Capitalism is not Catholic
#1
19 January 2007
Capitalism is not Catholic

For many years I have been a Free Market Capitalist. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that it is just the conservative thing to do. One thing that unites the majority of conservatives both neo-cons like Sean Hannity and Bill Krystol as well as paleo-conservatives such as Thomas Woods and Pat Buchanan is capitalism and free market economic principles, or at least that mantle even if they read it slightly differently. Free market Capitalism basically means that if you keep markets unregulated in all arenas, business will keep itself well regulated and allow sufficient competition, so that a man with ingenuity and hard work can rise to the top and be a millionaire. How? By using capital at his disposal or in reality someone else's capital, and getting a bunch of wage slaves to produce it into goods for him while he works to manage it, until he either succeeds or fails. This happens on either a large scale or on a small scale. For years this made sense, but since the summer, I have finally called all of this into question, and at last have completely rejected it as a defective produce of the modern era, just as defective as ideas like unrestricted freedom of speech, relativistic morality and democracy. For one the business world working on the free market model has shown itself time and time again unwilling to discipline itself, and more interested in satisfying the bottom line. When the wage of the employee who is going to create wealth he will never see becomes too high, the company will either cut the position, cut the pay, or take its business over seas where it can exploit labor. The illegal immigration problem clearly demonstrates this. My number 2 problem with illegal immigration (after number 1 which is the flow of gangs, criminals and drugs uncontested across the border) is that people coming here to work hard for their family will be exploited by big business and have no legal protection.

I could go on, but rather than complain, it is necessary to show a vision for the future, and to do that it is necessary to point to one thing: Capitalism isn't it. In fact, growing up in America, we are conditioned to think Capitalism good, Communism bad, anything else bad. Outside the box there is no salvation. Suddenly the reader is no doubt pausing in horror, Athanasius, you are not becoming a Communist, are you? You're Communism series hasn't converted you has it? Certainly not. But if you say you are against Capitalism, the first thing that comes to mind is that you must be a Socialist or a Communist. However I feel it necessary to point out at this juncture that just as Communism is an anti-God and anti-Religious philosophy and economic science, Capitalism is equally against Catholic principles and the moral authority of Church teaching. Captialism represents every man for himself alone, the successful man is the one with the most cash philosophy. However measuring one's success in terms of wealth is directly related not to Catholicism, as such a system would seem grossly wicked to 1531 years of Catholics, but with Calvinism. Capitalism truly has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, as Luther and Calvin had no intention of willing the oppression and suffering that occurred with Capitalism, and directly, as their attacks on a system that protected men's livelihood and kept capital concentrated in the hands of the many rather than the few. Luther of course had no economic vision whatsoever. His ideas concerning economics were still quite Catholic in spite of everything else. Calvinism on the other hand began measuring whether or not one was saved based on economic success, since that salvation was predetermined by God and as such unknowable. In the hands of classical economists, one bettered society by making as much money as he could, regardless of the human cost, and thus we arrive at the Free Market Economy. (This would also mean that the reformation is indirectly responsible for socialism, since it created the problem to which Socialism is the proposed solution and would not exist otherwise.

On the other hand there is the Catholic vision for economics, man's livelihood and the social kingship of Jesus Christ. It is not a terribly new system, as it was in practice from the period of the late Roman Empire until by and large after the Protestant and French Revolutions. It is a system which in modern times is called "Distributism", an exposition of Catholic social teaching most identified with Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, who formally introduced it in the early 1900's.

As I said Distributism is nothing new, but a predication of Medieval economic theory and practice. Some critics falsely maintain that it is the same as Socialism, but anyone who makes this objection only shows they do not know what they are talking about. Socialism is predicated on the denial of the right to private property, especially private productive property, whereas Distributism is predicated on the affirmation of the right to private productive property.

Hence the Late Romano-Medieval system, the right of a man to property by which he might take capital and produce it into goods for sale or consumption was paramount, far above the right to make money. This is because a Catholicized society did not see life as the necessity to amass wealth, but as a period to accomplish the salvation of our soul. This focus on the spiritual ends brings about a natural frugality with resources, money, and a modesty in the way one spends his time and engages in worldly goods. Belloc said

"It has been found in practice (that is, it is discoverable through history) that economic freedom thus somewhat limited satisfies the nature of man, and at the basis of it is the control of the means of production by the family unit. For though the family exchange its surplus, or even all its production, for the surplus of others, yet it retains its freedom, so long as the social structure, made up of families similarly free, exercises its effect through customs and laws consonant to its spirit: the Guild; a jealous watch against, and destruction of, monopoly; the safeguarding of inheritance, especially the inheritance of small patrimonies. The freehold miller, in such a society as ours [English] was ours not so long ago, though he had no arable or pasture, was a free man. The yeoman, though he got his flour from the miller, was a free man." -An Essay on the Restoration of Property, pg. 27)

To elaborate on guilds, some falsely maintain that a guild is essentially like our modern notion of a Union. A Union, is essentially a gathering of bureaucrats who live like leeches on the dues of its members under the promise of improving working conditions, a promise delivered 100 years ago, but not even thought about now since the bureaucrats who control unions have gotten a taste of the cash and fine living that comes with being a union president. A Guild never functioned that way. Guilds were a body of craftsmen in a given disciplines such as those of blacksmith, carpenter, cobbler, butcher, etc. Their purpose was to improve craftsmanship on the part of their members and to make sure that they were operating fairly. Dishonest workers would be thrown out of the guild and as such lose business due to a bad reputation. Guilds were inherently Catholic bodies, with their patron saints, celebrations, banners to process into Mass with, and protection from the Church. Its members and leaders were all craftsmen themselves employed in a given trade, not bureaucrats looking to spend the hard earned money of its workers for political gain. Always they defended the livelihood of the worker. Stealing the means by which a man feeds his family through monopolizing was no different than stealing the food itself from his children.

This brings us to the essence of distributism, that which the Guilds labored hard to defend. The name sounds funny, because we are unaccustomed to it. Distributism has nothing to do with government re-distribution, it merely refers to the fact of private productive property being well distributed (or diffused) amongst the people. Belloc notes:

"When so great a number of families in the state possess Private Property in a sufficient amount as to give its color to the whole, we speak of "widely distributed property. It has been found in practice, and the truth is witnessed to by the instincts in all of us, that such widely distributed property as a condition of Freedom is necessary to the normal satisfaction of human nature. In its absence general culture ultimately fails and so certainly does citizenship." -Ibid, pg. 28

Capitalism is also a slightly misleading word. Its name would suggest that it is just a system about the amassing of capital and the production of capital into wealth. However, this would accurately describe every economic arrangement human society has known, including Communism. Capitalism then (as practiced since it was forged by the big three revolutions of Protestantism, the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution) is understood as a system where a minority controls the means of production, and the majority of the dispossessed must sell their labor, because that is all that they have left. The dispossessed are referred to as the "Proletariat" a term used today mostly by Marxists, which predates Marx by half a century. This accurately describes the situation in most of the world today. The alternative that Distributism offers is freedom. Instead of being required to sell our labor for a wage (wage slavery) in order to survive, we ourselves become the producers, consumers, on our own land on our own time. As wage slaves we must be present 9-5, or else risk the wrath of our employer. How many people would trade that to be self-sufficient? Come on, on one side you have life in a little cubicle, no windows, 3 bosses who harass you all day, and the best hours of your life spent not with your spouse and children but with your fat, balding boss, while on the other hand you have life on your terms, so long as you are willing to work hard. Which system seems more conducive to holiness? Distributism is the economics of the middle ages, and it is the only system that represents freedom. Anything else is a godless son of either protestantism or the enlightenment...

http://athanasiuscm.blogspot.com/2007/01...holic.html
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#2
Good article.  By logic, we should see that capitalism is not the answer. 

We are the dispossessed and we are the wage slaves.  It is a travesty that so much of our lives are wasted at jobs that we don't like and at work that doesn't directly support us or those around us.  We waste our hours year after year instead of creating our living with our family and friends. 

Capitalism does stem from Protestantism and it is an inherently selfish, and thus anti-Catholic. 

Things keep getting worse and it's time to leave behind our Godless governments and socioeconomic systems.  The western world has compartmentalized our lives and our religion.  All things must be centered on Christ and all of our hard work in this life should have eternal significance.  It's time to truly reign in the Kingship of Christ.
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#3
Excellent article from Athanasius Contra Mundum.
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#4
Quote: The alternative that Distributism offers is freedom. Instead of being required to sell our labor for a wage (wage slavery) in order to survive, we ourselves become the producers, consumers, on our own land on our own time  (must not have any livestock to deal with?). As wage slaves we must be present 9-5, or else risk the wrath of our employer. How many people would trade that to be self-sufficient? Come on, on one side you have life in a little cubicle, no windows, 3 bosses who harass you all day, and the best hours of your life spent not with your spouse and children but with your fat, balding boss, while on the other hand you have life on your terms, so long as you are willing to work hard.

What am I missing?  Really good farm land that is naturally irrigated is going for around $2,000 per acre.  Further from towns, you can get it for $800 per acre.  So 10 acres will run you around $8K to $20k.  Double it.  Twenty acres should easily support a family.  Get a few pigs, a few cows, and some chickens.  So $40K max gets you that.  $20K is definitely doable.  Most Americans have way more than that stashed away in IRAs and 401(k)s, even after this crash.

So why don't you go and do it, then report back how great it is?  What am I missing?  The Amish are already living this life, so why don't you?
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#5
(07-17-2009, 06:16 PM)Walty Wrote: Good article.  By logic, we should see that capitalism is not the answer. 

We are the dispossessed and we are the wage slaves.  It is a travesty that so much of our lives are wasted at jobs that we don't like and at work that doesn't directly support us or those around us.  We waste our hours year after year instead of creating our living with our family and friends. 

Capitalism does stem from Protestantism and it is an inherently selfish, and thus anti-Catholic. 

Things keep getting worse and it's time to leave behind our Godless governments and socioeconomic systems.  The western world has compartmentalized our lives and our religion.  All things must be centered on Christ and all of our hard work in this life should have eternal significance.  It's time to truly reign in the Kingship of Christ.
Though the reign of Christ the King has nothing to do with being against capitalism. Yes, working is no fun, but then it's always been no fun; that's why work was a part of Adam's punishment. It really is naive to think that if only we didn't have a free market, we could all wok in jobs we loved. Sorry, there will always be the garbage-collector jobs because they'll always need to be done, whatever economic system you have. Capitalism doesn't stem from protestantism at all; considered as free exchange of goods and services, it predates protestantism by thousands of years. When the guy in the next cave over traded his hides for berries, that's capitalism. Now, it's fair to say that protestants approach capitalism differently- they see it as a sign of God's favor, whereas we see the two unconnected.
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#6
Fishie for you!
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#7
(07-17-2009, 09:12 PM)Anastasia Wrote:
(07-17-2009, 06:16 PM)Walty Wrote: Good article.  By logic, we should see that capitalism is not the answer. 

We are the dispossessed and we are the wage slaves.  It is a travesty that so much of our lives are wasted at jobs that we don't like and at work that doesn't directly support us or those around us.  We waste our hours year after year instead of creating our living with our family and friends. 

Capitalism does stem from Protestantism and it is an inherently selfish, and thus anti-Catholic. 

Things keep getting worse and it's time to leave behind our Godless governments and socioeconomic systems.  The western world has compartmentalized our lives and our religion.  All things must be centered on Christ and all of our hard work in this life should have eternal significance.  It's time to truly reign in the Kingship of Christ.
Though the reign of Christ the King has nothing to do with being against capitalism. Yes, working is no fun, but then it's always been no fun; that's why work was a part of Adam's punishment. It really is naive to think that if only we didn't have a free market, we could all wok in jobs we loved. Sorry, there will always be the garbage-collector jobs because they'll always need to be done, whatever economic system you have. Capitalism doesn't stem from protestantism at all; considered as free exchange of goods and services, it predates protestantism by thousands of years. When the guy in the next cave over traded his hides for berries, that's capitalism. Now, it's fair to say that protestants approach capitalism differently- they see it as a sign of God's favor, whereas we see the two unconnected.

Where did I say that in any economic system one could work a job that he loved?  What I said was that in Distributism people are working more directly for their own livelihood, at least in a much greater sense than in capitalism.  And so, instead of sitting at your desk doing just enough work to keep the boss happy so that you can get a paycheck you could work directly to put food on the table for your children via hunting or farming or bartering or whatever.  It's simplifying the process of living and exchanging goods and, I suppose in my vast ignorance, I thought that this could make peoples lives more fulfilling.  Thoreau would have loved this, but I suppose he's a ignorant as well.
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#8
In any system, people work for their livelihood; the man who makes buttons in a factory works just as much for his livelihood (in the form of a paycheck) as does the farmer. People need buttons and things produced in factories and behind desks. Could we be typing this without the computer programmers behind  their desks? And, if you have the inclination to be a farmer, nothing in capitalism is stopping you! If that's what you're good at, go for it. Merely doing agricultural work as opposed to all other kinds is not innately more virtuous. If God gave you the capacity for invention, you would be acting against His will to ignore that and farm. What makes life fulfilling is doing the will of God, God's will being different for each person in his work; planting seeds is not the easy ticket to Heaven. Thoreau was wrong about many things, the innate goodness of working without machines being one of them.
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#9
Luke 12:14-15 Wrote:But he said to him: Man, who hath appointed me judge, or divider, over you? And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life doth not consist in the abundance of things which he possesseth.

Capitalism is not Catholic, but neither is any other economic system. A pre-occupation with economic systems seems to be very dangerous. A Catholic is a Catholic no matter the economic system which surrounds them; we should behave the same way.
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#10
Capitalism is not Catholic. I take it to mean Capitalism as a system is not compatible with a Christian vocation. Personally I don't think any economic system is compatible either.

The reality is there are weak and strong men (in health and in intelligence), poor and rich lands (both in natural and human resources), differences at all levels and areas. Distribution (or redistribution) of all these 'capitals' (or liabilities) is just unrealistic. What is to be distributed? Who deserves more or less? What omnipotent authority can do it? Bewildering questions! The Church is realistic to know that and to hold 'Caesars' to its tasks. For its part, the Church only hold up social remedies in its CST: man as the center of economy, social justice for all (born and unborn), basic human rights, an equitable distribution, a central world authority to do it, etc (Caritas In Veritate). Catholics are to abide in this Christian vocation and men of goodwill, believers or non-believers, are to do the same.
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