Thursday, July 27, 2017

Episode VI: The Distributist Economist Strikes Back



Despite the extended analysis of the errors inherent in the position of “Tom Steele,” the distributist economist, and his associate, “Joe Wide” — pseudonyms we inserted to avoid making things personal — Wide seems to have remained silent.  Perhaps he was persuaded of the truth of our position.  Who knows?

Deacon John: "Steele has me utterly baffled!"
Steele, however, appears to have become somewhat outraged that we would dare question anything he said.  He sent a large number of disjointed and somewhat incoherent messages to Deacon John, raging at him, calling him a fool, etc., claiming that Deacon John, an ordained clergyman, knows nothing about the Catholic Church’s social teachings, and so on, so forth.  Given that, we decided to confine ourselves to the response he made to Deacon John after the Reverend Mister J. sent our response to Steele.
From Steele’s response (which we’ve published below, with editorial comments inserted), we got the distinct impression that he either did not read our analysis, or completely misunderstood it.  He just kept repeating his previous assertions, and added a number of ad hominem comments, some of which might be considered offensive in certain circles.  We’ll let the distributist economist speak for himself, however:
I found this to be a very interesting document, not so much because it gives anything new, but because it is exactly like all the other documents he writes which purport to “answer” a critique; it bears some common themes with all of his “answers”: [In other words, Steele claims that our nearly 7,000-word response that quoted him and gave a detailed Just Third Way analysis of his and Wide’s stated position did not respond to the issues he raised.  We invite readers to go back and see if they agree with Steele’s statement. — ed.]
"Boiler Plate? I resent that!"
1. It is mostly a cut and paste of CESJ boilerplate. [Untrue.  Except for the definitions of participative, distributive, and social justice, which were taken and edited from the CESJ glossary of terms and that comprise less than 5% of the text, our response was composed as a team effort from scratch.  All quotes were cited as to the source. — ed.]
2. It mostly ignores what the critics say, preferring to argue against a straw man. [Untrue.  The response addressed specific points in Wide’s communication concerning leveraged ESOPs, quoting them and responding to them in full.  No issues were addressed that were not explicitly raised or implied in the quoted passages.  The only critics answered were Steele and Wide, as they were the only ones mentioned in their original statement.  Asserting that we ignored a criticism that was not made by someone who was not mentioned and raised a straw man is itself a straw man. — ed.]
"All hail, Welter, Queen of de Nile!"
3. In the rare cases he does actually address the critique, he ends up conceding the point under a welter of denials.  [Untrue.  We conceded no point, nor did we put any such concession “under a welter of denials.”  In any event, Steele fails to specify anything in this comment, leaving Deacon John to try and figure out to what it is that he, Steele, is referring. — ed.]
The first point speaks for itself, and if you are familiar with CESJ literature, you will no doubt note a certain déja vu quality to it. [We have no idea what he is talking about here, unless it is the fact that we make our arguments based on consistent principles of economic and social justice, or there is a certain consistency of style. — ed.]
"I CAN'T BE SILENCED IF I HAVEN'T SAID ANYTHING!!!!"
As to the second point. I will let Joe Wide address the allegations against him, [We made no allegations, except to assume that Wide agrees with Steele, unless he specifically stated otherwise.  As Wide himself said exactly the same thing, we fail to see in what way it is offensive. — ed.] though those are not generally anything I’ve heard Wide say.  [Untrue.  The entire text on which we commented was quoted directly from Wide without alteration. — ed.] But as for me, no one need guess my position since I am published on these topics; if anybody wants to know my opinion, it would be easy for them to check and hard for me to lie. [Thereby implying we are lying. — ed.] But Greaney doesn’t check [Untrue.  Cites were given for every quote; every fact was checked (and it was a group effort, not only CESJ’s Director of Research). — ed.] and always lies. [This appears to be a favorite accusation of Steele whenever anyone disagrees with him.  He has repeatedly accused CESJ’s president and the Director of Research of lying, and ran away when we demanded to know what lies we have told, and what was his evidence that anything we said was a lie. — ed.].  For example, not only have I never held that production must be financed out of monetary savings, I have pointed out the opposite: money is created out of credit and credits can be created in a variety of ways. [Nor did we say that Steele claims that production must be financed out of monetary savings.  We said (and we quote), “WE have been using the assumption that the only way to finance anything is to cut consumption and accumulate money savings” (emphasis added), and that WE assume that that he believes that past savings are essential.  Steele has, in fact, disagreed — violently — with our contention that future savings permit someone to finance new capital formation without that individual first having accumulated savings in any form.  Steele inserted the word “monetary” himself to create a straw man.  As to Steele’s confusion over money and credit, they are the same thing; money is credit, and credit is money. — ed.] Again, I am published on this point, so if Greaney was interested he could, as they say, “look it up.” And I will be speaking in Mexico City this fall to address precisely this point. So to attribute this to me is a canard. [As we never said it, we agree that it is a canard . . . on Steele’s part. — ed.]
"How did I get dragged into this?"
And he also gets Keynes wrong. Just as Greaney doesn’t read my stuff (which is excusable) [Untrue.  Greaney — CESJ’s Director of Research — has read Steele’s writings, and was not impressed. — ed.] he evidently hasn’t read The General Theory (which is not excusable). [Untrue.  We assume he means John Maynard Keynes’s General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936).  We have read it, in depth, as well as many of Keynes’s journal articles, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) — the book that made his reputation — and the Treatise on Money (1930), both volumes, that Keynes intended as his magnum opus.  In any event, what is the relevance of this comment?  The only reference to Keynes in our response was to mention that Dr. Harold Moulton’s classic The Formation of Capital (1935) was a refutation of Keynesian theory.  How, exactly, is this “get[ting] Keynes wrong”? — ed.] I’ll defer his errors on that to another day. [Inasmuch as we did not address anything Keynes said in our response, to what errors is Steele referring?  This is another of Steele’s straw men. — ed.] The point is that Greaney carries around a picture in his head of his “opponent,” and always argues against that picture, and never against the flesh-and-blood person in front of him. [This comment has all of us completely baffled.  In any event, given Steele’s habit of running away, it is difficult to confront any “flesh-and-blood person in front of [us].” — ed.]
. . . to be continued on Monday!

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