Two weeks ago, two of the world’s biggest leftist celebrities, Michael Moore and Pope Francis, met briefly at the Vatican, at the latter’s weekly general audience. At the time, I speculated about the possible range of topics the two might have had a whispered conversation about:
how to save the world from climate change, can Donald Trump somehow be blamed for the child sex abuse crisis in the Church, is the President just Hitler or also the Antichrist…
As it happens, I wasn’t too far off, as Moore told Seth Meyers during “Late Night”:
I went to the weekly audience, and then he asked to speak to me privately. It was an amazing moment, and I asked him if I could ask him a question. And he said, “Yes.”
And I said, “Do you believe that an economic system that benefits the few, the wealthy at the expense of the many is a sin?” And he said to me, “Si” in Italian. And I said, “So you believe capitalism, the kinda — the capitalism we have now is a sin?” He goes, “Yes, it is.” He said, “The poor must always come first.”
And then he grabbed my hand and he said, “Please, pray for me.” And I said, “I will, and please pray for me. And he said, “No, you have to make more movies.” And I’m like, “I just wanted a prayer.” He’s like, “No, you go back to — you go back work.” He has a sense of humor.
Granted, Moore is not the most reliable of storytellers but it, sadly, rings true.
Capitalism has lifted more people from poverty over the course of history than any other social and economic system. Socialism and collectivism, favoured by both His Holiness and His Fatness, on the other hand, have been particularly good at keeping the masses poor, not to mention unfree, while using all the right lingo about “the people”. There are some exceptions, like the Scandinavian social democracies, but they have relied on a pretty unique set of historical and social circumstances to make their redistributive state work – up to a point. Elsewhere and at all other times, socialism, collectivism, fascism, feudalism and all the other -isms have been gross failures as far as the common welfare is concerned. The problem with Pope Francis is that as an Argentinian, the only economic system he really knows is the sort of corrupt corporate state that has been so common throughout the Latin America (with a notable exception of Chile), in Argentina itself with the quasi-fascist Peronism and its many unstable successors. This isn’t really the capitalism as practiced throughout the developed world, and indeed many of the more successful parts of the developing world, particularly East Asia.
Fortunately, the Pope is a religious and not an economic figure, and he speaks with authority only in the matters of faith (though calling whole economic systems sinful blurs the boundaries between the City of God and the City of Man). John Paul II, who knew a thing or two about socialism, was by no means a neo-liberal cheerleader – he could be as critical of materialism, consumerism and greed as they come – but he had a much more balanced view of what works and what doesn’t. He is sorely missed.
Meanwhile, if Moore keeps making more box office disappointments, at least you know who to blame. All Mike wanted was a prayer…