This article originally appeared in print as a Letter to the Editor in the Jamaica Observer, on January 4th, 2014. It has be reformatted and edited for this online publication.
THE POPE’S DELUSION
by Lipton Matthews
Individuals improve their lot in life through trade. Trading their skills, labour or knowlege for payment in cash or kind, which is then exchanged through trade with others individuals, institutions or companies for their products (a car, a book, food, a cellphone etc) or services. Trade is the only just and moral method of increasing affluence.
Some individuals become even more affluent by creating a high value product that others within a market demand and which is affordable for them to purchase. With the advent of the internet it is now easier to create wealth and engage in business transactions or trade. Capitalism is the best system known that fosters this.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the internet accounted for 10 percent of GDP growth in the advanced economies between 1996-2011. Technology has increased freedom and with it reaching the masses, has provided even the destitute with an opportunity to accumulate vast amounts of wealth.
Therefore, the Pope Francis’ description of capitalism as a “form of tyranny” is baseless. Capitalism is about freedom. Pope Francis and many of his ilk fail to understand that it is the free market and pro-growth policies that reduce income inequality and uplift the poor. It is through capitalism that his Church flourishes. Whereas, taxes and excessive government regulations restrict entrepreneurship and job creation, making it difficult for the market to thrive and thus keeping the poor destitute.
In 1970, Sweden was the fourth richest country in the world, but with an increased in taxes and statist policies, economic growth decreased and by 1993, Sweden had become the 14th richest country in the world.
Things are looking up for Sweden, however, with the creation of conservative economic policies of the 1990s. With the abolition of wealth and property taxes and the reduction of the corporate tax to 22 percent, Sweden is becoming more conducive to investments and wealthy citizens who emigrated years ago to flee the heavy hand of government, like IKEA Founder Ingvar Kamprad, are now making Sweden their home again.
Capitalism’s record in eliminating poverty is enviable, unquestionable and irrefutable. According to the Cato Institute India would have had 175 million fewer people living in poverty by 2008 had it embarked upon reforms in 1971, instead of 1991. Income inequality maybe a concern to many, but stifling capitalism will only make the problem worse.
Being a religious leader, the Pope’s primary objective is to save souls, bashing capitalism is not one of his duties. Furthermore, we must not begrudge the rich for being successful because we the common man have benefited tremendously from their products that have enriched our lives. The motor car and the cellphone are just two products which have had an unmeasurable impact on man’s way of life.
Only capitalism can solve income inequality and instead of complaining about the wealth of rich people, the Pope and his fans could encourage the poor to take advantage of the opportunities, products and institutions that capitalism has created.
We must be realistic not everyone will be rich, and since some individuals are more talented than others, we will never be equal. Progressive Policies are always well intended and noble. It makes their creators feel warm and fuzzy inside, but they rarely work. This Pope continues to suffer from delusions of grandeur and fails to realize that their is no heaven here on Earth.
Lipton Matthews is a first year law student and is unusual in being a Conservative Jamaican Adolescent who believes in the virtues of Capitalism. He can be reached at email@example.com.