The Pope and Capitalism

Robert Rector, who has spent an academic lifetime tracking information from the U.S. Census Bureau, reports that the U.S. has the richest poor in the world. Someone needs to tell Pope Francis, who has an apparent enmity for Capitalism. 

Now I have seen real “unfettered” Capitalism, as practiced in the British-controlled Hong Kong of the 1960s, and it worked, but it worked differently than the mixed economy that we have in the U. S. today. It is apparently “unfettered” Capitalism that the Pope abhors, although I doubt he ever saw it.

The Pope has also never seen the United States, so one assumes his economic knowledge is academic.

The Hong Kong of yesteryear, with “unfettered” Capitalism, was a marvel that drove the Chinese to decide to keep it under the slogan, “one country, two systems” but they continue to change it anyway, meanwhile stealing some of its most productive mannerisms to drive the Chinese economy. 

Unfettered Capitalism in the British Hong Kong had no safety net – it was, in the words of my ancient Southern youth, “Root hog, or die.”

Now no one died in Hong Kong because everyone worked. The shoes custom-fit for my wife were glued together by some poor seven-year-old child, and her dresses custom-fit at Harilela’s, which under the British was “By Appointment To Her Majesty The Queen,” were sewn by women in their 80s – or so I was told by Harilela’s.  

Hunger is a great motivator. It is not a system that would be tolerated in the U.S. – but then neither is polygamy, or child brides, or eating dog meat, or eating balutes (you don’t want to know), or letting cows roam the streets unmolested. All of these are acceptable in other successful cultures.

Child labor and sweat shops are no longer in our culture, although both were. We had real Capitalism, unfettered, in the Colonies at the inception of this nation – everyone worked because everyone had to contribute.

Today’s mixed economy may indeed be “nicer” and softer, and certainly we have created enormous wealth…and yes, we can afford to provide a safety net for the weak, the disabled and the lazy. 

So could have pre-Chinese Hong Kong, but that was not their culture. It can be debated whether our version of Capitalism has evolved or devolved, but it is certainly true that the U.S. has the richest poor in the world.

The U.S. Census Bureau tracks it, and Robert Richter of Heritage Foundation looks at the data and publishes his findings – and yes, Heritage is conservative, but, as an article in the Atlantic debating Richter’s findings states, yes, Richter’s data shows our average American poor have great material things like an automobile, air conditioning, several TV sets, a computer, and live in housing the average middle-class European would welcome, but the average American poor still have little access to higher educatio

The Atlantic article might also note that a Bentley is beyond the reach of the poor. Perhaps the Pope will address that.

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