The Dalai Lama, Marxist?

That a monk announces vaguely incoherent support for an millennial cult shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but these remarks by the Dalai Lama seem to have caused some annoyance:
NEW YORK (AFP)— Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said Thursday that he is a Marxist, yet credits capitalism for bringing new freedoms to the communist country that exiled him — China. “Still I am a Marxist,” the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader said in New York, where he arrived with an entourage of robed monks and a heavy security detail to give a series of paid public lectures.Marxism has “moral ethics, whereas capitalism is only how to make profits,” the Dalai Lama, 74, said.
Dumb, sure, but I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Read the full text of what the Dalai Lama has to say, and it’s easy to see that the exiled Tibetan leader is very far from signing up for the Cheka. That said, the distinction he makes between Marxism with its supposedly “moral” ethics and amoral capitalism is false. Even if we give Marxism some sort of credit for its “morality” (I wouldn’t), the Dalai Lama is comparing apples with oranges. While a moral case can certainly be made for capitalism, capitalism doesn’t pretend to be a moral system in its own right. In essence, it’s nothing but an economic tool. It leaves (and often creates) a space for morality, but does not presume to dictate what those morals should be. Marxism, by contrast, was dreamt up as a comprehensive belief system, and that’s something else altogether. To compare the two in the way that the Dalai Lama has done makes little sense. Then again, he is a monk.

Mao & The Dalai Lama, Oct 13 1954 (AP)

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