Friday, March 24, 2006

John Paul II, Opponent of Predatory Capitalism

Commentary by Martin Kelly
April 6, 2005

As was to be expected, the passing of the Polish Pope has unleashed a veritable tsunami of encomia from the neoconservatives. Most comment has, of course, focussed on the role John Paul II played in the collapse of Communism, oblivious to the fact that the Catholic Church possesses a massive advantage over its earthly, secular persecutors – it’s eternal, and will survive human ideology for no reason other than longevity.

However, there is one aspect of the Pope’s record the comprehension of which seems to be beyond them, which, being spoiled children of the now, is, from this perspective, entirely reasonable; they can’t figure why John Paul II didn’t dig big capitalism.

He opposed Communism because he respected the rights of the individual. He was pro-life because he respected the rights of the individual. Ergo, employing a quantum leap of logic of which the even the lowliest intern at the American Enterprise Institute should be capable, he opposed predatory capitalism – because he respected the rights of the individual.

In a ‘Townhall’ piece of April 6 entitled, ‘The Splendor of Truth’, Jonah Goldberg remarked that, ‘The Catholic Church was the first real advocate of globalisation’. Huh? The Catholic Church an advocate of ‘globalisation’? I know Our Lord said, ‘the poor will be with you always’, but he didn’t follow that up with some dazzling coda like ‘And you will go out of your way to advocate that people will be made poor’, which is precisely the effect that the predatory global capitalism that John Paul II opposed has had and is having in what used to be Christian societies.

Don’t just take my word for it. I know that Europeans are whiners, Euro-weenies, blah, blah, Belgian prosecutors, Islamic immigration into France (always good for 1,000 words from Mark Steyn), blah, blah, but us Euros do have one little secret – entirely unreasonably, we are still just ever so slightly scared of the Germans; and not enough attention is being paid to economic stability in that country.

German re-unification was a disaster, and should have acted as a template for what not to do if you’re planning to graft an entirely new political and economic model onto a country where the local culture isn’t accustomed to it. After Germany,
nobody would really be stupid enough to try that again.
The Germans have probably lost count of the amount of money they have invested into trying to get the old East up to Western standards, and it is killing their economy. Unemployment in Germany is at its highest since the early 1930’s. Nostalgia for the old East is on the rise. Neocons, take note.

Like the UK, Germany is a member of the European Union, membership of which demands the elimination of border and labour controls. Now, ironically, since Poland joined the European Union last year, there has been a flood of Poles to the West. The cost of living in Poland is very low, and Poles are accustomed to working for lower wages than in the West. When Poles come West, they therefore drive down wages. Although many residents of Arizona will tell you otherwise, the free market economists say that this is a good thing, quite forgetting that the state subsidies their corporate masters receive are collected from personal taxation, which has the effect of raising the cost of living.

However, according to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of April 4, one young German entrepreneur, Fabian Loew, has devised a solution to the problem of getting Germany back to work – he’s created a website, jobdumping.de, where job applicants compete against each other to work for the lowest wages, literally a race to the bottom, a race from which Fabian Loew collects a fee.

The opportunity to pay staff the lowest possible wages is the motherlode of predatory capitalism – any concept of a ‘global economy’ has no other rationale. It supersedes politics, it supersedes ideology, for some people it even supersedes religion. Much is made of the evils of the mill-owners of Victorian England; but those Methodists and Quakers built model villages for their workers, built schools, libraries, art galleries and swimming baths, gave something back to the local communities whose labours guaranteed their profits. To whom does a global business give something back?

If one believes all that one reads about the USA, it wouldn’t be surprising if some Stanford MBA Fabian Loew type crawls out the woodwork and decides to cash in on his fellow Americans’ human misery by starting some kind of ‘jobdumping’ service.

In the meantime, as the redoubtable Paul Craig Roberts tirelessly records, because of globalisation and its little brother outsourcing, the only jobs being created in the USA are domestic services and other services that cannot be performed at lower cost somewhere else in the world. In a flash, the economy of America will become like that of eastern Germany; and, just like the concept of the United Kingdom has disappeared due to the mismanagement of its elites, so too will that of America.

The conservative right’s Euro-haters will turn round and say that’s impossible because of the differences between Germany’s heavily tax-dependent welfare state and the vitality of the American economy. All that one need say to counter that argument are five little phrases; budget deficit; trade deficit; Social Security; dying dollar; and Iraq.

Turning people into economic units, a form of pornography, was what John Paul II railed against; Catholic apologists for big business like Michael Novak couldn’t really seem to care less.

At least being Pope does give you one big advantage in the workplace – as Dr. Roberts would put it, your services are non-tradable, and thus incapable of being outsourced.