Enlightened and Enriched
The eighteenth-century Enlightenment, after all, taught us to be democratic and to believe in human rights, tolerance, freedom of expression, and many other values that are still revered, if not always practiced, in modern societies. Even though attributing economic change purely to economic causes at the exclusion of ideas is part and parcel of historical materialism, a theory generally associated with Marxism, free-market economists have frequently done the same thing, describing the effects of ideology as “a grin without a cat.” One of the few who dissented was John Maynard Keynes, who noted in a famous passage that “The power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.” There is no better example than the Enlightenment ideas that, I submit, created the prosperity that we enjoy today. The age of Enlightenment was also the age of the “Republic of Science,” a transnational, informal community in which European scientists relied on an epistolary network to read, critique, translate, and sometimes plagiarize one another’s ideas and work. The Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow were the Scottish Enlightenment’s versions of Harvard and MIT: rivals up to a point, but cooperating in generating the useful knowledge underlying new technology. The English Enlightenment was more practical than the Scottish, and perhaps that was what was needed for innovation. In 1780, one of the greatest figures of the Enlightenment, Benjamin Franklin, wrote in a letter that “The rapid progress true Science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the Height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the Power of Man over Matter…. O, that Moral Science were in as fair a way of Improvement.” He addressed that very Baconian sentiment to his friend Joseph Priestley, the British scientist and philosopher who invented soda water and discovered oxygen. The age of Enlightenment, of course, was also the age of Newton, whose discoveries made it possible to understand the movement of heavenly bodies. Even though the Enlightenment, properly speaking, was long past, its legacy was the great nineteenth-century technological breakthroughs: cheap steel, the germ theory of disease, the taming of electricity, the inventions derived from thermodynamics and organic chemistry, and many others. In 1787, Immanuel Kant famously wrote that he lived in an age of enlightenment but not in an enlightened age. The nineteenth century was just the opposite: no longer the age of Enlightenment but an enlightened age, in the admittedly narrow sense that it was hell-bent on carrying out the Baconian program. The Enlightenment’s contributions to long-term economic growth were not merely scientific, moreover. Many economists, following the leadership of Nobel laureate Douglass North, have begun to see Enlightenment economic and political ideas as central to the process. Even more important was the Enlightenment notion of freedom of expression. The American Revolution, just as much a child of the Enlightenment as the French, tolerated and codified slavery. The age of Enlightenment burned coal without concern, unaware of the impact of hydrocarbons on the atmosphere.
Jesuit Trained Pope Trashes Capitalism in Call for Worldwide Socialism » Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!
In addition to restating opposition by the Catholic Church to abortion, the new Pope criticized free market capitalism and advocated wealth redistribution. He said “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.” So-called “Trickle down” is not an economic theory. A product of the Enlightenment, laissez-faire capitalism was “Conceived as the way to unleash human potential through the restoration of a natural system, a system unhindered by the restrictions of government,” writes Toufic Gaspard. Laissez faire recognizes the individual is the central unit of society endowed with a natural right to liberty, including the right to economic activity between consenting individuals so long as this activity does not impede the rights of others. In his book The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith used the metaphor of an “Invisible hand” to describe unintended effects of individuals involved in economic organization and self-interest. Although laissez-faire capitalism flourished in the United States, it was undermined early on by proponents of the American School and Alexander Hamilton, who proposed direct control of the economy by a central bank and tariffs that favored the industrial North over the agricultural South. In the period following the war, government diminished laissez-faire capitalism by accelerating a mixed economy and enacted various laws, including the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 and the Sherman Anti-trust Act. Under the rubric of Keynesian economics, dominated economic policy following the Federal Reserve engineered Great Depression. The political attacks of Pope Francis and other socialists are the latest effort to undermine free market capitalism and replace it with a socialist system that has demonstrated repeatedly it is incapable of creating the sort of prosperity society requires to prosper. Criticism of “The sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system,” as Pope Francis defined free trade and the natural law of laissez-faire capitalism, is highly misleading. The United States has never enjoyed pure laissez-faire capitalism, but has suffered under varying degrees of crony capitalism, more accurately described as corporatism – or as Benito Mussolini termed it, fascism. As a tutored Jesuit and Argentine, Pope Francis is a student of the Jesuit Reductions, the Catholic program of the 17th and 18th centuries to Christianize, tax and govern the people of Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and America. In Paraguay under the Jesuits, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia, the “Economic basis was a sort of communism” ruled over by the caciques, or tribal leaders, at the behest and guidance of the Padres. Pope Francis and the Catholic Church blame free trade capitalists for this state of affairs, not the state and its system of crony capitalism in the service of a parasitical corporate and transnational elite.