Friday, June 22, 2012

The "economy" as we know it is really only about a few people consolidating the world's assets - oh yes, and then grinding the people into dust

Mark Mallett has a good post on secret societies: Mystery Babylon


Catawissa Gazetteer said...

Distributism is the answer.

Paul Stilwell said...

I wonder if a true distributism could ever come about except through a monarchy.

jvc said...

Coming from a small town area where the Masons clearly, and creepily, dominate, I'm sympathetic to his argument. However, there are more black helicopters in Mark Mallet's post than there are on an average Army installation.

I'm sorry to be blunt, but distributism is idiotic and could only be formulated by people who know very little about economic behavior. (And I love G.K. as much as the next Catholic nerd.)

If anyone is looking very sound, very orthodox commentary on economics from a Catholic perspective, I suggest Father Robert Sirico's new book "Defending The Free Market":

Or, for something a little older, look at Adam Smith's (the father of economics) "Theory of Moral Sentiments."

Catholic scholars from Lew Rockwell to Thomas Woods will tell you that the only way to promote a truly virtuous society is the free market. Split-the-baby ideas like distributism are not the answer.

Belfry Bat said...

I'm sure Fr. Sirico is an intelligent, honest, and well-informed scholar, not to mention working out his salvation according to his best lights and the respect due his clerical state and office; I still can't help feeling just a bit ... leery? ... of advice on Economics from anyone who is obviously selling something, such as a book.

That and I heartily believe that what's lacking in the world has more to do with personal virtue than systemic insanity --- the latter couldn't arise if everyone really studied and sought-out what he ought to do.

jvc said...


You may have unconsciously adopted the idea that all economic behavior (the buying and selling of goods) is based on selfishness, or greed, rather than self-interest, which can be tied into virtue.

Let's say Paul invites me to see one of his art exhibits. Should I become leery, knowing that increased attendance may improve the location's income and thereby profit Paul?

I think not. Paul can both profit personally as well as promote my personal benefit by making the suggestion (of the economic activity of "selling" a visit to his art exhibit).

If I do make the visit, and I enjoy myself, both Paul and I have benefited from Paul's suggestion. His suggestion becomes virtuous, in a sense, because he acted not only out of his own interest but my own.

Greed, or immorality, would occur if Paul made the suggestion knowing that he would benefit and that I would not. But I doubt that is the case, and for smart business owners everywhere, it would be both bad business and bad personal relations.

Business owners have an incentive to benefit their customers with their activity. Regulations and taxation, which stifle the creation of new firms, do allow businesses to slip into the mode of disinterest of their customers.

This is why it makes sense to promote public policies that promote business competition, because it is through competition that a business must become more accommodating of its customers needs and not only its own needs.


This is deeply nerdy stuff, but I think it is important because on much of the Catholic "right" - specifically, the evangelical/charismatic types - I see a deep disinterest for the kind of regular, stable economic activity and work that promotes and sustains families.

In fact, there's a particular commenter on Paul's site who fits this description nicely.

Belfry Bat said...

I see now that I spent many more words on being glib than in properly setting the tiny nugget of actual thought I was treasuring; but, no, it's not "economic activity" (that's fancy talk for "buying and selling") that I suspect, but the noveltization of reason. The medium of box-bookstore-book, particularly when emblished with a cover depicting the side-effects of omelette-making, does not carry the message "I yearn and cry to Heaven for justice in the practise of political economy"; it speaks not of scholarly acumen but of worldly shrewdness; it says (to me) "if you want to look smart among the sort of people you think read books like this to look smart, then ... ". It's not that he's selling his produce; it's that he's selling his economics.

Which says nothing about the content of the book (as I do understand), it expresses only my scepticism about the soundess and object of this particular publishing venture. Perhaps I'll go review what Fr. Z. has to say about it.

The fine details of how currency vs goods do (or ought to) flow from production to use to exhaustion really is more than a fellow really needs to know who researches homotopy groups and teaches young folk to reason precisely. It's also more than a farmer really needs to know, or a lensgrinder (er... I don't know if lenses are still usually ground by hand, anymore... ); just as most of these folk don't need to know the right ways to weld brass pipes, so long as they understand that plumbing is where water comes from and goes to and isn't for nitric acid so much, and how to call the plumber when it stops working.

Where things get tricky is, while we usually trust the plumber not to divert some of our hot water to his house, it's harder to similarly trust the engineers of the currency reservoire. That doesn't mean we have to know how they ought to do their job; it means we have to be able to tell who carries the right virtues to do the job well and honestly. We don't all need to read or understand treatises on economics; we do need prudent and virtuous government; and insofaras we choose our own governments, it'd be nice to have a good sense of who is prudent and virtuous --- and the more, the merrier, I think.

I recall that the oddly popular Communist Manifesto was remarkably short. I recall that Ludwig von Mises thoroughly dismembered communist theory in an even shorter scholarly paper. Why can't smart people write good manifestos anymore (and litter our cities with them! get people reading print, again!), rather than bewildering us with books to buy? Is it impossible to write a genuine clarion call to the truth, for the people at large, that isn't longer than the Gospel of Mark?