It's official. The Catholic Knight is retired.  I'm hanging up the helmet and passing the torch. There will be no more articles, no more commentaries, no more calls to action. THIS BLOG IS CLOSED. I've spent a very long time thinking about this, I believe the time has come, and is a bit overdue.  I want to thank my readers for everything, but most especially for your encouragement and your willingness to go out there and fight the good fight. So, that being the case, I've spend the last several weeks looking for bloggers who are fairly active, and best represent something akin to the way I think and what I believe.  I recommend the following blogs for my readers to bookmark and check on regularly. Pick one as your favourite, or pick them all. They are all great..... In His Majesty's Service, THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Distributism - A Christian Approach To Economics

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: As Christians we are all familiar with the political parties and economic theories of the various nations we inhabit. In America it's the Democrats vs. the Republicans, or Liberals vs. Conservatives, or just Socialists vs. Capitalists. Most of us don't like to think in economic terms. We often take those for granted. Instead we prefer to look at the social issues, such as abortion, prayer in schools, gay-marriage, etc. What we often fail to realize is that all of these social issues are interrelated with economics, and that economics often shapes society's moral views without us even realizing it. The two prevailing economic theories operating in our world today are Socialism and Capitalism. What a lot of people don't know is that while they appear to be opposed to each other on the surface, they are actually related to each other underneath on a moral level. Both systems of thought operate on a similar principle that people are commodities, mere "things" to be used as needed for the goals of those "in charge." In the end Capitalism results in Socialism. Because both systems devalue life, marriage and family. Both systems, in their most pure form, know nothing of subsidiarity.
Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.
Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. The teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which "a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good."
We are all familiar with the evils of Socialism. It's all around us. Our governments gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) take away our earnings and property to "re-distribute" them as they see fit, replacing the work of charity within the Church and setting themselves up as God. Along with our resources and property, these same governments deprive us of our freedoms. Make no mistake about it "re-distributism" (a.k.a. "Socialism") is THEFT! It is a violation of the Ten Commandments and an act of lawlessness. Those who advocate it are toying with their souls and placing their salvation in jeopardy. Socialism is a moral evil which the Catholic Church has always stood squarely against in it's doctrinal teaching. Sadly, many Catholics (including some clergy) are Socialists. For this they are denying the clear teachings of the Church and will have to answer before God. Along with Socialism however, comes a social ethic, or morality, which is really immorality. Anyone who reads the writings of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels will quickly discover that the path to Socialism is paved with immorality - particularly sexual immorality. Yes, one sin leads to another, and the fathers of Socialism had no problem using vice as a means of furthering the "revolution." Make no mistake about it. Socialism destroys faith, turning the Church into a mere "religious institution" without sufficient works of charity. It is the Church's right to feed and shelter the poor. When the government takes this responsibility away from the Church, it deprives her of her right, and effectively strips her of her social mantle. In time, people lose faith in the Church. Who needs it? you see, when we have the government to take care of the poor. Socialism destroys families in a similar way, undermining subsidiarity and depriving the mother and father of their parental duties in favor of state-run schools, daycare and various "programs." Once the children are in the hands of the state, they can be further indoctrinated according to the immorality of socialism. Finally, Socialism destroys civilization, because once the faith and family of millions is broken, society starts to break down, causing an increase in lawlessness.

Yes, we all know the evils of Socialism, or at least we SHOULD know them. Sadly, it seems that every government in the world now is heading down the Socialist tracks straight for the cliff of tyranny.

The antithesis of Socialism is Capitalism - or so it would seem on the surface. Capitalism in it's most pure form is laissez-faire, meaning the government has virtually no role in directing the economy. The problem with this model is that it leads to corporate tyranny, wherein wealth and property are concentrated into the hands of the few, while the many are deprived of it. It creates a two-class society. The first class is the investor class, which is wealthy enough to live off capital investments. The second class is the labor class, and this is the class which subsists day to day on a meager wage that may (or may not) be enough to live on. Wealth and property are scarcely within reach for most of these people. Only a small few break out of the labor class and into the investment class. Small businesses are usually gobbled up by big business. The "mom & pop" general store is unable to compete with the mega-chain supermarket. Monopolies are created, driving out competition. The system becomes immoral because it is another kind of THEFT, that deprives families of their ability to own their own property and work it for their own livelihood. When this happens it attacks faith and family. In this case, the corporations become like gods, deciding the fate of their employees with little to no say-so from the employees themselves. Both husbands and wives are forced to work to pay the bills, resulting in children having to be left in daycare or home alone without parental guidance. The labor class becomes slave to the investor class, and unfortunately, this kind of a situation can only last so long before the people begin to demand Socialism. So long as there is wide-spread extreme social inequity as a result of unbridled capitalism, there shall always be those who cry out for Socialism.

Now the sad reality in all of this is that neither model works in it's most pure form. Socialism ultimately has to rely on some Capitalism in order to stay afloat and keep the system going. A perfect example of this is the City of Hong Kong. Originally a colony of the British Empire and now a district of Communist China, Hong Kong is a thriving center of laissez-faire Capitalism that helps support the Socialist policies of the Chinese government. Without Hong Kong, Red China would have collapsed around the same time as the Soviet Union. Inversely, in the United States, Socialism is regularly employed to prop up Capitalism. Large American corporations have, for their own benefit, manipulated government regulations for decades. Everyone who understands American politics knows that Wal Street in New York intersects with K Street in Washington DC. (K Street is where most government lobbyist are headquartered.) This backroom deal-making between big business and government is what made large corporations "too big to fail." Thus when they did fail in the Fall of 2008, the U.S. federal government supplied some $4 trillion of taxpayer money to bail them out. This effectively consolidated the government/corporate conglomerate - another type of Socialism. This is not to mention the multiple times big-business corporations have advocated (and even lobbied for) Socialist redistribution schemes. Social Security and Socialized Medicine are two forms of Socialism that greatly benefit big-business, effectively eliminating their moral responsibilities toward their employees. So on paper both Socialism and Capitalism would appear to work, but in practical application it would seem they are just two sides of the same coin.
“Socialism is the exploitation of man by man; capitalism is the opposite.”
-- Old Polish Proverb
As Christians (particularly as Catholic Christians) we are called to a higher standard. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, to counter the rising tide of Socialism, the popes proscribed a means of Christian Economics that was later called "Distributism" sometimes called "Micro-Capitalism" or "The Third Way." This radically differs from the Socialist concept of "re-distributism" through the state, or the Capitalist concept of "re-distributism" through big business corporations. Distributism, in contrast, uses capitalism as it's core, micro-capitalism, based on the Biblical and moral value of private property. In other words, private property is good, and everyone has a right to seek it. Furthermore, it is immoral and sin for anyone (including the government) to take it away without permission. However, it is equally immoral for others to use unfair business practices in such a way that deprives the little people of a fair shot at seeking property. In other words, according to Distributism, such a thing as a monopoly (corporate or government) would be an anathema. This is the basis of it anyway. The idea is to allow individual enterprises and morally-regulated market forces to naturally "distribute" the property and resources of a region all by themselves. Instead of one or two giant chicken producers supplying meat and eggs to a whole country, we would instead see thousands of independently owned chicken ranches, each supplying meat and eggs to their local regions.

Distributism supports the local family, encouraging private enterprise and small business. It also supports faith, forcing each man to rely on God (not government or corporations) for his daily bread. Private wealth is based entirely on personal merit and hard work. Likewise, the work of charity is returned to the Church, and eliminated from the state.

Let me be perfectly clear here. Distributism does not regulate personal wealth. People are free to work or invest as they see fit, and the amount of wealth they attain from this is their own private property. The Distributist system demands small and localized government. In other words, government starts from the bottom up, gradually getting weaker as you go up the chain. The highest form of government, federal or national level, is simultaneously the weakest and the smallest, limited to very few and defined functions. In other words, the government that governs best, governs close to home. This is subsidiarity, and it goes hand in hand with Distributism.

The implementation of Distributism does not begin at the national politics level. It can't. Rather, it begins at home, with families and individuals. It begins by boycotting the big-business chains, and making a conscious decision to patron cooperatives and family run small-businesses. Of course this begins with where you keep your money. First things first, get your money out of the banks! Invest in a local credit union. Why on earth would you store your money somewhere where somebody else can make a profit on it? Shouldn't YOU be the one who makes the profit? or at least a portion of it? Unless you own your own bank, get into a credit union and divest yourself of the very system that is slowly destroying us. Next we must patron the locally run general stores, and independently owned restaurants, however, this would also include franchise establishments so long as they're locally owned. That's the key. If a franchise establishment is not locally owned, we and our families should boycott it. The next step is to start your own family run business of whatever type you want. If you can't do that, try to work for a cooperative rather than a corporation. If that's not available, try to work for a locally owned family business. Finally, if it's just impossible to get out from under the corporate environment, than turn around and buy some stock in it! For heaven's sake, you work there, so you out to at least own a piece of it. Now, if you're one of the fortunate ones who has been blessed with wealth, than please put it to good use and invest it locally. Finally, the last step on a local level is to work with others preparing a pamphlet or website (or both) listing all the locally owned family run business in your immediate area. Then get that list out to people in the most efficient way possible. This is the core of Distributism. It is the engine that makes it run. Without this it's just a theory on paper.

On a political level it all begins locally as well. We must corner our local politicians running for office - city, county and state. We must pressure them to focus their economic policy on supporting locally owned small business, and protecting them from interstate and international big business corporations. This is why. We need to hit them with these facts to drive the point home and make it stick...
The estimated 29.6 million small businesses in the United States:
  • Employ just over half of the country’s private sector workforce
  • Hire 40 percent of high tech workers, such as scientists, engineers and computer workers
  • Include 52 percent home-based businesses and two percent franchises
  • Represent 97.3 percent of all the exporters of goods
  • Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms
  • Generate a majority of the innovations that come from United States companies
Source: U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy, September 2009
These are points we need to keep driving home to our politicians again and again and again. If our government would finally learn that protecting small business is the key to a good economy (and thus better tax revenue) it would be well on it's way toward restoring national stability. That of course leads to national politics. If the state and local governments are won over first, the federal and national politicians will follow suit, if they know what's good for them. Otherwise, they'll find themselves looking for new jobs after election day.

Of course what I describe here is a very simplified model, and of course people usually do require more detail. There are certain books written on this. One is titled Jobs of Our Own by Race Matthews. Another is titled Toward a Truly Free Market by John C. Medaille.  Many more titles can be acquired from IHS Press.  For Internet resources I will refer you to THE DISTRIBUTIST REVIEW, an online publication featuring FREE articles about Distributism and how it applies to everyday life. LEARN MORE HERE

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Distributism - A Christian Approach To Economics