If your Christmas gift list includes devotees of the free market, here are some capitalist treats available from Santa advertised in Atlantic Magazine: prison cell upgrade in Santa Ana, Calif. ($90/night); access to carpool lane while driving solo in Minneapolis, Minn. ($8); services of an Indian surrogate mother ($8,000); right to shoot an endangered black rhino ($250,000); your doctor’s cellphone number ($1,500); fast-track immigration approval ($500,000); bypass for most airport security checks ($100); commercial advertising via permanent human tattoos ($10,000); service as human guinea pig for pharmaceutical trials ($7,500); payment to fight as a mercenary soldier in Somalia or Afghanistan ($1,000/day); payment for standing in line overnight for lobbyists on Capitol Hill ($15-20/hour); 2nd-graders reading a book in Dallas, Texas ($2). Cleverly selling such creative privileges, no wonder Santa is fat.
Instead, one might consider supporting calls by our two living popes for a more ethical economic system. Stressing that the economy must serve the people, not vice versa, Benedict XVI sees an “urgent need of a true world political authority” to guide capitalism “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident.” Within and among nations, Francis decries the extreme imbalances in today’s distribution of education, income, wealth, resources and power, particularly regarding women’s voices.
Ellerbrock is director of the Center for Economic Education at Virginia Tech and a deacon for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond.