Last week, Pope Francis issued his new encyclical Laudato Si' (Praise be to you, my Lord) in which he addresses the problem of man-made climate change. Unfortunately, the encyclical makes it clear that the Pope completely fails to understand how the spread free markets yielded the technological and economic progress that has lifted billions out of humanity's natural state of abject poverty. Global life expectancy has more than doubled over the past century; the amount of food per capita has never been higher; literacy has never been more widespread; and the level of violence never lower. Nearly all of these improving trends can be traced to the spread of sweet commerce.
In Laudato Si' the Pope strongly urges that markets and technology be reined in. Instead of creating more wealth, the Pope would prefer to redistribute it. Now, in a not-so-strange-bedfellow alliance, Pope Francis has invited prominent hater of free markets Naomi Klein to advise him and the Vatican on economic and climate policy. In her 2014 screed, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein asserted that climate science has given progressives "the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism" ever. She added that progressive values and policies are "currently being vindicated, rather than refuted, by the laws of nature."
Regarding her upcoming visit to the Vatican, Klein told The Guardian:
"The fact that they invited me indicates they're not backing down from the fight. A lot of people have patted the pope on the head, but said he's wrong on the economics. I think he's right on the economics," she said, referring to Pope Francis's recent publication of an encyclical on the environment.
As I noted in my review of Klein's book:
Klein acidly dismisses reliance on science, technology, and markets to address the problems of climate change as embodying the attitude that "We will triumph in the end because triumphing is what we do." Well, yes. And that's a much better bet than imagining the laws of nature mandate a post-capitalist utopia.
Alas, Klein should be right at home in in Pope Francis' Vatican. Sadly, this nascent coalition between the secular left and the religious left will help neither the poor or the climate.
Perhaps I should send the Pope a copy of my new book, The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-First Century (St. Martin's Press, July 21).