital to such a degree that every reader here should take this message to everyone they know, continue referencing it & use it as a reminder in the upcoming 2014 Mid Term elections… That is, if we’re really serious that we understand & agree w/the logic & common-sense expressed here… Great article… Lets not let such great writing go to waste ~

  • charleo1

    My conclusion on Capitalism is in the broadest sense, if not for there being an Adam Smith, the reason for there being a Karl Marx, may have never existed. If they had listened more at Versailles to Woodrow Wilson, and less to Georges Clemenceau, perhaps there would not have been, an Adolph Hitler, or a Second World War. Eliminate Booth, and Reconstruction of the South may have resulted in a more United States of America today. My point is, things do not occur in a vacuum, they occur for a reason. Who believes for example, if John McCain had been elected, instead of Barack Obama, there would be a T-Party? Or a solid wall of obstruction, by extremists in our Federal Government? Or, that the stars would have aligned for the election of our first African American President, if there had not first have first been a President, George W. Bush? Or an Iraqi War, for one brilliant Illinois State Senator to oppose. Even as his fellow Democrats in Washington, including his rival for his Party’s nomination, had placed themselves irrevocably on the side of a war, a young charismatic, Senator Obama called, “dumb?” It has served as the salvation of our species, that every blunder, indeed, every abhorrent regime, or unjust institution, has produced, a George Washington, or an Abraham Lincoln, a Mahatma Gandhi, a Nelson Mandela, and a Martin Luther King, or now, a Pope Francis, to raise up a lantern in in the darkness toward justice, when we have managed to lose
    our way.

  • virginia_slim

    Do not forget how Paul Ryan and the Kock brothers made their wealth! A relative had to die, so that they could inherit it.

    Yes, they worked hard. They breathed and the wealthy relative stopped breathing…. Definitely EARNED their wealth. ….and Ryan, who told us over and over that Ayn Rand was the basis of his political philosophy and kept saying it until he decided he wanted to be elected President, ‘discovered’ Rand’s attitude toward religion — surprise, surprise…

    Ryan, a propaganda for public-consumption Catholic, has been silent about Limbaugh’s obscene attack on the Pope. He’s just lucky that his wife inherited a great deal of money, otherwise he’d just be another swarmy used car or timeshare salesman.

    • Ann Snyder

      There’s also the tried and true approach of marrying into money, which Ryan also did. He’s a total taker — went to college on Social Security, married a woman whose family had money, and has always been an elected government employee who sells himself for campaign donations.

      • Theodora30

        His family made its wealth largely from government contracts. He’s a taker.
        Now if only the Pope would denounce Rand by name and threaten to excommunicate those who follow her deeply ant-Christian philosophy. I seem to recall that the biggest rap against Marx was his anti-religion stand. Funny how Rand’s equally militant atheism is conveniently overlooked when it justifies keeping the wealthy in power.

  • Ann Snyder

    I like this Pope a lot. The love of money is the root of all evil. Seems like he’s just reasserting the gospels.

  • Budjob

    I am not,nor ever have been a serious religious advocate.However,this Pope is a very great,and very wise man as he champions the common man and WOMAN!! You sir ROCK with your wisdom,empathy,and compassion!

  • Theodora30

    Believe it or not almost no one out here in the hinterland has a clue who Ayn Rand was, what she advocated or how much influence she has had on far too many policy makers. The sainted Alan Greenspan was a member of her inner circle, going so far as to have her as his special guest at his swearing in as Ford’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. (Google the picture. so much for the “youthful dalliance” excuse.) Paul Ryan is a disciple, even making his staffers read her work and speaking to the Atlas Society. This is a woman who was a militant anti-Christian atheist, who denounced altruism as evil in an interview with Mike Wallace that is readily available on YouTube yet neither Democrats nor our “liberal media” can bother to inform the public that powerful policy makers believe in her extremist, anti-democratic, radical capitalist philosophy. Why do you think Greenspan was shocked that markets, run by those geniuses at the top, failed to self-correct? This devotion to Randian ideas has had devastating, real-world consequences yet Democrats never hang Rand around the necks of these plutocrats.

    Republicans make it a point to dig up – or invent – ties between Democrats and left wing extremists. They have been effective in trashing Dems by accusing them of being Marxists (socialists, communists), or connections with Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky, etc. when it is clear there is no evidence in Dems policies of influence from far lefties. Yet Dems can’t be bothered to inform people of the very real influence Ayn Rand has had on the thinking and policy proposals of powerful Republicans or that too many supposedly good Chrisitans in that party actually get their ideas from an atheist who denounces the very essence of Jesus’s teachings. In Rand’s world the least among us deserve to be and are there for the exploitation of the powerful elite.

    • idamag

      I read an article about ayn rand. She was an avowed fascist and when the second world war broke out, she changed her religion from fascist to libertarian.

  • idamag

    The Pope is closer to Christianity than a lot of other religious heads.

  • Igor Shafarevich

    Collectivists claim that particular forms of collectivism, like “democratic socialism” or “social democracy” will eliminate the problem, identified by Lenin, of who decides for whom.