Home / Politics / The Contradictions of Liberals and Conservatives

 

Most Americans who are in the slightest degree politically active or interested incline to one of the two chief political positions common in this country, what we call conservatism or liberalism. In fact, each of these blocs constitutes not only a political grouping, but a cultural group as well, each with its favorite publications and web sites, radio shows, almost its own distinct ways of dressing and eating. Although there is much that one could say about these two groups, I want to comment on one thing only about them. This is that each of them is conscious of the claims of the common good and firmly committed to restraint of human passions, backed up even by the authority of law, in one sphere or area of human life, and equally committed to a laissez-faire policy in another sphere. While each group seems to be aware of the dangers that unrestrained acquiescence in human weakness poses to the social good in one area, each is equally blind to those same dangers in another and equally crucial sphere of life. Before I discuss this further let me state that I am speaking, in regard to both liberals and conservatives, of their professed views and concerns. How far these square with their actual personal conduct or with the laws they enact when they are in power is not to the point here. Every group has its hypocrites, people who fail to live up to the standards they profess, either through succumbing to human weakness or on account of a conscious policy of duplicity. But such hypocrites and their failings are not my concern here.

What of liberals then? Liberals are very aware of the dangers that the unrestrained pursuit of wealth poses to society, of the potential power of wealth, especially concentrated wealth, to corrupt the political process and to skew public policy in its own favor. Liberals quite rightly point to the tremendous power of the rich to influence the political process, to shape tax policy, environmental and labor legislation, and many other kinds of laws and regulations, in their favor. They likewise realize that when society allows free play to the passion for economic gain, people in general will begin to look at every relationship and transaction with solely an eye for their own personal gain. The desire to gain tends to color the whole of the life of society.

Moreover, liberals are quite willing to employ the power of the law to ensure that the force of human greed does not violate the common good. A progressive rate of taxation on higher incomes, inheritance taxes, taxes on sales of stock, even a tax on net wealth are advocated by many liberals. Liberals realize that the mere fact of the existence of a desire for more money on the part of people does not give those individuals any right to pursue that desire at the expense of the common good of society.

But while laudably alarmed at the power of the rich and ready to take legal steps to curb that power, liberals suddenly embrace a free for-all-attitude when it comes to sex. Individuals want sexual pleasure, only repressed puritans and prudes want to prevent this. No matter how much the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure may harm the common good—as in the effects of divorce or out-of-wedlock births on women and children, not to mention the actual children murdered before their births—none of this matters. From being zealous for the common good and ready to place all manner of restraints on human conduct in the economic realm, liberals run to the other extreme and embrace a policy of laissez-faire when it comes to sexual matters. It is hard to understand how liberals do not see, or profess not to see, that the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure can do as much harm to the social fabric as the unrestrained and anti-social pursuit of money. But liberals do not see this. A disordered notion of freedom constitutes almost their entire approach to sexual morality.

But what of conservatives? Conservatives are very aware of the dangers that the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure poses to society, of its power to create any number of social pathologies.

Conservatives quite rightly point to the stabilizing influence of intact families and to the many benefits such families bring to the whole social fabric. They rightly are concerned that the selfish pursuit of individual pleasure harms others, such as children and abandoned spouses, as well as society as a whole. They likewise realize that when society allows free play to the passion for unrestrained sexual pleasure, people in general will begin to look at every relationship and transaction with solely an eye for their own personal pleasure. The desire for erotic satisfaction tends to color the whole of the life of society.

Moreover, conservatives are quite willing to employ the power of the law to ensure that the pursuit of pleasure is kept within bounds. They advocate tax policies that favor families, laws preventing same-sex unions, making divorce and abortion more difficult, restrictions on the sale of contraceptives to minors, even harsh laws on teenage sex. Conservatives realize that the mere fact of the existence of a desire for a maximum of sexual pleasure on the part of individuals does not give those individuals any right to pursue that desire at the expense of the common good of society.

But while laudably alarmed at the potentially corrosive power of the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure and ready to take legal steps to curb that power, conservatives suddenly embrace a free-for-all attitude when it comes to money. Individuals want to get rich, only envious liberals and socialists want to prevent this. No matter how much the unrestrained pursuit of wealth may harm the common good, none of this matters. The effects of wage stagnation on marriages and families, the devastation of neighborhoods and cities by companies moving abroad simply in order to get the highest return on their investment with no regard for society—none of this matters. From being zealous for the common good and ready to place all manner of restraints on human conduct in the sexual realm, conservatives run to the other extreme and embrace a policy of laissez-faire when it comes to money. They even invent an ideology that pretends that the pursuit of private wealth somehow redounds to the benefit of all, despite much experience showing the falsity of this. It is hard to understand how conservatives do not see, or profess not to see, that the unrestrained and anti-social pursuit of money can do as much harm to the social fabric as the unrestrained pursuit of sexual pleasure. But conservatives do not see this. A disordered notion of freedom constitutes almost their entire approach to economic morality.

This is the sad situation of the majority of politically conscious Americans today, a situation that both political blocs, with the willing cooperation of the media, are only too glad to maintain. About the only remedy I can suggest or hope for is that more and more individuals will see through this state of things and realize that there is no requirement to adhere to either the liberal or the conservative party line. Americans like to pride themselves on their freedom, but they exhibit little freedom of thought when it comes to politics. But if enough of us begin to think a little, then it is just possible that we might begin to have a little sanity in our political life. And who knows—it might even spread?

 

About the author: Thomas Storck

 

Thomas Storck is the author of Foundations of a Catholic Political Order, The Catholic Milieu, and Christendom and the West. His work has appeared in various publications including Homiletic and Pastoral Review and the book, Beyond Capitalism and Socialism. Mr. Storck is a former contributing editor of New Oxford Review and Caelum et Terra and serves on the editorial board of The Chesterton Review.An archive of Mr. Storck's writings can be found at www.thomasstorck.org.

 

Recent posts in Politics

 

180 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Contradictions of Liberals and Conservatives - Christian Forums

  2. I would agree with your analysis to the extent these are the stereotypical views held by liberals and conservatives as portrayed in the media and generally practiced by politicians campaigning for office. As you point out, neither of these positions has an internally consistent view of Man, his purpose, or the role of government. My understanding has alwayd been liberalism is based on Enlightenment and post-Enlightment philosophy, which inevitably leads to socialism, or recgnition of only the individual and the state. By its very name, conservatism would be based on pre-Enlightment philosophy (Scholasticism?)and end up looking something like Distributism. Unfortunately, this would require the use of logic and reason, and politics in general and American political campaigns specifically, leave little room for logic and reason.

  3. “By its very name, conservatism would be based on pre-Enlightment philosophy (Scholasticism?)and end up looking something like Distributism.”

    Would that that were so! But “conservatism” as held in the United States (with a few exceptions) is just as much Enlightenment Liberalism as American liberalism is. They both presuppose John Locke’s notion that the purpose of the state is protection of personal rights and property, not the shaping of man toward virtue and (ultimately) eternal life. Moreover, no matter what your understanding of the term “conservative,” an outlook that is simply conservative cannnot be a safe guide to thinking or acting. To be conservative in the first century A.D. would have meant remaining a pagan and opposing the nascent Church.

  4. Hello, Your article was spot-on. I live my life conservatively, but politically lean liberal in the sense that I agree that profit in its extreme is harmful. Immoral behavior brings consequences too. Families and communities only work if jobs and community work in harmony. People have sex too young and could be prevented by parents being more aware and colleges should not have cooed dorms! 

  5. This doesn’t seem accurate. Conservatives believe in restrictions on trade, including laws against extortion, theft, and fraud. I’ve never met a conservative who favored legalizing insider trading. “Wage stagnation” by itself isn’t hamrful (can you think of any wage more stagnant than that of a self-sustaining farmer?), and it only hurts families because of government inflationary policy (which is certainly not “laissez faire”). I understand where you’re coming from when you write of “the devastation of neighborhoods and cities by companies moving abroad simply in order to get the highest return on their investment with no regard for society,” but that doesn’t tell the story of the common good, only of the local good. When one community loses jobs, another community gains jobs (often more of them), and consumers of the newly produced goods have to spend less on those goods. This happens whether jobs are shipped overseas or simply into the next state (which also happens), and the common good is enhanced. Conservatives also generally favor placing restraints on WHAT people can buy…including bans on narcotics and prostitutes, and age restrictions on alcohol and firearms. Conservatives don’t believe in “unrestrained and anti-social pursuit of money,” they favor plenty of restraints in the pursuit of money. The best (accurate) claim one can make is that conservatives don’t believe in enough restraints, but that becomes an issue of prudence and not of principle.

  6. Overly simplistic article offering no insight.
    On its level it is simplistically true, but what is wrong is that this is not a two part, 4 part or 13 part article offering considerable insight and analysis.

  7. The Catholic hierarchy(Bishops) tends to speak about voting in the theoretic rather than the practical. Since 1980, the republicans have been pro-life and the Democrats pro-abortion. On social justice issues, concern for the poor, establishing and maintaining a safety net the republicans have agreed with all this but with spending less and making the programs more accountable to prevent fraud. Any time a republican speaks of reducing fraud in one of these social justice programs to possibly save some money or reduce one of these programs a bit because of financial constraints(every year we borrow to spend on our yearly budget), the democrats run to the main stream media and scream that republicans want to starve people, kill grandma or worse.

    Some people, DEMOCRATIC VOTERS, make the simple analogy that Democrats tend to be closer to Catholic teaching on treatment of the poor and needy, and republicans tend to be closer to Catholic teaching on family and life issues.
    This ignores the broader strokes of reality in politics. The democrats are for every sexual and cultural deviancy. The Democratic Party has every anti-Catholic position sitting at the conference table waiting for their turn to push their agenda in the realm of sexuality, abortion, anti-religion. Whereas the Republican Party is the only cultural force outside of Christianity and the Catholic Church that opposes this cultural tide. Unfortunately, it can be said for both the Republican Party and the Catholic(Christian) churches is that they have served as an ineffectual doorstop against a door that is intending to swing wide open.

    A Catholic who votes democratic is an unwitting enemy of his own religion, God and Gods people. Like the 1st century through 3rd century Rome ….there will be martyrs.

  8. I’ve read Thomas Storck’s essays for many years. I agree that “conservative” and “liberal” are relative terms, not dogma. But as an ex-distributist, I don’t follow the economic diagnosis which conflates separate and often unrelated issues. And feelings without factual evidence or proven experience can be dangerous. You can prevent theft that is caused by greed, but you can’t prevent greed itself any more than you eradicate lust and adultery through Burkas. Personal success or wealth may be the result of greed, yes. Or it may be due to entrepreneurial talent. Who can read minds? Statists and socialists would like to think that they can. But to say that you can limit incomes on that subjective basis is like limiting the number of paintings an artist produces because you think he’s a mean person, or because he makes too many canvasses with green instead of pink. The real questions are: Is he is stealing all my paint and art supplies? Is he preventing me from selling my own paintings? If not, then our dislike for the person, his products or his success is a small price to pay for real economic opportunity and freedom.

  9. Prof. Storck separates us into two groups: those who seek wealth, and those who seek pleasure (mostly sexual).
    What about those who seek power, to order other people what to do? Plato describes a society ruled by a few philosopher-kings, who are so wise that they can pass laws binding on everyone else. The current US executive branch seems ruled by some who claim to be so wise that they can order everyone else among three hundred million people what to eat, what to wear, what size water tanks to flush their toilets with, etc.
    Is the desire for power over others less a vice than the desire for wealth or the desire for sexual pleasure? My position is that the desire for unopposed power over others is the most dangerous, and should be resisted, and limited.
    TeaPot562

  10. Prof. Storck does not separate us into two groups, he mearly makes observations on the two groups we have separated ourselves into. Yes, the division is simplistic — that is a feature of our 24-hour newscylcle soundbite society — but easily recognizable to any half-way politically aware resident of these United States.

    The observation (and analysis) Prof. Storck makes is, while most of us are aware of the divisions, it seems no one recognizes both of these divisions are internally inconsistent.

    The teachings of the Church, on which Distributism is based, are internally consistent. And I would argue the foundation of a growing “conservative” movement. Perhaps what it will mean to be a “conservative” in 21st century America.

  11. Pingback: The contradictions of liberals and conservatives... - Christian Forums

  12. A couple of questions. One is to Matt. Why are you an “ex-distributist” and not a current one?
    To all those reading this: what would be the result if tomorrow either (a) the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade; or (b) it was concluded by a majority in Congress that judicial review was an unconstitutional usurpation by the US SC, and hence invalid? Would Republicans then be willing to try to ban it, either nationally or state-by-state?
    Viking

  13. DJ,
    So think those who run international corporations and bank like Goldman Sachs are not in favor of insider trading and other trading practices that extort the market for their own gain? How about oil companies? Are these all lauded by the conservative crowd?

  14. DJ,

    Yes conservatives favor minimal restrictions against the most overt kinds of fraud, and a few other restrictions, just as liberals favor laws against rape. I was painting with broad brushes here, but it’s undeniable that these two broad divisions exist. Within my lifetime the two groups have grown more hostile and self-contained. Moreover, the common good is not promoted by breaking up neighborhoods and communities in the (supposed) interest of lower prices.

    And, TeaPot562. Of course some people are motivated by the desire for power instead of wealth or pleasure. But I’m not aware of any organized movement proclaiming the desire for power as its goal, but we do have the liberals and the conservatives who include as part of their goals, on the one hand the facilitation of sexual pleasure, on the other, the facilitation of moneymaking.

    My object in writing this piece was to show that each of the two blocs recognizes the claims of the common good in one area but refuses to recognize them in another and equally important area.

  15. An overly simplistic attempt to make liberalism appear alturistic. Yes you are supposed to be all things to all men and honey does catch more flies than vinager but you should remain with the truth. Definitely not saying you are intentionally lying but obviously you are deceived by the propaganda of liberalism into thinking it is what it wants you to think its real priorities are. As far as liberals being against wealth I am sorry but you will find that a substanitial proportion of the rich are very liberal (in fact even the 3 richest men in America are very very liberal). Bill Gates, Soros, Warren Buffet, Oprah and the list goes on and on. They would seem to be the paragon of liberals since they often set the agenda and are leaders of the liberal movement. Here is an interesting article that clearly and factually refutes your definition of liberalism. While I am not a fan of unfettered capitalism the rich usually do tend to the “liberal side of morality”. Note is calling the “captilistic rich as econimic conservatives but socila liberals. Very true if you are familar with the history of the 20th and 19th centuries. While that article does have flaws and doesn’t recognize the danger of unfettered capitalism is is more factually sound than yours. I politely suggest you read a bit more history and more about the liberals other than what they say when they think people are looking. Obviously you will be in for quite a shock as you evidently took them at their PR.

    http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2012/05/why-are-so-many-rich-people-liberal-and-hypocrits

    Even the Obam campaign has accumulated more money than nearly every campaign before it (and possibly will raise over 1 Billion). Apparently liberals have more money since no conservative has ever raised anything close to that (even when the majority of Americans once were conservatives). So please do more homework.

    Not saying conservatives are more perfect but you are totally missing the difference between conservativism and liberalism. Its not soley based upon capitalism and most conservatives do not ascribe to unfettered capitalism (that is if you press them and they aren’t speaking in the heat of the moment). You will find few who actually support the practices and beliefs of the elite during the Industrial Revolution despite the fact that you think conservatives to be enarmored of such immoral views.

  16. Interesting article and comments.

    I’d consider myself a “liberal”, but only because it’s closer to my views than “conservative” is (at least, as the terms are described in the article). In reality though, I think we need a *bit* more liberalism in terms of economic issues – but not too much.

    As for the moral/sexual issues, I’m not really sure which side of the great political divide I stand on. I’m against unrestrained sexual pleasure for sure; if we don’t temper our appetites and make wise decisions we’ll likely suffer the effects of STDs, broken homes, etc., so in that sense I disagree with the liberal side. But I also disagree with the conservative side in that I think certain types of relationships and/or sexual interactions, such as open relationships or same-sex marriage, are completely workable for some people, and can enrich the lives of the participants.

    I also think that it’s not up to the government to intervene in such personal situations if someone is going wrong somewhere and making bad decisions – as long as those decisions aren’t affecting anyone else (a good example is not informing partners of an STD).

    Same goes for the economic issues – if someone is making bad decisions in their personal financing, that’s their problem. But the government can step in if these decisions start to affect society (an example here would be artificially raising the price of good people can’t live without and have no choice but to buy, no matter the price).

    I’m also in favor of decreased military spending (but not for the typical liberal reason – I think the military should be more efficient, not smaller), and in favor of *increased* spending for education and the space program (unlike the military issue, I think these programs should be “burned to the ground” and reworked completely).

    So I guess I’m not really a liberal, and I’m not really a conservative either. What am I?

  17. I believe the so called conservatives for the most part are not genuinely for marriage and family and only consider the Pro-life movement a voting block. They will speak against gay marriage but “don’t care what someone else does in their bedroom”. Most conservatives are afraid to call homosexuallity what it is and therefore enable its infiltration into society.

  18. Blake,
    People who run international banks and international businesses are hardly representative of conservatives. They are also not in favor of the free market (you might remember the stink about bank bailouts and auto company bailouts from a few years ago). You might want to look up a set of principles called The Porter Principles, which are often taught in business schools, which are all about maximizing profit by overcoming the free market, often with the help of government (by, for example, creating high barriers to entry).

    Prof. Stork,
    I appreciate that you are painting with broad strokes here. However, I think the brush is so broad that one loses sight of the picture. The 20th century made it apparent that countries with freer markets have higher standards of living than those with less free. What free markets don’t guarantee is more equality. As far as breaking up neighborhoods, business don’t do that (except with the assistance of government through eminent domain, which also garners resentment from conservatives). A business might move some of its manufacturing abroad, but the effect on the neighborhood is no different than if the business closed down, which can happen for a variety of reasons, including lower prices from competitors. I would point again to Detroit, where government bailout money was required to keep the US automakers alive in their competition against foreign owned car companies (who also manufacture in the US). One might also consider the case of US television manufacturers, who all went out of business in the space of about two years after cheap Japanese televisions flooded the market.

    I’m also curious as to why you don’t consider the places to which factories are moved in your analysis of the common good. Are people in India less important than people in Indiana?

  19. The Liberals’ crusade for unfettered sexuality goes to the extremes of anarchy – no government control, restraints or rules. The unborn have no rights and their very lives are lived at the whim of those pursuing complete sexual freedom.
    Conservatives believe people should be able to earn what they can, but they favor taxes (though not confiscatory taxes), they favor charitable giving (and studies show conservatives give much more than liberals), and they favor protections for the rights of workers of capitalist industry (though not excessive regulation in this regard). They do not believe that people should be able to use their money any way they choose (e.g. for illegal or immoral activities, to fund terrorism, to bribe government officials, etc.).
    If conservative business owners had control over their workers the way liberals have control over their unborn, the workers would be slaves who could be killed at any whim, and paid only if the employer felt like it. If liberals agreed to restraints on their sexuality the way conservatives agree to restraints on the pursuit and use of money, the unborn would have protection of their rights, unhealthy sexual practices would be prohibited or sanctioned, promiscuity and adultery would be proscribed as harmful to families and children, and those involved in abortion, promiscuity and adultery would be assessed for the costs of problem pregnancy centers, adoption clinics, STD treatment facilities or any the other “collateral damage” of their exercise of their freedoms the way business owners must pay for environmental damage, workers compensation, unemployment compensation, social security contributions, etc.
    The author’s contentions of moral equivalence between the two are wholly without logical merit.

  20. Thanks for the comments. I’ll respond first to Ken Reilly, who wrote “I believe the so called conservatives for the most part are not genuinely for marriage and family and only consider the Pro-life movement a voting block.” I think this is largely the case too,and that’s why I had the passage at the beginning about how “far these square with their actual personal conduct or with the laws they enact when they are in power is not to the point here.” I’m dealing here only with professed beliefs.

    DJ asked, “I’m also curious as to why you don’t consider the places to which factories are moved in your analysis of the common good. Are people in India less important than people in Indiana?”

    It’s not that people in Indiana are more important than people in India, it’s that the purpose of an economy is to supply us with needed goods while at the same time not disrupting society, which is what happens when there is easy mobility of capital and labor. Consider too: if the firm moves to India tomorrow, the day after tomorrow why not to some even cheaper place? And low-wage factories don’t really help poor countries. They destroy local industries and traditional ways of life and extract profits from the country for the management and shareholders who usually live far away.
    By the way, when I spoke of disrupting neighborhoods, I was thinking not so much of the use of eminent domain as of factories closing and leaving the people jobless as has happened in many parts of the “rust belt.” But you’re right, very often governments aid businesses in their greed. This is because business largely controls the politicians via campaign contributions, outright bribes, etc.

  21. “To be conservative in the first century A.D. would have meant remaining a pagan and opposing the nascent Church.”

    This is what is inherently dangerous about such neat and clean compartmentalizing of liberals and conservatives! They inevitably lead to erroneous and wild extrapolations like the quote above. So what are you saying, that only liberals could accept and promote the Gospel?!

  22. I have to wonder, by the comments made, how many of those commenting have ever read anything on Distributism. Neither conservatives nor liberals get it right economically speaking.

    Within the conservative movement in this country there is a significant libertarian faction (witness Ron Paul), just as the liberals have a strong anarchist faction (many in the Occupy movement).

    Likewise, both liberals and conservatives have a strong statist faction, although one wants the state to have absolute control ofthe economy and the other wants the state to have absolute control of morality. Neither side realizes if the state controls one it will end up controling both.

    We need a third way.

  23. Mr. Turchi,

    I was simply responding to a statement made earlier in these comments that “By its very name, conservatism would be based on pre-Enlightment philosophy.” I was simply pointing out that taken etymologically, the term “conservative” obviously implies keeping what we have, whether that is good or evil. I was not referring to current American conceptions of conservatism, still less to liberalism, which I didn’t even mention. I was responding to one of the comments.

  24. Sex outside of marriage is inherently evil. Making money is not. God has gifted some people with great ability to produce. Since God’s distribution is unequal, so also is man’s. We must look at what benefits the most people. What was lesson of Cain and Able. One man’s sacrifice was pleasing and one man’s wasn’t. When we give of ourselves in love, it is pleasing to God. When we select a few men to wrest the fruits one man’s labor in order to give it to another, it is not good. I think you also forget that Americans are the most generous people on earth. Trust in the Lord and He will provide; trust in government and go wanting.

    You seem to conclude that unrestrained pursuit of wealth harms the common good, yet I don’t see any proof of that. You can say the industrial revolution made some men a lot of money, but it also brought a lot of men out of poverty [DR COMMENT: It also put many more in poverty!]. It is when business goes to bed with politicians that capitalism gets messed up. And it’s when charity goes to bed with government that it produces unholy offspring. I don’t see the logic of the distributive view. a few men in a distant capitol making the decisions of millions of people is not fair. Even if man is generally greedy, one man will always distribute the fruits of his own labor better than the collective.
    It is never enriching to live outside God’s law.

  25. Theresa, by your words you condemn the Church as well, which condemns unrestrained pursuit of wealth.

    “I don’t see the logic of the distributive view. a few men in a distant capitol making the decisions of millions of people is not fair.”

    May I dare say you don’t understand Distributism at all? No Distributist ever made this Socialist proposal, NONE!!!!!!!!!! Because you’re condemning Socialism, NOT Distributism!!

  26. Theresa, before you show yourself to be more ignorant of Distributism, might I ask you to actually read what Distributists write and believe, rather than anti-Distributist propaganda, like that nonsense of Distributism = “a few men in a distant capitol making the decisions of millions of people”?

  27. Theresa,

    You said, “Sex outside of marriage is inherently evil. Making money is not.” You’ve set up the contrast to prove your point. Better to say, Neither sex nor moneymaking is evil, but irresponsible sex and irresponsible moneymaking are both evil.

  28. I’m interested in Tom’s response to Mr. Power’s comments. Seems to have skimmed past those…which speak volumes.

  29. Whatever Kristine did or didn’t mean to imply in her comment, I’m happy to respond to Mr. Powers.

    He wrote, “Conservatives believe people should be able to earn what they can, but they favor taxes (though not confiscatory taxes), they favor charitable giving (and studies show conservatives give much more than liberals), and they favor protections for the rights of workers of capitalist industry (though not excessive regulation in this regard).”

    Well, I don’t think these assertions are entirely true. Whatever might be the case about charitable giving – I simply don’t know – conservatives, especially lately, have been always in favor of tax cuts, as if taxes could never be too low. Witness the no new tax pledge which Grover Norquist attempts to wrest from Republicans in Congress, or the increasingly heard statement that taxation is confiscation or theft. I’ve seen bumper stickers that say, “Don’t steal, the government doesn’t like competition.” If you think conservatives cheerfully accept all but confiscatory taxes, I don’t know where you live, but not in any part of the United States that I know.

    Secondly, I don’t see much evidence that conservatives “favor protections for the rights of workers of capitalist industry.” For the past 30 years or so there has been a war against unions, against adequate funding for agencies such as OSHA, and for a weakening of health and safety standards in industry.

    Then Mr. Powers goes on to say: Conservatives “do not believe that people should be able to use their money any way they choose (e.g. for illegal or immoral activities, to fund terrorism, to bribe government officials, etc.).” Sure, they favor minimal restrictions, just as liberals favor laws against rape. But even in the example of bribing government officials, the old-fashioned kind of bribe is hardly necessary today, when a campaign contribution can accomplish the same goal. You may be aware that recently the Supreme Court struck down laws regulating or prohibiting political activities of corporations that were around 100 years old, passed during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt.

    As I said before, my purpose in writing was to highlight the willingness of both groups to consider the common good in one area and their unwillingness to do so in another. It seems indisputable to me that this is the case, although, yes, one could quibble about this or that point or about who is more extreme.

  30. Wow, Tom, what I initially suspected about you in your article you have clearly proven in your comments about Mr. Powers. Whether it is your assertions about the desires or works of conservatives regarding taxation (as if they want all taxes eliminated) or the so-called “war” against unions, or your implying that they (conservatives) only are behind insane campaign contributions (whereas liberals and unions are innocent in that regard, or sucking up to big corporations is outside of liberal politicians – e.g. GE) all while you totally disregard Mr. Power’s point of the abortion genocide, wholeheartedly supported and purportrated by the liberals, is absolutely astonishing. Avoid the body count of the 53 million babies since RvW, 1.2 million a year, 3300 a day and balance that with issues like taxation, unions and campaign contributions. Hmmm… So why the guise of a blog that tries to equate both sides of the issue and magnitude of them? Yup, as I suspected.

  31. Richard
    I can’t see where Mr. Storck drew the moral equivalency between the intrinsic evil of abortion and the sinful corrupting influence of greed.
    Both of these are detrimental to society but I don’t believe by pointing this out one necessarily finds them of equal injustice.

  32. Wow, Richard. I really don’t understand how, in an article which noted “children murdered before their births,” I can be criticized for ignoring or minimizing the evil of abortion. I wasn’t addressing that in my comments to Mr. Powers, as he and I agree on that point. Nor was I saying that only conservatives corrupt the political process. But, if you read his comments carefully, you’ll see that he didn’t raise that point, so it seemed there was hardly any reason for me to address it either.

    I do find it odd that when anyone criticizes the injustices produced by capitalism, some people immediately accuse him of saying that abortion and economic injustices are equally wrong, etc., etc., etc. Well, guess what – the popes have many times, and sometimes harshly, criticized economic injustices. Are they too guilty of some sort of offense in doing so?

  33. Pingback: Ayn Rand or Simone de Beauvoir? | Two Tasks

  34. “I do find it odd that when anyone criticizes the injustices produced by capitalism, some people immediately accuse him of saying that abortion and economic injustices are equally wrong, etc., etc., etc.”

    I was struck by that as well. Indeed, this points out, I think, how little thought goes into many modern left/right debates.

    The article here is excellent. Sure, it’s short, but it wasn’t intended to be a tome, just pointing out some basic facts. A lot of “conservative” reaction is, in turn, occurring as there’s a suggestion here that there’s something perhaps a bit wrong by unhindered capitalism.

    Let me suggest this, no real conservative could possibly be in favor of modern American “capitalism”, as it violates their stated beliefs, which is that people should have economic liberty. Our system actually is radically liberal, in that it is dominated by state sponsored entities created by the state. It’s a species of mercantilism.

    How can I maintain that? Well, simply.

    Our real economy is dominated by large corporations. Corporations are legal fiction, a “person” created by the state. They exist only because of the state. They are protected at law by the state.

    Now, I’m not saying that corporations are evil, or unnecessary, but they are undoubtedly deeply liberal in their essence, and deeply anti conservative by their nature. These legal fictions are given huge competitive advantages against real live people, whom supposedly conservatives care so deeply about.

    As they are necessary for a modern economy, they are necessary. But let’s not pretend that they are not anti competitive and that they can and should be restrained in favor of real people. Take the big box stores, for example, which exist only because the law allows them too. If they weren’t around, all those products would probably be sold in small stores run by mom and pop types, who could actually make a real living doing that. Sure, it’d cost us more as “consumers”, but selling that stuff would pay more as well. So, for example, limiting, or even prohibiting, large corporate interstate retailers would be a deeply conservative action, not a liberal one.

  35. The following passages are from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical “Rerum
    novarum,” on the condition of the working classes.

    THE EVIL
    The condition of the working people is the pressing question of the
    hour; and nothing can be of higher interest to all classes of the
    State than that it should be rightly and reasonably adjusted.
    All agree, and there can be no question whatever, that some remedy
    must be found, and found quickly, for the misery and wretchedness
    pressing so heavily and so unjustly on the vast majority of the
    working classes.

    NATURE OF THE EVIL –
    A FEW RICH AND MANY POOR
    The result of civil change and revolution has been to divide society
    into two widely differing castes.
    On the one hand is the party which holds power because it holds
    wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which
    manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is even represented in the councils of the State itself.
    On the other side are the needy and powerless multitude, broken down and suffering.

    THE CAUSES OF POVERTY
    It has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, all
    isolated and helpless, to the hard-heartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition.
    The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless under a different guise, but with the like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added the custom of working by contract and the concentration of so many branches of trade in the hands of a few individuals; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself.

    THE CHURCH WISHES THE EVIL TO END
    Neither must it be supposed that the solicitude of the Church is so
    preoccupied with the spiritual concerns of her children as to neglect
    their temporal and earthly interests.
    Her desire is that the poor shall rise above poverty and wretchedness in life; and for this she makes a strong endeavor.

    WORK MAKES WEALTH
    All human existence is derived either from labor on one’s own land, or from some toil.
    It may be truly said that it is only by the labor of working men that
    states grow rich.

    RIGHTS MUST BE SAFEGUARDED BY STATE
    Rights must be religiously respected wherever they exist. It is the
    duty of the public authority to prevent and to punish injury and to
    protect everyone in the possession of his own.

    THE RIGHT NOT TO BE SWEATED
    Religion teaches the wealthy owner and the employer that their
    workpeople are not be accounted their bondsmen; . . . that it is
    shameful and inhuman to treat men like chattels to make money by, or to look upon them merely as so much muscle or physical labor.
    The rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s
    earnings, whether by force or fraud or by usurious dealings; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should, in proportion to their slenderness, be accounted sacred.

    THE RIGHT TO LIVE BY WORK
    The preservation of life is the bounden duty of all.
    It follows that each one has a right to procure what is required in
    order to live; and the poor can procure it in no other way than
    through work and wages.

    THE RIGHT TO A LIVING WAGE
    A workman’s wages should be sufficient to enable him to maintain
    himself, his wife, and his children in reasonable comfort.

    THE RIGHT TO THE FULL RESULT OF LABOR
    It is just and right that the results of labor should belong to those
    who have bestowed their labor.

    THE RIGHT TO ASSOCIATION
    (i.e., TRADE UNIONS)
    The State is bound to protect natural rights, not to destroy them.
    And if it forbid its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the
    very principle of its own existence, for both they and it exist in
    virtue of the like principle, namely the natural tendency of man to
    dwell in society.

    THE WORK-FOLK’S SPECIAL RIGHT TO PROTECTION
    When there is a question of defending the rights of individuals, the
    poor and helpless have a claim to special consideration.
    The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves, and stand
    less in need of help from the State; whereas those who are badly off
    have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly
    depend upon the assistance of the State. And it is for this reason
    that wage-earners, who are undoubtedly among the weak and necessitous,
    should be especially cared for and protected by government.

    BAD LAWS ARE NO LAWS
    Human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason.
    Thus it is manifest that it flows from eternal law.
    Insofar as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law.
    In such a case it is no law at all; but rather a species of violence.

    OWNERSHIP IS STEWARDSHIP
    Man should not consider his outward possessions as his own, but as
    common to all; so as to share them without hesitation when others are
    in need.
    Whoever has received from the Divine Bounty a large share of temporal
    blessings, whether they be external and corporeal or gifts of the
    mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the
    perfecting of his own nature and, at the same time, that he may employ
    them as the steward of God’s Providence for the benefit of others.

    THE STATE CAN CONTROL PROPERTY
    The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from
    man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests
    of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether.

    WHAT GOD HAS DONE –
    WHAT THE STATE MUST DO
    God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that
    all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that
    no part of it has been assigned to anyone in particular, and that the
    limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man’s own
    industry, and by the laws of individual races.

    SMALL OWNERS
    The law therefore should favor ownership; and its policy should be to
    induce as many as possible of the humbler classes to become owners.

    [I THINK THAT LAST SENTENCE CONTAINS MAYBE THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL
    PRINCIPLE OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL DOCTRINE. NEITHER POLITICAL PARTY TODAY
    IN AMERICA CARES ABOUT IT.]

    THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH
    Every minister of holy religion must bring to the struggle the full
    energy of his mind and all his power of endurance. . . . They should never cease to urge upon men of every class, upon the high-placed as well as the lowly, the Gospel doctrines of Christian life; by every means in their power they must strive to secure the good of the people; and above all must earnestly cherish in themselves, and try to arouse in others, charity, the mistress and queen of virtues.

    —–

    The full text of the encyclical:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html

  36. Shmuel Ben-Gad

    It seems to me self-restraint is necessary for virtue. The political (as opposed to the moral) question is to what extent, if at all, should the power of the state be used to coerce self-restraint. I am inclined to think this, to a large extent at least, depends upon time, place and circumstance. That si why I tned to shy away form ideologies.

  37. My point is, you can have capitalism or you can have socialism. That’s it. We’ve tried to combine them but when you compromise with evil you get evil. You condemn both, but only socialism is inherently evil. When I hear the bishops speak, they seem to embrace socialism and that truly disturbs me. They want the government to reign in the capitalists, but only the God can do that. Shipping jobs overseas and shuttered up towns are the result of socialism, not capitalism. There has been no free market in the US for a long time if there ever was. Hoover was not a laissez-faire President.

  38. I find it curious, if not telling, that the comments I posted just after midnight this morning were deleted from the comments section, with no explanation as to why.

  39. “My point is, you can have capitalism or you can have socialism. That’s it.”

    That’s clearly not correct, unless you stretch the meaning of the terms to the point where they are effectively meaningless.

    Socialism is, by definition, an economic system in which the government owns the means of production. It doesn’t mean anything else. This is the reason that claims that any one politician in the US is a socialist are without meaning. And it’s also why true socialist are all but extinct in the Western World, as the system is grossly inefficient, as well as unfair in its actual operation.

    Capitalism is a system based on the theory that free markets work the best and should be generally allowed.

    There are all sorts of other theories, and there is a wide range of latitude within capitalism for systems that are capitalistic but not laissez faire. Feudalism, in which a landed class owned the only means of production worth owning in its time was another system. Merchantilism really is, and so on.

    Within capitalism it is not necessary to leave all the hands off. Distributism is a capitalistic system, but directed so as to distribute in what is essentially an agrarian fashion.

    The American system is Corporate Capitalism, in which we allow free markets (with some exception) but in which the government sponsors the competitors by licensing the limitation of liability for what are otherwise actually big partnerships as a rule. If we used pure capitalism, we wouldn’t recognize corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships.

  40. Theresa said, “My point is, you can have capitalism or you can have socialism. That’s it.”

    Fortunately we’re not restricted to those two choices. John Paul II explicitly stated that in Centesimus Annus, no.35. “We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called “Real Socialism” leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization.” There are many ways to organize an economy besides capitalism or socialism, e.g., distributism.

  41. Theresa, more showing of ignorance. You clearly have no idea of Catholic Social Teaching. Better quit while you’re ahead and just actually read what the Church has to say, instead of proving your ignorance again and again. Capitalism or socialism: both of them are false choice; one by having a few people control all the means of production, the other by having the State do so.

  42. Sean, I am with you. Mr Storck has not posted your second comment that you had forwarded to me and that I tried to post in your stead. Mr. Storck, is there a technical problem or?

  43. “Mr Storck has not posted your second comment that you had forwarded to me and that I tried to post in your stead. Mr. Storck, is there a technical problem or?”

    Sorry, folks, but Mr. Storck has nothing to do with administering the technicalities of this site. I write for it, that’s all. It’s the editor who runs it.

    Also with reference to Shmuel Ben-Gad’s point above. I tend to agree with him, at least to the extent that we can’t lay out before hand a detailed blueprint for constructing a just social order. Much depends on circumstances of time and place.

  44. Richard,

    Tom has nothing to do with editing the Review, posting, or publishing comments. There are only three people with that authority, of which I am one.
    Now, I saw two comments exactly identical, with two different names and IP addresses in the same state. So it looked to me like someone was posting under different names to gang up on others in the comment box, so I deleted them. We don’t censor anything but spam and discourse contrary to charity or simply unfit to print. If it is not the case that you’re posting under different names, and in good faith you thought you were being blocked and got someone else to post it, please re-write it and send it again and I’ll make sure it gets published so that Tom or someone else can respond to it.

  45. Paul,

    I agree with you, but could you find a nicer way to say that the person is mistaken? We want to win them over not shrink smack them down!

    God bless

  46. Yes, Mr. Storck, as Richard pointed out, you have now betrayed yourself as a typical liberal. Your slanted, ad hominem diatribe is classic liberal argumentation: create a repugnant straw man opponent and then declare your far-more-reasonable position victorious, all while completely ignoring the main point of your debate opponent.
    Let me make my point again, this time so clearly that perhaps even you won’t be able to convince people to avert their glance: Liberals favor NO regulation or restriction on sexuality, regardless of who gets hurt, and conservatives would NEVER, and HAVE NEVER, argued that there should be no regulation of the economic sphere.
    To illustrate, liberals always howl about ANY restriction on abortion, claiming it is the complete personal choice of the woman, with the man having NO SAY, society having NO SAY, and certainly the baby having NO SAY, even when the child’s full term body, complete with a working central nervous system, is subjected to forceful puncturing of the head, sucking out of the brains and crushing of the skull (partial birth abortion). Name me one reputable conservative, or reputable conservative philosophy, that says that a business should legally have the right to seize by physical force from their customers their money, not to mention their lives, against their will.
    Your arguments against conservatives avoid the point I made that liberals are alone in desiring NO regulation or restriction in the sexual sphere. You say there is a war against unions of 30 years, but have 53 million union members been killed in this country over 30 years? No, and in fact conservatives do not even argue that unions should not be allowed to exist, but do argue that unions should not be able to forcibly take money from their members (note here that it is unions, not business owners, that fight to maintain the right to forcibly take money from people). You say conservatives are against “adequate” funding of OSHA, and for “weakening” of health and safety standards,and for cutting taxes, but these are political disputes as to the optimal setting for these standards. You do not, because you logically and credibly cannot, argue that conservatives strive to totally defund OSHA, or to eliminate all health and safety standards, or to eliminate all taxation. That is the point itself, namely that liberals do make just such scorched-earth demands in the sexual realm.
    By the way, saying something has been around for 100 years is not logical argumentation (see, e.g., slavery). Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive (liberal), and our Constitution, in case you hadn’t heard, protects political speech in the First Amendment, and monetary contributions have always been ruled by our jurisprudence to be a form of political speech. We are also guaranteed freedom of association, and corporations are assemblages of individuals. They have a right to speak, act and contribute just as unions do, or don’t you believe in a two-way street.
    And congratulations, you found a restriction on sexual activity supported by liberals (rape laws). But stay tuned, polls shows liberals in growing numbers are beginning to favor relaxation or elimination of age of consent laws, which deal with statutory rape. So even that slenderest of reeds on which your frailest of argumentation rests is under assault.
    By the way, the “heartless conservatives” whom you decry DO in fact support charity more, and volunteer more. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/story?id=2682730&page=1#.T7MbSeseMsI.
    Again, claiming that conservative support for cutting taxes, and liberal support for sucking out the brains of fully formed babies, are equally extreme examples of runaway philosophies, is nothing less than sophistry. By that standard Martin Luther King, Jr., who engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, was just as extreme as James Earl Ray, his killer, because both were law-breakers.

  47. My comment of yesterday at 9:39 p.m. is still “awaiting moderation.”

  48. Regarding the claim that capitalism is the only alternative to socialism – Allan Carlson has conclusively shown that distributism is a viable third way, in his recent book called, precisely, ‘Third Ways.’ He looks at the history of various distributist programs implemented in the last century. This first-rate interview with the author

    http://www.isi.org/books/bookdetail.aspx?id=5afd5e0b-5e25-4c61-9ae4-705e3c37e030&

    from the publisher’s website elucidates his thesis. Be it noted that Carlson is a Lutheran, not a Catholic. Heaps of non-Catholics admire distributist thought. The wisest man in American, Wendell Berry, is a distributist without knowing it.

  49. It is interesting that an article about the internal contradictions of liberal and conservative political philosophies in 21st century America has led to a discussion primarily about socialism vs. capitalism. As Belloc pointed out a little over 100 years ago, these both lead to a serville state. When a few large corporations drive political decisions and become “too big to fail” (a term embraced by members of both parties), and most individuals require either the state or a large corporate employer to provide healthcare (not to mention the resources to acquire food, shelter, and clothing), are we not living in a serville state?

    The truth is, both parties and both ideologies are dominated by statist elites. Both are pursuing policies which concentrate power and wealth.

    On the bright side, there seems to be growing awareness small businesses and smaller governement (or at least less centralizzed government) is the solution to the problems we are facing.

    Maybe over the next decade or so we can come to a consensus.

  50. Sorry, Ryan, I thought at that point that Theresa could use a little “smacking” as you called it, to try to stop her from making herself look more, shall we say, pitiable than she already was with her “definition” of Distributism. But I apologise for coming too strong.

  51. My comment of yesterday at 9:39 p.m. is still “awaiting moderation.”

    Sorry, I’m on pacific time, even though the website’s time is on EST.

  52. Mr. Powers,

    I have been traveling all day and am on my way to Mass now for Ascension Day, which is (thankfully) still celebrated on Thursday in the diocese where I now am. Tomorrow I’ll respond to your comments.

  53. “Liberals favor NO regulation or restriction on sexuality, regardless of who gets hurt”

    This is obviously an untrue comment, and I find it hard to imagine that anyone could actually believe it. Social liberals have a variety of views on many aspects of regulation of sexual expression – pornography, family dynamics, age of consent and protection of children, public nudity… There is even disagreement about abortion and to what degree it ought to be regulated. Just as fiscal conservatives or neoliberals have a variety of views on how much regulation there should be in the economic sphere.

    The general tendency is for social liberals to favour loose regulation of sexual expression and see institutions which control it as man-made and flexible, and for neoliberals to favour loose regulation of the economic sphere and see some capitalist structures as naturally occurring and inevitable.

  54. FYI. It was liberals who came up with the title “sex worker” for the prostitute which included those unfortunate women who were sex slaves. The purpose being to bring some global legitimacy to that trade and their friends in the sex slave industry. The Clinton administration chose not to aggressively pursue the purveyors of that evil “industry”. Fortunately for thousands of women forced into that situation the following administration did aggressively prosecute and dismantle much of that activity in the U.S.

  55. My response to Sean Powers.

    “Liberals favor NO regulation or restriction on sexuality, regardless of who gets hurt, and conservatives would NEVER, and HAVE NEVER, argued that there should be no regulation of the economic sphere.”

    To remind Mr. Powers and others, I wrote the article to show that both conservatives and liberals recognize the claims of the common good in one area and neglect or deny those claims in another area. This seems to be undeniable. I never claimed that either side favored absolutely no regulation, and – though one cannot generalize too much about all the members of either group – most of the people on both sides favor some regulation, even if, as in the case of many liberals, it only applies to forcible rape.

    It appears to me that Mr. Powers is so incensed because I dared to compare liberals to conservatives. If he does not recognize the conservative ideology in what I wrote, I’m afraid I can’t convince him otherwise, but I think most people will see the reality in what I said. What strikes me as most bizarre is that he brings up over and over again abortion. I never said anything in support of abortion and would never deny what it is: murder of unborn children. But if Mr. Powers wants to think that conservatives have a strong notion of the common good in their economic thinking, then I don’t think there’s much I can say to him.

    Likewise he thinks that I “have now betrayed yourself as a typical liberal.” Well, I deny that I am a liberal in any sense of that word. Mr. Powers, I suspect, is a liberal of the classical sort. It’s moreover very amusing to me that he stated, “Your slanted, ad hominem diatribe is classic liberal argumentation: create a repugnant straw man opponent and then declare your far-more-reasonable position victorious, all while completely ignoring the main point of your debate opponent.” Apparently in Mr. Powers’ universe liberals are the only people who use slanted and ad hominem argumentation. I imagine that even conservatives realize that that claim is pretty silly. Unfortunately examples of bad arguments can be found on nearly every side of most debates. If we don’t recognize that even people on our own side are prone to make bad arguments, then I’m afraid we’ve sunk into the depths of ideological blindness.

  56. In agreement with Powers, I for one looked at couple of Storck articles on this site and am convinced that this conservative(me) needs to stay away from this liberal tainted, leftist website. I would like to learn more about distributism but not here.

  57. I think this article was great but lacked one key detail. The problem is that most readers don’t realize “Conservatism” is a subset of Classical Liberalism. Classical Liberalism gave birth to BOTH modern day ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. Classical Liberalism looked more like Conservatism than modern liberalism. Classical Liberalism is a heresy, and thus a sin, and thus modern day liberalism and conservatism are serious error at best, sinful at worst.

    Once you realize this, you see Conservatism is a sin, and Conservatism is more dangerous than modern liberalism because people parade around as if conservatism is inherently good, or at least better than liberalism.

    Classical Liberalism’s fundamental teaching is that religion is to be private – popularly termed “Separation of Church and State,” which Pope Leo called “a fatal error” – the result is a public sphere of laws/morality/policy that BOTH CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS AGREE should not be based upon Christianity (cf 1st Amendment). That’s why you have the absurd and lamentable scene of Christians wanting to oppose abortion and other sins but self-refute their argument by trying to oppose the sin on purely ‘popular’ grounds. Conservatives think that abortion can only be fought by collecting signatures, and so they get in a tizzy trying to get stuff on the ballot and hope for a majority. So there emerges a schizophrenia where the citizen has to simultaneously agree truth/good is decided by the popular vote while also holding that truth/good is decided by the Church. This is PRECISELY why liberals get upset and attack conservative anti-abortion and anti-gay protestors, because Caesar has said those things are ok, so it’s rightly absurd and rightly an outrage that conservatives Christians are opposing tolerance and fairness.

  58. Mr. Storck,
    You wrote the following: “To remind Mr. Powers and others, I wrote the article to show that both conservatives and liberals recognize the claims of the common good in one area and neglect or deny those claims in another area. This seems to be undeniable.”

    Well, I deny it. Conservatives claim (whether accurately or not) that economic liberty to the extent they desire it actually is the best way to achieve the common good. And quite frankly I think it’s “undeniable” that many of them honestly believe that. They don’t disregard the common good; they simply believe it can be achieved better through capitalism than through distributism or any other view. Liberals probably would argue that they also think their view leads to the common good, but that argument is absurd on its face, and an intellectually honest liberal would admit that it’s really about their own individual self-interest. But just because conservatives have a different view of the common good than you doesn’t give you the right to say: “But if Mr. Powers wants to think that conservatives have a strong notion of the common good in their economic thinking, then I don’t think there’s much I can say to him.”

    And frankly, I think Mr. Powers has the better end of the argument on the issue of whether you can really compare conservatives’ preference for economic freedom with liberals’ preference for sexual freedom. As he points out, no conservative has ever advocated for complete, no-holds-barred libertine policy regarding economics. Using rape as an example of liberals doing the same thing is, to my mind, a bad analogy, because rape is the OPPOSITE of sexual freedom for the victim. At least the restrictions conservatives do favor in economic policy aren’t merely further applications of economic freedom. For instance, conservatives oppose not only theft (which would be analogous to rape as you use it), but also spending money for sex (which causes no loss of economic freedom to anyone but the spender, which is the opposite case of rape). So you can’t compare the two on those grounds. I think to really make your, you need to come up with a specific thing conservatives favor about economic liberty that you can show is contrary to the common good.

    As a final point, I would like to note that dividing the whole spectrum into two groups is a gross oversimplification. Many “conservatives” actually favor fairly stringent economic regulation, just as many “liberals” oppose abortion etc. There’s far too much variety in each group for this article to withstand heavy scrutiny, but for purposes of discussion I’m comfortable leaving the terms as defined.

  59. Bravo Nick, I am in complete agreement. If we take the current example of the HHS mandate your argument is again confirmed. The common good of a “woman’s reproductive health” has now trumped the private beliefs of a religious sect. This is no different from what happened to Mormon polygamy or blood transfusions for the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The common good in our society is based upon popular belief not truth. Our Catholic Bishops however continue to fight the HHS battle from the so-called religious freedom standpoint,

  60. It occurred to me after I went to bed that I misworded part of my argument. Regarding paying money for sex, what I meant to say was that that particular act causes no loss of economic freedom, yet conservatives favor limiting that economic freedom. My parenthetical remark implied that it was the prohibition that didn’t limit the economic freedom of the recipient. I suppose that’s what I get for writing when I’m sleep-deprived.

  61. Many conservatives doubtless are convinced that a free market promotes the common good. But one is tempted to add: “that argument is absurd on its face.” The free market is always going to work its magic “in the long run,” a utopian future which never seems to arrive. It’s especially sad to see Catholics embracing the free market despite the reiterated teachings of the Popes against it as the fundamental principle of the economy.

    You might remember also, that when a worker has the choice either of working at substandard wages or not working at all, his economic freedom is hardly maximized. You might recall the words of Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, no. 45, “If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions [than that wages be sufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner] because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.”

    By the way, Nick is exactly right. American conservatism is for the most part a variety of classical liberalism. Some readers might be interested in the following, http://distributist.blogspot.com/2007/02/liberalisms-three-assaults.html

  62. But in what possible sense is the conservative argument absurd on its face? Half a decade or less of the sexual freedom has made it clear to any honest mind that it’s harmful to society in myriad ways. There is no such historical proof regarding free markets, for the simple reason that truly free markets have never existed for any appreciable amount of time in recorded history. So you’ve not advanced the argument at all. I’m not saying you’re wrong, just that you haven’t even made a convincing case yet. A mere assertion that free markets are contrary to the common good is just that–mere assertion. It will convince nobody.

  63. There is no such historical proof regarding free markets, for the simple reason that truly free markets have never existed for any appreciable amount of time in recorded history.

    I have to caution you, I’ve known a good number of Communists over the years who make largely the same argument when I demonstrate the fallacies of Communism when employed in history. They say: “No truly communist system has ever existed.” Yet this is the logical fallacy of the argument from silence. It does, moreover, go to show (in my view) that both systems are hopelessly utopian, and that ex parte homine cannot truly be implemented because when human beings become involved the various motives, passions and thoughts of man tend in a different direction from the system as predicated ex parte ideis. Thus when one says the Free Market system tends toward the universal good, and the profit motive will effect benefits for society if only government would get out of the way, in reality those with wealth begin using not for the good of the market or for those participating it, but merely for themselves and as an effect when you say government will not control the market, the wealthy will use government to do so to protect them. Any history of Rockefeller, Morgan or Carnegie should make us aware of that. It is the same thing as when the Communists say Stalin and Mao were just abuses, that’s not real communism, when you actually make the state universal capitalist you will have peace”, in reality of course you have tyranny just as when you make big business universal capitalists by the dicatorship of the market, you get tyranny as we have today. As Chesterton said, the problem with Capitalism is that there are too few capitalists. Distributism proposes to make more.

  64. Ryan,
    That’s exactly why I wouldn’t say it’s “absurd on its face” that communism is contrary to the common good. I think it is contrary to the common good, but not because the system has been tried and failed. Indeed, the earliest Christians were very communistic, but it was voluntary rather than governmentally imposed. My point is that there is nothing about free markets which is obviously contrary to the common good, not that it’s consistent with the common good. Mr. Storck was arguing as if free markets are manifestly bad, and I’m merely pointing out that you can’t convince someone like Sean Powers based on “I’m obviously right.” Debate entails a willingness to explain, not merely reiterate the position at the heart of the debate.

  65. I hate to hear modern social liberals accuse social conservatives of intolerence. I agree with Chesterton that it is impossible for social liberals to be tolerant, for if you are indifferent or in agreement with some action or behaviour – say gay marriage – that is not tolerance but rather permissiveness. Only those who passionately disagree with said action or behaviour have an opportunity to be tolerant.

  66. That’s a good, and interesting, point, Luke.

    Viking

  67. “There is no such historical proof regarding free markets, for the simple reason that truly free markets have never existed for any appreciable amount of time in recorded history.”

    Yes, this is no doubt true. But the closer we approach to a free market economic system, the more problems and injustices we create. It’s not rational to require that we have an entirely free market – probably impossible in any case – before we can make any empirical judgment about its working.

    Moreover, I fear that liberals would claim that we don’t yet have a regime of sexual freedom, merely something that approaches more closely to it than 60 years ago. But in both cases we’ve approached the stated goal closely enough so that we can see that neither free markets nor sexual freedom is beneficial to mankind.

  68. “Tolerance is the virtue of the man with no convictions.”
    G.K. Chesterton

  69. Mr. Storck,
    Your continued refusal to actually put forth an argument as to why free markets (as conservatives understand them) are bad tells me you’re really only preaching to the choir. Which is fine, but don’t expect to change any hearts and minds. But even the choir needs educating occasionally.

  70. There are dozens of other articles here about the limitations of free markets. Why talk about that in comments about an article on a different subject?

  71. First, it’s not on a different subject; half the article is about how conservatives favor something (free markets) that is contrary to the common good. Second, Storck quite explicitly attempted to engage Sean Powers in discussion on this very topic, and thus he assumed the responsibility of putting forth arguments. The least he could do is actually link to one of the articles you’re talking about, but he hasn’t even done that (the only link he posted is just a description of historical developments, not an argument).

  72. Mr. Storck says that “neither free markets nor sexual freedom is beneficial to mankind.” Moral equivalence is again alleged, though not substantiated. One could just as easily equate freedom with license. Yet the poet John Milton said that “none can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license.” This is why President John Adams said that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Thus the great economist Milton Friedman concluded that “history suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition,” meaning morality is also required, as Adams declared. This is what we see in our society today, not any inherent defects in free market capitalism, but rather the exposed defects of the fallen nature of our Godless, secular society. As a people we have mistaken license for freedom; we have elevated license to the lofty perch set aside for freedom, and disparaged real freedom, which seeks truth and virtue, as intolerance. (As Mr. Reilly, above, quoted of G.K. Chesterton, “tolerance is the virtue of the man with no convictions.”) Free market capitalism liberates people to act out their free will as individual men of God, creating, building, feeding, employing and laboring as Jesus himself did with St. Joseph. Sexual license, to the contrary, offers only bondage to sin and fealty to the Evil One.

  73. Incidentally, if Papal condemnation of free markets is so clear, why doesn’t anyone at this site ever quote a relevant passage from an encyclical or other church document? I’ve never seen a statement that wasn’t sufficiently vague to allow room for the conservative view.

  74. Pingback: First Links — 5.22.12 » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  75. Some of the latest views of the Curia on the free market and the proper distribution of profit from a private business are set forth in a 2012 publication of the Pontifical Council on Justice and Peace, for anyone interested:

    http://www.justpax.it/eng/home_eng.html

  76. Pingback: The Contradictions of Liberals and Conservatives « thereformedmind

  77. Sean,

    You seem to not be making the proper distinctions here. There is nothing wrong with ‘making a profit’, if that’s what you mean by capitalism. What is commonly meant by that term though is an ideology where making money is the highest good, or at least indicative of where there is virtue. That’s what you’re not seeing.

    There is very strong reason to think that the sexual revolution came about precisely as capitalism began to take a stronger prominence on society, which in turn chipped away at family bonds. The sexual revolution started in the mind, with people wanting to avoid having children, precisely because children are now seen as an “economic burden”. With too many children, certain lavish lifestyles (all requiring a good chunk of spending cash) are severely restricted, and now even regular lifestyles are shying away from children since the economic noose is getting tighter. Further, the only way a woman is of any value in our society is if she is in the workforce, so again children only get in the way of the evolution of man and Progress. And immoral tv, music, and porn are billion dollar industries, and we obviously cannot shut these down because that would hurt our economy and liberty, as well as get a lot of exploited women out of a job. This all reveals why the only indissoluble marriage that exists today is contraception wedded to capitalism: if one is weakened, so is the other.

    You need only look to the words of Scripture to see such a “capitalist” mindset is wholly unChristian. As St Paul tells St Timonthy (1 Tim 6:3ff):

    3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.

    Adams and Milton and whomever else you’re looking to as guides lack the Holy Spirit. They are blind, because they don’t have the Christian charism to see that a system built on chasing after wealth at all costs naturally erodes and precludes a truly virtuous citizenship. The constant chasing after money, especially when that’s taught as the highest good, cannot but lead to a host of evils and ruin. The idea that you can encourage greed on one hand but keep it in check by promoting virtue on the other is ridiculous once we stop and realize it. And this fact has been repeated over and over again by the Popes, for example Pius XI in Quadragisimo Anno (40th anniversary):

    “The sordid love of wealth, which is the shame and great sin of our age, will be opposed in actual fact by the gentle yet effective law of Christian moderation which commands man to seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice”

    This was written in the same time frame when contraception was just starting to be allowed. While it is a serious error to see the world in purely economic terms, it is also an error to fail to see how economic factors tie into so many aspects of life, including sexual morals.

  78. Conservatives would say that, despite the characterizations, what we are living with today is not anywhere near a free capitalistic economic system. They (and I emphasize they) would point out that the current state of corruption, economic stagnation, cronyism and the many evils conjured by third way thinkers are the result of the movement away from “free markets”. They would also cite the aggressive intervention of government as hurtful to individuals and communities in the name of the “common good”. They could (but don’t for some reason) point out that the programs favored by liberals to assist the marginalized do better when the restictions on the market are relaxed. This last point is inarguable and demonstrable in the last 20 years.

  79. Nick states, with regard to capitalism, that “what is commonly meant by that term…is an ideology where making money is the highest good.” I suppose once you stack the deck like that you needn’t write any further, you’ve already declared yourself on the side of virtue and anyone arguing for capitalism must therefore be on the side of evil. I further suppose that if I declare that “sexuality is an ideology where sexual release is the highest good” that I then become the winner.
    Your characterization of capitalism is a description of what is, in fact, an abuse of the system, just as constant pursuit of sexual release as an end in itself is an abuse of sexuality. We are not talking here about either of those propositions, however.
    The errancy of your analysis is demonstrated when you state that the sexual revolution started “with people wanting to avoid having children” and pursuing instead endless wealth, when in fact recreational sex would lead to more children, child support, divorce and alimony, etc. If wealth were one’s only desire one might avoid sex altogether! Whereas you claim that the sexual revolution came from capitalism (as you define it), I could just as easily, and perhaps more persuasively, argue that the sexual revolution, and all its monetary costs to the individual, required a pursuit of money to pay for said costs.
    Capitalism is a system that allows people the freedom to work as they choose, create jobs and wealth, and thus feed and clothe their families, raise children, send them to college, and aspire to a meaningful and desirable work life of which individuals in command and control economies dare not even dream. Jesus worked in the free market as a carpenter, making things that others could use to better their lives. That was not sinful on his part, but your definition of capitalism would suggest that it must be sinful merely by the fact that he participated in such a system. By contrast, when Jesus dealt with the adulterous woman, he showed mercy but told her to “go and sin no more.”
    Any system can be abused, thus my point that virtue and morality are needed for capitalism to achieve its ends, but the point is that capitalism is not inherently defective.
    Getting back to my point in my original comment, we now have unfettered sexuality (license) with complete tolerance, but capitalism is tempered by social programs, taxes, regulations, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, minimum wage laws, child labor laws, food stamps, public education, etc., all of which are contributed to by capitalists and employers. The only argument is as to the size and cost of these programs. Those in favor of sexual licentiousness argue for little or no standards or restrictions, and they do not argue that those engaging in such lifestyles should have to shoulder the financial burden of the societal costs of such a lifestyle, including divorce, single motherhood, STDs, abortion clinics, adoption clinics, high rates of crime committed by children of single mothers, high rates of incarceration of children of single mothers, etc. A free market economy, in other words, is not inherently bad, but a free market in sexuality, which dispenses with the loving rules set down by God, IS inherently bad and leads to the above-referenced negative consequences, and many more not listed, both for the individuals involved and for society. When those involved in the unfettered sexual lifestyle begin to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, as those in the free market economy do, as I have described above, then we can begin to compare the two. Until then there simply is no comparison, and attempts to do so fail the “smell test,” to put it bluntly.

  80. I was not aware Palestine in the time of the Roman Empire was a “free market economy.” Perhaps you better enlighten us, Sean, because I don’t see any evidence of that. And your attack against Nick is way off. In any case, capitalism, as defined by most people here, is the system where the means of production are controlled by a few people and the rest live on a wage, salary, dole, etc. Easy to see that Jesus worked using private property, even if modest, when using St. Joseph’s workshop, though later he renounced it to start his public ministry.

  81. I can see now that I am wasting my breath. Jesus was not a slave, an indentured servant, or an involuntary worker in a Soviet factory. He worked as a carpenter in the home shop of his father, St. Joseph, creating things our of wood. The idea that he had to “renounce” the work of St. Joseph is without basis, and is offensive to the memory of such a great saint.
    If “most people here” define capitalism as a system where “the means of production are controlled by a few people and the rest live on a wage, salary, dole, etc.,” then I am definitely wasting my time on the wrong site. Anyone in this country can be self-employed, work from home, open his or her own business, get a better education, work their way to the top, etc. There are 27 million small businesses in the U.S.! http://www.getbusymedia.com/small-business-stats/. Where are the means of production controlled by a few people? Try China and North Korea.
    Over and out.

  82. Paul,
    Find me a dictionary (or a conservative, for that matter) that defines capitalism in the way you or Nick define it. I wager such a dictionary does not exist.

  83. Hi Sean,

    Your definition of capitalism is where the hang-up is here. What you are describing is more along the lines of how economy has been run throughout history in every nation: citizens are more or less free to engage in business in order to create wealth and provide for their family. That’s not what big-C Capitalism is.
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

    2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.

    Big-C Capitalism is a ‘modern’ ideology in which the individual’s primary focus is himself, and that he should be free of any restraints from amassing wealth at any cost. This goes well beyond simply wanting to own a business and provide for family: it goes into wanting to crush all “competition” in a race to be most economically ‘successful’. It is a form of Social Darwinism, where the strong (those who make the most money) are to defeat and outlast the weak (the poor). The mentality is, if you’re poor, it’s because you’re not working hard enough, and thus you don’t deserve to live. So this ideology is very much “inherently defective,” since at its root the Common Good has no place.

    What you just described, though well intentioned, indicates you’re missing the big picture and proper distinctions. This is where you are urged to read Church documents on the matter. I assure you that those arguing for no economic restraints are very comfortable with allowing no sexual restraints as well.

    The number one reason why married couples today are not having children and why less people are getting married is because of (at least perceived) financial constraints. This thus necessitates that contraception must be a part of regular life (both for the married and unmarried), since they cannot afford (there’s that word again) otherwise.

    To add to that, a free market – a truly ‘free’ one – says that nothing off limits when it comes to selling. Thus the slogan, “Sex sells,” and thus the wide proliferation of porn (including regular tv), with folks like you having no choice but to nod in approval. Do you see the problem?

  84. Your characterization of capitalism is a description of what is, in fact, an abuse of the system, just as constant pursuit of sexual release as an end in itself is an abuse of sexuality

    When has there not been an abuse of the system? When has pursuit of profit to the exclusion of all morality not characterized capitalism?

  85. Jesus worked in the free market as a carpenter, making things that others could use to better their lives. That was not sinful on his part, but your definition of capitalism would suggest that it must be sinful merely by the fact that he participated in such a system.

    Neither St. Joseph nor our Lord worked in a free market economy. They worked in a Command Economy, where the rulers, the Herodians, Roman client rulers, fixed prices, demanded “x” amount of peoples’ produce be stored in barns, and demanded “x” amount of peoples’ production be taken as a “tax” in lieu of cash to be given to the rulers. It resembles today’s economy as much as communism. If you are seeing that they produced work with their hands and sold it, that is a necessary component of economic activity in any economic system, including Communism. So if you are using that as your definition of Capitalism, it is so broad as to make the term meaningless.

  86. One last comment, because I cannot let stand the suggestion that I “nod in approval” at pornography. It is a scourge on society, and the individual, and I would therefore ban it. It is not protected by the First Amendment because, although our jurisprudence has gone off the rails, obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.
    Your description of capitalism bears little resemblance to the U.S. I have repeatedly described our social safety net and worker protection laws (OSHA, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, wage and hour laws, employment discrimination laws, food stamps, Medicaid, housing subsidies, free public education, job training, FMLA, etc.), all contributed to by employers. These could not exist in the world of capitalism you describe (“absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor,” “many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market,” “if you’re poor, it’s because you’re not working hard enough, and thus you don’t deserve to live.”) I am well familiar with Church documents. Perhaps if you were less concerned with someone out their being too wealthy (which is probably anyone who earns more than you do) you would have more time to spend working to save babies from slaughter, save girls from the sex trade, save souls from being lost to pornography, etc. Where is the sense of proportion, of even-handedness, here?

  87. “Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.” Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.”

    Most conservatives today have no problem with the above passage from the Catechism as a guidepost. The nature and extent of “reasonable regulation” in the United States is a political question to be fought over in the courts and at the ballot box.

  88. Nick,
    There’s a problem with your definition of capitalism–conservatives don’t favor it, and thus your definition is not applicable to this discussion. Which, by the way, is the same problem with Paul’s definition. It’s a totally fabricated straw man.

    Ryan,
    Indeed, why wouldn’t there be abuses in a Distributist system? You can’t compare a perfect Distributist system with a flawed capitalist system; that’s defining your way to victory and clearly an unfair tactic.

  89. Sean,

    I don’t think you understand your own graphs in the link you provided. It says there, that small businesses, though being a large proportion, only account for 30% of economic activity. Moreover, according to the Brookings Institute (hardly an anti-capitalist organ), http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/Programs/ES/BPEA/2011_fall_bpea_papers/2011_fall_bpea_conference_hurst.pdf. Small businesses in spite of their large proportion, represent only about 20% of aggregate paid employment since most employ 20 or less. Further, in the same report, small businesses that produce things as opposed to offering services are a tiny fraction. Most are skilled professionals (doctors, lawyers, etc.) and restaurant owners or retailers. On the whole it is still a handful of wealthy companies and banks that control the actual capital in America.

  90. Indeed, why wouldn’t there be abuses in a Distributist system? You can’t compare a perfect Distributist system with a flawed capitalist system; that’s defining your way to victory and clearly an unfair tactic.

    When did I do that? In fact the argument for distributism is not that it is abuse free, corruption free, or perfect, simply that it works better.

  91. Which, by the way, is the same problem with Paul’s definition. It’s a totally fabricated straw man.

    It has yet to be shown as a strawman, unless I missed something in the flurry of comments.

  92. Joshua, why are you so bent up on dictionaries? I follow Catholic philosophers who understand more of the nature of economic system than “exact definitions” of dictionaries.

  93. Sean, most of those things you mention (Social Security, etc.) show that even the ones who wanted free market capitalism (without any restraints) saw the evils of it and were forced to put those safeguards, even though they didn’t like it.

  94. Perhaps if you were less concerned with someone out their being too wealthy (which is probably anyone who earns more than you do)

    Good grief! No one here is concerned with being too wealthy. What we’re concerned with is the power that wealth brings and the dis-ordinate and unchecked power that it effects in society. The dictum “Whoever has the gold makes the rules” is well attested to in history. The question of Distributism is how to limit the power of wealth to control social policy and government. Not the wealth itself. Only a fool could think he might stop people from being wealthy, every society will have wealthy people, even a communist one (although those will be in the government).

    I am well familiar with Church documents.

    Then perhaps you are familiar with this from Pius XI’s Quadragesimo Anno?

    Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon “class” conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition. From this source, as from a polluted spring, have proceeded all the errors of the “individualistic” school. This school, forgetful or ignorant of the social and moral aspects of economic activities, regarded these as completely free and immune from any intervention by public authority, for they would have in the market place and in unregulated competition a principle of self direction more suitable for guiding them than any created intellect which might intervene. Free competition, however, though justified and quite useful within certain limits, cannot be an adequate controlling principle in economic affairs. This has been abundantly proved by the consequences that have followed from the free rein given to these dangerous individualistic ideas. It is therefore very necessary that economic affairs be once more subjected to and governed by a true and effective guiding principle (no. 88).

  95. One last comment, because I cannot let stand the suggestion that I “nod in approval” at pornography. It is a scourge on society, and the individual, and I would therefore ban it. It is not protected by the First Amendment because, although our jurisprudence has gone off the rails, obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment.

    I haven’t been able to go through the comments to see if that was alleged, I certainly am not going to engage in personal invective. Yet, do I take it then that you dissent from the Libertarian creed that government should only be involved to stop fraud or force? Neither of those cover pornography.

  96. Paul, again you get to have it both ways. A free market is evil because it has no restraints, but one with restraints is not only not good, it is in your view incontrovertible proof that free markets are in fact evil. That’s like saying that having brakes on a car proves that the car is evil. It’s hard to have a discussion with people who don’t understand formal logic. Your argumentation is classic Sophistry.
    You cannot avoid the basic truth: our society has reasonable restraints on capitalism for the protection of the individual — not perfect, but we’re trying. God intended restraints on sexuality such as no adultery, no fornication, no homosexuality, no Onanism, etc. (which by the way does NOT prove that the sexuality that God created was in and of itself evil). However, our society has shorn itself of almost all reasonable restraints on sexuality, with disastrous results.
    Argue amongst yourselves.

  97. Ryan, I am not a libertarian. I am a Roman Catholic who also happens to be a traditional conservative, and as I, and most such people I know, live it and believe it, the two are not inconsistent in any way.

  98. “Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon “class” conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition. ”

    I think this points, for me, to the underlying problem of modern economic conservatism and communism, and what ties them together. Like communism, capitalism is a sort of materialist Hegelianism. In both systems there is a sort of invisible controlling force that brings us ever-closer to an instantiation of the good life. In Communism it is realized through class struggle, in capitalism it is through the free market. In both cases the common good is realized through individuals seeking their own good.

    Clearly this is not a Christian position. God may be able to make good out of evil, but striving for our own good as individuals will not somehow lead to good for all – selfishness in society leads to the exploitation of others, not their freedom. It also totally ignores the Fall – if even nature is corrupted then human economic activities are not exempt from that.

  99. “Paul, again you get to have it both ways. A free market is evil because it has no restraints, but one with restraints is not only not good, it is in your view incontrovertible proof that free markets are in fact evil. That’s like saying that having brakes on a car proves that the car is evil. It’s hard to have a discussion with people who don’t understand formal logic. Your argumentation is classic Sophistry.
    You cannot avoid the basic truth: our society has reasonable restraints on capitalism for the protection of the individual — not perfect, but we’re trying. God intended restraints on sexuality such as no adultery, no fornication, no homosexuality, no Onanism, etc. (which by the way does NOT prove that the sexuality that God created was in and of itself evil). However, our society has shorn itself of almost all reasonable restraints on sexuality, with disastrous results.
    Argue amongst yourselves.”

    Your LAST LAST COMMENT, I suppose. I never claimed restraints weren’t good; in fact, show me where I ever said that. I said that no restraints whatsoever was bad, in line with Pope Pius XII. The fact that capitalism put those safeguards shows that they saw the error of absolutely no restraints in the economy.

    Also, you really don’t understand what the Church really taught or you wouldn’t hold up with the nonsense that in the US capitalism is working as intended. Most people have to work 15 hour days or so, for a doleful of money, which isn’t worth what it was even 15 years ago. Most of your “arguments” is just so much hot air without an ounce of evidence to support it. Other distrbutists better educated than I have shown again and again the fallacy of “free market capitalism.”

  100. Oops. I meant Pope Pius XI.

  101. All who oppose Distributism, have you really read what the Church teaches, especially Quadragesimo Anno? Prove that capitalism’s free competition (without any restraints) is not condemned in that encyclical.

  102. The best definition of capitalism is the one Pius XI used in Quadragesimo Anno, namely an economic system in which some provide the labor and others provide the capital. I’ve never said that such an arrangement is inherently unjust. What I’ve said and still say, is that such an arrangement, when it becomes widespread and characteristic of an economy, always produces evils and injustices.

    A free market, on the other hand, if by that one means
    that “economic affairs [are] left to the free play of rugged competition” as their guiding principle, is evil, and is ultimately based on 18th century deism.

    I find it very amusing that when I wrote, “neither free markets nor sexual freedom is beneficial to mankind,” someone commented, “Moral equivalence is again alleged”! Apparently I cannot say that neither cancer nor the common cold is beneficial to human health without being accused of making them equivalent health hazards. Free markets and sexual freedom are both bad for mankind, but obviously in different ways, and they can hardly be compared on a graph or scale. They attack different aspects of social and human virtue.

    For anyone really interested in my arguments against free markets or against capitalism – as opposed to those trying to score points – I refer to my article “Capitalism and Socialism: Definitions and Contrasts,” originally published in Faith & Reason and reprinted in a shortened form in the book, Beyond Capitalism and Socialism. You can find it on the http://www.thomasstorck.org website under the Economic issues category.

  103. Paul: “Most people have to work 15 hour days or so, for a doleful of money, which isn’t worth what it was even 15 years ago. Most of your “arguments” is just so much hot air without an ounce of evidence to support it.”
    Made up figure and contrary to fact. See at link, http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/whaples.work.hours.us, which shows total income up over time while hours are way down
    It reads in part:

    “In 1880 a typical male household head had very little leisure time — only about 1.8 hours per day over the course of a year. However, as Fogel’s (2000) estimates in Table 5 show, between 1880 and 1995 the amount of work per day fell nearly in half, allowing leisure time to more than triple.”

    And also:

    “Economic Growth and the Long-Term Reduction of Work Hours

    Historically employers and employees often agreed on very long workweeks because the economy was not very productive (by today’s standards) and people had to work long hours to earn enough money to feed, clothe and house their families. The long-term decline in the length of the workweek, in this view, has primarily been due to increased economic productivity, which has yielded higher wages for workers. Workers responded to this rise in potential income by “buying” more leisure time, as well as by buying more goods and services. In a recent survey, a sizeable majority of economic historians agreed with this view.”

    Current statistics are similar: http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea24.htm.

    You say “most people have to work 15 hour days or so.” For a 5-day week that would be 75 hours. But government figures show, at the link, that only 6.7% (9,195 out of 136,995) work as many as even 60 hours per week. The average work week is 42.5 hours. That’s 8.5 hours per day in a 5-day week.

    Stop making stuff up to try to prove your (failing) argument. People are working fewer hours for more money and more leisure time with their families than at almost any time in history, and this is due to our economic system which, though imperfect, frees people from the Hobbesian “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” existence that used to be taken for granted. In days past 99% of people would not have either the time or the energy for the type of discourse in which we are now engaged, and through which discourse you now savage the system, albeit imperfect, that gives you the time, money, education and freedom to do so.

  104. Nick,
    You wrote: “There is very strong reason to think that the sexual revolution came about precisely as capitalism began to take a stronger prominence on society, which in turn chipped away at family bonds.”
    Hardly. A capitalistic society without the technology to produce contraceptives or “safe” abortions would have all the usual impediments to “sexual freedom.” It is the divorce of sex from its natural consequences, and the ability to do so easily, that are the more likely cause of the sexual revolution. The mere fact of a capitalistic system has virtually no bearing on sexuality whatever. But then, you’re probably using a straw man definition of capitalism (more on that in a bit).

    Your quotation of Timothy is, again, really only relevant if you use a definition of capitalism that entails the belief that seeking monetary gain is a good unto itself or the like.

    You quote the Catechism as a means of defining capitalism, but even that goes farther than what any conservative could be accused of, since conservatives don’t want to get rid of ALL regulation of the economy and leave it to the “laws of the marketplace” alone. Conservatives favor laws against theft, buying money for sex, pornography, etc., all of which would not be prohibited by the pure marketplace (with theft being the arguable exception). This is the point I was trying to make to Paul (which I will develop in a separate comment to follow shortly)–The Catholic definition of “capitalism” is not the issue, because the article we’re all commenting on is talking about American conservatives, who are a much broader category than Catholics. Incidentally, the word “capitalism” doesn’t even appear in the article itself, so to use a specialized definition of that term in defense of the article, which only talks about “laissez-faire” policy, not a particular notion that money is to be sought or anything like what the Catechism talks about.

  105. Ryan,
    “When did I do that? In fact the argument for distributism is not that it is abuse free, corruption free, or perfect, simply that it works better.”
    But no one has even made that argument yet. Your response to Nick about abuses in the system implied that you MUST take the abuses with the capitalist framework, when that is not necessarily the case. Best I can tell, your argument is that Distributism would avoid the downfall of having rich people control the system, but there’s no real way to do that. Rich people will always be able to buy power, whether through outright bribery or more subtle means, and you’ve already said you’re not against people being rich. Thus, by implication your argument rests on the assumption that Distributism is not subject to the abuses that all systems are subject to, but capitalism is always abused.

    “It has yet to be shown as a strawman, unless I missed something in the flurry of comments.”
    Well, me proving that no conservative holds Nick’s or Paul’s definition of “capitalism” would be proving a negative, so I can’t demonstrate it empirically, obviously. However, I would be absolutely astounded if you can find one conservative who defines it in such a way that it extends beyond the following: 1) the restriction of spending now to allow for investment and thus greater spending later (the true definition of capitalism, I might add); 2) free markets (i.e. freedom to trade and contract except for immoral things); and 3) the right to keep what one earns and spend it how he desires, subject to just taxation and, again, moral prohibitions. If you can find even a single conservative who favors “capitalism” as defined by either Nick or Paul, I congratulate you on finding perhaps the worst example of conservatism on the planet.

  106. Paul,
    “Joshua, why are you so bent up on dictionaries? I follow Catholic philosophers who understand more of the nature of economic system than “exact definitions” of dictionaries.”
    As I’ve already touched on in my responses to Nick and Ryan, the reason I’m “hung up” on dictionaries is because Catholics, whether the Pope, the Catechism, or even the USCCB, do not speak for American conservatives. Your definition of capitalism is one I daresay no conservative would espouse, for the precise reason that it sounds immoral from the start. No matter what Catholic philosophers say about their own definition of capitalism, they can’t force-feed that definition down the throats of American conservatives, and thus to apply that definition in a debate about what American conservatives believe is completely unjustifiable.

    “All who oppose Distributism, have you really read what the Church teaches, especially Quadragesimo Anno? Prove that capitalism’s free competition (without any restraints) is not condemned in that encyclical.”
    That’s an unreasonable request if ever I heard one. You’re essentially asking your opponents to do your work for you by reading the entire encyclical and coming up with a refutation for everything that might conceivably be interpreted as condemning free competition. Could you at least provide a paragraph number/range? I might be inclined to argue further if you do.

  107. American conservatives miss the point that all capitalism (even the so-called American brand of capitalism) turns out the way Pope Pius XI has predicted: free competition leads to economic domination.

    Guess you missed this excerpt from Quadragesimo Anno, posted by Ryan:
    Just as the unity of human society cannot be built upon “class” conflict, so the proper ordering of economic affairs cannot be left to the free play of rugged competition. From this source, as from a polluted spring, have proceeded all the errors of the “individualistic” school. This school, forgetful or ignorant of the social and moral aspects of economic activities, regarded these as completely free and immune from any intervention by public authority, for they would have in the market place and in unregulated competition a principle of self direction more suitable for guiding them than any created intellect which might intervene. Free competition, however, though justified and quite useful within certain limits, cannot be an adequate controlling principle in economic affairs. This has been abundantly proved by the consequences that have followed from the free rein given to these dangerous individualistic ideas. It is therefore very necessary that economic affairs be once more subjected to and governed by a true and effective guiding principle (no. 88).
    ________________

    I’m doing asking anyone to do their work for me. It’s for the deniers to prove their point, saying that they’re Catholics and holding the economic principles espoused by the Church.

  108. The main point is that American conservatives don’t understand that that economy which they espouse (“American capitalism”) is completely nonexistent. It has always been the big banks that were in control of the economy. The U.S. government was obliged to “bailout” the big banks “too big to fail.” Catholic philosophers have always touched on reality, NOT on a hypothetical capitalism that has never existed (i.e., without Enlightenment philosophy, competition within just limits, etc.).

  109. Paul,
    That excerpt from Quadragesimo Anno is a perfect example of the phenomenon I mentioned earlier of Church documents saying things that are sufficiently vague to allow for a pro-free market interpretation. To wit: “This school, forgetful or ignorant of the social and moral aspects of economic activities, regarded these as completely free and immune from any intervention by public authority….” No conservative (indeed, no libertarian, except for anarcho-capitalists) believes that “economic activities” should be “completely free and immune from any intervention by public authority.” Conservatives and libertarians favor laws against theft, fraud, blackmail, etc. Conservatives, as I’ve now mentioned at least twice, favor laws against prostitution and pornography, to name only a few. Try again.

  110. Paul,
    Of course they realize the system is non-existent; that’s why they complain constantly of the lack of free markets! And the government did not need to bail out any banks; indeed it shouldn’t have, and had the government not had its hand in the pie on so many issues, the crisis likely wouldn’t have happened, or at least it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad. Your final comment about “reality” is no more than rhetoric. I can turn that around and say that free-market proponents touch on reality, not a hypothetical distributism that never existed.

  111. Mr. Storck,
    Your definition of capitalism, like Nick’s and Paul’s, is not one I imagine most conservatives ascribe to. I’ve never heard a Republican politician, conservative thinker, or grassroots individual promote capitalism as a system in which the few own the means of production. If you want to use that definition, fine, but don’t accuse conservatives of favoring it. And perhaps you aren’t, in which case I can only assume you’re sticking to the “free market” idea. If that is so, then I have to ask for further elucidation of the following quote:
    “A free market, on the other hand, if by that one means that “economic affairs [are] left to the free play of rugged competition” as their guiding principle, is evil, and is ultimately based on 18th century deism.”
    How “free” is the free play of rugged competition? And in what since is it based in deism? I’ve already made several points regarding just how many restrictions even conservatives favor on free markets, and that’s just baseline stuff that all conservatives agree on. Many conservatives favor much more. So which conservatives are you accusing of believing what definition of free markets/capitalism/etc.?

  112. The problem, Joshua, with your turning around my proposition is that the Middle Ages provided a good example of distributism, of course not perfect, but allowing for much more ownership of means of production than has occurred in the America after the domination of the banks.
    And in the end, any economic system not guided by Catholic principles is bound to fail, even the American capitalism you say has existed (but which Distributists totally disagree, saying, among other things, that banks have been allowed to dominate the economy since the foundation of the United States, more or less, controlling the amount of money in the economy).

  113. But no one has even made that argument yet. Your response to Nick about abuses in the system implied that you MUST take the abuses with the capitalist framework, when that is not necessarily the case.

    It still doesn’t follow that I proposed an ideal Distributism as the solution to all corruption against Captialism in practice which is rife with it. So you, it would appear, suggested I proposed a false dichotomy when I didn’t. That’s neither there nor there, however, since we seem to have clarified that.

    Best I can tell, your argument is that Distributism would avoid the downfall of having rich people control the system, but there’s no real way to do that.

    See below.

    Rich people will always be able to buy power, whether through outright bribery or more subtle means, and you’ve already said you’re not against people being rich.

    As I said, individual wealth doesn’t factor into the distributist argument. Are you saying, however, that since the rich can always bribe, that Capitalism can’t deal with it? How would your conception of a free market deal with this?

    Thus, by implication your argument rests on the assumption that Distributism is not subject to the abuses that all systems are subject to, but capitalism is always abused.

    For the latter, Capitalism in practice since the 17th century demonstrates this time and time again. Yet the implication is not that Distributism is immune from the power that wealth brings, but that it deals with it better by: decentralizing power in government, decentralizing power in the labor force, decentralizing the currency and banks.

  114. Paul,
    So your idea of a pretty decent Distributist system is one in which virtually all wealth and means of production were owned by the nobility and the church? Hmm, figures. And when did I ever say that the “American capitalism” existed? Methinks you confuse me with Sean Powers on that one.

  115. Joshua, you are showing your ignorance of the real situation in the Middle Ages. Maybe you ought to educate yourself before talking any further, because Distributism in the Middle Ages was totally contrary to what you assert.

  116. There’s this thing called the Guilds, which put a check on medieval nobility and the such from gaining power and safeguarded the workmen. And that’s where we get our ideas of Distributism from, not the modern and frankly wrong idea that the Middle Ages was nobility and Church-dominated with no say from the laity.

  117. Hardly. A capitalistic society without the technology to produce contraceptives or “safe” abortions would have all the usual impediments to “sexual freedom.” It is the divorce of sex from its natural consequences, and the ability to do so easily, that are the more likely cause of the sexual revolution. The mere fact of a capitalistic system has virtually no bearing on sexuality whatever. But then, you’re probably using a straw man definition of capitalism (more on that in a bit).

    Whoa! So there was nothing resembling the sexual revolution before modern times? Let’s see:
    -ancient Greece: frequent adultery, contraception, abortion, homosexuality
    -Ancient Rome: frequent adultery, contraception, abortion
    -Pre-revolutionary France: mass pornography and adultery in the aristocracy, fornication, abortion, etc. amongst the populace. God forbid we talk about after the revolution
    -Bismarck’s Germany: rampant abortion, fornication, adultery
    None of these needed socialism or contemporary liberal movements to happen. They did need the individualistic spirit glorified in Capitalism.

    Yet in all those cases, they did not reach the level they have in America and Europe today, because Capitalist entrepeneurs hadn’t yet made this happen. For that see this: http://distributistreview.com/mag/2010/04/the-market-and-the-moral-man/

  118. Ryan,
    Now that you’ve clarified how you think Distributist mitigates the power of money, I have a better grasp of what you were saying earlier, so I can make my point more clearly. You seem to be setting up a battle between capitalism-as-flawed-by-economic-corruption versus Distributist-as-less-flawed. Not quite what I said earlier, but the point I made still applies in that you’re assuming, without proving, that Distributist better prevents the use of money for evil means. To address your last point (related to this one), there is nothing inherent in capitalism that requires centralized power in government or labor, or a centralized currency. Indeed, most pro-capitalists disfavor the first and third, and if they’re consistent then they disfavor the second as well. As to bribery etc., I think you’re tying law/politics and economics together more than necessary. It’s not that a given economic system is more susceptible to bribery; all are. The question is how to prevent the use of money for such pulpit posed through law, custom, culture, etc. at the end of the day no economic system will prevent economic influence any more than they will prevent murder. So in that respect the economic system is irrelevant. The only way to prevent such problems is a moral populace standing behind sound laws and mores.

  119. So your idea of a pretty decent Distributist system is one in which virtually all wealth and means of production were owned by the nobility and the church? Hmm, figures.

    And where do you get that analysis? Authority yes, but capital was divided and widely diffused in a huge swath of society, tradesmen, craftsman, with their societies for labor (guilds) and farmers that owned their land by hereditary right that could not be taken away, until the reformation eliminated the authority of the Church and took away their land for the wealthy landowners. I would wager based on that comment that you know very little of the middle ages.

  120. The only way to prevent such problems is a moral populace standing behind sound laws and mores.

    I’ll try to respond tomorrow, yet I did want to add that this last sentence is absolutely essential to Distributism also. There is no magic pill that is going to solve the problems with an immoral populace.

  121. The problem, as I said, previously was that the “capitalism” American conservatives espoused has never been put into practice, even in America, perhaps because Catholic principles had already disappeared from economic practice.

  122. Re: the middle ages, last I checked land was held almost entirely by the nobility, though obviously that started to change toward the later part of tge period with the end of serfdom. Tradesmen like smiths and such I’m not so sure about, but I was under the impression that they were sets at one point as well. And note I did say “wealth and means of production.” even with the advent of private ownership the nobility still held most of the power and wealth.
    Re: the sexual revolution, the Greeks, Romans, and French are all rather absurd examples since the first two literally committed infanticide when they perceived their children as undesirable, and the third was during a period of extreme license. Tying these cases to capitalism by use of the term individualism is sophistry; capitalism need not be individualistic in any sense that is connected with such behavior. Bismarck’s Germany is a case that is unfamiliar to me, but given the very non-capitalistic tendencies of Germany at the time (Bismarck was all about centralization and authority), I don’t see how it applies.

  123. Joshua, apparently you have only looked at modern histories. The “serfs” may have been less “free” than modern people, but they held their lands still, the feudal lord not having the right to take it from them. And the guilds of the Middle Ages owned means of production separate from the Church and nobility. Maybe you ought to read more objective histories of the Middle Ages, like maybe Fr. Edward Cahill or Professor George O’Brien.

  124. Maybe we should go back to square 1 because we’re talking past each other. What is the definition of capitalism according to American conservatives? I suspect it actually (or nearly) equals distributism: more ownership of private property, just competition, etc.

  125. Paul,
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but weren’t serfs tied to the land of their lord? You could call that ownership, I suppose, but if I don’t have the right to sell and move on, it’s a rather limited form of ownership. As for capitalism, check just about any dictionary or even Wikipedia. Conservatives generally use the definition provided by the Merriam-Webster dictionary online, which basically involves free, private ownership and investment of property. Which is entirely consistent with Catholic teaching so far as it goes. that’s what I’ve been trying to get at this whole time–capitalism per se is very basic and subject to all sorts of variations. Now, most conservatives would oppose guilds, and frankly I tend to agree. Guilds probably served a useful purpose once because of the medieval balance of power, but in the modern day I think they would be too prone to abuse.

  126. Why would people almost peasants want to move on? Stability is a necessary factor in property as well anyways, and they were secure in the land that cannot be taken away by the lord.

    Most, if not all Distributists, would find that definition of capitalism much too vague, since it would include all sorts of economic systems.

    And how would guilds be prone to abuse, once the necessary knowledge is given? Distributism doesn’t necessarily want the guilds in their Middle Ages form, but adapted to present circumstances, as advocated by the Popes, like Leo XIII and St. Pius X; previously, they served as a check to the kings’ power, as well as nobility and protected the workmen. Also, there was no distinguishing between workman and master; both had the same privileges, that couldn’t be taken away. As a matter of fact, the last remnants of the guilds could be seen in associations of doctors, lawyers, etc.

  127. Why would an almost peasant want to move on? To find a better climate, to move closer to family, to have a shot at economic advancement, to change his occupation (maybe he doesn’t like farming)…. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. As to capitalism, I can’t help it if you don’t like dictionary definition, which is the one accepted by most conservatives. It seems to me your problem isn’t with capitalism, but with certain potential results that we happen to live with due to how history played out. I think it would be easier if you would define what it is you find objectionable rather than trying to pin a name to it and then arguing about the definition. Finally, as to guilds, the legal profession is a perfect example of why I think guilds would be prone to abuse, and I say that as a lawyer. When a profession controls it’s own market the way lawyers do, they almost inevitably restrict the supply of professionals in order to keep prices inflated, not in order to benefit the public. As an example, before the legal profession became more guild-like in America, the means of entering the profession was to apprentice with a lawyer for several years to learn the trade. This was cheap and effective. Now the American Bar Association accredits law schools, which are less effective and vastly more expensive, thus effectively preventing many people from becoming lawyers without taking on huge debt, thus forcing them to work for high wages, which in turn justifies the even higher wages of older lawyers. And what do we lawyers get in return? One of the highest rates of depression and alcoholism in the country, brought on by the stress of having to work too many cases. Get rid of that, and more people would become lawyers and prices could drop, while simultaneously allowing lighter case loads and thus more effective representation and thus less malpractice. I could go on in more detail on the ramifications, but my lunch break is about over. Guilds might have been useful in checking the power of nobility, but in the age of democratic governments and greater average wealth, I think the power they once weilded would be disproportional and thus lead to negative outcomes.

  128. Joshua,

    You’ve got to realize that being Conservative is not an acceptable political/philosophical platform for a Catholic. While it is good that you and other Conservatives have a conscience and try to live by the Gospel, the philosophical roots of Conservatism ultimately undermine that. The Church condemns Conservatism because its core teaching is that religion is a private matter that cannot be carried over to the public sphere when making laws. The result is that laws can only be based upon popularity or convenience. Even Natural Law as expounded by the Church isn’t permitted. So you can ultimately be against any given sin or excess on ‘private’ religions moral grounds, but that has no direct bearing on the laws allowing those things on popular/convenient grounds.

    And notice how Conservatives rally together, on inconsistent and vague ideas of what it means to “conserve”. For example, a large percentage of American Conservatives are Evangelicals, and yet Evangelicals allow divorce, contraception, exceptions for abortion, promote working mothers, bikinis, kicks children out at 18years old, are oblivious to notions of a Just Wage, are often pro war, etc, etc. So if this is what is being “conserved,” then where is there the common ground for the Catholic to jump on board? If anything, you can kiss goodbye to “American Conservatives” being a force of the Common Good.

    As far as Capitalism is concerned, getting your definition from Webster’s Dictionary rather than from the Catechism & Encyclicals only confirms the notion the Conservative mind does not want to be informed by the Church when it comes to public policy. The definition of “capitalism” that you continue to espouse is not the one of reality nor Encyclicals. The definition of “capitalism” you espouse is not even consistent or unanimous with the understanding of Conservatism in general. Most conservatives are either oblivious to or perfectly ok with various policies that ‘maximize profits’ at the expense of the worker: that’s why place like Walmart are held in such high esteem as the epitome of a good conservative business owner who was hard working and had a vision to get rich, and did just that.

  129. Nick:

    Do you have a source for the following:

    “The Church condemns Conservatism because its core teaching is that religion is a private matter that cannot be carried over to the public sphere when making laws. The result is that laws can only be based upon popularity or convenience. Even Natural Law as expounded by the Church isn’t permitted.”

  130. Hello dmiehls,

    The Popes of the last 2 centuries have spoken often on that. One good example is Leo XIII in his Encyclical On Human Liberty, here is what he says:

    There are others, somewhat more moderate though not more consistent, who affirm that the morality of individuals is to be guided by the divine law, but not the morality of the State, for that in public affairs the commands of God may be passed over, and may be entirely disregarded in the framing of laws. Hence follows the fatal theory of the need of separation between Church and State. But the absurdity of such a position is manifest. For, since God is the source of all goodness and justice, it is absolutely ridiculous that the State should pay no attention to these laws or render them abortive by contrary enact menu. Besides, those who are in authority owe it to the commonwealth not only to provide for its external well-being and the conveniences of life, but still more to consult the welfare of men’s souls in the wisdom of their legislation.

    And basing laws not on Natural and Divine Law only results in this, as Leo goes onto say:

    For, when once man is firmly persuaded that he is subject to no one, it follows that the efficient cause of the unity of civil society is not to be sought in any principle external to man, or superior to him, but simply in the free will of individuals; that the authority in the State comes from the people only; and that, just as every man’s individual reason is his only rule of life, so the collective reason of the community should be the supreme guide in the management of all public affairs. Hence the doctrine of the supremacy of the greater number, and that all right and all duty reside in the majority.

  131. Nick:

    But where does the Church specifically condemn “conservatism” (by any definition), and why do you think that conservatism’s “core teaching is that religion is a private matter that cannot be carried over to the public sphere when making laws”? I think that most people who call themselves “conservatives” today (with the possible exception of libertarians) believe just the opposite.

  132. Nick:

    On a more personal note, I can hardly imagine John Paul II condemning Ronald Reagan, the hero of most conservatives today, or Benedict XIV condemning George W. Bush, the “compassionate conservative.” John Paul and Ronald Reagan had great respect for each other during the final struggle with Soviet communism. Pope Benedict received from, and gave special treatment to, President Bush. Although John Paul disagreed with President Bush’s invasion of Iraq, that disagreement was hardly a condemnation of conservatism as a political philosophy.

  133. Joshua, apparently your ideas clash with the Church. You want people to have careers; the Church wants people to follow vocations, wherever they were. And another thing, if peasants were free to go wherever they wanted to go, where would they go? It was more or less the same throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.

    As for guilds, they have to be actuated by the Catholic spirit, not excluding other people and not keeping prices inflated. The Catholic guilds of the Middle Ages are a far cry from lawyer’s associations (hence my specific wording “remnants of guilds,” NOT GUILDS). They had a specific set of rules conforming to Church teaching.

  134. Joshua Scott wrote above, “As I’ve already touched on …the reason I’m “hung up” on dictionaries is because Catholics, whether the Pope, the Catechism, or even the USCCB, do not speak for American conservatives.”

    To which I say, that’s precisely my point, sad to say. The Pope does not speak for American conservatives because they persistent in holding ideas which are contrary to Catholic teaching and tradition.

  135. dmiehls,

    Ronald Reagan did worse for the nation than Clinton. For example, Reagan is the one who pushed for and won no-fault divorce and his ‘Reganomics’ were not fiscally responsible and only paved the way for future irresponsibility.

    As for where the Church condemns “conservatism,” that term is not official, but the concept is truly present in the Encyclicals condemning Liberalism (as I quoted an example of). The main difficulty is that American Conservatives don’t really know what Conservatism is as a philosophy, they have a vague notion. To most, to be conservative means you want to hold on to your traditions, which typically means hold to traditional Protestant morality, hold to the Constitution, and now even vote Republican. In this sense, most American Conservatives, including Catholics, are not intentionally embracing the error.

  136. So there’s no papal condemnation of conservatism as a political philosophy, nor a condemnation of the modern day American “conservative” Presidents. And we’re not arguing whether the pro-life Reagan or the pro-choice Clinton was a better President, only whether the Popes’ relationships with the two Republican Presidents indicated or implied papal condemnation of them and/or their political philosophies.

  137. Papal relationship doesn’t really imply much. The Pope tries to be on good political terms, even with folks like Castro.

    There is a condemnation of conservatism as a political philosophy all through the Encyclicals and even Catechism. The key to understanding this is to notice that the Church considers philosophical Conservatism to fall under the heading of philosophical Liberalism. Consider again the pornography example I listed earlier on: such is protected as legitimate form of free speech. Despite how Christian you think this nation is, Conservative Christians have no coherent rebuttal to pornography falling under free speech and thus protected. And to confirm this, when was the last time any conservative movement or politician rose up boldly to stop porn? What about contraception? Notice that the stage has become totally silent, and that’s precisely because Conservatives have conceded as a matter of political principle that to oppose porn would be to oppose a fundamental liberty, namely freedom of speech. The logic is that if they try to oppose porn, then that restricts freedom, and from there they fear it becomes a slippery slope to restricting all freedom of speech (e.g. Christian preaching).

  138. Nick:

    Here’s a transcript of remarks by President Bush and Pope Benedict on the Pope’s arrival in America in 2008:

    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,351467,00.html

    I’m satisfied that the Pope is condemning neither the President nor his philosophy.

    Still haven’t seen a specific papal condemnation of conservatism, or that the Church considers today’s conservatism to fall under the heading of “philosophical liberalism.” I agree that the Church opposes libertinism, as do most of today’s conservatives.

    If you’re looking for a current synopsis of conservative thought, let me suggest a call to action by Ken Blackwell, the former mayor of Cincinnati and Ohio Treasurer:

    http://spectator.org/archives/2012/01/04/a-2012-conservative-case-for-a

  139. Nick,
    First, you don’t know that I’m a conservative. As I’ve mentioned before, my goal here is to promote the level of debate by getting the different sides to actually engage, which doesn’t seem to be happening. Second, I’m certainly NOT a conservative by your definition; indeed, I know many Catholic “conservatives” who believe rather strongly in using natural law and even revelation as the basis for legislation. Your problem is that you’re overgeneralizing the use of the term “conservative,” which is something I warned against early on. Conservatism is a label that is appropriated by many different groups for convenience’s sake, and thus there are many “conservatives” who disagree radically on just about every element of the “philosophy.”

    “As far as Capitalism is concerned, getting your definition from Webster’s Dictionary rather than from the Catechism & Encyclicals only confirms the notion the Conservative mind does not want to be informed by the Church when it comes to public policy. The definition of “capitalism” that you continue to espouse is not the one of reality nor Encyclicals. The definition of “capitalism” you espouse is not even consistent or unanimous with the understanding of Conservatism in general.”
    In case it wasn’t obvious by now, my entire point has been that conservatives don’t go by the definitions used in encyclicals when they say they favor capitalism. I’m not saying either definition is right or wrong, merely that you, and the other pro-Distributists in this discussion have not even begun to engage in a meaningful discussion because you’re arguing based on a straw man. I’m not sure what you even mean when you say “my” definition of capitalism is not “of reality.” If you mean it doesn’t exist, I’ve already pointed out as much. And again, the fact that conservatives disagree on the meaning of capitalism is further proof that you’re overgeneralizing in your statements about conservatives.

  140. Paul,
    “Joshua, apparently your ideas clash with the Church. You want people to have careers; the Church wants people to follow vocations, wherever they were. And another thing, if peasants were free to go wherever they wanted to go, where would they go? It was more or less the same throughout Europe in the Middle Ages.

    As for guilds, they have to be actuated by the Catholic spirit, not excluding other people and not keeping prices inflated. The Catholic guilds of the Middle Ages are a far cry from lawyer’s associations (hence my specific wording “remnants of guilds,” NOT GUILDS). They had a specific set of rules conforming to Church teaching.”
    Now you’re just putting words in my mouth. Nothing I said contradicts anything about what the Catholic Church teaches about vocation. Indeed, you’re defending a system that could deny a person the freedom to actually pursue his vocation, unless you believe that people born to farmers are necessarily called to be farmers, etc., no matter how bad they are at farming/whatever and no matter how good they are at something else. Furthermore, why would a peasant not want to move somewhere that he could more productively use his talents? Say you have a peasant born into a farming family who happens to be a terrible farmer but an excellent smith. His locality has no need of another smith, but a town 30 miles away needs one badly. I’d say the freedom to uproot and move thirty miles to pursue a different trade would benefit everyone involved.

    As to guilds, what do you think the odds are that modern guilds would operate under Catholic principles, given that even nominal Catholics make up minorities in virtually every jurisdiction? I’d say about nil. And if you don’t think the legal profession is relevant, why’d you bring it up?

  141. The problem with your assertion is that everyone knows farming is THE MOST essential vocation. True, there will be always a few bad farmers, but years and years of tradition of working on the land usually don’t make a bad farmer. And you’re also only describing the beginning of the Middle Ages concerning serfs. By the High Middle Ages, more or less the serf became a peasant.

    As to modern guilds, Distributists aren’t just thinking structures themselves would work; principles are needed to be taught as well. Thus, a two-pronged attack on anti-Catholic principles and institutions that came out of those anti-Catholic principles.

    And to be frank, I never saw the kind of capitalism you advocate in practice.

  142. Paul,
    So we should all be farmers? The fact that it’s the most essential vocation doesn’t mean any particular individual should be doing it. And if you want to get out of the early Middle Ages, maybe you should have done that before we went down this rabbit trail. Pick your battles and fight them; all this backpedaling is just wasted time.
    As for guilds, now you’re doing the same thing you accuse capitalists of doing–arguing on the basis of a hypothetical which has never been and will never be. While the capitalist argues for free markets and private enterprise on the grounds that it will lead to the greatest good, you argue that guilds guided by Catholic principles and other elements of Distributism will lead to the greatest good. Neither is ever fully achievable because man is fallen, and even in the best of times his economic and political constructs are deeply flawed. What makes you think, based on history, that your vision of a world guided by Catholic principles will ever come to be before Christ returns?

  143. Joshua,

    I’ve tried repeatedly to clarify that most conservatives today aren’t aware of the true meaning and are embracing the position inconsistently. The definitions of capitalist and conservative that I’m seeing espoused by you are so vague and loose that they can apply to a lot of things. If anything, what you’re saying is that calling oneself a conservative today doesn’t mean much. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say most people today who identify as conservative understand that to mean whatever the Republican platform espouses (which includes significant deregulation and supporting big business). And at that, we’re right back to the start of Mr Storck’s article.

  144. Nick,
    Are you a U.S. citizen, or are you British/Canadian? I don’t ask this to be impertinent–it just seems that you’re rather unaware of the political state of “conservatism” in the U.S. Almost anyone who has been politically aware over the last couple of decades (certainly since Reagan) knows that conservatism is a “big tent” as far as who falls under the label. You’ve got your social conservatives (the kind who believe in natural law and religion in the public square), your economic conservatives (the ones who favor free markets etc.), and national defense conservatives (the ones who favor a strong military), and not all conservatives hold to all three positions (even from its beginnings, the Republican party has been a coalition party, but in the mid-1800’s it was sectional coalitions rather than philosophical ones). Thus, any definition of capitalism that applies to ALL the above must necessarily be vague, but regardless of that I’m still using the dictionary. The best you or anyone else have come up with is a definition espoused in specifically Catholic literature that most American conservatives have never read. I’m not sure why you think conservatives aren’t aware of the true meaning of capitalism or are embracing it inconsistently. Perhaps you’ve been trying to make that clear, but I still don’t know what you’re getting at because you haven’t actually said what you think conservatives believed and then compared it to what is actually the case. And while I grant you the fact that most “conservatives” blindly vote Republican each year, it’s not because they support the whole platform, but rather because they would rather have a Republican than a Democrat, whether for moral reasons (e.g. abortion), economic ones (lower taxes), or military (absurd, since both parties seem intent on engaging in as many wars as possible).

    Now it seems to me that for this conversation to continue, we’re going to have to really nail down the definitions, because this exchange shows exactly why using the term “conservative” to apply to everyone who isn’t “liberal” is so problematic. Now I’m perfectly happy to live with your definition of conservative, but make sure once you’ve defined them, you at least attribute to them their own views on what capitalism is, without substituting a definition they’ve likely never heard of.

  145. “In case it wasn’t obvious by now, my entire point has been that conservatives don’t go by the definitions used in encyclicals when they say they favor capitalism. I’m not saying either definition is right or wrong, merely that you, and the other pro-Distributists in this discussion have not even begun to engage in a meaningful discussion because you’re arguing based on a straw man.”

    It’s difficult to have much of a discussion in these com boxes. But when we consider capitalism we have to look at it as an actually existing historical fact and ask ourselves, What is the best way of characterizing it, what gets at its most basic features? I think that the definition from Pius XI that I cited above does so. The other definitions either include too much or deal only with the results of capitalism. For example, to define capitalism as the existence of private property is too broad, since private property existed for centuries before what we commonly consider capitalism came into existence. Or, on the other hand, to define capitalism as the domination of the economy by capitalists is wrong since it identifies one of the almost inevitable results of the separation of ownership and work rather than its essential note. In my article, Capitalism and Distributism, Definitions and Contrasts, I discussed some of the attempts to define capitalism and noted that there is a lack of agreement among economists and economic historians on exactly what it is. But Pius XI’s definition, which is used also by some economists, seems to fit the facts. Pretty clearly I don’t have space here to try to prove that this is the best definition. I refer people to the article I just mentioned, however.

  146. Mr. Storck,
    The definition you prefer also focuses on results, though. There is nothing about capitalism that inherently includes the notion that some people provide capital while others provide labor. At least, no conservative would say that is an inherent part of the system they favor. Incidentally, has it ever occurred to you that some people would prefer not to own capital because of the increased responsibility that entails? For example, a farm hand who gets paid wages at the same rate no matter whether a given piece of farm equipment breaks is in a safer position, in some ways, than the the yeoman farmer who has to keep up with his land, equipment, and animals (the latter of which he can be liable for if they cause injury). That’s a separate issue, but my main point is that your definition of capitalism (which, again, is a term you didn’t even use in the article) is either a straw man or a definition based on results.

  147. And actually, your own definition would include feudalism, since some (the nobility) owned capital, while others (serfs) provided labor. Communism very nearly fits the definition as well!

  148. Your definition is vague as well–what proportion of the population must be capital-less and what proportion must be labor-less for your definition to apply? And can there be any intersection of those who have capital and those who provide labor?

  149. Wow, what a poor definition Pius XI came up with according to Mr. Scott. However, I’m afraid he’s wrong on all points. It doesn’t focus on results – it gets at the essence of the thing – and although it’s true that it doesn’t define an exact proportion of the population that must contribute to the economy via their work instead of capital, such inexactitude is characteristic of many things in life. However, I think that until Mr. Scott has show some interest in seriously looking at some of the sources I’ve noted which might give some substance to our discussion, further discusssion is probably of little value.

  150. Mr. Storck,
    I note you didn’t even address my point that your definition would include feudalism. Furthermore, the definition does not get at the essence of what conservatives promote. I will agree, however, that further discussion is of little value, but on the grounds that you insist on using a straw man.

  151. It’s hard talking on this comment box, but it does seem that discussion is futile, Joshua. What you don’t seem to understand is that the Church has always encouraged farming and never wanted any one to quit who IS a farmer. And NO, I never said everyone should be farmers; now, you’re putting words in my mouth. And I never referred to the early Middle Ages, but to the Middle Ages as a whole; there was improvement, since everyone knew Catholic principles (acknowledged with Catholic-based laws).

    As for your second point, so what if man is fallen? We still must do our best to make this place a better place to live according to Catholic principles. Despite the truth of the Catholic religion, there will always people not living according to it. Does that make Jesus’ command to baptize all nations useless? God forbid!

  152. Joshua, you ARE delberately remaining ignorant. Even in feudalism, there were already guilds, who had productive property as well. And in any case, I and you made a serious error; provided that his family till his quota of servile land, the serf was free to enter the professions and the church, or to go wild (as Hilaire Belloc explains), even in the early Middle Ages. I totally forgot about this fact when debating you. You remain ignorant of the truly divine transforming power of Catholicism that effected the freedom of the serf, although gradually (not violently like modern times).

  153. BTW, it is highly significant that you, Joshua, make no effort whatsoever to try to understand Distributism, but would have everyone do your homework for you, all your talk about me needing to to MY homework notwithstanding. Why should everyone provide you with every source of info, when you don’t even bother trying?

  154. Paul,
    You have crossed a line. To say that I am deliberately remaining ignorant when you have not even attempted to inform me (other than by mere assertion) and when I actually used the language “correct me if I’m wrong” is unwarranted, unfair, and betrays an incapacity or unwillingness to grant the benefit of the doubt. You know nothing of my personal situation, what I know or don’t know about distributism, or anything else that could possibly be relevant to such an accusation. If your modus operandi is going to be of that nature, I have nothing further to say to you, other than the fact that I did not put words in your mouth, but rather asked a rhetorical question, and I have asked no one to do my homework for me, but only that they use legitimate arguments backed up by evidence rather than mere say-so. So long.

  155. I apologize on that account, but nonetheless this argument has been taking a toll on me, especially with your stubborn insistence that there is a “good” capitalism that never occurred in practice and the insistence that our definition of capitalism is a strawman; sorry again for jumping the gun. Perhaps you should have been reading other articles on the basics of Distributism instead of going straight into other issues not directly related to it. I still also feel you do want people to do more research for you, instead of you having to do the hard work.
    ____________________
    If you still want to talk, here is one question: show us when capitalism has never individualistic, liberal, not influenced by anti-Catholic principles (like increasing profits by breaking previous rules)?

  156. Paul:

    Check out for profit businesses that have agreed to adhere to the “economy of communion” business principle – profits, earned legally and by treating workers and customers fairly and with dignity, are distributed equitably to the owners of the business, the employees, and a charity chosen by the management of the business. You might call it capitalism with a dose of charity.

  157. Those businesses are too few than others whose maxim is getting the most possible profit. The main note of capitalism in any country that had it is that it wass individualistic, liberal, anti-Catholic; this inevitably turned into economic domination by the few (ultimately, the banks), as noted by Pope Pius XI. Every business is subject to these banks, hoping for approval of a loan.

  158. Paul:

    You asked for an example, and I gave one. Rather than condemning any particular economic system, the Church’s emphasis now is on how profits are earned, and the uses to which those profits are put, whether the business is a farm, a factory, or a bank. Read Caritas in Veritate for the Church’s current view of how individual businesses, run on Catholic principles, can impact the market.

  159. I’m going with Belloc’s idea of the main tendency of the country, not an isolated phenomenon just as you described. Perhaps I should have made that clear, but even in capitalist countries, there are places not operating on the capitalist system.

  160. Just so that no one can say I deliberately ignored a question, I’ll respond to the point about feudalism. In the first place, land ownership under feudalism was different from what we mostly have today. It’s sometimes said that under feudalism no one “owned” land, but rather “held” it, i.e., had use of it in exchange for certain duties. This applied to the peasant as much as to the lord, for peasants had stability in use of their land, even if they didn’t own it in the modern sense. This was one of the reasons behind the Statute of Frauds passed by parliament in England in the 17th century which deprived peasants of their land since they held it without title, even though they had held it for centuries. It was a gigantic instance of theft from the poor. Secondly, I’m surprised if Mr. Scott doesn’t know that the emergence of capitalism is universally admitted to be a modern event, however one might want to define capitalism.

    Having said this, I’m going to bow out of this discussion as it seems to be going nowhere.

  161. Paul,
    Why would I still want to talk when your “apology” is the equivalent of “I’m sorry, but it’s all your fault,” mixed with further claims which have no basis (e.g. that I “stubbornly insist that there is a ‘good’ capitalism that never occurred in practice”) and an apparent continued, unjustified assumption that I don’t understand the basics of Distributism?

  162. Perhaps, because you insist on calling the definition of capitalism, made by the Popes, a strawman, but again, I apologize for making wrong assertions about you in my previous post. Still, with that prejudice, you go into more wrong ideas, I think. And you also say that somehow the capitalism defined by American conservatives is somehow not the capitalism condemned by the Church. May I say that of course it isn’t condemned because it never existed? Capitalism, as it always existed, has never been other than that founded on anti-Catholic principles (increasing profit by breaking rules set by proper authority).

  163. Mr. Storck,
    Your distinction between “holding” land and “owning” land is hairsplitting; there’s no practical difference from the feudal perspective, for the simple reason that the nobility had no incentive to get rid of their laborers and the laborers had no right to leave their land. Indeed, your remark that the serfs had “stability” is a remarkably weak attempt to cast a positive light on a dim subject; one might as well say that slaves and sharecroppers in the U.S. had stability. With that out of the way, your last comment regarding my knowledge of when capitalism began seems to imply that you believe that I consider feudalism a form of capitalism, contrary to the fact that capitalism is a more recent development. Well, Mr. Storck, you have mistaken your man. I did read a good bit of the article you linked earlier, and I remember distinctly that part of your basis for limiting the definition of capitalism further than private ownership of property was that this would entail economic systems that existed before capitalism is largely accepted to have arisen. And that is precisely why I mentioned feudalism. Whether you realize it or not, your definition of capitalism leaves you hoisted on your own petard, for your own definition also encompasses economic systems that existed long before capitalism arose. Yet your comment regarding “surprise” at my lack of knowledge (which was an absurd conclusion to reach since my reference to feudalism was an attempt to defeat your definition) indicates that you are trying to have your cake and eat it too. My definition of capitalism, you say, is too broad and encompasses systems much too old (yet now you tell us the nobility never “owned” anything at all, so how that follows I can’t comprehend). I reply with a similar criticism of your own definition, and your response is to suggest that can’t be because capitalism isn’t that old, as if your definition had a built-in history clause! Funny how that only works one way. But just to prove to you that your definition fails even if we don’t count feudalism, I can point to fascism (for what is government ownership really but the private ownership of those in power? The state is nothing but the people who hold offices in it), and of course communism (as it exists “in reality” since that’s how you like to focus on things) for the same reason. Yet it is “universally admitted” that neither system is capitalistic. That’s a mighty big petard you’ve hoisted yourself on, Mr. Storck.

  164. I may also mention that not everyone thinks like that, but everyone is forced into that kind of mindset, breaking the rules to remain in business.

  165. Paul,
    The definition used by the popes is a straw man as applied in this argument, which is about what conservatives believe. Is that so hard to grasp?

  166. Joshua, by your latest answer, you show why everyone is fed up with you. You have ignored my answer that the serf was allowed to go into the towns and the church, provided his family just did customary work on the land. Capitalism means precisely sharp division of capital and labor; there was nothing of the such in feudalism (i.e., serf/peasant “semi-owning” land to which the lord had no right to kick them off).

  167. Well, all right, only groups like the Acton Institute agree with that extreme. But I may in fairness repeat that this “capitalism” as defined by the average American conservatives has never existed.

  168. I found myself arguing too much, and probably mentally exhausted, with having to reread things I’ve read in the past. I’ll bow out of the discussion, with apologies for any wrong assertions I may have made here. But I won’t concede my position that this “capitalism” espoused by American conservatives has never nor (IMO) ever can exist.

  169. Just to defend myself against Paul’s charge of unreasonableness regarding serfs, I would like to point out that the dictionary supports my view, and no one has provided anything other than mere say-so to the contrary. As I said earlier, I want evidence, not mere assertion.

  170. Paul:

    “But I won’t concede my position that this “capitalism” espoused by American conservatives has never nor (IMO) ever can exist.”

    By “conservatives” do you mean libertarians? Do you mean American “free marketers” Can you provide a definition of capitalism espoused by American conservatives that has never existed, and never can exist?

  171. Paul:

    Let me posit a definition of “capitalism” that I believe many American conservatives would accept:

    The ability of an individual, or a group of individuals, to invest their money in a private enterprise (new or existing) and thereby become owners of that enterprise, entitling them to a share of the profits of the enterprise, in the form of dividends or distributions.

  172. Not contributing to the discussion, but just merely observing that relying on dictionaries is not evidence either; since when has the dictionary been authoritative on economic questions? Gratuitous observations merit gratuitous denials; thus, why none of us posited evidence, since no evidence was given except dictionary “authority.”

  173. Paul:

    If you make an assertion, such as that American conservatives share a definition of capitalism, you should support it with some evidence. I drafted and posited a description of conservatism that I thought would be acceptable to most American conservatives. You’re free to disagree and offer a different description.

  174. Sorry, dmiehls, I was referring to Joshua’s definition of feudalism. Not to you; I left off the discussion. I just have only one more thing to say: I just don’t agree with defining capitalism the way American conservatives do, but defining it as the Supreme Pontiffs have (as well as Chesterton and Belloc).

  175. Paul:

    OK. I guess the point is that, to avoid confusion, it’s better to describe one’s political beliefs without relying on labels like “conservative,” “liberal,” or “progressive,” which mean different things to different people.

  176. This is my last defense against the charge of reasoanbleness, since there’s no reason I should have to go farther after this. Paul wrote: “Not contributing to the discussion, but just merely observing that relying on dictionaries is not evidence either; since when has the dictionary been authoritative on economic questions? Gratuitous observations merit gratuitous denials; thus, why none of us posited evidence, since no evidence was given except dictionary “authority.””
    Since I clearly said on this very question, “correct me if I’m wrong,” I was clearly open to being proven wrong, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to take it on someone’s say-so, especially when that someone is an anonymous computer user. Nor did I claim the dictionary was an authority on economic matters; indeed, whether a serf is bound to the land of his lord isn’t even a question of economics. Paul’s response that gratuitous observations merit gratuitous denials works both ways, however–I can gratuitously deny everything anyone says by that rule, including Paul’s assertion that serfs are not bound to the land of their lord. The rules of debate are a two way street. And while not admitting that Paul’s proposed rule is legitimate, I’m willing to play by it if he is, in which case I suppose we can now both leave the discussion in the consummate satisfaction of having won, while having accomplished nothing.

  177. I realize I said I wouldn’t comment in this thread again, but I’m just giving the link below. More than one person above thought I’d been unfair to conservatives when I said they didn’t consider the common good in their economic ideas. Some might be interested or amused that a liberal has objected that I was unfair to them when I said they didn’t consider the common good in their ideas about sex. See the link below.

    http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com/2012/05/slander-is-boring.html#!/2012/05/slander-is-boring.html

  178. The ability of an individual, or a group of individuals, to invest their money in a private enterprise (new or existing) and thereby become owners of that enterprise, entitling them to a share of the profits of the enterprise, in the form of dividends or distributions.

    Distributism would hold to that as well. The question is the limits involved.

  179. From Tom Storck (since he is having problems uploading his, not sure why):

    I realize I said I wouldn’t comment in this thread again, but I’m just giving the link below. More than one person above thought I’d been unfair to conservatives when I said they didn’t consider the common good in their economic ideas. Some might be interested or amused that a liberal has objected that I was unfair to them when I said they didn’t consider the common good in their ideas about sex. See the link below.
    http://rustbeltphilosophy.blogspot.com/2012/05/slander-is-boring.html#!/2012/05/slander-is-boring.html