In the illustrious history of cherry-picking quotes from Pope Francis to suit political purposes, rarely has it been done in support of libertarian ideas. But as the author of Everyone Agrees, which asserts that everyone really agrees despite seeming incongruities in perspective, I’d like to propose that the latest controversial statement by Pope Francis is actually a libertarian argument.
In a homily delivered at the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta spoke about the sin of the exploitation of labor and of riches founded on the suffering of the people:
When riches are created by exploiting the people, by those rich people who exploit [others], they take advantage of the work of the people, and those poor people become slaves . . . . Those who do that are true bloodsuckers, and they live by spilling the blood of the people who they make slaves of labor . . . . Living on the blood of the people. And this is a mortal sin. This is a mortal sin. And this demands a great deal of penance, a great deal of restitution, in order to be converted from this sin.
It’s hard to disagree with the above quote but without the labels, this sounds ironically like the rich bureaucrats in government exploiting the people—taking advantage of them—and turning them into slaves of the state.
Of course, this is not what Pope Francis meant. He’s talking about the fat cats in corporations that exploit their workers. But what is government but a big corporation using everyone it taxes as its employees to exploit? And what’s worse is that corporations require employees to be voluntarily contracted to them, but government forces its ’employees’ to work for it.
This is the ugly truth that supporters of big government have a difficult time accepting: while government may do some good with their authority, all government action is based in the violation of the Seventh Commandment: Thou Shalt Not Steal. Whether it is through taxation of the rich or through debt and inflation (a regressive tax of the poor), government gains its wealth through, as Pope Francis says so eloquently, “the exploitation of the people, the blood of these people who become slaves.”
Pope Francis calls employers bloodsuckers? What of the countless automatons that enable a government to steal from one class of people and misappropriate the funds on others with very little accountability or transparency?
If you really want to see modern bloodsuckers, look to the socialist monsters in Venezuela who are plunging the country into the pit of despair in order to force their political philosophy, which is, ironically, the same political philosophy Pope Francis encourages in order to help people in poverty.
Pope Francis’s words ring true, but not as he intended them. He may not have been talking about government, but that’s where his condemnation certainly applies. The real criminals—the real bloodsuckers are the bureaucrats who abuse their authority to push their radical statist agenda.
Unlike so many others who would use the pope’s quotes out of context and not link back to the original source, I will. Here’s the audio and video from the homily: