Acton Institute Powerblog

Have Cookies Convinced the Pope About Capitalism?

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pope-oreoBased on their latest headline, it looks like someone from the Acton Institute is writing for the The Onion:

Pope Francis Reverses Position On Capitalism After Seeing Wide Variety Of American Oreos

As the article says:

Admitting the startling discovery had compelled him to reexamine his long-held beliefs, His Holiness Pope Francis announced Tuesday that he had reversed his critical stance toward capitalism after seeing the immense variety of Oreos available in the United States. “Oh, my goodness, look at all these! Golden Oreos, Cookie Dough Oreos, Mega Stuff Oreos, Birthday Cake Oreos—perhaps the system of free enterprise is not as terrible as I once feared,” said the visibly awed bishop of Rome while visiting a Washington, D.C. supermarket, adding that the sheer diversity of flavors, various colors and quantities of creme filling, and presence or absence of an outer fudge layer had led to a profound philosophical shift in his feelings toward the global economy and opened his eyes to the remarkable capabilities of the free market.

Sadly, the article is only satire. But buried underneath the humor is a serious question worth considering: What does our abundance of choice say about our economic system? As I wrote in my post on “3 Things I Wish Pope Francis Knew About a Free Economy“:

Capitalism is merely an economic system in which the modes and means of production are mostly or entirely privately owned. That’s a rather broad categorization that includes such systems as corporatism, crony capitalism, social democracy, state capitalism, and welfare capitalism.

What many of us prefer is not an amorphous capitalism, but an economic system that is outgrowth of the natural order of liberty: a free economy. There’s no agreed upon term for the system of a free economy (which is why capitalism is often used as a substitute) but it would include free people engaging in free enterprise in free markets. A free economy is not a laissez-faire, each-to-his-own system of consumerism. It’s a system in which people are allowed to use their resources and abilities most effectively to serve others.

We as individuals almost always have more relevant information about our interests, talents, and preferences than does the government. While our choices are not free from error or untainted by sin, we are more likely to be better off making such decisions for ourselves than we are having them made for us by the state. This is, in essence, why we favor free economy solutions. Free economies are the best way to serve free people because they provide both the freedom to choose and the freedom to be chosen.

When you have a (largely) free economic system with free people engaging in free enterprise in free markets you will certainly get things like 55 types of Oreos. But you’ll also get decreased poverty and increased human flourishing.

While the pope probably won’t be convinced of capitalism because of our cookies, they are a tasty argument for why we should embrace free markets.

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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