Will The Real Utopians Please Stand Up?

Thursday, April 23, 2009 \PM\.\Thu\.

To follow up my last post on the Papal defense of Distributist ideas, I think it is also time we cleared up this notion of  ‘what can work’ and what actually does work.

Distributism, if it is practically defined as a set of social or political initiatives that encourage greater ownership of property, and specifically, worker ownership of the means of production, does exist and does work.

Here are some regional facts to consider:

Canada

“In Canada, there are distinct trends in worker co-operatives in Québec and the rest of the country. From 1993 to 2003, there was 87% growth in Québec and 25% growth in the rest of Canada.”

The United States

” In 2004, there were 300 worker co-operatives and 11,500 ESOPs covering over 8.5 million participants and controlling about $500 billion in assets.”

Spain

“Spain is home to the world’s oldest and most famous worker co-operative, the Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa (MCC), established in 1956. In 2004, this group located in the Basque County, had sales of 10.4 Billion euros, 10.0 Billion euros of administered assets, with a workforce of 71,500.”

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Torture, Effectiveness, & Consequentialism

Thursday, April 23, 2009 \PM\.\Thu\.

I have been meaning to post on the torture memos since last week, but have not had time. For now, I’ll point you to a post of Blackadder’s, which highlights the unconvincing arguments currently being floated to justify the Bush Administration’s use of torture:

The latest meme running through these sites is that while it may be honorable to be opposed to torture on principle, we ought to be reasonable and just admit that torture works. Here, for example, is Jonah Goldberg:

I have no objection to the moral argument against torture — if you honestly believe something amounts to torture. But the “it doesn’t work” line remains a cop out, no matter how confidently you bluster otherwise.

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Unreasonable Compensation

Thursday, April 23, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

With people focused on the economic downturn, many have found it a good time to give a little extra thought to whether other people are making more than they ought to. The president has spoken out several times against “excessive compensation” of executives, and a number of people have floated the idea of adjusting the top marginal income tax rate to effectively cap total compensation at ten million dollars a year. MZ tackled the question somewhat humorously here.

Beyond question, $10 million is a lot of money. Most of us will never see anything like that much money, and so it seems entirely reasonable to demand: Why should anyone be paid so much? What’s so special about CEOs and actors and baseball players that they deserve tens of millions of dollars? Aren’t they running off with the money that we should be getting instead?

I certainly wouldn’t claim that executives are not often paid more than they are worth. A board of directors is still a group of people with emotional commitments (including wanting to assure themselves that they made the right pick in choosing the current CEO) and they will certainly not always do what is in their own best interest. Though we may be comforted that in a free economy the incentives are in place to automatically punish them for not doing so.

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Bishop D’Arcy Responds

Thursday, April 23, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

Stop Calling Me a Commie!

Thursday, April 23, 2009 \AM\.\Thu\.

I can’t seem to go to any Catholic website or forum and talk about Distributism without at least one person accusing me of being a communist.

So, I post this not only for myself, but for anyone reading who is also sympathetic to the idea of spreading, by voluntary means, greater workers’ ownership of the means of production throughout society. Keep these in mind if you ever find yourself backed into a corner.

Rerum Novarum, 46 & 47. Excerpt:

“We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.”

Quadragesimo Anno, 65. Excerpt:

“Workers and other employees thus become sharers in ownership or management or participate in some fashion in the profits received.”

Mater et Magistra, 75-77. Excerpt:

“[I]t is especially desirable today that workers gradually come to share in the ownership of their company, by ways and in the manner that seem most suitable.”

Laborem Exercens, 14. Excerpt:

“We can speak of socializing only when the subject character of society is ensured, that is to say, when on the basis of his work each person is fully entitled to consider himself a part-owner of the great workbench at which he is working with every one else.”

If this is communism, then the Church is the original communist international, and the Bolsheviks were just wasiting their time. Or, maybe, the people who call these ideas ‘communist’ don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s probably that.