The Pope Condemns the Idolatry of Money. The Pope is Right.Submitted by Molusk on Tue, 09/24/2013 - 15:32
The Moral Law does not take a backseat to economics. It is the foundation of any free economic system, just as virtue is the foundation of any well ordered political system. Whether you adhere to that moral law or not you cannot expect those who do to put their morality on hold in the economic domain, on whatever level.
Every actor within the economic system, anywhere, on whatever level, acts as an individual and is responsible to his own conscience for whether he acts morally or immorally, or exploits a person or people unjustly for profit, in a given situation.
Whether the individual is acting entirely as a free agent or carrying out responsibilities for an institution, all economic activity involves the choices of individuals and their priorities. What behavior is morally acceptable or not is not for me to say, but we all know where the line is whether we follow it or not.
It is important not to confuse laws of economic behavior, which may or may not be valid theoretically or scientifically, with the moral strictures of a religious point of view and the governance of one's own behavior in accord with it or in violation of it.
The Pope is the head of a religious community that upholds moral standards for every individual, whether acting purely for themselves or as representatives of an institution and carrying out its chartered purpose. If that behavior is immoral, the individual is failing to uphold that standard.
Whether you accept that standard or not, that is the standard for the body of believers the Pope speaks to. And he will use his influence to promote that behavior and the shape of world policy, in the same way he will stand up and oppose wars and injustice in Syria or Palestine.
Saying "I work for a corporation, the purpose of which is to create profit for shareholders" is not an excuse for engaging in immoral behavior that leads people into harm. Even if it makes economic sense.
Dumping toxic securitized assets off on pensions made perfect economic sense, as did writing the bad loans in the first place, for those economic actors who did it at that moment. Getting away with poisoning people through harmful food makes great profits for executives and shareholders at some companies.
It may make economic sense for the bottom line of a company to do plenty of immoral things that would violate the imperatives of the body the Pope speaks for. What may be legal economic activity, often impossible to spot or regulate, can be the subject of moral constraint if people indeed behave morally.
Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but no economic or political system can ever be designed to provide an incentive structure that will stop the emergence of fraud and corruption, and the use of coercion in their service, if the desire is there in the hearts of the powerful.
It is not a matter of education or understanding, it is a matter of a desire for the power, the wealth, the status, the Ego reward that comes from exploiting others with power, be it economic or political power.
Laws could not stop such behavior, nor punish it after the fact, where morality could have prevented it. No economic system will ever be free from fraud and evil if the people which compose its body have unrestrained greed in their hearts, and are willing to do evil.
It is a little silly to imagine people could adopt unrestrained greed and willingness to do harm to others, on the economic plane, and not have the same morality and attitude when it comes to using the state to advance their economic interests. To think they can take every advantage economically, while abstaining from taking everything they can get by coercive means.
The whole libertarian idea depends at bottom on moral behavior, since it demands people do not use the state or empower the state for their own purposes against others, even when they can.
The state may be the arm of coercion, but it is private individuals and private interests which use their influence and wealth, often legitimately obtained, to empower the apparatus of the state. To enrich themselves further. To increase their share. To give them more power over others. To protect their ill gotten gains, to bail out their friends, to exploit people all around the world economically. To squeeze money out of loans even if it means starving an economy and hungry kids.
Nothing will stop the wealthy and powerful from using the inherent possibility of force in the nature of human society, against others to exploit or harm them. You can decapitate the state but 3 heads will grow back where there was one, if the will for it to exist is there.
It is false to try to separate components of morality into purely coercive and purely non coercive compartments. If someone is willing to act truly immorally without coercion, they are of a state of character and spiritual condition that will make them jump at the first chance to benefit from coercion.
If the powerful want to act immorally in a private capacity, why not also with the aid of the state? If they have the wealth and influence, they will be able to do so. Why not do it?
If people are unable to separate moral life from economic theory, that it their problem and not the Pope's.