63 Responses to Michael Moore's (Catholic?) Attack on Captialism

  • R.C. says:

    I thought you had, from style and substance, but I too always suffer the same obliviousness as to authorship, both here and at (ahem) VoxNova.

    Someone needs to alter the template of the blog to put the blog-piece author at the bottom of each “starter” post. Perhaps even a short bio-line.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Michael Moore is one of the more odious figures in the entertainment industry. He has never found a dictatorship too repugnant to abase himself before as long as it makes the right anti-American noises. In an open letter to Elian Gonzales he has these charming sentiments about the Gulag of the tropics:

    “You are being told that your mother died trying to bring you to freedom. I am so sorry to have to tell you, that’s not true. The Cuban court granted your father custody of you, and your mother decided to kidnap you. She placed your life in horrible jeopardy by putting you in a leaky, overcrowded raft that eventually sank, killing everyone except you and two others. History is filled with many people who risked their lives escaping to another country because, had they stayed, they would have been imprisoned or killed.

    That’s not what happened in the case of your mother. Her life was not in jeopardy. Her son — you — was in no danger. The worst that could be said is that, in Cuba, you were in jeopardy of receiving free health care whenever you needed it, an excellent education in one of the few countries that has 100% literacy, and a better chance of your baby brother being born and making it to his first birthday than if he had been born in Washington, DC.”

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikes-letter/a-letter-of-apology-to-elian-gonzalez-from-michael-moore

    As George Orwell said, “So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.”

  • “As a first step, we can respond to this question with another: what is this “reality”? What is real? Are only material goods, social, economic and political problems “reality”? This was precisely the great error of the dominant tendencies of the last century, a most destructive error, as we can see from the results of both Marxist and capitalist systems. They falsify the notion of reality by detaching it from the foundational and decisive reality which is God. Anyone who excludes God from his horizons falsifies the notion of “reality” and, in consequence, can only end up in blind alleys or with recipes for destruction.

    [...]

    Both capitalism and Marxism promised to point out the path for the creation of just structures, and they declared that these, once established, would function by themselves; they declared that not only would they have no need of any prior individual morality, but that they would promote a communal morality. And this ideological promise has been proved false. The facts have clearly demonstrated it. The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful oppression of souls. And we can also see the same thing happening in the West, where the distance between rich and poor is growing constantly, and giving rise to a worrying degradation of personal dignity through drugs, alcohol and deceptive illusions of happiness.”

    Pope Benedict XVI, INAUGURAL SESSION OF THE FIFTH GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE BISHOPS OF LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN, 2007.

    “Another kind of response, practical in nature, is represented by the affluent society or the consumer society. It seeks to defeat Marxism on the level of pure materialism by showing how a free-market society can achieve a greater satisfaction of material human needs than Communism, while equally excluding spiritual values. In reality, while on the one hand it is true that this social model shows the failure of Marxism to contribute to a humane and better society, on the other hand, insofar as it denies an autonomous existence and value to morality, law, culture and religion, it agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.”

    Pope John Paul II, Centesimus annus, 19.

    “In the West there exists a system which is historically inspired by the principles of the liberal capitalism which developed with industrialization during the last century. In the East there exists a system inspired by the Marxist collectivism which sprang from an interpretation of the condition of the proletarian classes made in the light of a particular reading of history. Each of the two ideologies, on the basis of two very different visions of man and of his freedom and social role, has proposed and still promotes, on the economic level, antithetical forms of the organization of labor and of the structures of ownership, especially with regard to the so-called means of production.”

    Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei socialis, 20.

    Sorry Joe, the Church does look at them as two sides of the same problem; “free market” is not exactly the same thing as “liberal capitalism” which is the confusion many in the US have.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    Michael Moore’s “Roger & Me,” the movie that put him on the map, was pretty good in its portrayal of an economically desperate community (Flint, Mich.); but unfortunately, the fame it brought him went to his head and it’s been all downhill from there. Now all he does is espouse leftist conspiracy theories, the crazier the better. I have not seen any of his other movies and have no desire to.

    If Moore has indeed suddenly discovered Catholic social/economic teaching, perhaps it’s a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day.

    I also could not agree more with Joe that “there is absolutely no social justice in a society that recognizes a so-called “right” to dispose of human life as if it were trash.”

    Maybe there is a chance that by “discovering” Catholic social teaching Moore might also be led to explore or reexamine the Church’s other teachings and eventually return to the faith in its fullness; but, I’m not holding my breath.

  • None of those quotes appear to do what you want them to do, Henry. Benedict and John Paul both point out that while free market/capitalism may result in greater physical well being, they cannot provide an answer to well being, purpose or happiness if pursued in a fashion which is strictly materialistic.

    Joe’s point follows naturally from the fact that free market capitalism is _not_ a philosophical system which is necessarily materialistic in the way that Marxism is.

  • DC

    Americans confuse “free market” with capitalism; on the other hand, the Popes have, as with Europe, distinguished the two. On the other hand, these quotes do show how both recent Popes put capitalism (not free markets — again, something different) side by side with Marxism, and points out both are following the same errors and lead to the same end. Both are rejected; thus the important words, it (Western capitalism) “agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.”

  • American Knight says:

    When I heard Moore in an interview with Hannity use Catholic teaching to condemn ‘capitalism’ I was shocked (I shouldn’t be, but I was). He condemns the rich in the Name of Christ as he makes millions in this system – perhaps he should read Jesus’ condemnation of hypocrites.

    Joe you knew this was coming and you clearly indicated in your post: ALL authentically orthodox Catholics and frankly, anyone with a thinking mind must acknowledge that the principle role of government is to protect LIFE. Without that everything falls apart even if one is not a believer, logic dictates that if an individual, organization or government can arbitrarily choose who lives and who dies then no rights, including economic rights, can be secure; however, I totally disagree with your opinion that Catholic teaching is in no way compatible with strictly principled libertarian position.

    Now to be clear I am addressing ‘libertarian’ economic thought in its utility and as a Catholic also in light of God’s revelation, because as I have stated before most libertarians erroneously rely on man’s efficacy without reference to God and His Law.

    I was thinking about this yesterday inspired by our Gospel reading about the wealthy young man and Jesus’ teaching, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” Does that mean that Jesus advocates that we give away all of our possessions in a communistic sense? Of course not, and as Joe cogently points out the Church has always condemned Communism. This is clearly an indictment on attachment to riches. Of course it is easy to be attached to riches, but riches do not prevent a man from entering the Kingdom, it just isn’t easy for the rich to enter. The wealthy have more and therefore more is required and that is never easy, in fact, it is impossible for man, but for God all things are possible. Riches, properly disposed, can be used to give glory to God. Wealth has been very necessary to human development and without it the Church would not have any ability to take care of the poor. Truly poor people rely on the Charity of those who are wealthier. Wealth is a good created by good; management of that wealth is man’s work and that can be good or evil.

    The problem we have is ‘babelization’. I am confident that we do not know what economic system works best because economic systems are intentionally ill defined. The ancient enemy has dangled two fruits in front of us and pits us against each other using them: Communism and Capitalism. This is a trap defined by Satan’s cooperator, Hegel. Thesis vs. antithesis equals synthesis. We are spiraling toward complete synthesis. The fruit of Communism, properly condemned by the Church, is human slavery. The fruit of capitalism, properly criticized by the Church, is nothing more than unbridled human passion, which is fallen and disordered and will lead to human slavery. Essentially these two fruits are different paths to the same disastrous end. Both are Capitalist, remember that Marx coined the term ‘capitalism’. All economic systems are capitalist in that they deal with the production and distribution of capital. We cannot avoid capitalism and capitalism is good because God declared His Creation, including capital, good.

    What we are addressing is how is this capitalism to be ordered. In fact it is already ordered by God. In His respect for His creatures He has given us free wills. Any economic system inherently deals with human beings exercising our free wills to make economic decisions, utilization of scarce resources and the proper ordering of what we consider higher goods and working our way down from there. Of course, we are free to choose poorly but we are commanded not to. We are called to be good stewards of His wealth, His capital and to distribute it according to His Will – although imperfectly because we are not Him. In the naturally occurring economic order He has built in rewards and punishments for good and bad economic decisions. We must allow that freedom to exist so that we can learn from our mistakes and our successes.

    The colony in Massachusetts tried Communism and starved. As soon as private property was established abundance was achieved. What did they do? They gave thanks to God (incidentally the first Thanksgiving in America occurred here in the South, in Jamestown, Virginia not as most think in Massachusetts). They tried an erroneous economic system and were punished with hunger, they learned and tried a private property system and were rewarded with abundance. This is what we have to do.

    The failures of ‘capitalism’ are in fact NOT failures of capitalism they are learning opportunities for the failures of human choices with in the system and not the system itself. Furthermore the capitalists are both Capitalist and Communist and employ both means to their desired ends: the accumulation of capital and not just some of it, all of it, which translates to the accumulation of power and control. This will be achieved by autocratic Communist systems (democratic socialist, etc.) and managed capitalist systems. Presented as being in opposition when in fact they are cooperating to the same disastrous ends: human slavery and the establishment of small ruling oligarchy or dictatorship.

    Capitalism as we commonly think of it is not a free market, it does not allow for actors, truly free from coercion, to operate within it and it has little respect for private property. These distortions of an authentically free economic system as designed by God are the results of the misuse of government intervention and economic decisions enforced by the threat of force. The same perpetrators of Communism have corrupted the free economic system and named it Capitalism. They let us think it is free and that we are responsible for it, then they engineer failure and blame the free market and we clamor for the solution which is always more government intervention, the very thing that caused the problem in the first place. This cycle will repeat itself over and over again until synthesis is achieved and we cannot tell the difference between Socialist Communist Fascism and Socialist Communist Democratism, the result is consensual global feudalism.

    The indictment is not of capitalism because as long as we live in a temporal material world the production and distribution of capital cannot be avoided. The indictment is of force and overwhelmingly force used for consolidation of power and wealth used for evil purposes. Does this mean that we should employ a Gordon Gekko ‘greed is good’ capitalism? No and we cannot. It is not possible to elevate greed to a virtue systemically without the use of force. Even if some or most actors are greedy in a private property economic system they are checked by the vagaries of the market and cannot hold onto the wealth they have acquired through greed for long without use of force, either illegal through organized crime or legal through government sanctioned force. One is illegal, the other is illegal yet both are illicit.

    Just like Jesus told the wealthy young man, we are to be free to use our wealth to glorify God, that is our work and no one can make us do it. We have to freely conform our will to His Will. Notice that he did not condemn the virtuous young man but told him what he needed to do. When Christ looked at him He loved him. He also didn’t force him to give away his wealth he told him what needed to be done and then let him go on his way to choose to do it. He didn’t ask the Pharisees or the Romans to take this man’s wealth and distribute to the poor on his behalf in order to save his soul. He gave clear instructions to the young man and told him to choose to do it. The reward is not in the disposition of the wealth or even its efficacy, the true reward is in the choice to use the wealth as He that created and gave us dominion over it commands us, without coercion, to use it. We can only make that choice in a protected economic system, free from coercion that has a complete respect for private property. Notice also that a respect for private property is a respect for free will and human dignity, which cannot occur without a respect for human life. Our lives belong to God; however, our life is the first property we own (properly defined as stewardship) in this world. If we do not own our lives, we cannot own any other property.

    The proper role of government is to protect the market. The proper role of the Church is to inform us how God wants us to freely choose to utilize His wealth. The proper role of Catholic Christians is to obey the Church teachings and respect the freedom of will God has given us. We also cannot stay silent as Adam did while the serpent corrupted his wife. We must witness to God’s Word for those who dwell in darkness. We must take the motto of our fine special warfare warriors to heart: De Opresso Liber!

  • c matt says:

    At least M Moore got something right in that letter to Elian – his baby brother would have had a better chance of being born in Cuba rather than DC, given the ultra liberal US abortion laws. But I don’t think that’s what he meant.

  • Blackadder says:

    I’m not a big fan of the word “capitalism” myself, preferring to speak of free markets, the free economy, etc. However, JPII does offer a qualified endorsement of capitalism by name in Centesimus Annus 42.

  • BA

    Not say fast. I would not say it is a qualified endorsement.

    Let’s put it up here:

    “42. Returning now to the initial question: can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?

    The answer is obviously complex. If by “capitalism” is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a “business economy”, “market economy” or simply “free economy”. But if by “capitalism” is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.”

    His answer is only qualified in the sense that he is saying — what do we mean by the word, understanding that people often associate “capitalism” with “free market.” But as a whole, the text is not an endorsement, indeed, as he continues:

    “Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their solution to the free development of market forces.”

    That is not an endorsement, and if that needs to be made clearer, he then says, “The Church has no models to present…” (43). Thus, this is not an endorsement, but pointing out that free markets are acceptable; but capitalism qua capitalism, as the system of economics, is not what he is discussing there.

  • Blackadder says:

    At least M Moore got something right in that letter to Elian – his baby brother would have had a better chance of being born in Cuba rather than DC, given the ultra liberal US abortion laws.

    Sadly no. The abortion rate in Cuba is higher than in the U.S. and laws regulating abortion are virtually nonexistent. It is even said that doctors use forced abortion in cases where fetal abnormalities are detected in order to keep down the infant mortality statistics.

  • Henry,

    Again, I think you’re trying to get the quote to do something it doesn’t. For instance:

    “Another kind of response… seeks to defeat Marxism on the level of pure materialism by showing how a free-market society can achieve a greater satisfaction of material human needs than Communism, while equally excluding spiritual values. …[I]nsofar as it denies an autonomous existence and value to morality, law, culture and religion, it agrees with Marxism, in the sense that it totally reduces man to the sphere of economics and the satisfaction of material needs.

    Well, okay. Fine. In so far as someone asserts that free markets lead to human thriving to the complete exlusion of morality, law, culture and religion that person would indeed be participating in the same materialistic error as Marxism. But since “capitalism” as an economic system does not necessarily do this, I don’t see how you can claim they’re two sides of the same coin. Collectivist materialism and individualist/free market materialism are two sides of the same coin, but capitalism is not necessarily materialistic, since unlike Marxism, capitalism is (in its normal usage) just an economic system, not a philosophical and religious one.

    This whole back and forth reminds me too much of the Intelligent Design debate, where people insist that evolution is necessarily a philosophical system in which God’s existence and providence are denied. If one insists on defining evolution that way, one can critique it as a materialist philosophy, but since it’s not necessarily a philosophical system at all, the argument breaks down.

    I’ll give you this much, and I think be in more complete agreement with the popes’ statements than the way you’re putting it: To the extent that people treat free market capitalism as a materialistic philosophical and moral system in which growth and profit are the only ends of the human person, they participate in the same falsehoods and evils as Marxism.

  • S.B. says:

    Henry, read again the words, “then the answer is certainly in the affirmative.” This is clearly an endorsement of the ideas just mentioned. Then the endorsement is qualified by what follows next.

    Result: a qualified endorsement.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Once again, I get to witness the Henry Karlson school of argumentation: attribute ideas and positions to people that they do not hold, and then proceed to demolish them. As a precursor, be sure not to read the words of the person you are criticizing, so as to maximize the foolishness of your appearance.

    Henry says,

    “Sorry Joe, the Church does look at them as two sides of the same problem” – as if I didn’t acknowledge that exact thing.

    I actually said, IN MY POST, that

    “the Catholic critique of capitalism cannot be attributed to an influence of liberalism or socialism, since it began not only in conjunction with, but as a necessary compliment to, the Church’s strong opposition to atheistic socialism and communism”

    In the HK school of argumentation, words that you have actually used to demonstrate that you already hold the position that HK says you ought to hold are completely ignored. On the other hand, words that might somehow demonstrate that you hold this evil, messed up reactionary position that HK says is bad are also conspicuously absent.

    Now if by “sides” HK means that the Church sees them as equal problems, the answer has to be “no, it doesn’t” – no capitalist country ever tried to systematically wipe out the Church or commit genocide against Christians. Almost every communist country actually did. This isn’t just about the functioning of economic systems but the philosophy underlying the entire political system. Capitalist society often neglects and diminishes man, but communism wanted to force him to become a “new man”, and sought to violently eradicate religion as a means to that end.

    But contrary to some on the right, on the economic level, yes, the Church sees capitalism and Marxism as the children of a common materialist father.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    American Knight,

    I never thought I’d say this, but I simply can’t respond to a post as long as yours.

    Do me a favor: break it down into four or five main points that you think are most important. Then I will respond to each.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    And, now that we’ve gotten that stuff out of the way, I put it to all of you:

    A truly Christian economy would have both “capitalist” and “socialist” elements. I use scare quotes because it is impossible to satisfy EVERYONE’s understanding of those words.

    There would be private property and freedom of exchange between producers: that is capitalistic, that is supported by the Church, no question.

    There would be some regulation, some taxation/redistribution: that could be “socialistic”, but is also supported by the Church.

    There would be worker ownership and economic democracy: these ideas are compatible with all of the above, and are also supported by the Church.

    You throw all that in a blender and I think you have the working principles of a Christian economy for the 21st century.

  • “Sorry Joe, the Church does look at them as two sides of the same problem” – as if I didn’t acknowledge that exact thing.

    I actually said, IN MY POST, that

    “the Catholic critique of capitalism cannot be attributed to an influence of liberalism or socialism, since it began not only in conjunction with, but as a necessary compliment to, the Church’s strong opposition to atheistic socialism and communism”

    Those two positions are not the same. More importantly you said, “The Catholic Church critiques capitalism but it does not condemn it, not in the same way she condemned communism” but the problem is its condemnations of capitalism is just that, criticism of it in the same way it criticizes Marxism.

    That is all I will add here.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    So now the word “condemn” means the same thing as “criticize”. Show me the encyclical, again, where a pope declares that no one can call themselves both a Catholic and a capitalist?

    All of the social encyclicals have focused on establishing rules for the capitalist and the worker – why would the popes bother with that if capitalism were condemned in the same way communism was? Where are the encyclicals that speak of a party apparatchiks’s duty to his government-assigned slaves?

    I would agree that the social teaching implores us to move beyond and transcend capitalism as we typically understand it, for many important reasons – but there is no question that while capitalism is conditionally acceptable, communism is unconditionally condemned. Certain aspects or consequences of unfettered capitalism are condemned, but those aspects could be eliminated and you could still have capitalism.

    I suppose you’re going to run back to Vox Nova now and complain to your friends. Bye bye. Come back soon.

  • S.B. btw forgets the word “if.” If x, then y.

    But the reality is not x. Therefore, once can’t say y. Saying not x does not mean not y, either. It just has no conclusion based upon the logic offered.

    Since what was said “if capitalism =x” was said, and capitalism does not mean x, then there is no affirmation.

    Joe: since the criticism offered by the Popes associates it with Marxism that leads to further conclusions. If A=B, and B=C, then A=C.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Henry,

    That is as ridiculous as stating that since the sky is blue, and the ocean is also blue, the sky must be the ocean.

    Again, you abuse the meaning of words – to “associate” one thing with another is not to claim that they are identical.

    You are making claims that your own evidence doesn’t even support: JP II speaks of a radical capitalist ideology, not capitalism as such. Nowhere will you find condemnations of the basic elements of capitalism, only of an ideology which seeks to prevent the state or any other agency from regulating their use.

    I would agree, in other words, that the Church condemns individualism and probably most forms of principled libertarianism (the pragmatic kind is a different story). But these do not amount to condemnations of capitalism.

    In fact, I would argue that the Church has primarily seen capitalism as a particular relationship between labor and capital. While proposing very specific rules for it, and while urging us to modify and transcend it, the Church has NOT condemned this system. It has condemned ideologies that would rationalize its abuses and discourage Catholics from peaceably amending it, but not the system itself. This is indisputable.

  • S.B. says:

    Um, Henry, the word “if” is a condition, i.e., a qualification. Hence, a “qualified” endorsement. The fact that you (wrongly) think that the condition doesn’t exist in some particular country is completely beside the point; the Pope’s qualified endorsement was made as to the free market system in general, not as to a specific country.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    From Quadragesimo Anno:

    “We, in keeping with Our fatherly solicitude, may answer their petitions, We make this pronouncement: Whether considered as a doctrine, or an historical fact, or a movement, Socialism, if it remains truly Socialism, even after it has yielded to truth and justice on the points which we have mentioned, cannot be reconciled with the teachings of the Catholic Church because its concept of society itself is utterly foreign to Christian truth.”

    No such statement has ever been made about capitalism. To even imply such a thing is to suggest that it is a sin, contrary to the teaching of the Church, to start or own a business, to hire workers for a wage, to produce and sell goods and services on the market, etc – a suggestion which is plainly and obviously absurd.

    Individualism, liberalism, libertarianism – these are not identical with “capitalism”. A worker-owned and democratically run cooperative, if it competes in a marketplace, is a capitalist enterprise – to suggest that this would be sinful, contrary to Church teaching, is also plainly and obviously absurd.

    We need economic democracy and more widespread ownership, yes. We need to cleanse popular culture and stigmatize the production of spiritual filth and disease for profit, yes. We need to insist that not only people but beauty, culture, intellect, and most importantly morality be placed above profit, that producers and sellers attempt to appeal to what is good and noble in man instead of what is vile and base for a quick buck, yes.

    But at the end of the day, private property and freedom of exchange must remain pillars of the economic system. In that sense a just economy will always be somewhat capitalistic. In that sense capitalism cannot be absolutely condemned.

  • I get the typical responses of SB who shows a sense of rhetoric, but not the issues at hand.

    It would be a conditional support of capitalism if what was said is what capitalism is; it isn’t what capitalism is, therefore, it is not support for capitalism. It is that simple. It’s like saying “If Islam is the religion of Christ as God incarnate, Islam is good” I have now given a conditional support of Islam. Not so, because what is said in the if has no connection to Islam. But this is the way to equivocate.

    Which, btw, is what Joe is claiming I have done. I agree if A=B and C=B that does not mean A=C. But that is not what I said. I have said “If A =B” and “B=C” then A=C. If “A is the same coin as B” and “the coin in which B is on is condemned” then “A is condemned.” Simple.

    More importantly, Joe, you are beginning to engage other rhetorical and logical errors. Error for the most part is based upon some exaggerated truth. The errors found in capitalism and socialism both are based upon some truths, so that a condemnation of one is not saying all that capitalism or socialism states is in error. So one can say “socialism cannot be absolutely condemned” because we can find many elements of it which are true. So that last bit is an attempt to make it sound like capitalism is special and what is said is not true about socialism, but that is not so.

    Finally, once again, your argument is all over the place when it comes to economic theory. That is a part of the problem: the assumption that “free market” is the same thing as “capitalism.” Once again, it is not. This is why you bring up a false conclusion: if capitalism is condemned, “is to suggest that it is a sin, contrary to the teaching of the Church, to start or own a business, to hire workers for a wage, to produce and sell goods and services on the market, etc.” Once again, what you need to do is look to what capitalism is — a rejection of which is not a rejection of “owning and starting a business” etc.

    http://sirolli.blogspot.com/2009/02/free-market-and-capitalism-are-not.html

    This explains quite well the distinctions.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Henry,

    You’ve read Quadragesimo Anno, haven’t you? You read the quote I provided, yes? All you have to do to make your point is show me where, in the same terms, capitalism has been condemned. To my knowledge, it hasn’t been.

    One CANNOT say “socialism cannot be absolutely condemned” because it HAS BEEN.

    “So that last bit is an attempt to make it sound like capitalism is special and what is said is not true about socialism, but that is not so.”

    Well then, how about instead of butchering symbolic logic, you provide the textual evidence that supports your claim? My claim is simple: that capitalism as such – putting aside certain ideological currents – as it is understood by the Papacy, has never been condemned, while socialism in all of its forms, as they are understood by the Papacy, has been. And I take those definitions more or less as my own.

    “That is a part of the problem: the assumption that “free market” is the same thing as “capitalism.””

    Is it dishonesty or illiteracy that leads you to assert that I made this claim? I included it on a list of elements of capitalism, but I did NOT say they were the same thing. Dishonesty, or illiteracy? Maybe you can break that one down into symbolic logic too!

    Why should one guy’s opinion on a blog, moreover, define what capitalism is? Why is the dictionary definition insufficient?

    “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”

    Private ownership – that was on my list. Free market – that is also on my list. Some dude on his blog might say otherwise, and that’s fine. If you want to redefine capitalism to the point where it consists only of things that are rejected by the Church, and redefine socialism until it comes into perfect alignment with Church teaching, be my guest.

    But it is just ridiculous to expect me or anyone else to share these obscure theoretical speculations. Present them for acceptance or rejection, but don’t insult us because we don’t automatically know what is floating around in your head, or on your favorite blog page.

    In common usage, “capitalism” has always included at least two things – private property and free markets. A third important aspect might also be the labor market, the buying and selling of labor power. If you want to say all of that is wrong, fine. But if all of that IS capitalism, THEN none of those things has been condemned by the Papacy. I maintain that a society with those elements would be a) capitalist to at least some extent and b) morally acceptable from a Catholic point of view.

    Moreover, this blog post doesn’t actually contain a definition of capitalism! It just asserts that the free market and capitalism are not identical, a point to which I readily agree – to be included in the definition of a thing, is not to be identified with the thing itself.

    You seriously need to look at your own glaringly obvious, even childish, logical blunders before you go around trying to point them out for others.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Just look at paragraph 2425 of the Catechism for a perfect example of what I am talking about:

    “The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor”

    What do we see here? Communism and socialism are rejected. But for capitalism, there are certain practices WITHIN capitalism that are rejected, but not capitalism ITSELF. “In the practice of capitalism” means, “while being a capitalist, you cannot do x,y, and z”. It does not mean “you cannot be a capitalist”.

    I never thought I would be defending capitalism like this, but my first duty is to the truth.

  • S.B. says:

    It would be a conditional support of capitalism if what was said is what capitalism is; IT ISN’T WHAT CAPITALISM IS, therefore, it is not support for capitalism.

    In terms of pure logic, that’s fine, but the capitalized part there is just completely invented in your own imagination. The Pope gave no hint that he was praising merely a theoretical version of capitalism that is impossible and that doesn’t even deserve to be called “capitalism.”

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    This from Laborem Exercens also helps understand capitalism:

    “Therefore, while the position of “rigid” capitalism must undergo continual revision, in order to be reformed from the point of view of human rights, both human rights in the widest sense and those linked with man’s work, it must be stated that, from the same point of view, these many deeply desired reforms cannot be achieved by an a priori elimination of private ownership of the means of production. For it must be noted that merely taking these means of production (capital) out of the hands of their private owners is not enough to ensure their satisfactory socialization. They cease to be the property of a certain social group, namely the private owners, and become the property of organized society, coming under the administration and direct control of another group of people, namely those who, though not owning them, from the fact of exercising power in society manage them on the level of the whole national or the local economy.

    This group in authority may carry out its task satisfactorily from the point of view of the priority of labour; but it may also carry it out badly by claiming for itself a monopoly of the administration and disposal of the means of production and not refraining even from offending basic human rights. Thus, merely converting the means of production into State property in the collectivist system is by no means equivalent to “socializing” that property. 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. A way towards that goal could be found by associating labour with the ownership of capital, as far as possible, and by producing a wide range of intermediate bodies with economic, social and cultural purposes; they would be bodies enjoying real autonomy with regard to the public powers, pursuing their specific aims in honest collaboration with each other and in subordination to the demands of the common good, and they would be living communities both in form and in substance, in the sense that the members of each body would be looked upon and treated as persons and encouraged to take an active part in the life of the body.”

    I maintain that if you have private ownership (of which worker ownership is one variant) of the means of production and relatively free markets, subject to reasonable regulation, you have an economy which can be safely defined as “capitalist”.

    It won’t satisfy hardcore libertarians, who really do equate totally free markets with capitalism, but if they cannot distinguish between regulation and obliteration, that is their exclusive problem, not mine or anyone else’s.

  • 1) It should be no surprise to anyone that Michael Moore is a Catholic. He’s been quite open about it. And his work breathes Catholicism.

    2) Joe, as usual, you express an incomplete view of the church’s teaching on “private property.” First, you do not make clear what is meant by “private property,” and second, you leave out what Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have said about situating private property within the broader understanding of the universal destination of goods. The “right” to private property is relative. (Interesting, how Catholics on thr right are “skeptical” of “rights language” and then invoke it to defend the “right” to private property and whatever other “rights” suit their interests.)

    3) I have not seen the film, but it seems to me that Moore and the priests involved are quite within Catholic teaching to make the claims that they do oabout capitalism. Catholic teaching is universalistic, abstract teaching. Moore et al. are making claims about actually existing conditions. The church recognizes in her teaching that capitalism can and in fact usually does become something demonic. The church is not naive about this. Like many issues, such as war, the church does not outright condemn these things in all cases but sets the bar so extremely high that it is unlikely in real life that war, the death penalty, or capitalism could ever be just. Joe’s statement that “what I think most of us really want is a type of capitalism that can work well for everyone” might be true, but it’s a fantasy. Capitalism is not interested in working well for everyone. Period.

    4) The ultimate argument here, that Joe must oppose any and all efforts to “fix” or even eradicate capitalism because abortion is currently legal is totally nonsensical. The capitalist-consumerist mentality is precisely one of the engines making sure that babies continue to die. You want to end abortion? You need to fight one of its root causes: the commodification of the human person. To help end abortion, you should oppose capitalism.

  • S.B. says:

    You need to fight one of its root causes: the commodification of the human person. To help end abortion, you should oppose capitalism.

    Did you know that abortion pre-dated capitalism by a few thousand years? The things you can learn if you ever pick up a history book.

    the church does not outright condemn these things in all cases but sets the bar so extremely high that it is unlikely in real life that war, the death penalty, or capitalism could ever be just.

    The Church has indeed said something like that as to the death penalty; but it has most certainly not said so as to capitalism. Once again, you’re investing your own hatreds with the supposed imprimatur of the Church.

  • Jay Anderson says:

    Wow, Joe. I saw on Facebook the other day where a conservative Catholic referred to you as a “communist”. Now we have Catholics on the left accusing you of being an unbridled capitalist (and of lying about it, to boot).

    Sounds to me like you’re doing something right. All I know is that the only people to whom you would come off as a proponent of either communism or capitalism must be complete ideologues.

  • Did you know that abortion pre-dated capitalism by a few thousand years? The things you can learn if you ever pick up a history book.

    Perhaps the use of the word “causes” threw you. Of course abortion came before capitalism. I am speaking contextually: in the united states one of the causes of abortion is the commodification of the human person which is obviously linked to capitalism.

    The Church has indeed said something like that as to the death penalty; but it has most certainly not said so as to capitalism. Once again, you’re investing your own hatreds with the supposed imprimatur of the Church.

    I’m not making anything up. In fact, CA, the most ostensibly “pro-capitalist” encyclical there is is what I am drawing from. The comparison with the death penalty and war is not unreasonable in light of the distinction between two types of capitalism that JPII (or Novak or whoever wrote it) identifies. We could rightly transpose JPII’s distinction into the language of “just capitalism” and “unjust capitalism.” And to argue that just capitalism is “rare if practically non-existent” is a reasonable conclusion to come to.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    M. Iafrate

    1) Moore supports abortion “rights”. That’s “breathing Catholicism”?

    2) “As usual”? What are you talking about?

    “First, you do not make clear what is meant by “private property,”

    Are you kidding? You really need a full textbook definition of that? If that’s what you want, fine, but for you to act as if I am somehow obliged to provide it to make a cogent argument is simply ridiculous. “As usual”.

    I am not a “Catholic on the right”, either. The right to private property has been proclaimed so often and with such insistence by Catholic social teaching that I have absolutely no need to justify it. Much of Rerum Novarum is dedicated to it, and no Pope has sought to correct or revise Leo on those points.

    Finally, on this point, it is disingenuous for you to suggest that any mention of the right of private property must necessarily include a mention of its proper use. My point was simply to establish the right, and I do not need to mention at all its proper use to do that, however important it may be. Your desperate need to “score points” in a debate, and NOTHING ELSE, is what motivates you to present this as if it were some flaw in the argument. It isn’t as if the right to private property can be revoked because it is being poorly used.

    As Pope Leo wrote,

    ” Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.” (15)

    3)

    “Joe’s statement that “what I think most of us really want is a type of capitalism that can work well for everyone” might be true, but it’s a fantasy. Capitalism is not interested in working well for everyone. Period.”

    Capitalism is not a person with interests. The fantasy is anthropomorphizing an abstraction and endowing it with a soul. No system is going to be perfect, but I contend that only a system that recognizing the natural right to private property – which is spelled out plainly and clearly in Catholic social teaching, no matter how you try to obfuscate it – as well as our freedom to engage in commerce and trade morally, two basic things which added together form at least one KIND of capitalism, is going to be respectful of our human nature.

    A capitalism which works well for everyone is most certainly not a fantasy, however; through the spread of worker-ownership and economic democracy, through the cooperative model, local economies which can still be classified as “capitalist” can be made to represent and satisfy the interests of the entire community. I know it may burn leftists to have to call it “capitalism”, but it is true; you have companies that are privately owned, but by a multitude instead of a handful – and they are competing on an open market. That’s capitalism. It’s a more democratic and equitable capitalism, it is a kind of capitalism that doesn’t resemble what we typically think of, but it is still capitalism.

    4) Please don’t lecture me about how consumerism contributes to abortion – go to my website and read my essay on that. You’ll see that we almost agree. Almost, because I absolutely reject that the transformation (or in your case elimination) of capitalism is the precondition for us to oppose one of the greatest evils of our time.

    You dare to accuse me of having failed to read or understand the papal encyclicals when the latest one says exactly what I have said? You just don’t get it, do you? These evils are in a feedback look – consumerism contributes to abortion, but as Benedict clearly argues, abortion and other anti-life practices in turn contribute to a deadening of our own sense of humanity and feed back into consumerism.

    We certainly can’t prioritize economic issues over life issues. Our moral integrity and dignity as a people, as a society and a civilization, depends heavily on our opposition to the commodification of human beings through abortion. That opposition cannot come merely in the form of economic reforms, as if man were just an empty vessel whose content is determined entirely by historical and social factors. It must come in the form of a consistent and ceaseless appeal to the conscience of society and all who inhabit it.

    If we do not stand up for the unborn, for the elderly, for those targeted by hedonism-materialism for elimination, then we have NO RIGHT to make demands on behalf of anyone else. If we cannot stand up for the least among us in a direct and meaningful way, then our moral credibility is zero and all claims to social justice are empty and hypocritical.

  • I can never figure out why Michael I. always goes after Joe so rabidly, and accuses him of being complicity in capitalism’s “demonic” “injustice” when Joe frequently catches flak from libertarians because he supports the redistribution of wealth and assuring that all workers achieve equal profits from their work through worker ownership of firms.

    I tend to think some of Joe’s idea’s are impractical or based on flawed economics, but I’m flumoxed as to how you’d go after them as unjust.

    Nor do I see how one can condemn “just capitalism” as a “fantasy” while holding to something as deeply unrealistic as anarchism as an ideal. But that’s a conversation for another day…

  • Moore supports abortion “rights”. That’s “breathing Catholicism”?

    On non-abortion issues, yes. I understand that you tend to reduce Catholicism to being anti-abortion, but that is not the whole of Catholicism.

    You really need a full textbook definition of that? If that’s what you want, fine, but for you to act as if I am somehow obliged to provide it to make a cogent argument is simply ridiculous.

    Well, folks on the left tend to be pretty careful about what they mean by private property. If you don’t intend to be as careful as them and just use the term without explaining yourself, fine.

    I am not a “Catholic on the right”, either.

    I didn’t accuse you of being one in that post. But methinks you doth protest too much.

    My point was simply to establish the right, and I do not need to mention at all its proper use to do that, however important it may be.

    It’s not only “important” (so important that you didn’t mention it, eh?) it is ESSENTIAL to the teaching on private property. You cannot assert the “right” without asserting also the responsibility attached to it. You know this.

    It isn’t as if the right to private property can be revoked because it is being poorly used.

    Um, yes actually that’s EXACTLY what it means. You can quote Pope Leo till you’re blue in the face, but Catholic social teaching didn’t stop there. It developed. Radically. And no, don’t just skip over to CA either. There’s stuff in between that you deliberately leave out. Thankfully Pope Benedict seems to want to correct this tendency.

    Capitalism is not a person with interests.

    EXACTLY. I’m not anthropomorphizing at all. Capitalism is a SYSTEM and it is a system in which concern for PERSONS is systematically excluded from the way it works. Your desire for a capitalism that respects persons is a fantasy.

    Almost, because I absolutely reject that the transformation (or in your case elimination) of capitalism is the precondition for us to oppose one of the greatest evils of our time.

    I never said it was a “precondition.” But you’re claiming to want an end to abortion (which is wrong because it treats a human person as a non-person) while at the same time promoting an economic system that AT ITS ROOT does the same exact thing. To hold such a position is common, but contradictory. The only way a view like that could be held is if you do not think very deeply about the fact that there are real, PERSONAL VICTIMS of both abortion and capitalism.

    We certainly can’t prioritize economic issues over life issues.

    NO, we certainly can’t compartmentalize “economic” issues vs. “life” issues. Unless you are a victim of this economic system you simply WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND that “economic issues” ARE life issues.

    If we do not stand up for the unborn, for the elderly, for those targeted by hedonism-materialism for elimination, then we have NO RIGHT to make demands on behalf of anyone else.

    I’m not recommending not standing up for the unborn.

  • j. christian says:

    Henry,

    So, based on this guy’s blog post, are you saying that it’s a *bad* thing that people have surplus capital to invest? We’d be better off on the subsistence model, then?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Darwin,

    Two things.

    1) I wouldn’t say that I am for ensuring “equal profits”. I think some disparity is ok – just not a lot. Examples: the Mondragon has a difference of between 4:1 and 9:1 between the top managers and the regular employees in terms of compensation (there are many different individual companies within the Mondragon itself).

    On the other hand, American CEOs make several hundred times more than American workers. We can attribute this difference to many things, but a big part of is the different ownership structure. When everyone owns the firm, you simply aren’t going to see pay differences of that magnitude. They will be “cut down to size” and reflect what I think are the more modest, i.e. the real differences between management and labor and their contributions to the firm.

    2) What is it that you think I propose that is impractical? I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but I am curious.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I also think Michael I is playing out that Orwell quote rather nicely – the one Don posted at the beginning of this mess, about leftism and playing with fire.

    I don’t know about Michael’s political history, but I once was an actual communist, and labored many hours and wrote many pages and recruited several people for the cause of international socialism. I didn’t just play with the fire, I was burned by it.

    I was once considered a pretty decent Marxist theoretician by the small commie circles I traveled in, and could recite the ABCs of communism like the real alphabet if someone asked me. On the Marxist understanding of capitalism, what I am proposing might not be capitalism – it is the production of surplus-value, but its appropriation by the producers themselves (or, I think, for a good long while, by the producers AND outside investors).

    I think it comes closer to John Stuart Mill’s capitalist-socialist hybrid that he develops in his “Chapters on Socialism”, posthumously published. And that in turn comes pretty close to what the Church sets forth as an ideal – as a gradual transition from what we normally think of as capitalism to something else, a system that some might call socialism, but which retains enough of the basic elements of capitalism that there is no need to abandon that label either.

  • Blackadder says:

    I think some disparity is ok – just not a lot. Examples: the Mondragon has a difference of between 4:1 and 9:1 between the top managers and the regular employees in terms of compensation

    I hardly want to derail the conversation, but I’m interested in why you would draw such a distinction. For one thing, it’s hard to see how one could have any principled objection to some employees getting paid 100 times more than others that wouldn’t also apply to their being paid 9 times as much as others.

  • Joe,

    Totally fair question given that my comment sounds a lot like an accusation.

    I guess at a most basic level, it looks to me like in the modern world (combination of modern technology, global communication, computer computational power, etc.) there’s the possibility of incredible inequality of value in different people’s work depending on the type of work they do and where they sit in the organization. And part of that is that some jobs tend to be much more interchangeable in their hiring (with similar results) than others. (That in itself probably needs a lot of unpacking, but I’ll try to leave it at that for now, but feel free to probe more if I’m being unclear.) Another big factor that pushes in the same direction is that there seem to be very strong advantages to large companies over small ones in many instances — which allows for the existence of single positions which have incredible financial influence because they involve making decisions that affect a very large amount of business activity (and thus a lot of money).

    Given that, it seems to me like the incentives are very, very strong for companies to offer people in the most influential positions a lot more money than those who are more interchangeable in their effect on the business. And so it seems to me that in many industries, firms that pay some people much, much more than others will predominate over those who are more equal in the rewards they give out.

    So while my preference runs to small to mid-size companies with a fair amount of equality in pay (along the 1:5 to 1:10 maximum range) I’m not sure we’re likely to see that predominate in the modern economy.

    Similarly, while I think there’s a very strong case for putting all workers on profit-sharing based bonus programs — I think there are probably incentives too strong to overcome in regards to capital accumulation and who is willing to take on risk towards companies in which the vast majority of actual ownership is taken on by investors rather than the workers within the company. So again, I think in a lot of areas of the economy traditional firms will always tend to predominate over worker owned ones.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Michael I,

    “I understand that you tend to reduce Catholicism to being anti-abortion”

    I do no such thing.

    “Well, folks on the left tend to be pretty careful about what they mean by private property”

    You didn’t define “the left”. How careless of you. You didn’t define the word “careful” either. How utterly careless.

    If we can’t communicate without supplying a glossary for each paragraph, we’re in pretty big trouble. We all know what private property means.

    “It’s not only “important” (so important that you didn’t mention it, eh?) it is ESSENTIAL to the teaching on private property.”

    It isn’t essential to simply stating that it is a right.

    “You cannot assert the “right” without asserting also the responsibility attached to it. You know this.”

    I can, and I did. I agree that the responsibility is also important, but in THIS CASE it was beside the point. I did make clear in the original post that all social institutions – including private property, – are subordinated to the common good.

    “Um, yes actually that’s EXACTLY what it means. You can quote Pope Leo till you’re blue in the face, but Catholic social teaching didn’t stop there”

    No, it isn’t. I guess now you need a glossary to understand what “natural right” (as Leo also describes it) and “inviolability” mean as well. An individual’s right to private property might be suspended, yes – but the right as such may not be denied to society by any authority, for it is natural and inviolable.

    Pope JP II spends a great deal of time going over Rerum Novarum in CA, and reaffirms several times the right to private property. I agree that a person who abuses private property rights can and should lose their rights to it, for a time, or permanently as the case may be. But there are no grounds for declaring that even the worst social calamities can justify the negation of a natural right. When JP II and other Popes stress that the right to private property is not “absolute”, they are almost always talking about a situation where the means of production are owned exclusively by a handful of individuals.

    I quoted Laborem Exercens above (which undermines your claim that I “left out” social teaching between Leo and now). JP II makes clear that the alternative to concentrated private ownership of the means of production is not to place them in the hands of the state, but to reduce the concentration and spread more ownership to workers. That idea is virtually identical to that expressed by Leo in RN with regard to ownership of the land.

    The answer to social ills, for all of the Pontiffs, has not been to abolish private property, as if society itself had “lost the right” to it, but to insist upon its more equitable distribution. This is indisputable, Michael.

    “Capitalism is a SYSTEM and it is a system in which concern for PERSONS is systematically excluded from the way it works. Your desire for a capitalism that respects persons is a fantasy.”

    This reflects only your own ignorance. All over the world worker-owned and democratically run businesses meet the needs of their workers and their communities. Even some that are not worker-owned nonetheless engage in socially responsible investment and production. Marxism is simply in error when it claims that there are “iron laws” of capitalism that prevent people from behaving virtuously within it; at times it can be more difficult, but through different models of ownership and control, it is not only possible to subsist but to thrive and excel. Surely you have heard of the Mondragon, and surely you are aware of the fact that there are now more workers in the US participating in profit-sharing programs than there are in unions.

    Capitalism IS democratizing, slowly but surely. It needs a strong push. But when you have a conservative Republican, a libertarian, a liberal Democrat and a socialist (by the names of Rohrabacher, Paul, Kucinich and Sanders) 10 years ago all co-sponsoring a bill that has as its primary objective the conversion of 30% of US companies into worker-owned and controlled enterprises within ten years, I’d say you at least have a possibility, and you’ve stepped out of the realm of fantasy.

    Finally, I’m sick of your leftist arrogance. Anyone who disagrees with you “hasn’t thought too deeply” – but that could never be said of you and anyone who slavishly agrees with all of your opinions, right? It isn’t possible for reasonable adults to disagree, no, the world is divided up into the people who think just enough, and the people who don’t. What nonsense. What an immature, infantile perspective. I can freely admit that I once held it myself. But reality, beyond the ivory tower, beyond the seminars and dissertations, teaches you something much different about people and how they think and why they think the things they do.

    You will never create a just society for people you think are too stupid to see your glaring brilliance, Michael. And you’re just plain wrong about capitalism. I agree that it contributes, it influences, but it does not CAUSE abortion. Human sin, human selfishness, are at the root.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    BA,

    To be honest, I’m interested in why you would see any problem with that. It’s like saying you can’t see why I ought to want to limit myself to one bowl of ice cream instead of 20. Quantity passes over into quality – one might make me feel better, two might be necessary sometimes, but 20 will always make me sick.

    I see no logical inconsistency whatsoever in saying that there is a mean between extremes, that we can find a proper range of values instead of declaring “all or nothing”. Managers and related positions have more time and effort invested in their education and training; their services are worth more, their compensation should be higher. The vast disparities between executives and workers in the US results from disparities in ownership, not disparities in the objective value of their labor.

    In the end, I am not opposed to disparity in principle, but only insofar as it threatens more important principles, such as social justice and social stability. For the life of me I will never understand why people are taken aback by such a position, or why the notion that we can limit something without abolishing it altogether is a stange idea.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Zach,

    You’ve heard of an ESOP, haven’t you?

    The idea, ultimately, is to demonstrate the viability of economic democracy. As I am so often told, wealth is not fixed, but often being created. So there are always new firms starting, always new opportunities for like-minded people to freely and voluntarily start new enterprises based on new models of ownership and control. No one’s rights have to be violated at all.

  • j. christian says:

    Somewhat related to this conversation, it might be fruitful for some to explore the work of one of the Nobel Prize winners in economics today. Oliver Williamson has done some interesting theoretical work on the structure and governance of industry, including the advantages many people see in working for a corporation over being an entrepreneur. Very worthwhile for anyone who wants to promote economic democracy, smaller firm sizes, etc.

  • Blackadder says:

    To be honest, I’m interested in why you would see any problem with that. It’s like saying you can’t see why I ought to want to limit myself to one bowl of ice cream instead of 20.

    How much ice cream one limits oneself to is a matter of taste and preference, not moral principle. If I decide that I’d like to limit myself to one bowl and see someone else eating two, I’m not going to get morally indignant about it or try and stop him from doing so.

    Beyond that, in terms of standard of living, the difference between the lowest salary at a company and nine times that salary is far greater than the difference between nine times the salary and a hundred times. To use your ice cream example, it’s like saying that there should be limits to how much ice cream you eat in a sitting, but the limit should be nine bowls.

  • j. christian says:

    Actually, BA, I think a moral prinicple might be involved in the level of executive compensation if it can be shown that resources are being misallocated to such compensation. There is some reason to believe that CEO pay is not entirely determined by its value marginal product of labor, I imagine. That would imply an inefficiency, and such inefficiencies often have moral implications (such as monopoly rents, to use a less contested example).

  • Blackadder says:

    J. Christian,

    I would agree with that. But then the problem wouldn’t be that the ratio between his salary and other employees was above a certain number. Someone could be overpaid at twice the base salary, whereas another could be underpaid at 100 times the base salary.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    BA,

    Actually, that just isn’t true. The human stomach is only so large – there is an objective limit. And for each person there is a limit at which, even though they may not be full, they will nonetheless begin to feel ill. This has nothing to do with taste or preference.

    The point here is that the “moral indignation” arises from the effects of this phenomenon, and not the phenomenon itself. Vast inequalities in wealth – and I know there are schools of thought that disagree – can lead to social unrest. They can also be a manifestation of a societies failure to meet the just and legitimate needs of its members.

    There is no disputing whatsoever that the Church is opposed to vast inequalities, but not all inequalities. Is this because of subjective feelings, or because it sees this as a symptom, a manifestation of a deeper problem? Obviously the latter. Quantity does matter, we can reasonably declare how much is too much, and I think it defies reason and common sense to declare otherwise.

    As for your second paragraph, doesn’t that depend on the company? And again, it isn’t about standard of living exactly – it is about a distribution of profit that more accurately reflects the real contributions of all of the members of the firm who played a role in creating it. Moreover, ownership and participation in the profits are ways of recognizing the human dignity of workers.

    You aren’t obliged to start or work at such a company – why must you always disparage it? If we’re bound and doomed to fail, let it happen. Then you can say “I told you so”, and I’ll say, “you were right”. Until then, why don’t you ease off? If you don’t have a principled objection to worker ownership and democratic control of the workplace, then I really, once again, have no idea what we are arguing over.

  • I also think Michael I is playing out that Orwell quote rather nicely – the one Don posted at the beginning of this mess, about leftism and playing with fire.

    The only fire I’m playing with is the fire of the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t know about Michael’s political history…

    Was a republicatholilc at one point. Never was a communist and never will be.

    “I understand that you tend to reduce Catholicism to being anti-abortion”

    I do no such thing.

    You do. This post is a fine example of it. Perhaps the clearest you’ve ever been on the matter. Everything is reduced to abortion in your mind, every social issue comes back to it. The fight against abortion is automatically in conflict with every other social struggle. That simply is not reality. That ideological in the purest sense.

    If we can’t communicate without supplying a glossary for each paragraph, we’re in pretty big trouble. We all know what private property means.

    Only ideologues are not interested in taking seriously the definitions of such things. You’ve made your choice: “everyone knows” what private property means. That’s simply not true.

    It isn’t essential to simply stating that it is a right.

    It is ESSENTIAL to the CATHOLIC understanding of private property, and it is necessary to INCLUDE it if you want to portray Catholic teaching accurately and distinguish it from capitalist thought. Again, you prefer simplistic categories rather than the truth.

    Finally, I’m sick of your leftist arrogance. Anyone who disagrees with you “hasn’t thought too deeply” – but that could never be said of you and anyone who slavishly agrees with all of your opinions, right?

    You’re perfectly free to say such things. In fact, you did above. I do not insist that you agree with me on everything. But I do insist that you portray Catholic teaching on matters such as private property accurately.

    But reality, beyond the ivory tower, beyond the seminars and dissertations, teaches you something much different about people and how they think and why they think the things they do.

    Utterly hilarious. Shows how much you know about my approach to academia, a culture that I think is mostly laughable. Perhaps you have not put 2 and 2 together that I am a liberationist, and thus, not too keen on academic life. But no, in order to know that you’d have to know me. Instead you just rattle off your mindless assumptions and accusations. You have to make it personal in order to “win” an argument. Make it personal, and stoop to the level of ridicule, even if it is laughably inaccurate. Fine, if that’s the way you want to play and throw around your “intelligence.”

    You will never create a just society for people you think are too stupid to see your glaring brilliance, Michael.

    This ain’t about me and my brilliance, Joe. I don’t oppose capitalism because I “thought it through.” It’s no accomplishment on my part. I oppose capitalism because I am listening to its victims. If only you would take the victims of capitalism as seriously as you take the Latin Mass…

  • One more thing Joe…

    You keep talking about worker-ownership and economic democracy, and I am all about those things. Your interest in such ideas indeed sets you apart from most republicatholic capitalists. But it makes no sense to me why you are claiming that worker-ownership and economic democracy are somehow “capitalist.” True worker-ownership is NOT capitalism. Capitalism is NOT simply buying and selling things. In fact, that’s one way pro-capitalists fool people into being “in favor” of capitalism. Who could be against buying and selling things? No many people. So of course, capitalism must be good. But no, capitalism is not simply buying and selling things.

    But surely you know this. So the question remains, why are you so interested in stuffing worker-ownership and economic democracy into the box of capitalism? Why are you so committed to defending “capitalism,” when clearly your moral instincts have led you somewhere else entirely: toward worker-ownership and economic democracy?

    Is it a street cred thing? Don’t want to appear as an anti-capitalist to your more “conservative” readers?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I simply don’t have the energy to keep up with this barrage posts.

    A few final points for Michael, and then this is closed.

    1) I do not “reduce” everything to abortion – I put it and other issues regarding the sanctity of life at the top of my hierarchy of values/priorities. There is a difference.

    2) I’m not going to bend to your ridiculous and unreasonable ranting about the need to include all of the aspects of private property to simply establish that there is a right to it. Give it up.

    3) I apologize for making assumptions about your life. It was wrong, I shouldn’t have done it, and I can only ask forgiveness for it. I may not be able to control my reactions all of the time in a com-box debate, but I can at least apologize when I am out of line, as I was here.

    4) It is even more ridiculous for you to criticize my use of the phrase private property when you repeatedly use the word capitalism without defining it. By the common understanding of capitalism, worker-ownership in a marketplace IS capitalism. It is the kind of capitalism that, to use JP II’s words, has been modified, updated, brought into line with human rights and dignity.

    To answer your question, how we present our ideas is important. To the vast majority of people, “anti-capitalism” = socialism. It would also = a negation of private property and free trade. If the vast majority of people understand that “capitalism = private property + freedom of trade” and I am calling myself an “anti-capitalist”, then logically the average person would conclude that I am anti private property and anti trade, when in fact, I am not.

    Why should I burden myself with a label I don’t even think is accurate? I’m fine with the majority of people thinking capitalism is private property + free trade.

    What people call a system means nothing. What people DO matters. If worker ownership, economic democracy, regulation and redistribution can co-exist with private property and free trade – which they can – then there is no reason to erase the label “capitalist”. Maybe that doesn’t meet your definition or the Marxist definition or some one else’s definition of capitalism, but really, who gives a damn?

    Might I suggest that, rather than being fooled, you are allowing your attachment to a word to cloud your judgement?

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