On Distributism and the Futility of Third Ways

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

The search for an economic and political “third way” has haunted intellectuals for over a hundred years in the Western nations. Many forget that fascism was at one time considered a viable “third way” between liberal capitalism and communism, preserving for the most part private ownership of the means of production for profit but subjecting it to near total control and regulation by the state. Many other models would follow, from the local and anarchistic to the national and statist, appearing under many different names.

I too was caught up in the desperate search for a “third way”, as are many Catholics who eventually find their way to Distributism. But it became quite obvious to me that what people who actually defined themselves as libertarians and capitalists were promoting and defending really wasn’t what I had always thought it was, nor was it anything I could possibly find objectionable.

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Do Americans Work Too Much?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010 \AM\.\Tue\.

I’m in the middle of reading Thomas Geoghegan’s Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life. The book is part travelogue, part prosecutors brief against American-style capitalism and in favor of European-style social democracy. It’s a very enjoyable read. Many of Geoghegan’s arguments are backwards or loopy (his claim, for example, that the reason Americans have plastic surgery is to avoid being laid off gets more points for creativity than for persuasiveness). But Geoghegan is a good writer and comes across as a really likable guy, and many of the point he makes warrant at least further reflection.

Geoghegan’s main argument in favor of Europe has to do with work/life balance. Yes, Americans tend to be richer than Europeans. But they also tend to work a lot less.:

# 1 Australia: 1,814 hours
# 2 Japan: 1,801 hours
# 3 United States: 1,792 hours
# 4 Canada: 1,718 hours
# 5 United Kingdom: 1,673 hours
# 6 Italy: 1,591 hours
# 7 Sweden: 1,564 hours
# 8 France: 1,453 hours
# 9 Norway: 1,337 hours

That’s not the whole story, of course.*

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Ropke Gets it Right

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 \PM\.\Wed\.

“The questionable things of this world come to grief on their nature, the good ones on their own excesses. Conservative respect for the past and its preservation are indispensable conditions of a sound society, but to cling exclusively to tradition, history, and established customs is an exaggeration leading to intolerable rigidity.  The liberal predilection for movement and progress is an equally indispensable counterweight, but if it sets no limits and recognizes nothing as lasting and worth preserving, it ends in disintegration and destruction.  The rights of the community are no less imperative than those of the individual, but exaggeration of the rights of the community in the form of collectivism is just as dangerous as exaggerated individualism and its extreme form, anarchism.  Ownership ends up in plutocracy, authority in bondage and despotism, democracy in arbitrariness and demagogy.  Whatever political tendencies or currents we choose as examples, it will be found that they always sow the seed of their own destruction when they lose their sense of proportion and overstep their limits. In this field, suicide is the normal cause of death.”

From A Humane Economy, p.90

In one paragraph, this man has encapsulated everything I believe.

The Problem of Profit

Friday, February 26, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

Bill Maher penned an article (“Health Care Problem Isn’t Socialism, It’s Capitalism“) a number of months ago that arguably captured an essential problem in American culture: the commodification of every aspect of our society. This is to say nothing about the merits of the current proposals of health care reform, but the increasing philosophical materialism and reductionism permeating through the American social fabric. The logic of this distorted view reduces material goods to dispensable goods that are only valuable insofar as subjective value is placed on that good. This unbridled consumerism has even led to human life being reduced to a dispensable good contingent on the subjective value placed extrinsically by society, or in certain situations, by another individual (the obvious examples being abortion and euthanasia). It is from this perspective, particularly, that one might argue that Maher’s article is spot on. Read the rest of this entry »

The Culture of Death: The Fruit of False Intellectual Ideals

Friday, January 22, 2010 \PM\.\Fri\.

In his encyclical Aeterni Patris, Pope Leo XIII sought to advance the restoration of Christian philosophy against the modern trends of secular philosophy, emerging from Enlightenment rationalism. The critique of modern intellectual errors and the way in which such false thinking manifests itself in the world has deeply shaded my personal reflection on the tragedy of legal abortion.

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Quote of the Day: Hayek on Individualism

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 \PM\.\Tue\.

From “Individualism: True and False” (1946)

…[T]he state, the embodiment of deliberately organized and consciously directly power, ought to be only a small part of the much richer organism which we call “society,” and that the former ought to provide merely a framework within which free (and therefore not “consciously directed”) collaboration of men has the maximum scope.

This entails certain corollaries on which true individualism once more stands in sharp opposition to the false individualism of the rationalistic type. The first is that the deliberately organized state on the one side, and the individual on the other, far from being regarded as the only realities, while all the intermediate formations and associations are to be deliberately suppressed, as was the aim of the French Revolution, the noncompulsory conventions of social intercourse are considered as essential factors in preserving the orderly working of human society. The second is that the individual, in participating in the social processes, must be ready and willing to adjust himself to changes and to submit to conventions which are not the result of intelligent design, whose justification in the particular instance may not be recognizable, and which to him often appear unintelligible and irrational. Read the rest of this entry »