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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's Not Socialism

There has been an on-going debate among Fumare posters and readers as to the relationship between Catholicism and Capitalism. It is my position (and I believe the Catholic Church's position) that Capitialism is irreconcilable with Catholicism.

In a knee-jerk fashion many will cry, "Socialist!"

Don't be so hasty.

What I advocate is the George Bailey kind of market economy - an economy based on the owner/operator enterprise that is human in scale and family focused. What is incompatible with Catholicism is the Mr. Potter kind of market economy - based on monopoly, corporate giantism and sterile individualism. To employ another movie image, the former is the Shire and the latter is Isengard under Saruman.

Distributivism is the term describing this kind of economy, but others have used "humane economy" or "ordo liberal economy" - I like calling it a "Family First Economy."

Joseph Pearce has just published a book dealing with this topic through the Catholic rooted thinking of economist E. F. Schumacher. What many hailed as "Buddhist economics" was really Catholic Social Teaching taken seriously by Schumacher.

There is a new blog which is conducting a debate on issues Catholic and Economic here and the new book.

Unlike Chesterton and Belloc, Schumacher was an economist as was Wilhelm Roepke whose ideas created the post-WWII German economic miracle. Roepke's economic vision is perhaps most in harmony with the principles of Catholic Social Teaching.

Here is a very interesting article which makes that very case:

Centesimus Annus and the Political Economy of the Third Way


The following quote is meant to raise some questions in the vigorous debate in the comments. It is taken from the beginning of the article above:

"The real issue now is whether it may be possible to preserve (or to restore) a society of Free Men by developing, in the West, a working type of the market economy which is acceptable and politically possible because it gives a fairly satisfactory answer to the challenging problem of the fate of man in our proletarianized, urbanized, industrialized and highly centralized society. It is this vast programme which my friends and I mean when we speak of the 'Third Way.' It is a desperate task which summons all intelligence, human understanding, goodwill and energy which is available in the present world. If we fail in this, I see no escape from collectivism
and tyranny."
-- Wilhelm Roepke

I've posted this to raise the following observations:

1. We are all in agreement that a Market Economy is what is desirable. We disagree as to whether this is equal to "capitalism." I submit that a Market Economy does not necessarily result in a proletarian ("jobs") economy (where the vast majority have jobs, rather than owners of productive wealth), nor centralization, and urbanization. However the capitalist political economy does and has led to these results.

2. Roepke's insight (shared by Chesterton & Belloc) is that the centralization of wealth and power created by the spirit of capitalism (well underway today) would ultimately result in collectivism and tyranny. The solution (proposed) to this is the "Third Way" Market Economy (it's NOT socialism and it is not capitalism, it is a market economy). This was Roepke's life work and the essay above attempts to demonstrate how this "Third Way" is not only in harmony with Catholic Social Teaching, but was implemented in post WWII Germany with miraculous results.

I just got Roepke's Humane Economy the other day and am currently working through this introduction.