Rand Paul has challenged Bernie Sanders to a debate over economics, the role of government, and the future of America. This would make for a fascinating spar between Rand the capitalist and Sanders the democratic socialist; the classical Chestertonian characters of Hudge and Gudge. Although Sanders and Paul hold certain sound principles—their criticisms of the United States’ foreign presence, NSA spying, and their rejection of the leviathan state (in regards to the infringement of civil liberties)—the views of Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders are defective and contrary to the principles of Distributism. Both candidates tend to support big government by hook or crook, they value economies of dispossession, and other policies that hurt individuals and families. Rand is Gudge, a plutocrat, an individualist, and a capitalist. On the other side Sanders (Hudge) is a socialist and a progressive idealist. Both of their positions are equally against Jones (the common family man). G.K. Chesterton describes Hudge and Gudge this way:
Gudge rules by a coarse and cruel system of sacking and sweating and bi-sexual toil, which is totally inconsistent with the family and is bound to destroy it. And Hudge calls a women’s work freedom to live her own life, and says the family is something we shall soon gloriously outgrow.1
Although Rand Paul is generally pro-life—and Bernie Sanders is stubbornly pro-choice—what Rand fails to realize is that many of the capitalist policies he supports make abortions desirable. This is true of capitalism’s highly competitive nature and its economic effect of dispossession and “wage-slavery”, in which households are overly reliant on mere wages as a means to get by on a daily basis, rather than as a means by which to better his or herself, or even better their family.
Another reality that is substantially inherent in capitalism and that has led to a kind of inhumane individualism is its “consent” mentality, in which anything will be justified by “consenting individuals”. This moral measure is often invoked to justify inhumane wages. It is believed that individuals freely “consent” to unjust wages when often times they are merely accepting low wages out of necessity. I would argue that both the “wage-slave” nature of capitalism as well as innate individualism and the consent mentality has led to the rise of social libertinism—the “anti-family” and “anti-life” economy we see today.
This is historically true. The Industrial Revolution made prostitution socially desirable. It was not that people didn’t see anything wrong with prostitution (it was for the most part always socially scorned), but the nature of industrial capitalism made it seem financially desirable. This is also true in the modern case of abortion, which is often argued in the light of it being financially desirable because of the nature of our economy.
With respect to life issues and abortion, is it consistent to oppose abortions in principle—even against Planned Parenthood, as Rand Paul tends to be—while supporting policies that end up making abortion desirable for financial reasons? The answer is no.
A safety net for expectant mothers, including paid family leave, increased wages, and free college tuition could make abortions less desirable. However, Bernie Sanders’s policy positions would also greatly hurt the family, making self-sufficiency difficult, if not altogether impossible. Socialist policies fundamentally encourage nationalization. And this will prevent families (which distributists view as the organic unit of society) from owning the means of production, both in regards to the ownership of capital as well as the ownership of one’s own land or home.
Sanders is unlikely to attempt a sweeping shift in American politics to his socialist cause, but his regulatory policies against big business are likely to crush small, family-owned businesses, while Wall Street and large corporations walk away without a scratch.
Although Bernie Sanders favors things such as free college tuition for students, especially for expectant mothers (which I believe could have positive results), there are some questions that need to be answered. Will education be more centralized than it already is, or will local and state governments have the authority to judge how best to implement these benefits? As our institutions of higher education are famous for their proclivities (as are the students), grandiose campuses with gourmet cafeterias, sports stadia, and the penchant for opposing virtue and supporting causes like gender ideology, we are led to question the social implications of free tuition for all.
The irony of Bernie Sanders’ social libertinism and the pro-market Rand Paul is that they encourage the big business and big government they (respectively) reject.
We agree with Sanders’s concerns about big business. However, we do not ignore industry’s evil deeds because they masquerade as “women’s health” or “rights” that oppose God and the dignity of the human person. While Planned Parenthood is under investigation for selling aborted baby parts, and its annual revenue boasts over 500 million dollars in government grants and reimbursements, Sanders describes the investigation of the abortion industry as a “long-term smear campaign” and a “punishment” against “low-income women”.2 Will Sanders end his support for same-sex “marriage” and its lobbying for the surrogacy industry, in which couples buy the consent of poor women in developing countries to suit their desires to have children?
We agree with Paul’s worry about government overreach. But Paul’s support for deregulatory policies would create bigger government, not less. In addition to growing unemployment numbers, and encouraging businesses to outsource benefits to the State—until of course those benefits are slashed or eliminated altogether—mobility would also suffer from the social experimentation Paul calls “liberty”.
The connective tissue between pelvic and economic issues matter more than either candidate may be willing to admit. According to TIME magazine’s “The 10 Best Chores to Outsource”:
Outsourcing brings to mind big factories and call centers. But entrepreneurs around the globe now offer services–from tutoring to sculpting a bust of your grandpa—to regular folks for a fraction of the cost in the West. Thought the world was flat before? Well, now you can hire someone in India to carry your child.3
There may be attractive reasons for voting Sanders or Paul, but both fall short of the ideals of Distributism, which would, in principle and in practice, be the most conductive towards a pro-life and pro-family economy.
- G.K. Chesterton, “A Last Instance,” in What’s Wrong with the World (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1910), 207.
- Jeninne Lee-St.John (December 13, 2007). Accessed December 10, 2015. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1694454,00.html.