Pope Francis sent out a tweet I missed the other day. The howls of opprobrium started up immediately.
My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centred mindset bent on profit at any cost.
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) May 2, 2013
A couple of fellas at Forbes weren’t too keen on the tweet above. Shocking, eh?
Relax, fellas. Pope Francis is for profits. He’s just not for profits “at any cost.”
Wholly missing from the papal argument is the fact that business expansion, and the attraction of investment therein, is based on profits. Greater profits don’t necessarily guarantee more jobs in existing business and businesses of the future, but you can’t expect those jobs to materializeabsent profit. Profit isn’t what drives poverty, profit is what overcomes poverty. The argument is easier to make where profits are invested in medical advances that can save lives and increased productivity that will make further inroads in steadily decreasing world hunger. Or where investment and experimentation made possible entire new fields of human endeavor we can’t possibly foresee (personal computing, remote health monitoring…). But the argument holds just the same if profits were to go to seemingly frivolous smart phone apps or dividends. The short of the matter is that capitalism is the engine of the general betterment of the human condition and profits its essential tool.
Giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, his tweet might simply suggest that in close cases, companies should keep a worker rather than dismiss him or her. That is fine as a sentiment, but presumably any employer of repute already knows that as a simple matter of self-interest. It would be more interesting if the Pope would comment on the fast-escalating cost of keeping workers on and hiring new ones, as a consequence of supposedly well-intentioned, generous benefit and welfare packages governments demand companies provide, the minimum wage being the most obvious example). Interestingly, the sadly counterproductive demands for ever greater worker benefits are driven by precisely the same social conscience thinking that underlies the Pope’s tweet.
But when it comes to Pope Francis, and other folks unbeguiled by Mammon, you know, guys like Harry Truman (for instance), the quote below comes to mind.
You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
—P.T. Barnum, Abe Lincoln, or Joe Six-Pack
I think I’ll go have me one of these now.
Rick Rice of Brutally Honest with quotes from the Catechism.