Capitalism, Socialism and the Common Good

Here in the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, most people would consider themselves "conservative."  In the American sense of the word (which is different from the European, Canadian and Australian sense) that usually means socially traditional on issues like family, morality, marriage and life.  On fiscal issues however, being "conservative" is linked together with classic liberalism, or what Americans like to call "Libertarianism."  This typically means "let the free market prevail" with minimal government regulation.  Such is the so-called "conservative" movement in the United States, which is what many have dubbed "Neoconservatism."  Those who follow this brand of ideology are sometimes called "Neoconservatives" or "Neocons" for short.  Granted, this term is often used in a pejorative way.

Now not all people in the Ozarks are Neoconservatives.  A small minority classify themselves as "progressive."  These often advocate a tightening of regulation on the market in the interest of social justice for the poor and middle class.  However, in a strange kind of marriage, these "progressives" often advocate social novelties and innovations into societal norms.  These often rotate around sex, beginning of course artificial contraception to make way for "free love," as well as abortion on demand to avoid the occasional results of that "free love."  Of course, homosexuality plays into this as well, and the list goes on and on.  Pejoratively, these people are often referred to as "Liberals" or "Neoliberals."  For people in the Ozarks this is an unexpected combination.  It's generally not consistent with the culture of the area.

However, I would also say that the Neoconservative combination is equally unnatural for people in the Ozarks.  From a purely historical perspective, it's really ironic, because both American "conservatives" and "progressives" are actually on the same team.  (What!?!  Shock!!!  Horror!!!  What did I say?)   Yes, you read that right, American "conservatives" and American "progressives" (Republicans and Democrats) are actually working together on the same team.  They are like two sides of the exact same coin.  Putting traditional morality aside, which is the only thing that REALLY separates the two groups anyway, when it comes to fiscal issues, one hand washes the other. After all is said and done, fiscal issues are moral issues.  Fiscal morality plays into social morality and vice versa.  Fiscal liberalism begins with Libertarianism, or the idea of so-called "free-market capitalism."

Free-market capitalism, in a nutshell, asserts the notion that there is nothing moral about the market.  It is simply a force of nature comprised of human beings acting in accord with rational self-interest.  Being a force of nature, it is self-regulating and does not need the government to regulate it.  Ideally, these fiscal Libertarians believe the market should be completely unregulated, or at the very least, regulated in the most minimal way. Of course, this results in the well-established men of large corporations gobbling up smaller family-run businesses. This has all been tried before, you see, toward the end of the 19th century and early decades of the 20th century.  The results were predictable -- monopolies and robber barons.  It essentially created a two-class system of the ultra-rich, who lived in opulence, and everybody else, who were either just getting by (the so-called "middle class") or not (the poor).  This of course created a social backlash called Marxism which ultimately manifested in three ways during the 20th century.

The first manifestation of Marxism was hard socialism (which is often called "communism").  The second manifestation of Marxism was soft socialism (which eventually came to be embraced throughout most of Europe).  Finally, the third form of Marxism was fascism, which is a freakish hybrid combination of socialism and capitalism, wherein corporations are owned jointly by the state and private businessmen.

  1. Hard Socialism -- Communism
  2. Soft Socialism -- European-style socialism
  3. Fascism -- combination of socialism and capitalism
The point that I want to make here is that you can't have Marxism without Libertarian Capitalism.  One produces the other.  Typically Marxism (of whatever form it comes in) is just a backlash to the abuses that come under Libertarian Capitalism.  As much as American "conservatives" (fiscal libertarians) would love to create a Capitalist world without Marxism, they can wish and dream all they want.  It will never happen.  Their very attempt to bolster their laissez-faire ideology will only incite a greater Marxist backlash.  Thus, I am asserting here (and slay my opinion if you wish) the very Marxist tendencies we are now seeing with President Barack Obama, and among Democrats, is the direct response (backlash) to the success of President Ronald Reagan and the Republicans in the 1980s in liberalising the market with libertarian capitalism.  Of course, presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush likewise made their contributions to this liberalisation of the market, but the results are all around us.  Small family-owned "mom and pop" shops have all but disappeared from the American landscape.  Mega-chain big-box stores now rule our economy.  Everywhere we look, banks and telecommunication enterprises are being gobbled up by larger banks and telecommunication enterprises.  The vast majority of Americans now work for somebody else, that is, if they work at all, and very few Americans now own their own business, or are partners in a cooperatively owned business.  From the 1980s through 2008 we were slowly returning to the age of the monopolies and robber barons.  Then the crash happened in 2008, and the economy has never been the same since.  What we are now witnessing in American politics is the predictable Marxist backlash.  I tell you with absolute certainty;  Barack Obama is not the antagonist of Reaganomics, he is the product of it.  This is something American "conservatives" have difficulty grasping.  Indeed, it seems impossible to them, yet it is true.  Libertarian economics produces Marxism.  It always has and it always will.  There is a brief period in in the process of Libertarian economics when the accomplished have an opportunity to get rich quick, and all of us will briefly benefit from this too, but when the bottom falls out of the market (and it always does eventually), the accomplished will take their riches and move on, while all the rest of us try to survive.  Then come the Socialists, and their success is measured only by the length to which the Libertarians failed us.  So that whatever freedom and opportunity wasn't crushed by the monopolies and robber barons of Libertarian economics, is pulverised by the regulations and taxes of the Marxist "hope and change" crowd.  It's a vicious cycle that has repeated itself many times around the world, and is now repeating itself here in America.

So what is the solution?  I hope to convince my fellow countrymen in the Ozarks, as well as other readers of this blog, to the wisdom of the Catholic Church on this issue, which has been fighting both Marxism and Libertarianism for over 100 years now.  The answer lies neither in the state nor in the market.  The answer lies in the family!

You see, if you want a stable economy, without radical market swings of growth and recession, and if you want a way to reduce poverty to its lowest possible level, then the answer lies in the distribution of productive property as widely as possible, so that every family has the opportunity to own its own means of employment.  I'm talking about neither Capitalism nor Socialism, nor am I talking about any freakish hybrid of the two.  Rather, I'm talking about the opposite of them both -- Distributism -- which is sometimes called "micro-capitalism."  The idea here is that the market should neither be run by corporate autocrats nor government bureaucrats.  It should be run by small family-owned businesses, and in such cases, where large industry is needed, it should be run by cooperatively owned businesses, wherein the workers own the corporation.  When people own their own jobs, it produces a stable economy, with the maximum amount of wealth going to individual families.  It produces higher rates of employment and lower poverty rates.  In other words, it creates a just society.  Governments and economies need to be structured in such a ways to support the family, and when this happens, the Libertarian-Marxist cycle will end, and things will start to get better.

Now I suspect this is what my fellow Ozarkians really want, but up to this point, have been unable to find a political expression for it.  How do we accomplish it?  Well don't look for help from either the Democrats or Republicans.  None of your friends on NPR or AM talk-radio will advocate for it either.  If you want this to happen in the Ozarks, and in the greater Missouri-Arkansas-Oklahoma regions, it's going to have to come from us at the individual level.  Here is a list of suggestions that I think might be a good place to start...
  1. Get your money out of the banks and put them into credit unions.
  2. Patron small family-owned businesses and worker cooperatives.
  3. Get your churches to put a NUMBER ONE PRIORITY on creating cooperative schools for children and using church funds to finance them!
  4. Demand strong enforcement of anti-trust laws from our state elected officials.  Give them no rest until they break up monopolies in our states.
  5. Instead of letting big companies drive your family business out of business, get together with your former family-run competitors, pool your resources together, get a lawyer, and form a jointly-owned cooperative corporation to fight back! 
  6. Organise local farmers markets into jointly-owned cooperative supermarkets to fight back!
  7. Begin lobbying our state legislators for the creation of trade guilds that have legal jurisdiction to issue licenses for skilled-workers, following a equal-opportunity model, and are simultaneously held as legal surety for incompetence.  
I think these seven suggestions would be a good place to start on an individual and group level.  I will leave you now with this wonderful lecture from Bishop Fulton Sheen.  It was recorded nearly a half century ago, but it is just as relevant today, if not more so....


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I agree with most of your points except the first. Credit Unions are extremely dangerous because they are not regulated like banks and move money around haphazardly in ways that banks can only dream about. This makes them more akin to state banks that don't have FDIC oversight. (They fall under labor law.)
Shane Schaetzel said…
Actually Archer, I believe credit unions are very safe, and your investment is insured just as effectively as in an FDIC bank. You can check out THIS LINK for more information on that.
MarijaD said…
Enjoyed reading your very interesting commentary and I would like to see what would happen if many of us carried out your seven points.

I would also like to see society run without usury, at least have the Church forbid it again. Amazing to me is that it was once a MORTAL SIN and now it is just business as usual even for Christians.

After reading the book LIBERTY: THE GOD THAT FAILED by Christopher Ferrara, I had to rethink all my opinions about "liberty" and what that word means for the American mindset. I rarely ever see the word liberty defined, but only declared and adored.