The Pope’s encyclical appears to focus on climate change and environmental degradation but the larger focus is his indictment of capitalism and the presumed greed that it spawns, leading Pope Francis to call for a global government solution. The language in the encyclical looks like it came from the UN’s Agenda 21 and the Club of Rome’s Limits to Growth. Both were deeply flawed analyses of problems and solutions.
Pope Francis is a wonderful human being who reflects personal qualities–humility, spirituality, and a deep concern for the less well off—that we all could learn from. But, personal qualities do not mean that his political philosophy is well grounded or practical. Utopians and Socialists always make simplifying assumptions that simply do not workout in practice. That is a clear lesson of history.
In the case of Pope Francis, paraphrasing Groucho Marx, he looked for trouble, found it everywhere, misdiagnosed it, and applies the wrong solutions.
Yes, there is too much poverty in the world and yes there is too much environmental degradation. The worst examples of devastating poverty and environmental exploitation are in the developing world where over 1 billion people have no access to commercial energy, no potable water, and have high disease and mortality rates. Their plight is a direct consequence of the lack of liberty, lack of property rights, and the greed and quest by ruling elites and dictators for absolute power that trumps all other considerations.
Pope Francis is especially harsh in his criticism of capitalism as if it is the cause of greed, selfishness, and a lack of concern for our fellow man.
That type of criticism is directly from the Socialism philosophy that holds that property be held in common and economic relationships be governed by political hierarchy. History has demonstrated that Socialism, while intellectually appealing, fails in the real world. The tone and direction of the Pope’s condemnation suggests that he is enthralled by the writings of Thomas Malthus and the doomsayer Paul Ehrlich who has been consistently wrong in his predictions and prescriptions for saving the planet.
The Pope would have been better served by studying Adam Smith and Nobel Laureate Frederick Hayek, especially Hayek’s Fatal Conceit which explains the errors of socialism. In it, he makes the following observation, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design. To the naive mind that can conceive of order only as the product of deliberate arrangement, it may seem absurd that in complex conditions order, and adaptation to the unknown, can be achieved more effectively by decentralizing decisions and that a division of authority will actually extend the possibility of overall order. Yet that decentralization actually leads to more information being taken into account.”
Hayek’s explanation is consistent with the view of the late Pope John Paul II, who in his encyclical ,Centesimus Annus, addressed whether “capitalism should be the model for Third World countries seeking a path of economic and civil progress. … If by “capitalism” [it] is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative.”
This view is rejected by Pope Francis in his call for a” new global political authority tasked with “tackling … the reduction of pollution and the development of poor countries and regions.” And according to the Guardian, he seeks “changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem before the end of the century”. This is the language of Greenpeace and Earth First who are extreme by any definition.
The call for global governance is reminiscent of President Jacques Chirac’s 2000 statement that “For the first time, humanity is instituting a genuine instrument (the Kyoto Treaty) of global governance, one that should find a place within the World Environmental Organisation which France and European Union would like to see established.”
The notion that the world should be run by an organization modeled after the UN or the European Commission and European Union is chilling and ought to lead to the prompt dismissal of the Pope’s philosophy but not his personal values or focus on reducing poverty.