Monday, December 2, 2013

Is Milton Friedman The New Galileo?

With one Papal sucker punch I went from Cafeteria Catholic to Anorexic Catholic. For about half of my life I have been a practicing Catholic and for about half of my life I have been indifferent to all religious practice.

I originally grew alienated from all religion due to religious priorities. Every religion I had encountered emphasized matters of sensuality--more specifically the abstaining from sensuality-- to the exclusion of all else. All else!

What would I have liked to have them address? Abuses of governmental power would be nice. Wall Street witch hunts, excessive taxation, laws that facilitate predation, laws that facilitate parasitism, and any action that facilitates the theft of volition.

I could come to accept that religions are just politically neutral on things that really matter. But the recent Papal missive actually endorses tyranny. There is no way to otherwise state it. I cannot place my imprimatur on the tenor, tone or content of the Pope's statement.

In addition to my moral objection, I also object to the Pope's comments because they run counter to a body of empirical knowledge. Catholicism was sometimes easy for me because I agree with the Church's position on abortion and evolution and that Galileo thing, that was a long time ago. It was convenient that I was not asked to believe that our planet was four thousand years old or that dinosaurs never existed or that there was no such thing as mutation. When theology clashes with empiricism, I am siding with the empirical every single time.

The empirical evidence for the merits of capitalism is overwhelming. It depresses me that after a century of failed communism, failed socialism and the many efforts at relabeling and repackaging, we still have these discussions. South Korea vs. North Korea, West Germany vs. East Germany, Taiwan vs. Mainland China. Singapore vs. Mainland China. My favorite, Hong Kong vs. Mainland China. Hong Kong had zero natural resources. None. They even had to import water. Yet, they had to build fences to limit the starving peasants who tried to wander in from the People's Republic.

We can also measure the economic welfare of citizens of Russia or the Ukraine or Estonia vs. the welfare of the citizens of The Soviet Union. Standing in line for rationed goods was the national pastime of the USSR. A country loaded with natural resources produced mass starvation. Two decades after liquidation,has more billionaires than any city in the world. Trickle down/spillover economics has been good to yesterday's comrades.

Milton Friedman  (along with his wife, Rose) summarizes collectivism's dismal record in "Free To Choose." It is an easy read and nicely summarizes his lifetime of observations. Friedman's conclusions are not consistent with the Pope's recent statements. Will free market economists be denounced as heretics?

I can sooner believe that the sun revolves around the earth than I can believe in the tyranny of unfettered capitalism. Empiricism trumps silliness. Sorry, Your Holiness.

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