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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).


  • alexpinca

    Well isn’t that nice, an economic system where means of “production and distribution is privately owned.”
    However, within that very limited description are the roots of its evil. “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Therein lies the evil… it corrupts and lures good people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do. Humans will stake their turf and victimize intruders but guess who gets to define intruder. It is perhaps a viable economic system but only as long as there is an overseaing authority that prevents someone from taking the football and going home.

    • Marc Vander Maas

      You do realize that the same human corruption that affects the character of private individuals also affects those who serve in that “overseeing authority,” right? And that those who work in the “overseeing authority” have the ability to use the force of law to reinforce those corrupt instincts, right? Not that they always do, but some indeed do. Human nature affects both businessmen and bureaucrats.

      • alexpinca

        Indeed, corruption and greed feed the narrative for sure; however, one is elected and at least theoretically can be replaced, the other is worshipped by some as sacrosanct and untouchable. You get the idea of checks and balances, right? One is elected, the other is worshipped evil.

        • Marc Vander Maas

          Sadly, my friend, the vast majority of those who make the rules are not elected at all. By way of example: Obamacare. That horrible piece of legislative excreta which was approved by a hyperpartisan majority, most of whom had not even read the legislation, was filled to the brim with instructions like “The Secretary shall…” or “The Department shall…” What that means is that the elected ones who passed this disaster didn’t actually have any input over the real world regulations that would eventually be written. Ultimately, the law as implemented was written by Kathleen Sebelius and her HHS bureaucratic minions, who, to the best of my knowledge, are not elected. So in that case and many others like it, the people who passed the bill into law didn’t actually bother to write a law; they wrote a list of things that they wanted to happen and gave authority to the executive to make it happen.

          The end result is that the scoundrels who passed the law in the first place have plausible deniability when everything goes down the tubes. So if the website is a catastrophic failure that automatically routes your SSN and financial details to a cabal of Nigerian identity thieves, the congressmen in question can huff and puff and say “well, I didn’t vote for THAT.”

          Plus, even if the voters cast the scoundrels who voted for it out of office as punishment, the people who actually write the law as it is implemented are largely shielded from accountability, as they toil in anonymity in the basement of the HHS building. The damage is done, true accountability is nearly impossible, and the regulators continue on, triumphantly sinking their talons into another meaty chunk of the economy.

          Believe me, I do get the idea of checks and balances. What I’m pointing out is that there is virtually no check on the power of government regulators when they go after you. Ever fight the full power of the federal government? If you ever do, may God have mercy on you because there’s no doubt that they have the ability to destroy you and the resources to do so should they so desire.

          Private organizations, on the other hand, do not have the force of law backing them up. Unless, you know, they’re in good with the current bureaucrats and regulators. Then they can make your life hell. But then, that’s not really a free market, is it?

        • Business leaders and owners are controlled by their consumers. Politicians are controlled by their voters. But voters approve of the evil that politicians do. For example, the majority approved of slavery for 150 years. The majority approved of the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans from East of the Mississippi and the mass death of many of them. The majority has approved of every immoral and illegal war the US has fought since independence.

          With the approval of the majority, politicians can cause far more evil and destruction than the most evil corporate CEO. For example, no CEO invented the bomb and dropped it on two defenseless Japanese cities during WWII.

          • alexpinca

            Business leaders are controlled by their consumers…sorry but you’re so far out into lala land I won’t say anything more.

          • Actually, we see the evidence every day. Businesses succeed and fail because consumers choose them or not. No business has the power to force consumers to buy from them.

    • “it corrupts and lures good people do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.”

      That is the socialist/atheist philosophy of evil, not the Christian. In Christianity people are born with a tendency toward evil and a free will. Evil people choose to be evil. They can resist temptation or not. Everyone faces temptation but few succumb to it. Atheist socialists fabricated the idea that people are born good and only turn to evil because of oppression or temptation.

      • alexpinca

        You are defending a system that has almost no substantiation in Christian teachings, shame on you for buy the right wing interpretation of Christ’s teachings. What on earth do you think he was saying about the money changers in the temple or the rich man and the eye of a needle…you are so corrupted by the two faced capitalist interpretation of Christianity that there is little hope for you.

        • What do the money changers have to do with capitalism? They were corrupt and defrauding people. Capitalism uses the rule of law to jail such people. The Bible has a lot to say about evil rich people, but it also has a lot of good to say about Godly ones like Abraham and Job.

          Jesus was a businessman most of his adult life. He probably went into business around the age of 15 with his earthly father who was a construction contractor. That would make him a business owner for 15 years before beginning his ministry. Since Joseph probably died during that time, his business would have supported his mother, brothers and sisters. That’s why Jesus used business in many of his parables and approved of profits.

          • alexpinca

            Who enforces the rule of lay my friend?

          • Cyril Ebarvia

            the politicians,uh huh so basically if a corporation abuses it’s power it’s actually more or the fault of the politician since they are suppose to uphold the law

          • alexpinca

            So the solution is to remove them?

          • Large corporations have always been as big a threat to freedom as socialists. Adam Smith mentions them as a threat. They always want monopolies in their industries and bribe politicians for special treatment and advantages against competitors.

          • The state enforces the rule of law, my friend. Why?

          • alexpinca

            Then why is the goal of right wingers to hamstring government rather than to fix it?

          • We want to get the state out of the many areas that it doesn’t belong in and is causing enormous damage and force it to focus on the areas its God-given responsibilities of enforcing God’s laws as Paul wrote in Romans 13.

            The left sees nothing but evil in the market and good in the state. Free marketeers see the state as a necessary good, but only if it stays within God-given bounds to protect life, liberty and property. It does enormous damage, like a flood, when it spills over its banks and tries to manipulate the market.

          • alexpinca

            The mountain of ignorance is to high to scale, I will leave to your fantasies.

          • It’s cheap and easy to be insulting on a blog post. The fact is that what I wrote earlier has enormous support in academia. Buchanan won the Nobel Prize in economics for his public choice theory. It is obvious from posts on this blog that socialists take a great amount of pride in knowing nothing about the field of economics. When did that become a virtue? Even if you disagree with an entire field of knowledge, don’t you think people should at least be able to discuss it intelligently?

          • alexpinca

            I have an MBA with Emphasis in Manpower Planning from a major university which had a substantial requirement in macro-economics. I aced the courses…I don’t take a back seat to any yahoo that chooses to ignore the anti-competition and monopoly building fascist corporations that are growing in this country with the help of so called conservatives.

          • So you got a master’s degree in socialism. You’re still ignorant of one of the most important developments in economics in 50 years and one that won a Nobel Prize. But then socialists can remain socialists only if they remain ignorant as well.

          • alexpinca

            I suspect that the “important development” is your right wing twisted interpretation of that economic development… everyone knows of the right wing propensity to twist the mean of the Constitution, the Bible and anything else they find that can make their argument.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Dude, do you not recall just a bit ago where you decided to admit that you and I aren’t 180º apart?

            “in the final analysis we’re not a 180 degrees apart…I could outline the things i disagree with what you posted here but our differences are mostly in the degrees.”

            You realize that you started out with both barrels blazing against me, just like you’re doing here to Roger? Why don’t you actually try to have a discussion instead of constantly returning to the name calling and dark insinuations?

          • Well you’ll never know until you read about it. Stay ignorant my friend! Ignorance is the socialist’s best friend.

          • alexpinca

            It is amusing to read your analysis of someone else being ignorant, you are the definition of ignorance. I think it is highly probable that I read that or something quite similar in my masters program… I doubt very seriously that I need you to provide me reading material.

          • alexpinca

            Contrary to your right wing mono-vision, there is no Masters in Socialism in MBA programs. what a world of paranoia you must live in. I feel sorry for the right wing fascists, anything that doesn’t support their fascist beliefs is socialism.

          • The depths of your ignorance are awe inspiring! Most MBA programs are socialist. Socialism can have markets. Lenin called it market socialism and that is what is taught in most MBA programs. Any program that teaches economics with perfect markets as the ideal and focuses on market “failures” promotes socialism, and that is most of them in the US. The fact that they claim to promote free markets while at the same time promoting state intervention just shows how dishonest socialists are.

          • Yarwain

            There is no such thing as “the Nobel Prize in Economics”. There are only 5 Nobel Prizes awarded; the field of economics is not one of them. There is a “Bank of Sweden prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.”

          • alexpinca

            You don’t seem to be clear on that point.

          • Yarwain

            Roger, it’s important not to go too far in try to make a point or in defending one’s preferred ideology. I’m not faulting you for holding the hyper-capitalist ideology b/c everyone holds various ideologies. But with all of the excesses of capitalism, you should at least take a critical view that some people, including the Pope, know what they are talking about when they criticise some (though not all) features of capitalism.

            Saying ‘Jesus was a business(man) owner’ is as absurd as saying ‘Jesus was a tour guide,’ or ‘Jesus was a professor of communications’, though he ‘toured’ with the disciples and communicated with them, also teaching them how to communicate with people. You are being anachronistic, likewise with the ‘construction contractor’ claim.

            Also, various other ‘non-capitalist’ ideologies “use the rule of law”, so your argument loses its uniqueness.

            Not only a lover of profits, but of social, cultural and economic justice, Jesus ‘approved’ of (re-)distribution too. ;)

          • I’m not being extreme in the least. If you have read the Torah (Pentateuch) you know what kind of government God created for Israel. It would have been a libertarian’s dream. God only created one government and we can assume that he created it because he approved of its principles.

            What is anachronistic about calling Jesus a businessman? His father was a “carpenter” which is better translated construction contractor. There were no corporations; small family-owned businesses were the rule. Jesus would have worked with his father in the family business and then taken over the business after Joseph died. He would have worked in the family business for probably 15 years before starting his ministry. Peter worked in the family business of fishing, as did other apostles.

            I don’t know what you mean by the excesses of capitalism. I know that people are sinful, but capitalism doesn’t make people sin.

            Systems can’t cause excesses in the sense of sinful behavior. People sin because human nature is sinful. The only way to compare systems or organizing society is how well the system agrees with God’s principles and the only place to find God’s principles of government is in the Torah.

            As for the rule of law, it’s simply not true that other systems “use the rule of law.” the rule of law means the rule of God’s law, or natural law. It does not mean following any stupid legislation a groups of arrogant politicians regurgitate. A system follows the rule of law only if it follows the Biblical principles of government in the Bible. Not any do that today, but for more than a century we enjoyed it in the West after the rise of capitalism.

  • “What does our abundance of choice say about our economic system?”

    It shows that consumers rule!

    BTW, laissez-faire never meant “each-to-his-own system of consumerism.” Socialists created the straw man that says laissez-faire means anarchy. It has always meant the rule of law, God’s or natural law and free markets.

  • alexpinca

    Well I would continue these conversations but I suspect this right wing site doesn’t want to allow me to respond, just what I would expect from a right wing site.

    • Marc Vander Maas

      …and yet, somehow, your comments continue to be posted. How odd!

  • Yarwain

    “Capitalism is merely an economic system”

    “The worst error of all is to suppose that capitalism is simply an ‘economic system,’ whereas in fact it lives off the social order.” – Braudel

    The USA model of capitalism has enslaved and still enslaves many people by a system of indebted servanthood. The USA is among the most unequal societies/nations in the world today and the Christian Church can and does openly challenge this rather unfortunate (indeed, pitiable) situation. Have much do your ‘free economy capitalists’ owe to China in debts?

    “an ideal partner in such discussion would be the Acton Institute.”
    Then you’d better drop your (not even just far right-wing!) ideological ‘American exceptionalism,’ and fast. It is one of the ugliest ideologies ever conceived by Christians and their nationalist neighbours from a global (e.g. Catholic Church) perspective.

    Far too much of Matthew 18:23-35 goes on (exceptionally) in the USA these days to think that the particular meaning of ‘free economy’ implied by the author of this (and the linked) article could possibly be preferred to the koinonia/sobornost model Pope Francis is advocating. Your drum-beating ‘free economy’ utopia creates far too many slaves (economically, politically & legally) to go unnoticed by people outside of the USA. We don’t think you have the ‘best system’ by far.

    It’s not like adding the adjective ‘free’ a thousand times make your individualistic ideology somehow look socially profound or caring, when in fact you have so much slavery in both your past and present.

    To even suggest the Pope has a “naïve view of capitalism” is laughable blind-capitalist nonsense. He has seen what you have either ignored or never been in a position to see, insulated from non-American perspectives. Acton Institute deserves better than this and many people are aware of the all-too-common ‘callous capitalism’ for the Church in our current moment of history. What happened to ‘all things in moderation’? Not something free-to-be-rich-and-contemptuous anti-social quasi-Randists like to hear?

    • Care to suggest a better system? Please bring evidence.

      • Yarwain

        Is this the same John Couretas who wrote: “I’m a big believer in American exceptionalism” here at Acton? Do you really think ‘American exceptionalists’ make good global partners?

      • alexpinca

        The only thing worse than socialism is laissez fare capitalism. Carefully monitored capitalism is probably best.

    • The US has not been capitalist for at least a century. The fact that most people think it is just credits the success of socialist propaganda. The differences between the US and the most socialist nation in Europe are trivial. Yes, the US system enslaves a lot of people; that’s what socialism does.

  • William Thomas

    It’s unfortunate that Acton authors leave human nature out of the dialogue. Free markets only work to serve society when providers put the interest of others at or above their own. In a profit driven, shareholder owned business this is simply not the case.

    For instance, the Oreo® proliferation might seem like some wonderful act of benevolence. It is not. In fact, it is an attempt to acquire shelf space at the expense of other brands. You have only three or four brands in the premier locations? Prices and market share will be higher. Smaller producers will be squeezed out. Quality and preference are scrapped for size and/or muscle.

    Acton continually demonstrates it’s lack of real world knowledge. The Pope, on the other hand, gets it.

    • You clearly don’t know anything about economics and neither does the Pope. Pride in ones ignorance about the field of economics separates the posters on this blog. Anyone with a knowledge of good economics knows how ignorant the Pope is. It’s obvious to a freshman student in the subject. But those who are ignorant of economics and proud of that ignorance have no problem making ridiculous and unfounded assertions.

      • William Thomas

        Cookie flavors are marketing, not economics. Game theory and marketing are human nature based, not economics. Economics is no more than a way to model and value human interaction – cookies, marketing, game theory and more. The end result is simply the value that mankind derives from the commercial system.

        It’s clear that economics is your god. Not useful.

        Oh, by the way, in 2007 I met and discussed pursuing graduate economic work with an Ivy League econ prof who was also on the president’s economic advisory panel. He told me that my 22 years corporate development experience in venture backed startups was far more important than any book learning I could derive from his Ivy League school. In my final tutorial before receiving my Post Graduate Diploma in Theology from a major UK University, I was told the exact same thing by my tutor – many years of experience counts more than a Phd.

        The pope lived during the days of default. He knows first hand how human nature – both over borrowing and insistent lenders – can make a huge impact on humanity.

        Perhaps you could delineate your actual experience which makes you credible in your assertions.

        • Economics is not my god, but anyone who wants to discuss economics should know something about it, don’t you think?

          I have known a lot of people with experience like yours. Donald Trump is an example. But they don’t understand economics. Some things experience alone can’t teach. I have 40 years of experience in all kinds of business, but I would never have understood business cycles, growth or economic history had I not at least read about it. I’ll agree that taking classes aren’t as important as being well read.

          Most of the students I attempt to teach are like you – they think their personal experiences trump anything that research or history might say. They’re as wrong as you are. You don’t need a degree. Degrees only teach you how to learn.

          It’s really shocking to me how much resistance there is among posters to learning anything about economics. Very strange. No one would be so arrogant as to make assertions about physics or medicine without having at least read a book on the subject, but so many posters think they were born with, or have enough experience that they don’t even have to read a single book on the subject. Hubris is the only word I can think for it.

          Just out of curiosity, what did your experience teach you about the hockey stick effect of per capita gdp growth that exploded in the 17th century? What causes business cycle?

          • William Thomas

            Received: Coursera certificate, University of Melbourne
            Generating the Wealth of Nations

            This course is an undergraduate-level introduction to the history
            of economic development in the world in the past 300 years.

            Read – Theory of Moral Sentiments, Wealth of Nations, completed graduate level Macroeconomics course in 1985 from a major Boston university. Read Galbraith’s work on the runup to the Great depression. I am an investor and amateur economist.

            Hockey stick – where? Acemoglu writes, Finance and Economics 2003 (sorry can’t get italics to work), and demonstrates that colonization led to the destruction of the countries wth highest GDP in the 15th century. Haiti being an example, and others who by the 18th century were poor when they had higher 15th century GDP than the nations who colonized them. Just as the native population in the US experienced with colonials, Haitians lost as the French grew. So hockey stick must be defined by specific territory and even by class of individual. Maddison Project has reasonable data on UK and Netherlands for 1500s and 1600s ( Per capita GDP fell in 1500s and doubled in 1600s, hardly a hockey stick.

            The cause of business cycles is quite complex, economic authors notwithstanding. Over investment provoked by monetary policy and greed seems to be a good reason for downward trajectories of 2008, and in 1871, and in 1929. Recoveries are initiated by demand reaching equilibrium and then surpassing capacity in commodities like housing, agriculture and energy production. Investment leads to a multiplier effect, which if not caught by demand will lead to short term contraction.

            I post provocative remarks for a reason. To get people to think. Your response that I have no economic training is 1) incorrect and 2) not constructive. Perhaps I disagree with you, but I assure you the disagreement is reasoned and with both academic and experiential knowledge.

            Let’s confine the discussion to Cookies and the Pope. if you have substantive comments on that topic, I would be happy to further the conversation.

            Best Regards.

          • Well you know more than you let on in your post. But you’re a little behind. For economic history and the hockey stick, see Deirdre McCloskey (University of Chicago) and her series on the bourgeois values and Angus Maddison’s books. The hockey stick is real and well-substantiated. Per capita gdp was flat from pre-history to 1600 then took off like a rocket in Western Europe to produce the wealth we enjoy today. Also see Acemoglu’s most recent book, “Why Nations Fail.” All agree with Douglass North’s New Institutional school of economics.

            The West stole its wealth from no one. It created new wealth through capitalism and invented science. The applies to the pope because it describes how real economic development happens. In addition, the recent histories of the Asian “tigers,” India and China reinforce the point. Real poverty reduction has come only through greater capitalism. Nowhere in history has any program lifted as many people out of poverty as has capitalism. At the same time, the pope’s socialist policies have everywhere and at all times done nothing other than impoverish the people and destroy the environment.

            Your knowledge of business cycle theories is pretty bad. Try Roger Garrison’s “Time and Money” for a starter. It applies to the pope because many of the evils he sees in his distorted view of capitalism come from central banks manipulating money.

            Before the pope starts pontificating on economic issues he should learn some economics.

          • William Thomas

            I don’t have an interest in theories. They are retrospective. They are nice to point us in a direction, but current empiric work is needed to draw conclusions.

            My business cycle analysis was using deSoto text, Money, Credit … especially chapter 6 and my own 35 year investing career. As a retired investor living off savings, theories must be quite reproducible and what I described is.

            I love the pope’s position. I am a libertarian and believe in free markets. In a true anarchy, utopia would exist because each market participant would play by the same set of rules. Unfortunately, people like Madoff, Enron management, Volkswagen all play outside the established rules.

            Hence, in my opinion we need guys like Pope Francis to bring thoughts of service to others back to the discussion. Someone who embodies the pope’s stance might be Bill Gates, like others (who I can’t name off the top of my head, I’ve got to run to golf) he spent the first half of his life innovating for profit and the second innovating for the benefit of others. All within a free market and of his own choice.

            I’ve read a bit of the pope’s writing, and conclude that he wants to change human nature moreso than legislate away capitalism. That’s a big task that only the Catholic church has a chance at handling. I am protestant and I am very happy to see the dialogue begun.

          • I have read de Soto’s book. It’s excellent! Roger Garrison is from the same school of thought, called Austrian.

            I’m not sure what the pope’s intentions are. I know that most papal communications are vague enough that all sides can find support in them. I also know that the economics he proposes has destroyed his own country, Argentina.

          • William Thomas

            A bit like Alan Greenspan fed speak perhaps? I think it is important for the pope to let people know his thoughts more precisely, but might be difficult because modern quantitative man (us) doesn’t jive well with “heart driven” latin man (him?). Not sure, just a thought.

  • Marc Vander Maas

    Well, we just fundamentally disagree. I could go point by point in response here, but what’s the point? I suppose it’s possible that, say, the credit card companies somehow forced you to use their services, or that somehow you engaged in transactions with some inexplicably unregulated energy company that financially brutalized you. I doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible.

    Anyway, you’re set in your views, and there’s no point in trying to engage you. So I wish you well.

    • alexpinca

      Yes, the classic response of the right, “no one told you had to use credit cards.” Simplistic response…Yes, lets set up the only game in town and then tell them to play by our rules or don’t play…that isn’t force is it???

      • Marc Vander Maas

        You think that credit cards are the only game in town?

        • alexpinca

          If you do extensive travel for business, try to make reservations for car rentals, hotels, flights etc without credit cards and then answer your own question.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I’ve traveled for business, and generally whatever travel and lodging costs I’ve incurred in the process have been covered by said business. As for non-business travel using credit cards, I’ve found that it’s perfectly doable as long as one budgets wisely and lives within their means. It’s hardly some form of theft or slavery. I do know people who have incurred very large amounts of credit card debt and had difficulty paying it all off. Is that the fault of the credit card company? I think not. Credit is a useful tool when used wisely.

          • alexpinca

            Bull!!! I have a great deal of experience with business travel and they always want YOU to pay and then submit receipts for reimbursement. Today if you tell someone you don’t have a credit card to make reservations, they just say sorry. I think you’re right, we’re wasting each others time. JUST AS AN EXAMPLE OF YOUR FINE BIG BUSINESS FRIENDS FOR YEARS VISA AND MC THREATENED BUSINESSES IF THEY ACCEPTED DISCOVER, THEY WOULD YANK THEIR RIGHT TO ACCEPT VISA/MC, THAT’S YOUR FINE FRIENDS, I’M OUT OF HERE, YOU’RE HOPELESS.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Um, yes. I sometimes pay with my personal card, and sometimes things are paid for in advance with a company card. And in the end, I get reimbursed. And this requires a full-on all-caps hissyfit? Forgive me, but I’m not seeing the injustice.

            ProTip – the real cool kids would have ended that with [MIC DROP].

          • Marc Vander Maas
          • alexpinca

            That’s what you got from my post…sorry, I didn’t know I was dealing with the limited. Your precious capitalism is nothing but dog eat dog to see who gets to feast on the consumer, if you didn’t get that from my post…sorry.

          • Cyril Ebarvia

            a friend does not like corporations because they are corrupt yet wants government to control them which is inherently corrupt also oh the stupidity.

            “capitalism is dog eat dog…”

            oh just like politics is dog eat dog! yay! clap!

          • Instead of reasoned debate, you decide to call someone “limited?” As the mother of a “limited” child, this is disgraceful. The “limited” may be lacking in some cognitive abilities, but at least they are kind and thoughtful.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            “Your precious capitalism is nothing but dog eat dog”
            So’s your precious government. Ever worked in politics? I have. All the corruption and greed and devilry you decry in business exists in spades in the government too. I realize that you don’t want to see that because you’ve put all your eggs in the regulatory basket, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

            Regardless, as I said before, it’s clear you’re not here for any sort of reasonable discussion, so we’d all be fine with you being “out of here,” as you mentioned earlier. But, you know, whatever floats your boat.

          • alexpinca

            I suppose it could sound as though I’m defending government but I am not. It has plenty of problems, I just don’t think the solution is to dismantle government. Hamstringing government and you serve our butt on a platter to Inc. USA.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Who’s talking about dismantling government?

          • alexpinca

            Let’s not nitpick…government has an important role to limit the excesses of big business….Period!

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I’m not nitpicking. I’m also not in any way advocating the dismantling of all government. I certainly believe that government has an important role to play in establishing the framework of law within which we can freely interact and do business. But I’m also not under the illusion that regulators are somehow free of the very same temptations and sinful tendencies that confront those in business. In addition, Government wields a power that businesses in the market do not – that of coercion. All actions of the government, ultimately, are backed up by force. This is why the framers of the US Constitution worked to create a federal government of strictly limited, enumerated powers: because they recognized the threat of tyranny. I’m inclined to agree with them. Sure, we need a government. But we need to be very wary of allowing it to wield too much power, lest we lose our liberty.

  • You are talking nonsense and ducking the question. Again, which system would you consider better than all of these Baskin Robbins 31 flavors of capitalism you cite, which is just another way to dodge the question.

  • Marc Vander Maas

    What is American Exceptionalism? Not being sarcastic; just interested in how you define the term.

    • alexpinca

      American arrogance!

      • Marc Vander Maas


  • Marc Vander Maas

    Honestly, I don’t see that definition as naive, in that the United States is rather unique in world history, or at least was at its founding. We are a nation of immigrants; our form of government, born of a revolution against tyranny, was also revolutionary, vesting sovereignty in the people rather than in a monarch; and a commitment to individual liberty led to strict limits on the power of the national government in order to safeguard the freedom of the citizen. Those things were unique at the time, and led to America’s unique development as a nation. American Exceptionalism, properly understood, does not mean that America is God’s chosen nation or something like that; it simply means that the United States has played a unique and important role in history as a nation founded on ideals of individual liberty and limited government, and that Americans have a responsibility to preserve that heritage in their own country and to do what we can to defend and advance those principles around the world.

    As for whether American Exceptionalists make good global partners – I don’t see why they wouldn’t. I don’t think that a belief in the exceptional nature of the United States as stated above would lead to some sort of toxic “americo-centrism.”

    • Yarwain

      It doesn’t look like John is going to respond, either here or above. Perhaps he could speak with the Acton blog editors to arrange an article on American Exceptionalism, rather than just an exchange in comments.

      “United States is rather unique in world history” – Marc

      Do tell then please, Marc, using names of specific countries, which nation-states in world history are *not* unique in your opinion?

      “American Exceptionalism, properly understood, does not mean that America is God’s chosen nation or something like that” – Marc

      Yet that’s still how a lot of US citizens see it and is arguably its original meaning, i.e. “America as the new Israel”. For reference, see William Cavanaugh’s “Messiah Nation: A Christian Theological Critique of American Exceptionalism.”

      “The deepest theological danger inherent in American exceptionalism, then, is that of the messiah nation that does not simply seek to follow God’s will, but acts as a kind of substitute God on the stage of history.” – Cavanaugh

      Are you at all aware of how much the US’s neo-con vision of ‘American Exceptionalism’ and ‘global supremacy’ are hated and despised around the world, Marc? Please show me that you understand, even just a little bit, how ‘American Exceptionalism’ sounds to non-US citizens. Put yourself in someone else’s position and then address the topic again differently. Rah-rah, smug American Exceptionalism coming from US citizens sounds simply horrible to this foreigner’s ears.

      • Marc Vander Maas

        Do you deny that the American founding was a unique and momentous event in world history, Yarwain? Do you deny that the American Experiment has had major impact around the world over the last, say 100 + years?

        Every country is unique, Yarwain, and I have no problem with people taking pride in the uniqueness of their country. That being said, Yarwain, not everything that makes a country unique has such an impact on world history as America’s unique founding.

        I would not be surprised if you run into Americans who act in the manner you described. Average Americans are very proud of their country, and can be sort of boisterous. Feel free to ignore them if they bother you so much.

        I could understand as well how “American Exceptionalism” as described by its left wing critics would be hated around the world, Yarwain. I’m sorry it bugs you so much. Unfortunately for you, I do tend to believe that the United States is, or at least has been, an exceptional nation. We have been in a position where we have enormous potential to do good and maintain order in the world. Heck, there’s a decent chance that the peace and stability you’ve been able to experience in your country has come in large part via the ability of the US to project power around the globe.

        The US is a big, powerful nation with enormous capabilities largely due to the revolutionary way that our nation was founded, Yarwain. I know that rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Sorry ’bout that. Does that bug ya, Yarwain? I didn’t mean to bug ya.

        • Yarwain

          “‘American Exceptionalism’ as described by its left wing critics.” – Marc

          Uh, oh, here comes the partisan, two-party charade. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

          No, Marc, please remove the chaff from your eyes & ears. I’m not a ‘leftist’. It’s rather the actual ‘supremicist’ practises of the USA’s right wing, neo-con ideology that people around the world hate and detest; not just the theory. What would it take for this to register in your consciousness as even possibly valid criticism?

          Did you read none of the articles I linked to above or did you just condemn them (including one from a conservative source) as ‘leftist’ and thus ‘below you’ as a self-defined ‘rightist’ human being before reading them?

          “I would not be surprised if you run into Americans who act in the manner you described.” – Marc

          Wow – really? Understatement – good humour! Bravo.

          But you don’t seem to have any experience of this yourself, right? You are above such condescending ideology? The US citizens that you interact with locally are all good ‘globally-minded’, world-aware and ‘nice’ exceptionalists, caring for & engaged in learning about countries and peoples and ‘systems’ other than their own? ;) They really believe that all people, all nations are ‘created equal’?

          “Sorry ’bout that. Does that bug ya, Yarwain? I didn’t mean to bug ya.” – Marc

          Ah, ok, now the taunting and insincerity. Ya! So typical and repugnant. You want your bull-in-China-shop behaviour & attitude to be excused at a dinner party in Paris, Cairo or Seoul. But it’s ‘just joking’, ha ha, right Marc? ;) No reason to be offended other than the legitimate original claim against American Exceptionalism.

          Cavanaugh and many other intelligent American anti-American Exceptionalists, including republican, right-wing conservatives await the attention it seems so far unlikely you wish to give.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            “Uh, oh, here comes the partisan, two-party charade. ‘If you’re not with us, you’re against us.'”

            Not what I said.

            “No, Marc, please remove the chaff from your eyes & ears. I’m not a ‘leftist’. It’s rather the actual ‘supremicist’ practises of the USA’s right wing, neo-con ideology that people around the world hate and detest; not just the theory. What would it take for this to register in your consciousness as even possibly valid criticism?”

            This from the same person who goes on to accuse me of having a “condescenting ideology.”

            “The US citizens that you interact with locally are all good ‘globally-minded’, world-aware and ‘nice’ exceptionalists, caring for & engaged in learning about countries and peoples and ‘systems’ other than their own? ;) They really believe that all people, all nations are ‘created equal’?”

            Well, for the most part…yes. I mean, I can’t say that americans are typically heavily “engaged in learning about countries and peoples and ‘systems’ other than their own”, because most Americans are just busy leading their lives, working, recreating, raising their kids, and so forth. But at the same time, most people I interact with are by no means ignorant of the rest of the world, and bear no ill will toward any other country. But, if you want to traffic in broad stereotypes of Americans, well, be my guest.

            “Ah, ok, now the taunting and insincerity.”

            You get what you give.

            “Ya! So typical and repugnant.”

            I could say the same about you.

            “You want your bull-in-China-shop behaviour & attitude to be excused at a dinner party in Paris, Cairo or Seoul.”

            My “bull in a china shop attitude”? I asked a simple question of you, you responded, I tried to give you a thoughtful response, and you turn on this smug “you Americans are so ignorant and I will condescend to show you how lousy you all are” act, and I’m the jerk here? Please. I can assure you that if I were at a dinner party in Paris, Cairo, or Seoul, or at your home for that matter, I would be polite and respectful. As, I believe, would many, many Americans. I’m well aware of the stereotype of the “ugly American,” I regret that, and when I have traveled abroad, I have made a point to try not to give the locals reason to apply that label to me. I’m from the midwest. It’s how I was raised.

            Perhaps you’re unaware of the stereotype here in America of the condescending foriegner who finds America disgusting and as a result smugly lectures Americans on how crude and awful they are. If the shoe fits…

  • Marc Vander Maas

    I’m glad we have some common ground here. I’d just note that in the future, you might want to tone down the hostility toward “right wingers”; generally, we’re happy to discuss things with anyone, but if you’re coming in with guns blazing, all caps, assuming that the people you disagree with have bad intentions, it’s hard to get to the point where we can find that common ground.

    • alexpinca

      I get your point; however, it is difficult to watch the upward flow of wealth to the richest of the rich and knowing that the right wing is substantially responsible, it makes me a little hostile.

      • Marc Vander Maas

        I don’t think the problem originates with conservatives or conservative philosophy. I think it’s a problem of the growth of government. Look at it this way: we have two parties, one of which is absolutely committed to extending the regulatory power of government into every nook and cranny of society; the other party talks about reducing the size and scope of government but only ever manages to slow the growth, if that can manage that.

        The longer that situation goes on, the harder it is for people lower on the economic ladder to get something going. And the big corporations – the GEs, the Boeings, the General Motors, etc. – they’re the ones that have the money to hire lobbyists and get in good with the committee chairmen and really work the system. Honestly, I don’t blame them, because if they weren’t actively working the system in that manner, the government would bleed them dry.

        It’s cronyism, and it’s only gotten worse as the government has expanded under Obama. Look at Obamacare – the only ones benefitting are insurance companies and whatever federal employee union gets bigger when HHS hires more bureaucrats to handle the massive increase in paperwork that comes with trying to nationalize healthcare. Not consumers, not individual doctors. It’s insane.

        Now, I note that I don’t think that income inequality is a problem in and of itself. Bill Gates has a heck of a lot more money than I do, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m not entitled to a penny of it. The fact that he has as much money as he does has no bearing on my income or my ability to go out in the job market and compete. In other words, the fact that Gates has bazillions of dollars has absolutely no bearing on whether or not I’m rich or poor.

        What does have an impact on my wealth or poverty is the opportunity I have to advance in the job market. And if the economy is so hyper-regulated and burdened by government that job growth is choked off (as it is now, in my opinion), that’s going to have an impact on my ability to find a better job, make more money, invest, etc. And it sure as heck is going to make it harder for entrepreneurs to go out and do the crazy thing that they do, which is to risk everything to start new enterprises in the hope that they become the next US Steel or GM or Google.

        I suppose what I’m getting at is that what you call “the right wing” probably isn’t representative of actual conservative (or classical liberal), limited government, free market thought. Heck, I understand feeling hostile toward the political establishment. They suck. Democrats suck, Republicans suck. While I understand why big business would cozy up to regulators and politicians, I still think it sucks. I’m just convinced that the way to fix it is not going to be by growing the power of the government; That’s pretty much hair of the dog – doing more of what’s causing the problem in the first place. The way to fix it is to reduce the power of the government to meddle in the economy, make it easier for small firms to get started, return most of the responsibility of government to states and local communities, and restore competition.

        • alexpinca

          I am totally baffled how someone can believe what you have outlined in your post. I do not argue for government, liberalism, or the Democratic Party. I have one philosophy, today’s version of conservativism is the route of all evil because it banks totally on money in all aspects in all things.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I share your bafflement, except that I cannot believe that you read what I wrote and see me banking totally on money in all aspects in all things.

            I’d also point out that you are pretty clearly arguing for government throughout our discussion.

          • alexpinca

            Either government or big business will run this country…I have something to say about government; I have nothing to say about big business (and please don’t insult my intelligence by saying we vote with our dollars because that is such a croc)

          • If you would learn public choice theory (Buchanan, Nobel Prize) you would understand that big business has run the country through the politicians it owns for pretty much the past century. Politicians sell their power to the highest bidders, which are always large corporations.

          • alexpinca

            You don’t say….now how do you propose to deal with Big Business?

          • The same way Adam Smith recommended and every good economist has advocated since – take power over the economy away from politicians. Corps get their power only by buying it from politicians. Without the power they buy from politicians they have no power.

          • alexpinca

            Would you like fries with that horse manure? Your great grandfather knew what the oil companies did with power, they forced the little guy out and created monopolies…too bad their great grandson didn’t learn the lessons.

          • alexpinca


          • Marc Vander Maas

            The solution is probably more akin to exposing Big Business to actual competition by removing their ability to game the regulatory system to crush small competitors.

          • alexpinca

            Don’t disagree but just how do you plan to accomplish that by hamstringing government?

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I don’t think I’m looking to hamstring government. I’m simply acknowledging that the government, in many – not all, mind you – but in many cases is the party doing the hamstringing. It’s the law of unintended consequences in action.

            Look at it this way: the larger and more profitable a company gets, the more involved the government gets in its affairs. As a company hires more employees, there are more regulations and mandates that they have to deal with, and eventually many companies decided that it’s a good investment for them to have a “governmental affairs” department. Some join industry groups for the same reason – to make sure their industry is shielded as much as possible from government intrusion. And frankly, I don’t blame them one bit. After all, the government has pretty much limitless resources to go after a you if it wants to; best to protect your interests to the best of your ability.

            So what ends up happening is that larger corporations end up developing relationships with key lawmakers and regulators, and they can use those relationships to help tip the playing field in their favor. It’s actually a pretty simple business strategy: befriend the people who make the rules, and work to make sure that your friends make the rules to favor you.

            Small businesses often don’t have the resources to do this sort of thing. I know a lot of people who run small businesses; they don’t have money lying around to hire a lobbyist, and they don’t have time to spend on the phone bending the ear of lawmakers and regulators. Heck, half the time, they probably don’t even know what’s going on in Washington, much less how to influence it. They’re just trying to keep their little business alive.

            So say the government decides to put in place a new regulation that requires all businesses with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance for those employees. That’s an expensive thing to do for a business – especially a small business in the process of growing. A large corporation can probably absorb that cost much easier than small businesses, so they might support the regulation, not because they care so much about providing insurance – in the US, they likely already do that – but because they know that the regulation will make it that much harder for smaller competitors to grow to a size that might pose a threat to them.

            There’s myriad examples like this. It’s cronyism, and the vast regulatory reach of the feds makes this scenario far more likely than not. So – unintended consequences, right? The government sets up regulations that are well intentioned, but they end up reinforcing the staying power of the large firms that you’re so worried about.

            Does this make sense to you?

          • alexpinca

            I have seen many examples of government incompetence. My son is an senior player in employment state government and he would agree with you to quite an extent. Before my retirement I saw many examples of govt. incompetence…no one needs to convince me of that fact. That is why I have made the argument that I am not arguing for government; instead I am arguing against laissez faire capitalism.

            I was an executive in HR prior to retirement so I believe that I am knowledgeable on the subject of employment in the private sector. The private sector has demonstrated again and again that left to their own devices they will pick profit over safety, security, fair wages and employee security. These regulations to a great extent were needed and justified. Unfortunately these regulations have been marginally effective in protecting employees…today’s issues of sexual harassment are the same as they were 40 years ago…the private sector has little to fear from government. Your post implies that the puppeteer should fear the puppet.

            We need to make government more fearful of us than big business, but unfortunately the right wing has been very effective in packing the supreme court with right wingers and protecting the interests of big business. There is little difference between the interests of small business and the man on the street. We all have the interest of taking back our government, not hamstringing government and thereby serving our butt on a platter to big business.

          • You simply refuse to understand. Why do you think big business contributes $ trillions to policitians? Do you think they are just civic minded? No, they “give” the money in exchange for regulations that free them from the punishment of a free market. Big business hates a free market more than anything. Competition is brutal. So they buy politicians in order to get legislation passed that favors them and protects them from competition. Big business never has more of a free reign than when the state “regulates” it because big business writes the legislation. Big business is less free under a free market than when the state controls that market and sells its power to big business.

          • alexpinca

            This post reflects a total misunderstanding of my position. A mountain of ignorance too high to scale. You were fine until you hit “that free them from the punishment of a free market.” TOTAL LALA LAND.

          • Marc Vander Maas

            Big government is a huge enabler of big business.

          • alexpinca

            Government is bought and paid for by big business AND JUST WHO IS THE NUMBER ONE ENABLER OF BIG BUSINESS. RIGHT WING CAPITALISTS!

          • Marc Vander Maas

            I refer you to the comment above.

          • alexpinca

            So let’s get about taking our government back from big business. Re-regulate the airline industry, break up the oil companies, banks (and limit their speculation) and let’s send a few people to jail that orchestrated the 2008 rip-off. Inc, USA stole ONE TRILLION DOLLARS FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. You steal pennies and you go to prison for life, you steal trillions and you are commended. Obama’s failure to go after those crooks is where Obama lost me as a supporter.

      • There is some flow of wealth from the poor/middle classes to the wealthy, but it’s not the fault of free marketeers. In a free market that will never happen. Because it is happening, we should examine where the market is not free. The source of the problem is the Federal Reserve, a quasi-governmental organization. Its inflationary policies takes from the working poor and middle classes and gives to those in banking and financial services.

        Also, large corporations bribe politicians for favors and thereby steal from the rest of us. In political economy its called “regulatory capture” and is part of the “public choice” school started by Buchanan.

        Both are examples of state intervention in the market. Politicians sell their power over the market to the highest bidders, corporations in both cases.

  • Marc Vander Maas

    Goodness. You might actually make progress in a discussion if you learned some humility yourself.

    • Yarwain

      Sadly, the arrogance is clearly yours in this discussion. You claim ‘exceptionalist’ ideology for your nation in particular. And you show no indication that you even care to educate yourself about how the rest of the world thinks about this, other than admitting the notion of the ‘ugly American’ might have something valid to it. Well, Marc, maybe ‘US exceptionalism’ *is* the new ‘ugly American’ … and you appear to be supporting it. You seem to want a ‘battle’ of exceptionalists around the world.

      Neither I nor anyone else can force your humility; it is a intentional choice and new attitude you must take responsibility for yourself. Perhaps Acton will help by featuring the disgusting ideology of American Exceptionalism on their blog, allowing critical voices ‘free’ space for expression. Conversation, even on such a sensitive topic, can be done respectfully if people don’t puff out their chests, which is unfortunately inherent in US exceptionalism. Rather un-Christian in the end.

      “Doesn’t play well with others” is a label appropriate for the ‘we are exceptional and indispensable’ ideology that too many of your compatriots still hold on to and don’t for anything seem to want to let go. Rah, rah, declining national supremacy and long live PNAC! : (

      • Marc Vander Maas

        I’ll leave it to readers to discern who is arrogant here. All the best.

        • Yarwain

          Yes, Marc, I’m fine to leave it there too. Readers can easily discern who is defending the view that they are ‘exceptional’ in a ‘better than others’ sense and who is suggesting this is simply a bad attitude in global relations. Yours is a self-serving Machiavellian nationalism and being called out on it is a new trend. Others are gently, but persistently trying to persuade you to drop this arrogant ideological nationalism and to heal your country’s badly tarnished standing in the world community. Good luck with that. It certainly doesn’t help that Acton staff run away from addressing ‘alternatives to capitalism’, John’s “better system” request above, as if there are none.

  • Rothbard once wrote “It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.”

    The posts on this topic reinforce Rothbard’s quote. Those with awe-inspring ignorancd of economics insist on advertising that ignorance to world and making ridiculous assertions. Those who know economics try to point out the errors of those who don’t and get nothing in response but insults.