Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's
Number 820, May 4, 2015

When Donald Trump is forced to train his weird,
alien hair to do a little dance for nickels in
a tin cup, then we'll know we've won.

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Being Frank
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

In an era when writers are discouraged from saying what they mean, this column will undoubtedly offend many individuals; if you don't like seeing sacred cows ground to hamburger, I suggest you don't read it.

To begin, then:

Just for the record, when private capitalism came into being, it was a revolutionary economic, political, and social system that has since fed, clothed, and housed—not to mention educated and cured—more individual human beings than any other system in history. When it appeared on the world scene in the mid-1700s, a person's average life expectancy at birth—in London, the most advanced and civilized city on the planet—was about 20 1/2 years. A hundred years later, life expectancy was three times that number, and it is now approaching four times.

If only for those reasons (and there are many others), capitalism has been the target of centuries of relentless, vicious attack by evil parasites who wish to be perceived as humanity's benefactors without actually benefiting anybody at all, Today, virtually every member of what the great essayist H.L. Mencken called the "booboisie" believe (you can't really say "think") that capitalism and capitalists are evil.

Capitalism's gravest "sin" in this connection is that it has made more widespread and greater individual freedom available than ever before (even though in his abysmal ignorance—or ideological delirium—the Pope accuses it of imposing " a new tyranny" that is "causing people to die". That, of course, is why there are seven billion people in the world today, as opposed to a few hundred cold and starving millions when his gang of terrorists was running things.).

That is a critically important key to why capitalism is hated and reviled, and to who hates and reviles it. Watch the various enemies of capitalism on TV; Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Waxman, Feinstein, Bush, Hatch, Cheney. None of them are genuine advocates of freedom. There are political vermin in the world—all over the world, in fact, generally in positions of leadership—who hate,loathe and despise individual freedom, and will do absolutely anything to eradicate it. They achieve their leadership positions because no decent human being really wants anything to do with telling other human beings what to do.

The headline reads "Pope Francis rebukes unfettered capitalism". When he says "unfettered" you can bet he means it literally; this is the heir of a gang of thugs who used to "change" people's theological opinions with the rack, the whip, and red-hot pincers. You can also bet they'd be doing it today if they believed they could get away with it.

Petulantly, the man complains that the worship of wealth has become a religion in itself. There is lots I could say about that. I'll limit myself to the observation that the wealth is really there; it manifests itself. In that respect, it's hell of a lot better than the Imaginary Playmate he claims to speak for and wants us all to worship.

Francis goes out of his way to ridicule the idea that capitalism has made everybody much wealthier. It makes you wonder where the hell the guy learned history, Patrice Lamumba University? When the Great Fire of 1666 swept through London, it's estimated it destroyed about a third of the entire nation's wealth, 10,000,000 dollars or pounds, I don't know which. Today a single modern building is worth more than that.

The "beloved Pope" calls on Protestant ministers (whom he first insults by positing an unholy mercenary alliance between them and the horrid devils of capitalism) to take up arms against "the destruction unfettered capitalism has rendered on the poor, the environment, and the world structure". Straining every ligament and tendon to remain polite in the face of this bilge, I've got two words for you, Frank: Martin Luther; there was a reason he was needed, and you didn't get it.

It gets worse. The Pope, it says here, is calling for a radical (Stalinist) overhaul of the world financial system. The trouble is, he is an economic ignoramus. He knows absolutely, pathetically nothing about economics. That isn't really my long suit, either (history is, I guess) but even I know that wealth, under "unfettered capitalism" is more evenly distributed among human beings than at any other time in world history. The article ends with ominous and violent threats against Americans who won't get with the Glorious Socialist Five Year Plan.

Unfortunately for the Pope and his orcish minions, capitalism is nothing more (and nothing less, as communist China is discovering to their dismay) than the economic expression of "unfettered" individual liberty. Operationally, mechanically, it is simply a system under which people refrain from consuming their wealth today, in order to put it aside somewhere where it will grow, so that they can consume much more tomorrow. As author and lecturer Robert LeFevre pointed out, this has proven to be the only rational way to handle wealth, thus every country, every culture across the face of the planet does it, whether they like to admit it or not. In that epic struggle between capitalism and its mortal enemies, the war is long over; capitalism won.

What remains is the decision whether the wealth in question will be tucked away by individuals who have created and own it, or by the political criminals who routinely steal it, doing with it whatever they wish, most recently claiming that the original owner didn't really make it, or could not have done so without the government to help.

Back to the point: all of this was brought to mind when I saw Pope Francis reveal that he has a serious prejudice against capitalism. It began with a more or less innocuous cliche, often uttered by otherwise useless old people, that everything that interests and animates young people is an utter waste of time that could be better spent doing something else. He denounced television, computers, smart telephones, video games, and everything else he could think of. He very carefully never spelled out what that better use of their time might happen to be.

I think it's covered in the Barenaked Ladies' song "Never Is Enough."

The fact is that every political squabble today revolves around different concepts of how individuals are to be used—what (and whose) purpose they serve—what their proper function in the universe is. Every "philosophy" offers its own assertions about that, forces invariably driving the individual from outside: God; the state; or the military will let you know just what your life is for. There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats, between socialists and fascists about this. Only libertarians will show you how your life is an end unto itself, and that you serve whatever purpose you wish to serve.

Especially if that purpose is yourself.

One word of caution: mercantilism. There are fakers who will tell you they are capitalists. There are phonies who are happy to be denounced as capitalists by leftists (like Occupy This or That). You know them, what Ayn Rand called "the Aristocracy of Pull" and illustrated with the character James Taggart. Mitt Romney, John McCain, Donald Trump. These clowns extract money, by various means, or land, licenses, or permissions denied to others, and build great fortunes upon them. They are not capitalists. They are our enemies. They've been a problem for centuries, when their vile predecessors were cronies of the king. They are mercantilists, and the scholar Adam Smith wrote a great book in 1776 complaining about them, Wealth of Nations. Whenever the booboisie hear the word "capitalist" these are the creatures they have been conditioned by schools and media to think of.

They are also the main reason why Republican administrations are inevitably disappointing to those who are genuinely concerned with freedom.

Some people, after being brought up in a society that perversely celebrates sacrifice, have difficulty handling freedom. It makes them afraid. Others, because they want to use those people for their own purposes, oppose it self-righteously and call it "selfishness" or "greed".

Pope Francis is one of these. He has certain uses in mind for you, and he's not going to tolerate any philosophy, even the implicit, unspoken philosophy of private capitalism, that challenges his intentions.

The "clipping" I have doesn't mention the publication it appeared in. Too bad: I'd dearly love to give them proper discredit. After noting that not all Christian ministers agree with the Pope's bombastic (and essentially fearful) pronouncements, the journal then casts off all pretense at objectivity, adopts the tone of a North Korean paean to their Beloved Leader, and hauls into the argument non-sequiturs like inheritance and "ill-gained capital" as if such matters alter the underlying principle of individual economic freedom. It then tries to rewrite history by absurdly denying the benefits of capitalism and quotes the Pope as he lays blame on it for all the world's woes—most of which, interestingly enough, are the fault of government.

Francis calls our society the "culture of waste". He whimpers that we have in a sense taken over nature ... "man has slapped nature in the face". I suspect that there are a few million people in the world, in places like Nepal, in Indonesia, near Mount. St. Helen's, who believe nature needs a good slap about now. If you want to see what unfettered government is capable of, look up the damage that the former Soviet Union did to its environment. Here I was, looking forward to my first taste of real caviar as my modest share of the "Peace Dividend", only to discover that the stinking commies had polluted their rivers and killed almost all of the sturgeon. Exactly like rats and cockroaches, socialists inevitably contaminate and destroy much more than they consume.

What can be done? I don't know; I'm not a Roman Catholic. History we know is full of fallible and corrupt Popes. This one seems to be the product of an internal Vatican conflict that resulted in the murder of one Pope, and the forced retirement of his own immediate predecessor.

Take heart, though. In the Middle Ages, when the Church was much more powerful, some Pope or other tried to outlaw crossbows and firearms. This historically initial attempt at victim disarmament worked just about as well as the proverbial screen door in a submarine.

Capitalism works, and it benefits everybody living with it. As libertarians, it is our task to teach that to individuals until there is no more booboisie, no communist Pope, and no dirty, smelly Occupy movement. When Donald Trump is forced to train his weird, alien hair to do a little dance for nickels in a tin cup, then we'll know we've won.

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