My previous posting was about income tax, and I am continuing to think about economic matters in this article. Just the evening before Tax Day, June and I watched Michael Moore’s 2009 movie “Capitalism: A Love Story.” We thought it was a good movie. But there are those who not only don’t like it, they hate it.
I was a bit surprised that the movie included brief comments by a retired Catholic bishop from Detroit and two other Catholic priests, who were all quite negative in their comments about capitalism. But through the years there has been a rather long line of prominent Christians, Protestants as well as Catholics, who have been critical of capitalism.
As you know, those who are conservative politically are strong opponents of President Obama, and there has been a steady stream of criticism calling him a socialist and decrying his leading the country into socialism (or even Communism). His pushing for the healthcare reform bill, of course, has been one of the main reasons for that attack. And, in fact, the President is probably just one of many prominent politicians who are somewhat critical of capitalism.
In the previous posting, I mentioned Ronald Dellums, the current mayor of Oakland (CA). He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1971 to 1998, and he was the first openly socialist congressperson since World War II. Although I have known of him since the early 1970s because of his opposition to the Vietnam War, I did not know until recently that he is a democratic socialist. But I was not surprised when I learned that.
Are you aware that Bernard “Bernie” Sanders (1941), the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont serving in his third year, also describes himself as a democratic socialist? He is said to be the first open socialist to serve in the Senate. There are, of course, many others, mostly liberal Democrats, who are regularly charged with being socialists. And maybe a number of them are democratic socialist sympathizers. But is should that be considered a bad thing?
If even half of the things Michael Moore says about capitalism are true—and probably more than half are, in fact, true—then it seems to me that followers of Jesus Christ ought to be among the leaders of those seeking an alternative economic system, or at least modification of the present capitalistic system.
Thankfully, there have been some modifications through the years. Michael Harrington (1928-89) was one of the outstanding socialist scholars in the twentieth century. Perhaps his most influential book was The Other America: Poverty in the United States (1962), a work that had an impact on the Kennedy administration and on Johnson’s subsequent “war on poverty.”
So, who loves capitalism? Primarily, those who have capital. And it probably can be said that, in general, the more capital one has, the more that person loves capitalism. But there is little love for capitalism by most of those who live in “the other America,” and also by those who are most concerned for people living in poverty.