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C. S. Lewis on Diabolical Democracy, Socialism, and Public Education

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

Is democracy a trap?

Is democracy a trap?

The following quotes below are taken from his satirical Screwtape Proposes a Toast (1959). Screwtape, a demon, speaks at the graduation of other younger demons from Tempters’ Training College.

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, you remember, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side) we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state….

Democracy is the word with which you must lead them by the nose…. [T]hey should never be allowed to give this word a clear and definable meaning. They won’t. It will never occur to them that democracy is properly the name of a political system, even a system of voting, and that this has only the most remote and tenuous connection with what you are trying to sell them. Nor of course must they ever be allowed to raise Aristotle’s question: whether “democratic behaviour” means the behaviour that democracies like or the behaviour that will preserve a democracy. For if they did, it could hardly fail to occur to them that these need not be the same.

You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate. And of course it is connected with the political ideal that men should be equally treated. You then make a stealthy transition in their minds from this political ideal to a factual belief that all men are equal…. As a result you can use the word democracy to sanction in his thought the most degrading (and also the least enjoyable) of human feelings. You can get him to practise, not only without shame but with a positive glow of self-approval, conduct which, if undefended by the magic word, would be universally derided.

The feeling I mean is of course that which prompts a man to say I’m as good as you….

No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The St. Bernard never says it to the toy dog, nor the scholar to the dunce, nor the employable to the bum, nor the pretty woman to the plain. The claim to equality, outside the strictly political field, is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept.

And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim to superiority…. “They’ve no business to be different. It’s undemocratic.”

Now, this useful phenomenon is in itself by no means new. Under the name of Envy it has been known to humans for thousands of years. But hitherto they always regarded it as the most odious, and also the most comical, of vices. Those who were aware of feeling it felt it with shame; those who were not gave it no quarter in others. The delightful novelty of the present situation is that you can sanction it — make it respectable and even laudable — by the incantatory use of the word democratic.

Under the influence of this incantation those who are in any or every way inferior can labour more wholeheartedly and successfully than ever before to pull down everyone else to their own level. But that is not all. Under the same influence, those who come, or could come, nearer to a full humanity, actually draw back from fear of being undemocratic…. They might (horror of horrors!) become individuals….

Meanwhile, as a delightful by-product, the few (fewer every day) who will not be made Normal or Regular and Like Folks and Integrated increasingly become in reality the prigs and cranks which the rabble would in any case have believed them to be. For suspicion often creates what it expects…. As a result we now have an intelligentsia which, though very small, is very useful to the cause of Hell.

But that is a mere by-product. What I want to fix your attention on is the vast, overall movement towards the discrediting, and finally the elimination, of every kind of human excellence – moral, cultural, social, or intellectual. And is it not pretty to notice how “democracy” (in the incantatory sense) is now doing for us the work that was once done by the most ancient Dictatorships, and by the same methods?…

Once you have grasped the tendency, you can easily predict its future developments; especially as we ourselves will play our part in the developing. The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be “undemocratic.” These differences between pupils – for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences – must be disguised. This can be done at various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing things that children used to do in their spare time…. Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have – I believe the English already use the phrase – “parity of esteem”…. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma…by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career….

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I’m as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers – or should I say, nurses? – will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. That is part of the same movement. Penal taxes, designed for that purpose, are liquidating the Middle Class, the class who were prepared to save and spend and make sacrifices in order to have their children privately educated. The removal of this class, besides linking up with the abolition of education, is, fortunately, an inevitable effect of the spirit that says I’m as good as you. This was, after all, the social group which gave to the humans the overwhelming majority of their scientists, physicians, philosophers, theologians, poets, artists, composers, architects, jurists, and administrators. If ever there were a bunch of stalks that needed their tops knocked off, it was surely they. As an English politician remarked not long ago, “A democracy does not want great men.”

We, in Hell, would welcome the disappearance of democracy in the strict sense of that word, the political arrangement so called. Like all forms of government, it often works to our advantage, but on the whole less often than other forms. And what we must realize is that “democracy” in the diabolical sense (I’m as good as you, Being Like Folks, Togetherness) is the fittest instrument we could possibly have for extirpating political democracies from the face of the earth.

For “democracy” or the “democratic spirit” (diabolical sense) leads to a nation without great men, a nation mainly of subliterates, full of the cocksureness which flattery breeds on ignorance, and quick to snarl or whimper at the first sign of criticism. And that is what Hell wishes every democratic people to be. For when such a nation meets in conflict a nation where children have been made to work at school, where talent is placed in high posts, and where the ignorant mass are allowed no say at all in public affairs, only one result is possible….

It is our function to encourage the behaviour, the manners, the whole attitude of mind, which democracies naturally like and enjoy, because these are the very things which, if unchecked, will destroy democracy. You would almost wonder that even humans don’t see it themselves. Even if they don’t read Aristotle (that would be undemocratic) you would have thought the French Revolution would have taught them that the behaviour aristocrats naturally like is not the behaviour that preserves aristocracy. They might then have applied the same principle to all forms of government….

The overthrow of free peoples and the multiplication of slave states are for us a means (besides, of course, being fun); but the real end is the destruction of individuals. For only individuals can be saved or damned, can become sons of the Enemy or food for us. The ultimate value, for us, of any revolution, war, or famine lies in the individual anguish, treachery, hatred, rage, and despair which it may produce. I’m as good as you is a useful means for the destruction of democratic societies. But it has a far deeper value as an end in itself, as a state of mind which, necessarily excluding humility, charity, contentment, and all the pleasures of gratitude or admiration, turns a human being away from almost every road which might finally lead him to Heaven.


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Pope Leo XIII on Private Property, Wealth, Charity, Taxes, and Unions

Posted by Tony Listi on July 9, 2008

Alright all you liberal/socialist Catholics out there, I think it is time to reassess what the Church really believes about private property, wealth, charity, and other economic issues. Tell me what you think about the following citations from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (bolding mine).

Is there any doubt that the Church is on the side of conservatism?

To cure this evil, the Socialists, exciting the envy of the poor toward the rich, contend that it is necessary to do away with private possession of goods and in its place to make the goods of individuals common to all, and that the men who preside over a municipality or who direct the entire State should act as administrators of these goods. They hold that, by such a transfer of private goods from private individuals to the community, they can cure the present evil through dividing wealth and benefits equally among the citizens. But their program is so unsuited for terminating the conflict that it actually injures the workers themselves. Moreover, it is highly unjust, because it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the function of the State, and throws governments into utter confusion.”

Therefore, inasmuch as the Socialists seek to transfer the goods of private persons to the community at large, they make the lot of all wage earners worse, because in abolishing the freedom to dispose of wages they take away from them by this very act the hope and the opportunity of increasing their property and of securing advantages for themselves. But, what is of more vital concern, they propose a remedy openly in conflict with justice, inasmuch as nature confers on man the right to possess things privately as his own.

And owing to the fact that this animal [the human being] alone has reason, it is necessary that man have goods not only to be used, which is common to all living things, but also to be possessed by stable and perpetual right; and this applies not merely to those goods which are consumed by use, but to those also which endure after being used.”

There is no reason to interpose provision by the State, for man is older than the State. Wherefore he had to possess by nature his own right to protect his life and body before any polity had been formed. The fact that God gave the whole human race the earth to use and enjoy cannot indeed in any manner serve as an objection against private possessions. For God is said to have given the earth to mankind in common, not because He intended indiscriminate ownership of it by all, but because He assigned no part to anyone in ownership, leaving the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and the institutions of peoples.

For this reason it also follows that private possessions are clearly in accord with nature. The earth indeed produces in great abundance the things to preserve and, especially, to perfect life, but of itself it could not produce them without human cultivation and care. Moreover, since man expends his mental energy and his bodily strength in procuring the goods of nature, by this very act he appropriates that part of physical nature to himself which he has cultivated. On it he leaves impressed, as it were, a kind of image of his person, so that it must be altogether just that he should possess that part as his very own and that no one in any way should be permitted to violate his right.” Hmmm, sounds like John Locke’s view of property and property rights….

And, after all, would justice permit anyone to own and enjoy that upon which another has toiled? As effects follow the cause producing them, so it is just that the fruit of labor belongs precisely to those who have performed the labor. Rightly therefore, the human race as a whole, moved in no wise by the dissenting opinions of a few, and observing nature carefully, has found in the law of nature itself the basis of the distribution of goods, and, by the practice of all ages, has consecrated private possession as something best adapted to man’s nature and to peaceful and tranquil living together. Now civil laws, which, when just, derive their power from the natural law itself, confirm and, even by the use of force, protect this right of which we speak. — And this same right has been sanctioned by the authority of the divine law, which forbids us most strictly even to desire what belongs to another. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his….”

Behold, therefore, the family, or rather the society of the household, a very small society indeed, but a true one, and older than any polity! For that reason it must have certain rights and duties of its own independent of the State. Thus, right of ownership, which we have shown to be bestowed on individual persons by nature, must be assigned to man in his capacity as head of a family. Nay rather, this right is all the stronger, since the human person in family life embraces much more….”

Inasmuch as the Socialists, therefore, disregard care by parents and in its place introduce care by the State, they act against natural justice and dissolve the structure of the home. And apart from the injustice involved, it is only too evident what turmoil and disorder would obtain among all classes; and what a harsh and odious enslavement of citizens would result! The door would be open to mutual envy, detraction, and dissension. If incentives to ingenuity and skill in individual persons were to be abolished, the very fountains of wealth would necessarily dry up; and the equality conjured up by the Socialist imagination would, in reality, be nothing but uniform wretchedness and meanness for one and all, without distinction.

From all these conversations, it is perceived that the fundamental principle of Socialism which would make all possessions public property is to be utterly rejected because it injures the very ones whom it seeks to help, contravenes the natural rights of individual persons, and throws the functions of the State and public peace into confusion. Let it be regarded, therefore, as established that in seeking help for the masses this principle before all is to be considered as basic, namely, that private ownership must be preserved inviolate….”

Therefore, let it be laid down in the first place that a condition of human existence must be borne with, namely, that in civil society the lowest cannot be made equal to the highest. Socialists, of course, agitate the contrary, but all struggling against nature is vain. There are truly very great and very many natural differences among men. Neither the talents, nor the skill, nor the health, nor the capacities of all are the same, and unequal fortune follows of itself upon necessary inequality in respect to these endowments. And clearly this condition of things is adapted to benefit both individuals and the community; for to carry on its affairs community life requires varied aptitudes and diverse services, and to perform these diverse services men are impelled most by differences in individual property holdings. Therefore, to suffer and endure is human, and although men may strive in all possible ways, they will never be able by any power or art wholly to banish such tribulations from human life. If any claim they can do this, if they promise the poor in their misery a life free from all sorrow and vexation and filled with repose and perpetual pleasures, they actually impose upon these people and perpetuate a fraud which will ultimately lead to evils greater than the present….”

Among these duties the following concern the poor and the workers: To perform entirely and conscientiously whatever work has been voluntarily and equitably agreed upon; not in any way to injure the property or to harm the person of employers; in protecting their own interests, to refrain from violence and never to engage in rioting; not to associate with vicious men who craftily hold out exaggerated hopes and make huge promises, a course usually ending in vain regrets and in the destruction of wealth….”

Therefore, the well-to-do are admonished that wealth does not give surcease of sorrow, and that wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance; that the threats pronounced by Jesus Christ, so unusual coming from Him, ought to cause the rich to fear; and that on one day the strictest account for the use of wealth must be rendered to God as Judge….” The rich must account to God, not the State for how they use their wealth. Of course, it is easily seen how liberal fascists have trouble distinguishing between the two.

But when the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, it is a duty to give to the poor out of that which remains…. These are duties not of justice, except in cases of extreme need, but of Christian charity, which obviously cannot be enforced by legal action….”

But it must not be supposed that the Church so concentrates her energies on caring for souls as to overlook things which pertain to mortal and earthly life. As regards the non-owning workers specifically, she desires and strives that they rise from their most wretched state and enjoy better conditions. And to achieve this result she makes no small contribution by the very fact that she calls men to and trains them in virtue. For when Christian morals are completely observed, they yield of themselves a certain measure of prosperity to material existence, because they win the favor of God, the source and fountain of all goods; because they restrain the twin plagues of life — excessive desire for wealth and thirst for pleasure — which too often make man wretched amidst the very abundance of riches; and because finally, Christian morals make men content with a moderate livelihood and make them supplement income by thrift, removing them far from the vices which swallow up both modest sums and huge fortunes, and dissipate splendid inheritances.”

But, in addition, the Church provides directly for the well-being of the non-owning workers by instituting and promoting activities which she knows to be suitable to relieve their distress. Nay, even in the field of works of mercy, she has always so excelled that she is highly praised by her very enemies. The force of mutual charity among the first Christians was such that the wealthier ones very often divested themselves of their riches to aid others; wherefore, ‘Nor was there anyone among them in want.’ [Acts 4:34] To the deacons, an order founded expressly for this purpose, the Apostles assigned the duty of dispensing alms daily; and the Apostle Paul, although burdened with the care of all the churches, did not hesitate to spend himself on toilsome journeys in order to bring alms personally to the poorer Christians. Moneys of this kind, contributed voluntarily by the Christians in every assembly, Tertullian calls ‘piety’s deposit fund,’ because they were expended to ‘support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of orphan boys and girls without means of support, of aged household servants, and of such, too, as had suffered shipwreck.'”

Thence, gradually there came into existence that patrimony which the Church has guarded with religious care as the property of the poor. Nay, even disregarding the feeling of shame associated with begging, she provided aid for the wretched poor. For, as the common parent of rich and poor, with charity everywhere stimulated to the highest degree, she founded religious societies and numerous other useful bodies, so that, with the aid which these furnished, there was scarcely any form of human misery that went uncared for.”

“And yet many today go so far as to condemn the Church as the ancient pagans once did, for such outstanding charity, and would substitute in lieu thereof a system of benevolence established by the laws of the State. But no human devices can ever be found to supplant Christian charity, which gives itself entirely for the benefit of others. This virtue belongs to the Church alone, for, unless it is derived from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is in no wise a virtue; and whosoever departs from the Church wanders far from Christ….”

Therefore those governing the State ought primarily to devote themselves to the service of individual groups and of the whole commonwealth, and through the entire scheme of laws and institutions to cause both public and individual well-being to develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State. For this is the duty of wise statesmanship and the essential office of those in charge of the State. Now, States are made prosperous especially by wholesome morality, properly ordered family life, protection of religion and justice, moderate imposition and equitable distribution of public burdens, progressive development of industry and trade, thriving agriculture, and by all other things of this nature, which the more actively they are promoted, the better and happier the life of the citizens is destined to be. Therefore, by virtue of these things, it is within the competence of the rulers of the State that, as they benefit other groups, they also improve in particular the condition of the workers. Furthermore, they do this with full right and without laying themselves open to any charge of unwarranted interference. For the State is bound by the very law of its office to serve the common interest. And the richer the benefits which come from this general providence on the part of the State, the less necessary it will be to experiment with other measures for the well-being of workers….”

Rights indeed, by whomsoever possessed, must be religiously protected; and public authority, in warding off injuries and punishing wrongs, ought to see to it that individuals may have and hold what belongs to them…. The capital point is this, that private property ought to be safeguarded by the sovereign power of the State and through the bulwark of its laws. And especially, in view of such a great flaming up of passion at the present time, the masses ought to be kept within the bounds of their moral obligations. For while justice does not oppose our striving for better things, on the other hand, it does forbid anyone to take from another what is his and, in the name of a certain absurd equality, to seize forcibly the property of others; nor does the interest of the common good itself permit this. Certainly, the great majority of working people prefer to secure better conditions by honest toil, without doing wrong to anyone. Nevertheless, not a few individuals are found who, imbued with evil ideas and eager for revolution, use every means to stir up disorder and incite to violence. The authority of the State, therefore, should intervene and, by putting restraint upon such disturbers, protect the morals of workers from their corrupting arts and lawful owners from the danger of spoliation….”

[I]n the case of the worker, there are many things which the power of the State should protect; and, first of all, the goods of his soul. For however good and desirable mortal life be, yet it is not the ultimate goal for which we are born, but a road only and a means for perfecting, through knowledge of truth and love of good, the life of the soul….” Hmmm, I assume preventing the poor from stealing from the rich would be good for the souls of the poor, no?

Let it be granted then that worker and employer may enter freely into agreements and, in particular, concerning the amount of the wage; yet there is always underlying such agreements an element of natural justice, and one greater and more ancient than the free consent of contracting parties, namely, that the wage shall not be less than enough to support a worker who is thrifty and upright….”

But in these and similar questions, such as the number of hours of work in each kind of occupation and the health safeguards to be provided, particularly in factories, it will be better, in order to avoid unwarranted governmental intervention, especially since circumstances of business, season, and place are so varied, that decision be reserved to the organizations of which We are about to speak below….”

We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property. If this is done, excellent benefits will follow, foremost among which will surely be a more equitable division of goods.…”

[I]f the productive activity of the multitude can be stimulated by the hope of acquiring some property in land, it will gradually come to pass that, with the difference between extreme wealth and extreme penury removed, one class will become neighbor to the other. Moreover, there will surely be a greater abundance of the things which the earth produces. For when men know they are working on what belongs to them, they work with far greater eagerness and diligence.”

But these advantages can be attained only if private wealth is not drained away by crushing taxes of every kind. For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man’s law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the commonweal. Public authority therefore would act unjustly and inhumanly, if in the name of taxes it should appropriate from the property of private individuals more than is equitable.

Finally, employers and workers themselves can accomplish much in this matter, manifestly through those institutions by the help of which the poor are opportunely assisted and the two classes of society are brought closer to each other. Under this category come associations for giving mutual aid; various agencies established by the foresight of private persons to care for the worker and likewise for his dependent wife and children in the event that an accident, sickness, or death befalls him; and foundations to care for boys and girls, for adolescents, and for the aged….”

Inadequacy of his own strength, learned from experience, impels and urges a man to enlist the help of others. Such is the teaching of Holy Scripture: “It is better therefore that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society. If one fall he shall be supported by the other; woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up.” [Eccl. 4:9-10] And this also: “A brother that is helped by his brother, is like a strong city.” [Proverbs 18:19] Just as man is drawn by this natural propensity into civil union and association, so he also seeks with his fellow citizens to form other societies, admittedly small and not perfect, but societies none the less….” Brothers know each other personally. Societies are local, small, and intimate. How the heck can a Christian claim impersonal Big Government thousands of miles away in Washington, DC is brotherly love?!

Although private societies exist within the State and are, as it were, so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the State universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the State, on the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself because both the State itself and private associations are begotten of one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to associate….” Hmmm, and what if government social programs destroy the will, initiative, and resources of private charitable groups by trying to assume to itself their functions and resources? Where will charitable groups get money if the State taxes the rich heavily?

Certainly, the number of associations of almost every possible kind, especially of associations of workers, is now far greater than ever before. This is not the place to inquire whence many of them originate, what object they have, or how they proceed. But the opinion is, and it is one confirmed by a good deal of evidence, that they are largely under the control of secret leaders and that these leaders apply principles which are in harmony neither with Christianity nor with the welfare of States, and that, after having possession of all available work, they contrive that those who refuse to join with them will be forced by want to pay the penalty. Under these circumstances, workers who are Christians must choose one of two things; either to join associations in which it is greatly to be feared that there is danger to religion, or to form their own associations and unite their forces in such a way that they may be able manfully to free themselves from such unjust and intolerable opposition….”

Finally, there are not wanting Catholics of great wealth, yet voluntary sharers, as it were, in the lot of the wage workers, who by their own generous contributions are striving to found and extend associations through which the worker is readily enabled to obtain from his toil not only immediate benefits, but also assurance of honorable retirement in the future. How much good such manifold and enthusiastic activity has contributed to the benefit of all this is too well known to make discussion necessary. From all this, We have taken auguries of good hope for the future, provided that societies of this kind continually grow and that they are founded with wise organization. Let the State protect these lawfully associated bodies of citizens; let it not, however, interfere with their private concerns and order of life; for vital activity is set in motion by an inner principle, and it is very easily destroyed, as We know, by intrusion from without.” Hmmm, sounds like the principle of limited government. Now, what political philosophy espouses this principle too??

It is clear, however, that moral and religious perfection ought to be regarded as their [unions’] principal goal, and that their social organization as such ought above all to be directed completely by this goal. For otherwise, they would degenerate in nature and would be little better than those associations in which no account is ordinarily taken of religion. Besides, what would it profit a worker to secure through an association an abundance of goods, if his soul through lack of its proper food should run the risk of perishing? “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” [Mt 16:26] Christ Our Lord teaches that this in fact must be considered the mark whereby a Christian is distinguished from a pagan: “After all these things the Gentiles seek — seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.” [Mt 6:32-33] Therefore, having taken their principles from God, let those associations provide ample opportunity for religious instruction so that individual members may understand their duties to God, that they may well know what to believe, what to hope for, and what to do for eternal salvation, and that with special care they may be fortified against erroneous opinions and various forms of corruption.” Hmmm, could these errors and corruption be liberalism and its disregard for private property rights? Judging from the rest of the encyclical, yes!

Through these regulations, provided they are readily accepted, the interests and welfare of the poor will be adequately cared for. Associations of Catholics, moreover, will undoubtedly be of great importance in promoting prosperity in the State.” He means moral, religious regulations, not government regulations. The context is clear. Also, promoting prosperity is good! How else can we provide for the poor??

The foundation of this teaching rests on this, that the just ownership of money is distinct from the just use of money. To own goods privately, as We saw above, is a right natural to man, and to exercise this right, especially in life in society, is not only lawful, but clearly necessary. ‘It is lawful for man to own his own things. It is even necessary for human life.’ [Aquinas] But if the question be asked: How ought man to use his possessions? the Church replies without hesitation: ‘As to this point, man ought not regard external goods as his own, but as common so that, in fact, a person should readily share them when he sees others in need. Wherefore the Apostle says: “Charge the rich of this world…to give readily, to share with others“.'” [Aquinas; Tim 6:17-18] Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look like Scripture says tax the rich and force them to share with others! It says that religious leaders, who are not to be political leaders, should encourage and command the rich to do so.

For, no matter how strong the power of prejudice and passion in man, yet, unless perversity of will has deadened the sense of the right and just, the good will of citizens is certain to be more freely inclined toward those whom they learn to know as industrious and temperate, and who clearly place justice before profit and conscientious observance of duty before all else….” Notice that the pope has faith in free people who know others intimately in community. Why can’t liberals do the same thing?

They are conscious of being most inhumanly treated by greedy employers, that almost no greater value is placed on them than the amount of gain they yield by their toil, and that in the associations, moreover, in whose meshes they are caught, there exist in place of charity and love, internal dissensions which are the inseparable companions of aggravating and irreligious poverty. Broken in spirit, and worn out in body, how gladly many would free themselves from a servitude so degrading! Yet they dare not because either human shame or the fear of want prevents them. It is remarkable how much associations of Catholics can contribute to the welfare of all such men if they invite those wavering in uncertainty to their bosom in order to remedy their difficulties, and if they receive the penitents into their trust and protection….” Hmmm, again, I don’t see any advocacy of Big Government. I see encouragement of private associations of Catholics (like at St. Mary’s).

First and foremost Christian morals must be re-established, without which even the weapons of prudence, which are considered especially effective, will be of no avail, to secure well-being.” What?! We can’t steal from the rich first and then be moral? What a shame.

“Let this be understood in particular by those whose duty it is to promote the public welfare. Let the members of the Sacred Ministry exert all their strength of mind and all their diligence, and Venerable Brethren, under the guidance of your authority and example, let them not cease to impress upon men of all ranks the principles of Christian living as found in the Gospel; by all means in their power let them strive for the well-being of people; and especially let them aim both to preserve in themselves and to arouse in others, in the highest equally as well as in the lowest, the mistress and queen of the virtues, Charity. Certainly, the well-being which is so longed for is chiefly to be expected from an abundant outpouring of charity; of Christian charity, we mean, which is in epitome the law of the Gospel, and which, always ready to sacrifice itself for the benefit of others, is man’s surest antidote against the insolence of the world and immoderate love of self; the divine office and features of this virtue being described by the Apostle Paul in these words: “Charity is patient, is kind…is not self- seeking…bears with all things…endures all things.” [1 Cor 13:4-7] Notice that it is the Church’s duty to promote the public welfare. Notice that the well-being of the poor is to come “chiefly” from charity. Notice that real charity requires “sacrifice [of the self] for the benefit of others,” NOT making others sacrifice for others.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Catholicism, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Fascism is Merely Heretical Communism, Like Liberalism

Posted by Tony Listi on May 29, 2008

How many times have you heard a liberal call a conservative a “fascist” or “neo-fascist”? The Left apparently thinks that only right-wingers can be fascists. But the truth is that fascism is wholly a product of the Left, not the Right, side of the political spectrum. Only liberals can be fascists because modern American liberalism is a product of communist and fascist ideology.

This can be most clearly and immediately seen by examining the term “Nazism,” which is actually short-hand for National Socialism in German. The Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Socialism is an ideology of the Left! Communism is global socialism, and fascism is national socialism. The ONLY real difference between the two is one of scope and geography.

Mussolini: Communist Heretic
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, dictator of fascist Italy and conventionally labeled the father of fascism (the term “fascism” is Italian in origin), was a lifelong socialist and follower of Karl Marx. He was named after two socialists: Amilcare Cipriani and Andrea Costa. His father was a stalwart socialist who was a member of the First International and served on the local socialist council. His father read him passages from Das Kapital (I know that’s what I read when I want to put myself to sleep, haha). Benito started early in his socialist activism: he called himself a socialist while in high school and became the secretary of a socialist organization at Forli at the age of 18.

In his youth, he carried a medallion of Karl Marx. He also became close friends with Angelica Balabanoff, a longtime colleague of Lenin. In fact, Lenin and Mussolini were mutual admirers. Lenin wrote, “Mussolini? A great pity he is lost to us! He is a strong man, who would have led our party to victory.”

Mussolini seriously began his political career as a left-wing journalist and intellectual. He was very well read in socialist theory. He wrote countless socialist tracts and articles that both examined and translated socialist literature. In 1911, he became the editor of La lotta di classe (Class War), which served as a mouthpiece for the Italian Socialist Party. In 1912, he attended a Socialist congress.

Leading socialist Olindo Vernocchi said, “From today you, Benito, are not only the representative of the Romagna Socialists but the Duce of all revolutionary socialists in Italy.” This was how he received the nickname Il Duce, literally “the leader.” He was the Duce of Socialism!

Leda Rafanelli, an anarchist intellectual, wrote “Benito Mussolini…is the socialist of heroic times.”

Mussolini joined the formal leadership of the Italian Socialist Party and became editor of its paper called Avanti! , which would become socialist gospel for a whole generation of socialists. Lenin would comment approvingly of Mussolini’s efforts in Pravda.

Mussolini’s break with strict, dogmatic socialism would begin with the outbreak of World War I. His support of the war contravened the principle of international solidarity and the elimination of national borders (nationality itself to be precise). He saw it as a practical necessity, but he received a backlash from hardline believers. He responded, “You hate me today because you love me still. Whatever happens, you won’t lose me. Twelve years of my life in the party ought to be sufficient guarantee of my socialist faith. Socialism is in my blood.” Again, he countered, “You think you can turn me out, but you will find I shall come back again. I am and shall remain a socialist and my convictions will never change! They are bred into my very bones.”

Mussolini did not move to the right or radically change his political philosophy. He merely rejected one tenet of orthodox Marxism: class must come before nationality or any other group identity. “I saw that internationalism was crumbling,” Mussolini later observed. “The sentiment of nationality exists and cannot be denied.” He thought it was “utterly foolish” to believe that class consciousness could trump national loyalties and culture. Thus was born national socialism, a modification from traditional socialism only in the sense that it was less ambitious in scope and recognized that the natural power of nationalism could be harnessed as a means to socialist ends. Thus Mussolini said that its was “necessary to assassinate the Party in order to save Socialism.” It was this little heresy that would divide Europe’s socialists. And the Italian people would choose national socialism (fascism) over international socialists and communists.

And thus Mussolini came to power as a very popular dictator. He proceeded to create a totalitarian state (a term that he coined) as communism requires: “Everything in the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.” There was hardly a difference between it and the Soviet Union with regard to policy. The State would control everything and had the final authority.

Before his death, he selected a socialist journalist to record some of his last thoughts and wishes: “I bequeath the republic to the republicans not to the monarchists, and the work of social reform to the socialists and not to the middle classes.”

Hitler: Man of the Left
Hitler wrote approvingly of Italian fascism in Mein Kampf: “The appearance of a new and great idea was the secret of success in the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution owes its triumph to an idea. And it was only the idea that enabled Fascism triumphantly to subject a whole nation to a process of complete renovation.” He realized the necessity of having an idea that would arouse the masses.

For years historians have tried to portray Nazism as the polar opposite of Communism. The role of industrialists has been exaggerated while the clear and substantial socialist aspects of Nazism have been ignored or downplayed. Nazism did not destroy the communist Left in Germany; it merely replaced the communists on the Left side of the spectrum in Germany. The fact of the matter is that the working classes (the bloc that typically supported the communists) comprised a substantial part of the Nazis electoral base. German Nazism and Italian Fascism were both populist movements that attracted support from all levels of society. Moreover, the industrial sector came to support Hitler much later than the working masses. Businesses hopped on the band wagon when they saw it was in their best interests.

Like any good leftist, Hitler was a revolutionary and exploited anti-capitalist rhetoric in his rise to power. He despised the bourgeoisie, traditionalists, aristocrats, monarchists, and all believers in the established order. Because he wished to remake German society entirely, he was no conservative! He wrote in Mein Kampf, “Either the German youth will one day create a new State founded on the racial idea or they will be the last witnesses of the complete breakdown and death of the bourgeoisie world.” He rejected traditional Christianity; he wanted to revive Germany’s so-called pre-Christian authenticity, or in other words, to create a modern paganism. He was well read in German mythology and pseudo-history. His idols were Georg Ritter von Schonerer and Dr. Karl Lueger.

He rhetoric mirrored Lenin’s: “Our bourgeoisie is already worthless for any noble human endeavor.” Once he was entrenched in power he clarified his opposition to communism thus: “Had communism really intended nothing more than a certain purification by eliminating isolated rotten elements from among the ranks of our so-called ‘upper ten thousand’ or our equally worthless Philistines, one could have sat back quietly and looked on for awhile.” Hitler didn’t disagree with the German communists in principle or policy, especially with regard to economics; he was enraged at their undermining of Germany with strikes during WW I and antiwar mobilization. He thought they were part of a coalition that had stabbed Germany in the back. Indeed, Hitler often spoke with grudging admiration of Stalin and the communists. Hitler studied Marxism, which both fascinated and repulsed him, appreciating its ideas but becoming utterly convinced that Marx was the architect of some Jewish plot.

Hitler entered the Nazi Party because of a talk given by Gottfried Feder entitled “How and by What Means is Capitalism to be Eliminated?” The party stood for everything he believed in, and thus started his career as the party’s best salesman. The Nazis campaigned as socialists.
What exactly did the party stand for? Its platform included:

“We demand that the state be charged first with providing the opportunity for a livelihood and way of life for the citizens. If it is impossible to sustain the total population of the State, then the members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled from the Reich.” Sounds like nanny state liberalism.

“Abolition of unearned (work and labor) incomes. Breaking of rent-slavery.” Can you say death tax and rent control?

“We demand the nationalization of all (previous) associated industries (trusts).” That doesn’t sound free market.

“We demand a division of profits of all heavy industries” Hmmm, a “windfall” profits tax?

“We demand an expansion on a large scale of old age welfare.” Sounds like FDR’s Social Security, no?

“The state is to be responsible for a fundamental reconstruction of our whole national education program…. The comprehension of the concept of the State must be striven for by the school as early as the beginning of understanding. We demand the education at the expense of the State….” Sounds like a government monopoly on the schools. Isn’t that what Democrats are for?

“The State is to care for the elevating national health by protecting the mother and child, by outlawing child-labor, by the encouragement of physical fitness, by means of the legal establishment of a gymnastic and sport obligation, by the utmost support of all organizations concerned with the physical instruction of the young.” Hmmm, you think Hitler would have banned trans fats?

“…a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual.” This is what liberals mean when they say “the common good.”

“For the execution of all of this we demand the formation of a strong central power in the Reich.” Centralization of power in the national government? Does that sound right-wing to you?

Read the platform for yourself. There is nothing conservative about it.

Racism was not an element of fascism originally in Italy. Anti-Semitism was an innovation of Hitler’s. Mussolini considered it a silly distraction. But Hitler’s identity politics was powerful and successful (hmmm, which modern American political party practices identity politics?). Of course, anti-Semitism is by no means a right-wing phenomenon. We should not forget that Stalin and Karl Marx himself hated Jews. Jews were seen (and are still seen today to some extent) as the archetypal capitalists. Thus it was only natural that the Left, including Hitler, should hate them!

Nationalism isn’t inherently right-wing at all either. Consider Stalin, Castro, Arafat, Hugo Chavez, Che Guevara, Pol Pot, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. The only reason nationalism came to be seen as right-wing is because the communists, who were internationalists, labeled the fascists as right-wing. Why the heck should we be adopting the political lens of communism in order to find out what fascism really is?!

Nazi ideologist Gregor Strasser was straightforward about it: “We are socialists. We are enemies, deadly enemies, of today’s capitalist economic system with its exploitation of the economically weak, its unfair wage system, its immoral way of judging the worth of human beings in terms of their wealth and their money, instead of their responsibility and their performance, and we are determined to destroy this system whatever happens!”

Hitler dedicates an entire chapter in his Mein Kampf to how the Nazis can appropriate socialist and communist imagery, rhetoric, and ideas to attract leftists to the party. The Nazis made use of the color red deliberately: “In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man.”
Hitler would often exaggerate his identity as an “ex-worker”: “I was a worker in my youth like you, slowly working my way upward by industry, by study, and I think I can say as well by hunger.”

Fascism and communism are kindred spirits. As communist ideologue Karl Radek noted, “Fascism is middle class Socialism….”

(Reference Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg)

Posted in American Culture, Culture War, Fascism, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Which is More Materialistic: Capitalism or its Alternatives?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

Marxism is specifically atheistic. By denying the supernatural, transcendent, and spiritual aspects of reality, it is inherently materialistic and deterministic. The world is atoms, their random motions, and absolutely nothing else. Marxism seeks to satisfy material needs and desires regardless of the moral consequences (because morality, a transcendent thing, doesn’t exist). Communism, socialism, and welfare statism are merely derivatives of this Marxist theory.

Capitalism inherently believes that all human beings have free will and should be free to exercise that freedom without coercion from others in economic matters. Now the very idea of free will and freedom presupposes the divine, the supernatural. Freedom presupposes something more than a mere mass of atoms and random chance. It presupposes something more than the material world. It presupposes something (or someone) that can actually choose, i.e. the soul, and thus presupposes a Soul-Maker too. Thus capitalism presupposes the transcendent and spiritual and thus is less materialistic than any of its alternatives.

There is a distinction between materialism and productive use of the Creation. But of course, if you are an atheist, this distinction necessarily has no meaning for you.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Socialism, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Industrial Revolution Was Good for Common Worker

Posted by Tony Listi on March 31, 2008

Industrial Revolution and the Standard of Living
By Clark Nardinelli

Between 1760 and 1860, technological progress, education, and an increasing capital stock transformed England into the workshop of the world. The industrial revolution, as the transformation came to be called, caused a sustained rise in real income per person in England and, as its effects spread, the rest of the Western world. Historians agree that the industrial revolution was one of the most important events in history, marking the rapid transition to the modern age, but they disagree vehemently about various aspects of the event. Of all the disagreements, the oldest one is over how the industrial revolution affected ordinary people, usually called the working classes. One group, the pessimists, argues that the living standards of ordinary people fell. Another group, the optimists, believes that living standards rose.

The debate over living standards is important because it represents a place where the critics and defenders of capitalism meet head-on. It is no coincidence that the debate heated up during the Cold War. The pessimists wanted to show that the English industrial revolution, which took place within a capitalist economy, necessarily made working people worse off. Optimists defended capitalism by showing that the industrial revolution made everyone better off.

This disagreement over the standard of living is confined almost entirely to academicians. Most other people, if they think about it at all, consider it well established that the industrial revolution was a disaster for the working classes. Indeed, the ghastly images of Dickens’s Coketown or Blake’s “dark, satanic mills” dominate popular perceptions of what life was like during the early years of English industrialization. Economic historians, however, have gone beyond popular perceptions to try to find out what really happened to ordinary people.

First, we must consider what “standard of living” means. Economic historians would like it to mean happiness. But the impossibility of measuring happiness forces them to equate the standard of living with real income. Real income is money income adjusted for the cost of living and for the effects of things such as health, unemployment, pollution, the condition of women and children, urban crowding, and amount of leisure time.

Because a rise in real income was precisely what made England’s transformation “revolutionary,” it would seem that, by definition, the industrial revolution led to a rise in the standard of living. According to the estimates of economist N. F. R. Crafts, British income per person (in 1970 U.S. dollars) rose from $333 in 1700 to $399 in 1760, to $427 in 1800, to $498 in 1830, and then jumped to $804 in 1860. (For many centuries before the industrial revolution, in contrast, periods of falling income offset periods of rising income.) Both sides in the debate accept Crafts’s estimates. But if the distribution of income became more unequal and if pollution, unemployment, and crowding increased, the real incomes of ordinary people could have fallen despite the rise in average income.

If significant economic growth is sustained over a century or so, the only way the poor become worse off is if inequality increases dramatically. Crafts’s estimates indicate that real income per person doubled between 1760 and 1860. Therefore, the share of income going to the lowest 65 percent of the population would have had to fall by half for them to be worse off after all that growth. It didn’t. In 1760 the lowest 65 percent received about 29 percent of total income in Britain; in 1860 they got about 25 percent. So the lowest 65 percent were substantially better off. Their average real income had increased by over 70 percent.

This evidence means that the optimists have won the debate on the big issue of whether the industrial revolution helped or hurt ordinary people. It helped. But smaller debates remain. Did the working class become worse off during the early years of England’s industrialization, 1790 to 1840, when real income per person grew at only about 0.3 percent per year? Growth at such a slow rate made a deterioration in the lot of the working classes possible. A simple numerical illustration will show why. If we take 0.3 percent per year as the annual rate of growth of real income, average real income in 1840 would have been about 16 percent higher than in 1790. The share of total income going to the lowest 65 percent of the income distribution need only have fallen to 86 percent of its 1790 level to negate the benefit of rising average income. Although they do not agree on how much, most economic historians agree that the distribution of income became more unequal between 1790 and 1840. Moreover, if we add the effects of unemployment, pollution, urban crowding, child labor, and other social ills, the modest rise in average income could well have been accompanied by a fall in the standard of living of the working classes.

The modern debate over this issue, which began with a 1949 paper by T. S. Ashton, has focused on other measures of living standards, especially wages. Ashton himself used changes in the cost of living-measured by the prices of basic commodities-to conclude that real wages rose after 1820.

The debate heated up considerably during exchanges between the pessimist Eric Hobsbawm and the optimist Max Hartwell in the late 1950s and early 1960s. According to Hobsbawm, Ashton’s evidence on real wages was inconclusive. He argued that high unemployment indicated that living standards may have deteriorated before 1840. Hobsbawm stressed that evidence on consumption also implied that living standards did not rise and may have fallen between 1790 and 1840. He placed particular emphasis on these estimates of consumption, reasoning that a decline in food consumption per person indicated a decline in the standard of living. He noted that the number of beef and sheep slaughtered at various markets failed to keep pace with the growth of population before 1840.

Hartwell criticized Hobsbawm’s use of evidence. The problem with looking at the volume of beef and sheep sold at particular markets, he noted, was that new markets were appearing. Hartwell also emphasized the appearance of new, previously unavailable consumer goods after 1820, such as popular periodicals, inexpensive cotton clothing, and the exotic fruits made available by improved transportation. But Hartwell’s main point was that few theories can explain falling real wages in the face of economic growth-particularly when rising labor productivity accompanied that growth. He emphasized that it would take implausibly high increases in unemployment or inequality for living standards to fall when average income was rising.

The debate gradually receded into the background until a 1983 paper by Peter Lindert and Jeffrey Williamson brought new life to the controversy. Lindert and Williamson produced new estimates of real wages for the years 1755 to 1851. Their estimates were based on money wages for workers in several broad categories, including both blue-collar and white-collar occupations. Their cost of living index attempted to represent actual working-class budgets.

The Lindert-Williamson series produced two striking results. First, real wages grew slowly between 1781 and 1819. Second, after 1819 real wages grew rapidly for all groups of workers. For all blue-collar workers-a good stand-in for the working classes-the Lindert-Williamson index number for real wages rose from 50.19 in 1819 to 100 in 1851. That is, real wages doubled in just thirty-two years.

Lindert and Williamson’s findings were reinforced by estimates that economist Charles Feinstein made of consumption per person for each decade between the 1760s and 1850s. He found a small rise in consumption between 1760 and 1820 and a rapid rise after 1820. Other evidence that supported the hypothesis of rising real wages came from statistics on life expectancy at birth and on literacy rates. According to historians E. A. Wrigley and Roger S. Schofield’s population history of England, life expectancy at birth rose from thirty-five years to forty years between 1781 and 1851. A modest increase in literacy in the generation before 1840 also supported Lindert and Williamson.

Although the evidence favors the optimists, doubts remain. For example, pessimists have long maintained that the largely unmeasurable effects of environmental decay more than offset any gains in well-being attributable to rising wages. Wages were higher in English cities than in the countryside, but rents were higher and the quality of life was lower. What proportion of the rise in urban wages reflected compensation for worsening urban squalor rather than true increases in real incomes? Williamson-using methods developed to measure the ill effects of twentieth-century cities-found that between 8 and 30 percent of the higher urban wages could be attributed to compensation for the inferior quality of life in English cities. Yet even the 30 percent estimate was much too small to fully offset the rise in real wages before 1850.

Another criticism of Lindert and Williamson’s optimistic findings is that their results hold only for workers who earned wages. We do not know what happened to people who worked at home or were self-employed. Because the consumption per person of tea and sugar failed to rise along with real wages, Joel Mokyr has suggested that workers who were not in the Lindert-Williamson sample may have suffered sufficiently deteriorating real incomes to offset rising wage income and leave the average person no better off.

Contemporary pessimists argue that for at least some part of the industrial revolution the happiness and well-being of the lower classes was not rising much, if at all. Even if one accepts their argument, however, it is not necessary to abandon the optimists’ position. For example, the industrial revolution had a positive effect on real income, but its positive effect may well have been offset by the negative effect of frequent wars (the American Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the War of 1812). Some economic historians include bad harvests, rapid population growth, and the costs of transforming preindustrial workers into a modern labor force as additional causes of slow growth before 1820.

So careful economic research has narrowed the debate. Whether one is an optimist or pessimist today depends on whether one believes that the sustained rise in real wages began in the 1820s or the 1840s. Virtually all participants agree that growth was slow at best before 1820 and rapid after 1840.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Economics, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Marxism/Feminism/Liberalism and the Family

Posted by Tony Listi on February 25, 2008

It Takes a Family to Raise a Village: The Significance of the Family for the Free Society  

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. left a tenured position in the Economics Department at George Mason University to move with her husband and children to California in 1996. She is now the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Posted in American Culture, Feminism, Government and Politics, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pope Dissects and Denounces Socialism

Posted by Tony Listi on February 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Faith and policy

Benedict dissects problem with socialism

Fr. Robert Sirico

Pope Benedict XVI has delivered a wonderful — and oh-so-needed — reminder of what socialism was (and is), and why it went wrong.

Large swaths of American academia are in denial. So too are major parts of the American and European clerical class, which is still under the impression that socialism represents a gospel ideal that has yet to be tried.

Benedict explains this in his encyclical Spe Salvi(“in hope we are saved”).

The pope concentrates on Karl Marx in particular. Here was an intellectual who imagined that salvation could occur without God, and that something approximating the Kingdom of God on earth could be created by adjusting the material conditions of man.

History, in Marx’s view, was nothing but the crashes and grinding of these material forces. There was no such thing as a fixed human nature.

Marx said the expropriated working classes must take back what is rightfully theirs from the exploiting capitalist classes.

Benedict sums the fundamental error with Marx neatly:

“He showed precisely how to overthrow the existing order, but he did not say how matters should proceed thereafter. He simply presumed that with the expropriation of the ruling class, with the fall of political power and the socialization of means of production, the new Jerusalem would be realized. Then, indeed, all contradictions would be resolved, man and the world would finally sort themselves out.”

Having accomplished the revolution in Russia, Vladimir Lenin must have realized that the writings of the master gave no indication as to how to proceed. Marx had only spoken of the interim phase of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a necessity which in time would automatically become redundant.

What resulted is that millions of Russians died in famine and wholesale slaughter. It became clear to Lenin that he had to back away, lest there be no one left to rule. But the dictatorship continued. So too did the poverty relative to capitalist nations.

So the pope has put the problems of economics exactly in the right light: The practical issue needs to be settled within a sound morality and understanding of human nature. Socialism fails because it has no system for pricing factors of production to make economic calculation possible. Prices come from the exchange of the very private property with which socialism dispenses.

And yet the moral problem with socialism is more profound: It exalts theft as an ethic and overlooks the human right of freedom.

Would that every Catholic interested in economics would read this encyclical. Some are getting the message already: The Catholic Church in Venezuela worked against Hugo Chavez’s dangerous plan for nationalization and regimentation of economic life. Someday, the world will come to learn the lessons that the history of socialism has taught.

Father Robert Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids. Fax letters to (313) 222-6417 or e-mail them to

Posted in American Culture, Economics, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Real Story of Thanksgiving: Thankful for Capitalism

Posted by Tony Listi on November 22, 2007

If you were like me, what we were taught in school was that the Pilgrims came over, and they were just overwhelmed; they were swamped; they had no clue where they were; they had no clue how to feed themselves; they had to clue how to protect themselves; they had no idea how to stay warm; they had no idea how to do anything.  They were just typical, dumb white people fleeing some other place they couldn’t manage to live in.  And then, out of the woods came the wonderful Indians, who had great compassion, they were at one with the land, they were at one with the spirits, and they saw these incompetent, dupe white people dressed up in these odd, stupid, black and white hats and suits, and they befriended us, and they taught us how to plant corn and how to catch beasts and how to skin beavers to stay warm, and Thanksgiving is where we give thanks to the Indians….

Of course the rest of the Thanksgiving story is that after the Indians saved the white people, who, after all, did what?  They brought syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases, gongorrhea, as had I high school health teacher pronounced it, racism, bigotry, homophobia, all these things.  Then what are we going to do to show our gratitude?  Then we had the guts to swindle ’em out of Manhattan for 24 bucks, and then we stole their land, and we stole their horses, and we moved ’em away from the various things that they had used religiously, peyote and so forth, and they got sick.  So then we put ’em in reservations, and after awhile we felt guilty and let ’em run all the casinos outside of Las Vegas and Atlantic City.  Well, that is not the true story of Thanksgiving….

How many of you believe that we actually swindled Indians when we bought Manhattan from them?  I’ve always thought that ’til I read this book.  It’s called Commissioner Roosevelt: The Story of Theodore Roosevelt and the New York City Police, 1895 to 1897, by H. Paul Jeffers.  And here is the relevant paragraph:  “A persuasive case can be made that the city of New York began with a swindle. For generations school children have been taught that a slick trick was played on unsuspecting Indians by the director of the Dutch West India Company, Peter Minuit. In 1626 he purchased the island of ‘Manna-hatin’ for sixty gilders worth of trinkets, about twenty-four dollars. What Minuit did not know at the time, however, was that his masterful real estate deal had been struck with the Canarsie tribe, residents of Long Island; they held no title to the land they sold to the Dutch. In due course, the intruders from Amsterdam who thought they had pulled a sharp one on the locals were forced into negotiating a second, more costly deal with the true landlords.”  So it was the Indians that pulled the real estate scam when they sold Manhattan because the ones that sold it didn’t own it.  We got taken….

Now, the real story of Thanksgiving: “On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible,” and this is what’s not taught. This is what’s left out. “The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work. But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford’s detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves. And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford’s own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure.

“When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper! This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments. Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.” They were collectivists! Now, “Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives.

“He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace. … Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn’t work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild’s history lesson,” every kid gets. “If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.” Here’s what he wrote: “‘The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years…that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,’ Bradford wrote.

“‘For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense…that was thought injustice.'” That was thought injustice. “Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford’s community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?” ‘This had very good success,’ wrote Bradford, “for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.’ Bradford doesn’t sound like much of a Clintonite, does he? Is it possible that supply-side economics could have existed before the 1980s? … In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves. … So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians.

“The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the ‘Great Puritan Migration.'” Now, aside from this program, have you heard this before? Is this “being taught to children — and if not, why not? I mean, is there a more important lesson one could derive from the Pilgrim experience than this?” What if Bill and Hillary Clinton had been exposed to these lessons in school? Do you realize what we face in next year’s election is the equivalent of people who want to set up these original collectivists communes that didn’t work, with nobody having incentive to do anything except get on the government dole somehow because the people running the government want that kind of power. So the Pilgrims decided to thank God for all of their good fortune. And that’s Thanksgiving. And read George Washington’s first Thanksgiving address and count the number of times God is mentioned and how many times he’s thanked. None of this is taught today. It should be. Have a happy Thanksgiving, folks. You deserve it. Do what you can to be happy, and especially do what you can to be thankful, because in this country you have more reasons than you’ve ever stopped to consider.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Politics and Religion, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

English ‘pull own teeth’ as dental service decays

Posted by Tony Listi on October 16, 2007

LOL. The jokes all makes sense now! This is why the British have such bad teeth! Behold the absurdity of socialism! How many examples do liberals need before they finally see the truth that socialism makes problems worse? When will they finally realize that their good intentions are no substitute for free market-oriented policies?

Interesting how the article does not care to speculate on the cause of the scarcity of government dentists. The cause is simple economics: the government does not pay dentists as well as the free market or offer them flexibility (regulations, work load, etc.). So they stop taking government patients.

Beware America, health care under the Democrats (Hillary) will be like dental care under the British. See also 

LONDON (AFP) – Falling numbers of state dentists in England has led to some people taking extreme measures, including extracting their own teeth, according to a new study released Monday.

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