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Carville: ‘We Are All In The Cafeteria”


Pope Benedict’s new encyclical put James Carville in a typically swaggering mood on CNN Wednesday afternoon, suggesting to conservative Catholics “welcome to the cafeteria” now that Benedict has embraced European economics in his new encyclical:

The right-wing Catholics tell us we have to agree with the pope’s policy, as I say, on condoms in Africa, or the church’s policy on birth control, which we moderate liberal Catholics vehemently disagree with. I’m sure that President Obama vehemently disagrees with this. But I think he’s going to be — obviously going to be courteous and respective to the pope. I mean, he is the pope. But it shows the dangers of orthodoxy and the dangers of these conservative Catholics lecturing other Catholics about being in the cafeteria, because we are all in the cafeteria.

It’s not hard to hear echoes of Nixon’s “we are all Keynesians now” in Carville’s formulation. But Carville seems to be, as usual, spinning and barely skimming the surface of the actual document. For example, he claimed the pontiff wanted to “take the profit motive out of business.” That’s not exactly what appears in the actual text:

Profit is useful if it serves as a means towards an end that provides a sense both of how to produce it and how to make good use of it. Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty. The economic development that Paul VI hoped to see was meant to produce real growth, of benefit to everyone and genuinely sustainable. It is true that growth has taken place, and it continues to be a positive factor that has lifted billions of people out of misery — recently it has given many countries the possibility of becoming effective players in international politics. Yet it must be acknowledged that this same economic growth has been and continues to be weighed down by malfunctions and dramatic problems, highlighted even further by the current crisis….

In fact, if the market is governed solely by the principle of the equivalence in value of exchanged goods, it cannot produce the social cohesion that it requires in order to function well. Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function….

Charity in truth, in this case, requires that shape and structure be given to those types of economic initiative which, without rejecting profit, aim at a higher goal than the mere logic of the exchange of equivalents, of profit as an end in itself.

In the last paragraph, Benedict was embracing “commercial entities based on mutualist principles” — or financial volunteerism, not state control. There is a lamentation on the “downsizing of social security systems,” which could be a rock for Carville to stand on. But he’s wrong to declare the pope wants and end to the profit motive.

George Weigel expertly picked through the text for NRO. Matthew Balan also found passages in the document that don’t sound like a Paul Krugman seminar.


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