Tuesday, June 23, 2015


David Brooks worries that Pope Francis lacks a proper appreciation of the glories of capitalism:
Pope Francis is one of the world’s most inspiring figures. There are passages in his new encyclical on the environment that beautifully place human beings within the seamless garment of life. And yet over all the encyclical is surprisingly disappointing....

Hardest to accept ... is the moral premise implied throughout the encyclical: that the only legitimate human relationships are based on compassion, harmony and love, and that arrangements based on self-interest and competition are inherently destructive....

Moral realists, including Catholic ones, should be able to worship and emulate a God of perfect love and still appreciate systems, like democracy and capitalism, that harness self-interest. But Francis doesn’t seem to have practical strategies for a fallen world. He neglects the obvious truth that the qualities that do harm can often, when carefully directed, do enormous good. Within marriage, lust can lead to childbearing. Within a regulated market, greed can lead to entrepreneurship and economic innovation. Within a constitution, the desire for fame can lead to political greatness.

You would never know from the encyclical that we are living through the greatest reduction in poverty in human history. A raw and rugged capitalism in Asia has led, ironically, to a great expansion of the middle class and great gains in human dignity....
Omigod! The Catholic Church has gone Bolshevik!

Well, no, actually it hasn't. This story would suggest that the church is still cozying up to power, the way it generally has in recent memory:

James B. Lee Jr., a towering figure on Wall Street, was remembered at his funeral Mass on Monday as a father, a friend and an investment banker possessed of boundless energy, sprawling interests and a crackling wit, qualities that made him one of the most successful and beloved figures in his industry.

The service, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan, was just blocks from where Mr. Lee worked as vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase. There, he shaped corporate America, and the nation’s biggest bank, through a career that established him as perhaps the pre-eminent deal maker of his generation.

... Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan presided over the funeral Mass....

Mr. Lee pioneered the syndicated loan market -- in which multiple banks cooperate to lend money to a single client to finance a major transaction. This innovation allowed Mr. Lee to become the go-to financier for corporate chieftains looking to strike transformative multibillion-dollar deals as well as for private equity heads seeking leverage for their big debt-laden buyouts of public companies....

“This is where we New Yorkers come, Catholics and all faiths, in moments of loss and difficulty and heartache,” Cardinal Dolan said. “So you are all very much at home here this morning.”
Lee, known as Jimmy, wasn't the worst of the banksters, although Matt Taibbi wrote this about him:
As one of the world's leading Leveraged Buyout (LBO) pioneers, Lee is a human bridge symbolically connecting two different and equally loathsome eras in Wall Street iniquity -- the Gordon Gekko/LBO Eighties and Nineties, and the price-rigging, bubble-making, steal-everything-not-nailed-down era covering the Wall Street of today. From the public's perspective, Lee basically represents the banker who foreclosed on your house and the guy who liquidated your factory in a deal financed by junk bonds, all in one.
In 2013, Lee was asked to do a Twitter Q&A on behalf of JPMorgan Chase. The Q&A had to be canceled when it resulted in tweets such as the following:

Reading David Brooks, you'd think Lee would get a similar response in a Catholic church under the new commie pope. But not to worry -- he got a cardinal to do his funeral Mass, and the ushers were strictly from the A list:

So relax, David. They're not stashing pitchforks and tumbrels in the sacristy. Capitalism is still in no real danger from Catholics.


tony in san diego said...

If David Brooks think a guy that was a bishop in South America, does not understand how capitalism works....his opinion is not worth reading.

Victor said...

Unless you're one of the top 1% and looking for some salve to apply to your unbridled greed, you don't read Bobo.

Almost every single one of his columns is exactly the same.
Every one!
He describes two sides.
Then he creates strawmen and bullshit when talking about the side he doesn't like - hint: the more liberal one - and then proves that he and centrism or conservatism is ultimately right!
"Oh, copy-boy! Take this to the printer

Ah, but he does this with such "humility..."

Anonymous said...

Brooks needs to fact check his history (ha!) - the Catholic Church has always been anti-capitalist. They've also been anti-communist and anti-democracy.

The Church continues to believe that the proper state of man is something resembling the Great Chain of Being - there should be God, and below God the angels, and below the angels men, and below men women, and below the women are the beasts.

Among the men, at the top are the various kings (wisely advised by the guys with the direct pipeline to God - the Church), followed by the nobility, then the lesser aristocracy, then the freemen, then the serfs. This is the way the world is supposed to work according to every Pope since those new-fangled Enlightenment ideas hit the world.

So David can relax - this Pope doesn't seem to be any more pro-democracy or anti-capitalist than any of the others that have held the Papal throne for the past 300 years (he's a bit more vocal on why people need to be "good stewards" of the Earth, though, which is what has Brooks's knickers in a twist here...)

Procopius said...

Brooks himself points out the underlying flaw in his own argument: "... the qualities that do harm can often, when carefully directed, do enormous good." See, he also, elsewhere, insists that capitalism works best when it is completely unrestricted, no laws against fraud, no laws to restrict monopoly, no laws against usury -- but plenty of laws against jaywalking or smoking pot or failing to make a payment on your student debt. I wonder how this accurate insight managed to find a fault line to slip out in his writing.