Pope Francis

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"

NEXT: A Bunch of Garbage

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  1. Creepiest pope ever.

    1. Well there was this guy


      1. My Creep-o-Meter is pegging out on pope Francis. That makes Francis ten times creepier than ten pope Innocent X’s to the tenth power. That’s a whole lotta creepy.

        1. John,

          First-welcome back from the Gulch! Next-yes, for all popes, modern popes don’t compare for the older ones for nastiness. But for this libertarian site, focusing on his lack of understanding commerce is appropriate as a focus. As a Catholic, I am acutely aware that an organization that evolved as the state religion of a brutal dictatorship-that still uses organizational terms like Diocese from the later years of Roman Imperial state organization – has “big gov” stamped into its organizational DNA.

          Plus, the article explains what we who believe in free markets as an ideal, how this one among the many others goes wrong in his specific way. So many ways to get it wrong-Reich, Piketty – the Pope probably got his version of Econ 101 from the same Liberation Theology that was sweeping through S America as he was coming up in the church hierarchy.

      2. To be fair, that’s a variant of Velazquez’s portrait of Innocent X.

    2. I dunno, I think the Pope who dug up one of his predecessors and put the corpse on trial might be a lock on the all-time crown for that.

      1. Yeah, that’s creepy. But, ‘creepiness’ is subjective, and I’m sticking with Francis.

    3. Creepiness seems to be highly subjective. I wouldn’t have thought that at all. Maybe the wrongest Pope for some years.

      1. Pope is a position at the apex of a medieval authoritarian hierarchy. As such it is a position that will be filled by people who believe in top-down solutions, and in “Ministering to the Simple Peasants”. A lot of painful experience in dealing with representative governments and literate and self-assured populations has not made much of an impression. The music is nice, the pageantry is pretty, and I don’t rurally expect much in the way of sensible policy out of the Catholic Church.

        1. Just look at the countries where romanism has had a strong foothold, south america, central america, mexico, italy, spain, etc. See how the people’s lives are. Funny that the romanist church loves to tell it’s followers they need to eschew money, take vows of poverty while it has no problem taking millions, if not billions to build it’s buildings and maintain it’s opulence.

    4. I think he a closet Protestant.

      1. Don’t blame this on the Protestants sir. Francis the Commie mule is 100% climatologist/socialist/progtard

    5. There have been Medici and Borgia Popes. I think you’d have to limit it to “Creepiest Pope in modern times”.

  2. Squirrels getting stronger

  3. No one is using “rich as an Argentine” these days, that’s for sure.

    Except for Venezualans

    1. What invisible furry hand says, sadly.

    2. Hand speak truth.

    3. +1 Roll of double ply tp.

      1. double ply? Who can afford that kind of luxury? You must be some kind of capitalist kulak hoarder!

        1. Hugo on one side and Che on the other.

  4. What’s a better use of money than spending millions on a pope visit.

    1. A solar panel plant?

    2. A couple of rounds of golf for King Barack and a vacation for Queen Michele? Or would that be getting into the billions?

  5. Maybe he should stick to God topics and leave science, business, and economics to others. I don’t ask Economists for answers to theological questions.

    1. *** rising intonation ***

      Are you sure?

    2. Tom Woods, who is a Catholic, has a pretty good podcast on this exact issue. I’m too lazy to find the link though.

      1. Maybe this one.

    3. Why not? Money is a big part of that equation. Supply and Demand.

      1. Poor people seem more likely to need religion to help with their struggle. Church need more members to keep the money and power flowing. Church need more poor people. Capitalism create less poor people. Pope hate capitalism.

        1. The Vatican makes Gordon Gekko look like Jesus.

          1. That comparison’s not really fair to Gekko though.

            1. ” I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you’re not naive enough to think we’re living in a democracy, are you buddy? It’s the free market. And you’re a part of it. You’ve got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I’ve still got a lot to teach you.”

              1. That’s a very telling take on free markets isn’t it. Ask people on the street what a democracy is and I think that will be a very telling response as well.

        2. “Poor people seem more likely to need religion to help with their struggle.”

          The poor people look to government to help with their struggles. Which is why all those church going Latinos and Asians vote democrat.

    4. The pope hitches one ride with Caitlyn Jenner and suddenly he’s the ultimate expert on everything.

      1. It wasn’t that – it was because he stayed at Holiday Inn.

        1. Better him than me

        2. Was that on South Park, too?

    5. Paul Krugman will answer theological questions even if you don;task. He has the conscience of a liberal after all. The conscience of a liberal and the brains of an infant.

      1. So, the conscience of a liberal and the brains of a liberal?

    6. you can’t blame him for your own stupidity. if someone knows a lot about A, it only makes sense that they would know alot about B too, right?

  6. “Since the 1940s Argentina has embarked on a series of policies?nationalization of industries, …”

    And the Pope sees this and other socialist policies as a failure of capitalism? At some point, ignorance becomes willful stupidity.

    1. historically corporatism has been closely aligned with fascist regimes and marketed as a third way apart from capitalism & communism. a big part of corporarist tinkering in europe and latin america was the introduction of syndacates and the illegalization of unions and striking. point being, while I agree nationalization specifically is mostly a marxist tactic, Peronism et al usually have more in common with feudalism than they do with commies.

    2. That GDP graph should be labeled “and THIS is why small differences in the growth rate matter”.

  7. No one is using “rich as an Argentine” these days, that’s for sure.

    Au contraire. I *often* hear people whispering behind my back “I imagine Rich as an Argentine.”

    1. Does Rich have a crafty game with a smooth lefty jumper?

    2. They want to exile you to the Southern Hemisphere?!?!

      1. You don’t?

    3. They have some gaucho on the pampas fantasy about you?!

      1. Nothing like riding a wild pony in a leather apron eating big chunks of fire roasted bovines off the end of a very sharp knife swinging all three of your balls around.

      2. You don’t?

    4. They imagine you living la vida loca like Flight 571?

  8. Every time I see the current leader of the child molestation cult, I think, “Where is Chris Hitchens now that we need him?”

    1. Burning in Hell perhaps?

    2. Where did you see the Secretary of Education?

      1. Teachers destroy children’s minds, priests just touch their peepees.

  9. That alt-test is, well, lame. It’s of the sort I get from regular newspapers. where’s the humor?

    1. It’s the axis of evil.

      1. Holy Trinity…

  10. He forgot the propeller on the top of his beanie.

    1. It’s 21st century, a fashionable progfascist pope should have a little brown doggi-doo swirl on top of his beanie signifying he’s got s**t for brains.

  11. maybe he’s just an economic illiterate.

    1. I wonder i he’s granting a special audience to Krugtron?

    2. “just”?

  12. I have to admit that I don’t understand Catholicism. Basically, you eat crackers and wine in a cannibalism rite, then sit in a phone booth with a guy wearing a dress and tell him about your sex life.

    1. Hey, some people do that for fun.

      1. Eddie, for one. I suspect his masturbation stories even bore the guy in the dress.

      2. Right up until they run out of quarters.

  13. No, Mr. Gillespie, Francis is not “confused”. He’s on the other side. As I’ve said before, if he were confused he’d ignore the counter-arguments. Francis doesn’t. He cites them and dismisses them with a sneer.

    Francis might be a nice guy (or he might be a dick). But, he is a statist.

    1. I vote “dick.”

      1. I’m kind of leaning that way myself. A guy who makes that ostentatious a display of his own “modesty” is usually someone who doesn’t mind making other people miserable.

  14. My interest in the pronouncements of that dipshit are pretty much zilch.

  15. According to the World Bank, Argentina’s per capita income is $12568, which is slightly less than Poland’s $14422, and more than twice Jamaica’s $5290, and 50% higher than Belarus’s $8040.

    All data obtained from http://datos.bancomundial.org/…..DP.PCAP.CD

    Where exactly does Hernando de Soto get his data?

    1. Data is from 2002 at the height of Argentina’s troubles. If you click the link for 2000 – 2004, you’ll see Argentina at $2,693.1, Belarus at $1,479.5, Jamaica at $3,716.3, and Poland at $5,196.9.

      1. So, basically, De Soto is cherry picking, and Reason is taking word from a 13 year old book of cherry picked data as gospel forever. Awesome.

    2. Let’s acknowledge that this date is a huge cherry pick. As per World Bank data, growth from 1990 – 2014 for these countries is as follows:

      A: 291.0%
      B: 471.6%
      J: 275.3%
      P: 849.4%
      USA: 228.1%

      And from 2000:

      A: 163.9%
      B: 631.6%
      J: 152.1%
      P: 321.0%
      USA: 149.9%

      Middle income countries have grown by 615.1% and 401.2% over these respective spans. Argentina has completely missed the boat, and where Argentines used to be 1.7 times more productive than Poles they are now 14% and less and getting further behind each year. It’s worth asking why.

      1. How come Belarus has grown 631% since 2000, but only 471% since 1990? That number is quite fishy.

        1. Belarus’s economy declined from 1990 to 1994 and crashed in the late 1990s.

          Check the data for Belarus from 1990-2000 in this link: http://datos.bancomundial.org/…..DP.PCAP.CD

  16. Socialism/Anti-Capitalism has been part of Catholic thinking for awhile. The current pope isn’t saying really saying anything new on this that his predecessors haven’t.

    1. The JP2 mostly refrained from saying that shit though. Perhaps on occasion, but nothing like this guy and his predecessor, who seemingly spew fascist nonsense at every opportunity. To be expected when your popes are ex-national socialists.

  17. or perhaps he confuses it with the history of the catholic church the oldest remaining criminal enterprise on earth. it gathered its wealth by force and fraud over 1500 years. they are the original crony capitalist and negative sum economic actor.

  18. There is no meaningful definition of capitalism. If I’m not mistaken, it started off as a socialist perjorative for systems where owners of capital had what they felt was outsized political and economic power. But that’s a function of the relative contributions of capital and labor to productivity, which is attributable to technology, not ideology. There’s a reason that Communism is sometimes labeled as a form of state capitalism. It’s still the capitalist class running things, it’s just that the capitalist class is the state nomenklatura.

    From a practical perspective, the word “capitalism” implies the defining points of the system are private investment and property rights. These are true for corporatism and mercantilism as much as the “capitalism” you’re referring to.

    If you want to describe the free-market system that emerged as a reaction against corporatism/mercantilism, probably economic liberalism or laissez faire is more descriptive, or even Smithianism; something that focuses attention on the traits that set it apart from other private-capital-based systems.

    1. Yes.

      I’ve never liked the word ‘capitalism’ for the reasons you list above. And also because it misconstrues economic activity as being solely determined by capital and its holders (from which it’s easy to see how one can arrive at the mistaken concept of markets as a zero-sum game). This tends to omit entrepreneurs and the utilization of workable ideas, etc. that are the actual drivers of economic growth.

      1. I agree. Advocates took it up as a “Fuck you!” to Marxists, but on that basis you might as well take up “criminal lobby” if you’re against gun control. Yeah, I’m a proud part of the criminal lobby! It’s like saying your opponents are right, you just take the opposite side from them, probably perversely. “Free enterprise” is much more apt a term.

        1. Yeah, I usually the term ‘free-markets’ rather than ‘capitalism’.

          I kind of want to find an unhyphenated word for this. I suppose there’s ‘entrepreneurialism’, but that’s way too many syllables.

          1. “Free market” is good, but “free enterprise” is more about owning a business. You can have free markets in most respects without free enterprise, but it’d be harder to imagine free enterprise w/o free markets. But they’re both useful terms, partly overlapping & partly covering separate issues.

            You should not hyphenate “free markets”. If you want to use it as an adjective, then “free-market” is fine.

            “Entrepreneurialism” is pretty good, with the defect you note, but that has more to do with a style of action than with a regime. What about passive investors?

          2. I like “consumerist” because it indicates who has the power in a free market system.

    2. Totally agree. I don’t like the word capitalism precisely because cronyists usually use it as precisely the word that describes the system they want to keep while they undermine free markets and competition.

      I think Schumpeter had the best definition of capitalism – a system characterized by private property, by production for a market, and by the phenomenon of credit.

      It doesn’t require competition or a free market. And those are the two things that can lift people out of poverty.

  19. I think the Pope understands American capitalism perfectly. It was American corporations buying off Argentine government just like our lobbyists do here. Do you believe most of the regulations coming out Washington are for the people’s benefit or to stifle competition so large companies can control markets. I am pretty sure the Pope can tell cronyism when he sees it. Word to the government and media, not all the people are as stupid as you believe.

    1. Then he should call out the government for it. There is lobbying because DC wants there to be lobbying. What corporations have bought off the government? You make it sound like DC is a bunch of puppets being controlled by some man behind the curtain. The money follows power. There is lobbying because DC has goodies to give out. DC likes having power over others. DC needs to fund their campaigns and hook up themselves/friends/family. The government is fully in charge and the corporations just look out for their best interests.

      If you want to limit influence of corporations via lobbying, then you have to decrease government and the power they have over them.

      1. That’s probably too nuanced a position for him to take considering he’s probably someone who hasn’t spent much time studying these phenomena in depth. Much easier to categorically indict a broad label.

      2. Government is not an alien that appeared with goodies and an army.

        Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. Adam Smith

        You can’t ‘decrease govt’ without decreasing ‘security of property’. Those who control govt always oppose that latter with everything they own. That is why they create and control govt. If they have to throw table scraps around to keep peasants quiet; that is a small price to pay.

        When ‘libertarians’ argue about the table scraps; they are correctly perceived as useful idiots. When they invoke anarchist rationales; they undermine the notion of private property as effectively as socialists. The second they understand what Adam Smith was getting at – and oppose the people who control govt and not just ‘govt’; they have a chance of being effective.

        Adam Smith was a redistributionist. Any system that has a chance of pulling people out of poverty requires redistribution. The poor don’t have property. That’s why they are poor. Smith did so by separating legal title of property (protected – even granted – by govt) from economic value of property (redistrib via entrepreneurs/competition/free markets). His intellectual descendants (from Henry George to Hernando de Soto to Hayek to Schumpeter) understood that. Most libertarians don’t seem to. Neither does the Pope.

        1. “You can’t “decrease” gov’t without decreasing “security of property”.

          Utter bullshit.

          1. So you’re one of the useful idiots who’s fine with cutting out the table scraps part of government – but not the cronyist/corporatist parts of government

    2. Only so much is initiated by the companies, though. Consider the case of Microsoft. They were happy to make their product and sell it on the market without getting the government involved. They didn’t have one lobbyist. Then the government went after them for anti-trust. They learned their lesson. Now they have a team of lobbyists.

      1. BS. They were perfectly happy to make their product – using govt frequently to protect their product from competition and to protect themselves from charges of, basically, theft – and license it – under contract terms with OEM’s that were to be enforced by government courts. They were perfectly happy to free-ride on others lobbying – because they had plenty of lawyers to protect Microsoft in govt courts using govt laws.

  20. “Maybe Pope Francis Doesn’t Understand Capitalism Because He Confuses It With Argentine Corporatism”

    Or maybe Francis is simply a far left-wing ideologue

      1. I have a few work colleagues and friends who mistake capitalism for corporatism, yet they are not advocating socialism and its current agenda. They aren’t out to wreck the economy because they believe global warming is real, they aren’t blind to the atrocities of Castro boys’ regime, they aren’t advocating economic policies that destroy jobs and infringe private property in the name of the poor. Francis is doing all of this and more.

        If Francis “misunderstands” capitalism for corporatism, it’s due to the fact that first and foremost he’s an ideologue.

  21. Like Clarence Carson, I wish people didn’t use the word “capitalism” when they mean “free enterprise”. “Capitalism”, a word invented by Marxists, constructed similarly to other -isms, implies rule by capital, and is more compatible with crony capitalism or corporatism than it is with free enterprise.

    1. That is true. But lots of words coined as epithets have been embraced by those who they were aimed at (Impressionists, Sufferagettes, Quakers, to name a few).

      “Free Markets” or “Free Enterprise” are better, more accurate terms for what libertarians generally want, but we’re probably stuck with “capitalism” too.

      1. More like the Quakers grudgingly acknowledge that term, so they no longer take much offense at it. They don’t use it themselves, they’re still Society of Friends, or simply Friends. Actually it’s not that they don’t take offense, it’s just, how do you show offense when you’re a Friend?

        A sort-of example of what you mean is the Populist Party. The original People’s Party never adopted the name “Populist”, but that adjective was applied to them by outsiders, and it was not considered pejorative by members, because after all, “populist” means “of the people”. In the late 20th C. there were the Populist Party of America and the split-off US Populist Party, each unconnected with the long-defunct People’s Party or the then-recent People’s Party.

        “Know-Nothing” was obviously pejorative, but it’s not as if a party that operates secretly can expect outsiders to use their real name!

        “Yankee” has a stranger & somewhat disputed hx.

        1. BTW, that’s the basis of the Quaker retention of “thee”, “thou”, “thy”, & “thine”. It’s not like they’re just trying to be old-fashioned. They’re harking back to when English had a “familiar” 2nd-person singular pronoun as is retained in Spanish, French, etc., so you show the people you talk to that you really consider them your equal, that you’re close to them (like friend or family), etc. In French recently the trend has been that they’ll tutoyez you at the drop of a hat; hard to say whether in the long run that’s more respectful or less so to strangers or friends than having a familiar & unfamiliar pronoun; is it creepy-Quaker-like or welcoming?

          1. BTW, that’s the basis of the Quaker retention of “thee”, “thou”, “thy”, & “thine”. It’s not like they’re just trying to be old-fashioned. They’re harking back to when English had a “familiar” 2nd-person singular pronoun as is retained in Spanish, French, etc., so you show the people you talk to that you really consider them your equal, that you’re close to them (like friend or family), etc.

            Hm, that’s kinda cool. I often wonder how such variations in language affect human perception, cognition, empathy, etc.

            1. I think the use of the possessive or genitive to indicate both possession and other relationships has had a subtle & perverse effect on political economy. “My” apartment could indicate ownership or residence.

          2. In French recently the trend has been that they’ll tutoyez you at the drop of a hat;

            In German, there’s the same trend ? people duzen each other right when they meet because siezen sounds old-fashioned.

  22. For If you mistake corporatism for capitalism, you would surely have a bad view of the latter.

    That’s a pretty common mistake that a lot of left wingers make, either out of ignorance or as a deliberate misdirection. By lumping true “laissez faire” free enterprise together with cronyism and corporatism and calling them all capitalism they can smear free markets through a sort of guilt by association. Since they can’t really attack free markets on the merits they play these silly rhetorical games and the mouth breathers eat it up.

  23. Maybe Pope Francis doesn’t get capitalism because he’s a little bitch?

  24. People do realize that Pope Francis isn’t saying anything different from his predecessors, right? He may put emphasis on different topics but, overall on the substance, he’s no different from Benedict and JPII.

  25. “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. . .”

    The World Bank estimates Argentina’s per capita income at $12,588.

  26. The graph and the text don’t line up. The graph shows per capita GDP in 2002 at about $7500. But the text says it was $2500, down from $8909 just 3 years prior.

    I’m guessing that the graph is closer to reality.

  27. Glenn Beck has been saying this for months:

    The Pope has confused real capitalism with the crony capitalism of his home.

  28. Longtime lurker here, but may jump into the fray a bit more now. Allow me to indulge in some venting, as I am among fellow travelers: Jesus. Tittyfucking. Christ. My Facebook feed is a stream of Progressive jizz right now. It seems that even atheists get a kind of elation over hearing a religious leader validate their beliefs. I like these folks as people, I really do, but damn. I rarely engage. It’s fruitless and a monumental timewaster. (Also, the last time I engaged, I got unfriended and called a bully, but it wasn’t anyone I knew in real life, so no big loss).

    I have no concrete suggestions for how such a thing would be accomplished, beyond what the likes of Reason and others are already doing, but a genuine offensive needs to be made. As someone on this or another Reason thread mentioned, until now Democrats and Progressives have either gotten angry or scoffed at the idea of being socialists, but the support of Comrade Sanders strongly indicates otherwise. The mask ain’t slipped. It’s been thrown to the ground with a flourish and stomped.

  29. Your colleague?and devout Roman Catholic?Stephanie Slade, may be devout but she does not understand Catholic Social Teaching. Obviously neither do you. The Pope hasn’t said anything that six other Popes before him have not said. He is criticizing the lack of ethics, honesty and virtue, in general, throughout the global economy. This includes things like currency manipulation, crony capitalism, the use of fiat money, countries running up tremendous debt, etc.

  30. I think the Pope’s hat is too tight and it squeezes his brain.

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