The Pope's vow of poverty -- for all

By contrast, the first pope from the Third World shows no understanding of why Argentina is one of the biggest economic failures of the second half of the 20th century. In 1900, Argentina’s GDP per capita (measured in purchasing power parity) was more than 50 percent higher than Italy’s, where the pope’s father had been born. On being elected in 1946, General Perón was surprised by Argentina’s huge gold and foreign-currency reserves: “We have the Central Bank full of gold and we don’t know where to put it any more” Thanks in part to the Second World War, Argentina’s GDP per capita at that time was four-fifths higher than Italy’s. Within three years, Perón had solved the gold storage problem. Inflation was over 50 percent and the Central Bank’s gold reserves had been blown. In 1959, Italy overtook Argentina, and by the end of the century, Italy’s GDP per capita was more than double Argentina’s.

The pope’s green Peronism is hardly going to persuade American conservatives to join his climate crusade. Indeed, the pope invites disagreement with his views. “The Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics,” the Pope writes in Laudato si.’ “But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate.” Surely everyone can agree with that.