Pope Francis and Ludwig von Mises do not see eye-to-eye on the value of consumer choice. The Pope condemns what Mises defends, and their disagreement goes beyond the obvious.
As everyone knows, the Pope condemns what he calls “consumerism.” In a speech delivered in 2015, for example, he said: “Today consumerism determines what is important. Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming… . Whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships. Social bonds are a mere ‘means’ for the satisfaction of ‘my needs.’ The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality.” People spend too much on material goods, he claimed, and ignore what really matters in life. Why spend money on useless fripperies like household pets and cosmetics?
The Anti-Capitalistic …
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Mises of course did not know Pope Francis, but he long ago responded to those who raise this sort of complaint against free-market capitalism. Capitalism, he pointed out, is a system of mass production for the masses. It gives people what they want, so long as what they want can be profitably produced. If you do not like what people want, do not blame capitalism. As though he had read the Pope’s remarks, he says in The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality, “Nonetheless many people, and especially intellectuals, passionately loathe capitalism. As they see it, this ghastly mode of society’s economic organization has brought about nothing but mischief and misery. Men were once happy and prosperous in the good old days…