The Conservative Bible

This is pretty funny, but at times it makes me cringe.

Nonetheless it is humor so don’t take this seriously at all!

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89 Responses to The Conservative Bible

  • Now you’ve done it, you intolerant fascist!

    ::braces for the anarch-attack::

    This was funny :)

  • Hilarious! I’d pay to see Jon Voigt in a spoof of the Da Vinci Code!

  • I find no condemnation in what Conservapedia is doing:

    http://conservapedia.com/Conservative_Bible_Project

    If you don’t like their Bible translation, then don’t read it.

    BTW, the NRSV is decidedly liberal with its inclusive language. Why does no one make fun of their translators?

  • This Colbert interview with Andy Schafly, who is in charge of the ‘Conservative Bible,’ is amazing. An actual quote: “Most of the parables of Jesus are free market parables.”

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/113891/the-colbert-report-andy-schlafly

  • The Red State guys’ riff on the Conservative vs. Liberal Jesus was a hoot. Which got me to thinking about Conservative vs Liberal Mary…

    I guess Our Lady of Fatima would be the “conservative” Mary because of her anti-Communism while Our Lady of Guadalupe would be the “liberal” Mary because of her association with all those illegal aliens…

  • Or maybe Our Lady of Lourdes would have to be the Liberal Mary because her devotion to healing the sick proves she’s in favor of universal health care!

  • I find no condemnation in what Conservapedia is doing

    Then you aren’t very perceptive. They aren’t simply doing a translation. Look at their principles one more time. They are deleting parts of the Bible. Even the supposed “liberal” Bible translations do not do that.

  • Free market parables? That’s unbelievably ridiculous.

  • Paul, just to elaborate, here is #8 of their principles:

    8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story

    You see no problem with this? Seriously?

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe would be the “liberal” Mary because of her association with all those illegal aliens…

    Yeah, but the Spanish were there to stay.

  • Something like the “Conservative Bible Project” can most certainly use a good mocking.

  • Something like the “Conservative Bible Project” can most certainly use a good mocking.

    We agree on something.

    So the question is this: if we all agree that although Jesus’ parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic, but that they are not “free market” messages, why the unwavering defense of the free market in your circles? Clearly the economic dimensions of the scriptures are more in line with the ideas of socialism. What is it that makes you all free market types, defenders of capitalism, etc. then?

  • Jesus’ parables didn’t touch on matters of civil government at all.

  • I don’t agree that Jesus’s parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic. I find that kind of reductionism repulsive, actually.

    As to individual property v. state-controlled property, I think there are fruitful tensions running throughout the New Testament, and, not surprisingly, Caritas in Veritate and the other papal encyclicals on the subject.

  • S.B. – What I said was economics, but your claim is false as well.

    I find that kind of reductionism repulsive, actually.

    Well, it order to call talk of “free market parables” “reductionistic,” there would have to be at least a little talk of the “free market” in the parables. Or else you could not “reduce” their meaning to promotion of the free market at all. There is NOTHING about the “free market” in the parables at all. That would be anarchronistic.

    As to individual property v. state-controlled property, I think there are fruitful tensions running throughout the New Testament, and, not surprisingly, Caritas in Veritate and the other papal encyclicals on the subject.

    Again, anarchronistic. Especially the notion of “individual property” which is an Enlightenment idea. It’s not present in the scriptures. Modern papal encyclicals, certainly, but we are talking about scripture.

  • I think that the idea of the “conservative bible” is mockable for roughly the same reason that I think that extreme left leaning re-interpretations of the Bible (say, the Book-of-Ruth-as-inspiring-Lesbian-incest-parable reading) should be mocked: because trying to shove your own interests and agendas into God’s Word rather than actually reading God’s Word to see what it tells you rather than what you want to tell it is something which should be rejected, and if necessary mocked.

    I don’t agree that Jesus’ parables and ultimate message are primarily (or even much) about economics, free market or otherwise. And I don’t think that the economic dimensions of the scriptures are even remotely in line with the ideas of socialism. (Indeed, socialism was explicitly rejected by the popes in their social encyclicals.)

  • Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning: The parable of the talents, the treasure in the, the pearl of great price. However, if you took those as being primarily about how to succeed in business (or, indeed, at all about how to succeed in business, except to the extent that Jesus was drawing on the everyday economic instincts of his listeners to make a point through analogy), you’d clearly be missing the boat.

    As for whether or not the concept of individual property existed at the time of Christ — there may not have been a formal theory of individual property as was developed in the Enlightenment by Locke and others, but that doesn’t mean that the concept was not in use in an everyday form. Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables. That doesn’t mean that the parables are about individual property, but it would be mistaken to suggest that those before the Enlightenment didn’t have any concept of individual property (or the communal obligations which over-rule one’s ability to decide how to dispose of one’s property.)

  • Individual property was an Enlightenment idea?

    I beg to differ. Aristotle had quite a bit to say about private property, as well as common property.

    Many of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, though certainly not all, based at least some of their ideas on the thinkers of antiquity.

  • As for the parables, I’ve heard that the parable of the talents is supposed to be a “free market parable”, which is nonsense – it is an analogy, not an endorsement of any economic system. We may as well conclude that the parable of the vineyard was an endorsement of total equalization of wages regardless of the amount of work done by the individual laborers.

    That isn’t to say that I think Jesus had nothing at all to say about economics – but I don’t believe any of it is to be found in his parables, which are meant to illustrate much different things.

  • Private property has been around since Cronk chased away the fellow who got too close to his club.

  • There’s an awful lot packed into the seventh commandment about private property. I can’t even believe it’s become a talking point.

    The conservative bible is worthy of profound contempt, but as others have pointed out, so are other ideological attempts at conforming God’s word to their pet ideologies.

  • if we all agree that although Jesus’ parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic

    Why would we all agree on one of the dumbest ideas ever?

    Check out Exodus 20:17 “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.”

    You think that came from the Enlightenment?

  • And I don’t think that the economic dimensions of the scriptures are even remotely in line with the ideas of socialism. (Indeed, socialism was explicitly rejected by the popes in their social encyclicals.)

    Not even remotely? Are you kidding? You have read the Bible, right? Not the Book of Mormon, but the Bible?

    And what does the fact that many popes rejected various forms of socialism have to do with what the Bible says?

    Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables.

    Oh, you mean the parables about absentee landlords and landless day laborers? What was that you said about reading your own politics into the scriptures?

    Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning.

    The so-called “surface meaning” would certainly not be in conflict with the imposed “spiritualized” meaning, right?

    For all the Enlightened pro-capitalist liberals on this site, I’m kind of surprised that you think “private property” as described by capitalists is in the Bible. That’s simply anarchronistic. Actually I’m not surprised. The confusion of the definition of “private property” is precisely what free market types do to keep less intelligent people supporting capitalism: “You mean those socialists want to take away my flat screen TV?!? I’d have to share my DVDs with the neighborhood?!?”

  • Uh, Michael, check out S.B.’s post above. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife, etc.” In other words, keep your mitts off other people’s property. It’s a rather irksome Commandment for socialists, I would say. If capitalists must be wary of greed, the besetting sin of socialism is envy.

  • Donna – Sounds like you’re one of the people I referred to in my previous comment. Socialists like myself have no problem with that commandment.

  • Socialists like myself…

    Not that I think being a socialist is a good thing, but at least you’ve landed on a term that aligns with your ideology. The whole anarchism can mean supporting an all powerful state which owns and controls all capital was never really convincing.

  • Rick – Perhaps you are not aware that anarchism is a subset of socialism?

  • State ownership of the means of production is “a subset of socialism”? Ha ha. Just try to stay clear on the concept of anarchism while rolling the phrase “state ownership” around in your mind. Doublethink nirvana, that’s what you’ll have.

  • I don’t think the parables are about economics. However, if you were to treat them as if they were about economics, a number of them would take on a distinctly free market flair.

  • Btw, if my word were law, I’d probably banish the words ‘socialism’ ‘capitalism’ and ‘anarchism’ from political discourse. All three terms have so many confusing connotations associated with them that it can be quite difficult to reach understanding when they are invoked. Michael, for example, uses all three terms with a meaning that is different than what I suspect is the meaning associated with the terms by most people here (Michael’s not wrong, it’s just not the popular understanding). If people understood what he was saying, I suspect they would find it less objectionable, though I think they still would not be close to agreeing with him (admittedly, it is hard to disentangle how much of the difference is due to differences in the speaker’s values or perceptions of fact, and how much is just a matter of language).

  • Not even remotely? Are you kidding? You have read the Bible, right? Not the Book of Mormon, but the Bible?

    Sigh… Yes. I’ve read the Bible. All of it at least once, parts like the Gospels dozens of times. (Actually, I never read more than the first two chapters of the Book of Mormon — but don’t tell those nice Mormon missionaries who come to the door that.)

    Rhetorical questions work better when they’re not unlikely and sarcastic.

    And what does the fact that many popes rejected various forms of socialism have to do with what the Bible says?

    Well, perhaps if Christ had preached socialism then the popes would not have condemned it as incompatible with Christianity…?

    “Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables.”

    Oh, you mean the parables about absentee landlords and landless day laborers? What was that you said about reading your own politics into the scriptures?

    Um, well, yes, at a strictly historical/sociological level, it would certainly seem that the parables involving land owners and laborers and parables such as that of the Talents (which involves a master demanding to see return on his investments) would suggest that Jesus’s audience assumed that capital was usually controlled by private ownership, not collective ownership.

    Now, I certainly wouldn’t say that this means that Jesus was telling people that capital/means of production should be privately owned (or, indeed, that they shouldn’t) it’s just that in seeking to tell stories that illustrate a point, Jesus talks about situations which would have been familiar to his audience, and those situations clearly imply that private ownership of capital was common enough as to be assumed by his audience. Now does Jesus condemn this, rather he condemns the failure of those with food, shelter, clothing, etc. to share it with those who do not have it.

    So now that you bring it up, you have me curious: Obviously, the parable of the bad tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) is primarily about the relationship between God and Israel, but if you think it says or implies anything about Christ’s message on economics, what do you think it tells us?

    “Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning.”

    The so-called “surface meaning” would certainly not be in conflict with the imposed “spiritualized” meaning, right?

    I must admit, I’m a little confused by this reply. Let me take a very specific example, the parable of the treasure in the field. I would describe the “surface meaning” (which, yes, I’m aware is not a technical term in exegesis) or perhaps more precisely, the surface story as being one of sharp dealing. A man finds out that there’s a treasure buried in a field which the owner doesn’t know about. In what Adam Smith’s charming 18th century prose would describe as “sharp dealing” he sells everything that he has and buys the field, so that he can then claim ownership to the treasure, which we will then assumedly dig up and turn a massive profit on his deal since he bought field and treasure for the price of just the field.

    Now, is the idea that one should stake all one’s wealth to turn a huge profit based on inside information the point of the parable? Absolutely not! Christ is making an analogy between something everyone in his audience understands (the desire to turn a big profit on a sharp deal) and what they should really be willing to stake all that they have on: achieving the eternal kingdom.

    This is not a “free market parable” because Christ is not urging his listeners to stake all their possessions on a sharp business deal — rather it’s a parable which draws on the existing business sense in the audience to point out to them that the returns they are pursuing in this world are inconsequential in eternity, and that rather than staking everything to get rich, they should stake everything to achieve salvation.

    For all the Enlightened pro-capitalist liberals on this site, I’m kind of surprised that you think “private property” as described by capitalists is in the Bible. That’s simply anarchronistic. Actually I’m not surprised. The confusion of the definition of “private property” is precisely what free market types do to keep less intelligent people supporting capitalism: “You mean those socialists want to take away my flat screen TV?!? I’d have to share my DVDs with the neighborhood?!?”

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    Different attempts at socialism and communism have drawn up different rules as far as how far one’s ability to have “private property” goes, but it’s always an essentially arbitrary distinction and at root a selfish and materialist one: you can own “personal” property which you use strictly for your own purposes within set limits, but you can’t actually own a business or other productive asset which you work to provide value both to your customers, your employees, and your dependents.

    And, indeed, it’s the attempt to ignore human nature and demand that people work only for the betterment of the abstract “society” rather than directly to provide for their family and loved ones which has caused socialist experiments to fail again and again.

  • Darwin,

    I have to say that I don’t find your logic sound.

    “Well, perhaps if Christ had preached socialism then the popes would not have condemned it as incompatible with Christianity…?”

    The Popes condemnations of socialism are not based on any parables of Christ, or any sort of direct condemnation of any sort of even quasi-socialistic idea. It’s just not in the Gospels.

    While I don’t think Jesus preached, or would have preached, any sort of state socialism or collectivism (if we’re going to speculate), I have a hard time imagining him preaching the gospel of economic growth too.

    If we look at some of the economic practices of the Old Testament, for instance – the jubilee year of debt forgiveness, the restoration of property (see, there’s private property in the Torah too, clearly), the ban on usury, on financial parasitism, on God’s commands throughout the entire Bible to be mindful of the orphan and the widow – we see an economic philosophy that is mindful of private property but absolutely insistent upon a social obligation as well.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that God, as Jesus, would depart from the economic structure He set up in the Torah or Pentateuch. It looks like the early Christians tried to preserve it to some extent as well.

  • I don’t see any reason to believe that God, as Jesus, would depart from the economic structure He set up in the Torah or Pentateuch.

    I don’t think we can take the economic regulations found in the Torah or Pentateuch to represent any sort of ideal. Several of the prominent regulations (e.g. debt forgiveness and usury) turned out to have some significant negative unintended consequences, which is why both Christian and Jewish law ultimately found ways to render them a nullity.

  • Negative from what standpoint?

    Our first consideration is the state of our souls, not the level of ‘economic growth.’

    At no point did God say, “stop doing that debt forgiveness and open up a debtor’s prison instead.”

    It was once every seven years, a way to wipe the slate clean as an act of goodness. What economy ever collapsed because of debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury? On the other hand an excess of usury is arguably why this economy has collapsed. Greed is not good. It is a sin for a reason.

    Of course the economic regulations in the Torah are an ideal – they correspond to ideal moral behavior, they correspond to an ideal disposition which regards moral goodness and purity as the top priority. That being said, I see no reason to believe that they destroy economies either.

  • I will add that I think the Catholic Encyclopedia has a good overview of the subject. There seems to be room for interpretation on usury, though the exploitation of the poor through it (or through any other means) is explicitly and severely condemned. And I think this was the spirit of the original law – usury is evil when it is used to take advantage of a person’s misfortune.

    Unfortunately, in our society, people who excel at just that are hailed as “smart” and “inventive.”

  • Joe,

    …George Soros comes to mind as someone as “smart” and “inventive” when he took advantage of the poor.

  • Joe,

    The seven year debt forgiveness was modified not because it impeded ‘economic growth’ but because it was found to be harming the poor, i.e. the people the law was (presumably) intended to help. The problem with negating all debts every seven years is that creditors know that it is going to happen, and so won’t lend unless the loan will be repaid before the next debt forgiveness. That means, for example, that if you are in the latter part of the sixth year, it is going to be impossible to find anyone who will lend you money.

    It was this sort of problem that led rabbis such as Hillel to create the prosbul, which allowed loans to avoid the seven year cancellation.

  • So basically what you’re saying is, God instituted a bad law that human wisdom had to make better. God is an incompetent economic bungler.

    The law didn’t hurt the poor – people who sought to circumvent the law hurt the poor. Human greed hurt and continues to hurt the poor – not the economic precepts of the Bible or the Church.

  • Joe,

    Obviously the law wasn’t intended to hurt the poor. At the same time, the poor were made worse off by the existence of the law than they would have been otherwise. You can say this is because of the dastardly actions of lenders. Fine. Still, the fact that lenders will respond to the law in a dastardly way means that the law is a bad idea. I don’t think that makes God an “incompetent economic bungler” anymore than the various laws about cleansing make God a medical and scientific illiterate. What it does mean, however, is that we can’t take the Old Testament law as being some sort of ideal legal code, rather than something that served a purpose only in a particular time and place.

  • “Still, the fact that lenders will respond to the law in a dastardly way means that the law is a bad idea.”

    I don’t see at all how one follows from the other. People respond to all sorts of laws in “dastardly” ways; that is not an adequate justification for their abrogation!

    I’m not convinced that this law meant that the “poor were worse off.” It can be argued, but I doubt it could be proven.

    As for the comparison to laws about cleansing, they have no relevance. There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago. The same could not be said of medical advances. I’ll grant that some OT laws must be updated given our technological advancements – but I will maintain that the Biblical economic laws do not fall into that category. This is not about adapting to a new situation which did not previous exist, but rather circumventing a law that one finds inconvenient.

  • And on further thought, I have to point out that you are arguing that the law was faulty from the beginning – so I’m not sure what historical context has to do with it. If people “reacted badly” to it as soon as it was instituted, then it was bad then as it is bad now, in your view at least.

    How does this not make God, in your view, an incompetent bungler?

    Better to say that is we who fail to live up to the “ideal”, in reality, the law, that God established.

  • There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago.

    One is occurring in the context of regular year-to-year improvements in real income drawn from technological applications and more deft division of labor. The extension of credit can commonly be a capital investment. The opportunity for that is fairly uncertain and constrained in an economic context where secular improvements in living standards are at a very low rate and often succeeded by periods of secular decline in living standards.

    With regard to lending for purposes of consumption, if I am not mistaken there are differences in practical effects seen when this is done in agricultural economies where specie is comparatively scarce. It has been so long I have forgotten the analysis, though.

    I am not sure why it is ‘dastardly’ to limit your extension of credit to contracts of a limited term of years.

    And I think this was the spirit of the original law – usury is evil when it is used to take advantage of a person’s misfortune.

    That sounds like a critique of loan sharks or payday lenders or (perhaps) pawn brokers. Auto finance companies? Not so sure.

  • Joe,

    I think I might have been less than clear, or perhaps we mis-understood each other a bit: I certainly don’t think that the Church has set down a ruling on the sort of economic system endorsed by the parables of Christ — I don’t think that any economic system is endorsed by them. My point was more that if Christ clearly endorsed a socialist economic system in his parables (which is what I thought Michael had suggested — rather to my surprise) that the Church would not have turned around and condemned socialism when it became a political issue. Given the fact that the Church _has_ condemned socialism, I would assume that (unless the Church is false) socialism is not a system which Christ peached.

    Indeed, I would agree exactly with your point that to the extent that we see any economic philosophy in Christ’s teaching (and I don’t think that economics, as I would use the term, was at all a major facet of his message to humanity) it is one which in which private property is implicit, yet our obligations to our brothers and sisters are emphasized most of all.

    My only point about private property and “free market” surface values in the parables is that it seems to me that several of the parables are clearly addressed to an audience which is indeed with capital and the means of production being privately owned. I don’t think Christ says anything particularly for or against that, it just seems to be the way that people assumed things often worked in first century Palestine.

  • People respond to all sorts of laws in “dastardly” ways; that is not an adequate justification for their abrogation!

    It depends on whether such dastardly behavior defeats the purpose of the law. If the purpose of a law is to help the poor, and people react to the law in a way that leaves the poor worse off, then yes, that justifies getting rid of the law.

    I’m not convinced that this law meant that the “poor were worse off.”

    What is the source of your skepticism here? Is it that you don’t think lenders would refuse to lend money that wasn’t to be repaid before the jubilee? Or is it that you do think they would do this, but you aren’t sure poor people being denied loans would make them worse off?

    There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago.

    Did the ancient Israelites have credit cards? Adjustable rate mortgages (or any kind of mortgage, for that matter)? Venture capital? Was there a bond market? Was there even a banking system?

    Even aside from technical advances, the difference between a largely poor, agriculture based society like ancient Israel and today’s society is going to be enormous just based on the amount of lending involved. The Ancient Israelites didn’t have a whole lot of surplus capital, so there wasn’t going to be a huge amount of lending (particularly long term lending) in any event. So the rule may not have actually had much of an effect at the time, and served a mainly symbolic purpose, which is what you would have to say about some of the cleansing rituals as well (sprinkling a man with dove’s blood is not just a less effective method of treating a man with leprosy than what we can do with modern medicine; it’s not an effective treatment at all).

  • First of all, I’m not convinced that the law was established merely to help the poor. People at all levels of society lend and borrow money. The purpose, if I am going to make an educated guess, was to encourage solidarity and forgiveness among the people, as well as to demonstrate that there things of much greater importance than money. In addition I believe the purpose was God’s benevolence towards His people.

    Secondly, the argument still doesn’t hold up. People argue that the illegality of prostitution or narcotics makes things more dangerous for all parties involved – in Europe they have “sex workers unions”, in some places, legalized prostitution. The theory is that “people will do it anyway, so let’s make it safe.” This extends to sex education, where children are given condoms because they’re supposedly incapable of doing what is right.

    The logic is the same here – people are going to be tight-fisted with their money, so let’s make it easier for them to do so rather than, as a society, make a clear statement about our values by declaring this behavior illegal.

    Whatever ills befall us because of obedience to an inherently good law must certainly be more bearable, from the standpoint of our salvation, than whatever temporary benefit we derive from an inherently bad one.

    That being said, I’m willing to accept that the tradition of the Church has allowed for moderate usury in certain historical circumstances. What I am not willing to accept is that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on exploitative usury are so bad that we must essentially declare God incompetent and do things however we see fit. It is our behavior that must be modified, and our attitudes – not God’s law.

    The source of my skepticism, to answer your second point, is that I am not aware of any historical evidence that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury caused either the Israelites, the early Christians, or Christian society throughout the Middle Ages any serious social catastrophes. I’m open to the possibility that it may exist, but I haven’t seen it.

    Finally, I think my last point is misunderstood. We may have different financial devices, but the essence of the matter is the same – to, or to not, forgive debts and charge onerous rates of interest for profit.

    You admit that you don’t really know what effect the rule had at the time, nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases. I wouldn’t argue that a businesses’ debt fell into the same category as a family that took out a loan for something essential. I think the application can be selective, provided that it fulfills the purpose God originally intended, on which I speculated earlier in this reply.

  • State ownership of the means of production is “a subset of socialism”? Ha ha.

    State ownership of the means of production is one type of socialism. But socialism does not need to be statist. More generally, socialism involves communal ownership of the means of production. It includes non-statist forms such as indigenous socialisms and various forms of anarchism. Even in Marxism, the goal is a stateless, classless society, not state ownership of the means of production. Hope this clears things up for you.

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    No, it’s an important distinction if the central issue is who owns the means of production, which is precisely the issue.

    …it’s always an essentially arbitrary distinction and at root a selfish and materialist one: you can own “personal” property which you use strictly for your own purposes within set limits, but you can’t actually own a business or other productive asset which you work to provide value both to your customers, your employees, and your dependents.

    Interesting use of the word “selfish,” that.

    And, indeed, it’s the attempt to ignore human nature and demand that people work only for the betterment of the abstract “society” rather than directly to provide for their family and loved ones which has caused socialist experiments to fail again and again.

    This makes no sense.

    Given the fact that the Church _has_ condemned socialism, I would assume that (unless the Church is false) socialism is not a system which Christ peached.

    Socialism is NOT a “system” at all but a tendency. There is no one form of socialism. The Church has NOT condemned “socialism.” For example, countless indigenous societies are organized according to indigenous forms of socialism. The Church obviously has not condemned these forms of socialism. The Church has not condemned the socialism of monasticism. The Church has not condemned democratic socialism. Please stop parroting the lie that the Church has “condemned socialism.” It hasn’t.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in Old Testament times, I believe the only means many “ordinary” folk had for repaying large debts was either to sell their ancestral lands (what we might call the “family farm”) or sell themselves and/or their children into slavery. The jubilee year provisions for debt forgiveness, freeing of slaves, and return of land to its original owners was a way to give affected families a fresh start, and prevent them from turning into a permanent “underclass.”

  • Did the Mosaic practice of forgiving debts every seven years persist among Christians, Joe? And even into the Middle Ages?

    I’d be curious to read about that if you have a citation on it.

    I must admit, the only context I’d heard about it in was in a talk I heard by an economist who was Jewish, who used the example of how Rabbinical teaching modified the original law (because of its bad effects on poor people wanting to borrow money) as an example of how attempts to regulate debt don’t always work as intended. I had never heard the practice was carried on into Christian times — though obviously various practices for forgiving debt of those unable to pay were supported by the Church in various times and places.

    I’m not sure that saying the seven year debt forgiveness law wouldn’t work well would necessarily suggest incompetence on God’s part. There’s a _lot_ of Old Testament Jewish law, and clearly Christ considered some of it to be sub-optimal. (Divorce, being the key example.)

    That said, clearly charity, justice, and social stability all suggest the need for some kind of debt forgiveness for those who can’t pay. Morally, I’d say we’re calling not to profit unreasonably from the need of others, and that can at times mean personally forgiving debts owed one. At a secular level, that’s what bankruptcy is for. And indeed, in that regard, the US is particularly generous, having bankruptcy laws far more favorable to debtors than one finds in Europe. (Some have observed this probably has a lot to do with the historical fact of so many people having emigrated to the US to escape their debts in Europe.)

  • I’m not convinced that the law was established merely to help the poor. People at all levels of society lend and borrow money.

    Well, it *seems* to be intended to help debtors, who will, on average, tend to be poorer than creditors (hence the need to borrow money).

    Secondly, the argument still doesn’t hold up. People argue that the illegality of prostitution or narcotics makes things more dangerous for all parties involved

    I favor the legalization of drugs and prostitution for precisely this reason. So your reductio has no effect on me.

    Let me counter with one of my own. Suppose I propose that once every seven years we let everyone out of jail, and offer a general pardon for all crimes committed. You might object to this law on the grounds that some of the murders, rapists, and thieves released will go on to murder, rape, and rob once they are released, and that as you get close to the forgiveness date people will be more likely to commit crimes, since they know the punishment will be brief at best. Is it a valid response to this objection to say that if people respond to the clemency by murdering, raping, and robbing they are to blame, not the clemency? I think not. Law has to take account of ordinary human wickedness and frailty. If it does not that is a deficiency in the law.

    I am not aware of any historical evidence that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury caused either the Israelites, the early Christians, or Christian society throughout the Middle Ages any serious social catastrophes.

    I don’t think the Christians used the seven year debt forgiveness idea in any substantial way, and the prosbul was created under Jewish law in the first century BC, so it’s not like these ideas were tried out in a variety of historical settings. In addition, if a modern society were to adopt a prohibition on interest taking or a seven year debt forgiveness and were to then be reduced to the economic condition of the Israelites, the early Christians, or the Middle Ages, this would count as a serious catastrophe. So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.

    nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases.

    You don’t know what would happen if we made it mandatory today for debts to be cancelled every seven years? Seriously?

  • nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases.

    Let me put it this way. Remember the housing crisis last year? That happened because the rate of people not paying back their mortgages went from around 1% to around 2%. What do you think would happen if the rate were to go to 100%?

  • You don’t know what would happen if we made it mandatory today for debts to be cancelled every seven years? Seriously?

    Capitalists would lose what is rightfully “theirs” and society would obviously collapse.

  • Well, if you’re going to define socialism so broadly as to include monasteries and indigenous societies, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation. (Heck, at that point, many small businesses are probably socialist, in that many of them are owned in equal parts by several partners, who make up the sole workers at the company.)

    I do want to touch on one exchange, though, as it ties in to issues that strike me as moderately important and general:

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    No, it’s an important distinction if the central issue is who owns the means of production, which is precisely the issue.

    Okay, so example: I own two large propane burners and several large pots suitable for brewing beer, as well as various fermentors, etc. These are my “private property” in the sense that I take it you’re saying socialism would have no problem with. I use them to brew up 5-10 gallon batches of beer which I bottle and then consume privately or give away to friends and family. Now, based on what you’ve said, this is fine under socialism so long as the brewing equipment is strictly for private use. However, say that times are tough and my neighbors are thirsty, so I start brewing every week and selling cases of beer to others. This goes well, and I want help, so I offer to pay my neighbor an hour to help me with brewing, sanitizing bottles, bottling, and delivery. If I offer to pay him a wage (which is a fair or even very generous wage for the work he’s doing) but want to keep the rest of the profits beyond his wages for myself, on the theory that we’re using my equipment, brewing at my house, and selling through the customer base that I built up — we now immediately have a problem where socialism is concerned. It’s not considered legitimate for me to own my equipment and my premises and be in charge of the operation. And yet, so long as I simply guzzled all the beer myself (or gave it to people I happened to like) rather than selling it to people who wanted it, and so long as I used the equipment myself rather than offering a fair wage to someone to help me out, I was fine.

    So yeah, I’d say that’s pretty arbitrary. Why should it be perfectly legitimate for me to own the same thing and do the same activity so long as I do it for strictly selfish reasons, but if I provide a service to a larger number of people in return for a fair price, and employ someone for a fair wage, now I’m not allowed to own these same items?

  • Capitalists would lose what is rightfully “theirs” and society would obviously collapse.

    Well, for example, everyone but the very richest would be stuck renting their homes, because no one would be willing to give you a loan which would last more than the length of time till the next forgiveness year. Few people can afford to pay for a house in seven years, must less two or three.

    Though, of course, that would also serve to decrease the value of land, and cause wild gyrations in property values. Land would sell for more the year after a jubilee, since potential buyers could get a six year loan, and it would be almost impossible to sell land the year before a jubilee, since any buyer would have to pay cash.

    Or perhaps something that Michael will sympathize with more: Only the very rich could go to college, since no one would be willing to issue long term loans for tuition.

  • I had no idea you favored the legalization of prostitution and drugs. Do you really find that position to be at all compatible with Church teaching?

    I don’t find your comparison to letting all the criminals out of jail very compelling. I wouldn’t object to it on the grounds you suggest, but on the grounds that the debt a criminal owes to society is of a different order than that which a borrower owns the lender. The criminal has done objective wrong to someone and must pay in full. The borrower has not wronged anyone.

    For you and Darwin both, I threw everything together for the sake convenience; I didn’t mean to say that debt forgiveness every seven years extended into the Middle Ages, but prohibitions on usury did. The point being that at no point did these practices bring ruin to any society.

    Obviously I am not proposing anything remotely close to lowering standards of living to the level of Israelites or the Middle Ages, though I don’t think we would all die if we chose to gradually live like, say, the Amish, who seem to do alright with a minimal amount of modern technology.

    But that is a separate story anyway. In our society, for reasons Elaine pointed out, we may not do it every seven years on the dot. The idea would be to capture the spirit of the law, if not the letter, and to forgive debts in those cases where it would clearly bring a person or a family or even entire third world nations out of debt bondage. And it would be a good idea to do this every so often, as a sign of good will.

    “So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.”

    So where is the evidence that it is, again?

    As for the final sarcastic questions, I already made it clear that the law can be selectively applied. I don’t know if you just chose to ignore that, or if you honestly just didn’t get it. Who knows?

    The housing crisis was caused by, among other things, rampant, malignant, predatory lending. But since the government seems determined to just keep printing more money to solve every financial crisis, why not bail everyone out? Why should Wall Street get hundreds of billions of dollars when that same amount of money disbursed throughout the whole economy would probably have a much better effect? The modern equivalent of the jubilee year could be a bail out for the people instead of the parasitic, blood-sucking, unholy vampires that caused this catastrophe to begin with.

  • “society would obviously collapse.”

    He’s got that right, even if completely unwittingly.

  • I’ll add that as opposed to even trying to adhere to the spirit of that law, we’ve simply forgotten about it.

    That’s quite a big roll of the dice, if you ask me, to just assume that God doesn’t care anymore about the forgiveness of debt, and that we have no obligation to find ways in which we can do so. And if we’ve created a society that is structured such that it can only exist through permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, perhaps the foundations of that society itself are rotten.

  • And I’ll add one more thing, while I’m at it: I think adhering to the spirit of the law would not require the forgiveness of debt for commercial enterprises or conspicuous consumption or mega-mansions or anything of the sort.

    It would apply to necessities, such as medicine, transportation, etc. I don’t think anyone in ancient Israel borrowed to finance a new speedboat, and I think it would be a mockery of God to assume that such “lifestyle upgrade” purchases would be included in the deal.

    And I will repeat, so I am not twisted out of context again, though I probably will be anyway, that I still believe it can be selectively applied even if we get down to necessities. The necessity of the moment would count for more than the necessity at the time the money was first borrowed.

  • Bankruptcy is basically institutionalized debt forgiveness for those who have reached a point where debt is putting them into a state of bondage. Does that count at all?

    Clearly, it’s different from the idea of simply wiping debt at intervals, but it does seem to achieve the basic aim of allowing people who are totally unable to pay off their debts to exit their obligations — leaving the creditors, generally, to eat the loss.

  • Well, if you’re going to define socialism so broadly as to include monasteries and indigenous societies, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation.

    Baloney. You define socialism in a narrow way that socialists do not recognize. And you do so in order to exclude obviously life-giving forms of social organization from consideration in order to prolong the myth that capitalism is the best set of economic arrangements. All socialists would recognize monasticism and indigenous forms of economics as socialism. Only capitalists do not.

    “society would obviously collapse.”

    He’s got that right, even if completely unwittingly.

    If the “society” that you want to hang onto depends upon debt for its existence, then your preferred society is evil.

  • That is a point worth considering, Darwin, though is it not also true that a bankruptcy can still ruin a person’s life in other ways?

    In other news, how can one read these references to usury in the Bible in a positive light?

    http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/s?t=1&q=usury&b=drb

  • Well, I’ll be, MI and I sort of agree for once.

    We have to question whether or not we have built a society that God would be pleased with. If we aren’t doing that, then why do we bother with this religion? If were going to legalize prostitution and turn the entire economy into a casino, why do we bother with the Bible, the tradition of the Church or the social teaching?

    It would be easier to just invent a new religion, or have none at all.

  • This has been a very no debt evening, as I’m sitting here refreshing the thread in one tab, while reading through Megan McArdle’s profile of Dave Ramsey’s cash-only approach to personal finance in another:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200912/mcardle-ramsey-debt

    And listening to the EconTalk podcast also discussing his no debt/pay in case approach.

  • Baloney. You define socialism in a narrow way that socialists do not recognize. And you do so in order to exclude obviously life-giving forms of social organization from consideration in order to prolong the myth that capitalism is the best set of economic arrangements. All socialists would recognize monasticism and indigenous forms of economics as socialism. Only capitalists do not.

    Well, I’ll make you a deal, Michael. I’ll agree to fully support the existence of voluntary or otherwise non-statist forms of socialism if these are forms that “all socialists” support. And you can support me in opposing any attempt to use the power of the state to impose social ownership of the means of production by force. I’m absolutely supportive of your desire to live in a voluntary, socialist collective — so long as you’re not intent on forcing other people to follow suit. And if you every change your mind, I’ll equally support you in leaving.

    Is it a deal?

    (Though I would be curious, since you say I have no understanding of socialism, how you’d react to my question about the brewing. Is it just fine to run a brewing business of the sort I described under socialism, rather than being forced to socialize my means of production as soon as I use them to provide a service to others rather than simply for my own benefit?)

  • That is a point worth considering, Darwin, though is it not also true that a bankruptcy can still ruin a person’s life in other ways?

    Well, bankruptcy involves forgiving some of your debts in many cases, while with others it renegotiates your debt in ways that you agree that you’re able to pay. In cases where you don’t have the ability to make any kind of payments in the long term, it can mean giving up leveraged assets (say, the house and/or car that you have loans on) which you can’t arrange to pay for even on extended payment schedules and renegotiated terms. Unsecured debts are often pretty much canceled. (And the government, predictably, watches out for itself. Tax debt and subsidized student loans can’t be forgiven in a bankruptcy.)

    It also leaves you unable to borrow money for several years — which in such a case is perhaps not a good idea anyway.

    Certainly, it’s not painless, though it’s much less painful here than in most other countries.

    I guess my point in mentioning it is: I fully agree that it would be a problem if there were no means for clearing people of unpayable debt burdens. And I think, actually, that basically all “capitalist” economists would agree with that. One of the major justifications for allowing a creditor to collect interest is that he bears the risk that he may not be repayed.

    I also agree that offering people loans under certain predatory terms is immoral (usury), though I don’t know that I’d agree that all debt is usury. However, I think some of the more arbitrary approaches to clearing debt would be pretty destructive. And I don’t think that the use of debt to allow people to own assets (homes, cars, educations, etc.) and to start and run businesses makes society “evil”, by any stretch. Properly used, debt is simply a means of getting an asset while paying for it rather than only after paying for it, and as such it can allow money to move through society more quickly and is especially helpful to those who currently don’t have money but are trying to better their condition.

  • Well, I’ll make you a deal, Michael. I’ll agree to fully support the existence of voluntary or otherwise non-statist forms of socialism if these are forms that “all socialists” support.

    You still have trouble reading, eh? I never said that all socialists support non-statist forms of socialism. I said that all socialists would recognize them as forms of socialism.

    And you can support me in opposing any attempt to use the power of the state to impose social ownership of the means of production by force.

    I am opposed to both the state and to the state’s use of force.

  • Well Darwin, I was pretty specifically referring to permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, and I don’t see how one can argue that our society not only condones but has developed a dependency upon these things.

    I don’t think there is anything arbitrary about the kind of debt forgiveness I am talking about.

  • You still have trouble reading, eh? I never said that all socialists support non-statist forms of socialism. I said that all socialists would recognize them as forms of socialism.

    Hmm. I guess socialism is something it’s easy to be confused by. So all socialists would recognize non-statist forms of socialism as socialism, but some (most?) of socialists not support those non statist forms and instead seek to impose statist socialism? It almost sounds to me like they wouldn’t recognize these non-statist forms as socialism, if they’d seem to replace them with statist socialism instead.

    I am opposed to both the state and to the state’s use of force.

    Interesting. So would you oppose, on principle, the state using its power to enforce some policy even if you considered the policy itself desireable (say, a guaranteed living wage, or the socialization — in the statist case nationalization — of the means of production)?

    Or is it more that you don’t prefer the state and its use of force, but you’ll take it if that’s the easiest way to get what you want?

    Okay, I realized now I’m just arguing to argue, and I apologize to everyone for that.

    Michael, if you do have any thoughts on a proper socialist understanding of my brewing example, I would honestly be curious. Otherwise, good evening.

  • Well Darwin, I was pretty specifically referring to permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, and I don’t see how one can argue that our society not only condones but has developed a dependency upon these things.

    I don’t think there is anything arbitrary about the kind of debt forgiveness I am talking about.

    Well, I guess it strikes me it would be arbitrary to cancel all debts every seven years regardless of whether one is capable of making them or not (though I recognize you aren’t suggesting instituting that practice). For instance, I don’t see why it would be just to cancel my mortgage, when I’m perfectly capable of paying it and it’s quite a reasonable set of terms.

    I do, however, see a point in forgiving insurmountable debt.

    As for whether our society is built on excessive usury and permanent indebtedness — that’s probably a much longer discussion…

    It sounds to me like we may well agree on the moral point, but have differences in regards to matters of fact.

  • If I remember my Bible study classes of years ago correctly, there is a difference between the “sabbatical” years which took place every 7 years, and the “jubilee” years which occurred after seven sabbatical year cycles (7 times 7 years) were completed.

    The sabbatical years were intended to be years of “rest” for the land, during which no crops were planted, comparable to the Sabbath days observed by the people. This was obviously intended to prevent exhaustion of the soil; the same effect is achieved today through crop rotation and conservation subsidies to farmers. Also persons who had sold themselves into certain forms of slavery or indentured servitude were supposed to be freed in the sabbatical years, though they could choose NOT to be freed in certain circumstances.

    Debt forgiveness and return of land to the original owner was actually more a feature of the 50-year jubilee cycle. Forgiving debts every 50 years would make more sense than doing it every 7 years; it would be long enough of a term to allow for long term investment in things like mortgages, etc. but would also provide a periodic “reset” to the economy so that, as I explained above, debts did not rise to unsustainable levels and people who had fallen into debt or slavery did not become permanently mired in poverty.

    If all debts were forgiven every 50 years, it would create problems for people trying to borrow money or buy homes in the last few years before a jubilee year, of course. But it would give most people a chance to experience one economic “do over” in their lifetimes, maybe two depending on their age.

  • Also, on a 50-year debt forgiveness cycle, the economy would probably contract or even go into recession the closer it got to the jubilee year, but would quickly rebound once it passed. How’s that for an economic “stimulus” plan :-)

  • I had no idea you favored the legalization of prostitution and drugs. Do you really find that position to be at all compatible with Church teaching?

    Sure. My position on prostitution, for example, is the same as that held by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

    “So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.”

    So where is the evidence that it is, again?

    Try this, for a start.

    I will repeat, so I am not twisted out of context again, though I probably will be anyway, that I still believe it can be selectively applied even if we get down to necessities.

    I’m all for debt forgiveness where it will do more good than harm. If that’s all you meant, then we don’t disagree.

    I don’t think we would all die if we chose to gradually live like, say, the Amish, who seem to do alright with a minimal amount of modern technology.

    The population that the earth would support if we were all living at the level of the Amish is in the millions, rather than the billions. So you’re right that we wouldn’t *all* die, but most people would.

    The housing crisis was caused by, among other things, rampant, malignant, predatory lending.

    This may have been a more ultimate cause, but the proximate cause was the lack of payment due to an increase in foreclosures. If you had an increase in the lack of payments due to government imposed fiat, this would have the same effect.

  • The population that the earth would support if we were all living at the level of the Amish is in the millions, rather than the billions. So you’re right that we wouldn’t *all* die, but most people would.

    LOL!

  • All three terms have so many confusing connotations associated with them that it can be quite difficult to reach understanding when they are invoked. Michael, for example, uses all three terms with a meaning that is different than what I suspect is the meaning associated with the terms by most people here (Michael’s not wrong, it’s just not the popular understanding).

    It is interesting that the only people who contest my understandings of these terms are conservatives and/or republicans. I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    I’m also not sure why it would surprise folks here that my understanding of these terms, as someone sympathetic to them as a sort of “insider” is different from those here at The American Catholic who are decidedly NOT insiders and are hostile to such ideas. If you all were to ask an atheist to define Roman Catholicism would you expect to get an adequate answer? Probably not. It is uncontroversial to claim that many folks here have an inadequate, narrow, and even distorted understanding of terms like “socialism.”

    Blackadder rightly distinguishes between my understanding of these terms and the “popular” understanding of the terms, which is correct. And it should be pointed out that the context in which the “popular” understandings developed is one that has historically been hostile to these ideas, often violently so in the case of fanatical american anti-communism, and that the popular definitions have been shaped by this hostile context. The definition of “socialism” has been intentionally distorted by those hostile to various socialist ideas. It is important for folks here to break out of americanist understandings of these terms and consider how they are used by people throughout the world.

  • I think a gradual reduction of our dependence upon technology to live simpler lives is not inherently wrong, provided it is voluntary. Nor do I think the technologies that support food production or other vital things that people need have to be reduced, but I fail to see how six billion people depend directly on the proliferation of technical gadgets that most of them don’t have to begin with. The third world is well below the level of the Amish, who can and do gradually implement new technologies because they have ready access to them. It isn’t about hating technology for its own sake, but avoiding those things that destroy the social fabric.

  • Oh, and, how about debt forgiveness when it IS good? When it is simply a good thing to do in itself, even if nothing good from a pragmatic economic standpoint will occur? Is that alright with you?

  • I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    The old “no enemies on the left” phenomenon.

  • I must also state that the position of the Church, today, right now, is that prostitution should be illegal, that it is an intrinsically evil act.

  • S.B.,

    Huh? The left is nothing but enemies. They squabble far more than people on the right. The history of the broader socialist movement in this country alone would make your head spin with all of the party formations, splits, reformations, and splits again, and so on, and so forth. The far left, radical, revolutionary left, is comprised of a thousand self-proclaimed, would-be messiahs and their devoted cult followings.

  • That cliche arose from the fact that a lot of liberals had only muted criticisms (at most) of socialism/communism, because they felt somewhat guilty for not being willing to be more radical themselves. I’m sure that once you get out among the real weirdos, everyone hates each other.

  • I will say, however, that I think a gradual reduction of our dependence upon technology to live simpler lives is not inherently wrong, provided it is voluntary.

    Agreed.

    Nor do I think the technologies that support food production or other vital things that people need have to be reduced, but I fail to see how six billion people depend directly on the proliferation of technical gadgets that most of them don’t have to begin with. The third world is well below the level of the Amish, who can and do gradually implement new technologies because they have ready access to them.

    Around a third of the population of Africa is malnourished, and if it wasn’t for food aid starvation and malnutrition would be even more rampant. The agricultural productivity of the Amish just isn’t large enough to support a multibillion level population. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that there were non-Amish who buy Amish made furniture, produce, etc., I’m not sure that even they could live as well as they currently do.

    Oh, and, how about debt forgiveness when it IS good? When it is simply a good thing to do in itself, even if nothing good from a pragmatic economic standpoint will occur? Is that alright with you?

    Sure.

  • I must also state that the position of the Church, today, right now, is that prostitution should be illegal, that it is an intrinsically evil act.

    The Church has always taught that prostitution is an intrinsically evil act. Aquinas and Augustine both believed it was intrinsically evil. It doesn’t follow that it should be illegal. There are plenty of things that are intrinsically evil but not criminal (lying, for example, or masturbation).

  • That cliche arose from the fact that a lot of liberals had only muted criticisms (at most) of socialism/communism, because they felt somewhat guilty for not being willing to be more radical themselves.

    Kind of like the muted criticism that right wing Christians in Europe and North America gave to the fascists and Nazis.

  • Darwin – You? Arguing just to argue? Perish the thought. I always thought you were constantly and consistently working in pursuit of truth? Guess not.

  • It is interesting that the only people who contest my understandings of these terms are conservatives and/or republicans. I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    Well, for what it’s worth, it’s always liberals (such as several of your co-bloggers) who go around insisting that American conservative thought is not “truly conservative”, or claiming that modern conservative and free market ideas never existed prior to the Enlightenment. I’ve never had conservatives or libertarians (in all their many stripes) make such an objection to me.

    That said, clearly thought in the far left cannot be fully in agreement and monolithic, since as I recall, the last time we had a long comment thread on the nature of anarchism you ended up telling us that a great number of the things said about anarchism on one of the high traffic anarchist FAQs were not actually the case. You may all acknowledge each other as being some form of roughly the same movement, but you clearly do have quite a bit of disagreement and factionalism going on.

    Probably part of the source disagreement is that we don’t see how some of your claims about anarchist/socialist thought could possibly be self consistent. For instance, you say on the one hand that you oppose the use of coercion, and yet you also support the socialization of the means of production. To a free market conservative, it’s very difficult to imagine how you could enforce socialization of the means of production without using force to do it. (And indeed, this is how it has always worked in actual socialist states.) Clearly, there are similar blind spots that you find when attempting to understand a conservative worldview.

    One thing that might help to bridge this gap, if you have a strong interest in helping people understand your worldview, even if they don’t already agree with it, would be if you made a frequent effort in posts and comments to explain how an anarchist/socialist worldview would be applied in clear and everyday situations.

    Which is a sneaky way of coming around one last time to sayind I am honestly curious as to what a proper socialist answer to my brewing equipment question would be. :-)

  • Darwin,

    In Laborem Exercens, JP II argues that state ownership of the means of production is not its “socialization”, but rather, worker ownership (or at least participation) is how property becomes truly “socialized.”

    Socialization of the means of production can and does take place voluntarily, in everything from democratic workers cooperatives to profit-sharing companies.

  • Well, for what it’s worth, it’s always liberals (such as several of your co-bloggers) who go around insisting that American conservative thought is not “truly conservative”, or claiming that modern conservative and free market ideas never existed prior to the Enlightenment. I’ve never had conservatives or libertarians (in all their many stripes) make such an objection to me.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with me. And I’m not really intending to get into a defense of any of them in this context, but I’m not sure about which co-bloggers you mean. The ones who make claims about what is “truly conservative” are often the bloggers who are indeed attracted to various forms of conservatism and are painted as “liberals” by people who object to their voting Democrat from time to time. That doesn’t make one a “liberal.” Some of them who are called “liberals” by TAC folks/types look awfully conservative to me.

    That said, clearly thought in the far left cannot be fully in agreement and monolithic, since as I recall, the last time we had a long comment thread on the nature of anarchism you ended up telling us that a great number of the things said about anarchism on one of the high traffic anarchist FAQs were not actually the case. You may all acknowledge each other as being some form of roughly the same movement, but you clearly do have quite a bit of disagreement and factionalism going on.

    Of course it’s not monolithic. That is a fact that I have been arguing all along. It is the point I am trying to make here in this thread. “Socialism” is huge and diverse.

    Probably part of the source disagreement is that we don’t see how some of your claims about anarchist/socialist thought could possibly be self consistent. For instance, you say on the one hand that you oppose the use of coercion, and yet you also support the socialization of the means of production. To a free market conservative, it’s very difficult to imagine how you could enforce socialization of the means of production without using force to do it. (And indeed, this is how it has always worked in actual socialist states.) Clearly, there are similar blind spots that you find when attempting to understand a conservative worldview.

    The fact that you, as a conservative, find it “difficult to imagine” how a socialist society would come about except through force does not make my views inconsistent. I am in favor of the culture shifting to such a degree that non-statist socialism becomes “common sense” instead of capitalism and social and economic structures change accordingly. Just as you extended a “deal” to me, that we agree that I should be able to live in a “socialist commune” if I want so long as I do not impose my ideas on the supposed capitalist majority (which makes no sense, because that “deal” does not need to be made – that is, in fact reality right now), should society shift the other way, because of my non-coercive commitments, you would be free to set up a little selfish capitalist commune experiment if you want to. A few of you can all sit around in your compound extracting wealth from the majority. A little utopia, heaven on earth! ;)

    One thing that might help to bridge this gap, if you have a strong interest in helping people understand your worldview, even if they don’t already agree with it, would be if you made a frequent effort in posts and comments to explain how an anarchist/socialist worldview would be applied in clear and everyday situations.

    Obviously I can’t do that every time. In fact, it would be seen as “derailing” conversations I’m sure. Should you wish to have that conversation, start it. But I can’t be asked to explain in detail what I mean by certain words and statements in these kinds of conversations, just as you can’t constantly define “conservative” or “republican” or “AK-47″ every time you use those words.

    Which is a sneaky way of coming around one last time to sayind I am honestly curious as to what a proper socialist answer to my brewing equipment question would be. :-)

    I didn’t read that comment of yours and I don’t have the patience to back track and find it.

    And Darwin, Joe is right about L.E. on socialization of production.

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