Wrong, Francis: Money Is Not the “Devil’s Dung”

Pope Francis's criticisms of money paint man as a victim, incapable of free will
Pope Francis’s criticisms of money paint man as a victim, incapable of free will. (Hondudiario.com)

EspañolPope Francis’s position on wealth raises many questions on what truly lies behind his words.

As a supposed representative of god on Earth, the pope has an immense power when he addresses his parishioners, especially considering that in religion, faith is a much stronger component than reason when adopting a new idea as real.

The Catholic Church has always proclaimed its devotion to the poor, despite the fact that the Vatican owns one of the world’s largest fortunes. Nevertheless, it’s not surprising that Francis has continued this rhetoric. One could even call this integrity, since he sticks firmly to the message, despite living in a society that is anxious to escape poverty.

It could well be that he is simply repeating a centuries-old message that originates from a time when wealth was obtained at the point of a sword, by conquering lands, and fighting bloody battles — a situation that left poverty as the only moral alternative.

But things have changed, and in a civilized world, there are alternatives to war or plunder if one seeks to become wealthy. Wealth creation is one of those options, and ignorance of this fact is no excuse for Pope Francis, who earlier this year called money the “devil’s dung.”

For starters, money is a consequence, not a cause. Having money can be proof of man’s best virtues — productivity, creativity, and perseverance — or his worst vices — thievery, trickery, or blackmail. It can be the result of a fortuitous event, such as discovering buried treasure, or a tragedy, like the loss of a relative who leaves behind a fortune.

Being rich or poor says nothing of an individual’s moral character.

On the other hand, one can judge whether the causes of an individual’s wealth or poverty are moral or immoral. Did he create wealth using his mind or a certain set of skills? Was it an honest process? Or did he gain riches by unscrupulously exploiting a position of power?

Likewise, what caused a man to be poor? Was it laziness and a refusal to take charge of his own life? Or is it a corrupt system that takes from him everything he produces?

These are the questions we should pose to judge morality and wealth.

There are people who risk their lives to escape poverty. Others work, train, create, persevere, and take other types of risks, and as a result, earn lots of money.

Go and tell those Cubans who have died in the ocean that they should have loved their poverty. Go and tell Roger Federer, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Michael Bublé, or J.K Rowling, that the money they earned comes from the devil’s buttocks.

As Ayn Rand put it: “Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them.… Money is made — before it can be looted or mooched — made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability.”

Wealth, just like alcohol, does not change a man, but it does expose him.

What a man does when he is wealthy is exactly the same thing he would have done when he was poor. Whether a man chooses to spend his money on prostitutes, charity, investments, traveling around the world, or starting a business, it’s not the money but his values that guide his decision.

“It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires,” Rand wrote.

The idea of money as the cause of man’s degradation makes man the victim, and money the victimizer. It removes from man his free will, reason, ability to choose, and all responsibility for his actions. It places the burden on a lifeless, motionless thing, and attributes it some kind of magical power. It reverts the law of causation. It ignores the basic laws of nature. It is pure irrationality.

And to top it all off, while Pope Francis never loses a minute condemning wealth, he is also just as quick to call for its redistribution.

So, which is it, Francis? Money is the “devil’s dung” and only impoverishes people, but it must also be redistributed? This smacks of hypocrisy. Just like when he lashes out against the “economic system which holds money as its idol,” without having the courage to mention it by name, but leaving the door open for journalists to do it for him: “savage capitalism.”

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Capitalism is the only economic system on Earth that has allowed men to create wealth, and leave behind centuries of starvation, death, and darkness. It improved the lives of millions. It’s the only system in which a man who aims to become rich must make the best of himself, offer something of value in the market, and do so in a way that is well received.

It can’t force, violate, or enslave you. It can only offer and seduce. All the while, individual rights are legally protected.

On the contrary, in a country where legal frameworks are hostile to private property, liberty, and wealth creation, what options are left for citizens to earn money and make ends meet? If you don’t know the answer, ask a Cuban.

If the pope is asking corrupted men to distribute the devil’s dung to alleviate hunger, then he needs a visit with a mental-health professional. But he’s not really doing that, is he? What the pope is doing is asking intelligent, independent people to carry the rest upon their shoulders, and distribute the wealth that they created under a system that has up to now protected their liberties and respected their rights.

If he is going to extend his hand to ask for a slice, the least he could do is hide the whip, and ask for it politely.

Again, Ayn Rand described the situation perfectly:

Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live together on earth and need means to deal with one another — their only substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

Translated by Adam Dubove and Guillermo Jimenez.

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