Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A Just, Third Way: Capital Homesteading, Part II


One thing we’ve noticed about a number of proposed reform packages is that all too frequently the desired goal is stated as the means instead of the end.  This tends to get almost simple minded at times.  If you want something, just do it.  How to do it is an unimportant detail.
Take, for example, the goal of “the Distributist State,” a condition of society characterized by widespread capital ownership, with a preference for small, family-owned farms and artisan businesses.  It surprises many people (especially today’s distributists and Chestertonians) when they discover that Chesterton never suggested any means to establish and maintain the Distributist State.
"G.K., you're driving me nuts!"
This drove George Bernard Shaw to distraction.  Fabian socialism (which Shaw espoused) had more or less specific techniques to bring about socialism, which Shaw and quite a few others defined in such a way as to make it sound consistent with what Chesterton said about distributism.  The Fabians were, in fact, at times focused more on means than on ends, which caused rifts with H.G. Wells, Arthur Penty, Major Douglas, a number of others (including Cecil Chesterton), and (eventually) R.H. Tawney, all of whose approaches didn’t quite match up with the Fabian program.
Consequently, Shaw couldn’t understand why Chesterton and Belloc, who were focused on ends rather than means (and who thus rejected the Fabian orientation that the end justifies the means), simply wouldn’t agree that distributism is the same as socialism . . . and completely missing the point when Chesterton told him why: socialism, Fabian or otherwise, simply was not consistent with his philosophy.  During one informal debate soon after Chesterton converted to Catholicism (another thing that ticked Shaw off, and for which Shaw unjustly blamed Belloc) GBS became so angry that he stomped out of the house where they had met by chance one evening.
"Mind if I outline a little history for you?"
(Don’t be fooled, however.  Unlike some of the Fabians, Shaw and H.G. Wells could disagree with Chesterton on just about everything — sometimes almost to the point of screaming at him — and still remain friends.  When Chesterton died, Shaw immediately asked Frances, Chesterton’s wife, if she needed anything — especially money — and kept an eye on her.)
That is why the “vehicles” for ownership democratization are a key element in Capital Homesteading: they are both practical and consistent with fundamental moral principles; means and ends are in conformity with each other:
The “Capital Homestead Account” or “CHA” is the primary tax-sheltered vehicle for the democratization of capital credit through local banks. It would enable every child, woman, and man to accumulate wealth and receive dividend incomes from newly issued shares in new and growing companies, without being taxed on the accumulations (including property and shares gained through inheritance, savings, and arrangements like ESOPs, CSOPs and CLBs). In addition to serving as a source of capital credit for corporate workers, CHAs would also provide an ownership-building account for individuals who do not work for profit-making enterprises, such as school teachers, civil servants, military personnel, police, and health workers, and for individuals who have no remunerative employment, such as the disabled, the unemployed, homemakers and children.
"Forget socialism, guys. Try capital ownership."
The “Citizens Land Bank” or “CLB” [also known as the for-profit Citizens Land Cooperative (CLC) or Community Investment Corporation (CIC)] allows residents of a community to share in the control and profits associated with land planning and development. The CLB would encourage governments at all levels (from the community to the highest governmental level) as well as non-profit entities, to distribute the ownership of land and natural resources free to all citizens. This would encourage citizens to participate in development so they can share in planning, governance and lease incomes from the use of land and natural resources.
The “Employee Stock Ownership Plan” or “ESOP” channels low-cost credit for financing the needs of business corporations (such as expansion, capitalization and ownership transfers), and links private sector workers to ownership shares and dividend incomes in the companies for which they work. Shares acquired on credit by worker-owners are paid for out of the future corporate profits they help to generate.
The “Consumer or Customer Stock Ownership Plan” or “CSOP” lets customers of utilities share in the governance and profitability of “natural monopolies,” like telecommunications, water and power companies, mass-transit and cable television.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the policy objectives of Capital Homesteading.
#30#

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