53 Responses to From “Third Ways” to the First Way

  • You were attracted to what you thought was Distributism, but it really was something entirely different. Distributism does not distribute property to the populace, as if it were government, it is purely an economic system in which profits are shared among all the workers and each worker owns his own equipment.

    I stopped reading after your statement I was once attracted to the idea of Distributism, until I came to the vital question of who would be doing the “distributing” of the private property that everyone was supposed to own, but I assume that whatever your conclusions are, they are probably wrong because it was based on a false premise.

  • Good post. Yes, you hit on the dilemma of Distributism. The only example that I can think of is the Homestead Act of 1862 which ‘distributed’ land if people were willing to work the land. Unfortunately, much of that land was taken from the Indian tribes and a century later consolidated by oligopolistic corporations. In my reading of Christopher Dawson, culture and economic systems evolve over time. There was in the late medieval period a sort of distributism economy at work but this was destroyed during the Reformation. The introduction of usury at that time, rise of the nation state and confiscation of church lands effectively killed the evolution of a more distributive economy by the 17th century and the industrial revolution in the 19th century killed the small agrarian ‘lifestyle’ for good. Chesterton and Belloc were looking backwards towards that ‘lost’ model but you can’t impose distributism….it must evolve over time based upon agreed upon societal and cultural principles.

  • Third Way? Not even close.

    We shall have four more years of wrecking the evil, unjust private sector.

    I think we want to avoid starting out with “how we want ‘things’ to be” or “how we think ‘things’ should be” and analyze what/how things are. When you have a handle on what/how things are, you can form and suggest improvements. I try to make money from knowledge

    At the moment, a gang of unaudited, unelected PhD’s, and their crackpot monetary theories, run the World.

    KK: What does that mean? Is it that each worker is born with his own equipment, or is given it by God?

  • @T.Shaw: Obviously the worker would be given the gift of being able to work from God, but the materials he uses (such as his hammer, or a computer, or whatever) would be purchased from a retailer and not gifted to him by the company or government.

  • let us try to recover the Republic that out founders originally intended and the God our nation once trusted. Neither of your two choices is truly viable. There can be no compromise between good and evil. The Democrat Party should be anathema.

  • kyle,
    In Distributism what happens if a worker chooses not to spend all his profits? May he seek a return from his savings? If so, how?

  • @Mike Petrik: In the Distributist model of the economy, banks are replaced with Credit Unions. Last I checked, CU’s do offer savings accounts with interest.

    If you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life, you have seen Distributist banking in theory. Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, is the model of Distributist banking while Lionel Barrymore’s Mr Henry Potter is the model of Capitalist banking. Bailey is invested in the people and their welfare, Potter is invested in making more money.

  • Aren’t entrepeneur’s workers who actually work for the wealth they create while they hire other workers at a salary those workers agree to in order to create that wealth? And is not an agree-to amount of the wealth shared from (or paid by) the entrepeneur who works to his subsidiary workers? And is that not the distributionism to which we ought to aspire? You want wealth? Work for it!

    “For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: If any one will not work, let him not eat.” 2nd Thessalonians 3:10

    You don’t get to have what isn’t yours.

  • @Paul. I think the difference is the underlying assumptions regarding human nature that inform the different approaches. Distributism would purport that humans are naturally relational, an approach of course originally proposed by Aristotle, interpreted by Aquinas through the lens of the New Testament, and, as far as I know, the current understanding of the Church. Therefore, society is not merely an aggregation of individuals. Indeed, the dichotomy of individual vs. society would be incoherent. From this perspective, a business owner should be just as motivated by contributing to the community (promoting the livelihood of others, producing an actual worthwhile product instead of something that plays off of human weakness) as they are by turning a profit.

    The other approach is derived from the Lockesian concept of radical individualism. Hiring employees is not seen as a “good” in and of itself, but merely a means toward the generation of wealth. Obviously many entrepreneurs do choose to hire people for less than self-motivated reasons (my brother makes a point of hiring people with mental handicaps to work at his restaurant), but that’s out of their own volition, not a product of the capitalist/classical liberal hybrid society we live in. As Tocqueville says, “Americans are better than their philosophy.” But once those other influences begin to wane, as we’re seeing with the replacement of authentic religion with a flimsy sort of humanism, I think we’ll see just how ugly and incompatible with Catholicism classical liberalism really is. If you have a First Things subscription, I’d encourage you to read Patrick Deneen’s recent essay on the unsustainability of liberalism. Good stuff.

  • “Indeed, the dichotomy of individual vs. society would be incoherent.”

    Though the concept of person and society isn’t and Paul’ comment does not contradict that.

    Perfect relation of unity and distinction is present in God in the Trinity. In human nature, especially fallen nature, there will always be some separation if not dichotomy.

  • @Phillip.
    Sure. We are individuals while also simultaneously part of a larger community. Lockesian philosophy seeks to separate the two, presenting the individual as a self-sufficient entity that can stand on its own, free of society, the Church, and the family. We are not and we cannot.

  • “Lockesian philosophy seeks to separate the two, presenting the individual as a self-sufficient entity that can stand on its own, free of society, the Church, and the family. We are not and we cannot.”

    I will agree with that to the extent I have read Locke. I don’t know if other Lockean scholars will agree.

    But its not clear that Capitalism (or the American experiment) is an effort at Lockean philosophy.

  • But as a societal or political regime, it will either rest upon consent or it will rest upon force.

    What societal or political regime, in the end, does NOT rest upon consent or force. In fact, what regime does not rest ultimately upon force? If not for the threat of incarceration or other penalties, which of us would pay taxes to subsidize government programs the ruling class decides we need?

    Even the right to private property has to be protected, in the end, by force. The use of force by the government is not ipso facto wrong. The problem is that the government is run by those with various levels of ability (or desire) to seek the common good. Some mistake their policies as consistent with the common good when in fact they are not. Now whether or not distributism is in fact consistent with the common good, I do not know.

  • Kyle,

    Distributists like John Medaille, Thomas Storck and Chris Ferrara don’t talk about Distributism as a “purely economic” model of a firm. They talk about it as a complete vision of society. If it really were just about employee ownership, well, a) we wouldn’t need a special theory called “Distributism” because its already a widely practiced thing (there are more workers in employee stock plans now than there are in unions) and b) they wouldn’t be talking about guild systems, the elimination of usury, financial regulations and a whole host of ideas that go far beyond the mere advocacy of worker ownership.

    JL,

    No one believes – not Locke, not anyone – by the way, that anyone is a “self-sufficient entity that can stand on its own, free of society, etc.” This is complete nonsense. That people form families and societies is a given in Locke’s state of nature.

  • JL,

    You wrote, “From this perspective, a business owner should be just as motivated by contributing to the community (promoting the livelihood of others, producing an actual worthwhile product instead of something that plays off of human weakness) as they are by turning a profit.”

    I agree and maintain that this must never be mandated by secular law but be taught by the Church. Secular law should (1) ensure a level regulatory playing field that protects public health and safety from industrial / medical / transportational / energy production / aviation activities with a potential for adverse impact on life or limb, and (2) prevent (or punish the doers thereof as appropriate) the initiation of force by one company, entrepeneur or worker over another company, entrepeneur or worker. Fossil fuel accidents like Deep Water Horizons and the Exxon Valdez are cases in point, as well as the Union Carbide toxic gas release in Bhopal, India in 1984.

    It “ain’t” the Federal Govt’s job to enforce distributionism except in those cases where taxes are required for public health, safety and the common defense. That said, local communities may elect to have local laws that provide services for the poor in their communities based on taxing the wealth-producing residents (entrepeneurial or laborer) of such communities. If a particular resident doesn’t like the vote of the majority, then he can move to a community without such mandated distributionism. This is called subsidiarity and freedom.

    I probably would agree to extra local taxes for the poor. But I object to extra Federal govt taxes for the poor. I am all for distributionism at the local level. I oppose it at the Federal level. The only exception are massive accidents like the Deep Water Horizon oil well blowout that killed 5 more people in 2010 than the 6 who who killed by the event at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, and devasted the eco-system in the Gulf of Mexico with toxic sludge that will never ever decay away (unlike Cs-137 that has a half life of 30.17 years). And yes, BP should be subject the “re-distribution” necessary to pay for damages. It’s called “responsibility”.

  • C Matt,

    “What societal or political regime, in the end, does NOT rest upon consent or force.”

    Regimes established by cliques and cadres such as Jacobins and Bolsheviks, for starters – regimes that can only cement their rule through mass murder, ethnic cleansing and the extermination of millions. Those would be the most clear-cut examples. A regime in which all of the productive workers are expropriated by the government to support a horde of unproductive voters in exchange for political power, which is what we have in the United States right now, comes pretty close as well.

    “Even the right to private property has to be protected, in the end, by force.”

    I disagree with that. When you defend your rights, you certainly aren’t engaging in an illegitimate use of force. You’re repelling someone else’s attempt to use force in a completely illegitimate way. Yes, we can play semantic word games and call defensive violence “force”, but really what I am rejecting is the aggressive invasion of other people’s natural rights.

  • “The other approach is derived from the Lockesian concept of radical individualism. Hiring employees is not seen as a “good” in and of itself, but merely a means toward the generation of wealth”

    The generation of wealth benefits everyone. It benefits the poor more than everyone else. When producers are efficient, consumers are rewarded, and most consumers are poor. How is that not a social good? I reject the whole silly notion that production for profit is “selfish.” There isn’t a legitimate profit that is made that doesn’t involve the mutual benefit of at least two parties. In a society in which property rights are respected, you can’t make a dime unless you make the effort to correctly ascertain and provide what people express a desire for. That seems to be a necessary, indispensable requisite for “society.”

  • C Matt,

    I misread your question. My apologies. Everything rests on either consent or force. That was my whole point. People should be clear about which they are advocating for.

  • Bonchamps

    “No one believes – not Locke, not anyone – by the way, that anyone is a “self-sufficient entity that can stand on its own, free of society, etc.” This is complete nonsense. That people form families and societies is a given in Locke’s state of nature.”

    You misunderstand me. Locke argues that these relationships are completely voluntary, not a de facto, organic, intrinsic product of human nature. Individuals form societies simply to protect “natural rights.” They are not necessarily “social” in essence. There is no obligation to the common good. Locke’s views of child-rearing are especially troubling, as its essentially boiled down to a contract that terminates once the child becomes self-sufficient. Additionally, one of the compelling reasons Locke cites that serves as incentive for a child not to severe filial connections is the matter of his inheritance. This is certainly anything but the Catholic concept of the family, which is something we are born into, not to which we voluntarily consent.

  • JL,

    ” Locke argues that these relationships are completely voluntary, not a de facto, organic, intrinsic product of human nature.”

    They are completely voluntary, in the sense that – at least in a stateless society – no one is compelled to enter them by force. No matter how “organic” or “intrinsic” certain arrangements might be, whether or not they are voluntary depends solely on whether or not one is, or is not, forced to enter into them regardless of their will. Through the exercise of free will alone, you could decide not to have a wife, or children. Surely you won’t dispute that.

    “Individuals form societies simply to protect “natural rights.”

    No. They form governments to protect natural rights. “Society” and “government” are very clearly not the same thing, and a certain level of society must be reached before there can ever be a common agreement to a social contract establishing a government.

    “They are not necessarily “social” in essence.”

    Of course they are, if “social” means voluntary cooperation as opposed to forced participation.

    “There is no obligation to the common good.”

    Well, that’s false, since Locke identifies an obligation not only to care for one’s self, but for one’s family and in fact, insofar as possible, every other member of society. The common good is served in the pursuit of legitimate self-interest, moreover, which can only be satisfied by meeting other people’s needs.

    ” Locke’s views of child-rearing are especially troubling, as its essentially boiled down to a contract that terminates once the child becomes self-sufficient.”

    There is an implicit “contract” in any voluntary relationship.

    A truly self-sufficient being would be degraded if it were forced to stay in a dependent relationship against its will, especially one that has become abusive.

    “This is certainly anything but the Catholic concept of the family, which is something we are born into, not to which we voluntarily consent.”

    The capacity to consent begins with the use of reason. We aren’t born with that either, but if we were, family would hardly be necessary. The primary duty of parents towards children is their physical upkeep and their education. Once these tasks are complete, a family will either remain together out of love or disintegrate. We live in a world in which adults coddle children until they are 18 and in many cases for years and years beyond that. In different times and places, self-sufficiency is theoretically possible far sooner than that. The sooner the better, I say.

  • I think Bonchamps point that “everything rests on consent or force” is a very important one. No one has the right to initiate force against anyone else. That said, some will say (for example – there are plenty of other ones, but I will use one familiar to me) that they are being forced to breathe in the toxic refuse of coal fired power plants (which per the CDC kill 33,000 people annually in the US from lung disease due to particulate pollution). But these same people pay for electricity with nary a complaint about where that electricity comes from (because we all know that no electricity kills far more people than electricity from coal). So, are they being forced, or have they consented by virtue of the fact that they have paid for their electric bills? Now there is an alternative, but that alternative, instead of having a 90+ % capacity factor, has a 30- % capacity factor, and here it is:

    http://otherpower.com/

    People consent when they pay. Don’t want it? Don’t pay for it and erect your own wind mill that won’t give electricity 70% of the time. It’s that simple. If I really don’t consent to fossil fuel pollution, then why do I drive a fossil fueled vehicle? Answer: I make a risk trade off between cancer from fossil fuel pollution versus the luxury of getting where I want to go no matter when. Besides, fast transportation to the hospital in case I get sick or injured beats any day of the week not being able to get there.

    Govt has no right to force people to do anything except in the case where public health, safety and the common defense are adversely impacted. Rather, govt’s responsibilty is to level the legal and regulatory playing field. In the example above, if all things were equal and coal fired power plants were held to the same radiation emissions standards as nuclear power plants, then not a single coal plant would be operating (it’s all that uranium, thorium and radium in coal). But if I agree to buy electicity without specifying where the utility provides that electricity from, then I do not get to complain because I have consented – no one forced me. Besides, electricity is better than no electricity. Common good outweighs individual preference.

    It’s called responsibility. Most people want the other guy to pay, and when he refuses, then they cry that they are coerced. Horse manure!

  • kyle: Thanks for your response. What if I had an idea for a new product, but I needed serveral million dollars to get it launched? What should I do? Assume I tried to convince people to work on it in exchange for an ownership interest in the venture, but failed. Would Distributism preclude me from offering ownership interests to cash investors (to pay for the workers)? After all some people may believe in my idea and be willing to accept risk for reward. Is everyone limited to 1% credit union interest? Am I out of luck if I cannot find workers willing to trade work for ownership and the related risk?

  • This distributism of which you people refer has never existed and can never exist.

    It is all too beautiful and too good; and would fall apart before the first sunset. Something that we evil, worldly/work-a-day mules have been dealing with since the day of creation would crop up and knock over the whole thing. [I’ll be amazed if any know from whence I lifted that.]

    Same same with socialism. Except that mass travesty was perpetuated by impatient humanitarians with kalashnikov assault rifles and guard dogs; and jackboots perpetually stomping on human faces.

    The Pilgrims were as virtuous as you can imagine. In 1620, they landed on Plymouth Rock and attempted Christian socialism. It didn’t work, and virtuous people died that didn’t need to starve. They quickly reverted to individual initiative, private property and hard work.

    I’ve owned a home since 1979. I have been meeting mortgage payments since 1979. Truth: George Bailey loaned money at a spread over his cost of funds/what interest he paid on deposits/shares. Now, Capital One is making approximately 230 basis points on my monthly payments. Some may think that unfair, or [gasp] usury. But, without those loans, I woud not have owned my homes wherein I sheltered and raised my three sons. Also, a home equity loan helped me pay for three university educations.

    For my sins, I have worked at high levels (36 years) in financial services. I know mortgage banking and servicing, financial intermediation, financial derivatives and hedges, real estate appraisals, syndicated commercial lending, you name it.

  • I find it rather odd to put it mildly that Locke is here placed in the tradition of Catholic natural law theorists. Locke clearly reject the metaphysics and natural philosophy which underlie natural law theory. His views on faith and reason as expressed in his Essay On Human Understanding should offend any serious Christian. Lastly, the emphasis the author has on the voluntary nature of things in the article and comments clearly places him within the tradition of liberal political thought as opposed to the Christian or classical traditions. Pierre Manent’s book, A World Beyond Politics, quite clearly shows this is one of the fundamental contrasts between modern and pre-modern conceptions of politics, society, etc.

    further reading: http://www.ideasinactiontv.com/tcs_daily/2007/10/are-we-all-lockeans-now.html

  • Mercier,

    Allow me to explain myself.

    “I find it rather odd to put it mildly that Locke is here placed in the tradition of Catholic natural law theorists. Locke clearly reject the metaphysics and natural philosophy which underlie natural law theory.”

    I’ve had this debate before. There are different interpretations of Locke floating around out there, and it is recognized that his corpus contains significant contradictions. I would maintain that the Second Treatise, as a stand-alone text, is a work of traditional natural law theory. I am not convinced that his views espoused in other works mean that the very clear natural law arguments put forward in the ST must necessarily be read as somehow not in or opposed to the natural law tradition. Nor do I find useful or compelling the Straussian method of reading hidden messages in works of political philosophy. It’s possible that the real and final John Locke rejected all of the metaphysical underpinnings of natural law, but they are all present in the Second Treatise.

    ” Lastly, the emphasis the author has on the voluntary nature of things in the article and comments clearly places him within the tradition of liberal political thought as opposed to the Christian or classical traditions.”

    I don’t mind that at all. There is plenty of good in the tradition of liberal political thought, though to be absolutely clear, I reject much of what issued forth from the “Enlightenment.” In fact I find a society based upon the respect of individual rights and liberties to be utterly incompatible with the atheism and materialism that became so fashionable at that time, since both lead (at least the Western mind) to determinism, to a negation of free will, and therefore the total loss of human dignity. Libertarian views are more compatible with the Christian view of the soul and moral responsibility than they are with the stupid beasts produced by atheistic/materialistic evolution.

    “Pierre Manent’s book, A World Beyond Politics, quite clearly shows this is one of the fundamental contrasts between modern and pre-modern conceptions of politics, society, etc.”

    Modern society is a fact of life, not a choice. New technological and social arrangements require an updating in thought. How one does it is the problem. Many are radical extremists who want to tear everything down. The paleo-libertarian tradition of the Austrian school builds upon the very best of our historical inheritance and the Enlightenment. So there are different reactions to the modern world, one a stubborn reactionism that irrationally refuses to deal with changing realities, another an extreme radicalism that hates the past simply because it is the past, and still another that recognizes the inevitability of change but seeks to understand it through the accumulated wisdom of mankind.

  • FYI,

    I find it grotesque to suggest that the neoconservative imperialism of the Bushes is in any way a continuation of the “Lockean project.” The idea that people can be liberated at the point of foreign bayonets is a Jacobin and Bolshevik one, not a Lockean one. The founding fathers influenced by Locke, as the author notes, were non-interventionists who did not believe that it was their mission to secure natural rights around the globe. I’ll say more about the rest of the article later.

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  • I haven’t done a lot of in-depth study of Chesterton’s Distributist ideas, but the impression I have is that he defines “Distributism” as an economy driven by lots of small- and medium-size businesses, and individuals/families working for themselves as craftspeople, rather than by a few big corporations. He never, as far as I know, advocated forcible re-distribution of capital (that would be communism) but simply a more level playing field for the “little guy”.

    One way I can think of to put distributism into action would be for states and local governments to stop playing the “massive taxpayer-funded economic incentives to big businesses” game and implement a fair tax and regulatory environment for everyone. (See my post “The Economic War Between the States” from several years ago). Another way is to insure that all your laws and rules regulating the private sector are 1) really necessary, 2) not excessively burdensome, especially to small businesses, small municipalities and non-profits, 3) explain clearly what affected entities have to do (or not do), and 4) provide some kind of appeal or due process for those adversely affected. Rules per se are not evil; rules that are badly constructed, allow agencies too much discretion to do whatever they feel like and don’t provide any recourse for people who suffer because of them are evil.

    Distributism is an ideal, of course, never to be realized perfectly in this world, but achieving 50 percent or 20 percent or even 10 percent of an ideal goal is better than achieving 0 percent or not even bothering to try attaining it.

  • Such an energetic melange of human thought. What strikes me is how many times we see “perhaps you misuderstood . . .” or “what I really meant was . . .” Would that all the terms and concepts be objectively and identically understood and employed.

    Unfortunately, human ideas, obviously being of human origin, are always incomplete and subject to the mold of the mind that holds them. Vigorous debate is a lovely exercise, and God forbid the day we are “compelled” to refrain from it, but in the end I find I sleep better when I hold on to this first:

    “For it is written:

    ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’

    Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” – 1 Corinthians 1:19-20

    Peace+

  • Distributism might benefit from a name change. Suggestions…

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  • Elaine,

    ” He never, as far as I know, advocated forcible re-distribution of capital (that would be communism) but simply a more level playing field for the “little guy”.”

    How is the playing field leveled? This is my problem. There is no clarity on this. It just happens. It’s “just an economic theory” that “proposes” that more people become owners. I’m only interested in the means by which it happens. No one who believes in capitalism from a libertarian point of view opposes people voluntarily doing whatever they like to create a more egalitarian economic arrangement. It would inconsistent and absurd for them to do so.

    And yet Distributism is always opposed to capitalism, as if it would replace it. If all they mean is that they believe that worker ownership would prove to be more happily and widely embraced than the traditional model of ownership once its benefits become manifest to all, then there is absolutely no opposition at all. There’s no need to set them up as antagonistic. It’s just a competition of models that people are free to try out for themselves.

    And yet I get the sense that it means something quite more than that, though what, exactly, is never made clear.

  • Of course, I should add that it seems that there are different versions of this idea floating around. Your (Elaine’s) post seems to highlight the “small is best” view, whereas in my understanding, very large firms could fit into a “Distributist” model provided they were structured in certain ways.

    I don’t see any reason to glorify small business, or for that matter, skilled labor, as many Distributists do. When you really consider how narrow these interests are compared to the interests of consumers, it becomes more difficult to justify – in the name of the “common” good – a regime that exists to bolster them at the expense of alternatives. |

  • Thank you for the reply. I am pressed for time so I will limit my reply. I am unconvinced that you can limit/compartmentalize Locke’s thought in the way you are doing. However, looking at the Second Treatise alone I am totally unconvinced of its natural law credentials. A good essay that deals with this indirectly through an examination of Maritain’s political theory is “Maritain and Natural Rights” by Frederick J. Crosson in the Review of Metaphysics 36 (June 1983). He draws out some of the contradictions between Lockean natural rights theory and scholastic political theory.

    A small remark on the far bigger issue of the common good. The focus on individual self-interest seems necessarily at odds with the primacy of the common good (see Charles de Koninck The Primacy of the Common Good: Against the Personalists).

    two posts by Pater Waldstein are worth reflecting on that touch on these matters among others: http://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/against-the-american-revolution/
    http://sancrucensis.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/political-order/

    Also an article from a site I am sure you are familiar with: http://distributistreview.com/mag/2010/11/locke-and-inside-catholic/

    Lastly MacIntyre’s famous closing of After Virtue gives at least a partial answer to what the Catholic should be doing in the face of the modern order:

    It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the Epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless, certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman Imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the Imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead- often not recognizing fully what they were doing- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If this account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however, the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another-doubtless very different- St. Benedict.

  • “He draws out some of the contradictions between Lockean natural rights theory and scholastic political theory.”

    Can you spell those out?

    I don’t doubt that there are some points of divergence. I think Locke was doing something new, but I also think it was something necessary given the changing social and intellectual order. Some see Locke as a destroyer. I see him as a preserver.

    “The focus on individual self-interest seems necessarily at odds with the primacy of the common good”

    Well, it might “seem” that way, but I don’t think it is that way. Even the scholastics had a conception of the legitimate pursuit of profit, which necessarily involves meeting the needs of many consumers, dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions. Locke develops it a bit further by highlighting the social usefulness of productive labor, which does not simply benefit the laborer but also everyone whom he exchanges his product with.

    Of course there is greed. Anything can be taken to excess. But the supposed antagonism between self-interest as such and the common good is just a fallacy in my opinion. Properly understood, they are in fact inseparable. In fact people who are forced to toil for reasons other than self-interest have never been the most productive workers, meaning they have never been the most socially useful and beneficial workers. If “the common good” were really something that people pursued at the expense of self-interest, communism would have a better track record. I think Rerum Novarum makes this all abundantly clear too. The right of individuals to private property is supplemented with assertions that they also have the right to a decent standard of living befitting of their human dignity, and only when that has been attained does the moral obligation (which is never to be a legal obligation, by the way) to give from one’s surplus labor go into effect. Self-interest is not selfishness. A neglected self will probably be of less use and benefit to others than one that attends to its needs and legitimate desires.

    Whatever Catholics ought to be doing is a separate question from whether or not people in general should be forced to participate in social schemes, or whether such schemes derive their legitimacy from the consent of the participants. That’s really what I’m interested in here.

    As for the modern world, as far as governance goes, Locke had the right idea. I don’t have to agree with his metaphysic, frankly, to simply understand the political implications of religious pluralism. You either use force to suppress all the heretics, or you learn to live with them. When the heretics are few, they can easily be suppressed. When they make up a significant minority, enough to resist suppression with substantial force, you have no choice but to negotiate. Eventually some will make a virtue out of necessity, and like Locke (or Hobbes or others) they may even spin a whole philosophy out of it. But the necessity is there no matter what you do with it. I think Leo XIII grappled with this necessity as best anyone possibly could. And I think anyone grappling with it is going to find something worthwhile in Locke.

  • Bonchaps:

    Are you saying that the U.S. led invasion of Iraq was Bolshevistic?

  • @Bonchamps

    Just a few points, because this discussion has died down and you clearly have bigger, fresher fish to fry (for what it’s worth, I’m squarely in your corner when it comes the ideas put forward in your recent article connecting the CT shooting with US-perpetuated violence at large.)

    “The generation of wealth benefits everyone.”

    I’m convinced that the generation of wealth is a neutral. It does not automatically benefit anyone. In fact, it can lead to as many ills as goods, especially if generated in societies predisposed towards excess and self-centered hedonism.

    “I reject the whole silly notion that production for profit is “selfish.” ”

    How we do things matters. In saying this, I’m reminded of a strand of thought from Chesterton. He makes the observation that a young man could be moved to chastity both by thinking abhorrently of the consequences of a sexually transmitted disease, or, conversely, by reflecting on the Virign Mary. Now it’s true that both methods could be effective means of chaste compellance. In fact, the former might even be more effective. But there is no question, at least in my mind, which is to be preferred.

    The same can be said of one’s approach towards business and economics. One can certainly view their own enterprise in a completely self-centered manner, ie “what’s in it for me, how does this benefit me,” without any concern for the common good AND STILL benefit the common good through the economic properties of capitalism you cited. But such an approach is, in fact, wrong and, dare say it, sinful. It’s all a matter of mindset, and I think it is a distinction worth making. Again, what we think matters.

    “They are completely voluntary, in the sense that – at least in a stateless society – no one is compelled to enter them by force. No matter how “organic” or “intrinsic” certain arrangements might be, whether or not they are voluntary depends solely on whether or not one is, or is not, forced to enter into them regardless of their will.”

    We are not taking about “voluntary” in the same sense. Either that or you are fundamentally at odds with Church teaching regarding human nature. One is born with certain obligations to their community and the common good. It is a condition of being a human being. There is nothing voluntary about this relationship. To be sure, someone can decide to voluntarily fulfill this obligation or not, but this says nothing of the existence of the actual obligation. To deny that this obligation exists, that we are naturally relational and not autonomous, is to disregard a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching.

    “Through the exercise of free will alone, you could decide not to have a wife, or children. Surely you won’t dispute that.”

    I won’t, but I don’t think that has anything to do with what we’ve been talking about. You’re referring to a hypothetical obligation that doesn’t exist becausethe conditions for such a relationship were never established. When talking about Locke and the family, I’ve focused specifically on the relationship between parents and children, two parties who already exist and from the moment of their existence (in their respective roles) shared a certain set of responsibilities to the other. That is not a hypothetical, it already exists.

    I said: “Individuals form societies simply to protect “natural rights.”

    You said: “No. They form governments to protect natural rights. “Society” and “government” are very clearly not the same thing, and a certain level of society must be reached before there can ever be a common agreement to a social contract establishing a government.”

    Locke says: “The reason why men enter into society is the preservation of their property, and the end why they choose and authorize a legislative is that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power and moderate the dominion of every part and member of the society.”

    Emphasis on that first bit. Society and government seem to be different sides of the same coin. One’s the structure and one’s the enforcing mechanism. I don’t disagree with you that it’s basically impossible not to be part of society here and now, but that’s not what Locke is talking about. He’s talking about “the state of nature,” and it is extremely revealing that he believes man begins completely independent and apart from society, and only enters on his own volition to secure his own interests. I’ve said it repeatedly, but it’s impossible to reconcile this premise with anything remotely Aristotelian or Thomistic.

    I said: “They are not necessarily “social” in essence.”

    You said: “Of course they are, if “social” means voluntary cooperation as opposed to forced participation.”

    It doesn’t mean either. It means you are born with responsibilities to society and the common good. Again, whether you choose to carry those out is your own decision to make. But not believing that such a social component of human nature exists doesn’t change the fact that it does, just as denying objective morality does not somehow frees you from committing grave acts of immorality.

    “Well, that’s false, since Locke identifies an obligation not only to care for one’s self, but for one’s family and in fact, insofar as possible, every other member of society. The common good is served in the pursuit of legitimate self-interest, moreover, which can only be satisfied by meeting other people’s needs.”

    Locke contradicts himself, plain and simple. One may, as you point out, serve the common good as some sort of secondary byproduct of his pursuit of self-interest, but this certainly does not mean this is a hard and fast rule. Today’s business practice are rife with examples of individuals serving their own interests at the expense of thousands of others. Locke wanted his cake and to eat it, too.

    “There is an implicit “contract” in any voluntary relationship.”

    Such thinking would explain the appallingly high divorce rates in America. Marriage is not a contract, but a sacramental covenant. Filial relations are far closer to the former than the latter.

  • JL,

    Thanks for the comment. Its nice to have a discussion like this. I’m convinced that much of our dispute is purely semantic, though some of it may actually be over values. We’ll see.

    “I’m convinced that the generation of wealth is a neutral. It does not automatically benefit anyone. In fact, it can lead to as many ills as goods, especially if generated in societies predisposed towards excess and self-centered hedonism.”

    This all depends on what you mean by “wealth” and what you mean by “benefit.” In a free market – and markets are free at least to some extent in this country, in spite of various regulations – production of goods and services for profit, which is the basis of capitalism, does benefit everyone. It makes the necessities of life easier to obtain for masses of poor and average people through competition and innovation, it provides incentives for people to work their hardest, it rewards people for using their money as capital and taking a major risk in doing so as opposed to simply squandering it on themselves. If a man with a thousand dollars uses it to start a business, he is surely doing more for society than if he uses that thousand dollars at the craps table or even if he simply gives it away to people who will just spend it on whatever.

    The Church has always been correct to point out that there are many needs that a market economy cannot satisfy. But a market economy does better what all other economies also try to do. And no libertarian worth a damn opposes the existence of organizations such as the Church to provide many of those non-economic needs. Perhaps it is the decline of the Church and not the rise of capitalism that some people ought to be most concerned with.

    “How we do things matters”

    For our souls, yes. But here I am concerned with the law, with the use of force and coercion. Do you think force and coercion ought to be employed against people who do things that have good effects for morally unsound reasons? I don’t even think it should be employed against many bad choices that have bad effects, and certainly not “bad” choices that have good effects.

    I don’t think it is the role of the state to ensure that we do the right thing for the right reason. It is the task of religion to shape and mold the conscience that informs behavior. It is the task of the state to protect individual human rights. THAT sort of dualism has always been accepted by the Church, in fact, which has always marked out the clear lines of distinction between itself and the civil authorities.

    “We are not taking about “voluntary” in the same sense”

    There is only one sense in which I understand the word. That which is voluntary, is that which is undertaken with sufficient knowledge and consent, that which is undertaken freely, without restraint or coercion.

    “One is born with certain obligations to their community and the common good.”

    This is not disputed, by Locke or myself. If we have a dispute here, it is over what “the common good” is, which I maintain is not harmed, and is served, by self-interested economic behavior.

    “There is nothing voluntary about this relationship.”

    No, there is “something” voluntary about it. We can’t choose whether it exists or not, but we can choose whether or not to carry out our duties inherent in it. In that sense it is absolutely voluntary.

    “To deny that this obligation exists, that we are naturally relational and not autonomous, is to disregard a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching.”

    I have problems with the word “obligation” in general, to be honest with you. I would certainly agree that failing in one’s duty carries with it consequences that most rational people would want to avoid. But the existence of freedom ultimately means that no one is bound, in the strictest sense of the word, to do anything. All obligations are conditional. If you would avoid pain, suffering, or even eternal damnation, you must do x, y and z. But you are always free not to do them.

    That is why I ultimately agree that you cannot derive “oughts” from what “is.” You can only derive “oughts” from “ifs”, and this because of the fact of our total freedom as spiritual beings. I don’t think this is heretical either, if that is where you want to go next (some do, so I apologize if I jump the gun). I’ve at least read enough on the Catholic Encyclopedia to know that certain theologians have argued more or less the same thing.

    “I won’t, but I don’t think that has anything to do with what we’ve been talking about.”

    Of course it does. That’s what I mean by voluntary. You can choose not to do it.

    “When talking about Locke and the family, I’ve focused specifically on the relationship between parents and children, two parties who already exist and from the moment of their existence (in their respective roles) shared a certain set of responsibilities to the other. ”

    Well, shift it a bit. You can choose to leave your already-existing spouse and children, as men sometimes do. The point remains. It is still a choice.

    Now, as for your Locke quote –

    Yes, I have seen that very passage, and I admit that his use of the word “society” there, taken out of context, can seem awful. But the fact remains is that much earlier in the same work, Locke totally acknowledges the existence of society before the government. This is clear to me, for instance, in Chapter 7 of the Second Treatise. The family exists first, “falling short” of a political society as Locke says. Then there is the household in which there are masters and servants, and this too falls short of political society.

    So be careful with the word “society.” Locke speaks of many different kinds of “societies”. As he says:

    ” But how a family, or any other society of men, differ from that which is properly political society, we shall best see, by considering wherein political society itself consists.” (Ch. VII, 86)

    So the family, the household, and the polity – these are all different kinds of “societies” for Locke, and it seems clear to me that it is the political society to which he is referring to in that much later passage you cited in the ST.

    “Again, whether you choose to carry those out is your own decision to make. ”

    That’s all that makes them voluntary. Nothing more or less.

    ” Today’s business practice are rife with examples of individuals serving their own interests at the expense of thousands of others. ”

    When they do so by force (i.e. by relying on government subsidies, prohibitive regulations that destroy competition, tariffs and quotas, and things of that nature) or by fraud (as in the case of some of these big banks and other corporations that are always tied up with the state and its interests), then yes. But on a free market, it is almost impossible to serve your own interests at the expense of others. As soon as “others” see that you’re bilking them, they take their business elsewhere, and if you bilk them badly enough, they will sue you into oblivion. In a free system it is in your interests to make other people happy or at least satisfied. That’s what leftists, socialists, and Distributists simply cannot conceptualize, and its a damned shame.

    “Such thinking would explain the appallingly high divorce rates in America.”

    No, what explains high divorce rates in America is quite simply a radical restructuring of the meaning of marriage in an industrial and now post-industrial information age. It would be foolish to deny the purely secular, social and historical components of marriage, especially in a country that was never a part of Medieval Christendom or an Islamic caliphate. Marriage has been mostly about the convenience of multiple parties, sometimes not even the people getting married. It has been for the parents, for the larger families to be joined, for the communities they lived in, and often economic and political motives have underlined them throughout history. Marriage was almost NOT voluntary in those times, either because people were forced into marriage by their parents or pure economic necessity made it completely irrational and foolish to go at life alone.

    Things are different now. The immaterial and spiritual benefits of marriage less obvious to the masses of materialistic and secular people. That’s the truth of it, and I have no idea what to do about it. I certainly don’t think it is “good” that the family is in such disrepair because we see what devastation that wreaks as well. But understanding why things happen is separate from endorsing them, and they will never be changed unless we can make that distinction.

  • And I realize, by the way, that my view of freedom and obligation takes me out of the traditional natural law camp. But I identify with it because I believe that the negative consequences of disregarding nature’s clear order are almost conceptually the same as the existence of these things called “obligations” that just “exist” independently of our wills. I think “law” can describe both things. We can dispute that in more detail if you like.

  • “How we do things matters”

    Yes, the Church teaches the three componenets of an act are its object, circumstances and intention. If any are evil then the whole act is evil.

    Of course the motivator for all these acts is Love. Capitalized deliberately in that it is those acts motivated the the Theological Virtue of Love that are truly good. This Love in turn presupposes the Truth. For without Truth, there can be no Love. That may even require us to change our positions where faced with the truth.

    Now, few acts, by businessmen, economists or other proponents of their varied positions are so purely motivated. Thus the role of govt. to set limits where appropriate.

  • No one was more insistent on the distinction between the state and civil society than Hegel, a proponent of the organic notion of the state, ““If the state is confused with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the security and protection of property and personal freedom, then the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of their association, and it follows that membership of the state is something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality, and an ethical life. Unification pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and the individual’s destiny is the living of a universal life. His further particular satisfaction, activity and mode of conduct have this substantive and universally valid life as their starting point and their result.” G W Hegel, “Philosophy of Right” 258

    The notion of “mind objectified” is also found in Yves Simon, when he says “The highest activity/being in the natural order is free arrangement of men about what is good brought together in an actual polity where it is no longer a mere abstraction.” It is in the polity that the abstract or notional good is made concrete.

  • Phillip,

    “Now, few acts, by businessmen, economists or other proponents of their varied positions are so purely motivated. Thus the role of govt. to set limits where appropriate.”

    I reject your “thus.” Motivations behind activities that do not violate anyone’s rights are completely irrelevant to the legitimate duties of the state. If someone uses force or fraud in the marketplace, then yes, this should be punished. If someone simply makes a profit because they want a new boat as opposed to really wanting to meet the needs of customers, this is not something for the law to be concerned with.

    Also, who is going to restrain and set limits on the government? Whenever you create a group of “regulators”, you create an agency with coercive authority that can be and almost always is staffed and purchased by the very people supposedly being “regulated.” It is the small business and the fresh entrepreneur who is “regulated” out of the competition, faced with completely prohibitive and unnecessary burdens usually concocted by the already-established players in the market.

    The best limits on the businessman are those set by the wrath of the consumer, who can and will solicit his competitors or take him before a judge the moment he violates their trust or their rights, respectively.

  • MPS,

    Hegel’s political philosophy is totalitarian gibberish, as far as I am concerned. First of all, it is a matter of fact – scientific, philosophic, theological – that we are free to choose. Because we are free to choose, all associations are voluntary. That being said, there are serious consequences that would follow from any individual’s choice to remain apart from society. Thus it is hardly “optional” for most people.

    Moreover, both as a matter of historical fact and morality, man precedes the state. Leo XIII affirms this in Rerum Novarum. Individual men, spouses, families, communities – all of these things exist before there is this coercive authority we call “the state” or “the government”, and that is why it can be said to be a rational creation of man. It exists because, and only because, without it that which men require for their life, liberty and happiness would be insecure. It does not exist to bring us into some totalitarian nightmare of collectivist “unification.” We have seen the Hegelian monster. We saw it under the name of Fascism in Italy, Nazism in Germany, Stalinism in the Soviet Union, Maoism in China. We saw it in the mountains of skulls lining the killing fields in Cambodia, and we see it here with the worship of Barack Obama by sections of the American left.

    Against this horror I will stand with Locke and Jefferson, or Hayek and Rothbard any day of the week.

  • I would suggest that membership of the nation cannot reasonably be described as voluntary, inasmuch as nationality is defined by descent and birth, and it is neither revocable nor is it attainable at will.

    A man may lose his citizenship but not his nationality. This follows from the fact that the nation is a unit of common descent and blood and not of voluntary adherence and association – “They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, they glory in the same tradition.”

  • “Motivations behind activities that do not violate anyone’s rights are completely irrelevant to the legitimate duties of the state. If someone uses force or fraud in the marketplace, then yes, this should be punished. If someone simply makes a profit because they want a new boat as opposed to really wanting to meet the needs of customers, this is not something for the law to be concerned with.”

    Thus, the reason I said “where appropriate.” Not all motivations are to be regulated. The ultimate point is that few act with a pure love of God.

    “Also, who is going to restrain and set limits on the government? ”

    I agree here also, thus my point of noting “proponents of their varied positions.” Govt. is frequently acting without proper motivations.

  • MPS,

    “I would suggest that membership of the nation cannot reasonably be described as voluntary”

    Sure, if you live in North Korea.

    ” This follows from the fact that the nation is a unit of common descent and blood and not of voluntary adherence and association ”

    If it makes you feel better to believe that, ok. It has no bearing on anything I would ever do with my life, though, unless you propose to use force to keep me within the physical parameters of this “nation” of yours. Whether or not an association is voluntary is simply a matter of whether or not you propose to use violence to keep me in it. If you do, you’re a tyrant and a slavemaster and you’ll be treated as such. If you don’t, then you’re holding on to a quaint mythology that does me no real harm and will be happy to leave to you.

    Of course you are well aware that this is not some European “nation” founded by the strongest tribe of roving savages thousands of years ago. This is a nation formed by already-existing polities which were in turn formed by people who fled the very blood bondage you speak of out of their own volition and through their own values.

    Phillip,

    No, the ultimate point is that you aren’t being clear on what you want to regulate and who you want to punish. Elaborate if you like, or don’t. Ambiguity on these topics is what I expect.

  • But that would require the specifics of each case. Regulation itself is a blunt instrument. But even the blunt instrument requires knowledge of the specifics of cases to form a proper choice.

    That is as exact as I can prudently get.

  • So there are no principles or general aims behind your regulatory proposals? The arbitrary wills and values of the individual regulators dictate all?

    And I’m supposed to think this is a fabulous idea why, exactly?

  • No. Most principles are those of Catholic Social Teaching, Though those don[‘t exhaust all political thought. Thus to learn from those and see where there is value.

    Locke has a measure of value. Maritain and Strauss. None exhaust God.

    Like Socrates though, my first claim is that I don’t know the answer to all, but that prudence will demand specifics be known. So perhaps ultimately, I am Socratic. And Aristotelian. And Thomistic.

  • “It has no bearing on anything I would ever do with my life…”

    But the individual’s nationality is what constitutes him; it pervades his nature and expresses itself in his actions

  • A man may lose his citizenship but not his nationality. This follows from the fact that the nation is a unit of common descent and blood and not of voluntary adherence and association – “They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, they glory in the same tradition.”

    That is characteristic of Europe, but not of societies of migrants (the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, &c).

  • Nationality was and is an essence of experience as a U.S. resident in this city where I’ve lived my life.

    The post is debating force and consent, which is over my head, but the nationality part …
    The city had Catholic and Protestant churches, Catholic and public high schools, Synagogues, bakeries, markets, church dinners, ethnic celebrations, cemeteries and even neighborhoods where people held to their nationality and customs, and welcomed others to events. We were able to learn one another’s customs, and parts of languages or menues. Life and politics weren’t always peaches and cream due to nationality and ethnic things to do with history and religion. My city was dominantly Irish, French, Polish, and some German and English. Next city over was dominantly Irish and Italian and so on. Catholics, Protestants, and Hebrews. Being a child of two different nationalities from neighboring towns was at first (in the 50’s) a novelty to teachers and those at church. The strongest ethnic, nationalistic group I’ve seen is the Puerto Rican migrant community, which began to grow in the 1980’s.

    Anyway, I think nationality is a rich characteristic that makes society interesting.

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0 Responses to Just How Much Is a Just Wage?

  • These are interesting formulations to find out what a just wage might be today.

    But, one would have to add in the college expense factor for today’s times. In Father John Ryan’s time it was not a necessity for people to attend college or a trade school to earn a decent living wage. Now attendance at either college or trade school is a necessity and the sum per month that one pays for their loans can be quite high.

    I will be checking into Father Ryan’s book soon.

  • Father John Ryan’s time it was not a necessity for people to attend college or a trade school to earn a decent living wage. Now attendance at either college or trade school is a necessity.

    I’m pretty sure you don’t need a college education to earn $6.15 an hour.

  • Even if a single person lived on $6.15 an hour that wage would be very hard to meet all the necessities of life nowadays. With this low wage a single person and especially a family would need government help. While help from the government is one thing for a temporary period of time, I don’t think that $6.15 per hour would be considered a fair wage to live on especially when it seems evident that one would need permanent assistance from the government if the person/family tried living on $6.15 per hour. This seems more like a college student’s wage or a teenager who lives at home with his parents.

    If a family meets the minimum cost of living in a given country is that really acceptable according to Catholic Social teaching?

  • Interesting– federal minimum wage is over a dollar more than that.

  • I haven’t read or even heard of Father Ryan’s book before, but it’s interesting that he actually made an effort to define how much a living wage was. It’s also interesting that his calculations, even when adjusted for inflation, still come out well below the current federal minimum wage. Also, his hourly figures are somewhat skewed by the fact that the average work week was considerably longer in his time (48-60 hours, as opposed to 40 today), meaning the baseline annual wage figure was being spread out over more hours.

    I don’t know how he arrived at his figures for 1919 but I’m guessing they probably did NOT include the cost of owning an automobile, since that was not yet considered a “necessity” for most people, especially in cities where public transportation via streetcars and trains was readily available. If he included electric and telephone service in his estimates (those would have been available in urban areas but many rural areas lacked those services well into the ’20s and ’30s), well, that would have been for a very rudimentary level of service — just a few lights and maybe one party-line phone line — nowhere near what most households require today for appliances and electronics. The main household heating fuels at the time would have been coal or wood, and I’m not sure how those costs would compare to heating oil or natural gas today.

    In general I think a living wage should be paid for all full-time jobs that require education or training beyond high school. But, did Father Ryan ever tackle the question of whether unskilled entry-level jobs that were usually performed by children, teenagers, or housewives simply to supplement their family income, or provide pocket money for themselves since they did not have to support themselves, also required a living wage? If it were morally obligatory to pay the kid who mows your grass every week or the girl who babysits your kids while you go to a movie a “living wage,” very few people would be able to afford such services, and young people would lose the opportunity to gain valuable experience in handling their own money.

  • One of the significant differences between today and 1900 is housing expense. In 1900, I’ve seen figures between $400 and $4000 for housing. If we take a 1/3 of your proposed living wage today for housing, we end up with ~$400 to go towards housing for 5 people. Using the federal poverty guideline, you end up with $700/m. There are quite a few places in the country where you will have extreme difficulty finding housing with that budget.

  • Not sure how accurate this is, but this site has a “time capsule” for 1918.
    Price of a Gallon of Milk $.55 (9.32, modern)
    Price of a Loaf of Bread $.10 (1.41, modern)

    Milk is artificially controlled, but even the most fancy-smancy organic stuff in glass bottle is maybe six bucks a gallon. I don’t know what the bread they had looked like, but bargain loafs can be gotten for .99c (those ones with the roman on the emblem?) and up to about six bucks for the fancy ones.

    It also says the cost of a home was 4,821.00, which would be $68,102.96 in modern costs; There are houses at that price…. (Chose Spokane because they’re in neither a boom nor a bust.)

  • They didn’t have all the non-wage employment costs back then, either, did they? I know the shorthand formula I’ve been told for small businesses is figure hiring someone will cost half again their salary. (One of those radio finance shows where folks call in, so who knows.)

  • One of the significant differences between today and 1900 is housing expense. In 1900, I’ve seen figures between $400 and $4000 for housing.

    If you look at an inflation-adjusted Case-Shiller, it looks like real housing prices were only a little higher in 2000 than they would have been in 1900, though there were some sizable swings in the middle (and of course average house size has more than doubled over the period).

  • Even if a single person lived on $6.15 an hour that wage would be very hard to meet all the necessities of life nowadays.

    No doubt what Father Ryan (and others writing at the time) would have considered a normal and sufficient standard of living would now be considered intolerable poverty. Standards for what is sufficient seem to be a bit like our shadow; as we move forward it follows right along behind us. Which suggests that it may not be even possible to have a society where everyone receives a “living wage.”

  • “I don’t know what the bread they had looked like”

    In 1919 it still came in solid loaves that purchasers had to slice themselves. Pre-sliced bread was first marketed in the late 1920s, and was such a popular innovation that it prompted the expression “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

  • That does help a bit, but I was thinking more like was it the size of a “bread loaf” you get from a loaf-tin, or a “bread loaf” you get at the store (think wonderbread) or the “bread loaf” that’s baked on a pan after being formed? How much bread was there, what sort of grain was it?

  • I’m pretty sure you don’t need a college education to earn $6.15 an hour.

    I’m sorry Teresa, BA’s retort gave me a good chuckle.

    If you’re willing to use the bus, split the rent with more than one person in an apartment, and not eat out, you certainly can live off of $6.15/hour.

    Maybe if you rent the couch for $100/mo, then it’s certainly possible to live off of that.

  • Btw, Father Ryan’s book is available for free via googlebooks.

  • I gather it was about the same size and shape as the bread loaves you see today. If you google “sliced bread”, you can find pictures of the 1928 newspaper advertisements for the very first bakery to sell sliced bread, the Chillicothe (Missouri) Baking Company. The loaves pictured look about the same as bread loaves today do. The town of Chillicothe, Mo., in fact, now bills itself as the “Home of Sliced Bread” and has an annual Bread Fest to commemorate its place in culinary history.

  • I don’t know how Fr. Ryan arrived as his figures but I would insist that a living wage be relative to the standards of the community one lives in. The entire purpose of a living war is to ensure that every man can live a life of dignity. You can live in Zimbabwe in dignity without running water. You can’t do that in America.

    And why use a family of 5 and not a family of 10? Are we supposed to let the family of 10 live off less than a living wage? A living wage necessary varies according to the number of dependents. Any family receiving less should be aided.

    Adjusting for inflation isn’t necessary the best way to adjust Fr. Ryan’s figures. Real GDP per capita grew faster than inflation. In other words, Americans got wealthier. Using Fr. Ryan’s figures today adjusted for inflation would be appropriate if real GDP per capita was stagnate for 89 years. In 1919, GDP per capita was $805. If you only adjust for inflation, that would be $9,897 today. That’s somewhere between Cuba and South Africa. So $6.15/hour would be an appropriate living wage for a family of 5, in Cuba.

    If instead we adjust for unskilled labor wage increase (4.24% annualized since 1919), $1,400 to $1,500 then would be $56,388 to $60,416. That’s probably closer to what Fr. Ryan had in mind.

    Based on rough calculations I did a few years back, I think the federal poverty guidelines are too low. For a single person, I think $14,000 is appropriate and $5,500 for each dependent. For a family of 5, that would be $35,500.

  • The (mid-range neighborhood, new complex, Tacoma, gated community) place across the road has two bedroom apartments “perfect for roommates” at $650/mo, and three for $1060. (Actual cost would be roughly 700 and 1100, assuming the worst case of everything–they’re run by the same company as ours.)

  • My dignity is unharmed by someone else having three new BMWs while I have a used minivan, or a bicycle.

  • Some want to provide everybody with a just wage. I think it should be done by government programs that could be expanded. But, first . . .

    One: Every charitable person wants everybody to earn a just wage that will allow all men (how sexist! the traditional head of the now-defunct nucular family) to support himself, his wife and children.

    Two: you probably cannot have a real-life economy where every man has a just wage. It is impossible in the real (even in the USSR, China, Cuba, Greece, Spain, Zimbabwe, etc.) world.

    Three: you may not condemn/demagogue the American, private sector because you cannot have numero One above. You cannot wage an unjust (nonviolent) war against your fellow citizens that own businesses. It is not charitable.

    Look it up. Don’t believe me. The federal government’s Internal Revenue Code has the “Earned Income Tax Credit.” It pays a negative tax (money for nothing from the government, i.e., my children and grandchildren) for a FAMILY man/person that files a tax return and has AGI below a set level. Try expanding that.

    PS: I can’t imagine that even this would be feasible in the volume needed, even without 50,000,000 more poor people coming in over the next 10 years.

  • Looks like 1910 is a funky year… it’s when they automated bread baking for the first time, so those loafs looked like now….

  • Adam Smith put it best.

    Wealth of Nations:

    By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably though they had no linen. But in the present times, through the greater part of Europe, a creditable day-laborer would be ashamed to appear in public without a linen shirt, the want of which would be supposed to denote that disgraceful degree of poverty which, it is presumed, nobody can well fall into without extreme bad conduct. Custom, in the same manner, has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them. In Scotland, custom has rendered them a necessary of life to the lowest order of men; but not to the same order of women, who may, without any discredit, walk about barefooted. In France they are necessaries neither to men nor to women, the lowest rank of both sexes appearing there publicly, without any discredit, sometimes in wooden shoes, and sometimes barefooted. Under necessaries, therefore, I comprehend not only those things which nature, but those things which the established rules of decency have rendered necessary to the lowest rank of people.

  • Thanks for the google book tip, Blackadder. I just downloaded the book and will read soon.

    Tito, I am glad you got a chuckle out of Blackadder’s retort. Blackadder’s response even gave me a laugh.

    It would seem that what is considered a just wage would depend on different variables such as inflation , GDP per capita, and varying prices for housing, food, etc. according to the various locations.

  • A wage “sufficient to enable [a man] to support himself, his wife and his children.”

    Whatever the income necessary, every child should be a member of a family housed with decency and dignity to enable it to grow up in a happy fellowship, without want for food, or clothing, or overcrowding, or slum surroundings. And every child should have the opportunity to attend school and/or college to attain its full development. Father Ryan knew not that our secular society would sacrifice children so as not to be inconvenienced. If he had known of the heinous sacrifice of children to occur in the future, it seems to me that a “just wage” would have been deemed irrelevant to him. I think his computations might have been on the assumption that the family would be inspired by faith in God and focused on worship. He never envisioned the present breakdown of family and society.

  • RR-
    has nothing to do with your attempt to shift to GDP, or relative wealth of the nation.

    Feel free to define what you think is the abject minimum someone needs for a minimum wage job but which wasn’t needed back then.

  • I’d consider a phone a necessity today. Electricity, indoor plumbing, a refrigerator, and education through high school. Do you disagree?

  • To be most efficient, I’d add in some sort of POV– even if it’s a motorcycle with a sidecar. There’s just too many things you need a vehicle for if you have a family, and transportation opens up a much wider range of jobs.
    POSSIBLY a bicycle with a cart would work, but I’m not sure it’s feasible for buying in bulk or getting to the doctor with three kids.
    (Buying in bulk for two on foot was not possible in any affordable housing, and public transportation is often not safe for someone who would be as tempting a target as a woman with three small children and a massive load of groceries.)

    Basic medical care is required for the gov’t schools– I believe there is help for this, though I can’t remember if it’s gov’t or private.

    It might be cheaper to use a track phone rather than having a line in the house– I’ve never had a land line, let alone an incoming-and-local-only one.

    Clothing–can be gotten from Goodwill etc at very decent prices, and often you can find footwear that would be rather expensive for a good price.

  • RR,

    “I would insist that a living wage be relative to the standards of the community one lives in. The entire purpose of a living wa[ge] is to ensure that every man can live a life of dignity.”

    Hmm. We agree this time. There’s no point in talking about a “just wage” unless these relative factors are taken into account.

    Of course, I favor reducing dependency on wages and replacing it with various forms of income earned through direct ownership of property.

    A “wage” is the market price of labor. Instead of talking about a just “wage”, we ought to talk about a just income and how it can be acquired.

  • I can imagine the shock and incredulity on the faces of my clients if I upped my fees to provide what I think is a “just fee” for my legal services. I would see the look on their faces of course only until they vanished in search of other attorneys who could provide them with legal services at what they considered a more reasonable cost according to prevailing market conditions. The problem with the concept of a “just wage” is that unless it is simply for informational purposes or philosophical musings, it takes a huge state to enforce it. Perhaps a better path is for most people, those able to compete in the market place, to arm themselves with the education, training and work experience necessary to allow themselves to get the highest income possible for the services they provide. Private charity, and government assistance, can aid those unable to compete.

  • Fr. Ryan offered that justice required a wage floor which exceeded the earnings of 48% of the male workforce and (scribbling on the back-of-the-envelope) would have been somewhere in the range of 2/3d of the national mean of a country already quite affluent by historical standards (though befouled). Catholic Social Teaching is a work in progress…

  • Well, there ARE things we can do to make wages more likely to support a family– remove regulations that currently prevent the simple, zero-experience jobs from being done by children and the deeply disabled for a low price, control the supply of labor (not in the crazy scifi or China way, but by controlling our borders– in terms of people and goods), lower the cost of raising children by removing tax related expenses to it, make unions for only one business instead of several (as those that ‘serve’ several businesses have less worry if one goes out of business), lower the costs of business (my mom does crafting out of the house in addition to a full time job- maybe five, ten shows a year, and her profits are lower than the gov’t costs alone), reform lawsuits so they cannot be used as a source of income or a harassment tool, lower the level of government control as much as possible (local politicians have a MUCH higher level of risk if they target a local industry for cheap grace or benefit)….

    There are two ways to try to get a fair wage:
    *control everything and enforce your goal (there will still be an underground economy, unless you’re in a police state such as the world has not yet seen)
    *try to set up a situation where your goals can most easily be achieved without triggering a profit-impulse towards subverting your goals
    Basically, forced and chosen; trying to avoid a false choice, but you either get to choose to do good or you’re forced to do it, so I think I managed….

    Sadly, our current situation falls into the first one, since we’ve got minimum wage that at least meets the theory’s level of support, but that law is widely subverted (under-the-counter pay, not legally hiring babysitters and lawn-mowing teens)

    {Since we haven’t figured out a reasonable cost to live, I’m using the only number we have.}

  • LOL so we are into child labor and allowing big businesses get away with it again! Yes, that will help with the money! Child labor! Of course that will just put more money into the system making each person’s contribution that much less, just as it happened when it became two-income families! So let’s make it tougher on one-income wage earners!

  • Another factor to consider is that most families don’t have three children and that both spouses work. That may not be what Catholics want but it is a fact. Catholics also have to realize that while current standards dictate a car, phone etc., there are things we really don’t need. We need a refrigerator but we really don’t need a phone. Certainly don’t need iPods and air conditioning. Don’t need TV, cable, game systems, and many people do not need cars. Many do not need to own homes.
    There are a lot of “needs” that are ultimately wants. Even in an affluent society. And that is a Catholic perspective.

  • Most forms of employment require a way to quickly contact the worker when he is not a work– even fast food workers require a phone of some sort.

  • That’s become a manufactured need. If we are talking about restructuring society, let’s talk about real needs. Most people don’t need to be contacted by work quickly, that’s what some may want but its not a need. Fast food workers don’t really need a phone. If the manager of the McDonalds needs a replacement he can do what people did in the past – make due with who he had and do the line work himself. That’s what happened when McDonalds first started.

  • Who said anything about restructuring society? Government or law, yes, but society is notoriously resistant to control.

  • I’m talking about restructuring what we perceive of as needs and that can happen at the personal level. I can recognize I don’t need cable, iPods and other things. Individuals can, and do, live without phones. We don’t need air conditioning to survive. We don’t need lots of things to survive. If people begin to live that way, then society will follow.

  • Most forms of employment require a way to quickly contact the worker when he is not a work– even fast food workers require a phone of some sort.

    Father Ryan thought that telephones were an inappropriate luxury. Nowadays, of course, it’s hard to imagine life without one (even kids in Africa have cell phones).

  • Perhaps hard to imagine life without one, but possible to live life without one.

  • It’s possible to live life without indoor plumbing and electricity, just as my family did for some twenty plus years after Fr. Ryan was writing. (I actually know the exact year my mom’s family first got indoor plumbing– ’58, because they moved that year.)

    A lot of places you can’t live without air conditioning– the solutions that work when you’re in a two-room shack don’t work when you’re in an apartment complex, and heat can kill as easily as cold. (possibly easier, just less often– depends on if you mean “distance outside of the comfortable norm” or “likelihood it will kill you, on average”; a 45* rise in temp over “room temp” puts you at 120, while the same drop is 35*– which one shuts down cities?)

    Laws aside, there’s no reason a five-person family can’t live in a one-room apartment, even if current population levels mean it would have to have indoor plumbing, power and (in some or most areas) some sort of air conditioning.

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  • Having lived in the South for years without AC as well as the Southwest for 18 without, it is possible to live without.

  • I agree that AC is a luxury, especially since I’m living without it right now. A phone is a necessity since most, if not all places of employment, need a contact number to hire you and then to get in touch with you during your employment with that company. Cell phones (even long distance land lines are not necessary) cable, and the internet are not necessities. There are community centers and libraries that have free or low-cost internet access for those who do not have internet access in their homes.

  • I for one would be much more impressed with this austerity blather about how little one needs if the people proposing it would voluntarily live it. I’m afraid reading much of this is like hearing virgins discuss sex.

  • Its kinda like those who talk about redistribution who don’t pay income taxes.

  • “Father Ryan thought that telephones were an inappropriate luxury.”

    My paternal grandfather also thought that. My grandmother did’t get a phone until after my grandfather’s death in 73. They also didn’t have a car, and didn’t have an indoor toilet until 68. Raising six kids on what a shoemaker could make in the Great Depression in Paris, Illinois left habits of thrift for a lifetime.

  • I think, in general, a pre-paid cell phone provides a family a greater value than the money saved by a land-line. An AC isn’t necessary in most circumstances but try telling your kid to do his homework in 120 degree weather. Possible? Yes. But the cost of bringing the temperature down to 85 for a few hours may be less than the value even the poor place on the comfort and increased productivity.

  • I’ll agree AC helps with productivity. Don’t know how people worked in offices in the summer prior to AC. Do know working outdoors in the summer heat in the South is a major drain.

  • Its kinda like those who talk about redistribution who don’t pay income taxes.

    Hollywood?

  • Don’t know about how much they pay. I’m thinking more along the lines of the roughly half of Americans who don’t pay any or minimal income taxes. That would include a lot of our Academic betters.

  • I’m thinking more along the lines of the roughly half of Americans who don’t pay any or minimal income taxes.

    The reason so many people pay no income tax is because of the child tax credit. IIRC, M.Z. has several kids, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if he fell into that category. On the other hand, I’ve always found the idea of conservatives complaining that people aren’t paying enough taxes a bit unseemly, particularly given the pro-family aspect of the thing.

  • I don’t have a problem with people not having high taxes. Just pointing out that some who speak the loudest for redistribution pay little if any taxes. Kinda like virgins talking about sex.

  • I for one would be much more impressed with this austerity blather about how little one needs if the people proposing it would voluntarily live it.

    No one is proposing that austerity be mandatory or morally required. The point is, rather, to think about how much money people have a right to demand that other people give them. Clearly if Peter is demanding that Paul give him free money, Paul has a right to think about how much money Peter really needs.

  • And needless to say, Paul isn’t obliged in any way to live at the same level of austerity that Peter does (when living on money taken from Paul).

  • JD,
    Unfortunately, I don’t think that is needless to say at all.

  • Keeping a baby in a house that’s 100+ degrees is likely to make you a family of four, one way or another, especially when the least expensive housing doesn’t have the option of a crossbreeze for cooling. Ditto for older family members, or anyone else who is not in good normal health. (Thus, why I used words like “some” and pointed out that housing now is different from housing then.) Look at the deaths from that heat wave in France a few years back, or the emergency “cooling centers” in Seattle just last week. (I wouldn’t put Seattle on a list of places that need it to live, since our dangerously hot days are limited enough that you can set everything aside to go find a public place that is cooler, it’s just a recent example of high-profile response to heat risk.)

    Phillip-
    arguments are not more or less accurate by who is offering them; it’s more than a little odd to see the traditional slam against Catholic priests talking about chastity and marriage on a site like this. If the root of someone’s argument is their own experience, then it’s about them, but there’s nothing inherently inaccurate about “virgins discussing sex.”

  • Just using MZ’s line for rhetorical effect. I actually have no problems with virgins discussing sex.

  • AC is not a luxury in Phoenix, let me tell you – old people can die without it, and even healthy people can easily succumb to heat stroke.

    Any assessment of necessities has to take in the society in which one lives – to simply exist physically at some location within a society is not enough, a person has to be able to participate to some minimal degree.

    Everyone needs a telephone, a means of transportation (even if its just a bus pass or a bike in some cases), I would say everyone needs a computer, though people without Internet could always use a public terminal. Certain appliances, electricity, plumbing, etc.

    I’m not saying it is the duty of the state to provide these things, but any discussion of “need” has to take them into account. Otherwise you’re just being silly.

  • “Don’t know how people worked in offices in the summer prior to AC.”

    I believe they had shorter hours, shut down for several days or more when it got dangerously hot, and I’m guessing, learned to have a much higher tolerance for sweat and body odor.

    “AC is not a luxury in Phoenix”

    I suspect that air conditioning is probably one of the biggest factors responsible for the economic prosperity of the Sun Belt states — that and the removal of racial segregation laws probably have done as much if not more to contribute to the economic growth of the South and Southwest as have low taxes and right to work laws.

  • Just so Elaine. People wouldn’t live there before AC and the vast majority of those that lived there prior to AC, well, lived there. But we were talking about a living wage for a husband and wife and the children they were raising. So again, they don’t really need AC even if the elderly might (or they might move to cooler climes.) I know. I lived in the Southwest without AC. Also in Southern Spain where almost nobody has AC. Hits 120 in spots during the summer.

    Agree not everyone needs a computer as those can be found in libraries. Phones used to be found throughout towns and cities. Once upon a time it took ten cents to work one and then 25 cents. If you didn’t have enough money could do something called a collect call. Those phones could easily make a comeback.

    Again, many things we want, not so much we need.

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25 Responses to Social Doctrine is Ours… Let's Take it Back!

  • I support the complete dissolution of the CCHD. The money could be used to help save Catholic schools from closing instead of funding socialist and anti-Catholic organizations that promote class warfare and hate.

  • In other words you disagree completely, Tito? 🙂

    Seriously, though: I happen to think that *everything* is redeemable/reformable, even CCHD. And as I argue, the idea — seeking to address poverty in a systemic & structural manner — is worth fighting for.

  • It’s worth fighting for, through Catholic organizations.

    I don’t like giving our money to anti-Catholic organizations that in the end would persecute us if given the chance.

  • I don’t either, which is why I support reforming CCHD, including ditching the ban on giving to Catholic entities.

  • I don’t know enough about addressing poverty through a systemic and structural manner, but I do trust our faith in doing what is needed in this area.

    The CCHD is completely incompetent and irrelevant to this task as much as the USCCB is (but that’s for another day).

    Let’s scuttle them altogether and come back with a new plan under a new committee in executing this. The CCHD is infested with self-avowed communists (Ralph McCloud) and leftist bishops that could give a damn about our faith unless it promotes social revolution (I am speaking in regards to Bishop Morin).

    Kick the bums out.

  • …promote class warfare and hate.

    Tito – you nailed it.

  • leftist bishops that could give a damn about our faith unless it promotes social revolution (I am speaking in regards to Bishop Morin).

    What are you referring to, Tito?

  • Chris,

    Bishop Roger Morin.

    His continued defense of the indefensible.

    After mountains of evidence showing that some of the programs funded by CCHD are anti-Catholic, he continues to deny that they aren’t.

    He lies through his teeth.

  • People who donate to the CCHD do so willingly, and partly because they know the campaign is about “human development.” (The other part if obedience to the envelope in their box.)

    Catholic catechesis is another fine opportunity to offer one’s material resources. And if such donations are made to students who are primarily poor, then that would be in keeping with the principle.

    However, the failure of Catholic schools is not a problem that can be fixed necessarily with money.

    The problems, real or perceived, of CCHD are also not going to be fixed by a drumbeat of insult, however couched in fact-checking rhetoric. People will give to the CCHD this weekend, and some will give more knowing others are on the warpath against it.

    Talking louder and more often does not seem to be convincing either bishops or CCHD leadership. Indeed, many high-profile conservative bishops have spoken in favor of CCHD.

    Giving to CCHD or not is a prudential issue. But it has the support of a large number of bishops. It would seem that CCHD’s most vehement detractors are practicing a variation of cafeteria Catholicism here. It is one thing to investigate the CCHD and its beneficiaries. Another to withhold one’s own money. Another to urge others not to donate. And entirely another to call a bishop a liar.

    Is this line of criticism effective or realistic?

  • “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level is both necessary and thoroughly Catholic, ”

    I know the answer is not simple, but what does this mean? Does this mean Catholics are morally obligated to argue for government to redistribute wealth and provide social services?

    Is Catholic Social teaching a set of moral principles to inform politics or is it more than that?

  • Todd,

    It shines a light on a depraved process inside a decrepit organization.

    Because our bishops are beholden to no one and when they ignore charitable approaches to resolving the issue, they leave no room for discussion.

    Hence why I posted about it.

    Believe me, if my bishop would have listened to what I had to say and taken action I wouldn’t have posted this at all.

    And yes, this line of criticism is effective.

    Just because it makes you and others uncomfortable doesn’t make donating money to the CCHD right.

  • It strikes me that one of the additional sources of controversy surrounding “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level” is that those with progressive and conservative dispositions will probably see what that would mean in very different ways.

    Painting in very broad strokes, conservatives tend to think that if people are given an education, opportunity, and a strong work ethic, that they will generally be able to improve things on their own, and at most will need direct help when they run into misfortunes.

    Progressives, on the other hand, often seem to think that people are already doing everything they could themselves be doing, and that what’s needed in order to improve their condition is for someone to come in and raise awareness so that the government will give them things or ordain that they will be paid more for the same work, etc.

    This doubtless results in a lot of difference over what a structural program that would assist those in poverty would actually look like. It also probably accounts for the fact that conservatives index more heavily towards liking direct aid for people currently in desperate circumstances — because they assume that once people in poverty have received some help to get back on their feet, that they’ll go and improve their overall condition themselves. I’ve often heard progressives dismiss such direct help as enabling poverty to continue — which probably makes sense if you assume that people are fundamentally incapable of improving their own conditions no matter what they do.

  • Tito, I wouldn’t interpret my stance here as discomfort. I’m a critic, and an unconventional one at that.

  • Echoing part of Darwin’s comment, I’d note — perhaps responding at least in part to Zach’s question — that “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level” is not synonymous with calling for help from the government, let alone the feds. *Can* it mean that? Sure. Does it *have* to mean that? No.

    I subscribe to the theory that politics is downstream from culture… while there is certainly a feedback loop, culture is primary. So when I speak of addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level, I’m thinking first about efforts to change the culture of the local community, at the level of the local community. Darwin’s strokes are a bit overly broad for me (and he acknowledged their breadth)… I think there it’s thoroughly conservative to try to address the cultural underpinnings of poverty, and that’s what I’d like to see the CCHD do.

    Tito, the fact that Bishop Morin appears somewhat obtuse with regard to what CCHD funds in no way makes him a leftist who promotes social revolution.

  • CCHD is not reformable. It is not a person. It is a half-baked socialist idea that infiltrated the Church along with a great deal of other smoke from Hell.

    Human Development is a big theme, maybe the biggest, in the Pope’s most recent encyclical and it does not mean anything close to what CCHD does. CCHD is a dehumanizing and government-promoting endeavor masked with Catholic-sounding words that are used in a socialist context.

    A Catholic organization that is under the direction of the Church must be concerned with the salvation of souls before any other mission including feeding the poor. As a lay Catholic I am called to take care of all I come in contact with as I would Christ. The Church is not called to that to the same degree – the Church is called to save souls first. I can’t save a soul but I can feed a poor person – and I should be a good Cahtolic witness while I am at it.

    CCHD does none of these things. Time for it to die.

  • How is CCHD’s mission socialist, Knight? Why is it irreformable?

    Listen, the whole point of the post was to talk about the idea of development, not the way in which one organization has failed to promote human development worthily.

    I’d challenge your ecclesiology in the 3rd ‘graph, Knight… you are a part of the Church, of course, and as laymen we have a particular responsibility to carry out the mission of the Church, in a great many variety of ways. To refer to the Church as an entity separate from us is problematic… it leads to conclusions such as your charitable work is not the Church’s.

    I can’t stand the errors of CCHD more than anyone else, but I think it’s too soon to be talking the nuclear option.

  • It was set up on the Saul Alinksy radical model to fund non-Catholic social(ist) organizations.

    Why bother reforming it? We have many other better models to delivery Charity and Truth and stay true to Church teaching.

    Chris, we are members of the body of Christ, so yes, we are Church; however, a bishop can celebrate Mass and I cannot; a priest can hear confessions and I cannot. We are one church but we have different functions. It is time for Bishops to stick with pastoral care, administration of the Sacraments and informing our consciences in communion with the Bishop of Rome. Leave the community organizing to the proper ilk that are predisposed to that sort of thing.

  • “addressing poverty at a systemic & structural level is both necessary and thoroughly Catholic”

    I know the answer is not simple, but what does this mean? Does this mean Catholics are morally obligated to argue for government to redistribute wealth and provide social services?–Zach (12:54 pm)

    I’m suspicious of the true agenda of those who spout Leftist code phrases such as the one Zach identified. The basic moral instruction the Church should be giving to one and all is most proper and most effective way to address virtually all genuine “systemic and structural” poverty there is in the United States today.

    Envy (the practical motive of any leveller) and enabling destructively immoral behavior aren’t part of “the Church’s social teaching.”

  • AK has been swallowing talking points from too many sources. In one breath, he complains about “government-promoting endeavor” and in another “Saul Alinksy radical model (of) social(ist) organizations.”

    Yet again, we have an emphasis on charity to the exclusion of justice. Not to mention a seeming ignorance of Matthew 25.

    I don’t see CCHD going away any time soon. What happens to the Catholic Right is they’re stuck with it? Just another seasonal Angry Event.

  • Todd,

    I appreciate the criticism. It certainly helps in forming ideas. Please help me a little more. It seems that you think that ‘government-promoting endeavor’ and ‘Alinsky radical model’ are incompatible. Am I right? If so, why? I see them as one and the same dehumanizing force – please help me clarify your thoughts. I am not suggesting that you are wrong but I can’t see a reason to agree with you.

    Charity and Justice are also not mutually exclusive. I hope I did not suggest that. Charity, properly understood is Love. Justice is also Love, love of God and in that love our neighbor. I owe God justice by observing the precepts and commandments of His religion. I owe justice to my fellow man by the same mechanism.

    Charity can be taking care of the acute needs of the poor and Justice can be helping them solve the reason for their poverty. I am confident that faithful Catholics agree on that. Where we may disagree is on the means of how to achieve those noble goals. The Church doesn’t tell us how, and if she did she would not be infallible becuase the method is not a matter of faith or morals – the goal is.

    I am not in disagreement with the stated intention of CCHD. I am in disagreement with the means to that stated intention and also the evidence that in practice CCHD as worked to achieve the opposite ends.

  • ok, Knight, I’ll bite.

    Are you saying that the CCHD’s problem includes government? I can’t say I’ve followed the list of organization grants carefully, but I didn’t see any government agency on the list in my diocese.

    Our government is much more beholden to the excesses of capitalism and Big Bidness than socialism.

    I agree with you there are many dehumanizing forces in the world. They are much more often due to extremism that the particulars of philosophy. By themselves, socialism, federalism, capitalism, or most any other philosophy has good points rooted in what some people think to be a better way to live. The problem is when the philosophy becomes the idol and God is set aside.

  • Todd,

    It was not a debating snare. No need to bite. I think we are coming closer to some agreement.

    I don’t think CCHD gave any government agency money directly; however, many of the groups that received CCHD money also recieve government money. Unlike USCCB, the money from the government doesn’t come without strings (to be clear I think Catholic money should come with strings – strings that require witness to the Gospel). This effectively places our material charity in organizations with a secular-government slant, which renders the material charity devoid of true Charity.

    We also agree that our government is beholden to Big Bidness; however, we disagree that it is beholden to the excess of capitalism (I take you to mean free market capitalism). Greed is not inherant in capitalism; greed is inherent in fallen humans. The problem is we are taught to look at capitalism and socialism as oppsities, when in fact they are twin sisters. Socialism approaches economic and eventually total control from the angle of ‘social justice’ and ‘class struggle’. Capitalism approaches from the ‘market’ perspective. Both are lies.

    Socialism seeks to use social influence from the masses by promoting envy and coveting to wrest control from the ‘merchant class’ and capitalism seeks to use corporate consolidation (monopoly, duopoly) to wrest control from the ‘merhcant class’. The means both systems use is government coercion and the ends will be the same: Absolutism, either oligarchy or dictatorship. Keep in mind Russia’s errors would not have been possible without support from wealthy Western industrialists.

    In that case their is no room for charity or justice.

    We need to begin to approach our ‘systemic’ concerns from the perspective of true, authentic Charity (Caritas, which is Love) at the most reduced level: person to person and from there up and out respecting subsidiarity. This keeps Charity on the level of each of us loving our neigbor in Truth and also subsidiarity is more likely to promote Justice than consolidated power and decision making do.

    Authentic Human Development as expressed by the Church and most recently Papa Bene is only possible on the human level where in the institutions are subject to the human person rather than the human cog subject to the institutional machine.

    Like I said, we can fall into the quagmire of partisan and ideological rhetoric (I am very guilty of that) or we can transend and find authentic ways to promote the general welfare, the common good properly understood in light of Truth, since we have the same ends in mind: The Kingdom of Heaven. What we must remember is that we cannot seperate the means from the ends. We need to use His means to seek His ends becuase fallen human means and fallen human ends are hellish.

  • I’m for the nuclear option.

    I refuse to wait until my grandchildren get a corrective on CCHD.

    By then we’ll probably be the United Socialist States of America and that isn’t going to happen until they pull my gun away from my dead hands!

  • Chris,

    Thank you for the response – very helpful for me.

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