Home / Kevin O'Brien / The Lover’s Leap of the Right and the Left


There are two rivers running through conservatism these days, and while the source of each stream is not known, the sea they empty into is one that falls off the face of the earth.

The first opposes all thought. The second opposes all government. And there’s a third I’ll get to later.

I have for a long time noticed a strange anti-intellectualism in conservative circles. We have seen it, for example, in our local St. Louis Chesterton Society meetings. To begin with, even though this is a literary club dedicated to the works of the greatest writer of the twentieth century, most members don’t want to read his books. They would, if we let them, come to the meetings and gripe about the sick modern culture and how awful everything is. But if we do stay on target and read and discuss actual works, there is a strong resistance to any close analysis, coupled with the droning complaint that Chesterton’s writing is too difficult to understand. Literary criticism is not tried and found wanting; it is found difficult and left untried.

But this anti-intellectualism flows and mingles with the other stream, libertarianism. At a recent Chesterton Society meeting, a fellow Chestertonian proposed the question–should people be allowed to enter into marriage covenants that reflect Our Lord’s teaching on the nature of marriage (divorce and remarriage being prohibited), with the state governments recognizing these and enforcing their terms as Covenental Marriages?

This would simply entail the state’s acknowledgement that some bonds are “marriages” (a lifelong union between a man and a woman) as opposed to the more common secular “contracts of cohabitation” (which increasingly can be between anyone for any length of time, including between members of the same sex). On this question, our conservatives in the St. Louis Chesterton Society reply with the knee-jerk reaction, “We have too much government already! I want the state to keep its hands off my marriage!”–thus ending all discussion.

When it comes to economics, things get even goofier. For example, Murray N. Rothbard of the Austrian School of Economics, spends the first part of his book A History of Money and Banking in the United States arguing the hard money position that fiat currency is dangerous, and that when states create funny money things go wrong. He spends the second  part of his book arguing that once individual banks start dealing with the creation of money via fractional reserve lending, the government should keep its hands off. In other words, funny money is bad, but government regulation of such is worse. This is the same as saying drug abuse is horrible and thus it’s terrible for the state to push dope, but it’s OK for individuals to. In this superstitious mood of libertarianism, the government is always more evil than anything that it seeks to correct.

Pushed to the ultimate conclusion of these positions, that rational thought is suspect and that government in and of itself is evil, these twin streams, which comingle their murky waters, do indeed drop off the face of the earth into oblivion, into the great Abyss of Absurdity.

This is why a recent Austrian schooler on Facebook, knocking Distributism, says that Distributism is stealth socialism. Why? Apparently because any governmental regulation of the economy is socialism. The merits of Distributism are thus dismissed off-hand because the looming threat of any government involvement in the economy is far too heinous to consider. Whatever we do, we can not allow “the Man” to control us.

This brings me to a third stream that runs into these other two as they plunge toward suicide–a stream that gathered force in the foothills of Rousseau and that tumbled into rapids during the sixties, the stream of the noble savage, the idea that liberty equals license and that thought is wrong because it orders and constrains and that if you stick it to “the Man” you’re doing the right thing, regardless of who the man is.

So the aging hippies of the left hold hands with the survivalist Tea party conservatives of the right and they both jump gaily over the waterfall–a lover’s leap of madness.

Strange bedfellows. Strange times we live in. Liberty becomes anarchy, and anarchy, though it sounds romantic, begins as chaos and ends as the rule of mere power, bully-ocracy. It’s an inner city school room without supervision, which is a very close thing to hell, if you’ve ever seen it.

The long-haired bomb throwing radicals of my youth are now the conservative free market true believers of my (almost) old age. They look in the mirror and see one another and pull back aghast, left and right still despising its opposite and not seeing the thread that ties them together–which is hatred of all discipline—whether it be discipline of the intellect (rejection of which produces anti-intellectualism), discipline of society (which can only be formally accomplished by some form of government), or discipline in general (rejection of which creates a faux brotherhood of bored narcissists doing “their own thing”).

It’s like going over Niagra Falls in a barrel-headed confusion.


About the author: Kevin O'Brien


Kevin O’Brien is a stage and screen actor and theatrical director. He leads the popular Theater of the Word Incorporated, and has appeared in countless productions. He is currently appearing on EWTN in the new series, Theater of the Word and his new site is Christian Shakespeare.


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  1. It is kind of scary to read that anti-intellectualism has reached the readers of Chesterton.

  2. It isn’t a thread that ties them together, they make the beast with the two backs.

  3. When does the St. Louis Chesterton society meet, and where?

  4. We meet the second Monday of the month at Growler’s in Sunset Hills, Dr. Eric, which means we’ll be meeting tonight at 7:00 pm, unless the snow’s too deep.

  5. ““We have too much government already! I want the state to keep its hands off my marriage!”–thus ending all discussion.”

    Firstly I cannot help but agree with this individual. Secondly, where exactly is he wrong? Why should I care that the government in any particular geographical polity should acknowledge my religious sacrament? Which is exactly what marriage is in Catholic parlance: a sacrament. i may as well ask the state to acknowledge the Eucharist while I am at it.

    I am totally serious, I see no compelling reason why anyone should care in particular whether the state recognizes my religious contract as state approved “marriage”. The problem I see it comes into play when the state decides to give special sanction to some forms of union and not others (tax benefits, etc.). That is the inherent problem with the state getting involved in marriage in libertarian parlance: state interference in relation to private contracts. Which in the civil sense is exactly what marriage is.

    I would certainly not advocate something along that lines of a state approved Covenental Marriage. That would be more or less asking to the state to act an church authority figure outside of the church proper. Then there would be the problem of certain parties agitating to actually make it enforceable through the state’s monopoly of force instead of simply “symbolic”.

    As to Rothbard’s “history of money and banking in the united state”: I am sorry but for you to be making the claims you are making I must conclude that you (at most) read only a summary of it or that you read it and went out of your way to avoid missing its key points.

    Rothbard argued against state-issued Fiat money due to the obvious incentive on the part of state and banking officials to use this power to systematically fleece whoever the population in question happened to be (and to use the power of the state to prevent any sort of market correction to this). This tendency has been historically analyzed not only in the US but worldwide over very long stretches of time, and found almost universally to be correct. the underlying problems with state-issued fiat monies has been very thoroughly analyzed (see “Money, Banking, and Economic Cycles” by Jesus Huerta de Soto).

    He was FOR private issued fiat monies for one reason and one reason only, there was an actual mechanism by which private holders of money could stop inflation: by switching which money they used to transact business. In a system of privately issued money, a bank still has the incentive to fractional-reserve but it is tempered by the fear that if consumers find out about this fraud (and it is exactly that) they can dump the money and move to a different one, which would (and indeed historically did) bankrupt the fraudulent bank. Thus the system would tend toward as close to 100% reserve as possible. It was considered a significantly more realistic option than to assume that any government would overcome the obvious temptation to inflate money to pay for greater and greater public spending.

    “This is why a recent Austrian schooler on Facebook, knocking Distributism, says that Distributism is stealth socialism.”

    My argument was not that it is “stealth” socialism. My argument is that it is an OBVIOUS VARIANT of socialism. Which it is. Specifically it is closest aligned to Corporatism or Fascism.

    The idea that it is not a form of socialism is only true if one uses the extremely narrow definition relating only towards the purported final stage of economic development which Karl Marx espoused in his (incorrect) theory of class analysis. Instead of using this definition, the first definition which appears in Merriam Webster is far more accurate to an actual operative definition.

    Socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

    As to the idea that I dismissed distributism offhand this is also incorrect. I was naturally skeptical once it was acknowledged that one would need a government in order to enforce it, but all that did was encourage me to investigate further. I analyzed what the system purports to do and saw that given its workings it cannot possibly create the sort of results that it claims to. Most economic scientists would agree with me. The fact that neither Belloc nor Chesterton had any sort of training in the actual causal mechanisms relating to economic actions should give the thinking reader pause as to whether they themselves could have been wrong in their prognostications.

    “Pushed to the ultimate conclusion of these positions, that rational thought is suspect and that government in and of itself is evil”

    From the libertarian perspective, rational thought should lead one to believe that the State in and of itself IS evil. Given that even our founding national fathers (Washington, Jefferson, etc.) admitted this (and acknowledging it as a necessary evil which must be kept to an absolute minimum) I fail to see how agreeing with them is somehow irrational.

    I will end with what I see to be an anti-intellectualism in the various supporters in state action. Many say that libertarians are wrong to be suspect of government involvement of the economy. That is almost always the end of their argument; in other words there is no argument at all. They simply pronounce that state action can be good and leave it at that. They provide no theoretical argument as to why this is so, nor have they even a coherent body of work which 1) defines what the state is and thus 2) move rationally analyze it’s incentive schemes assuming REAL HUMANS instead of a theoretical “public servant” who is always altruistic and always knows exactly what to do or 3) historically examines it to see whether their idea of effective state action has any basis in reality.

  6. This seems a little similar to a debate over gun control we’ve had here at work following the awful event in Arizona over the weekend. Having lived in two high-crime neighborhoods, I can fully understand the desire to protect oneself and one’s family from undesirables (though I would hope I would never kill a man over my television; heck, I’d probably help him out with it!), but I find it odd when Conservatives justify gun ownership in terms of protection from our own federal government. I would think this is the established reason for the First Amendment. However, in 21st century America, what would that look like? For example, if the Federal government transforms itself into a true Totalitarian regime, is the thinking that Americans in a significant amount would “rise up” and wage war against the Federal Army? I would argue that it would be monumentally harder to do so now, as opposed to when it was tried in 1861 – because of technology alone, not to mention other cultural and social reasons. Is it merely to dissuade certain powerful people from even attempting to institute a Totalitarian regime in the first place? I somehow doubt that such people would bat an eye at the fact that 40-50% of Americans own guns. It seems that well-meaning people can be coerced into ceding liberty without any discernible show of force (e.g., the measures that have been instituted to ensure homeland security over the last 9+ years).

    Incidentally, given that I’m still rather new to Chesterton and even newer to the ideas of Distributism, what does Distributism say about an issue like “Gun Control”?

  7. The St. Louis Chesterton Society meets the second Tuesday of the month at Growlers Pub on Lindbergh just south of Watson at 7 PM. That means the next meeting is in about 5-1/2 hours. See here http://chestertonstl.wordpress.com

  8. Extreme libertarians should all be sent to live somewhere with little or no central government control.

    A month or so enjoying the cut-throat freedom of a minimal-government environment such as Somalia might lead them to conclude that a reasonably strong central government is not the world’s biggest evil after all.

  9. “A month or so enjoying the cut-throat freedom of a minimal-government environment such as Somalia might lead them to conclude that a reasonably strong central government is not the world’s biggest evil after all.”

    *sigh* the typical non-sequitur argument concerning a market anarchy.

    Here is the Quickie answer to that objection:

    From Robert Murphy: “Here is my response. When Rothbardians say that they favor anarchy, what we mean is that for any given society, with all else held equal, a government monopoly on legal rulings and police enforcement will make the society worse off. (I am here focusing on the pragmatic claims rather than ethical considerations.)

    A Rothbardian wouldn’t deny that if, say, a nuclear war or superflu bug killed off 99 percent of the world’s population — including all the politicians — that the resulting anarchy would be awful. But by the same token, if a nuclear war or superflu bug killed off 99 percent of the world’s population and yet enough politicians survived to maintain working governments, things would still be awful. In fact, if Rothbard is right, things for the survivors would be even worse if they looked around and realized a bunch of politicians had pulled through, as opposed to engineers and farmers.”

    I’d be curious if anyone would really contend that in America, if all governments would collapse and all relations held between parties were of a private property nature, that we would descend into the artificially created chaos and unpleasantness of places like Haiti and Somalia.

    Given that Somalia is doing better now than it did under its previous central government should give pause to the notion that Anarchy in and of itself is bad.

    The myriad problems that Somalia has had to deal with since Western governments foisted a centralized government on it and completely co-opted their private customary system of law is actually a very interesting application of what happens when you attempt to foist a social order from above instead of letting it form organically from the bottom up.

    For anyone interested in this line of inquiry, “The Law of the Somalis” by Michael van Notten is an extremely useful resource.

    As to the viability of a market chosen system of law, Bruce Benson’s “The Enterprise of Law” is very informative reading.

  10. Keith, just to make sure I’m reading you right:

    1. You and Murry Rothbard are anarchists. By anarchy you seem to mean not simply chaos and disorder, but order defined and imposed from person to person and house to house, sort of a return to clans.

    2. Though I did not mention Rothbard’s argument that unregulated fractional reserve lending is self-correcting, I was right when I said he’s suspicous of any government involvement in economic regulation at all.

    3. Thus when I caracterize Austrian Schoolers as libertarians and ultimately anarchists, I am correct – though there’s room to debate how these concepts play themselves out.

    Have I got that right?

    Now, then, four things:

    1. If socialism is, as you define it, “collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production”, then clearly Distributism is not socialism, for Distributism is vehemently opposed to collective ownership of the means of production, or even collective administration of same beyond a minimal degree.

    2. I admit Chesterton was not a trained economist. Nor was he a trained theologian, apologist, journalist, or fiction writer. The only thing he was trained at was art, and he’s not known as an artist. Likewise, Belloc was not a professional economist. Does this mean their insights into economics are necessarily wrong? Must one be, say, trained in sociology to write about society, trained in psychology to write about the human heart, trained in medicine to know that a man is sick and the doctors aren’t making him better?

    3. If our founding fathers were anarchists, why did they work so hard on founding a nation state and on founding the several states that composed it? Sure, they were suspicous of government – we all should be. But limiting government is not the same as abolishing government.

    4. You claim that most people simply assert that it’s wrong to be suspicious about government involvement in the economy. On the contrary, I affirm that we must be suspicious about government ivolvement in anything. But there’s a world of difference between a person who recognizes that, for example, fire is dangerous and should be contained in order to serve man, and a person who says that fire is evil and we should snuff out all flames, or only light individual packets of matches as a last resort.

    What astonishes me is your open admission of anarchism. It proves the entire point of my article. And yet like all anarchists you contradict yourself. You are opposed to centralized order, and yet you are for a great multiplication of decentralized order. In your anarchy, there are many more laws than in our current system – there’s a set of laws for every clan – perhaps for every person; perhaps for every person for every day of the week or moment of the day. There’s an atomism and a nominalism behind your theory, which you’ll probably deny, but you are like a choir director who abolishes all harmony and tells his singers to go off and find their own melodies.

    Anyway, thanks for jumping in on the discussion, Keith, since you’re the one who started it on Facebook! I think it’s better we moved it here. It’s very revealing.

  11. Point 1: Am I an anarchist.
    -Using the definition you provided the answer is “yes”. A more accurate way of describing what an anarchy would be would be to say a “market chosen law”. That is, there would be private courts and private police forces instead of monopoly ones (ones only permitted to be provisioned by the state). Law would be determined by a discovery process as individuals come into conflict with each other over various issues, almost all regarding the violations of property rights. There is a huge amount of literature on this subject. The best overall resource concerning this topic is Bruce Benson’s “Enterprise of Law”.

    Point 2: Rothbard and economic regulation.
    -The answer is yes, he called into question the justification of ALL regulations. He infact went further and showed that they will essentially never satisfy their claimed aims and why this is so. His book “Power and Market” is essentially nothing but 300 pages of this analysis across almost every kind of conceivable regulation.

    Point 3: Austrians and political organization
    -Almost universally they are all at the very least VERY small government. Many of the most prolific writers and best thinkers in this tradition are now of an anarchist (as defined above) bent.

    You more or less have it on the nose.

    1. I cannot agree with the characterization of Distributism as a non-variant of socialism. Distributism aims (as far as I can see it) that there must be some monopoly authority of some kind to prevent property from being “too heavily concentrated” in a particular fashion. That is, that property must be owned somewhat equally among private property holders. I contend that economic analysis shows that even assuming a distributist starting point it cannot last that way for long. The simple act of attempting to best satisfy consumer desires will make this impossible. So for distributism to work long-term, it would require some authority to dictate how one is permitted to allocate their property. This by definition means that the authority would be exercising ownership rights in property. Simply because the authority does not come outright and declare title to the property does not mean it is still not administering what are essentially ownership rights. Think for example how now the Airline industries must follow numerous dictats from the FAA, despite the fact that the FAA has no ownership rights to the aircraft.

    2. That is true, but that was not my point. My point was to remind readers that just because Chesterton and Belloc advocated some view does not make it right. The view must be argued and proven. Just because an influential person says something on one topic does not make him authoritative or even half-way knowledgeable about another. The idea espoused must be able to stand on its own merits. IMO. distributism fails this test at even an elementary level.

    3. Which is why I pointed out they were not anarchists. I am not exactly sure what you are getting at here.

    4. To compare the sustained combustion of matter (fire) to a proposed monopoly on the use of force in a given geographical polity is to compare apples to airplanes. To say fire is dangerous and useful when controlled is true. To claim that a monopoly government is necessary; that civilization would not proceed without it is one of the most widely believed myths in the history of mankind. So imo to compare a state with fire is a false comparison.

    I’m sure it is astonishing. The idea is so foreign to the thought process of most westerners that their mind literally stops whenever the idea is uttered. That does not make it wrong.

    I am also not surprised you think the theory is inherently self-contradictory. It isn’t. All it shows (and I do not mean to condescend here) is your ignorance of history and of legal structures outside the bounds of our top-down legislated structure which we have been suffering through over the past few centuries.

    You are correct when you say I am for a multiplicity of decentralized orders. but this does not follow that there would be millions of different sets of laws. Think for a moment for how long people would willingly refuse to trade with their neighbors unless they adhered only to their specific set of “clan law” as you put it. Their standard of living would plummet, they would essentially become destitute in a matter of months. What do you think is more likely? That they would do this, or that they would willingly assent to a small number of laws for the purpose of the normalization of trade? this reminds me of the argument against a market based money? Why wouldn’t a million different currencies spring up. the answer is that they might, but only a small number of them will be used because only a small number are needed for the money to perform its function. Law is exactly the same way, except that its function is to uphold and enforce property rights.

    history shows that this is exactly what human beings did. There are myriad historical examples showing how a voluntarily chosen market based law would work. There was the Law Merchant of the Medieval period, the English hundreds system, the Icelandic system, the Wagon train compacts of the American west, the various mining camp charter courts.

    The idea that people will simply revert to the state of wild animals unless there is some top-down monopolist of law is absurd. both from a theoretical and an historical perspective. For a free smattering of this literature i will link to the following paper “The Rise of Government Law Enforcement in England”


    I suggest all with an open mind read it.

  12. In regard to the paper you linked. It was quite a good read and in many ways points out the advantages that distributists themselves say would exist under Distributism. Unfortunately for your point, it was clearly not describing anarchy. There were clearly laws that were locally established and enforced rather than being established and enforced by centralized government. This is something I have advocated myself as have other authors at The Distributist Review. The paper also made no claim that a central government did not exist, only that its role did not include making or enforcing local laws or claims of restitution. This is certainly one aspect of subsidiarity which we Distributists advocate.
    You claim that the best description of anarchy is “market chosen law,” but that is not what anarchy is. Anarchy is “no law” and this is precisely what the anarchist groups advocate. No law, not even local law or social custom. No government. No police. No enforcement. There would be no private courts because courts only exist to enforce law or custom. Once law exists and there is a means to enforce or judge based on it, anarchy cannot be present. Therefore, your “best” description of anarchy is not anarchy at all; it is merely decentralized – more localized – authority in at least most matters. This is precisely what Distributists advocate.
    You claim that Distributism must have some monopoly authority to prevent property from being too heavily concentrated. However, the ideal Distributist solution for this would have that issue handled locally by non-government authorities such as the guilds. It is guilds which would have the principal role in preventing anti-competitive behavior within their local area – thereby preventing the over concentration of productive capital and other abuses of monopoly. Therefore, Distributism is the opposite of Socialism and not a variant of it in any way.
    There is no aspect of Distributism that suggest authority may dictate how property must be allocated. There is merely prevention of one person using his property to prevent another from competing. This is not Socialism, or even close to it. No Distributist would say that you must plant wheat and that you cannot make cars. Instead, Distributism would make sure that no one already planting wheat or making cars can use their presence in the market to prevent you from doing so or even make it difficult for you to enter those markets.

  13. Dear Kevin,
    Do you still have my headshot and resume?
    With hope,
    Lee McKenna

  14. “By anarchy you seem to mean not simply chaos and disorder, but order defined and imposed from person to person and house to house, sort of a return to clans.”

    To me, that would make anarchism even worse than the crap we have to deal with today. I’d rather hassle with the faraway feds than with nosy neighbors telling me what to do.

  15. “You claim that the best description of anarchy is “market chosen law,” but that is not what anarchy is. Anarchy is “no law” and this is precisely what the anarchist groups advocate. No law, not even local law or social custom. No government. No police. No enforcement. There would be no private courts because courts only exist to enforce law or custom. Once law exists and there is a means to enforce or judge based on it, anarchy cannot be present. Therefore, your “best” description of anarchy is not anarchy at all; it is merely decentralized – more localized – authority in at least most matters. This is precisely what Distributists advocate.”

    -Then the fundamental problem that I see is your choice of definition. You claim that as soon as there is law, then anarchy does not exist. My response is that you and I do not share the same definition of anarchy. My definition of anarchy refers simply to “the absence of a state”, a state refers to ” a geographical monopolist in the use of force, usually in the resolution of disputes”. I would also argue that your definition of anarchy is not the definition of anarchy which is used by social scientists who have actually studied these systems of social organization. The primary difference between an anarchy and a state system is that the state has FINAL decision making ability and it is not legal for another authority to directly compete with it in the same manner as a business can compete with another. That is what makes it “market chosen”, the fact that its strength comes only from the fact that people are willing to pay for it directly as opposed to being forced to pay for it through taxation (which is an institutionalized form of theft). The “anarchy” you refer to is only taken seriously by misfits who do not understand how societies work and grow, not by actual social scientists. It also refers to only a very selective portion of the population who discuss anarchy.
    “You claim that Distributism must have some monopoly authority to prevent property from being too heavily concentrated. However, the ideal Distributist solution for this would have that issue handled locally by non-government authorities such as the guilds. It is guilds which would have the principal role in preventing anti-competitive behavior within their local area – thereby preventing the over concentration of productive capital and other abuses of monopoly. Therefore, Distributism is the opposite of Socialism and not a variant of it in any way.”
    -Now you see this is precisely why I say Distributism is pie-in-the-sky and is self-contradictory. You are claiming that it is not the government, but the guilds who would be allowed to determine competitive and non-competitive behavior. Who exactly would the guilds be getting this authority to stop “non-competitive” behavior from if not the government? Inorder for them to stop peaceful exchange, some one must be giving them the authority to unilaterally use force in their prescribed localized area to stop the exchange from taking place? This is Corporatism (which is a variant of socialism) in action. THEN there is the entire problem of your conception of the creation of monopoly power in the market in the first place. Murray Rothbard showed that this does not happen in his book “Man, Economy, and the State” and Dominick Armentano thoroughly demolished almost all the standard arguments for “non-competitive behavior” in “Antitrust Law: the case for repeal” as well as “Antitrust; Anatomy of a Policy Failure”.
    “There is no aspect of Distributism that suggest authority may dictate how property must be allocated. There is merely prevention of one person using his property to prevent another from competing.”
    -I do not mean to be rude but this strikes me as just blatant doubletalk. One the one hand you are saying distributism would not seek to tell people what kind of businesses they can run. But it obviously must do this is it is attempting to try and setup the market based upon how your guilds say it should look. And what exactly describes “non-competitive behavior”. if it is charging less for a service than one’s competitor then distributism is essentially arguing against any innovation which result in a drop in prices for consumers. Can you give me a non-arbitrary method by which distributists claim this could be done and not totally hobble technical and managerial innovation? More to the point, explain to me how this system would not simply be used by the current head business leaders to stifle any innovation which would challenge the markets they already have control over? Again, this is not a system which describes how human beings act in the real world.

  16. My definition of anarchy comes from both the literal meaning of the word and from the statements made by various sites supporting anarchy and the few people I have actually encountered who support it. You are a rare exception that does not take anarchy to mean “no law.”

    I find it interesting that you cannot discern where the guilds would get the authority when you directed us to a paper that expounds that very thing. They authority does not derive from the central government because it is by its nature a local authority.

    All of your arguments against Distributism and they way the market would work under it also arguments against the very paper to which you directed us, because that paper discussed the development of economic policy in the Middle Ages when the economic system was the way to which Distributists would like to return (with allowances for modern developments in technology).

    You have clearly chosen to attack us without researching our positions because you have repeatedly accused us of holding positions which we have opposed in writing on this site. You encouraged those with “open minds” to read the article. I repeat that and urge you to have an open mind and find out our actual positions before continuing.

    Distributism would not use “managerial innovation” or be used by the current head business leaders because that is capitalism. Why would they switch from a system that puts them at such a great advantage to the common man to one which would inhibit their ability to be in such a position?

    Good day to you.

  17. Keith, you are more like a radical leftist than you realize. This romanticizing of anarchy is spooky and creepy and crazy at the same time.

    And what you call anarchy is nothing more than philosophical relativism applied to government. Now you say Distributism is unworkable. Your “anarchy” is not only workable, it’s all over the place.

    You want tribalism and an absence of central control? Spend a week on the streets of North St. Louis. I promise you the police won’t strong arm you; the locals are running the neighborhood. See how utopian your anarchy really is. There are many places on this planet without any centralized authority in control, and what reins in those places is terror.

    This is utterly bizarre.

    I write more about that here – “Romanticizing Chaos” – http://endofthemodernworld.blogspot.com/2011/01/romanticizing-chaos.html

  18. Again, I must infer from your statements that you are missing my main point and this may partially be my fault. I will try to be a little clearer.
    -My main point is not that “centralness” in and of itself is the problem. The problem originates from the fact that the governing authority is a MONOPOLIST who does not permit a competing authority to perform his function (enforce a body of law) and forces everyone in his geographical area to pay taxes to him.
    -My anarchy is actually NOT all over the place, certainly not in the western world. if it were, there would be competing law enforcement agencies who could make arrests and right property rights violations. I assume you mean St. louis, Missouri. let me ask you a question: if I were to set up my own law enforcement agency which worked to redress crimes against the local residents, by arresting perpetrators and forcing them to pay restitution to their victims, would the state government permit me to do this or would they try to throw me in prison? I’ve got about a 99% certainty it would be the latter. So clearly it is not an anarchy.
    -As to the places with no central government in which “terror reigns”, I would argue that terror reigned in those same places WHEN THERE WAS A CENTRAL GOVERNMENT. The most obvious case of this is Somalia.
    -i don’t give a crap if you think that the fact that I have not become totally deluded to the false promises of the state is “creepy” or “crazy”. I can recall when soviets said the same thing when they were told that western countries produce shoes without any sort of government central committee also. That does not mean they were right. I would certainly say that it is silly to consider it “leftist”. When was the last time you heard a leftist make anywhere near the anti-state line of reasoning that I am giving? With the exception of the libertarian socialists (boy are they confused) I’d be willing to guess never.

  19. Again, CERTAIN sites promote a form of anarchy which you are referring to. But this is not the universal definition, and it is certainly not the definition when social scientists are referring to non-monopolist legal regimes.
    -Perhaps I was mistaken concerning the exact nature of the guild authorities. I was led to believe (from earlier statements in this thread) that a guild would be given authority over business concentration/competition in some general area by a government authority. The mentioning of a guild system also led me to this characterization, since the old guilds during the age of monarchies derived their authority to unilaterally control a given business type according to their whims from the Monarchs (ie. the state).
    -You seem to have misread what I wrote earlier concerning managerial innovation. I said distributism would totally inhibit managerial innovation (not use it), which would cause the given business organization to produce less goods/ unit of work input. Again, this feeds into my argument concerning the fact that distributism would not last in the long term assuming that there was genuine free trade. This is my whole point concerning distributism: it can only survive in the long term assuming that trade in property is heavily regulated (which again renders it a form of socialism). It is true that over time, “market power” can concentrate between a few businesses. but it does not follow that 1) this is inherently bad or 2) that they will remain concentrated over time. From the various comments by distributists on capitalism, they simply seem to assume that market power becomes concentrated at some point and then proceeds to stay there indefinitely. This is historically inaccurate. No large business ever stays large for long UNLESS it has the state around to give it special privileges over its competitors, whether these be in the form of direct subsidies, tariffs, tax breaks, technical specifications that only that firm can fulfill, etc.
    -Perhaps you could give me a breakdown of how the guild system of distributism would be able to unilaterally produce more goods than the capitalist system of complete ability to trade in both consumer and producer goods (with no attention given to ensuring a firm size or distribution of a particular size).
    Good day to you sir.

  20. As an anarchist, and an advocate of Distributism, I would say that it is unfair to say that Keith’s definition of anarchy is “rare”. You mentioned that your definition of “anarchy” come from the literal meaning as “no laws”. This is in fact, a mistake. “Anarchy” does not mean “no laws”. It means “no ruler”, which is an entirely different meaning. No anarchists I know advocate a society without law. This simply shows your ignorance, if you are honest in studying the history of anarchism as a social movement.

    Dorothy Day is one of the greatest example for Distributists. But surprise, she was also an Anarchist (in which she herself admitted). Her political attitude was very much in accord with anarchist principles (she never voted, and she refused to pay taxes).

    On the other hand, I also agree that Keith is pretty ignorant to say that Distributism is another form of Corporatism and/or Socialism. Keith here, is just being a vulgar libertarian, a libertarian who treats the existing current private property rights as given (which is a distortion of true property rights, private property based on labor). Left-libertarians do provide an honest analysis (and even more consistent than Rothbard in using his own Austrian analysis) that a distributist economic structure is more likely to occur in a Stateless society. Capitalism, has always existed through and depended upon massive State privilege, that enables Capital to have a supremacy of bargaining power over labor.

    I would argue that the State is a barrier (instead of a potential ally) for a distributist society. In a Stateless society, without massive State intervention in behalf of Capitalist, workers will have more bargaining power, and a Distributist “utopia” will flourish more easily. More and more workers would be allowed to own their own means of production, and therefore widely distributing private property to most people instead centralizing private property to the few rich Capitalists.

    I would recommend reading Kevin Carson’s “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy” and “Organizational Theory”.

  21. Distributism is workable, and the State is not its ally, it is its barrier.

    Anarchism and Distributism is not opposed to each other. Dorothy Day is a living example.

    If think that anarchism is spooky and creepy and contradictory to Distributism, than do not use Dorothy Day as a Distributist example.

    She was an anarchist, that is a fact.

  22. Distributism is workable, and the State is not its ally, it is its barrier.

    Anarchism and Distributism is not opposed to each other. Dorothy Day was a living example.

    If you think that anarchism is spooky and creepy and contradictory to Distributism, than do not dare use Dorothy Day as a rolemodel of Distributism.

    She was an anarchist, that is a fact.

  23. Dorothy Day is an anarchist. Was she worse than the crap the we have to deal with today?

    What is with all this tendency of certain Distributists to hate anarchism without actually understanding what it really is?

  24. It seems that the majority of the writers in Distributist Review are against anarchism, as if Anarchism and Distributism isn’t reconcilable.

    However, in the same time this website uses Dorothy Day as a rolemodel of Distributism.

    I’m really getting lost with many of DistributiSTs position, although I am not against DistributiSM in itself.

  25. You give the Streets of North St. Louis as an example, I give you the Catholic Worker Movement.

    Read their Aims and Principles :


  26. Unprivileged,

    Once again, one does not have to subscribe to Dorothy’s anarchic positions, which she herself said would run contrary to Chesterton’s and Belloc’s thought, to support her in other areas. One can see Dorothy as a role model of helping the poor and unemployed and yet disagree with some of her positions on pacificism as well.

  27. This is not the position of any Distributist, neither in the past nor in the present. That the State should not misuse its power, or that its citizens should not be servile is not the same as the State being evil in nature.

  28. -…I must admit I was not aware of the idea that distributism might simply refer to the most likely form of social organization in a stateless society.
    -From the various arguments supporting the system (that I had seen up to now), they seemed to infer that the system would require a government to enforce the ruling of the guild of any said respective business type. In that way it looked to me much like the guild system of various monarchies throughout the history of the Medieval period in Europe. That is why I referred to it as a form of Socialism, most closely emulating Corporatism. If the idea is simply that society would more likely join into a voluntary arrangement which has voluntary guilds and whatnot I would disagree as to this being a likely outcome, atleast in relation to business arrangements. But yes you are correct that under your conception it could not be considered a form of Socialism. But given many of the responses I have seen so far I must wonder whether most distributists actually hold to this idea of the system existing outside of a monopolist state system.
    -I will agree that there would be a much lower amount of business concentration in a stateless environment than in the current environment. The current state enforced regulatory environment is used often and effectively to stifle competitors to the firms who can effectively lobby the government. But it does not follow that even then a large amount of business concentration could not take place. Consumers can still purchase such that the high business concentration firms still exist.
    -I have heard some of the left-libertarian arguments suggesting that business organization would be super decentralized in a stateless environment, and that there would be essentially no large concentration (certainly no corporations) without the state. Frankly I have not found them terribly convincing, especially after reading Kinsella’s work concerning the viability of limited liability without the state.
    -I must say the idea that labor is property strikes me as a bit silly. “Labor” is not an exchangeable thing. When one enters a labor contract with an employer, what is actually being contracted is the employee’s time and effort in performing some actions which the employer wants. The property that the employee is contracting out for wages (in the broad sense) is his own body, which actually is property that the employee self-owns.
    -However I will agree with you that there would be a more diversified ownership of the means of production relative to what we have now. The concentration would at the very least shift much more quickly over time between competing firms.

  29. Only rulers can make laws. That is true whether the ruler is a single individual or a collective body. Additionally, any attempt to enforce a law, even if it be local, imposes a rule of one (or some) over others. Therefore, if there is no ruler, there is no law or law enforcement. I admit that there are different variants of anarchy and have pointed this out on a previous comment on another post related to Dorothy Day.
    The guilds of the Middle Ages did not derive their authority from the monarch, they derived their authority through the nature of their office according to the philosophical understanding of the proper ordering of society known as subsidiarity. Innovation would not be inhibited in any way under Distributism, but our disagreement here is probably based on a different understanding of what constitutes “genuine” free trade. It is true that large businesses depend on the state to stay large, but it does not follow that the mere existence of a state means that it will favor large businesses in the ways that modern states do. This can only happen when the powers of the state are not according to the principles of subsidiarity.
    I have never claimed that a distributist economy will be able to produce more goods than a capitalist one. In fact, it would likely produce less because it would produce less junk. However, because production would be less centralized, a distributist economy would be more stable. Economic efficiency in production (the amount of goods produced “per unit” of work) is, in my opinion, far less important than the benefits of a more stable economy.

  30. Dorothy Day, according to my readings, subscribed to a form of anarchy known as “Christian Anarchy.” This variant acknowledged the existence of a state as necessary based on the teachings of the Bible and, in the case of Catholics like Day, Church teaching. However, they advocated the old tradition from the Middle Ages where a law that was either unjust or did not derive from the state’s proper powers was in fact not a law and did not have to be followed. (In the Middle Ages, while the Church did not have the authority to make law, it had the authority to declare a law null on these grounds.) Christian anarchists also advocate not turning to the state for aid (because it is not the proper role of the state except temporarily in times of emergency or dire need)instead relying on their own local and communal ability to provide for needs. This view is entirely compatible with Distributism. However, there are a great deal of anarchist groups that advocate no state, no law and no law enforcement.

  31. “Only rulers can make laws.”
    -I can only describe this as an historically ignorant position. I have already shown you numerous instances where this was not the case. Furthermore, you are still missing my primary point. My point is the monopoly position of the state in making law compared to the voluntary adherence to law in a stateless market chosen legal order. I cannot possibly describe how this sytem would work in as small a space as this comment. Benson’s “Enterprise of Law” can be had for a paltry sum given the actual depth of information contained in the book.
    “The guilds of the Middle Ages did not derive their authority from the monarch”
    -It may not have been the monarch proper for all guilds (local offcials may have done so in respect to smaller regional guilds). But they were given the power to limit competition (read: to disrupt peaceful trade they did not agree with) and regularly did so for their own benefit. A glaring example of this was in 17th century France, when the monarchy gave the weaving guilds the right to forcibly prevent the use of looms in producing articles not specifically made of silk. That meant that cheap woolen/cotten articles could not be made in mass quantities for the groups who would obviously benefitted the most from them: the poor. If guilds are given similar powers than during this period then why should I not expect this sort of behavior constantly?
    “I have never claimed that a distributist economy will be able to produce more goods than a capitalist one. In fact, it would likely produce less because it would produce less junk.”
    -Finally an admission to distributisms real goal! Not to actually provide consumers with what they are willing to pay for, but for one section of society to force their production/consumption preferences on the other parts. I also must say I fail to see why stability is more important than prosperity. Primitive economies were for the most part extremely stable, but they also had huge numbers of people living in destitution. I see little reason to want to support a system which ostensibly aims to make people poorer.

  32. ““We have too much government already! I want the state to keep its hands off my marriage!”–thus ending all discussion.”
    Firstly I cannot help but agree with this individual. Secondly, where exactly is he wrong?

    Well, This is a contradiction.

    Nobody should finish a conversation and then ask a question about it, at least in theory.

  33. That’s fair. Let me elaborate a bit.
    -My point was that I wanted to note that I do not disagree with this fellow’s sentiment, and that I think it is pertinent for whoever disagrees with him to make his case as to why he is wrong. I was not attempting to end the discussion, but simply point out that I do not think it is an unreasonable position to have. Indeed, the discussion did not HAVE to end. There is no reason he could not have been pressed further to elaborate his position.

  34. You should really visit Center For a Stateless Society, http://www.c4ss.org

    You read Stephen Kinsella’s works? Try reading materials from Sheldon Richman, Roderick Long, Samuel Edward Konkin 3 (Agorist),Brad Spangler (Agorist), and Karl Hess, all of whom are Austrian Libertarians who are considered to be “Left-Libertarians”, http://all-left.net/

    They have far more convincing arguments in favor of a society very much similar to the Distributist proposal rather than Stephen Kinsella’s own fetish in Capitalism.

  35. We have discussed this before. Christian Anarchism is one of the oldest and most respected form of Anarchism, dating back to the time of Leo Tolstoy. The Anarcho-Communist Peter Kropotkin (in which Dorothy Day was largely inspired with) ackowledge Christian Anarchism as a valid form of Anarchism. They advocate no State, and there is nothing wrong with that. Shall I also remind you that Dorothy Day was also a radical pacifist, which makes no sense whatsoever for her to advocate a State which depends on violence to impose its authority (not law, because authority precedes law) over its subjects?

    When an anarchist advocate “no law” he/she is saying that in a hyperbolic tone. The “law” he/she is against is the existing form of law which is provided by the State.

    David W. Cooney, I’m not sure what kind of readings of Anarchism you have, but clearly you have a minimum knowledge regarding it for you to judge simplisticly.

  36. Spend some time to read the materials in all-left.net

    The articles “Corporations versus the Market”, “Free Market Firms : Smaller, Flatter, and More Crowded” by Roderick Long is really great.

    Keith, you must realize, that many of the Right-Libertarians attact on LTV is basically straw man. Benjamin Tucker said, the natural wage of labor is its product. It is a tendency of State Capitalism (our existing system) to prevent labor to receive its natural wage. The mutualist LTV only argues that in a free market, there will be more tendency for most market actors to use its principle. LTV is not enforced through any aggression, it is simply easier to be practiced in a free market.

  37. I did not say that you must subscribe to Day’s anarchic positions, but clearly here, many so-called Chestertonian Distributists are being very much antagonistic and comitting knee-jerk attacks on anarchism without any substantial knowledge of it, even refusing to see it as potential allies.

    Chesterton do not hold a monopoly on Distributism. The fact is both a devout Catholic AND an Anarchist is one of its greatest practitioner, However the majority of the writers of this website seems to act as if Distributism and Anarchism is OPPOSED to each other. This is going against a historical fact. It is a fact that Distributism and Anarchism IS NOT CONTRADICTORY.

  38. Two final points. (1) the 17th century was not part of the Middle Ages. It was a time when states were rejection the classical philosophy that guided them during the Middle Ages. These changes, among others, led first to the corruption of the guild structure and then to its elimination by the state.
    In the 13th century, when the guilds really took shape, they were formed by local initiatives of the common people choosing to band together for their own mutual assistance and protection. They were free and democratic and devised their own rules which became enforceable law. Their ability to function was not dependent on the monarch or even the local lord. It was also the time when the Magna Carta which provided significant restrictions on the ability of the monarch to interfere with local economic (and other) matters. (2) Your statement that the system will make people poorer is misinformed. Disease and invasion were the causes of destitution during the Middle Ages. Prior to the plague, people lived quite well (taking into consideration the lack of technology of the time) and had more mandatory days off than the average worker does today. (Half days on Saturdays and vigils of Holy Days. All day off on Sundays and Holy Days, and there were many more obligatory Holy Days back then than there are now.)
    I do not advocate bringing back all aspects of the economic life of those days like the Lords and the requirement to work for the Lord a certain number of days per month; those aspects are not a necessary part of Distributism.
    Technological development was also wide spread during that time. Guilds and monasteries had regular meetings with those of different areas where they discussed policies and shared technological development. The incentive to continue to develop technology will be no less under Distributism than it is under Capitalism. The main difference will be that it would be funded collectively for the benefit of all rather than by single powerful companies for their own exclusive benefit. There is archeological evidence of a very efficient blast furnace from 16th century England. Unfortunately, Henry VIII seized the lands of the monastery where it was developed so the public was robbed of the technology to efficiently process iron ore for centuries.

  39. I’ve read much of Roderick Long’s work and he is indeed quite good. I fail to see how exactly this counters my argument concerning the fact that consumers can still choose to purchase such their THEY chooses firms who end up having a high market concentration.
    “Keith, you must realize, that many of the Right-Libertarians attact on LTV is basically straw man.”
    -….? How do you figure? the only way this could be true is if the LTV you are referring to is something wildly different from the LTV of Marx. If you are referring to the Marxian definition I would have to wholly disagree. Economists as far back as Carl menger have shown that compared to STV, LTV does not stand any serious scrutiny. I am also perplexed as to how you can freely suggest Roderick Long and Sheldon Richman concerning the nature of property and still seriously consider LTV as a correct theory. It have never read any of them actually describe Distributism (as I read it from almost all contemporary and all the founding Distributists) to be considered a coherent stateless social order. I am especially surprised by this because I am fairly sure that Richman, Long, and Kinsella all share the same definition of “Capitalism”.
    -Again, I admit that genuine capitalism would likely result in a more crowded (in business terms) and smaller social order, but this does not still negate the various internal inconsistencies in Distributism (again, using the definition which relies upon a state which given the comments seems to be the commonly held definition of it).

  40. Unprivileged, omitting Chesterton: neither Belloc, Titterton, Reckitt, K.L. Kenrick, Gleeson, Pepler, Baines, Heseltine, Fr. Witcutt, Fr. McNabb…should I go on? I do not wish to sound antagonistic to you, Unprivileged, because I am not. However, none of the Distributists supported anarchism.

  41. Here’s the primary question: is law merely “positive”, i.e., arbitrarily imposed by an authority? Or does it, at least to some extent, reflect the nature of the world and human nature? If it is the former, then the argument is entirely about who has the authority to impose laws – a question of power only. If it’s the latter, then the authority of law rests outside of the human leader who imposes it – whether that leader be a monarch or your uncle.

    As to the question of marriage. I’ll be happy to post on that separately, as it’s a big question in and of itself. But the knee-jerk reaction, “I want government to keep its hands off my marriage!” comes from a view of government as imposing only. I could see this if indeed the government were enforcing something that two parties did not themselves choose; but what’s wrong with the government – in the court system – enforcing terms of a covenant freely entered into?

    It does not seem that the libertarians can ever have the insight to see that government can indeed serve man – although, ironically, that’s exactly what the anarchist expects his myriad profusion of governments to do.

  42. -1.) Excuse me I meant to say the Medieval Period. Also, so what? My point was to simply show that the guild system with the power to use force to stop freely chosen exchange is in and of itself a corrupt system which will impede innovation. I do not have much knowledge concerning the earliest formations of the guilds, but if they forcibly interfered with voluntary exchange (by preventing certain products from being sold, from preventing certain individuals from practicing a trade unless he did it under the auspices of the guild, etc.) then my argument has lost no ground.
    -2.) The inherent problem of production is not fundamentally technological, it is a matter of economic calculation. Unless firms are free to trade then there will be waste in utilization of productive resources, which means impoverishment. The system in the short term may indeed have produced more goods during the period it first came into being. But that is a strawman; my argument was that if one were to institute this system NOW to replace the current system, then it WOULD result in impoverishment. Given that firm size would not be based on consumer desires but on some vague ethical standard of what constitutes just property ownership.
    “The main difference will be that it would be funded collectively for the benefit of all rather than by single powerful companies for their own exclusive benefit.”
    -This is such a misunderstanding of economic theory I do not know where to begin. The fact that distributism relies on this caricature of capitalism instead of its reality to make its point only shows how misinformed the entire theory is.

  43. Dorothy Day cited on the Catholic Worker Movement website.
    “We believe in a withdrawal from the capitalist system so far as each one is able to do so. Toward this end we favor the establishment of a Distributist economy wherein those who have a vocation to the land will work on the farms surrounding the village and those who have other vocations will work in the village itself. In this way we will have a decentralized economy which will dispense with the State as we know it and will be federationist in character as was society during certain periods that preceded the rise of national states.” (http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=519)
    The end of the state “as we know it” to be replaced by one that is federationist in character. That means that the state, in a different form, one compatible with Christian and Distributist teaching, one that only operates according to its proper role and according to justice, is at least possible. I believe I tried to point this out previously as well.
    Peaceful resistance against the unjust nature of the state as we know it today is a perfectly acceptable idea to me. I see much merit in this and do not argue against it. It is not, however, the sole form of anarchy out there so I have no basis to assume that, whenever someone makes a post advocating anarchy, they are referring to the form of Christian Anarchy advocated by Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement. I try to be careful to distinguish between them. I apologize when I fail to do so adequately. Please do not assume, however, that every time I speak out against anarchy that I am opposing Christian Anarchy as described in the above quote of Dorothy Day. I am not. I believe that the state as we now know it needs to be abolished. However, I do not contend that this means there should be no state at all. Whatever form of government that exists must operate only according to its proper role (subsidiarity) and only in a just manner.

  44. “It does not seem that the libertarians can ever have the insight to see that government can indeed serve man ”
    -You are presuming that “government” (more accurately for this discussion “the state”) is something other than an arbitrary collection of men. That is all that the state is, a collection of men who have somehow convinced (or deluded) the rest of society to invest in them a monopoly of the use of force in a given geographical polity. We hold that it indeed can serve men, the question is which ones? Given that it acquires its revenue through theft instead of voluntary exchange and then arbitrarily hands it out to other men, I must say I fail to see how exactly it is “serving” me. You are correct that we lack this insight because the idea is NOT an insight, but a myth. Or a supersitition. It comes from the mistaken idea that the government simply creates things out of thin air and doles them out like free goodies, instead of the accurate view that it cannot create anything without first forcibly taking it from some one else.

  45. Fine. I am as misinformed about your pet theory as you are about mine. I have never said that consumer desires would not be a driving factor. Nor did I ever say that we would do away with all economic efficiency. I merely stated that economic efficiency is not THE primary consideration.
    You also seem to think that we advocate the instantaneous replacement of Capitalism with Distributism by “instituting this system NOW.” However, I have never seen a Distributist advocating such an irrational and irresponsible position. Change would have to be gradual in order to allow the flow of the economy to adjust. This, again, has been repeatedly stated which shows how misinformed you remain of our positions despite the many clear explanations that are available to you.

    If you do not believe that innovation has been stifled by large corporations through the use of patents, leveraged buyouts, and the use of the massive economic power to hinder competitors then you have not been paying much attention to our economy in action. You say “economic theory” as if there is only one. That is simply not true. I have taken classes in economics and I simply see faults in them that you, apparently, do not.

  46. Just for further clarification, I acknowledge that the quote is easily interpreted to mean that (1) there will be no state or (2) there could be a state that is not nationalistic in character. I can see the possibility of both. However, I am not an advocate of the “no state” idea, so I will write about correcting the nature of the state rather than its abolition.

  47. What keeps fascinating me about this discussion is how our friend Keith keeps affirming everything I suspect about the errors of anarchists in particular and Austrian Schoolboys in general. When I wrote the original post, I said to myself, “Well, I’m using hyperbole to say that libertarians think all government is evil,” and then Keith confirms, “Oh, yes! All government is evil!”

    Then he elaborates some more. All government is mere bullying by an arbitrary group of men with guns. All taxation is mere theivery. Nothing more. It does not serve the common good, for apparently, there is no common good.

    I suppose I should ask you, Keith – though I asked this already, in different words – is there a common good? Anywhere? Is there a local common good? Is there a national common good? Is there a common good in a family? Is there a common good for all mankind? I don’t mean “are people occasionally unified in what they call good”, I mean is there an objective common good, whether governments or individuals recognize it or not? Thus, is there only positive law or is there such a thing as national law?

    Since this Fad-Anarchy is really just the Dictatorship of Relativism, I suspect I know what Keith’s answer will be.

    The other problem, of course, is that if a clan votes to form their own government and their own courts and police, then, though government may no longer be “monopolized”, it’s still government. If all government is brutality and theft, then the clan will be as arbitrary and brutal as the state was. If the problem is in the nature of government, why would a fad-anarchist put his hopes in mini-governments? The only possible answer is mini-governments stand a chance of being the lesser evil – in other words Distributist Anarchy or Distributarchy.

    And while it’s clear these combox arguments are convincing no one, we’re at least learning how post-modern and anti-Catholic this Austrian anarchy is.

  48. “national law” above sould have been “natural law”

  49. The state as we know it in its current form is certainly not an ally of Distributism and I don’t know any distributist who would claim otherwise. However, history shows that it does not necessarily follow that a state in a different form could not be an ally of Distributism. Dorothy Day was both an anarchist and an active advocate and implementer of Distributism. Therefore, we may certainly hold her up as a role model for implementing Distributism even though we may disagree with her positions as an anarchist. We do not need to agree with each and every position of those we cite. We don’t even have to agree with each and every position of each other to work together to promote Distributism on this site.

  50. -“Is there a common good”.
    An objective common good as you claim? Define “common good” for me. Almost every time I hear the term (like right now) the term is simply thrown out there as though everybody with 100% certainty knows what that is. I would love to hear someone give me a non-arbitrary definition of what exactly the common good is. Because the way i see it, the common good seems to mean whatever the original orator claims that it is…to them. Every single group has their own idea of what the common good is, so how can you maintain that there is such a thing? I have an idea of what the common good is, but I am curious as to what your conception of it is.
    “Is there such a thing as natural law?”
    -Obviously, when did I give the impression that there was no such thing?
    “If all government is brutality and theft, then the clan will be as arbitrary and brutal as the state was. If the problem is in the nature of government, why would a fad-anarchist put his hopes in mini-governments?”
    -Okay, at this point I must assume either 1 of 2 things. 1) you are intentionally obfuscating my main point in relation to the state inorder to dodge my rebuttals or 2) you cannot tell the difference between a voluntary exchange and a coerced exchange. I am guessing given the fact that you continually assume that having a non-monopolist state would devolve into simply a bunch of tiny monopolist states, that the problem is the latter. So let me try and state this as simply as I can. The anarchist point is simply this: there is nothing inherently different between the production of law and security than there is with the production of books, or computers, or any other good which requires the coordination of labor and capital inorder for the good to be produced according to consumer desires. That’s it, that is the argument in a nutshell. Just like you are constantly saying that it is bad for any given market for a good to become too concentrated by “monopolists”, I in essence take that argument to its next logical step. In the same way as it is bad for electronics production to become a coercive monopoly (coercive insofar as it uses violence to stop would be competitors) I and other market anarchists believe that this is just as bad for law and security (courts and police) as it is for electronics.
    -Given that Catholic doctrine in and of itself (atleast the new testament) lays down absolutely no rules concerning what the social order should look like I must say I am very interested as to how you can very blithely state that it is anti-catholic? Indeed, I would say that market anarchy takes Christ’s Golden Rule to its natural conclusion. So why don’t you spell out exactly what is anti-catholic with what I just said?
    _ I will also add that given how you have descended into adhominem attacks (labeling anarchy as “fad-anarchy” when the inherent ideas predate your distributism system by atleast a century) I am really not expecting much in the form of a rational answer to any of my points. You have yet to provide any that can actually do harm to any of my rebuttals. I’m more curious as to how you plan to dodge my essential point now.

  51. Jeez this is gonna make a really narrow little column. Oh well!
    -First let us look at the contradiction in your last comment. You claim that distributism would not discount consumer desires. In the next paragraph, you claim that the only responsible course would be for property to be reallocated over time into the distributist ideal. My question to this is: who is going to do this? the answer to me appears to be (and to anyone else who knows how property is redistributed in society) the state. So we again come back full-circle to my presumption that inorder for distributism to work on its own terms it would require the power of the state to take property from some people and give it to others, therefore contravening consumer desires!
    “If you do not believe that innovation has been stifled by large corporations through the use of patents, leveraged buyouts, and the use of the massive economic power to hinder competitors then you have not been paying much attention to our economy in action. ”
    -Well of course the current system does too! I ALREADY ADMITTED TO THIS. My contention is that your reasoning as to how large corporations do this is certainly not through “massive economic power”. the way their economic power comes into play is by using the state’s machinery of force to stifle those competitors through the use of regulation. Patents are one way this is done, but simply having massive economic power is not how this is done.
    “I have taken classes in economics and I simply see faults in them that you, apparently, do not.”
    -I must say that it does show. You see flaws and contradictions where there are none, and see good cogent reasoning where it is truly found wanting. Exactly the kind of economic theory taught in the universities that was almost totally oblivious to the housing bubble and indeed to nearly all instances of the business cycle. Heck, you still seem to buy into such tired old (and disproven) bromides as “predatory pricing” and “uncompetitive practices”(whatever those are) given your immense fear of monopoly. Of course then there is the contradiction of not fearing the government’s monopoly in the provision of law…but you know.
    -I must say this has been an extremely pleasant discussion! I was most pleased to engage in it, thank you.

  52. None of the Distributists supported anarchism? So Dorothy Day wasn’t a Distributist. Okay then.

  53. Here’s what Sheldon Richman have to say about what Mutualist Kevin Carson mean by LTV,
    “I’d like to amplify my final point, which built on Brad’s. Kevin is simply being a good praxeologist. He’s making predictions about what people will do in a fully free and competitive market, where the state and its favored interests have not foreclosed alternatives through land monopoly and legal barriers to entry in banking and industry. Just as we know that a seller will prefer a higher to a lower price, so a worker will prefer a higher to a lower return on his labor. We can then trace out the consequences for the return on labor services of free competition and freedom of entry. Someone may disagree with Kevin’s predictions of what would happen under voluntary exchange, but the critic should at least be clear on what Kevin is saying. “

  54. Dorothy Day would not support a State which impose its authority through violent coercion. Any anarchist would support a “State” if its authority is imposed not through immoral acts. Examples of “State” like this goes back to the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 8, where the Israeilites voluntarily chose a king above them, even though God was displeased. This kind of authority is justified. If you asked any free market anarchist, they wouldn’t object the idea of a “State” that is created voluntarily by all its subjects. What the Church means when she use the term “State”, is different from what is commonly referred to as the “State”. One or a group of individuals who impose he/their authority over somebody else in a certain territory through physical coercion without any justification of ownership, is definitely not the Church’s idea of a “State”.

  55. – Are you saying that the current form of the State is morally illegitimate, therefore, deserve no obedience from its subjects?
    – Even though you don’t agree with Dorothy Day’s position on Anarchism, that does not mean Distributism and Anarchism is irreconcilable. You surely can have different positions, but having a “different” position and having a “contradictory” position is not the same. But yet, the majority of Distributist writers here writes as if Anarchism and Distributism is totally opposed. This is not the case. The fact is, Anarchism and Distributism, is NOT contradictory. It can cooperate together. But yet, there is a deep hatred towards Anarchism here without any substantial understanding about what it really is (“according to my understanding Anarchism is ridiculous, bizarre, bla bla”). Ignorance, knee-jerk attacks, ad hominem, or straw man is the best many Distributist writers here can do to criticize Anarchism really.

  56. Depends what you mean by the “State”. What is commonly referred to as the “State” is merely a group of individuals who impose its authority through immoral anti-social acts over its subjects (physical coercion, theft) in a certain territory. This is what Anarchism is against. Now as an anarchist, I wouldn’t mind authority and laws per se, but authority preceeds laws. And an authority, according to the Catechism, requires a moral legitimacy, and it does not derive it from itself. If I force my authority over you (using a gun over your head) over a territory where you are currently standing, does that make me a legitimate authority? That is how the “State” (as it is commonly known) operates. But many Catholics confuses the meaning of the “State” used by Church documents and the “State” as it commonly refers to.

    The Church would never define a State as an institution which impose its authority through physical coercion over other people, this is because authority does not derive its moral legitimacy from itself.

  57. As an anarchist I do not object the definition of the “State” defined by Father Fagothey, which is, “….a perfect and self-sufficing natural society, consisting of many individuals and families, united under a common authority, for the attainment of the temporal welfare of the community.”. But anarchists are not against the “State” if that word is defined as what Fr. Fagothey defined, that definition do not include “the justification of the use of physical coercion to impose its authority”.

  58. The point being that anarchy can be just as oppressive and unjust as the eeeeviiilll government. Naming one anarchist means nothing here. There’s 6 billion other folks out there to screw us over, and very few have ever heard of or give a damn about Dorothy Day. And I’m not a distributist, either, so your other criticism has little or nothing to do with me.

    What is with all this tendency of certain Anarchists to comment on posts without understanding what they really mean?

  59. The Catholic Worker Movement is an organization promoting ideals, North St. Louis (and East St. Louis for that matter) are a living reality.

  60. Keith, “libertarian socialists” are not confused. They are simply being consistent libertarians. The term “Libertarian” was historically used by the Socialists to refer to Socialists who were against the Marxist proposal. Shall I remind you that Bakunin and Marx were very much antagonistic? Bakunin was staunchly opossed Marx’s dogma of the dictatorship of the proletariat, so was Proudhon, and so was Kropotkin. The term “Socialist” was not invented by Marx, it was not referred a system of State intervention to redistribute wealth through a strong central government. It simply meant “workers control over the means of the production”. Socialism had split into those who wanted to use the State in behalf of workers, and also into another group – which was a worker movement to be autonomous both from the State and Capitalists (“Capitalist” back then were understood as individuals who got privilege from the State to maintain the separation of ownership from work, the radical free marketeer, Thomas Hodgskin understood this). Worker Cooperatives are the solution, not the State. In other words “Libertarian Socialism” meant an idea to propose a society based on “Voluntary Cooperation”. They were not against the market per se, but they are against Capitalism (Free Market is not Capitalism as explained by Sheldon Richman). This is because Capitalism as it exist has always been understood to be a system of State privilege to guarantee separation of ownership from work, that creates a division of class between the few capital owners and the majority of workers subordinated to these few capitalists. Even Austro-Libertarian Anarchist such as Roderick Long understood that Voluntary Socialism is not an oxymoron.

  61. The “medieval period” and the “middle ages” refer to the same thing; they are used to refer to times before the Renaissance, which began either at the end of the 14th or during the 15th century depending.

  62. Keith,
    You seem to believe that the only way distributists could possibly accomplish the equitable redistribution of productive capital is through the power of the almighty State. While there is room within Distributism for different means of accomplishing this, my own preference does not rely on the state at all because that is not the role of the state. I am currently working on a series of articles in which I already intended to discuss this. It is too long to put in the comments. I will just state that it does not involve the seizure of property.

  63. No, Dorothy Day was a Distributist who also happened to have particular views on anarchy.

  64. -Well let me put it this way, given the conception that I hear most distributists refer to when they are discussing their ideal, yes that is more or less my position.
    -I submit that under the current corporate capitalism arrangement, it is true that many companies would become smaller or die out and be reconstituted into smaller companies. In this way I agree that society would look MORE LIKE a distributist order. But I do not buy into the idea of distributists that they will be able to predict that everything will have this sort of worker owned nature (under a prtivate property arrangement). I think in this way they are severely overestimating the levels of productivity which would be prevalent from these sorts of arrangement and severely underestimating how productive the more concentrated (and thus in many cases more efficient) the concentrated firm can be. The primary difference between the order we have now and a more stateless one would be the extent in which capital is quickly concentrated, then deconcentrated, then reconcentrated in a different industry as consumer desires change over time.

  65. A very positive view indeed. So are you now acknowledging that a Distributist can also hold an Anarchistic view?

  66. Keith. You probably need to be more creative in thinking how a distributist society would work. It’s not through the State, it is the other way around, remove all the State barriers to stop the concentration of wealth and allow more people to own property. By allowing more people to own business by removing all barriers to entry, and by removing all State privilege that benefit huge Corporations (patents, tariffs, infrastructure subsidy, R&D subsidy, and many other regulatory privileges), deregulate unions and Credit Unions (which are heavier than banks) to increase the bargaining power of labor, and remove monopoly on currency to allow labor notes, oh and of course abolish the Fed. Removing those stuff will naturally let more equal distribution of property (workers will have more chance to own their own business cooperatives) without having to forcibly take existing property of individuals.

  67. Richard, I still do not understand how you fail to see that Distributism and Anarchism are not mutually exclusive. One of Distributist greatest practitioners operated Distributism through Anarchism. So I still do not understand why there are so many hatred towards it. There’s nothing wrong in advocating no State.

  68. Keith you are wrong to say that Stephen Kinsella shares the same definition of Capitalism with Sheldon Richman and Roderick Long. You obviously haven’t seen Sheldon Richman’s terrific lecture video titled “Capitalism vs. Free Market”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSoxYGTCwRA
    Roderick Long himself avoids using the term “Capitalism” to refer it to a free market, because he understood that the term “Capitalism” originated not to refer as a free market, but a system where the State intervenes in the economy in behalf of Capitalists. Capitalism is still associated by most people as the exising State-Corporate America.

  69. The fact is consumer tends to choose firms who end up having high market concentration? You mean in our existing system? Our existing STATE-CORPORATE Capitalist system? Are you serious? Do you really think that existing market concentration is a product of a free market instead of State intervention? Do you really think that we have a system close to a free market free from State privilege (that highly benefits Capital power instead of labor)?

    Boy, you are being what Roderick Long calls “Right-Conflationism” in which he defines “the error of treating the virtues of a freed market as though they constituted a justification of the evils of existing corporatist capitalism” (http://aaeblog.com/2010/12/26/how-to-do-things-with-words/)
    or what Carson use to call “Vulgar Libertarian” who treats existing property rights as given, as if existing property rights are a result of the free market (this utilitarian defense on existing property rights is highly criticized by Rothbard himself). I have no probelem with praxeology per se, but many libertarians use it in through an extremely narrow angle, in other words being inconsistent with their own methodology.

  70. Clearly you are very much misinformed of what Anarchism (as a social movement) is really about. It’s exactly about being organized and PROMOTING ideals, not a bunch of bullies creating chaos. So if you have never read about the history and principles anarchism, stop making knee-jerk and straw man attacks if you don’t want to look like a bully yourself.

  71. Those six billion other folks aren’t anarchist. Besides no matter how bad 6 billion other folks try to screw you guys over (which I highly doubt it would happen), its far worse to have a single government to screw you.

  72. -I don’t care what term Roderick Long uses to describe a totally private property right social order. At this point we are arguing solely along semantic lines. If you were to ask both Kinsella and Long what their ideal is, both would say a private property social order. Long would call that the free market and Kinsella would likely contiue to call that Capitalism.
    -I know the origins of the term but it does not follow that this makes the term of dubious merit in describing the basic operative force for the social order: the gradual accumulation of capital goods throughout society which results in an increase in the standard of living of its members.
    -I know it is still used to refer to the current system but the answer is not to just give up the word. Giving up the word is how we lost liberal to the leftists who advocate institutionalized theft and redistribution.

  73. “Mr. Blatchford, who started his campaign against Christianity, warned on all sides, I believe, that it would ruin his paper, but who continued from an honourable sense of intellectual responsibility. He discovered, however, that while he had undoubtedly shocked his readers, he had also greatly advanced his newspaper. It was bought–first, by all the people who agreed with him and wanted to read it; and secondly, by all the people who disagreed with him, and wanted to write him letters. Those letters were voluminous (I helped, I am glad to say, to swell their volume), and they were generally inserted with a generous fulness. Thus was accidentally discovered (like the steam-engine) the great journalistic maxim– that if an editor can only make people angry enough, they will write half his newspaper for him for nothing.” – GK Chesterton in Heretics

  74. -I agree whole heartily with the idea that the current level of market concentration is largely a product of state regulation. But it does not logically follow then that such a level of concentration CANNOT OCCUR. Why you continually choose to overlook that point I cannot say, except that you seem to have some sort of phobia to the term “capitalism”, even when I use it in a definitional form you do not disapprove.
    -Furthermore, where exactly did I say that I justified the current portion of market concentration? Again, you are hearing what you want to hear and completely glossing over my essential point: that even assuming no state there is no fundamental reason that consumers could still choose firms with a high market concentration. Are you saying it is physiologically impossible for this ot happen? Where exactly is the proof for this? Has someone written a work where they are able to find the exact set point of maximum firm size in a genuine free enterprise environment?
    -As to current property rights arrangements: I admit they have much to do with state meddling. But in the words of Rothbard “So what?” Given that it would be impossible to find out what the TRUE property arrangement (the arrangement without state manipulation), what can actually be done about it? At the moment the state goes away the current property rights would have to be the set ones (until competition sets in and they are again reshuffled to best fulfill consumer desires) because there would be no non-arbitrary way of reallocating them. It would not be like trying to redistribute government roads (which Walter Block has gone over in great detail), there are actual genuine property owners in this case.

  75. excuse me:
    -in the 2nd paragraph: that even assuming no state there is no fundamental reason that consumers could NOT still choose firms in such a way that they organize into having high market concentrations.

  76. Hi Kevin,

    I was just wondering what your understanding is regarding the differences between collective and cooperative ownership? Isn’t a worker cooperative, for example owned “collectively” by its members?

  77. Keith, of course not –everything– will have this worker owned nature, but it is most likely going to be more prevalent than it is now. Seems like you only see through the lens consumer desire, but not through the worker’s desire. Under a free market workers will have more bargaining power than ever. Try reading Kevin Carson’s essay study, “The Free Market, not the Government, is the workers friend” (http://c4ss.org/content/4182).

    Or to quote the agorist Brad Spangler, “That word is oligopsony. Just as the word “oligopoly” is a more dispersed form of the concept of “monopoly”, so to oligopsony complements monopsony. Monopsony, in turn, is a mirror image of monopoly. Where a monopoly indicates only one seller, monopsony indicates one buyer.

    The essence of what I had to say about the concept of wage slavery is that the government-induced cartelization of industry creates oligopsony conditions in the labor market. It does this by artificially reducing the number of buyers of labor (businesses), thereby granting the existing ones an unnatural degree of bargaining power.

    Austrian economics is quite clear on the cartelizing effects in the business world of statism. By pointing to statism as the cause of resulting oligopsony conditions in the labor market, a compelling case can be made that the completely free market (i.e. anarchy) truly is the proletarian revolution.”

    To say that concentrated firm is more productive is a bit naive. Most highly concentrated firm in our existing system are very much dependent on government intervention (Wal-Mart for example, benefits hugely from the State – Microsoft benefits hugely from intellectual property).

    Don’t forget that infrastructure subsidy is one other example of huge State intervention that promotes the concentration of economic power. Try reading this article in CNN “How the Interstate “Highway System helped created the modern economy” (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2004/01/26/358835/index.htm)

  78. I’ll also quite Kevin Carson’s article in the libertarian magazine “The Freeman” (of whom Sheldon Richman is its editor), titled “Hierarchy or the Market” (For full article follow this link http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/hierarchy-or-the-market/)

    “The state’s entry barriers, like licensing and capitalization requirements for banks, reduce competition in the supply of credit and drive up its price; enforcement of artificial titles to vacant and unimproved land has a similar effect. As a result, labor’s independent access to capital is limited; workers must sell their labor in a buyer’s market; and workers tend to compete for jobs rather than jobs for workers.

    State subsidies to economic centralization and capital accumulation also artificially increase the capital-intensiveness of production and thereby the capitalization of the dominant firm. The effect of such entry barriers is to reduce the number of employers competing for labor, while increasing the difficulty for small property owners to pool their capital and create competing enterprise.

    The cumulative legacy of these past acts of state-assisted robbery, and ongoing state-enforced unequal exchange, determines the basic structural foundations of the present-day economy. These include enormous concentrations of wealth in a few hands, the absentee ownership of capital by large-scale investors, and a hired labor force with no property in the means of production it works.

    Necessarily, therefore, the absentee owners must resort to the expedients of hierarchy and top-down authority to elicit effort from a workforce with no rational interest in maximizing its own productivity. Oliver Williamson’s concept of “satisficing” is relevant here. Workers have an interest in maintaining just enough productivity to keep their jobs and increasing it enough to earn whatever limited administrative rewards are available, but no rational interest in maximizing it per se, because any additional increase in productivity beyond the minimum will likely be appropriated by management.

    Hierarchy necessarily results in the divorce of effort from reward, and of productive knowledge from authority. Each rung of authority interferes in the efforts of those who know more about what they’re doing; each rung of authority receives only information filtered from below based on what it wants to hear; and each rung of authority is accountable only to those higher up the chain of command who are even more unaccountable and out of touch with reality. The hierarchy, in short, is a textbook illustration of the zero-sum situation that results from substituting power for market relations.

    The obvious solution, the worker cooperative, would—by uniting knowledge with authority and reward with effort—slice through the overwhelming majority of the hierarchical corporation’s knowledge and agency problems, like a sword through the Gordian knot. The distributed knowledge of those engaged in production would be applied directly to the production process on their own authority, without the intervention of suggestion boxes and “quality improvement committees.” The problem of socially engineering the wages and benefits system so as to “encourage people to work” would disappear; the elimination of privilege and unearned income, and the receipt by labor of its full product, would tie reward directly to effort.

    But this solution is ruled out by the system’s structural starting assumptions: concentrated wealth and absentee ownership. So the hierarchical corporation is adopted as a sort of Rube Goldberg expedient, the most rational means available given fundamentally irrational presuppositions.”

  79. It is Fad Anarchy for this reason: there can be no order without force at some point, on any level, national, local or tribal. Try being a father, for instance, and keeping order without force (punishment) or the threat of force with your kids. This is due to fallen human nature, and if you believe Distributarchy works without force, you are a Rousseauist and a right wing hippie. This is not ad hominem; this is an analysis of your argument. I am not dismissing you as a person, Keith (in fact, I admire your pluck), I am instead defining your position as regards your philosophy.

    You ask for specifics on the anti-Catholic tone of all this. You are anti-Catholic in your overt denial of a common good being anything other than defined by consensus. Your view of law as being simply an arbitrary product of social exchange is a denial of natural law and the need for positive law to reflect the law that actually exists before and beyond man. Law is not equivalent to production and consumption. Among the many ironies here is your dismissal of economic Distributism while at the same time your application of the principles of Distributism to law and order, where it does not fit, for law is not something someone produces and another cosumes; it is not built upon consensus only. To assert that law is only built upon consensus – and consensus without force – is both Relativistic and Naive. It is not exactly anarchy (as traditionally defined) but it is close – it is atomization and hyper-individualism, the product of the moral relativism of the modern age.

    You are also anti-Catholic in your refusal to acknowledge that Christian Social Teaching comes from any source other than Scripture, which you, in Protestant fashion, interpret as you see fit. Whereas in fact there is indeed Catholic Social Teaching, based on the fullness of divine revelation (including Scripture), which you and the Austrians are ignoring. Don’t pull a “sola scriptura” here and say nothing in the New Testament contradicts anarchy. Everything in Scripture is hierarchical, nothing is anarchical, for one thing; and for another hundreds of years of Catholic Social Teaching, which elaborates on Scripture, contradict your sola scirptura posturing.

    Anyway, Keith, even though there’s a certain anarchy in these comboxes, it’s certainly interesting. Thanks for plugging away.

  80. “It is Fad Anarchy for this reason: there can be no order without force at some point, on any level, national, local or tribal.”
    -There you go with that whole tribal nonsense again, imputing words where none were uttered. I do not dispute that force is necessary to maintain order, the question is (again which you totally sidestep) the nature of how it is provided. Is it provided for the sole purpose of upholding property rights (which is what it would be in a market law system) or would it be based on the will of whoever happens to control the monopoly courts and police? I am not surprised you do not actually try and answer this question because there is no good response to it. And I would have to disagree, referring to systems in derisive monikers instead of useful terms inorder to sidestep legitimate points is an ad hominen attack and not real argument.
    “You are anti-Catholic in your overt denial of a common good being anything other than defined by consensus.”
    -Notice you still did not answer my question for a non-arbitrary definition for “the common good”. Again, side-stepping legitimate points.
    “Your view of law as being simply an arbitrary product of social exchange is a denial of natural law ”
    -It is a product of social exchange but it is certainly not arbitrary, and it is even less a denial of natural law. On the contrary, a market system of law would come significantly closer to the providing a system of genuine natural law (the protection of property rights, the rights from which all others flow).
    “….your application of the principles of Distributism to law and order, where it does not fit, for law is not something someone produces and another cosumes.”
    -Oh really? You do not consume law? You mean to say there is no opportunity cost of any kind for employing judges, lawyers, and policemen? Or in how they are employed to meet the ends sought? These are all free goodies which come from the sky I suppose? Law (rules for guiding human conduct) proper is not being consumed but the ENFORCEMENT and the MEANS of enforcement are consumed constantly. And very inefficiently I might add. This is where economic calculation and the market process follow. “It is not exactly anarchy (as traditionally defined) but it is close – it is atomization and hyper-individualism, the product of the moral relativism of the modern age.”
    -Look, if you choose to keep yourself ignorant of all the sophisticated social orders throughout history that essentially worked from an anarchic (as I define it) nature, that is fine. But frankly it is ignorant and close-minded to simply assert that it can’t when there are reams and reams of evidence to show it does. I will again mention Bruce Benson’s “Enterprise of Law”. A fine and free overview of the Icelandic system can be found in Roderick Long’s “Privatization, Viking Style: Model or Misfortune?”
    “You are also anti-Catholic in your refusal to acknowledge that Christian Social Teaching comes from any source other than Scripture, which you, in Protestant fashion, interpret as you see fit.”
    -Again dodging my main point that there is not one place in the new testament which lays out any sort of ideal christian social order on earth. As to catholic social teaching I will repeat a point that I made earlier: just because a pope said something does not bring it under the sphere of infallibility. If a pope goes about making economic pronouncements which are blatantly ahistorical or illogical, then he can be called on it. There is certainly nothing anti-catholic about this given the immense history of scholarly debate within the clerical sphere throughout the Church’s history. Indeed, it seems to me that this idea that we should simply accept every single pronouncement from the clergy as true, regardless of whether it is in their sphere of knowledge or expertise, strikes me as decidely anti-catholic given the long history of church effort in bringing faith and reason into conformity with each other whenever possible.

  81. Certainly not everything will be completely worker-owned. Some will freely choose not to own and they should be free to do so. However, as far as the productive efficiency of worker-owned cooperatives, I need direct you no further than the Mondragon Cooperative. http://www.mondragon-corporation.com/ENG.aspx

  82. Keith,
    Two other ways which large corporations use their massive economic power to eliminate competition and thus prevent a truly free market.
    (1) They offer produces for a significant loss in order to drive the competition that cannot afford to do the same out of business. They never plan to maintain those unjustly low costs after the competition is gone, just long enough to get rid of them.
    (2) They buy the competition out. It is certainly true that there are cases where this is not predatory anti-competitive behavior, but there is such a thing as the forced or “leveraged” buyout. This is nothing other than the use of economic power to eliminate competition.

    Eliminating the state will not, by itself, eliminate either of these practices.

  83. A note on “rulers”
    I made the comment that only rulers can make laws. For this I was branded as “ignorant.” To put it simply, rulers are those who make enforceable rules. If the one who makes enforceable rules is a king, then he is the ruler. If it is an assembled legislative body, then members of that body are (collectively) the rulers. If it is a local group of merchants who can apprehend those who violate the local rules, then they are the rulers within their own jurisdiction. Additionally, rulers are not just those who rely on force to enforce the rules. They would be no less rulers even if everyone subject to the rules willingly, or even happily, followed the rules they established.

  84. You say that “any anarchist” would support a state if its authority is imposed not through immoral acts. However, I have talked with and met anarchists who are very clear that they would not do so. I have been called “simplistic” in my understanding of anarchy because I acknowledge that anarchy exists in different forms than those anarchists responding to articles on The Distributist Review. This, it was posted, is due to my “minimum” knowledge of the concept of anarchy. However, I suggest that those who fail to acknowledge the other forms of anarchy that are out there are showing their own knowledge of the subject is less than my own, which I freely admit is limited.

  85. Except these pronouncements were not made by “a pope” but a consecutive line of popes, Keith. CST is traditional and not a staple of modernism.

  86. hmmm…perhaps that was a strong characterization.

    Here is why I characterize it in that manner. When I hear the term
    “ruler” the immediate thought is of a state official who has a
    monopoly authority in a given region. Indeed, your use of the term
    “jurisdiction” leads me to believe you were also using it in this

    The reason I said “ignorant” is because you do not seem to have a
    concept of law UNLESS it is of this geographical jurisdiction nature.
    But there were historically numerous legal systems which did not have
    jurisdiction in this manner. For example, in old Iceland it was
    possible for one to contract for the service of law but then freely
    end the contract and simply sign on with another chieftan. There was
    no jurisdiction as far as that goes. The “ignorant” remark was not
    meant in mean spiritedness but simply to forcefully point out that
    other legal arrangements existed other than the geographicl monopolist

  87. I am fully aware of that, but a large number of wrong pronouncements
    by many people does not make them any more correct. Forgive me for not
    referring to the plural; i did not feel it necessary to make my point.

  88. -I know.

    -I already referred to the first one you mentioned. that is what
    predatory pricing is. My point is that the economic theory behind it
    is wrong, and it has been known to be wrong within the historical
    academic circles for some time. The reason for this is that there is
    not one historical instance where historians have been able to say
    that it actually works. The most well known example of predatory
    pricing occurred between the founder of Dupont Chemical and a number
    of German chemical cartels back during the early 20th century. The
    German cartels attempted to squeeze out Dupont in exactly the manner
    you presume could work. the problem was that 1) he simply ordered his
    sales agent to buy up the “dumped” product and then reshipped it to
    Europe at a profit and 2) the German cartels themselves suffered a
    huge loss when they attempted this strategy. they eventually stopped
    this strategy out of a fear of bankruptcy in continuing, meanwhile
    Dupont was making quite a bit of money off it.

    -Generally speaking when a leveraged buyout works that is economically
    a GOOD THING. It means that the market did not value the firm as much
    as some firms believed their assets to be. This means that the
    company is using resources wastefully. The end result of the leverage
    buyout is generally a restructuring of company assets such that they
    are now more productive than they were previously. It is a high risk
    maneuver but it is extremely economically useful, in the same way that
    a company bets on a possibly ruinous new product line but turns out to
    be correct and reap a large profit is economically useful.

    So if the state were gone, there would be no effect of any kind on the
    first practice and the second practice will remain. From an economy
    wide standpoint though this is a boon not a bane.

  89. -I do not acknowledge the forms of anarchy which describe ACTUAL lawnlessness because they do not really propose any sort of genuine working social order. They do not have coherent and logical theory and have a hard time even delineating exactly what they think.
    -Serious intellectual anarchists pay them no heed because there is no reason to. Frankly I think that is a better state to be in than to not have knowledge of the forms with actual solid theory.

  90. But they are not wrong and, as Pope Pius XI affirmed, these are solemn pronouncements, with the full weight and authority of the papal office. As the Church has authority over faith and morals, and economics is a humane science, the pontiffs do have authority in this area and may bind the reason and will of Catholics. What’s more, Pius XI insisted that Catholics are bound to accept Holy Mother Church’s social teaching lest they fall into social modernism, which is, in his pronouncement, condemned in the same manner as theological modernism.

    The problem with Catholic capitalists, and Austrians in particular, is that any conversation with them does not flow from CST. Instead it starts with an outright rejection of it and then – out of thin air – they determine for themselves that they have the liberty to do so, although the evidence that this doctrine may be ignored or that Catholics do have the liberty to shun it – is absent. In fact, the contrary is true.

    Gentlemen, I believe we are going around in circles and we have exhausted the comments for this article. On to the next one!

  91. Just because it can be twarted when it is attempted against another those with sufficient economic power to resist doesn’t negate the fact that it cannot when done against those who don’t.
    The leveraged buyout is not considered good when it is done merely to eliminate the competition, robbing working people out of a job. It does not mean that they were using resources wastefully; it means they did not have the economic power (or the will of the board) to resist the buyout. It is simply not the case that this is always an example of the “market” eliminating waste and becoming more efficient. It is all too frequently a means of simply eliminating the competition. Sure the buyer takes the good resources of the other company, but it does not necessarily follow that they put those resources to more efficient use.
    At my own work a company who makes software we use was bought out. It was not a leveraged buyout, it was simply the willingness of the board to allow their employees to get laid off and their (good) programs to get discontinued for their own profit. We had to have all of our staff retrained to use different software that’s no better than what we already had. That cost us a lot of money. We had to purchase new servers so that we could install the new software and transfer the data from the existing servers. That cost us a lot of money. All of our contacts from the old company got laid off, so we had to spend time getting the new contacts familiar with our implementation. That cost more money in terms of staff time as well. Exactly where is the economic efficiency in this process? It is extremely inefficient. The board made out like bandits, however. Sorry, you keep referring to the forces of capitalism as though they are always going to be benevolent in the long run. History simply does not support that. It is true that the ability of big business to leverage the state to make their bad practices even more effective at eliminating competition is not a good thing. I just don’t see how you can believe that the absence of a state will eliminate the bad occurrences of these things while still allowing the ones your economic theory claim are good (a point on which we obviously disagree).

  92. Our general editor, Richard Aleman, has made the decision that since these comments are becoming repetitive and a bit snarky, it’s best we close them down. Everything that needed to be said has been said – many times over.

    However, as author of the original post, I would like to recap what we’ve learned from Keith, whose persistence and passion I admire, if not his arguments. Keith has admitted throughout these comments a number of surprising things (and I’m sticking only to his theory of government):

    1. He and the Rothbardians believe that government is always evil (the fact that this would apply to the mini-governments they advocate, rightly called tribal, seems lost on them).

    2. All definitions of the “common good” are arbitrary (this is implied by Keith’s refusal to do anything but demand examples of the common good “that are not arbitrary”, which is something he seems to think can not be done).

    3. All rights devolve from property rights.

    4. Although law always has an economic cost and an economic component, which every sane person recognizes, this economic component defines the entire nature of law making, law enforcement and society, there being no other aspect to law but economic relationship. (Note the similarity to Marx, who argued that man and his history are determined entirely by economics).

    5. If something is not clearly mandated by the Gospels, it can be ignored. Farewell, therefore, to the long development of doctrine by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. This is a supremely Protestant position.

    Anyway, this has been a lively series of comments, if nothing else. And, as I said earlier, very revealing.