Christian Principles in Capitalism? Scalia Thinks So.


As reported in the Huffington Post, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had this to say, “While I would not argue that capitalism as an economic system is inherently more Christian than socialism … it does seem to me that capitalism is more dependent on Christianity than socialism is. For in order for capitalism to work — in order for it to produce a good and a stable society — the traditional Christian virtues are essential.”

While I can’t argue with the above conclusion, I have a bit of a problem with what followed:

“The governmentalization of charity affects not just the donor but also the recipient. What was once asked as a favor is now demanded as an entitlement,” he said. “The transformation of charity into legal entitlement has produced donors without love and recipients without gratitude. … It’s not my place or my purpose to criticize these developments, only to observe that they do not suggest the expanding role of government is good for Christianity.”

As with so many other issues, we Americans like to debate the symptoms and not the causes. In the supposedly best capitalist system in the world, why do so many people need charity, whether it be from the church of government? And why has the number been growing for the last three decades? And exactly what Christian virtues are manifested in a form of capitalism that makes this country one the of the worst for income equality.

From thinkprogress.org, “The U.S. suffers from particularly drastic income inequality. It is worse here than in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, the Ivory Coast, Pakistan, and Ethiopia. It’s a trend that began in the 1970s and has continued through the 2000s.”

My point is, and I’ve written this before, Milton Friedman’s 1970 paper argued that corporations have no social responsibility and so influenced capitalism as to wring the last vestiges of anything  resembling a Christian virtue out of it.

And here’s something to consider from Mark Ames on alternet.org, “In his early days, before millions were spent on burnishing his reputation, Friedman worked as a business lobby shill, a propagandist who would say whatever he was paid to say. […] We need to take a trip back to the post-war years, and to the largely forgotten Buchanan Committee hearings on illegal lobbying activities, led by a pro-labor Democrat from Pennsylvania, Frank Buchanan.

What the Buchanan Committee discovered was that in 1946, Milton Friedman and his U Chicago cohort George Stigler arranged an under-the-table deal with a Washington lobbying executive to pump out covert propaganda for the national real estate lobby in exchange for a hefty payout, the terms of which were never meant to be released to the public.”

Is it a coincidence that the growth lines in employee and corporate wealth began to split in the decade following Friedman’s famous influence on our business schools? That until that time the trend lines followed the same trajectory? That today I read, “The top ten percent of earners in the United States took home more than 50 percent of all income in 2012, the highest amount ever recorded since data was first collected in 1917.”

Is this what Justice Scalia meant by Christian virtues in capitalism?

Frankly, I’m sick of people making Christianity into their own image to support their own political agendas or to pander to their special interest friends.

Unbridled capitalism has no religion. It has no religious principles, virtuous or otherwise. And in its current form, is mostly responsible for the poverty being treated with “governmental charity.”

From the Washington Post, “Mid-wage occupations, paying between $13.83 and $21.13 per hour, made up about 60 percent of the job losses during the recession. But those mid-wage jobs have made up just 27 percent of the jobs gained during the recovery.

By contrast, low-wage occupations paying less than $13.83 per hour have utterly dominated the recovery, with 58 percent of the job gains since 2010.”

It seems to me Justice Scalia is just trying to reconstruct in order to reconcile his devout Catholicism with his devotion to capitalism and his many corporate friends.

Scalia’s comments are a distraction. For the real news, read the latest headlines about the union organizing efforts on the part of working people across the country. They don’t want charity from churches or government. They want to be paid a living wage; a virtue that’s as American as apple pie.

Robert De Filippis

Author: The Blue Route

What say you, the people?