Home / Nicholas Hosford / The Role of the State

 

[How would you live, Pompey? By being a bawd?
What do you think of the trade, Pompey? Is it a lawful trade?
—Escalus, Measure for Measure]

Enforce morality. The answer to critics who so frequently question the role of the state in Distributism or Catholic Social Teaching is simple. Excepting those who prefer anarchy, libertarian “free market” advocates and others who wallow within the Keynesian economic system should all agree with the principle that the state exists to govern rights and wrongs. The disagreement, however, lingers over the definition and scope of the principle. Should the state exist? Why does it have the authority to enforce morality? What does this mean? Does this authority include regulating the economy? If so, how? Confusion and ignorance are the weaknesses that constrain a man between two oversimplified systems: the market system and the state system.

Should the state exist?

Anarchy suffers the fate of a society based on cultural values as opposed to transcendental values. Incidentally, this is the very plight that almost all nations face today. The anarchist system will eventually yield to a government of one form or another. In a world filled with sinners, mayhem is inevitable. Human nature abhors chaos, and because the system falls victim to cultural values, the subjects of an anarchy innately gravitate towards forming a government. Anarchy crumbles. The government uses its authority to uphold morality, which is the key to overcoming the disorder that typifies the anarchist state. Whether the state should exist is an inapposite question. The state will exist, regardless.

Why does the state have the authority to enforce morality?

The state is the institution most capable of using morality to vanquish sins, which helps maintain order, provide security, and foster decent mores. In Toward a Truly Free Market, John C. Médaille reveals that “the purpose of government is to provide the conditions under which all the other communities that make up the social fabric can flourish.” At a more basic level, in order to keep us out of anarchy, government imposes morality on sinners. This ideal, when implemented, means government imposes laws on citizens. Laws are the instruments by which government fulfills its purpose of providing sound conditions for the social fabric. Some governments are better at this than others. A government that is inherently more susceptible to corruption, such as a socialist or communist government, fails to abide by the same morality that it purports to enforce, thus betraying its citizens. Governments that base laws on cultural values, on the whims of the world, are likewise prone to failure. Nevertheless, the authority to enforce morality rests with government because it is the only institution within the social fabric with the ability to carry out this grave responsibility. In our fallen world, government is morality’s best hope, albeit an imperfect one.

What does enforcing morality mean?

Enforcing morality means using laws to encourage justice and fight injustice. The government can encourage justice by using its lawmaking powers to cultivate moral behavior and reward excellence. Fighting injustice means not only punishing iniquity, but discouraging and inhibiting temptation. However, here questions begin to arise as to which values a society should promote and which laws are best in achieving these ambitions. Centuries of Church Teaching, including the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, have given Catholics the benefit of understanding the origin of effective ethical laws. The laws of the state should derive themselves from the Natural Law, which is of course derived from God. The more a government mimics the Natural Law in its own lawmaking, the closer it comes to overcoming its own imperfection. Enforcing morality means to render the Natural Law operative in this world.

Should the state enforce morality within the economy?

In order to thoroughly enforce morality, the government must “meddle” in the economy. This is the principle debate, where libertarian “free market” advocates and distributists fundamentally differ. It is also, as we shall see, where the libertarian is less than honest with himself. The economy is a realm defined by day-to-day ethical decisions. If the government were to ignore this, it would fail in its duty to its citizens. Many in the “free market” crowd acknowledge this, if only to a limited degree. They realize that the economy cannot sustain itself without some enforceable ground rules, such as protecting property rights and abiding by contracts. However, they condemn the notion that the economy needs to be regulated even if by creating a more moral framework in which the economy can operate.

Just as government cannot be self-regulating, the economic system cannot manage itself. Most Americans are indoctrinated into believing that “greed is good,” and that if greed were only liberated in a “free market” system, the competing greeds of individuals would generate a better world for us all. Sounds blissful. Regretfully, the premise is bogus. No system can use greed or any other “inescapable” vice as its basis and expect positive results. Greed, or avarice, is unethical. Its treacherous modus operandi is to acquire even at the expense of others. By its nature, it harms others. (Libertarians should detest this fact.) Even in rare instances where greed may not directly harm others, instances which are dubious at best, it does impose incontrovertible harm on the sinner’s soul, if not his perseverance in morality. In a society, all members are valuable and important, and if harm comes to one member, even if that harm is self-initiated or self-inflicted, it brings down the society as a whole. Thus, there are no “private sins.” Despite this reality, some economists still endeavor to tell us that, in greed’s case, we are all lifted by its proliferation, ergo the ends justify the means.  However, as the Summa Theologica explains in its treatise on human acts, “if the will be good from its intention of the end, this is not enough to make the external action good.” More aptly stated, no good can come from greed. Not to mention there are practical issues at stake, including the Austrian system leaving much to be desired within every economic stratum.

If an unchecked government is a threat to liberty, then why is the same not true for an unchecked economy? Are all the players in the economy (including, but not limited to: banks, borrowers, cartels, corporations, criminals, domestic and foreign governments, foreign companies, lenders, militaries, monopolies, oligarchies, producers and sellers of inelastic goods, unemployed persons, and unions) immune to corruption? How are we to expect a system so rampant with liabilities to keep itself in check? True, government is corruptible as well, but what is the alternative? In a world where sin stems from sin, is it even plausible that sins will, by some economic magic, cancel each other out and acquiesce to the greater good? Dare we ask who or what is to prevent unsavory markets, such as prostitution or drugs, from spreading vices contrary to the Natural Law once they assert themselves? Indeed it takes great faith to believe in this ungoverned economy.

Because economics is a moral theater, the role of government as far as the economy is concerned is no different than its role in other facets of society: to enforce morality.

Libertarians mischaracterize this enforcement of morality by claiming it is an exercise in forced action. In an attempt to appeal to our Christian hearts, they assert that ethics, Judeo-Christian values, and even the Bible repudiate forced action. While basking beneath this “nobody can tell me what do do” attitude, the libertarian contrasts forced action with voluntary action, which he of course alleges is the liberty enjoyed by many or all within a “free market” system. Fortunately, distributists understand that expecting one to act morally when they participate in the economy is necessary to achieve not only economic justice, but economic success.

Furthermore, and unfortunately for the libertarian, their position yields little, if any, truly voluntary action. An unbridled free market system does in fact oppress freedom in a number of ways. For instance, no system liberates any person from the market economy. Everyone must participate in order to survive. Moreover, while seeking freedom from government “oppression” of that economy, one is left with economic oppression within the economy, where true voluntary action is enjoyed by few. This, in turn, hinders overall economic success.

It is true that government intervention can and does harm our economy. However, there is a difference between improper intervention and sound regulation. There is also a difference between patching holes in a Keynesian system and laying a superior foundation.

An ungoverned economy mirrors an economy governed by sin. In this system, the economy suffers, and thus society suffers because people’s lives and welfare are dependent upon the performance of the economy or economies in which they live. Government therefore has a duty to enforce morality within the economy.

How should the state enforce morality within the economy?

Distributists propose a better system by rewriting the ground rules. This “third system,” is not based on the state hoarding all economic power, as in communism, nor does it propose to remove the state from the equation, leaving all economic power in the hands of a wealthy few. Instead, it seeks to distribute economic power to all members of a society.

Just as a democracy seeks to decentralize the political power, a distributist society decentralizes the economic power. This does not mean taking from some to give to others, which would have the unscrupulous effect of violating property rights. Rather, it means organizing a society’s economy around a set of principles that would lead to a distribution of economic power. Yes, it takes lawmaking and law enforcement powers of the state to accomplish this.

Some of these principles are:

  • a just wage for a man’s labor;
  • workers having ownership in the means of production;
  • the use, not mere ownership, of land and private property;
  • fair lending practices;
  • localizing the supply of goods and services;
  • limiting the cost of government and its participation, as both a spender and borrower, in the economy; and
  • barring immoral markets and behavior within the economy.

Others are included, but those are some of the basics. Yes, let’s apply these just and moral principles to our society by way of the government’s lawmaking powers and enforce them via the justice system. Government fails in its role and responsibility if it ignores the sins inherent in a “free market” economy by either assuming that the market will regulate itself or pretending the economy is devoid of moral corruption.  Translated into simple, flippant language, it boils down to two choices: a moral economy or an immoral economy. Until governments begin to support moral economies, we can expect little more than continued injustice, instability, and depravity.

 

About the author: Nicholas C. Hosford

 

Nick Hosford is originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. He has studied Economics and Political Science for many years and received his B.A. in both subjects from the University of Alaska in 2005. He also received a J.D. from Birmingham School of Law in 2009. He lives with his wife and three children in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. They regularly attend the Traditional Latin Mass.

 

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51 Comments

  1. IrishEddieOHara

    Outstanding article. Yet how many Catholics don’t begin to understand that it is the duty of government to regulate moral behavior in every sphere of living – including economics.

    The chaos we suffer from now is the result of the weakening of the Church by Protestantism. The moral law of God, as properly defined by the Church alone, was brought into question by the very existence of Protestant assemblies who taught other moralities than that which Christ gave to the world through the Church. The floodgates of this really began to creak open with the teaching of the acceptance of contraception in the last century. It has been followed close on the heels by the Protestant vision of economics which, according to Max Weber, states that if you are rich, you are therefore “of the elect” and blessed of God. Inevitable that greed would follow close on the heels of such a skewed theology which ignores the many dire warnings of Christ against the hoarding of money and making it our “god”.

    While we keep fighting the good fight of faith, the only remedy, which we must pray for constantly, is that the Holy Spirit begin to open the eyes and ears of the theologically and morally blind and deaf. In the meantime, let us pray and spread articles like this one.

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  3. Great article, thanks!. In my opinion the difference between intervention and regulation is key. Arbitrary intervention leads to chaos in this fallen world of sinners. It´s allways better to rely on regulation by natural and old rules. Distributism is just an attemp to restore a natural order and “regulation” or “self-regulation” of economics that was broken before. I agree with IrishEddieOHara about the so called Reformation being in the roots of this.
    About the list of principles for goverment action, modestly i would add:
    – promote the small family-run business.
    – discourage unfair competition from big companies.

  4. ■a just wage for a man’s labor;

    Shouldn’t the job creator determine this?

    ■workers having ownership in the means of production;

    Why? They are workers, not creators. If they want to buy shares of the company, then I agree their having “ownership” in the means of production.

    ■the use, not mere ownership, of land and private property;

    There have to be rules agreed upon as to property use otherwise someone could build or use property next to yours that totally destroys the purpose for which you bought your property. Rules are part of property rights – that is simply a regulated “courtesy.”

    ■fair lending practices;

    Who decides what is “fair?” Government pushed by elected representatives determined sub-primed loans were “fair” and the U.S. Catholic bishops supported their creation to “help the poor and low income” buy houses. We all know how well that worked out.

    ■localizing the supply of goods and services;

    Makes sense, as long as it is economical to do so for those supplying the “goods and services.”

    ■limiting the cost of government and its participation, as both a spender and borrower, in the economy;

    Agreed. That should be done by elections.

    ■barring immoral markets and behavior within the economy.

    Who determines what is an “immoral” market and behavior within the economy? Whoever or whatever has that decision power will result in immoral behavior on their part at some point and time. Free markets will do a better job of this and that will produce a “report card” telling society how good a job the Church is doing in its work.

  5. StillBelieve,

    Your comments are a textbook response from the Libertarian perspective. (This is not meant to be a personal attack.) The Distributist answer is that, as Mr Hosford said in the article, to properly define the Foundation. This is done first by incorporating Natural Law into the legislative framework, and if able, incorporate the more excellent Christian (i.e. Catholic) Social Teaching.

    To help explain the error in your approach, take the example of a Just Wage. You said: “Shouldn’t the job creator determine this?” To some degree, yes, but to an equal degree, no. Just Wage is grounded about the principle that theft is wrong and that human beings have a dignity God has not granted to animals. Given that, it would be wrong to pay someone a wage that in reality translates into a slave-wage, for then you as an ’employer’ have exploited your neighbor. Most people don’t realize it, but failing to pay a fair wage is no less exploiting than failing to cut the paycheck. If they could only see that paying someone $1 for a year worth of labor is little different than failing to pay that same $1 at all.

    Work is for the (primary) purpose of providing a living, not for the (secondary) purpose of making a boss rich. That’s the fundamental error of Libertarianism: it obliterates what Nature and Religion state is the primary purpose of work. The Goal then becomes: “How little can I pay this worker so as to maximize my profits?” There is no concern for the worker as a human being with a family – that consideration is wholly outside the scope of Libertarian economics.

    Irish Eddie was very correct to point out that these types of errors stem from Protestantism and it’s next generation child, Enlightenment Philosophy.

  6. WALL STREET bankers release music video “Greed Is Good” blaming consumers for the financial crisis

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoMpcz0S3hc

  7. IrishEddieOHara

    Stillbelieve —

    I am stunned that you can make the statement you make in the last sentence of your post.

    You don’t understand that it is immoral to send a man down into coal mines for a nickel a day and black lung while you have a mansion that would house 10 families?

    The owner of the coal mine very well may have the power to do this, but is it moral just because he can do it? It seems that Libertarianism is a Pollyannish response which thinks that when men are free to do as they can do, they will pick the moral thing to do. One wonders what history of mankind they have been reading, inasmuch as history is filled with these kinds of oppression as the regular behavioral fair of sin broken humanity.

    You have bought into a lie, and then you wonder why the world, and our United States in particular, is so screwed up when you see the logical end of that lie being lived out right before you.

    Dude, the short question is this: what the hell have you been smoking???

  8. “Anarchy suffers the fate of a society based on cultural values as opposed to transcendental values.”

    This is insanely a vulgar ignorance of anarchist history and practice. Anarchism does not exclusively base itself on cultural values. There were religious and spiritual anarchist, like Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, William Greene, Mahatma Gandhi, Ammon Hennacy and Hakim Bey, the distributist Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day or many of the Catholic Workers. Anarchist does not necessarily have to oppose transcendental values or put cultural values above transcendental values. This is also presupposing that cultural values and transcendental values are necessarily incompatible.

  9. IrishEddieOHara

    I think you need to work on your definitions:

    an·ar·chist noun \ˈa-nər-kist, -ˌnär-\

    Definition of ANARCHIST
    1 : a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power

    2: a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy; especially: one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order

    — anarchist or an·ar·chis·tic adjective

    There is NO WAY that an orthodox and devout Catholic such as Dorothy Day would be described as an anarchist. Anarchy is anethema to a devout Catholic.

    Anarchy as a system is bound for failure, since it recognizes no law except the law of the individual. It places no value on organized systems of law, economics, or morality, thus making it self-defeating and self-destructive.

    It is not anarchy to protest inhumane conditions. Ghandi was not necessarily opposing the whole of the British system of law and justice. He was rather opposing the misused and injustices of the British rule over India. That is like saying that we, as pro-life advocates, are anarchists. Ridiculous!!

    How people can support any form of anarchy and claim to be Catholic leaves me dumbfounded.

  10. “I think you need to work on your definitions:

    an·ar·chist noun \ˈa-nər-kist, -ˌnär-\

    Definition of ANARCHIST
    1 : a person who rebels against any authority, established order, or ruling power ”
    You are using a dictionary definition, in which dictionary is descriptive not prescriptive. If we are talking about the anarchist as a social and historical movement, than it is absolutely different from the dictionary definition. Using a dictionary definition separated from the historical context is very problematic.

    “2: a person who believes in, advocates, or promotes anarchism or anarchy; especially: one who uses violent means to overthrow the established order”
    This is such a propagandic definition, since the fact is, many anarchists were radical pacifist. Dorothy Day to be an example.

    Anarchist as a social and historical movement is generally against human ruler that is imposed through coercion (an+archy). If I point a gun at you to demand you to give a portion of your legitimate possession, (which puts me a position of power), that does not make me a legitimate authority above you. That is what the State exactly does.

    Anarchy is not against law. By origin of word it is neither against the law nor authority (an + archos), but against rulership (government). Authority and laws can exist without government.

    And Dorothy Day, mind you, embraced the term “anarchism”, as she was against the State, to quote her, “The blurb on the back of the book Small Is Beautiful lists fellow spokesmen for the ideas expressed, including “Alex Comfort, Paul Goodman and Murray Bookchin. It is the tradition we might call anarchism.” We ourselves have never hesitated to use the word.”, that is why Dorothy Day never voted, and never paid taxes, ever. She was also largely inspired by Anarchists like Peter Kropotkin and Leo Tolstoy.

    And to quote Gandhi, “The state evil is not the cause but the effect of social evil, just as the sea-waves are the effect not the cause of the storm. The only way of curing the disease is by removing the cause itself”..

    “How people can support any form of anarchy and claim to be Catholic leaves me dumbfounded.”
    How a Catholic can embrace an institution that robs the possession of the masses to be a legitimate authority, leaves me dumbfounded.

  11. “It places no value on organized systems of law, economics, or morality, thus making it self-defeating and self-destructive.”
    LOL! What? Almost all anarchist thinkers in history believe an organized system of law, economics, and morality.

  12. IrishEddieOHara

    Andreas said: “How a Catholic can embrace an institution that robs the possession of the masses to be a legitimate authority, leaves me dumbfounded.”

    What institution are speaking of? If you are speaking of our current government, I do not support such an institution, being a Theocratic Monarchialist. Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, and as we see, the largest mob gets to put their people in power and then make up the laws that suit them.

  13. Martin Francis

    “Almost all anarchist thinkers in history believe in an organized system of law, economics, and morality.”

    Andreas that is why no one takes anarchist thinkers seriously. Wherever you have an organized system you find authority, and wherever you find authority you find hierarchy. With authority and hierarchy, you’ll get government, no matter which way you rub it.

    Andreas, you claim that “authority and laws can exist without government”, I must ask you, where in history have they? Or where do they exist without government now?

    Take Irish Eddie’s word for it, anarchism is self-defeating and self-destructive.

    “How a Catholic can embrace an institution that robs the possession of the masses to be a legitimate authority, leaves me dumbfounded”

    Because you are obviously ignorant of what the institution of the state is and is meant to be: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02137c.htm

  14. Great article Nick! I hope someone reads it to my “union’s” Porkchoppers.

  15. Andreas, while I have a lot of sympathy for your ideas vs. Irish Eddie (largely because I’m not a Catholic), I nonetheless feel that you paint with too broad a brush here. I looked up both Proudhon and Bakunin, and their quotes do seem to back up much of his criticism. Do you mean all the anarchists since those two, or have i misread them?
    Viking

  16. ////”Andreas, you claim that “authority and laws can exist without government”, I must ask you, where in history have they?”
    I’ll quote Dorothy Day, “How is the Catholic Worker run? Well a person has an authority NOT because he is PUT in a position of authority, everybody is a volunteer. Just by his very ability takes over the situation is the authority. He’s the authority of WHAT HE’S DOING. The person who knows how to bake bread automatically becomes the head of the bakings project.”
    http://www.jesusradicals.com/theology/dorothy-day/

    She also said, “I loathe the use of force, and I remember how Peter used to react to violence. On one occasion when two men fought in the office over on Charles Street he threatened to leave the work forever if it ever happened again. In a book by Federov on Russian Spirituality, there is the story of St. Sergius, who left his monastery for two years rather then impose his authority by force. On another occasion years ago at the Easton farm, one man knocked down another over a dispute about an egg (it is horrible to think of people fighting physically over food), and for the rest of the summer Peter ate neither eggs nor milk in order that others might have more. That was his idea of justice.”

    Dorothy Day also recommended Proudhon, Kropotkin, and Landauer. Here’s what she exactly wrote,
    “The Catholic Worker, in the face of these evils, recommends a study of Kropotkin’s Fields, Factories and Workshops, of Martin Buber’s Paths in Utopia.
    Proudhon wrote in 1864 — ‘Anarchy is a form of government or constitution in which the principle of authority, police institutions, restrictive or repressive measures, bureaucracy, Taxation, etc., are reduced to their simplest terms.’ ‘Less representation and more self-government.’
    And Landauer, in 1909 wrote: ‘The real transformation of society can only come in love, in work, and in stillness.'”
    http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=750&SearchTerm=AFL%20OR%20A.F.L.

    ////”Because you are obviously ignorant of what the institution of the state is and is meant to be: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02137c.htm
    Then you are blind of what is refereed to as the “State” throughout history and practice. Tell me, what “State” does not robs the product of labor of the masses through usury and taxation? Most State runs on a Capitalist system, which means a systematic transfers of wealth from the workers to the usurers. While the rest of the State runs on a Communist economy, which concentrates wealth to the State. What existing “State” uses morally legitimate means to attain its authority? I am not against “State” if it is simply defined as “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 this is not what the actual existing State is, there more to that, since the unity is forced upon individuals.

    ////”Andreas, while I have a lot of sympathy for your ideas vs. Irish Eddie (largely because I’m not a Catholic), I nonetheless feel that you paint with too broad a brush here. I looked up both Proudhon and Bakunin, and their quotes do seem to back up much of his criticism. Do you mean all the anarchists since those two, or have i misread them?”
    Thoreau, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy, Goldman, Berkman, Gandhi, Bookchin, Landaur, William Greene, all of these thinkers believed in a morality (although they do differ in the source of morality, depends on their belief some are secular, some are deeply religiously committed).

    They have the common believe that it is morally wrong to deprive the laborer of their product, and to impose authority through violent coercion (So does Dorothy Day btw). The believed in an organized economic system where the workers own and control their own means of production. So to accuse these men and women as “placing no value on morality” is the one that is painting too broad a brush. They actively promote justice and order. And to claim that anarchists are against law is absurd. Anarchists are not against law, they just think that instead imposing laws by violent coercion, it should be mutually agreed upon through free and voluntary association and mutual aid.

  17. “Andreas that is why no one takes anarchist thinkers seriously.”
    Yeah, that is why a practical distributist like Dorothy Day refused to vote and pay taxes for all her life. That is why Dorothy Day had a lot of positive things to say about Tolstoy and Kropotkin.

  18. “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, and as we see, the largest mob gets to put their people in power and then make up the laws that suit them.”
    So a tiny minority rule over the masses any is better than a mob rule? (Not that I support mob rule at all, I detest the existing so-called “representative” democracy).

  19. Anarchism, as a social and historical movement, should not be conflated with moral nihilism and libertinism.

    Generalizing anarchism as mindless bomb-throwers are like generalizing the Roman Catholic Church as an institution that systematically sexually abuse child, burn witches, and slaughter Muslims.

  20. Although it would be misleading to call Tolkien an anarchist, at least he did not understood anarchy as “whiskered men with bombs”.
    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=v0nCCGkUqjUC&pg=PA23&dq=philosophically+understood,+meaning+abolition+of+control+not+whiskered+men+with+bombs&hl=en&ei=oLbzTayyN4jEvgOA_6DtBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=political%20opinions&f=false
    And he certainly didn’t hesitate to use the word in a vulgarly negative connotation to describe his political leanings to his son.

  21. I think there needs to be some distinction made between State which anarchists like the Servant of God Dorothy Day and sane anarchists oppose and government. The two are not the same concept and some clarification needs to be made before any discussion on this point can get past the talking past each other stage.

  22. Andreas, I didn’t say that Proudhon and Bakunin were against morality. I merely said that some quotes of theirs supported what your opponents have said. Here is Proudhon: “I will have no laws. I will acknowledge none. I protest against every law which an authority calling itself necessary imposes upon my free will.” Bakunin: “All law has for its object to confirm and exalt into a system the exploitation of the workers by a ruling class.” Source: “The New International Dictionary of Quotations, Third Edition”, 2000, selected and annotated by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson. Comment on those, anyone who cares to do so.
    Btw, I’m curious about something you wrote on another article. You stated that capitalism couldn’t exist without the state. Kevin Carson has declared as much on this blog, or perhaps it was the preceding one, but I’ve never been able to understand why anarchists think this is so, unless their ideal is a society of autarchic villages. (The two examples I remember his giving were of trucking companies not paying their fair share of highway taxes and health authorities being reluctant to allow home restaurants.) Could you shed more light on this please?
    Viking

  23. //B Douglass : I think there needs to be some distinction made between State which anarchists like the Servant of God Dorothy Day and sane anarchists oppose and government. The two are not the same concept and some clarification needs to be made before any discussion on this point can get past the talking past each other stage.//

    Unfortunately some individuals here are ignorant (including the writer of this article) to recognize the existence of anarchism as a historical and social movement, and would rather choose to do a knee-jerk attack on the word “anarchy”, just like when non-Catholics generalize the Roman Catholic Church as a group of child molesters. So much for the golden rule.

  24. a. Anarchists are not oppose to “government”, if the word “government” simply means “an organized system of law and order”.
    b. Anarchists are definitely against “government”, if this means a ruling class that impose its authority top-down, or through criminal behavior (e.g. robbing the fruit of the labor by the virtuous word “taxation” and usury).
    c. Anarchists are not necessarily “laissez faire” Capitalists. The vast majority of anarchists in history were and still are anti-Capitalist, and instead propose an economic system where workers own and control their own means of production (whatever they call them, be that “cooperatives”, “collectives”, or “communes”) and relies on independent non-governmental labor unions such as the IWW (in which Dorothy Day was a member) instead of the State-controlled unions.

    Anyone who reads anarchist history and
    philosophy understands this. Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day surely understood this for they read and were highly influenced by Peter Kropotkin and Leo Tolstoy. Unfortunately there are those who are intellectually lazy that they learn “anarchy” from a few sentence of a dictionary that has always been updated to conform the status quo, yet they cry out loud when people identify Distributism with Marxian Socialism.

  25. If there are no rules governing economic activity, the strong may enslave the weak, which they surely will do in such a situation. Thus, even libertarians want rules. The question is always what rules will we have?

  26. “Kropotkin wanted much the same type of social order as Father Vincent McNabb, the Dominican street preacher, G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and other distributists advocated, though they would have revolted at the word anarchist, thinking it synonymous with chaos, not ‘self-government,’ as Proudhon defined it. Distributism is the English term for that society whereby man has sufficient of this world’s goods to enable him to lead a good life. Other words have been used to described this theory, MUTUALISM, federalism, pluralism, regionalism; but anarchism–the word, first used as a taunt by its Marxist opponents, best brings to mind the tension always existing between the concept of authority and freedom which torments man to this day.”,
    Dorothy Day ~ The Long Loneliness.

  27. //Vi King : Andreas, I didn’t say that Proudhon and Bakunin were against morality. I merely said that some quotes of theirs supported what your opponents have said. Here is Proudhon: “I will have no laws. I will acknowledge none. I protest against every law which an authority calling itself necessary imposes upon my free will.” Bakunin: “All law has for its object to confirm and exalt into a system the exploitation of the workers by a ruling class.” Source: “The New International Dictionary of Quotations, Third Edition”, 2000, selected and annotated by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson. Comment on those, anyone who cares to do so.//
    Well quotes can be easily understood outside the context, and what Proudhon and Bakunin meant by “law” in this context is the dominant system of law, which are laws created by an authority that is imposed to them against their will. They would not object in a mutually agreed laws of a community, hence as Dorothy Day said Proudhon was for self-governance.

    Just like when Proudhon says “Property is theft”, what he meant by this was a certain kind of “Property”, which is the dominant Capitalist system of Property, where ownership is divorced from active labor or use/occupancy. Proudhon would defend the individual worker to own their own saw as a self-employed carpenter, but certainly against privately owning a whole factory to exploit a whole bunch of other people’s labor for private profit, so he was against the separation of owners and workers in a production.

    “Btw, I’m curious about something you wrote on another article. You stated that capitalism couldn’t exist without the state. Kevin Carson has declared as much on this blog, or perhaps it was the preceding one, but I’ve never been able to understand why anarchists think this is so, unless their ideal is a society of autarchic villages. (The two examples I remember his giving were of trucking companies not paying their fair share of highway taxes and health authorities being reluctant to allow home restaurants.) Could you shed more light on this please?”
    Historically speaking, Capitalism relies massively on the monopoly of credit (banking industry : usury), the monopoly of land, the monopoly of tariff, patent monopoly, and the huge infrastructure subsidy, in which all of these require an institution that holds a monopoly on violence within a given territory, the State. The reliance of modern Corporate Capitalism to State privilege is even way much more than as it was born in the first place thanks to central banking and global quasi-governmental institutions like the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO that enables them to privatize benefit and socialize risk and cost to the public on a large scale. The problem is not too less of regulations for these State-creatures (Corporations), but too massive of a privilege. In a genuine free market, without the powerful nanny State to actively protect these large exploitative externalizing machines business entities from diseconomies of scale and concentrating property to the hands of the few, they would be unimaginable to survive.

  28. “the strong may enslave the weak”
    That’s what we have now. The State.

  29. //Vi King :”I didn’t say that Proudhon and Bakunin were against morality”//
    Well I apologize if you didn’t. I only assume this because you said that Proudhon’s and Bakunin’s quotes backs up IrisEddiOeOHara’s criticism, and one of his criticism was that anarchy places no value on morality.

    Andreas.

  30. Unrpivileged, the government restrains the strong against the weak, albeit to only a certain extent. The fact that it does not (perhaps cannot) do so completely is not a reason to weaken or eliminate it.

  31. Mr. Quirk, I’m not sure where you live, but it seems that the Servile State is already upon us and the strong (as long as they have the right ties with the State) have no barriers they themselves don’t wish between them and crushing the weak.

    Institutions matter, and Mass Democracy of the American kind is horrid in trying to bring about an end to such things.

  32. BDouglass, I live in the United States, and the only compulsion to work that exists here is that which comes from economic necessity. Such conditions are insufficient to constitute a servile state according to Belloc. He anticipated actual compulsion, apparently failing to consider that slaves have to be cared for, and that the capitalists had/have no interest in that.

  33. //Jack Quirk : Unrpivileged, the government restrains the strong against the weak, albeit to only a certain extent. The fact that it does not (perhaps cannot) do so completely is not a reason to weaken or eliminate it.//
    Unfortunately, the idea of “government protects the strong against the weak” has been proven just a fantasy throughout history, as its dominant tendency has been quiet the opposite.

    Watch this video to get the idea of the present reality of how Government becomes an extremely effective instrument serve the interest of the wealth to oppress the poor majority of the world.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNXbzltfBjE

  34. My quote of “government protects the strong against the weak” should be “government restrains the strong against the weak”. Apologies.

  35. Government (read : top-down imposed ruling class) power basically has always been like powerful magnets to wealthy interest that it is unapproachable for the poor majority without falling into highly authoritarian if not totalitarian State Communism, that is why the idea of “limited” government basically had fail without naturally growing big under the control of the greedy wealthy elites.

  36. Where there is no protection from the strong for the benefit of the weak, there is forced labor, without the protections of care and feeding that I alluded to earlier. If you live in a society that does not have such forced labor, you live in a society that has some protections for the weak against the strong.

  37. //Jack Quirk : Where there is no protection from the strong for the benefit of the weak, there is forced labor, without the protections of care and feeding that I alluded to earlier. If you live in a society that does not have such forced labor, you live in a society that has some protections for the weak against the strong.//
    Government (read : “top-down imposed ruling class” instead the more general “organized system of social order”), does not hold a monopoly on “the strong”. Government (read : “top-down imposed ruling class”) is a certain kind of entity of “the strong”, of which the weak and poor majority must be forced to have their right (the right to possess their full product of their labor) violated by this “entity” in order to be “protected”, in which if they refuse they will be kidnapped and thrown into a cage. Government (read : “top-down imposed ruling class”) in history has always existed to serve (as it functions far more effectively in this manner) the interest of the greedy wealthy elites against the poor majority, look at what we have right now for example.

  38. The very existence of a government (read : “top-down imposed ruling class”), since it holds a territorial monopoly on coercive violence, automatically deprive labors on their natural right to utilize unowned land, in which the very basic and first right to just personal possession (i.e. land) MUST ORIGINATE in laboring, not guarding via violent means.

  39. The only reason why Capital can be largely owned in opposition to labor (hence concentrated in the hands of the few), is because Capital is acquired first of all without honest work, and most likely this kind of acquisition of capital (that is in opposition to labor or in other words the Capitalist system of ownership) is only originally claimed by the power of coercive violence, in which usually is hold by the government (read : “top-down imposed ruling class”). That is why the State and Capitalism had always been inseparable in its history, they are married together and mutually reinforcing. If you think that the 19th century America markets was really “laissez faire” and autonomous from the State, well clearly you haven’t analyzed the real historical situation enough. Kevin Carson gives a lot of insight regarding this.

  40. The enclosure of the commons, for instance massively helped the birth of Capitalism and our existing wage slavery system. Capitalism today have matured in massive and global scale, the military-industrial-complex, the medical-industrial-complex, Corporate personhood, Corporate welfare, limited liabilities, global enforcement of intellectual property, the unholy trinity of the WTO, World Bank, IMF, bailouts by the trillions. I could go on and on but its gonna drive me insane to see how bad our current situation is.

  41. Many Austrians would argue “Oh but that’s Corporate State interventionism and not Capitalism”, but my definition of “Capitalism” is historical and actually-existing-Capitalism which most people associate with, and not some simplistic dictionary definition that make it sound like a synonym of “free market”. Capitalism for me IS NOT the free market.

  42. While the government has its responsibility in governing ethics thru regulation, a prosperous nation cannot rely on government and innovation alone. Consumer Behavior must evolve and step up without finger pointing for economic problems.

    WALL STREET bankers respond with music video “Greed Is Good” blaming Consumer Behavior for financial crisis

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EoMpcz0S3hc

  43. My point, unprivileged, is that if there were no protections for the weak, there would be no reason for the strong to be coy about their efforts. Everyone would simply be rounded up, Egyptian style, to construct the pyramids. To insist that there are some governmental protections for the poor is not to deny that the system is designed to enhance the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

  44. Why would someone who believe in justice defend an institution like the State that has a dominant tendency to enhance the interests of the tiny wealthy minority in the expense of the poor majority?

  45. Andreas, I think I see what you’re trying to say now. But I’m still skeptical. It seems you and other anarchists are looking for a unanimity of opinion which is never likely to occur in human affairs, and without such a convergence of beliefs you will still have a majority imposing its will on a minority. (Indeed, almost all of us are in the minority on some issues.) Either that, or anarchism will truly be what its opponents claim it to be, a society with neither law nor order.
    In your last post (last at least as I’m writing this) you mention the “tiny wealthy minority” who supposedly gets its way enforced at the expense of the poor majority. Aside from your allowing no possibility of a middle-income majority, doesn’t the very tininess of this rich segment undermine the rationale for both democracy and anarchism? That is, if most of us are so easily duped, how can we expect to run a society?
    Have more to say on the state and capitalism, but need to run now. My apologies for our misunderstanding before, it’s probably largely my fault for not stating my quotes from Proudhon and Bakunin in the initial post where I mentioned them.
    Viking

  46. //”It seems you and other anarchists are looking for a unanimity of opinion which is never likely to occur in human affairs, and without such a convergence of beliefs you will still have a majority imposing its will on a minority.”//
    Not at all. Anarchists do not seek to create a society with total unanimity of opinion, nor does it seek extreme individual isolation that renders one powerless. Anarchists believe in a right to secession or a refusal to cooperate which does not result in a violation of the individual’s right who chose to secede. Practically it is building “a new society in the shell of the old” (like what the Catholic Workers are doing, who work outside the function of the State, refusal to vote and pay taxes), through free associations of mutual aid, e.g. federation of cooperatives (family based cooperatives if you’d like) that respect one’s right to own one’s own labor (Proudhon said, “He who says freedom without saying federalism, says nothing.”).
    As Joseph Labadie said, “It is a mistake often made, even by some Anarchists, to say that Anarchism aims to establish absolute freedom. Anarchism is a practical philosophy, and is not striving to do the impossible. What Anarchism aims to do, however, is to make equal freedom applicable to every human creature. The majority under this rule has no more rights than the minority, the millions no greater rights than one”. Authority is never self-justified, and it does not derive legitimacy from itself, whether its the minority imposing to the majority, or vice versa.

    //”In your last post (last at least as I’m writing this) you mention the “tiny wealthy minority” who supposedly gets its way enforced at the expense of the poor majority. Aside from your allowing no possibility of a middle-income majority, doesn’t the very tininess of this rich segment undermine the rationale for both democracy and anarchism? That is, if most of us are so easily duped, how can we expect to run a society?”//
    I wouldn’t say most of us are so easily duped, but most of us becomes powerless mostly because power is centralized in the hands of the few, and this central power is mostly only approachable to the few most greedy individuals who prefer to be bosses instead of expressing solidarity with fellow workers. That’s why anarchists advocates a decentralized networks of order.

  47. Many anarchists supports consensus decision just like how cooperative operates. I would carefully make a clear distinction between a decision being “unanimous” and “consensual”.

  48. I just would like to add, that what i meant that when the State attracts “tiny wealthy minority”, means that this tiny wealthy minority would not be able to maintain its wealth for long without central political power. Without centralized political power, massive concentration of economic power becomes largely unstable. The State thus functions as a stabilizer of this unnatural condition. I think Kevin Carson said quoting Benjamin Tucker that “the natural wage of labor is its product”, that’s why most anarchists (I would exclude the Austrian school “Anarcho”-Capitalists) see that Capitalism is an unnatural system, historically created through institutionalized force that systematically deprive the labor’s natural wage, or highly limits the laborer to receive his or her natural wage.

  49. Andreas, what I’m trying to get at is, how would an anarchist society deal with crime, for instance? If Tom kills Jerry, what are the results for Tom? Does he have this “right to secede” without negative consequences, and so escape punishment?
    As to the “right to own one’s own labor”, I think that all non-slave societies do that already. The question is, how do you introduce capital goods into the equation? If no one derives any benefit from ownership of same, then what incentive is there to provide them? And if there isn’t any such motivation, how do we avoid going back into the Stone Age?
    As to the distinction between “unanimous” and “consensual”, there may be a clear one, but you didn’t delineate it. I strongly suspect that most “consensus” is really based on subtle arm-twisting to make it appear all agree.
    Your point about power being only approachable to the few is not convincing to me. Of US Presidents of the last half-century, only Kennedy and the Bushes were born wealthy, and such entrepreneurs as Gates and Buffet weren’t born rich either. And we all have an equal vote relative to our state, whether we choose to use it or not. I can’t for the life of me see what the Catholic Workers think they’re proving by not exercising their franchise.
    BTW, do you prefer “Andreas” or “unprivileged” in address on this forum?
    Viking

  50. Andreas/unprivileged, let me take advantage of this lull in the discussion to say something about the reasons you cite for the promotion of capitalism by the state. You mention monopolies of: credit, land, tariff, and patents, along with infrastructure subsidies. But there are thousands of lending institutions and millions of land owners. How can they seriously be called monopolies or even oligopolies, especially the latter named? I honestly can’t see how anyone can believe that a company, group, or individual would devote years of R&D to a product without some protection such as patent law gives. (It can certainly be changed, and perhaps for the better, but that’s still a “monopoly” as I presume you would define it.) I might well agree with you on tariffs, but they’ve been a trivial matter for several decades. It may be that big truckers and railroads don’t pay their fair share of infrastructure costs, but a better accounting of costs alone wouldn’t rock the business world very much. In any event, your local grocery is benefitted by trucking bringing goods from elsewhere just as Wal-Mart is. Sorry, it’s still unconvincing to me.
    Viking