But was anyone listening?
That’s my question after attending the 2015 Nobel-prize-winning economist‘s talk last night in Rome at the Vatican-sponsored Cortile dei gentili (Court of Gentiles).
Like the other speakers, Deaton voiced his concerns about income inequality. Unlike the others, however, he said much of it is caused by crony capitalism, a term whose meaning seems to have been lost on the Italian interpreter and hence the audience. She described it as “a type of capitalism” and “negative capitalism” but never really made the connection to politics, which is unfortunate given the high number of Italian politicians in attendance.
Deaton added that countries become rich by escaping poverty, not by impoverishing others, that technological progress has undoubtedly made us richer, and that the world has greatly benefited from globalization even though too many people are still left behind. Government interference through taxes, regulation and corruption does more harm than good. The major problems with globalization are therefore political, not economic.
There were also a number of Italian cardinals and bishops in attendance. Here’s hoping that some of them relay Deaton’s clear-as-day message to Pope Francis, who really ought to be saying, “Crony capitalism kills!” instead of blaming the market economy in general. It is an obvious distinction to economists. In Italy, no one seems to know the difference.