Thursday, September 20, 2012

The "Catholic Crutch"

What is "capitalism"? Every time you turn around you get a different answer. This causes problems, obviously, especially now that the socialists caught on and have been playing games with definitions, too. This has results that can only be described as ludicrous.

Our favorite is where Michael Novak, widely considered by distributists as an apologist for capitalism, claimed that what Chesterton meant by distributism is what he (Novak) means by "democratic capitalism." Then Martin Green, an avowed socialist, declared that what Chesterton meant by distributism is what he, Green, means by "democratic socialism." We'll forebear pointing out the obvious contradictions here, and leave it to your own cleverness.

If we define capitalism as concentrated ownership of capital in a private elite, and socialism as concentrated ownership of capital in a State elite (as Chesterton and Belloc did), we can at least get beyond semantics and start addressing the issue, which is lack of ownership of capital by most people, which results in what Leo XIII described as a yoke almost of slavery.

This leads into distributism, vaguely described as a policy of widely distributed property with a preference for small, family owned farms and artisan workshops. (The small is beautiful "mandate" came later, as did the redefinition of natural rights and the influence of Marx, transforming distributism into neo-distributism in a failed attempt to get around the paradox of past savings.)

The problem is that classic distributism incorporates two errors. One, there is no recognition of the "act of social justice," a particular act by means of which the institutions of the common good can be accessed directly. This leaves the door open to intrusive State control, despite the explicit rejection of increased State involvement.

Two, classic distributism assumes as a given the demonstrably false assumption that the only way to finance new capital formation is to cut consumption and accumulate money savings.

On the contrary, as Harold Moulton proved in The Formation of Capital (1935), new capital formation is best financed by using the present value of future marketable goods and services to be produced by the very capital being financed, not by reducing consumption and thus the demand that would make new capital financially feasible.

To get around these errors, latter day distributists fall into the error that Chesterton condemned in The Dumb Ox and start redefining the natural law. They base the natural law on their private interpretation of something they accept as God's Will, rather than God's Nature self-realized in His Intellect, and therefore discernible by reason alone. They slap the "Catholic" label in front of their pronouncements to validate them without going through the trouble of presenting any argument or offering evidence.

In short, by using "the Catholic Crutch," they imply that anyone who doesn't accept their redefinitions is a "bad" Catholic, a dissenter, a liar, a thief, and probably eats pickles with ice cream instead of pretzels with ice cream like all normal people.

#30#

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