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St. Francis, capitalist?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Sep 12, 2003

What are the intellectual origins of capitalism? Adam Smith, you say? The mercantilists?

Some Italian scholars are advancing a startling new theory: that capitalism can be traced back to roots in Franciscan theology. It's a provocative idea, and while the argument is definitely uphill, it makes for some interesting reading.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Sep. 14, 2003 9:15 PM ET USA

    Among the "good things realized by communism": the death of millions, among whom are canonized saints. What great saints did communism produce?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 13, 2003 6:01 PM ET USA

    Strangely enough, I think the argument has significant merit. Franciscans, by their life-style, demonstrate conclusively that poverty is NOT an absolute evil and even a powerful way to obtain graces when embraced as a calling from God. When poverty is turned into a demon (just as when wealth is turned into an idol) truth is distorted and obscured. It is only when interest is used coercively, exploiting uninvited human distress, that IT becomes an evil. Bravo, Phil! JP SFO

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Sep. 12, 2003 10:02 PM ET USA

    I think a better case can be made for the origin of capitalism in Roger Bacon (an Englishman and reluctant Franciscan) and the Knights Templar -- but neither of them are Italian.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 12, 2003 3:42 PM ET USA

    In the article we read that a Polish reporter quotes the pope as saying: “If present day capitalism is improved, it is in great part because of the good things realized by communism: the fight against unemployment, concern for the poor. Capitalism, on the other hand, is individualistic.” This is a stunning claim, and one that can be challenged by the rising tide of the middle class in England and America in the 19th century, long before commie influence in labor politics took root.

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