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Rusty, Maureen, Fascism, Socialism, Liberalism, Oh My!

In case you already weren’t aware of the scandal at the venerable magazine First Things, one of their blogs written by Maureen Mullarkey; who is a painter in “real life” and writes on art, culture, and the Catholic Church, was taken down by editor Rusty Reno because he felt that the writing on the blog had crossed a line that Rusty was no longer going to tolerate – so he posted an editorial that said in part:

Maureen has a sharp pen and pungent style. Her postings about Pope Francis indicate she’s very angry about this papacy, which she seems to view as (alternately) fascism and socialism disguised as Catholicism. This morning she put up a post that opens with the accusation that the Vatican is conspiring with the Obama administration to destroy the foundations of freedom and hobble the developed world. I've had my staff take it down…

To point that out, as Francis does, in no way makes him a supporter of the Castro brothers or a disciple of Che Guevara, as Maureen implies.

Enough! We need to think about the church and the world as they actually are, not by way of caricatures.

Other writers have commented on the inappropriateness of firing Maureen in this very public fashion – that’s not what interests me here. Instead, I want to explore a more subtle argument that seems to animate Rusty’s criticism of Maureen – that her concern about the Pope’s sympathy for socialist ideas (or run-of-mill left-wing ideas if you prefer!) gives aid and comfort to fascist or totalitarian or tyrannical ideologies. Well, not to put too fine a point on it – they do! Haven’t we been through all of this before?

Well, yes we have, and the link above will take you to the book Liberal Fascism which is an analysis of this very phenomenon – the affinity of left-wing ideas with totalitarian ideas. Jonah’s book is quite excellent, but I just finished a book that performed an earlier analysis of this same phenomenon (Jonah used this book as a reference writing his) and I wanted to bring it to the attention to our readers. The name of the author is Wolfgang Schivelbusch and back in 2006 (Jonah’s book came out in early 2008) he wrote Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939. The book does just what the title suggests – it looks at the three governments in each country, with a particular focus on Roosevelt and his “New Deal” for America and the ways in which it echoed and/or borrowed socialistic/fascist ideas from the Nazis (who were, after all, national socialists) and the Italian Fascists.

Chapter titles include leadership, propaganda, back to the land, and public works; they all look at these elements as present in all three governments (the New Deal, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy) – the propaganda chapter is particularly good at looking at parallels in the use of symbols (“In the 1930s the symbol came to be considered the main unit of currency in political propaganda, an effective “short-cut to understanding and action,” in the words of early propaganda expert Edward Bernays.) – the Nazi and Fascist party symbols everyone knows are compared to Roosevelt’s Blue Eagle campaign for the NRA. The first chapter, however, is a broader look at the similarities between the three governments/political programs and I thought it would be fun to share some of Schivelbusch’s research with our readers.

He begins by demonstrating that both the Nazis and the Fascists were impressed by what Roosevelt was trying to accomplish in America, even if they ultimately scorned our democratic form of government (pages 18-19):

[from Volkischer Beobachter (the Nazi paper), January 17, 1934]

“We, too as German National Socialists are looking toward America….Roosevelt is carrying out experiments and they are bold. We, too, fear only the possibility that they may fail.”

[June 21, 1934]

“If not always in the same words,” the paper wrote, “[Roosevelt], too, demands that collective good be put before individual self-interest. Many passages in his book Looking Forward could have been written by a National Socialist. In any case, one can assume that he feels considerable affinity with the National Socialist philosophy.” The newspaper admitted that Roosevelt maintained what it called “the fictional appearance of democracy,” but it also proclaimed that in the United States “the development toward an authoritarian state is under way.” The author added, “The president’s fundamental political course still contains democratic tendencies but is thoroughly inflected by a strong national socialism.”

Schivelbusch goes on to explain that

Hitler himself told American ambassador William Dodd that he was “in accord with the President in the view that the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people. These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan ‘The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual.’”

The Italians were also impressed (pages 24-25):

A year later, Mussolini was sufficiently convinced of the strength of the president’s position to be rather less diplomatic in his choice of words. In his review of the Italian edition of New Frontiers, a book written by Roosevelt’s secretary of agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, Mussolini wrote:
The book as a whole is just as “corporativistic” as the individual solutions put forth in it. It is both a declaration of faith and an indictment of economic liberalism…Wallace’s answer to the question of what America wants is as follows: anything but a return to the free-market, i.e. anarchistic economy. Where is America headed? This book leaves no doubt that it is on the road to corporatism, the economic system of the current century.

[…]

There was unanimous agreement that the New Deal was just as antiliberal in its economic and social orientation as Fascism. In Gerarchia (Leadership), the Fascist Party’s journal of political theory, Giovanni Selvi characterized the plans of the National Recovery Administration as “bearing a Fascist signature” and as “corporatism without the corporations.”

Schivelbusch also analyzes the domestic image of Roosevelt and it is surprising how closely his contemporaries saw the similarities between the New Deal and Nazism/Fascism (pages 26-31):

Perhaps not surprisingly, comparisons of the New Deal with totalitarian ideologies were part and parcel of the everyday rhetoric of Roosevelt’s domestic enemies.

[…]

Such sentiments could, of course, be put down to the usual partisan politics and intraparty rivalries, were it not for the fact that they were echoed by intellectual observers of economies and social policies who were otherwise Roosevelt allies. They, too, saw a Fascist element at the core of the New Deal. Writing in the Spectator, liberal journalist Mauritz Hallgren noted:

We in America are bound to depend more upon the State as the sole means of saving the capitalist system. Unattended by black-shirt armies or smug economic dictators—at least for the moment—we are being forced rapidly and definitively into Fascism…

In the North American Review, Roger Shaw concurred:

The New Dealers, strangely enough, have been employing Fascist means to gain liberal ends. The NRA with its code system, its regulatory economic clauses and some of its features of social amelioration, was plainly an American adaptation of the Italian corporate state in its mechanics. The New Deal philosophy resembles closely that of the British Labor Party, while its mechanism is borrowed from the BLP’s Italian antithesis.

From a somewhat more orthodox Marxist perspective, V.F. Calverton wrote in the Modern Monthly:

The NRA, without assuming a Fascist guise, is doing part of the job that European Fascism has set out to accomplish: namely, the liquidation of the little man and dissolution of small business as an economic force. Thus Franklin D. Roosevelt, elected by the forgotten men of America, becomes the father of an economic tactic that purposes by its very nature to make those forgotten men totally forgotten by rendering them extinct as a class. In so doing, he is achieving one of the same economic objectives that European Fascism is accomplishing by more drastic and desperate methods.

[…]

By and large, then, American observers had the same picture as their European counterparts of the New Deal’s kinship with Fascism…

The New Dealers themselves always tried to avoid, in public at least, giving the impression that their policies had anything to do with the autocratic and totalitarian systems of Europe. This is hardly surprising, since the greatest fear of American politicians during the 1930s was being labeled “un-American.”

[…]

In private, Roosevelt was much more frank about his sympathy for Mussolini and his interest in the Italian leader’s economic and social order. In contrast to Hitler, with whom he always felt a world of social, ideological, and political difference, Roosevelt had nothing but “sympathy and confidence” in Mussolini up until the mid-1930s. “I don’t mind telling you in confidence,” FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, “that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman.” One of Roosevelt’s first acts after taking office in March 1933 was to appoint Breckinridge Long, ambassador to Rome. A longtime political ally, Long made no secret of his enthusiasm for Fascism’s social model. FDR had long report his impressions from Rome directly to him – not, as was customary, via the State Department. In response to Long’s first enthusiastic missive, Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “There seems to be no question that [Mussolini] is really interested in what we are doing and I am much interested and deeply impressed by what he has accomplished and by his evidenced honest purpose of restoring Italy.”

So, knowing what we know today about liberalism in all of its out-of-control glory, is it so crazy for Maureen to be concerned that the Pope seems to be particularly enamored of liberal political solutions to today’s problems? And was it really appropriate for Rusty to be dismissing her concerns in such a cavalier manner (“she seems to view [the Pope’s ideas] as (alternately) fascism and socialism”?) Maybe that word “alternately” wasn’t necessary Rusty and maybe Maureen has more of a point in her criticism of this Pope than you want to acknowledge?

Comments (67)

It's one thing to (rightly imo) worry about the Holy Father's adventures through Liberalism's Overton Window. Quite another to say he is conspiring with the Obama administration. That's Twin-Tower-inside-job territory.

Scott W.,

The "conspiring" language is Rusty's -- the Pope is quite open about what he hopes to achieve working with the Obama Administration. Here is Maureen in her own words:

The Vatican is partnering with the Obama administration, at the U.N. and later in Paris, in magnifying state control over a free society and tightening the screws on the developed world. This, in the name of saving the planet from the production and growth of those very means by which the poor can raise themselves out of poverty.

I haven't read all of Mullarkey's column, and I guess now I won't be able to, since it's been taken down. But except for the word "demonic," the part Domenech quoted just sounded bitter, at worst, not crazy.

Based on noticing who is crowing over the takedown in my Facebook feed (this would be on the conservative side, since I don't have any *really* liberal Facebook friends), it looks to me like people think this is justified because one isn't supposed to talk that way about the Pope. One is supposed to be more respectful, that level of bashing is out of place, etc. But that is a pretty distinctly Catholic perspective, and my impression is that Reno is trying _not_ to say that he fired her because she wasn't being as respectful of the Pope as a Catholic is supposed to be. Rather, he wants to convey that she's straying into true nuttiness territory. Well, if I read her more, I'd have data for an opinion on that. I usually have a pretty good nose for nutcases on the right, and I would say based on the couple of paragraphs Domenech quoted that the only thing that sets my antenna quivering there is the word "demonic."

Lydia,

The whole original column is available here:

http://www.onepeterfive.com/notes-on-a-road-show/

"One Peter Five" now hosts her as a writer.

Hmm, okay. A few "on the one hand, on the other hand" reactions:

Her anger at the pope's one-sidedness and all-around willingness to be a mere tool of the left is justified. Her anger at his lack of perspective is justified--lecturing and thundering about air conditioning and global warming while soft-peddling under the statue of Guevera. This pope is, quite frankly, an embarrassment. She sees that, and she's not afraid to say it. He's a mere man of the left with all the shallowness and preoccupations thereof, and those who try to turn him into something or someone profound are merely making a creation of their own and demanding that others respect it. That must be infuriating. I sympathize with her, and indeed with all clear-eyed Catholics during this papacy.

Her language is over-the-top. Not just the word demonic. The comparison to the Nazi salute was...journalistic cutesiness trying to be profound. At the best, that and the comparison to "il Duce" sounded like the kind of thing a literature major would write because he thought he was making some deep, intertextual Connection with a capital C. At the worst, that sort of talk is a symptom that one is playing to the crazed sedevacantist Right. The use of Francis's pre-papal name (Bergoglio) is also common in the latter circles. If she is not a Catholic (I haven't looked it up), then the former interpretation is the one I would go with--she's just mad and trying to make as many profound-sounding, historic-sounding connections as possible. If she is Catholic, then it begins to look like the latter, I'm afraid to say. And for all that I understand the anguish and fury of the sedevacantists, the rad-trads of the trad-trad, with this _particular_ pope, the fact must be faced that many of them are plain crazy, and it's understandable that First Things doesn't want to host one. Domenech may not recognize the code language, but that may be because he never reads those web sites. If one ever does, I'm afraid Mullarkey sounds familiar, and not in a good way.

But I suppose it may have been difficult for Reno to put the matter in just precisely those terms.

I suppose she could have used less "pungent" language. But is what she says inaccurate?

The statement that the iphone-carrying crowds bear some deep resemblance to the fascist salute does not rise to the level of being accurate or inaccurate. It is mere literary rhetoric and association-making. The statement that the pope's plans (or something--his visit? his activities?) are demonic is probably _not_ accurate, insofar as we take it to mean something sufficiently clear and literal to rise to the level of being accurate or inaccurate.

A lot of other things she says and implies are accurate, but those probably aren't the reason Reno cashiered her.

The "demonic" was dumb, and the fascist salute reference was a mistake, but mostly the article was a fair enough indictment of a nonsensical Vatican given over to being useful idiots for other, more nefarious actors on the stage - if Mullarkey is simply a Christian who sympathizes with the usual role of the Vatican for good over the last century and more. If she is a Catholic, though, the tone is excessive. But not goofy / nutty like the sedevacantists. She isn't trying to imply that he isn't even pope, for example.

I don't agree that using "Bergoglio" was particularly indicative of anything nasty, she was quoting another article, and highlighting the common origin of Francis and Guevara by using his pre-Vatican name. It may not be a particularly worthy point to bother making, or bother making in that specific way, but it's also not a completely useless point either - the Pope's politics do seem decidedly South American in flavor.

I don't know whether the pope is just a well-meaning sophomoric thinker in over his head or if he is an out-and-out ideologue like Mullarkey claims. And I am not sure it would be possible to identify the difference from this distance, given things like the fact that once the pope is in office, he is a dictator (errr, single-source authority without legal check, balance, or override...which comes to the same thing, no?) and doesn't need to get approval ratings from voters. I do greatly wonder how much damage he will do to sound thinking in the Church, everything from his goofy faux pas like "who am I to judge" and "the greatest commandment - to love one another", to his more intentional, more planned effort to shove poverty as the core of the Gospel.

But I've heard sedevacantists talk exactly like that ("heard" in the Internet sense) even when they don't bother to imply in some given piece of writing that he isn't pope. Her type of over-the-top language is pretty typical, actually. I admit that my experience is somewhat limited, but it's not nil.

This Pope scolds the haves for wanting to keep more of their money and demanding the state be discerning. He never scolds the lower classes for burdening the state with their social pathologies. That's all you really need to know about the man on most of these economic and political issues. It's pure class warfare.

Mike T,

Bless your heart! I was worried the discussion on this post would never get to what I hoped would be a more interesting topic than "did Mullarkey use appropriate language?" I am much more interested in the underlying political ideas and I like the way Lydia puts it -- this Pope has been too willing to be a "mere tool of the left." Related to that though, is the point Mike T is making, which I think is related to the broader point that people like Goldberg and my author, Schivelbusch make, namely that there is a basic tyranny associated with left-wing ideas and leftists are driven to use the State to create their egalitarian utopia, by any means necessary. They never stop and ask, maybe people aren't equal in the first place (in talent, in moral character, in intelligence, etc.) and the push to make everyone equal is doomed to fail and only empower the state and make everyone's life (except for those in power) miserable.

Posting that last comment, I just thought of this classic quote:

“No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?”

"There is something to be said for socialism but there is nothing to be said for capitalism"
Chesterton

Do American Catholics appreciate this remark? All recent Popes have criticized capitalism. Socialism is a mistake about common good but the capitalism of the virulent variety denies common good altogether. Why is nobody calling out Mises or Rand as demonic?

When the Catholic church calls for State provision of medical care for poor, it is socialist but exactly the same rationale was given by Hobby Libby--that they were obliged to provide health care for their employees--they are heroes for liberty.

"lower classes with their pathologies"
Again Chesterton picked out this most remarkable modern idea, the idea that is fundamentally anti-Christian--that the rich are morally superior.

And what about subversion of the entire social system by the upper classes, the educated meritocratic elite? Who has been poisoning the well which the lower classes drink from?

And what precisely is the problem with fascism?
As Peter Hitchens wrote in another context of the same question:

Allow me to raise the question of why the fascist state from its inception was so wicked that the papacy should never have made any agreement with its representatives. Among the evil states of the last hundred years, Mussolini’s government seems relatively benign, certainly up until the late 1930s. Except for a few assassinations, mostly outside Italy; it did not kill its enemy; except for its intermittent hectoring of church organizations, it left the economy and civil society largely free; and it was quite tolerant of the Jews up until the late 1930s. Up until then, moreover, the fascist government enjoyed the effusive approval of Winston Church, FDR and his Brain Trusters, the New Republic magazine, and a multitude of Jewish organizations. The virtues ascribed to this regime were mostly exaggerated, but so are its present demonization, which may have to do the current political climate.

"There is something to be said for socialism but there is nothing to be said for capitalism" Chesterton

Do American Catholics appreciate this remark? All recent Popes have criticized capitalism. Socialism is a mistake about common good but the capitalism of the virulent variety denies common good altogether. Why is nobody calling out Mises or Rand as demonic?

Well, yes, there is something to be said for totalitarian dictatorship, too.

As Pope Leo XIII and Pope Pius XI and Pope St. John Paul II said, socialism (whatever good can be said of it), is inherently contrary to human social order. Capitalism is not. Socialism is fundamentally a disorder because it directly defies subsidiarity, which is built into human nature. Capitalism when run amok is bad for men and for society, but it is not so inherently. JPII made it perfectly clear, in Centesimus Annus, that capitalism must be DISTINGUISHED between the good forms and the bad forms in order to speak about it correctly.

BI, it's really an astonishing leap from Mike's remark that the Pope has culpably refrained from admonishing lower class pathologies, to the idea that "the rich are morally superior."

Charles Murray was onto something when he wrote in Coming Apart (I believe) that America's educated elite need to start "preaching what they practice." Indeed, the ranks of liberal activists have swelled with people who are personally disciplined, temperate, and forbearing, but whose normally sanctimonious manner abruptly abandons them when it comes to preaching these virtues in public. They have not the least compunction against severe judgmentalism on fossil fuel emissions or the necessity of recycling; but when it comes to, oh, I don't know, say, the harvesting of dismembered babies for the parts, by preying on the indiscipline and anxiety of lower-class women, they go strangely silent.

You'd think that a pope concerned with the exploitation of the poor might take time to note, now and then, the ignominious fact that while there are few Planned Parenthood abortuaries in wealthy suburban neighborhoods, they're abundant in the poor and downtrodden sections of town.

Jeff,

This Pope is said to have a great deal of personal experience dealing with the poor. More so than many pastors and priests. His behavior leaves me wondering if either he has overlooked many obvious pathologies or Latin America's poor tend to behave more conservatively (ha!) What I see when I survey the poor people around me, including in my own family, is a tendency to treat sex dangerously casually even by middle class standards, consume whatever they want and not plan for their future. They don't need lectures on redistribution and a humane economy, they need to be told to stop acting the way they do.

Again Chesterton picked out this most remarkable modern idea, the idea that is fundamentally anti-Christian--that the rich are morally superior.

You seem completely unaware of the fact that my comment said "haves," not rich. That includes the middle class and even a chunk of the working class that through good practices have scraped together a good life. This is a Pope who lectures the middle class on owning iPhones and not wanting to pay higher taxes while ignoring that much of the increased need for public service comes from people behaving like trailer trash in their personal lives.

To attempt to examine the Church or its leadership through the lens of contemporary politics is, essentially, a category error. The pope is not a politician, the Church is not a political party nor about such things.
This error becomes more egregious when attempting to fit the Church within the narrow confines of contemporary American and Western European political concepts, all of which are rather firmly within the Liberal realm. The "fight" between the modern Western "Left" and "Right" is no more than a disagreement between Centre-Left Liberals and Centre-Right Liberals *at most*.
Further, authentic Catholic social justice stances, which His Holiness is rather obviously familiar with and championing, explicitly disregard the artificial economic dichotomy of Communism/Socialism and Capitalism - this is why Communists honestly believe the Church to be a tool of Capitalist oppression and for Capitalists to honestly believe the Church is a tool of Communist/Socialist oppression. In fact, both are merely betraying an ignorance of the scope and nature of actual Church teachings.
Furthermore, the Church points out very clearly that rash judgment, detraction, calumny, etc. are sins; participation in such things is to participate in sin. Any, *any* purposeful attempt to harm the reputation of *any* person must be examined in the light of the fact that if you do not have the authority to do so and/or a pressing need to do so you are putting your mortal soul in peril.

The Pope's emphasis on "the haves" and their duties while not addressing the various and sundry pathologies of the "have nots" is unlikely to be rooted in any Catholic social doctrine. This is why some of the devout Catholics I know are very upset with him. They see a Pope who has "taken sides" rather than one who preaches the gospel and moral law to all classes and tells all men to shape up and confront their failings.

And while you may be correct about the Catholic Church, the Pope is not a living embodiment of its doctrines. He is a man who tries to adhere to them as best as he can, but brings his own cultural baggage with him like all other Popes. This Pope comes from Argentina which is politically dominated by a form of Fascism. That is the particular form of liberalism that informed his life experiences.

What he needs is to be gently challenged to expand his criticism to all classes and be as unafraid of telling the poor man to follow Catholic moral teachings on sex, gluttony and thrift as he is to tell the rich to follow them on sex, generosity and abstaining from greed.

I think Mullarkey is right to emphasize the idiocy of the pope's present emphases in the light of such genuine crises as ISIS's crucifixion of Christians. It's right up there with, "What's the worst problem facing the world right now?" "Youth unemployment."

Mike T,

What have you been drinking the past couple of days? You are knocking them out of the ball park!!! Speaking of which, if the Cubs win tonight, then I'll know that the Holy Spirit is definitely working overtime in my life ;-)

Your 9:50 AM comment is a perfect rejoinder to King Richard -- this pope has chosen to get political, and to promote foolish ideas -- and we can be good and faithful Catholics and point out these facts without putting our souls in mortal peril. A writer much better than I, Anthony Esolen, just came out with a book that analyzes authentic Catholic social justice teaching that makes a mockery of quite a bit of what this Pope has to say on the subject (not everything, of course, but quite a bit.)

King Richard,

When one studies what the Church has to say about social justice it is very easy to come to the conclusion that capitalism as practiced by most modern western countries (and many Asian imitators) fits well within a social justice framework and indeed, can be thought of as the best way for a society to flourish. If you have better ideas for how to allocate most scarce resources (because governments will step in the breach and get involved in some resource allocation in all modern capitalist economies), I'm all 'ears.'

Jeffrey,
You wrote,
"...it is very easy to come to the conclusion that capitalism as practiced by most modern western countries (and many Asian imitators) fits well within a social justice framework..."
Except, of course, for the small issue of the cornerstone of contemporary Capitalism being usury, a sin. This may explain the express concerns towards Capitalism expressed in a number of encyclicals over the last century and a half. Additionally, the fact that laissez-faire Capitalist theory demands that morals and ethics have no place in economics and that morally positive outcomes are, at best, incidental and I do not agree that
"...it is very easy to come to the conclusion that capitalism... ...fits well in the social justice framework..."

Of course, the concern for Capitalism does not match the staunch opposition against Communism expressly voiced by popes during that same period, Pope Francis most recently, but lesser opposition is not approval.
The alternative is a form of Distributism, as well expressed by cherbelloc and many others.

I apologize - 'cherbelloc' was meant to be 'chesterbelloc'

King Richard,

Thanks for the response.

This website has hosted a number of excellent essays about the problems with contemporary finance:

http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/03/the_great_usury_crisis.html

I think our main disagreement lies in your use of the word "cornerstone" -- I and others are convinced that finance as practiced today can be reformed without any serious disruption to capitalism.

I also notice that you snuck in the concept of "laissez-faire Capitalist theory" -- as I said in my first comment, no modern western government practices such a thing -- this is a straw-man that you battle for no good reason. It seems very easy to believe in the power of capitalism and free markets to help us allocate scarce resources (and promote innovation) while at the same time use any moral framework you like, including a Catholic/Christian framework to regulate markets and the sale of certain goods and services.

There are aspects of Distributism that appeal to me, but in many ways I find the ideas impractical and more likely than not, inferior to modern (regulated) capitalism.

Jeffrey,
You wrote,
"I also notice that you snuck in the concept of "laissez-faire Capitalist theory" -- as I said in my first comment, no modern western government practices such a thing -- this is a straw-man that you battle for no good reason."
No nation currently practices Communism, yet the ideological and theoretical concepts of Communism both influence people, groups, governments, etc. and need to be countered as false. Capitalist theory is, likewise, obviously influential and needs to be countered as false.

You wrote,
"...the power of capitalism and free markets to help us allocate scarce resources..."
Free markets are, in point of fact, a key idea of laissez-faire Capitalist theory and specifically what I referenced when I stated,
"...laissez-faire Capitalist theory demands that morals and ethics have no place in economics and that morally positive outcomes are, at best, incidental..."

In other words, you are expressly using the theoretical concepts I am pointing to even as you say they are a strawman.

this reminds me of something. Please, go here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjKD9kEAvzw

And watch from about 5:55 to about 6:30. The entire thing is quite good, but that section is directly applicable.

Capitalism makes very serious errors ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man, similarly to how Communism, etc. make mistakes. Distributism is not merely a framework of morals around economics, it is the acknowledgement that the separation of economic activity from general human activity is, just like the analysis of the Church via a lens of politics, a category error.

When most conservatives say "Capitalism," they seem to mean something is a bit more minarchist than Distributism.

The problem with this Pope is that he seems to have little appreciation for the economic liberty aspects of Capitalism which are important both for individuals and society; the freedom to create and work is one of the most precious liberties there is in terms of promoting the common good and letting people find fulfillment in the work they do.

King Richard,

I appreciate our efforts to understand one another, and I also will check out the link you gave me. I still think we are talking past each other, and I suspect the fault lies with me more than you. For example, you are quite correct that I used the phrase "free markets" in the context of thinking about allocating scarce resources. I happen to think price signals and the ability to own property, accumulate wealth, invest that wealth, etc.. etc. all lead to human flourishing. BUT, I also think that markets cannot be purely free -- which is why I followed up my statement about "free markets" with the phrase "a Catholic/Christian framework to regulate markets and the sale of certain goods and services." The obvious example would be a Christian understanding of the human person which suggests that no matter what price the market puts on the sale of sex, any government that works for the common good will ban such sales and make the trade in sex illegal. Such a basic, common-sense Christian understanding of politics and how markets should be regulated is still a far cry from Distributism or the left-wing ideas of a typical egalitarian Democrat in America.

Thanks again, as always, for the respectful debate.

Free markets are, in point of fact, a key idea of laissez-faire Capitalist theory and specifically what I referenced when I stated, "...laissez-faire Capitalist theory demands that morals and ethics have no place in economics and that morally positive outcomes are, at best, incidental..."
Capitalism makes very serious errors ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man,

K Richard, you can't say such things HERE and expect that you are conveying something coherent and intelligible.

JPII in Centesimus Annus:

Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called "unbridled capitalism" was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity...
In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work.73 In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. Such a society is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.

The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition.

42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

The answer is obviously complex. If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a "business economy", "market economy" or simply "free economy". But if by "capitalism" is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.

Let it be clear here and now and forever more:

By the term CAPITALISM, (without further qualification) we mean only the notion of an economic system that allows for private property and human free choice to set aside amount from current use for eventual investment in a higher productive mode of work, and "the legitimate role of profit " thereon This term says neither something FOR nor something AGAINST a large government role in this system, other than the government role of confirming private property. It says nothing FOR nor AGAINST regulation in the marketplace. The term allows the possibility, but does not demand it.

By the term "UNBRIDLED CAPITALISM" is denoted that economic theory that adds to "capitalism" the notion that generally the government has no role, and no authority, to limit the personal choices of individuals in the use of their private property, and generally avoids a government role in trying to moderate market forces and other economic factors.

By the term "LIMITED CAPITALISM" we may denote that economic theory, as JPII indicates, that includes capitalism and imbues it with the other human dimensions (beyond mere capacity for work and creativity) such as (for one example of a limited capitalism) both freedom and responsibility, to regard the the place of the economic order as a part, and only a part, of a well-ordered society, "which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious".

You cannot, *cannot*, CANNOT, speak usefully here in terms of "capitalism" without making clear which notion you are invoking. You cannot speak without distinguishing it explicitly as "unbridled capitalism" if you _mean_ unbridled capitalism, and be understood.

If, on the other hand, you wish to maintain the thesis that capitalism as such, the notion capitalism without further qualification, the simple notion, "makes serious errors" about the nature of Man, then you have to argue against JPII.

Similarly, the term "free market" is not - at THIS blog - meant an absolutely and utterly unregulated market, but merely "a market which allows free choice in the setting of pricing and selection of goods and services." Here also, you must distinguish between senses and qualifications of the term: "unregulated free markets" are not the same animal as "regulated free markets" or perhaps "limited free markets" Say what you mean by saying it clearly. Make the distinctions. Add the extra word or two. Don't obscure what could be clear.

Tony,

It's about time the cavalry arrived. Thank you for clearing up some of my sloppiness with terms and bringing in Blessed John Paul II for the assist. It is a pleasure to have you around :-)

CAPITALISM as used by many previous Popes meant a system in which capital and property was concentrated in a few men ("the capitalists") leaving the mass of the population as wage-earners.
This is also how Chesterton and the Distributists use the term.

The principle trouble of modern capitalism, even in the sense Tony gives above, is the dominance of the anonymously owned giant corporations and consequent deluding of the mass of the people in the delusive notion of "financial property". The Church speaks of private property and how many people possess it?. Private property means independent existence and not subsisting as a wage-earner.
Clearly, capitalism as Tony defines does not secure private property.

Jeffrey S,
You offer unspecific criticism of Distributism. In a recent post on Free Market Impersonalism, I had presented Distributism as a thesis that wealth distribution in a community is a legitimate part of the common good.
Do you disagree with it? If so, I note that Tony there agreed with this thesis. Now, normally that should not matter to you but I point it out only because here you are applauding Tony's defense of the capitalism.

CAPITALISM as used by many previous Popes meant a system in which capital and property was concentrated in a few men ("the capitalists") leaving the mass of the population as wage-earners. This is also how Chesterton and the Distributists use the term.

Proof? Quotes? Evidence?

Even if we suppose that people sometimes used the terms without precision, that's no excuse for us to do so. Leo XIII did not use the term that way. And JPII of happy memory CLARIFIED the terminology for us beautifully. To backtrack on the progress JPII made would be to intentionally diminish the Church's patrimony.

The Church speaks of private property and how many people possess it?. Private property means independent existence and not subsisting as a wage-earner.

What the hell are you talking about? There are millions upon millions of workers who own their own homes - private property - but who are wage workers and do not receive any significant income from capital. There are other millions who, while remaining wage earners, ALSO receive some significant income from capital. Both these groups enjoy private property. There is no logical relationship (for or against) with "private property" and "being a wage earner".

The principle trouble of modern capitalism, even in the sense Tony gives above, is the dominance of the anonymously owned giant corporations and consequent deluding of the mass of the people in the delusive notion of "financial property".

We have, in these pages, repeatedly denounced usury and other excesses associated with the current economy's love of finance perversions. But these excesses do not, so far as I can see, include the very notion of "stock" in a corporation. If that is your claim, support it. Make a case. Don't just posit it.

Clearly, capitalism as Tony defines does not secure private property.

Capitalism (unqualified) isn't FOR "securing" private property, is ASSUMES that society will protect private property. As I said above. If what you mean is that capitalism (unqualified) doesn't SPREAD property around to the many, of itself, that's true. Nor does it (of itself) resist being spread around to the many. It is neutral on the point. What we have seen in the actually existing capitalism of recent decades is a trend, incomplete but still real, of narrowing and concentration of much capital in fewer hands. But there are opposing threads of actual practice also: the many millions who own mutual funds rather than individual stocks, for example; the tens of millions whose pensions and 401ks are invested in stocks and mutual funds. The actually existing situation also is not PURE "unbridled capitalism", given the many, many restraints on capital - everything from the anti-trust laws to the SEC to the banking regulations. They aren't satisfactory, but there can be no doubt that the picture is MIXED.

I had presented Distributism as a thesis that wealth distribution in a community is a legitimate part of the common good. Do you disagree with it? If so, I note that Tony there agreed with this thesis.

Oh for goodness sake! There's a mis-used and obfuscated word! It is used to mean 2 or 3 different things, even by the Chesterbelloc and Dorothy Day sorts who first pushed it.

Hell, even the UNBRIDLED CAPITALISTS are in favor of "wealth distribution" in the community: distributed mostly to them is still "distributed". You aren't even making sense, nor using the distinction I made.

I "agreed with" the happenstance of "property widely distributed". I agreed not at all to the REST of the baggage that usually inhabits Distributism with a capital D. "Property widely distributed" isn't an "ism" of any kind at all, it is a descriptive, not prescriptive. If what YOU mean by the term is merely "property widely distributed", say that and stop using "Distributism", and you will get along much better here.

Jeffrey,
You wrote,
"I still think we are talking past each other"
Almost certainly, although not at cross-purposes, it seems. One of the issues I encounter in politics and economics is people separated by a common language. My best example is Objectivists, who use... unusual... definitions of words like 'axiom'.
In the end 'economics' is nothing but a subset of human interaction so, like all human interaction, it is governed *and defined* by morals and ethics.

Tony,
You wrote,
"K Richard, you can't say such things HERE and expect that you are conveying something coherent and intelligible."
What do you mean by "here"? The internet/ This blog? This comment thread? And, pray tell, how is the statement,
"Capitalism makes very serious errors ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man"
either incoherent or unintelligible? The statement is rather simple -
Capitalism makes very serious errors.
About what?
Things ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man.
Simple, easy to grasp.
I suspect you are mistaking 'unsupported' for 'unintelligible'.

You wrote,
"You cannot, *cannot*, CANNOT, speak usefully here in terms of "capitalism" without making clear which notion you are invoking"
I direct your attention to the term "laissez-faire Capitalism", which I not only used and repeated to specify what I was discussing, but which you also *quoted*. I am not attempting to be pedantic, but 'laissez-faire Capitalism'is the proper term for what you seem to call 'unbridled capitalism'.
In short, I did specify precisely what I was discussing and you misunderstood it.

You wrote, in a number of ways,
'at THIS blog'
I suggest, gently, that if you are going to develop an idiosyncratic vocabulary that both differs from academic or common usage that you also expect visitors to use that you post a glossary.

Perhaps if you were to ask me what I meant beforehand?

I direct your attention to the term "laissez-faire Capitalism", which I not only used and repeated to specify what I was discussing, but which you also *quoted*. I am not attempting to be pedantic, but 'laissez-faire Capitalism'is the proper term for what you seem to call 'unbridled capitalism'.

There is no one, single, completely recognized term for the notions involved, different authors use different terms for the same thing, and use the same term in slightly different senses in discussions of "capitalism" of the various sorts. I will accept that

'laissez-faire Capitalism'

is a common term in the field. I direct your attention to this definition, found readily on the web:

lais·sez faire also lais·ser faire (lĕs′ā fâr′, lā′zā) n. 1. An economic doctrine that opposes governmental regulation of or interference in commerce beyond the minimum necessary for a free-enterprise system to operate according to its own economic laws.

Since "the minimum necessary for a free-enterprise system" is taken to imply different things to different authors, it works out that different authors think different situations will answer to the expression 'laissez-faire Capitalism'.

In practice, we find that effectively any and every system man has ever known in recorded history has SOME government role in the marketplace, (a role rejected by, for example, anarcho-libertarians), there is no extant example of some pristine, ideal form of capitalism with absolutely no government involvement. And yet, because we do actually have anarcho-libertarians in the argument, we have to at least recognize the CONCEPT of a a species of capitalism that permits no government role at all. Would this answer to your notion of 'laissez-faire Capitalism'? It doesn't answer to the definition I quoted above, and it doesn't answer to the sense I have seen in articles by recognized authors. Hence 'laissez-faire Capitalism' represents yet another place-holder in the argument.

I have seen, and propose for your consideration, a kind of a continuum of varying "capitalisms". On the far right extremity of the line we have the anarcho-libertarian's dream capitalism, with no government involvement at all. Toward the other extreme leftwards will be the many varieties of capitalism that permit governments to regulate the minutest details of economic activity. True 'laissez-faire Capitalism' will occupy a place (or a range of places) closer to the right extreme than, for example, any EXISTING example of a national arrangement, since every nation regulates the economy more than "the minimum necessary for a free-enterprise system to operate." Few of the existing economies of the nations will purely and cleanly answer to the most leftward extremities, the "state-capitalism" (i.e. socialism) as explained by JPII in Centesimus Annus (CA). In order not to be misunderstood in a discussion like this, in referring to 'laissez-faire Capitalism' you would have to give at least a hint as to your notion of which government roles are "necessary for a free-enterprise system to operate" and which ones often proposed are not necessary.

"Capitalism makes very serious errors ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man"
either incoherent or unintelligible? The statement is rather simple -

I assumed that you are not trying to defy JPIIs position on "capitalism" in CA. With that assumption, since the term "capitalism" covers all of the species of capitalism, including the far right extreme with no government involvement at all, the 'laissez-faire Capitalism' species, the social-safety versions of Western Europe, and the form of capitalism proposed by JPII, it covers many different systems with many different kinds of errors. But as a generic term, it INCLUDES also the species of capitalism proposed by JPII that does NOT harbor any errors about the nature of wealth and the nature of man. So to hold, both at the same time, that there IS a species of capitalism that avoids errors about the nature of wealth and the nature of man, and that the expression "capitalism" refers to a system that makes such errors is incoherent.

Or are you repudiating Centessimus Annus? If so, I was wrong about your comment being incoherent: you merely had not explained yourself sufficiently yet. That's OK. Feel free to explain what errors Capitalism harbors. Keep in mind that "Capitalism" is the generic expression that covers all the species of capitalism mentioned.

Tony,
you wrote,
"There is no one, single, completely recognized term for the notions involved"
First, 'Laissez-faire Capitalism' is generally agreed to mean 'the separation of the economy and the state'; while other definitions can be found by looking, a key point about the topic at hand (i.e., my response to you) is that 'laissez-faire Capitalism' has a generally recognized definition while "unbridled capitalism" does *not*. Since my response concerned your claim that I was using unclear language....

Second, we are dicussing (as I stated, more than once) theory and the impact of theory on reality your claim that 'any and every system man has ever known in recorded history has SOME government role in the marketplace' is moot (as well as unsupportable). Just as when a Communist says 'well, *real* Communism has never been tried' as an attempt to avoid a critique of Marxist theory this approaches the status of a continuum fallacy.
As for the interjection of your own definition of a term and informally demanding that I adopt it (rather than ask me to clarify) that is a form of 'definition retreat'.

You wrote,
"I have seen... ...a kind of a continuum of varying "capitalisms". On the far right..."
Capitalism is, by definition, a Liberal position and therefore a Leftist position. Yes, I know you mean 'classic Liberalism' as opposed to 'Progressive Liberalism', I am just amused by someone who states that Capitalism is 'far Right' shortly before stating ' In order not to be misunderstood in a discussion like this...' directed at *someone else*.

You wrote,
"I assumed that you are not trying to defy JPIIs position on "capitalism" in CA"
Considering I hadn't referenced it, no. Of course, neither are you. In that encyclical His Holiness mentioned;
"the rules of the earliest period of capitalism still flourish in conditions of "ruthlessness"
and
"the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing."
This is a contrast of early and contemporary Capitalism *which dismisses both* as unjust.
It also contains,
"what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism"
Which is a critique of Socialism *as a type of Capitalism*.
It goes on,
"We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called "Real Socialism" leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization."
This is obviously a rejection of Capitalism as the 'model'.
Yes, the encyclical states,
"If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative"
But this is neither a formal definition nor written alone. Seen in the continuum of writing from Rerum Novarum forward His Holiness is pointing to those things written by his predecessors and saying that *the totality* of Catholic teachings on economics, NOT Capitalism, must be the basis going forward.
Considering His Holiness' familiarity with Catholic scholarship on economics and the title of the encyclical this is a frim conclusion shared widely.

You wrote,
"Keep in mind that "Capitalism" is the generic expression that covers all the species of capitalism mentioned."
As defined by you, yes. As formally defined, Capitalism does not, no.

I find you fascinating; you refuse to ask for clarity before critiquing while also demanding clarity; you use idiosyncratic definitions for common or scholarly terms then invoke an anecdote about 'recognized authors'; you interject yourself into a friendly discussion between other people with off-the-cuff insults that add nothing while demanding others respect your input.
Is this absence of charity an act, or are you this intemperate in general?

irst, 'Laissez-faire Capitalism' is generally agreed to mean 'the separation of the economy and the state'; while other definitions can be found by looking, a key point about the topic at hand (i.e., my response to you) is that 'laissez-faire Capitalism' has a generally recognized definition while "unbridled capitalism" does *not*.

Your definition is at least as idiosyncratic as the one put forward by Tony. Laissez-faire Capitalism is generally taken to make the government literally taking a "hands off" approach to the economy. That is an erring on the side of economic freedom, not against it. Not permitting state-sanction monopolies, not granting favors, not subsidizing this or disadvantageously taxing that.

you interject yourself into a friendly discussion between other people with off-the-cuff insults that add nothing while demanding others respect your input.

Much like how you spent a good portion of a thread on Zippy's blog asserting how I said that Catholics are not Americans, despite the fact that early on I explicitly informed you that my commentary said nothing of the sort?..

Mike,
I do my utmost to ignore you but someone pointed out that you are, once more, being 'less than honest' about something I have said.
And I do admit, it took me a few minutes to find that discussion of 19 months ago, one you both keep referencing and keep getting wrong.

In that thread (which has nothing to do with this one except A) I am in both and B) your ego is still bruised by something everyone else has long forgotten) you wrote (a direct Cut and Paste);
"I will not accept as countrymen those who would reduce me to a dhimmi, especially those Catholic immigrants whose familial claim to being Americans is far less solid than mine"
Noe, the thread can be linked (although I will not do so, as it is too tangential to this one) but it stands fairly clearly on its own.
My reply was,
"On the one hand you decry a ‘hardened class structure’ and on the other you state you believe Catholics aren’t nearly American enough because their families have not been there long enough!"
It was part of a longer post pointing out the silliness of your statement.
Please assume I do not read any of your posts unless someone else references them and asks, directly, that I address them.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is a one man demonstration of the word "irony."

What is it that Lydia does in these situations? Blows her whistle like this: tweeeeeeeeeeeet!!!!!!!!!!

Something like that.

Please, gentlemen -- let us stick to the arguments at hand and avoid the gratuitous insults! I've been spending a bit of time lately on an atheist blog and it would make your hair stand on end to read their remarks to me -- let's not stoop to their level!!

That said, in the interest of promoting peace between two alt-Right commenters/bloggers, I think I can see what the problem was in King Richard's long ago comment. At no point did Mike T state that Catholics "familial claim" was "less solid" due to the length of time in America -- indeed, it is unclear based on that quote why Mike T thinks Catholics have a less solid claim to being Americans than he does. He hints at the reason when he says "those who would reduce me to a dhimmi" (not me Mike!!!) and perhaps that is what his statement about Catholics is based on. So I can see why he thought King Richard was mischaracterizing his position. That said, I can also see why King Richard would be upset that Mike T just now said he (King Richard) asserted "that Catholics are not Americans" -- King Richard did not make that assertion.

So you both get a time out and should bury the hatchet as Christian gentlemen and work toward healing your rift. Let us not forget the fruits of the Holy Spirit! May you both experience them today!!

Jeff,

Where it started:

My view is not based upon a stereotype, but rather what tradcons often say they would rather have. Someone who pines for a pre-modern monarchy with its tenuous rule of law, hardened class structure and minimalist conception of the limits of state power over the public has no credibility with me when they say their instincts aren’t authoritarian in the oppressive connotation of that word. This thread is a good example of why I don’t trust most tradcons with power, especially Catholic tradcons. I will not accept as countrymen those who would reduce me to a dhimmi, especially those Catholic immigrants whose familial claim to being Americans is far less solid than mine (over 300 years and counting).

I was far less precise that I intended in that last statement, but in the context of the rest of thread it should be clear that I was referring to Catholics of the sort Zmirak was writing about.

As to why I brought it up, I brought it up because it amuses me to see King Richard get on his high horse. Here is a man who doesn't have the grace to accept my elaborations at face value, and then comes here and calls Tony all sorts of variation of disrespectful.

I mean, FFS, Jeff he accuses Tony of being rude. That's about as hilariously wrong as accusing Tucker Carlson of being a wild man.

Jeffrey,
I appreciate your efforts at reconciliation. I am still amazed that Mike is once more mentioning a comment thread from another blog on another topic merely in an attempt to 'score points' in a discussion. This is a pattern of behavior for him that he has repeated on this blog.
As I mentioned above:
"Furthermore, the Church points out very clearly that rash judgment, detraction, calumny, etc. are sins; participation in such things is to participate in sin. Any, *any* purposeful attempt to harm the reputation of *any* person must be examined in the light of the fact that if you do not have the authority to do so and/or a pressing need to do so you are putting your mortal soul in peril."
I simply refuse to participate unless asked by others.

The most interesting part of this discussion thread so far (to me, at least) is there is no more discussion of His Holiness....

I am still amazed that Mike is once more mentioning a comment thread from another blog on another topic merely in an attempt to 'score points' in a discussion.

My comment "1000 lulz for me" was a dead give away of what I was doing to you.

The most interesting part of this discussion thread so far (to me, at least) is there is no more discussion of His Holiness....

It happened right around the time you rode in your "Ye all be librulz" hobby horse.

And let me just say as a pre-augmentation trans-human cyborg, I find your comments to be bigoted.

We've already had a tweeeeeeeeeeeet!!!!!!!!!! from the officials, Mike. A flag is not reviewable. Knock it the hell off.

I promise you it's easier to delete comments than to write them.

King Richard: Your defense of distributism, though quixotic, is a fair contribution to W4. But please spare us the "pattern of behavior" passive-aggression. You and Mike have a beef. We don't care. Keep this nonsense out of our comments.

++++++

Now, as to some of the substance here: The claim that the Pope is not a politician? I'm calling horseapples on that one. No one can rise to the highest level of an institution so ancient as Rome without understanding the art of politics with considerable depth and acuity. St. John Paul II was a politician of surpassing talent. Pope Francis showed noteworthy political acumen in Philly when he threw away the script and gave an impromptu sermon on the family that was magnificent. I think on the whole this Pope is brilliant in Latin American politics, pretty much clueless about (North) American politics, and more well-versed but still wanting in European politics.

In fine, I think very highly of the Roman Catholic Church, and I am not without substantial admiration for Pope Francis, but the bulk of his political statements on economics have been hidebound.

The economy is the integration of the wealth of generations. Those prosperous aged who have accumulated capital look for young hotshots in which to invest. They lend to, or purchase shares, in these enterprises of the young. Not all of them succeed. But some do, often spectacularly. The investment is financial in nature; but it represents the exchange, over time, of resources, expertise, and capital, between generations.

I don't think Pope Francis understands this very well, so he gets carried along in the EU and UN preoccupations and lends his popularity to flawed causes which will result in ruinous destruction of wealth; and his prescriptions amount to the abortive regulation of numerous future wealth-generating fields. The oil patches of the Americas are supplying good and honest work to many millions of people. To suggest that the development of fossil fuels in order to provide energy to our technological cities, and the concurrent replacement, by clean and highly regulated North American oil, of dirty, corrupt, plutocratic oil from OPEC, is a goal toward which the Catholic should look askance -- to suggest this is to fail at observation, reason and prudence.

Paul,

King Richard: Your defense of distributism, though quixotic, is a fair contribution to W4. But please spare us the "pattern of behavior" passive-aggression. You and Mike have a beef. We don't care. Keep this nonsense out of our comments.

FWIW I shouldn't have trolled him. I own up to that. What I find interesting about his contribution is that he went after Tony much like he has gone after me, and you and I both know that Tony and I are rather different in personality and debate style. But enough of that. I have had more than enough lulz for the time being

To suggest that the development of fossil fuels in order to provide energy to our technological cities, and the concurrent replacement, by clean and highly regulated North American oil, of dirty, corrupt, plutocratic oil from OPEC, is a goal toward which the Catholic should look askance -- to suggest this is to fail at observation, reason and prudence.

I think he also doesn't understand the extent to which civilization now depends on cheap energy. To be fair to him, a lot of people blithely dismiss the extent to which everything they do and buy is made cheaper by keeping energy prices low. I have said before and will say again, that people need to understand that energy prices function like a VAT on our economy, except one that raises no revenue for the government. Whatever reduces the flow of cheap energy ripples through all stages of production and consumption. If the environmentalists got their way and oil prices went to $300/barrel of oil, I would not be surprised to see millions of people starving to death in poverty as a result from the rapid increase in the price of goods.

You wrote, "I have seen... ...a kind of a continuum of varying "capitalisms". On the far right..." Capitalism is, by definition, a Liberal position and therefore a Leftist position. Yes, I know you mean 'classic Liberalism' as opposed to 'Progressive Liberalism', I am just amused by someone who states that Capitalism is 'far Right' shortly before stating ' In order not to be misunderstood in a discussion like this...' directed at *someone else*.

Mr. Richard, I see how you could mistake my meaning. I am sorry, I could have made it clearer: I was not using "left" and "right" specifically in the modern political sense. I was using them as directions in an ordered one-dimensional system, as on a number line. Could have been forward and backward, or up and down, or any other opposed directions.

Personally, I don't think "liberal" and "conservative" can properly be scoped out as divided according to a one-dimensional ordering system. I think more dimensions are needed, probably 3 though I haven't tried to work it out carefully. I will on occasion use "left" and "right" for them, but I tend not to all that often for the above reason.

"If by "capitalism" is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative" But this is neither a formal definition nor written alone. Seen in the continuum of writing from Rerum Novarum forward His Holiness is pointing to those things written by his predecessors and saying that *the totality* of Catholic teachings on economics, NOT Capitalism, must be the basis going forward. Considering His Holiness' familiarity with Catholic scholarship on economics and the title of the encyclical this is a frim conclusion shared widely.

It would help to actually cite the specific texts you have in mind (like I did). In any case, it is sufficient for there to be SENSES of "capitalism" that are common enough out there that JPII cites them in his encyclical to prove that the word is being used ambiguously in the literature. Given the ambiguity, whether there is some theoretical "normative" meaning is less important than that many people are, in practice, not using it that way, leaving the debates confused. Sooooooo....

Let's stop quibbling simply about which definition is the "normal" one for "capitalism" and whatnot. Let's go at it another way. Let me describe something, and YOU TELL ME what standard word is used to denote that described thing:

A man scrimps and shorts himself a little here and there, and saves the scrimped amounts. He does this for an objective: he plans (and eventually does) take the saved up amounts, and uses it in the development of a tweak to a common machine, first in working out the kinks to make sure it works. The tweak allows him to make the machine for 20% less than standard effort and cost. Then he asks his friend to join him in producing many of these machines and selling them. He sells the machines for 10% less than the standard cost. He (at first) pays his friend out of his savings, as well as buying all the tools and materials of initial production. After the first sales produce revenue, he uses the revenue to pay himself and his friend a salary (the same salary to each), and buy more materials, and then hires 5 more people to make the machines. Eventually, after many years, his plant is large enough to saturate the market (on a stable basis, no more growth and no down-sizing), he employs many people, and since he no longer needs the profits to grow the business, he reduces the price again, and pockets the profit.

The short, abstracted (generalized) description of this is a man uses his creativity to see a better way to make the machine, he prudently saves and plans how to make this idea go from possible to actual, and then he actually takes the possibility by the horns and endeavors to bring that better production into fruition on a large scale, by providing the materials and design for many people to work on the production, and by paying them for their work.

The economic theory that that says it is just that he takes a part of the new wealth so generated, a part called 'profits,' which is distinct from the honest and fair wages due for the labor expended on the materials he provides to the workmen, is _____________?

See, I think there is a word for that. I am wondering if you don't think so.

Tony,

I am not entirely sure "unbridled Capitalism" and "Laissez faire Capitalism" mean entirely the same thing, at least based on my experience in libertarian circles. Unbridled tends to mean completely out of control by external factors. In fact, that's the definition that pops up in the Google definition blurb. All of the "Laissez faire Capitalists" I've ever read or met are in favor of an active role for the government in the economy as an arbitrator of disputes, punisher of economic crime and they tend to acknowledge that theoretically the government may have to regulate some common good matters where there is natural incentive to not self-regulate. The EM spectrum is one example. We need that regulatory aspect of the FCC simply to ensure that property can be used by different people without stepping on each other.

Additionally, there is actually a good deal of room for backdoor regulation in Laissez faire Capitalism. For example, the Libertarian Party at least used to advocate the rigorous use of property damage laws against polluters who do things like dump farm and industrial waste. Their response was "we don't need the EPA, we need to let property owners sue the hell out of them and have the law err on the side of the property owner."

Mike, it has been my experience that MOST authors who use the term "Laissez faire Capitalism" without complete and total abjuration do actually mean it as a form of capitalism that has some government role, usually modest ones like: secures private property, upholds contracts, specifies rules for clear titles and clear transactions, establishes money, and some more rules of diminishing universality. They normally admit that government, in order to exist, must exact taxes, and thus has a right to exact taxes on the businesses which it protects as well as the individuals it protects. These are, then, NOT anarcho-libertarian capitalists.

I view "unbridled capitalism", in the LITERAL sense of the term, as an impossible-to-actually-achieve extreme form of capitalism, almost a Platonic anti-ideal of non-governmentally touched capitalism. In the PRACTICAL usage of the term, it seems that some use it as a form of opprobrium for all forms of free marketing that have less government interference than the author thinks is good. It is, thus, a moving target when used so. It means, effectively, "an economic system that allows X, and I don't think a good government would ever allow X." It is not used neutrally, as just an academic descriptor like Yersinia pestis (which happens to cause plague).

I guess that people who feel happy to label a specific economy as "unbridled capitalism" often will not hesitate to apply the label "Laissez faire Capitalism" to it as well, even though by common usage the latter term does actually allow SOME bridling, some restraints, because they feel the deficiencies in the restraints are more important than the restraints are. To that extent, then, their usage may well run parallel.

The problem with the so-called "definition" of "Laissez faire Capitalism" as the "separation of the economy and the state" is that it, too, is highly ambiguous. Just as the state CANNOT POSSIBLY be wholly separate from religion, it cannot possibly be entirely separate from "the economy". The state, in deciding to tax by X instead of by Y (by income? by transactions? by wealth? by real property? by status? by life (capitation)?, by death?) is affecting the economy. By choosing to enforce written contracts with more emphasis than verbal ones, it causes the economy to employ lawyers, paper and ink makers, etc that the economy otherwise would not support. If the state decides to protect its citizens on the high seas (some of whom happen to be trading with other countries), it emboldens traders and modifies the economy. If it decides NOT to protect its citizens on the high seas, it gives courage to pirates and affects trade. There is NO SUCH THING as a state that doesn't affect its economy, and whose decisions are made utterly without regard to the effect on the economy, and if there ever were such a state it would implode within months at the most. Most responsible authors at least implicitly realize this, and consider it good enough to allow a state to be labelled as "Laissez faire Capitalism" if it generally doesn't interfere directly in the economy beyond some bare minimums, and perhaps at least makes a go of limiting how much it interferes in the economy indirectly.

(Just as, before 70 years ago, most responsible people in the country realized implicitly that the USA's intent for "separation of church and state" was not an absolute, but indicated trends, generalizations, and guidelines while allowing for certain limited but still significant official and direct interaction between the two. If that's the intended sense of "Laissez faire Capitalism", I will go along with that.)

Tony
1) It is not possible to have both economics on personal principles and a gigantic impersonal stock market.
It is noticeable how you glide from considering a small businessman forming partnership with few other men-which nobody objects to--into an implicit defense for gigantic corporations that are effectively unowned by persons.

2)

I "agreed with" the happenstance of "property widely distributed"
.

And not with the thesis that the property widely distributed forms a part of the common good that the State should strive at?
Is so, I apologize for wrongly imputing your acceptance of the central tenet of the Distributism.

I am myself an investor in mutual funds for more than a decade, having a majority of my investments in them. But I notice that these investments had no tendency to make me a steward of anything real that even a small parcel of land or a small shop would have made me.

Financial property can be juggled with on a vast scale-recall 2008. You can't do that with real property. It must be recognized that you can not have dispersal of power and thus practical subsidiarity in a country with out dispersal of real property.
Mere financial property, apart from other things, makes its holders more beholden to state than otherwise.

Tony,
Your comment at 3.51 pm 1st October:

To the extent that Distributism is strictly about the thesis that wealth widely distributed contributes to the common good, I agree with it and never had any problem with saying so.

Now, I think this statement will get you disqualified, in many people's minds, to be any kind of spokesman for capitalism. Any concern for inequality is represented as envy-filled raving socialism.

That wealth distribution and thus wealth inequality is any concern of State is heresy. You will not find a SINGLE writer at National Review who would write as you did.
(if one says common good, then one must say State).

So, the thesis is non-trivial and is not accepted by at least a large fraction (most?, almost all?) of those that would describe themselves pro-free market.

Any concern for inequality is represented as envy-filled raving socialism.

It depends on the context. I have never seen any criticism of concern for inequality when the concern raised about it is whether or not it is the result of personal choices or public policies. You seem to be behind the curve on this one; people on the right are starting to wake up to the fact that much of our "inequality" comes from destructive decisions made by governments and major corporations. You can thank Obama for that because he's been very open about choosing policies that are ruinous for large numbers of people because he just thinks they're the "right thing to do."

Now, I think this statement will get you disqualified, in many people's minds, to be any kind of spokesman for capitalism. Any concern for inequality is represented as envy-filled raving socialism.

There you go again, jumping categories. When I say that wealth widely distributed contributes to the common good, that says NOTHING AT ALL about equality or inequality. It so happens that I do think that the state should have a concern for equality and inequality, but that belief was not presented in "wealth widely distributed..." You can have wealth widely distributed, and have the state not do one blessed thing about inequality. You can have wealth widely distributed by having 40% own their own homes, and still have vast wealth inequality. Indeed, the more wealthy a society is, the more it is POSSIBLE that a great many own some property while a few own a great deal. If you have a society of 100 people where the sum total of goods is 100 beans, each one owning 1 bean will be equality, AND wealth widely distributed. Compare that to a society of 100 people where the sum total of wealth is 1 $trillion worth of land, if 90 people own $100 million worth each, and 10 people own $99.9 billion each, that situation is NOT "equality" but it is "wealth widely distributed". I would rather live in the second, and have only 1/999 of the wealth of the rich guys.

You will not find a SINGLE writer at National Review who would write as you did.

Since the National Review isn't conservative, it is filled with rightwards-leaning liberals, that concerns me little. It is funny how the liberals that people call "neo-conservative" are, at one and the same time, liberal on all the social policy issues, and yet are not "conserving" of any traditions of wealth management when it comes to tension between protecting small business vs promoting big business.

It is noticeable how you glide from considering a small businessman forming partnership with few other men-which nobody objects to--into an implicit defense for gigantic corporations that are effectively unowned by persons.

I guess that you still mistake my position. I wonder whether it is worth trying again. I am on principle in favor of the right of the one who brings capital to the table to take a share of the new wealth generated. This, on its own, says NOTHING about large or small. On other grounds completely, I am in favor of small business over large, as a GENERAL standard, because it generally fits better with subsidiarity. At the same time, I am WARY of state behavior to actively prohibit large business, because much of the time such activities are ill-conceived constraints on private property. I am not in principle against all such state action to favor small over large business, I just think it requires a heavy dose of caution. I generally think it wrong to devise laws that take away the sheer possibility of a small business getting large, as I don't think there is a way to do that without improperly constraining small business and reasonable wealth management. I also think it probable that some enterprises simply require being a big business to work at all, and I am not confident that there is a satisfactory common-good based argument that clearly shows such enterprises, merely because they are big, are more damaging to the state than not having such an enterprise detracts from the common good.

BI, there remain some large businesses that are not incorporated, they are owned by a man or a family. Do you think that by being big they are damaging to the state? Is the problem you are concerned with entirely the difference between "corporate" vs "direct ownership"? What about a large corporation that is a charity, say a Catholic hospital group? Is that an inherently damaging way to own property, because it isn't "owned by a person"?

If you could get rid of all corporations, would you also get rid of all partnerships? Or all LARGE partnerships? Where would the cut-off run? Would it matter if people started trading partnership shares on an open exchange, anonymously? See, in my estimation, the right of people to freely associate implies also the right of people to freely associate their wealth, to aggregate it in group enterprises. I think there are good ways and bad ways to do that, but that don't arise to the level of a universal principle that you could enshrine in a just law. Subsidiarity prefers decision-making at the lowest level that can rightly achieve the objective, but it does not place constraints on the objective: if there is an objective that can ONLY be achieved by a large enterprise with final decision-making several levels away from the simple partner / stockholder, subsidiarity does not say such an objective must be a bad one. I have repeatedly asked people to provide a fair standard on which we could identify THIS kind (level, size) of aggregating many persons' wealth is allowable, but THAT kind (level, size) is bad, and I have yet to hear a good answer that tells us how to favor small business and crimp large.

Financial property can be juggled with on a vast scale-recall 2008. You can't do that with real property.

I don't know precisely what you mean by "financial property". If you refer to "stocks", does that cut out stock in a home development corporation that owns 1,000 pieces of land in various stages of development? The stockholder in "Big-Built Homes" holds a piece of paper, he may never even LOOK at the land. Does that fall under "owning financial property" or owning real property? The farmer who buys a new farm from the estate of a dead farmer and now "owns" 200 acres also "holds a piece of paper" giving him title to the land. Without society (and the police) to protect his claim to the land, to ENFORCE that piece of paper, he is going to have trouble making his ownership stick. Is that "financial" because it relies on a piece of paper, and socially defined protection of that paper?

As an economy develops to the point where it has added new forms of wealth over and above wealth-producing land, and those new forms of wealth gradually grow larger than the wealth tied up in land, you are going to have new ways of defining and specifying ownership of that new wealth. The wealth tied up in the patent on a new drug rests wholly on society granting a temporary monopoly on your knowledge, and stated the reserved rights in the form of the patent - a piece of paper. It is impossible to say that the knowledge of the drug isn't a FORM of wealth to the society as a whole (it is possible to deny patents on such development and thus accrue the wealth to society as a whole and not to any individual), but it isn't LAND and cannot readily be HELD in the way land or even personal goods and chattel are held. So, are you objecting to non-land forms of wealth, or specifically to the CORPORATION as a form of holding wealth?

As the contributors here at W4 have repeatedly shown, we object to "finance capitalism", that unholy combination of banking, corporate, and state control of the marketplace and the economy, its usury, its intentionally falsifying or externalizing risk, its preference for big over small PRECISELY to evade moral perspective. Does that oft-stated concern weigh at all with you? Is it irrelevant to the discussion?

Paul,
I draw a distinction between 'skill at diplomacy' and 'being a politician' because they are actually different things. My wife, for example, is a very skilled diplomat on personal and larger levels; but she is no politician. Lyndon Johnson was a consummate politician, but he was certainly no diplomat. His Holiness is running for no office, whipping up no base, eliciting no votes from the Midlands. He is not a member of a political party, has no need to return favors for fundraisers, etc. Looking at him as if he were is probably an error.
I suspect this is why the Progressives I read are so very, very disappointed in the Pope:
'He condemned Capitalism! He speaks for the poor! He doesn't like arms sales! *But he isn't really a Progressive*!'
While the Classical Liberals I read are very, very disappointed in the Pope, too:
'He condemned Socialism! He's pro-life! He opposes gay "marriage"! *But he isn't really a Classical Liberal*!'
It is because they are both correct; he is neither. And because he isn't a politician he isn't "speaking to" Progressives, or Classical Liberals people who expect him to speak like a politician are confused and think he is being somehow inconsistent.
There is a difference between 'not matching the stance of a political party' and 'being inconsistent'.
That is why I point out 'he isn't a politician'. He also isn't a Democrat, or a Republican, a Tory, or a Whig, etc. He's Catholic. If you think 'Catholic' is a synonym for a particular political party's views, well, you'll remain disappointed, I suspect.

Tony,
You wrote,
"Mr. Richard, I see how you could mistake my meaning. I am sorry, I could have made it clearer: I was not using "left" and "right" specifically in the modern political sense. I was using them as directions in an ordered one-dimensional system, as on a number line. Could have been forward and backward, or up and down, or any other opposed directions."
[As an aside: just Richard, please]
you continued,
"Personally, I don't think "liberal" and "conservative" can properly be scoped out as divided according to a one-dimensional ordering system. I think more dimensions are needed, probably 3 though I haven't tried to work it out carefully. I will on occasion use "left" and "right" for them, but I tend not to all that often for the above reason."
Excellent; as I mentioned, I understood your general meaning, but I wished to make sure we were talking about the same sorts of things. Yes, 'left v Right' is far too limited in many ways and I do try to avoid them, although that is very hard.

You wrote,
"It would help to actually cite the specific texts you have in mind (like I did)."
I had stated responded to your quotation of Centesimus Annus by saying 'that encyclical also contains', etc. I should have been more explicit, I apologize for any confusion.

I will skip a bit.
You went on to give an example, then asked,
"The economic theory that that says it is just that he takes a part of the new wealth so generated, a part called 'profits,' which is distinct from the honest and fair wages due for the labor expended on the materials he provides to the workmen, is _____________?"
Ah, therein lies the rub. That scenarios is a wonderful description of how a person can thrive in-
Feudalism
Mercantilism
Distributism
Capitalism
Technocracy
and a number of other macro-economic concepts and theories. Indeed, your example is one very similar used by those who promote Distributism as a better norm than Capitalism.
As a matter of fact, the differences between Distributism, Capitalism, Mercantilism, etc. would have very little effect on that scenario in a direct manner.
In Distributism the differences are: usurious loans are out, a focus on use-value is heightened over exchange-value, wage labor is seen only as a tool toward entrepreneurship, no special status for certain types of corporate (I use the term broadly) endeavors, and no/limited investment that does not involve risk. Oh - and a great deal less legislation that was not local.
In Mercantilism the differences would be tariffs and restrictions on materials and markets, etc.
That was one of the things I was trying to point out - the definition of Capitalism you prefer to use is broad enough that it includes a great many things that you probably don't mean. Heck, your description could (with minor edits to speak of looms) describe a *slave* in the Roman Manorial system of Hispania in the 3rd Century.

So - which system would you like to speak of?

King Richard:

I don't follow the Catholic press all that carefully, but even I am aware of some noteworthy speculation in recent months of just the sort of electioneering to which you refer, which is alleged to have occurred prior to the conclave after Benedict's resignation, and which laid the groundwork for the elevation of Pope Francis.

That speculation aside, as my own (Catholic) father frequently reminds me, when I express frustration with the American Bishops and their mealy-mouthed treatment of flagrant rejection of infallible Catholic doctrine by American Catholic politicians: "Remember, about half the bishops would be Democratic politicians if they hadn't gone to seminary." Indeed, in many cities the Church provides a parallel structure precisely for the politically ambitious. Nor is this something new. Was Cardinal Richelieu not a politician?

Nor is this confined to Catholics. The office of ruling elder often requires political skills, not just diplomacy, and supplies to men an avenue for political advancement. Many Protestants denominations have democratic or republican forms of church governance, with elders elevated by congregational elections. Secular issues like finance or property management invariably impinge upon those men in office. In churches of considerable size, with permanent and historic ties to their city, these facts are magnified. Pastors of large churches are public figures.

I certainly do not think Catholic "is a synonym for a particular party's views," and wonder how one could possibly conclude that from my remarks.

Finally, I associate myself with Tony's wise comment from 8:17am this morning, especially his concluding paragraph.

Paul,
You wrote,
"I certainly do not think Catholic "is a synonym for a particular party's views," and wonder how one could possibly conclude that from my remarks."
That was a general point, not a particular accusation. I apologize if this confused you.

Heck, your description could (with minor edits to speak of looms) describe a *slave* in the Roman Manorial system of Hispania in the 3rd Century.

Really? I would love to see you draw that out. Sounds fascinating, because it really doesn't sound possible to me. Oh, I have probably read some historical novel in which an educated slave - say, a Greek tutor - in addition to his slave duties also runs some money-making scheme on the side. But "the side" represents activities with respect to which he is NOT a slave, activities he is free to engage or not at his own choice. (Which, obviously, rests on a kind of slavery that is different from American chattel slavery.) That is, the 3rd century slavery "system" suggested isn't a system that forbids individual capitalist actions therein, but the overall system isn't Capitalism, or even a species thereof. In that sense, I don't think "the slavery system" is what is being described in my scenario, even the Roman 3rd century sort.

I would prefer to call the theory that the man who invests is due a portion of the new wealth generated by a cooperation of the investor and laborers by the term "capitalism" and let the various models under which this is done become "X capitalism" and "Y capitalism". In this naming approach, "capitalism" as such, simply, regards merely the right of the investor to profits, and is indeterminate with respect to additional conceptual features. I will admit that there are other approaches, but these typically leave the above-stated concept un-named. And since some other economic theories DENY that the investor has a right to profits, if we don't have a name for the indeterminate concept, the argument unhelpfully bogs down into an attack or defense of X or Y specific flavors instead of on the right of the investor to profits simply as such.

Here are the first two definitions of capitalism when I just google for definitions:

an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth.
an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

These are Dictionary.com, and Merriam-Webster, hardly two-bit basement-bloggers on word usage. I will note that while both of these definitions provide that largely the wealth and decision making is private, BOTH of the explicitly qualify that by allowing it to be not absolutely so, both have qualifiers: "chiefly" and "mainly". Obviously, as commonly understood, "capitalism" is underdetermined as to how much state involvement is allowable while still being called capitalism - the word allows some but must not be stretched beyond the breaking point by too much state control of wealth / decision making. "Some" but "not too much" is inherently unspecific. Attempts to specify it more precisely will become attempts to identify X or Y Capitalism. they are also both underdetermined as to how large corporations or businesses get, or widely or narrowly property is spread.

I daresay both of these definitions are compatible with fairly soft styling of Distributism, (I take it that Distributism as such does not explicitly deny incorporation as a legitimate technique) which would make Distributism one of the species of capitalism. This may be dismaying to Distributists, who wish to emphasize concepts that some capitalists don't like, but I ask you: what do _Distributists_ say about an investor's right to a share of the new wealth generated by cooperative endeavors? Do they have a name for that?

Probably Mercantilism, since it relies very heavily on state support of certain economic actors and dis-favoring others, tends to run in opposition to the above two definitions of capitalism. It tends to run into the "too much" area of state involvement.

Mercantilism: a theory prevalent in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries asserting that the wealth of a nation depends on its possession of precious metals and therefore that the government of a nation must maximize the foreign trade surplus, and foster national commercial interests, a merchant marine, the establishment of colonies, etc

While a mercantile economy can see the kind of event I described in my 8:58 comment yesterday, it actively disfavors some versions of that event - ones done by small business that do not "fit" with the overall government plan for directing the wealth of the nation, the tariffs and the precious-metal emphasis, etc. Hence, "Mercantilism" is uncomfortable with the described scenario without further specification, whereas "capitalism" as I suggest using it is not. Technocracy, defined so:

a theory and movement, prominent about 1932, advocating control of industrial resources, reform of financial institutions, and reorganization of the social system, based on the findings of technologists and engineers.

is also uncomfortable with the described scenario since there is no CONTROL over the event by others to integrate it into a larger socially approved organization of goods.

Maybe the problem is you are offering names for a whole economy, that characterize a WHOLE economy by taking generalizations and averages and typical situations, (i.e. a name that is valid from 30,000 feet, but that might find individual scenarios completely at odds with the general tenor, but being few, do not characterize the system). I am looking for names for theories about how wealth ought to be considered and arranged. We need a name for the theory that says a man investing his goods in an enterprise by putting those goods in the hands of laborers is justly due a portion of the wealth generated. I find no name other than "capitalism" comes even close. Since the stuff he invests is, obviously, capital, the name is fair as a name for a theory about wealth generation and management, even when it applies to one instance rather than a whole economy. An economy that consists MAINLY of scenarios like the one described could not easily be denied the name "capitalist system", even though the scenario is underdetermined with regard to state regulation.

I suspect that you would not disagree with me in allowing that in almost all of the historically instanced economic "systems" of the past (as generally valid descriptions), there were individual instances of capitalist-type scenarios - scenarios like the one I described - taking place. I don't think it reasonable to deny them the name "capitalist" as individual events because they happened at a time when the overall system was not capitalist as a generality - the historical name is valid as an AVERAGE, not as a universal. But I don't think it makes sense to name historically instanced cases of various "systems" by a specific name like "socialism" or "mercantilism" without the word, logically prior, denoting a notion for "what would be a way to manage wealth" that the averages of that system instantiate. A nation might have fallen into mercantilism in practice by bits and pieces and in stages, all accidentally, without anyone ever saying "mercantilism is a good way to manage wealth", but nobody would ever NAME it "mercantilism" without recognizing a family resemblance in the myriad specific practices that it entails. And the organizing principle that MAKES there to be a family resemblance to "mercantilism", while compatible with individual instances of capitalist enterprise like my scenario, ins't compatible with a majority of wealth management being so. A "pine forest" might have an oak tree or two, without making the oaks be quasi-pine or something. An economy as a whole is an _average_ of many instances, not a platonic form where each enfleshed instance is an embodiment of that form.

So, yes, the scenario I described could happen under mercantilism. It is not a mercantilist scenario. If the majority of the economy were similar to my scenario, nobody would call it mercantilism.

I draw a distinction between 'skill at diplomacy' and 'being a politician' because they are actually different things.
It is because they are both correct; he is neither. And because he isn't a politician he isn't "speaking to" Progressives, or Classical Liberals people who expect him to speak like a politician are confused and think he is being somehow inconsistent.

This is actually more what Jeff's post was about. I am happy to return to it.

It is of course true that the Pope is not a "politician" in the sense of a man who runs for office in a democracy by garnering votes. And I absolutely do NOT accuse him of "politicianing" in the consistory in which he was elected. I have never heard that he did any such thing.

Nevertheless: when a politician is in office, say the president, he governs. That is, he orders affairs for the polity, the community. That is the objective of running for office: to run the polity. So the name "politician" isn't drawn from the unseemly deal-making process of getting into office so common in democracies, it is drawn from the office and powers in relation to the polity. In addition to being head of government, our president is also head of state. In addition to being final arbiter of some (executive branch) rules, he also spends a lot of time delegating authority downwards, negotiating and settling policy decisions between departments, listening to the needs and intentions of significant sub-authorities (governors, commissioners, etc) and trying to "bring them along" to his way of thinking. There are a lot of factions with different ideas of how to achieve the good. And, as president, he spends a lot of time threading his way between different factions, sometimes siding with one over others, sometimes forging compromises or crafting his own solution. This is what it is to run a polity.

Now, the Church is not a secular polity. But it is a community. And it has a common good. And the Pope rules it as its visible earthly head. And he is both head of state and head of government of the Vatican State, which is at the least a quasi-secular state. And in addition to being the final arbiter of executive, legislative, and judicial decisions made in the curia to run the Church, he spends a lot of time delegating authority downwards, negotiating and settling policy disputes between departments, listening to the needs and intentions of significant sub-authorities (bishops, etc) and trying to bring them along to his way of thinking. In short, he does the nitty gritty WORK of running a community - actually, of two communities, one of which IS a quasi-secular polity, the other of which is analogous to a polity in many ways. And, like all communities of men, there are lots of differences of opinion on the best way to achieve the good. And as the top dog, the pope inevitably spends a lot of his time threading his way through these different factional positions, choosing between them or crafting compromise positions. In short, he does a vast amount of the kinds of things a politician does.

Taking sides in factional disputes, and pushing for your side in the governance of the community by negotiating compromises, figuring out how to get opposition to stop opposing, or just bulldog your way through the opposition, is "to do politics", even when the community is a church and not a state. Everyone has heard of "office politics", well there is just as truly "church politics". But of course, a lot of church politics isn't ABOUT secular politics, or secular issues at all.

As a separate matter: just like all bishops, the Francis was a man of his country. He was a citizen. He had political point of view. He acted, when available, in ways that affected the politics in his country. Being Catholic, or a priest, or a bishop, doesn't erase the political side of a man. He goes on being a political animal.

Nor does sitting in the chair of Peter change that. He retains his political persuasions. If he was mildly distributist before being elected, he is still mildly distributist after. That doesn't change by being elected to the papacy. If he was blindingly green before, he is blindingly green after. The Holy Spirit doesn't suck out the personality and mental make-up of a bishop just because he is elected Pope. The Church is not the pope - the Church not being "political" doesn't prescribe the pope's mental framework of political leanings. So, commenting that the Church is not a liberal or conservative, a whig or a tory enterprise says nothing about whether the Pope's leanings are liberal, tory, or whatnot.

And when the pope speaks publicly, even when he is holding forth on what is mainly a religious truth, he will still craft that message with his political views in mind, so that HIS politics imbues aspects (or at least the outward form) of the message. Talking about the poor can be done from the reference point of the Gospel. But St. Leo the Great could not possibly speak about the poor and the Gospel while using language whose connotations borrow from a world in which mercantilism, socialism, capitalism, and distributionism have fought for the minds of the people. When a current pope speaks about the poor in language of "private property" and "development" he is using language developed in with a specific historical POLITICAL background. His speaking thus can hardly be a-political. It can be true-to-the-Gospel and political, or not-entirely-true-to-the-gospel and political, but it will bear on politics and will bear a perspective thereon. It will be be, in part, political. That's because how we manage the poor (as soon as you rise about the level of the individual), is a political matter, as well as a moral and religious matter.

It need not be PARTISAN.

But the pope can be partisan in politics. Half the popes of late middle ages were partisan in politics. They took sides in secular politics. They didn't have to, perhaps. They might have remained above the frays. But they aren't required to do that. So, the fact that a pope may speak in a non-partisan manner in delivering a teaching doesn't mean he has this time or that time.

Tony,
You wrote,
"Really? I would love to see you draw that out"
I suggest Churchin's "Rome in Spain: Conquest and Assimilation" or similar works for a better understanding of the manorial system and slavery in late Imperial Rome in the West, but even under Republican Rome, when slavery laws were much more strict, the fact that enterprising slaves could, and did, free themselves by earning their own manumission fees is well-documented.

You wrote,
"I don't think "the slavery system" is what is being described in my scenario, even the Roman 3rd century sort."
That is because you didn't actually describe any system, you described small-scale commerce. That sort of activity was/is possible within a large number of macroeconomic systems, as I said. Also, as I specifically stated, I was referring tot he Manorial system.

You wrote,
"I would prefer to call the theory that the man who invests is due a portion of the new wealth generated by a cooperation of the investor and laborers by the term "capitalism" and let the various models under which this is done become "X capitalism" and "Y capitalism"."
Yes, you have made this preference clear. Indeed, it seems to be the majority of your comments to me. I have noted and acknowledged this more than once, even suggested you create a glossary for the use of people not privy to these terms. I suppose if it would allow the conversation to continue (or even return to the original topic) I could start referring to 'Distributist capitalism', 'Mercantile capitalism', 'Technocratic capitalism', etc. After all, under that definition the only thing that would NOT be 'X, Y, or Z capitalism' would be Marxism or its derivatives.
But, since my points (remember? The points I was making about laissez-faire Capitalist theory?) are rather specific and I have defined them, why is this a sticking point for you?

You wrote,
"Obviously, as commonly understood, "capitalism" is underdetermined as to how much state involvement is allowable while still being called capitalism"
Yes. Which is why, when I was making the points that you initially responded to, I used the term "laissez-faire Capitalism" to point to a specific concept of that specific theory.

Tony, let me repeat, again! what I have been telling you for about 48 hours - I was speaking about a *specific theory*, a clearly defined theory that is about 250 years old and that can easily be found by any honest person doing honest research. The fact that you didn't know what that term meant seems to have triggered your desire to demand that I use your idiosyncratic terms for a wide range of macro-economic theories and concepts *just because*. Do you care to either refute or support my contention that laissez-faire Capitalist economic theory states that morals and ethics have no place in economics and that morally positive outcomes are, at best, incidental? because that was the statement about laissez-faire Capitalist theory that you responded to.
You also responded to a comment about a video where I stated
"Capitalism makes very serious errors ranging from the nature of wealth to the nature of Man"
Do you wish to support or challenge that assertion? Have you watched the video it is in the context of?
Because so far, despite quoting those, your contention mainly seems to be
'use my terms and definitions'.

You wrote,
"Maybe the problem is you are offering names for a whole economy"
Ah. There it is.
That isn't my "problem", it is part and parcel of what I am talking about.
Tony, Capitalism, Distributism, etc. are names of economic systems. You will not the His Holiness John Paul II specifically refers to economic system in some of the quotes used here. They are macro-economic theories; they concern themselves with the economies of entire nations or larger. This is why the idea of working, saving, etc. can fit within such a broad range of actually very different systems - scale matters.
The actual problem, if there is one, is that you are looking at what one man does almost person to person, declaring it 'capitalism', and then requiring me to use this definition of 'capitalism' when I am discussing macro-economic concepts like the prevalence of use-value over market-value if usurious loans are forbidden and secured investments have capped returns.
It is as if I were talking about high speed rail versus interstates and you want me to use the same term for both because beginning either journey starts in your driveway.

You wrote,
"So, yes, the scenario I described could happen under mercantilism. It is not a Mercantilist scenario."
Which was exactly my point - it isn't a mercantilist scenario, but it isn't a Capitalist, Distributist, or Feudalist scenario, either!
You continue,
"If the majority of the economy were similar to my scenario, nobody would call it mercantilism."
This is simply not true - the majority of economic activity in early mercantilist scenarios involved a great deal of cottage artisanal activity, very similar to your scenario, and it was, yes, Mercantilist. And as corporations, etc., were founded and absorbed cottage artisans into large enterprises (as you described) those economies *remained* Mercantilist until high-level macro-economic policies were changed to be Capitalist!
Read the Physiocrats, not to mention Say, Ricardo, Mill, and Smith, and you will see that the development of Classic Economics, i.e., Liberal economics/laissez-faire Capitalism, was about how Mercantilist principles and policies were impeding the development of wealth from activities like those you describe.

Nice try, King Richard, but give it up! I, along with several others, tried for several years to make headway among these folks along the lines you are putting forth. We got nowhere.

Economic autonomy is the noli me tangere among these guys just as much as sexual autonomy is among those on the Left.

You are wasting your time.

Nice Marmot,
Unfortunately, you appear to be correct.

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