The phrase "with all due respect" is often uttered before an insult. As if just saying the phrase aloud somehow excuses the next comment. It's an old trick, like saying, "I love her like a sister, but" before another terrible remark. Nixon had a habit of saying "incidentally" before he tried to make a point that wasn't incidental at all.
This time, however, with all due respect is given with all due respect. Because the topic of this conversation is The Pope.
Pope Francis is an amazing man and priest. We could spend the rest of this column explaining why. For a brief tutorial, watch "The Two Popes" on Netflix. If you weren't a fan of Pope Francis before, you will be after watching that film.
But -- there's always a but -- a lot of people will take issue with the Pope's comments this past week about market capitalism. Yes, the Pope took on the dismal science over the weekend, and made it even more so. But the history of economics hasn't changed. More freedom in the markets equals abundance. And no matter how good the hearts in government offices, a centrally planned economy never has.
From the AP story over the weekend:
"Pope Francis says the coronavirus pandemic has proved that the 'magic theories' of market capitalism have failed and that the world needs a new type of politics that promotes dialogue and solidarity and rejects war at all costs."
The AP writer said the part about rejecting war at all costs, even questioning a "just" war, was the most controversial new element of the Pope's new encyclical. That might be the writer's opinion. But to call market capitalism just a magic theory is to ignore a lot of human history. Isn't this pope from Argentina, and can't he see what's happening to people in South America's government-run economies?
The Pope, according to the story, "rejected the concept of an absolute right to property for individuals, stressing instead the 'social purpose' and common good that must come from sharing the Earth's resources .... "
We hope that the reporter didn't take some of this out of context, for the reporter's sake. Because we were incredulous reading that.
No country has ever prospered without protecting private property rights. Nobody wants to invest in a country in which private property can be confiscated by the state, or anybody else. Investments result in jobs, which result in elevated standards of living, which result in spending, which result in increased tax revenues for the government(s) and more savings by the people, which can be used by banks to lend money for more investment.
We once heard Niall Ferguson, an economic historian at Harvard, say that when mainland China embraced free-market economics (socialism with "Chinese characteristics"), the economy of that country set sail, and even the ChiComs were able to pull 350 million people out of poverty -- something unprecedented in the history of the world.
A man from South America could see all the poverty and ruin that government-run economies can wreak. But a man from South America would also be familiar with Chile.
The country of Chile is considered one of the most prosperous nations on the continent. It leads its neighbors in competitiveness, income and economic freedom. It should be noted that Chile's is a market economy. Market economies aren't perfect, but as Winston Churchill said about democracy, it beats everything else. History proves that.
If a person wants to argue the merits of loving thy neighbor, or the merits of a progressive tax policy, or even the merits of socialism, that's one thing. But the laws of economics aren't magic theories. They are the difference between poverty and abundance, between happiness and want.
We say that with all due respect. And we mean it.