See if you can guess which presidential candidate said the following: "The unfettered laissez-faire concept of Adam Smith led to the free-booting robber barons of the nineteenth century. The story of the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts, and other monopolistic capitalists, who built up the industrial base of our nation, but who did so at the expense of their competitors, is not a pretty one."
No, it wasn't Jesse Jackson, who has a better style if not a better knowledge of basic economics. But it had to be a Democrat, you say, perhaps Paul Simon, or possibly Richard Gephardt.
In fact, the author claims to be a Republican. All right, here's another clue. The same guy also said: "In the book of Revelation, there is a discussion of an individual who will become a world dictator.…This individual is called the 'living creature,' or 'the beast.' The Bible tells us he has a number: 666…Revelations says that, when he comes onto the scene, he will have such dominance that no one can buy or sell without taking his mark, either on the forehead…or on the hand."
If you guessed our mystery man is Pat Robertson, televangelist turned presidential contender, you win the prize. Both quotes are from his serio-comic masterpiece, Answers to 200 of Life's Most Probing Questions. The book is a long self-interview, wherein Pat asks himself the questions none of the journalists will. The answers are revealing, as are some of the questions.
In between "What do you think of long hair in a man?" and "Is cremation right or wrong?" the harmless banality suddenly takes a bizarre turn: "Are credit cards associated with the mark of the Beast?" The answer is yes.
Citing the Biblical basis for his belief, Robertson asks: "So how will that mark come to be accepted? There are a couple of possibilities. Today we have developed devices called smart cards. These are tiny credit cards that have a microchip implanted in them.…Now it would not be too difficult, technologically, to move from the smart card to a microchip implanted in the hand. This could be read by a laser-type device that would in turn be connected to a master computer. This could lead to a time when there would be no need for cash or checks: everything would be done by computer. With these developments, it becomes easy to see how the world may be controlled."
Robertson points to the expanding international web of computer-driven financial transactions to support his thesis. So the Beast is a computer network, and yet another pillar of American capitalism—the credit card—is declared unclean. It is not merely your Visa card that is an instrument of evil but the international financial matrix itself.
Robertson has some other pretty exotic economic views. To restrain "unbridled capitalism" and wipe out the national debt, he proposes a solution he says is God's as well. "And the Bible contains a solution to the problem of excess accumulation of wealth and power. It is the year of Jubilee. Under Old Testament law, every fifty years there was a cancellation of all debts. All the slaves were set free, and those who were in economic bondage also were set free. All the money was redistributed and the means of production was placed back in the hands of the original families."
The transformation of the Rev. Marion Gordon Robertson, televangelist prophet, into Pat Robertson, presidential candidate and would-be GOP power broker, is a miracle of repackaging. Masquerading as a conservative Republican, he calls for "minimal reliance on government at any level." Relinquishing his ministerial duties, he symbolically distances himself from his former incarnation as the prophet of the jubilee.
But a cursory examination of the record should quickly dispel this is illusion. The theme of the jubilee, to cite one example, pervades his written works, which have been reprinted as recently as last year. In an Iowa debate, he squirmed a bit when questioner Patricia Schroeder brought up the subject. But he nonetheless defended his views—this time as a solution to the international debt crisis.
Pat Robertson's ideology is anything but a "minimal reliance on government at every level." Rather, it is an egalitarianism so radical that not even the Sandinistas have thought of it.
It is egalitarianism of the right, however, akin to the "chicken in every pot" populism of Huey Long or the Social Justice movement of Father Coughlin, the '30s radio priest who railed against the dangers of Communism, the greed of Wall Street, and the wickedness of the Jews.
With an organization often surpassing that of George Bush and plenty of money to grease it, Robertson is bad news for those "enterprisers" attracted to the GOP's ostensible devotion to free markets. The libertarian children of the baby boom who make up a substantial portion of Republican voters and activists do not look kindly on Robertson. One can only hope the rest of the party will wake up in time.
Justin Raimondo is editor of Libertarian Agenda, published by the Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Viewpoint: The Devil in Your Credit Card".