Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Young Fogey's Pithy Response to a Distributivist Colleague

    Some things are wrong or impossible, like aiming bombs at civilians, artificial birth control and the ordination of women. Other non-negotiables are the goals of mercy and justice. The means to those ends – the form of government – are not doctrine. You can be a free-marketeer, monarchist, Francoist fascist, democratic socialist or theistic communist. You can be dead wrong. It’s all good.
After that very catholic statement, he pointedly concludes, "When distributists make products millions of people want to buy and that improve millions’ lives, we’ll talk" — Reply to Daniel Nichols’ reply to George Weigel.

To Weigel's eternal discredit, he has shown himself to be dead wrong about "aiming bombs at civilians," and I agree with Mr. Nichols in principle, as any decent person would, "that property should be widely distributed, not held by the few, whether in the name of the State or the Corporation," commenter Jim C. makes a valid point here:
    Property must be widely distributed? This is de-fide Catholic social doctrine? What about the Catholic Middle Ages? Property was NOT widely distributed.

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Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

Ugh, except that private property was widely distributed during the Middle Ages. GK Chesterton, Belloc, Christopher Dawson, and Eamon Duffy all have demonstrated this in great detail. And neither Dawson nor Duffy fall into the distributist camp when it comes to economics.

I think that there is good reason to be skeptical about some of the claims made by distributists, but the libertarian critique of distributism would be stronger if libertarians would actually, you know, read books written by distributist. Instead, alas, libertarians for the most part are happy ideologically attacking distributism, which works well for them since libertarianism is at root an ideology.

September 24, 2011 at 11:03 PM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

This statement is hardy ideological: "You can be a free-marketeer, monarchist, Francoist fascist, democratic socialist or theistic communist..." Yet latter-day Internet Distributists are quick to label anyone a heretic who has an interpretation of papal encyclicals different from theirs.

September 24, 2011 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

No dispute on either of those points. My objection was to the historical mischaracterization of property ownership in the Middle Ages. On the historical question, the distributists have been vindicated by subsequent research, while the libertarians/corportists have not been. In fact, it is precisely the rise of increasingly free markets that resulted in the move to dispossess medieval serfs and freemen of their property rights -- to push them into the cities so their lands in the countryside could "better" be put to use as sheep-fields to support the burgeoning wool industry.

September 24, 2011 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

While medieval serfs and many freemen did not own the land they worked outright, they did have property rights -- deeply held property rights to the use and possession of property. And those rights could not be arbitrarily taken away, they had to be respected by the wealthy and powerful. While serfs were tied to the land, the land was also tied to the serfs -- meaning that it could not be sold or otherwise alienated from them. The nobility hated that -- one of Henry VIII's big selling points to the nobility was that his break with the Catholic Church would enable the nobility to do away with the various forms of feudal land ownership, thus enabling them to seize land from serfs and freemen.

September 24, 2011 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

I agree with your objection. We've had centuries of gross mischaracterizations about the Middle ages. At the same time, it is wise not to fall into the opposite error and blindly idealize the period, not that I'm saying you are. That said, the Middle Ages were, all told, probably a more civilized period than the one were living in.

September 25, 2011 at 12:00 AM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...


September 25, 2011 at 12:40 AM  
Blogger elena maria vidal said...

Mark is correct about the Middle Ages. They did not have the same concept of private property in the feudal system as they do now.

September 25, 2011 at 1:08 PM  
OpenID caelumetterra said...

The notion that one can hold to any economic principle and still be a good Catholic makes as much sense as the idea that one can be prochoice or active homosexual. Catholic social principle is as binding as Catholic moral teaching or theological doctrine. Of course there can be disagreement on how to implement the principles, but the principles are binding, and surely free market fundamentalism has been specifically condemned by any number of papal statements.

September 26, 2011 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

The key point here is "disagreement on how to implement the principles."

I doubt Weigel (or any another Catholic free marketer) was arguing that is right to pay unjust wages or to oppress the poor.

Of course, free market fundamentalism should be condemned. Placing the unfettered market as the highest good would be blasphemous. The question is, who is to do the fettering? Should it be the Church in her teaching authority or the State with its monopoly on violence?

September 26, 2011 at 2:39 PM  
OpenID caelumetterra said...

Well we do not live in a world where it is remotely possible that the Church will have that sort of authority. And the State does not have a monopoly on violence, in case you haven't read the news for a while. A fundamental difference in principle between libertarian and Catholic worldviews lies in how they view the State. Libertarians and anarchists view it as an evil; some say it is a necessary evil, but there it is. In Catholic thought the State is a natural good, like the family. And while there are violent and dysfunctional families all over the place that does not make the family as an institution evil. And most families, like even evil states, manage to accomplish some basic good things, like punishing criminals, making roads, delivering mail.
This is a difference in principle, not just in application.

September 26, 2011 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

Government and State are not synonyms. There are those who say the modern state came into existence only with the French Revolution.

September 26, 2011 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

"Government and State are not synonyms. There are those who say the modern state came into existence only with the French Revolution."

That would be leviathans. What Daniel is speaking of would be natural organically formed states, of which the Greek States would be an example.

September 26, 2011 at 11:15 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

"When distributists make products millions of people want to buy and that improve millions’ lives, we’ll talk"

I really like this comment because it goes to the heart of what is wrong with distributism. The problem isn't the system but the advocates are completely impractical to the point that I wonder if any of them has actually ever owned and ran a business down on the street.

It's not that distributism is wrong, but that their understanding of daily life among those who actually have to sell products and earn their daily bread from the selling is so very far off.

Given the choice between Weigal or the distributists, I'll take the first 100 names in the Boston Telephone directory.

September 26, 2011 at 11:37 PM  
Blogger Zach said...

I recall that comment of the Fogey, and didn't reply to it at the time, but I found it astonishing in its blinkeredness.

Even though they don't wear the label "distributist", every small farmer left, every family business, that exists today does make products that people want to buy and that improves people's lives. There's obviously not as dominant or as flashy as the Fortune 500 club, but they're there.

I see no evidence that George Weigel or Fr. Siroco have ever "owned and run a business down the street" either. In fact, percentage-wise, very few Americans have -- which is exactly what distributists want to fix!


September 28, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Zach writes : "I see no evidence that George Weigel or Fr. Siroco have ever "owned and run a business down the street" either."

True, they're virtually all 'parasites' working at government owned colleges. Which is much of the problem. Those on both sides who are writing on and discussing the issues are academics, corporate cogs and similar whose lives are well taken care of by what ever leviathan it is they work for.

The distributists with their bizarre, no insane, notions such as suggesting using horses to meet requirements of subsidiarity, as if horses were just as easy to posses as a bicycle, send me running from them in horrors imagined if they did ever get their way.

Just as I run screaming in horrors imagined from the libertarians who want every street privatized and what? tolls paid at each intersection?

If you ever watch the videos, such as urban farms, of the way distributist type romanticize the way it should be, what is apparent is the distributist advocates really are inept at anything practical beyond the most basic unskilled labor.

Because that is what really stands out in those videos, is the ineptness. Just as ineptness is easily spotted out on the construction site by how a man handles his tools and moves his body.

September 28, 2011 at 10:42 AM  

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