Maybe Pope Francis Doesn't Understand Capitalism Because He Confuses It with Argentine Corporatism

100 years ago, "rich as an Argentine" was a catchphrase. That hasn't been true for a long time.


As my colleague—and devout Roman Catholic—Stephanie Slade has argued, Pope Francis doesn't really understand capitalism, especially its role in lifting up the poor from poverty and deprivation.

The folks at Human Progress, a site operated by the Cato Institute's Marian Tupy, suggest that the pope's Argentine origins might be one source of confusion. Argentina is not a capitalist state but a corporatist one. If you mistake corporatism for capitalism, you would surely have a bad view of the latter. A century ago, Argentina and the United States were about equally wealthy (which is to say, in many ways, that they were equally poor).


Over the past 115 years, the divergence is striking. And it's not accidental. As Ronald Bailey explained in a review of Hernando de Soto's 2002 book, Mysteries of Capital,

In the 1920s Argentina's was one of the largest economies in the world, with an average income about the same as France's. Rich as an Argentine was a catch phrase often used in Paris cafés to describe an especially wealthy person.

Since the 1940s Argentina has embarked on a series of policies—nationalization of industries, expansion of state services, and vast overseas borrowing—that has eroded its rank in the world. In recent years, Argentina's per capita income has collapsed, falling from $8,909—double Mexico's and three times Poland's—in 1999 to $2,500 today, roughly on par with Jamaica and Belarus.

No one is using "rich as an Argentine" these days, that's for sure. The country's economy lurches from one crisis to another, so much so that residents now are turning to Bitcoin as a way to escape Argentina's constantly inflating and deflating currency.

Related: "Pope Francis Doesn't Understand Economics & Capitalism: Judge Andrew Napolitano"