Pope Francis has recently launched a string of attacks on capitalism and the effect economic globalization has had on global society. For him, global capitalism has caused the world to descend into blind idolatry of money, leading to a disposable consumerist culture and a “new tyranny” in which money is given precedence to the exclusion of all else. This distorted economic system is not only responsible for high youth unemployment, and indeed for sacrificing the entire younger generation, but has created social inequality, poverty and injustice, he said.
The pope has said that, with the way the economy is allowed to operate at the moment, it is effectively killing people.
From where does this problem with global capitalism arise?
In his On the Jewish Question, Karl Marx wrote that “Money is the jealous god of Israel, in face of which no other god may exist.” The quote would not be out of place if you substituted the word “Israel” for “neoliberalism.”
Human society is multifaceted and admits to many different forms of behavior. There is religious and cultural behavior, and economic behavior is merely another facet of human activity, of which the objective — as the 1998 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner Amartya Sen describes in his book Development as Freedom — is the search for human freedom and dignity.
However, under neoliberal thinking economic development is placed above all else, becoming the highest principle and ultimate goal of all human activity, and this is why we find ourselves facing our current predicament. This form of economic system, reigned over by the “jealous money god,” has also had a serious impact on Taiwan, leading to a burgeoning wealth disparity and towering youth unemployment.
However, compared with the waves of discontent targeted at global capitalism elsewhere, the policies of the government under President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) have continued to follow neoliberal logic: Whether it be establishing free economic pilot zones or signing cross-strait agreements on trade in services or goods, these policies are informed by neoliberal thinking and the need to strive for ever more liberalization.
As the government tries to push these policies, all we hear are empty sound bites about how the economy will only be saved by more liberalization and more deregulation, otherwise we will “be losers in the international race.”
However, despite the government’s attempts to brainwash us, it has failed to produce any reliable scientific figures to prove that these policies have any hope of actually solving the problems of inequality, poverty or injustice that the pope has identified as fatal.
The pope can no longer stand by without speaking out about politicians’ unwillingness to take responsibility for the situation and an economic system that kills. The Ma administration, on the other hand, remains aloof and indifferent to the plight of others.
Is it not now incumbent on the younger generation of this nation, the group most affected by the government’s ruinous economic policies, to stand up and say “enough is enough,” and revolt?
Allen Houng is a professor at National Yang-Ming University’s Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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