Bill Black: A Harvard Don is Enraged that Pope Francis is “Opposed to the World Economic Order”

By Bill Black, the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One and an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Jointly published with” rel=”nofollow”>New Economic Perspectives

A New York Times article entitled “Championing Environment, Francis Takes Aim at Global Capitalism” quotes a conventional Harvard economist, Robert N. Stavins. Stavins is enraged by Pope Francis’ position on the environment because the Pope is “opposed to the world economic order.” The rage, unintentionally, reveals why conventional economics is the most dangerous ideology pretending to be a “science.”

Stavins’ attacks on the Pope quickly became personal and dismissive. This is odd, for Pope Francis’ positions on the environment are the same as Stavins’ most important positions. Stavins’ natural response to the Pope’s views on the environment – had Stavin not been an economist – would have been along the lines of “Pope Francis is right, and we urgently need to make his vision a reality.”

Stavins’ fundamental position is that there is an urgent need for a “radical restructuring” of the markets to prevent them from causing a global catastrophe. That is Pope Francis’ fundamental position. But Stavins ends up mocking and trying to discredit the Pope.

I was struck by the similarity of Stavins response to Pope Francis to the rich man’s response to Jesus. The episode is reported in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in similar terms. I’ll use Matthew’s version (KJAV), which begins at 19:16 with the verse:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Jesus responds:

And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

The young rich man wants to know which commandments he needs to follow to gain eternal life.

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,

Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?

The young, wealthy man is enthused. The Rabbi that he believes has the secret of eternal life has agreed to personally answer his question as to how to obtain it. He passes the requirements the Rabbi lists, indeed, he has met those requirements since he was a child.

But then Jesus lowers the boom in response to the young man’s question on what he “lacks.”

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

We need to “review the bidding” at this juncture. The young man is wealthy. He believes that Jesus knows the secret to obtaining eternal life. His quest was to discover – and comply – with the requirement to achieve eternal life. The Rabbi has told him the secret – and then gone well beyond the young man’s greatest hopes by offering to make him a disciple. The door to eternal life is within the young man’s power to open. All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor. The Rabbi goes further and offers to make the young man his disciple. In exchange, the young man will secure “treasure in heaven” – eternal life and a place of particular honor for his sacrifice and his faith in Jesus.

Jesus’ answer – the answer the young man thought he wished to receive more than anything in the world – the secret of eternal life, causes the young man great distress.

But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

The young man rejects eternal life because he cannot bear the thought of giving his “great possessions” to “the poor.” Notice that the young man is not evil. He keeps the commandments. He is eager to do a “good thing” to gain eternal life. He has “great possessions” and is eager to trade a generous portion of his wealth as a good deed to achieve eternal life. In essence, he is seeking to purchase an indulgence from Jesus.

But Jesus’ response causes the young, wealthy man to realize that he must make a choice. He must decide which he loves more – eternal life or his great possessions. He is “sorrowful” for Jesus’ response causes him to realize that he loves having his great possessions for his remaining span of life on earth more than eternal life itself.

Jesus offers him not only the means to open the door to eternal life but the honor of joining him as a disciple. The young man is forced by Jesus’ offer to realize that his wealth has so fundamentally changed him that he will voluntarily give up his entry into eternal life. He is not simply “sorrowful” that he will not enter heaven – he is “sorrowful” to realize that heaven is open to him – but he will refuse to enter it because of his greed. His wealth has become a golden trap of his own creation that will damn him. The golden bars of his cell are invisible and he can remove them at any time and enter heaven, but the young man realizes that his greed for his “great possessions” has become so powerful that his self-created jail cell has become inescapable. It is only when Jesus opens the door to heaven that the young man realizes for the first time in his life how completely his great possessions have corrupted and doomed him. He knows he is committing the suicide of his soul – and that he is powerless to change because he has been taught to value his own worth as a person by the extent of his great possessions.

Jesus then makes his famous saying that captures the corrupting effects of great wealth.

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

The remainder of the passage is of great importance to Luther’s doctrine of “justification by faith alone” and leads to Jesus’ famous discussion of why “the last shall be first,” (in which his anti-market views are made even more explicit) but the portions I have quoted are adequate to my purpose.

Pope Francis’ positions on the environment and climate are the greatest boon that Stavin has received in decades. The Pope, like Stavins, tells us that climate change is a disaster that requires urgent governmental action to fix. Stavins could receive no more joyous news. Instead of being joyous, however, Stavins is sorrowful. Indeed, unlike the wealthy man who simply leaves after hearing the Rabbi’s views, Stavins rages at and heaps scorn on the prelate, Pope Francis. Stavins’ email to the New York Times about the Pope’s position on climate change contains this double ideological smear.

The approach by the pope, an Argentine who is the first pontiff from the developing world, is similar to that of a “small set of socialist Latin American countries that are opposed to the world economic order, fearful of free markets, and have been utterly dismissive and uncooperative in the international climate negotiations,” Dr. Stavins said.

Stavins’ work explicitly states that the “free markets” he worships are causing “mass extinction” and a range of other disasters. Stavins’ work explicitly states that the same “free markets” are incapable of change – they cause incentives so perverse that they are literally suicidal – and the markets are incapable of reform even when they are committing suicide by laissez faire. That French term is what Stavins uses to describe our current markets. Pope Francis agrees with each of these points.

Pope Francis says, as did Jesus, that this means that we must not worship “free markets,” that we must think first of the poor, and that justice and fairness should be our guides to proper conduct. Stavins, like the wealthy young man, is forced to make a choice. He chooses “great possessions.” Unlike the wealthy young man, however, Stavins is enraged rather than “sorrowful” and Stavins lashes out at the religious leader. He is appalled that an Argentine was made Pope, for Pope Francis holds views “that are opposed to the world economic order [and] fearful of free markets.” Well, yes. A very large portion of the world’s people oppose “the Washington Consensus” and want a very different “world economic order.” Most of the world’s top religious leaders are strong critics of the “world economic order.”

As to being “fearful of free markets,” Stavins’ own work shows that his use of the word “free” in that phrase is not simply meaningless, but false. Stavins explains that the people, animals, and plants that are the imminent victims of “mass extinction” have no ability in the “markets” to protect themselves from mass murder. They are “free” only to become extinct, which makes a mockery of the word “free.”

Similarly, Stavins’ work shows that any sentient species would be “fearful” of markets that Stavins proclaims are literally suicidal and incapable of self-reform. Stavins writes that only urgent government intervention that forces a “radical restructuring” of the markets can save our planet from “mass extinction.” When I read that I believed that he was “fearful of free markets.”

We have all had the experience of seeing the “free markets” blow up the global economy as recently as 2008. We saw there, as well, that only massive government intervention could save the markets from a global meltdown. Broad aspects of the financial markets became dominated by our three epidemics of “accounting control fraud.”

Stavins is appalled that a religious leader could oppose a system based on the pursuit and glorification of “great possessions.” He is appalled that a religious leader is living out the Church’s mission to provide a “preferential option for the poor.” Stavins hates the Church’s mission because it is “socialist” – and therefore so obviously awful that it does not require refutation by Stavins. This cavalier dismissal of religious beliefs held by most humans is revealing coming from a field that proudly boasts the twin lies that it is a “positive” “science.” Theoclassical economists embrace an ideology that is antithetical to nearly every major religion.

Stavins, therefore, refuses to enter the door that Pope Francis has opened. Stavins worships a system based on the desire to accumulate “great possessions” – even though he knows that the markets pose an existential threat to most species on this planet and even though he knows that his dogmas increasingly aid the worst, most fraudulent members of our society to become wealthy through forms of “looting” (Akerlof and Romer 1993) that make other people poorer. The result is that Stavins denounces Pope Francis rather than embracing him as his most valuable ally.

Conclusion: Greed and Markets Kill: Suicide by Laissez Faire

The old truths remain. The worship of “great possessions” wreaks such damage on our humanity that we come to love them more than life itself and act in a suicidal fashion toward our species and as mass destroyers of other species. Jesus’ insight was that this self-corruption is so common, so subtle, and so powerful that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Today, he would probably use “economist” rather than “camel.”

Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical “free markets” that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing “mass extinction” is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain “great possessions” even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet.

Adam Smith propounded the paradox that greed could lead the butcher and baker (in a village where everyone could judge reputation and quality) to reliably produce goods of high quality at the lowest price. The butcher and baker, therefore, would act (regardless of their actual motivations) as if they cared about their customers. Smith observed that the customer of small village merchant’s products would find the merchant’s self-interest a more reliable assurance of high quality than the merchant’s altruism.

But Stavins makes clear in his writing that this is not how markets function in the context of “external” costs to the environment. In the modern context, the energy markets routinely function in a manner that Stavins rightly depicts as leading to mass murder. Stavins so loves the worship of the quest for “great possessions” that he is eager to try to discredit Pope Francis as a leader in the effort to prevent “mass extinction” (Stavins’ term) – suicide by laissez faire.

(No, I am not now and never was or will be a Catholic.)

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  1. Clive

    The Pope’s recent comments stirred an old memory from when I was a child, for some reason. Growing up in England in the 1980’s, it didn’t escape even my childish notice that the series “Dr. Who” was often a vehicle for what would now been deemed outrageously left wing thinking and ideas.

    One such episode was The Pirate Planet. The plot’s premise was that a race had created a mechanism for consuming entire planets at a time, extracting mineral wealth from the doomed planet being destroyed in the process and using energy and resources for the benefit of a tiny ruling elite with the remnants being offered as trinkets for the masses.

    A small subset of the evil race was subliminally aware of what was happening. One of the lines spoken by a character really stuck in my mind, when he said after the reality of their existence was explained to him “so… people die… to make us rich?”

    At the time, it was intended I think more as an allegory on the exploitation of South African gold miners under apartheid than as a general critique of capitalism by the prevailing socialist thinking in Britain in that era (it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country. Perhaps it was…). No wonder the Thatcher government aggressively targeted the BBC (who produced the show), seeing it, probably rightly, as a hotbed of Trotskyite ideology.

    But the point the show was trying to make is as valid now as it was then and is the same point the Pope Francis is making. A great deal of our material wealth and affluence is built on others’ suffering. It is wrong. And the system which both perpetrates the suffering and the people who benefit from it needs to change. Us turkeys are going to have to vote for Christmas.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Nice post, Clive. But I thought Brits ate goose at Christmas, and Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving ;-)

      Yes, where have all the leftists gone? Is Cornel West the only one “left” in America? Forty years ago I was moving to the Right, in reaction to the Left. The Cold War was still on, patriotism et al.

      The current paradigm is insane … so nature will not allow it to continue much longer. G-d not so much. The US today is qualitatively different than it was in the 70s.

      Trotsky was one of the first people to understand Hitler. Stalin not so much. Our current crop of elder pundits of Neoliberalism … originally were Jewish trotskyites back in the 60s. Neoliberalism was perhaps pragmatic back then, but has outlived its usefulness.

      1. vidimi

        old queen vic introduced the turkey to britain and it has supplanted the goose as a christmas special. i prefer goose, though.

    2. James Levy

      The overweening arrogance of the Thatcherites and the neoclassical ideologues that are in evidence at Harvard is their insistence that what they peddle is not a set of values, but a “science”, and that their set of values is the only set of values even worth considering (TINA). The Pope’s job is to remind us all of another possible set of values and organizing principles. No one said you have to believe in them. But they have a right to be on the table when we collectively chose what kind of world we want to live in.

    3. backwardsevolution

      Clive – “…impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s…” There were more jobs then, labour had the “upper hand”. Nowadays, governments, siding with corporations, make sure there is an abundance of labour, fewer jobs. Hard to feel “left wing” when you’re worried about losing your job or keeping your head above water.

      Labour has really been decimated. Once TPP goes into effect (and I’m hoping it doesn’t), labour will get weaker again. That’s what I see has made all the difference.

  2. John Smith

    “All he needs to do is give all that he owns to the poor.” Bill Black

    No. He is to sell all he owns but Jesus does not say that he is to then give away ALL the money. The rich guy’s problem is his possessions, not money. Note that Matthew, another rich guy, did not give away all his money yet he was a disciple of Jesus.

    As for “free markets”, what is free market about government-subsidized/privileged banks?

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Nice. Takeaway? … “no true feelings” … insightful description of the people around me. The West in a state of nervous breakdown.

    2. vidimi

      something didn’t read right about this piece to me. hard to put my finger on it, but it came across as a bit hypocritical and a lot bitter. apart from that, the style is eclectic and the thoughts are scrambled all over the place. more a rant than a coherent argument.

      It all began when I arrived. After travelling some 48 hours from South Africa to Southern California, carrying films and books for the conference, I was not even met at the airport. So I took a taxi. But nobody met me at the place where I was supposed to stay. I stood on the street for more than one hour.

      in this passage he sounds like he suffers from affluenza. in those poor but righteous third world countries, he is treated like a rockstar. in the rotten US, he is dismayed at the lack of attention. although no doubt he has a point, it smacks a bit of entitlement.

      not vltchek’s best work, but then again, he did admit to writing most of it on the plane.

      1. Armchair Revolutionary

        While I agree that he did seem to be a little too concerned about his personal inconveniences, I completely understand his overall point. I am set to return to the U.S. shortly. I really feel there is something of a brain washing or even brain death amongst the majority of the populace. I am not sure how long I will stay, because I find it so pathetic.

        1. vidimi

          i’m sure his point stands. the last time i was on american soil was on christmas eve 2010 transiting through the airport in philadelphia. i’ve never had such an unpleasant experience at an airport anywhere; you could tell that the personnel were trained to dehumanize us cattle passing through. i also found a note in my luggage that the TSA rummaged through my belongings without my knowledge, simply for transiting through. if they wanted to, they could have easily planted something in there.

          needless to say, i’m in no rush to go back.

  3. Synoia

    it seems impossible now for me to believe how left wing Britain was in the late 1970s and even into the very early 1980s, but that is indeed the case; it feels like it was a completely different country.

    True. And greed, as described by Bill Black. has no limits.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Irony perhaps? But then actual free markets are only in the imagination of Adam Smith.

        1. Disturbed Voter

          Back then though, to really conspire effectively you had to be a buddy of King George or the PM … uh, I guess things haven’t changed that much after all ;-)

  4. Ulysses

    “Theoclassical economists are the high priests of this celebration of greed that Stavins admits poses the greatest threat to life on our planet. When Pope Francis posed a choice to Stavins, he chose to maintain his dogmatic belief in a system that he admits is suicidal and incapable of self-reform. The reason that the mythical and mystical “free markets” that Stavins worships are suicidal and incapable of self-reform even when they are producing “mass extinction” is that the markets are a system based on greed and the desire to obtain “great possessions” even if the result is to damn us and life on our planet.”

    This is an extremely important point. We cannot combat neoliberal ideology as if it were simply a set of rational assumptions, albeit flowing from flawed premises. No, it is a religious dogma of greed, set up to combat all of the more communitarian and gentle schools of religious thought– including the Christianity of Pope Francis, or the environmentalism of St. Francis, the patron saint of ecologists.

  5. diptherio

    Good to see that someone else pulls out the “rich young man” bit occasionally. Not many Christians I’ve talked to seem to be aware of it, much less of the implications. Good on ya’.

    1. vidimi

      fundamentalists like to take things in the bible literally, but they know that jesus didn’t mean it when he said that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”

      1. mark

        Jesus warns against the love of wealth and possessions on more than one occasion. He says that real life is not made up by the accumulation of possessions. Which I have to agree with. It is difficult for the wealthy to see the truth. They are blinded by self-sufficiency.

  6. Garrett Pace

    Maybe he didn’t realize that his possessions owned him, but the rich young man knew that *something* was wrong. For all his virtue and good works, he could feel things weren’t right inside himself.

  7. Vatch

    Pope Francis probably hasn’t read The Gospel According to St. Lloyd Blankfein. If he had read it, he would know that investment bankers are doing God’s work.

  8. Chris B

    If you want to know the source of the Pope ideology read up on Liberation Theology. Great stuff. Understandly it came out of the capitalist exploted Latin America. Also known as “Christian Marxism” by capitalists who fear the idea spreading. Ha! Capitalists can’t help to put an ecconomic label on everything.

    The pastor at my local parish wrote some fine books of the subject:

    Here is one of his lectures on The Political Responsibility of Christians:

    The spiritual aspect of chnage needs greater emphasis and I am glad to hear this Pope cause so much neoliberal squirming. While I am not a “catholic” I attend the parish masses. I see the Daoism in the world, and this Pope does as well, so listening to Topel is like listening to a Daosit.

    The Daoists take a more practical stance sometimes, which I think can help “non-spiritual” people understand their folishness. For example:

    From the Writing of Chuang Tzu


    IF ONE IS TO GUARD and take precautions against thieves who rifle trunks, ransack bags, and break open boxes, then he must bind with cords and ropes and make fast with locks and hasps. This the ordinary world calls wisdom. But if a great thief comes along, he will shoulder the boxes, hoist up the trunks, sling the bags over his back, and dash off, only worrying that the cords and ropes, the locks and hasps are not fastened tightly enough. In that case, the man who earlier was called wise was in fact only piling up goods for the benefit of a great thief.

  9. susan the other

    It would be interesting. If everyone, rich and poor alike, gave up their possessions. Ceased manufacturing, except for some absolutes. Changed free markets into flea markets. Embraced recycling in a creative way. Raised local food cooperatively. The thing that might be drowning us now is maintenance. Once you build up your obscene world of possessions you have to maintain the stupid things. And the system itself, the “market”, requires maintenance – in order to keep going. Francis wants us to give to the poor and protect the environment which is very noble but that still puts the rich in the driver’s seat. What we need to do is stop driving (literally as well). Francis is still too politic to say it.

    1. Disturbed Voter

      Back then though, to really conspire effectively you had to be a buddy of King George or the PM … uh, I guess things haven’t changed that much after all ;-)

    2. Disturbed Voter

      That is the kind of world we will have, but only after civilization collapses. As St Augustine explained, the City of Man is a great theft. With the advent of justice, there can be no cities, hence no civilization (the art of city life). As nomads, patriarch Abraham had no more possessions than could fit on his donkeys … and he encountered nemesis, because he was too successful, had too many donkeys (and too many wives too).

  10. MaroonBulldog

    “The maximization of corporate profits is the reason that God hath created the Earth.”–The Gospel According to the Harvard Business School.

  11. flora

    Great essay. When did econ departments decided business and economics should be taught as an “ethics & moral free zone” ?

  12. NotSoSure

    The problem is this sentence: “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
    Doesn’t that mean that some rich people will still enter heaven?

    Given the level of delusion in the world, the response in America is probably: “AMERICA, USA, USA, I am doing God’s work and I am that rich person who will enter heaven.”


    1. Chris B

      Do not take the Hebrew translation so literally. Jesus emphasised the imposibility with his simile of a camel going through the eye of a needle. He was saying it was impossible for the rich to enter heaven.

      1. Buck Eschaton

        Because idolatry…the young man believed that his money and wealth existed. That it was something more than rocks or paper or bytes/KBs/MBs and thus wanted to maintain the illusion with all the slavery/injustice/violence that keeping the lie going entailed.

      2. NotSoSure

        That’s not what people will think. They will still say: mathematically it’s not zero. Why? Because they are all on hopium.

  13. begob

    The problem is this sentence: “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
    Doesn’t that mean that some rich people will still enter heaven?

    They will out-compete their peers until only One is left: for mine is the kingdom and the power and glory. Then the AI machine will get lonely and create some virtual companions.

  14. Rrennel

    The Pope’s encyclical on the environment should not be dismissed as an attempt to invoke liberation theology. It is in fact a reasoned view of the failure of “market based” theology which remains prevalent in policy discussions on climate change. Although, climate change was seen to be “the greatest market failure the world has ever seen” by Nicholas Stern in his 2006 report, Stavins believes the Pope is “out of step with the thinking and the work of informed policy analysts around the world, who recognize that we can do more, faster, and better with the use of market-based policy instruments.” The Pope’s call on humanity “to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming” seems to me to be a far more optimistic proposal than a restructuring of markets based on the prescriptions of “informed policy analysts” who have thus far failed in 20 + years in all their efforts to create credible carbon markets.

    1. Chris B

      The Pope’s encyclical on the environment should not be dismissed as an attempt to invoke liberation theology.

      Dismissed? HA! What is wrong with invoking Liberation Theology?

      Read more of what the Pope writes. He is deep into Liberation Theology and this is just another expression of it.

  15. greg

    Who will pay the price for Truth? For are we not all rich men, rich in the many delusions we live our lives by? And the price for Truth is every one of those delusions. Every one. JC was not just talking about the materially wealthy, but also those who store up false treasures in their minds.

  16. Newtownian

    Great post Bill.

    You appear to be one of the few economists from a conventional background who ‘gets it’ (as against ecological economists who tend to ecologists dabbling in economics – not that there is anything the matter with that).

    In search of economists who understand that ecosystems are not just secondary externalities I have found this view is still too rare even among progressive economists who still insist on viewing environmental problems, and as importantly solutions, as just a matter of tweaking their existing perspectives and methods like ‘trading’.

    I’ve just been searching INET for example who are otherwise appear not half bad. But even they lack serious environmental literacy. I wondered for a while, coming from an environmental science background, if despite my impressions our discipline was more esoteric than I appreciated, and hard for general public and other specialists to understand because of the unfamiliarity.

    But then out come Il Papa’s collective with an erudition of the current swathe of environmental problems we know about showing even their medieval institution is light years in development beyond that of mainstream economists present company excepted even though the Vatican still has a few skeletons in their closet (e.g. population pressures).

  17. FishOutofWater aka George

    Jesus later explains why the rich man cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

    No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

    The rich man worships wealth, symbolized by the golden calf and the Wall St bull, and serves his possessions. Likewise, you can’t worship wealth and serve the common good.

  18. Robin Gaura

    Thank you Mr. Black. Clear and ethical thinking, as usual. One note I would add, is that I have heard that the `eye of the needle´ actually was the name of an entrance into the city where the teaching was. It was a small entrance into the walled city, where a camel would have to kneel down and unpack in order to get into the city. The metaphor holds.
    We have known for a long time that the IMF has functioned as a loan shark on a vast scale, using odious debt to steal most of the surplus value created by economies around the world, and siphoning off their weath so that they cannot build schools, roads, or provide public services.
    In these apocalyptic times, the thieves are unveiled. Thank you so much for doing your part. Is it not karma that human beings from destroyed countries and war zones (due to western theft) are flooding into europe, use and australia? The west owes a great debt to these, our brothers and sisters, and their countries of origin.

  19. Jack

    I just want to clarify something. My understanding of Smiths ‘paradox’ is that everyone being purely selfish shouldn’t lead to an overall bettering of society, and that it apparently does is precisely because people AREN’T motivated by pure greed. There in fact is no paradox because our benevolent God has imbued us with an inherent moral capacity that means our motivations aren’t always selfish and that curbs the worst impulses and abuses. The ‘invisible hand’ is literally the hand of God, and ‘rational self-interest’ includes an awareness of the group and that what benefits the whole will also benefit specific individuals.

    Once you strip out the metaphysical/supernatural aspect and reduce the entire thing to a caricature where everyone behaves like a complete sociopath, it all falls apart.

    Do I have it more or less correct?

  20. nat scientist

    “There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples, my philosophy is kindness.” – H.H. the Dalai Lama, leader in exile in India of the indigenous people of Tibet.

    The last word of his quotation replaces billions of narrative explanations and more difficult, eye-of-the-needle-transit abstractions.
    Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s kindness if you can.

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