Pope Francis shocked many conservative Catholics last week with his Apostolic Exhortation, which was a severe indictiment of capitalism. In particular, Francis criticized one of the main tenets of neo-liberal thinking- "trickle-down economics":
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
This went too far for Gabor Steingart, managing editor of the Handelsblatt. Each morning I receive Steingart's Morning Briefing in my in-box, and here is Steingart's take on Pope Francis:
"Apropos Marx: Dessen Nachfolger heißt nicht Oskar Lafontaine, sondern Franziskus und ist von Beruf Papst. Unter dem Titel "Evangelii Gaudium" nennt er das herrschende Wirtschaftssystem "in der Wurzel ungerecht". Die Welt lebe in einer neuen Tyrannei des "vergötterten Marktes". Wenn an den Missständen eine Nation unschuldig ist, dann Deutschland. Wir werden dem Papst nachher eine Übersetzung von Ludwig Erhards Bestseller in den Vatikan schicken. Dessen Titel könnte Franziskus mühelos zum Motto der Weihnachtspredigt erheben: "Wohlstand für alle". "
("Speaking of Marx: his successor isn't Oskar Lafontaine, but rather Francis, who is the pope by profession. Writing in his "Evanelii Gaudium" he calls the prevailing economic system "unjust at its very roots." The world is subjected to the tyranny of the "idolatry of the market." If any nation is innocent with respect to these injustices, it is Germany. We will send a translation of Ludwig Erhard's bestseller to the Vatican. Francis could easily appropriate its title for the theme of his Christmas sermon: "Prosperity for All")
It will be interesting to watch how this papacy plays out. Francis is a thorn in the side of those who woship the unregulated free market, and not just in Germany.