judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the category “Reblog: Practical Distributism”

The Bogus, Self-Serving Notion that Poverty is Simple

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In a recent article for The Week, Jeff Spross makes a fair claim against the standard “conservative” rhetoric that the real solution to the problem of poverty is for those in poverty to start working. He also addresses the position of some conservatives who say that we can never truly address the issue of poverty because it is such a complicated human problem. Mr. Spross points out fatal flaws with this claim, but fails to see the fatal flaw in what he presents as the solution.

To start with the flaws of the “conservative” solution he criticizes, Mr. Spross rightly points out that, in the so-called “advanced” countries, it is not as simple as going out and getting a good job. Thanks to the continued outsourcing of unskilled labor to “third world” countries, our own poor are deprived of the ability to simply go out and get a job which will provide enough pay for the basic needs of every day life; especially if they are trying to support a family. Instead, we have become a society where one already has to have ready access to money in order to get a job that pays well. You can’t just graduate from high school and get a low skill job that will provide food and shelter for a family. It is increasingly the case that you have to go to college, or at least to a trade school, to get a good job, and that means that you have to already have access to money to get the education needed to get a job that pays even a subsistence wage.

Therefore, the typical conservative position fails to account for that large portion of the population that does not have the necessary access to money. These are the people they tell to go out and get better jobs, but don’t seem to realize the true difficulties that exist in doing so. Ironically, they simultaneously want to cut funding for the education they need to do so on the basis that such government handouts inculcate government dependence. This failure to see the incompatibility of the solution they propose and their cutting off the means to achieve that solution is the fatal flaw in the conservative position. They don’t see how their own economic beliefs and policies created the poverty that made social welfare programs necessary.

Mr. Spross finds it “incredibly galling when Brooks declares that ‘surely the solution is to throw everything we think works at the problem simultaneously.’ Because this is exactly what he and his Brookings-AEI colleagues are not willing to do.” The “what” Mr. Spross says they are not willing to do is money. Mr. Spross is representing the so-called “liberal” side and advocating the idea that what needs to be done is for government to throw money at the problem. However, he is being unjust in claiming that Mr. Brooks and Brookings-AEI are not willing to thow everything they think works at the problem because that is precisely what they are willing to do. What they are not willing to do is what Mr. Spross and the “liberal” side thinks will work. Conservatives don’t think that increased government spending on social programs will work, liberals do.

However, this solution by the liberal side is just as bogus and self-serving as that of the conservatives. It starts by setting up the false premises that modern society, defined as one where “land and infrastructure is governed by private property rights, where we trade money rather than goods, and where labor is highly divided and specialized,” somehow prevents people from being able to learn the skills and obtain the capital and resources they need to provide for their own living. Mr. Spross seems to jump straight from “primitive” agrarian societies to modern industrialized capitalism without considering any of the economic history between the two. We are taken straight from the ability to stake out unclaimed land to needing to go to college or trade school.

This bogus premise becomes the self-serving basis of the so-called “liberal” position that the solution to poverty in a “modern” society is increased intervention and spending by the highest level of government. Looking at the level of national spending on social programs in other Western countries as an example to follow, Mr. Spross criticizes the US because its federal programs are too small, to diffuse, and too ill targeted. However this is a very simplistic view of how to address the problem of poverty. The economic situation in these other Western countries is rapidly approaching a more wide spread application of the so-called austerity measures, cutting back the programs Mr. Spross advocates because they are unsustainable. I maintain that the reason they are unsustainable is because they were too centralized, which made them too large to effectively target those in need. Mr. Spross claims that it was increased social spending at the national level that maintained full employment in the mid-20th Century, but it was actually a much more complicated formula of social programs, subsidies to large corporations, federal regulation favoring those same corporations, and easier access to personal debt. In other words, the perception of economic prosperity was false because it was actually based on people and corporations being economically supported by government and banks rather than being economically productive in a sustainable way. If they had been truly economically productive, and if this productivity had developed along the lines of supporting the wide-spread and independent ownership of production, then the need for government programs of assistance to the poor would have decreased.

The reality is that private property rights do not create a need for government programs to get the skills needed to earn a descent living. The earliest historical records reveal societies that already had land and infrastructure based on private claims to property. Even the “primitive agrarian” Mr. Spross uses as his example staked out unclaimed land, thereby claiming private ownership. Unless you discuss nomadic tribes or those striking out to form new cities, societies were based on private property rights and used some form of money to exchange goods for thousands of years before the rise of capitalism as understood by modern society. A look at different societies at different periods of time reveal that there is a way of providing the means to learn the skills and acquire the capital needed to be self sufficient. The establishment of wide spread private ownership of property and the guild structure during the High Middle Ages were key elements in nearly eliminating slavery, which was subsequently brought back by capitalism. The apprenticeship program of the guilds provided the means of support while learning the basic skills needed to do productive work. Once you became a journeyman, you could seek out further work and instruction to achieve the highest level of skill – that of master. When you were achieved the master level, you continued the process by having your own apprentices. It was these elements that allowed the slave to become first a serf and then a peasant – that is an economically and politically empowered citizen who was able to provide for himself and his family.

No, the solution to the problem of poverty is not, as Mr. Spross suggests, “as easy as pie.” I’ve talked to people who know how to bake, and pie isn’t actually that easy either, especially making a good crust. I do not say that government spending, including at the federal level, is no part of the solution to the problem of the poor not having access to a good job. It seems that this may be necessary in our current economic environment. However, I do not agree that the solution is as simple as having the government borrow, print and spend money.

If conservatives believe that the problem of poverty is too complex to be solved, it is because they are unwilling to see how economic liberalism increases poverty. Their blind adherence to economic liberalism prevents them from seeing this. If liberals believe that the problem of poverty is simple, it is because they are unwilling to see how political liberalism fails to actually help those in need to get out from under the state. Their blind adherence to political liberalism prevents them from seeing how the big state with a powerful centralized authority is unable to exist without big business. They don’t see that increasing levels of centralized government spending will only enable big businesses to consolidate more wealth, pay lower wages and outsource more jobs. Big government supports big business not only through direct subsidies and regulations that give them advantages over small independent businesses, but also through social welfare programs which allow big businesses to ignore an economic problem they actually created.

The problem of poverty is one that we will always need to address. “For the poor you have always with you: and whensoever you will, you may do them good.” (Mark 14:7) If we truly want to minimize poverty by helping people get out of it, then we should look at what has actually worked. This may sound like a simple solution, but it isn’t because it involves changing our perception of economics and government to include subsidiarity and solidarity. It involves unlearning the lie that economics is a science that can be separated from ethics in any practical way. It involves working out the complex issue of how to achieve the wider establishment of private ownership without committing acts of injustice. These are not simple things. However, it is not so complicated that we should give up trying, or simply try the same failed solutions over and over again as though they will somehow produce different results than they did in the past.

Maybe it’s time to try distributism.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Distributism and Labor Unions

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“It has sometimes been said that distributism, the economic system that promotes widely distributed productive property – whether this is owned by a single proprietor, a family, or a worker cooperative – is hostile to labor unions and the labor movement. While I do not deny that there may have been someone who labels himself a distributist who at one time or another said something negative about the labor movement, the central distributist movement, exemplified by theorists such as Hilaire Belloc or G. K. Chesterton, and of late by organs such as Practical Distributism or The Distributist Review, has not embraced such a position. Any apparent hostility is based upon a misunderstanding of the differences between a capitalist economy and a distributist economy. For example, when Belloc wrote that a union “is a proletarian institution through and through and a proletariat and a proletarian spirit is exactly what we are aiming to destroy,”[1] he was simply noting that in a distributist society the labor market divide between owners and workers, which is the hallmark of capitalism, would not exist, or would hardly exist. Since distributists desire a proliferation of small economic units – workshops, stores, farms – it is obvious that in such entities there would be no labor movement because there would be no labor. Or to put it more precisely, the worker would be the owner, and the owner the worker. There would be no need for him to form a union to protect his interests against himself. Entities that of necessity required a large facility with a large workforce would, according to the distributist model, be employee owned and administered by the workers themselves. Again there would be no need for a union. Thus Belloc is not exhibiting any hostility toward workers but rather hopes that their status may be improved by making them owners.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Socialism and the Early Distributists

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“Distributists are often accused of being socialists, or at least quasi-socialists. This is a claim which we vehemently deny. However, it might be a surprise to know that some of the early distributists were involved in the early socialist movement. Does this fact not give credence to the claim that distributism is a form of socialism? Does this mean that distributists are being dishonest or inconsistent about the origins and aims of the distributist movement? These are serious questions which we must be prepared to answer. Although many people seem to be growing disillusioned by capitalism, the majority are not so deluded as to accept socialism. In order to address the issue, we must look at the beginnings of both the socialist and distributist movements.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Distributism or Capitalism: Two Ways to Work – Part 2

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

[see part one here]

“Next we come to what we term one’s competitors, that is, those producing or selling the same sort of product. Under capitalism such producers are pretty much the enemy. Though there is a certain amount of collaboration on shared concerns – such as lobbying the government on matters of interest for the entire industry – generally it is held that since it is the natural aim of each business to increase its income without limit, the success of one firm always comes at the expense of the other firms. Each is competing for as much market share as possible. And such an attitude flows logically from a concern solely with profit and “the amount of wealth accumulated by the dealer.” But if sellers and producers see themselves as supplying a need of the public, there is no reason why they cannot regard their fellow sellers and producers as partners in the same effort. Provided that sellers or producers make a profit sufficient to cover costs and provide for their livelihood, why should they wish that other sellers or producers of the same product suffer or go out of business?”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Distributism or Capitalism: Two Ways to Work

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“When human beings engage in economic activity they engage with other people. Even a gardener cultivating his own small plot has probably obtained his seeds and his tools from others and at least depends upon the larger society for the social stability that allows him to plant his garden with a reasonable expectation that he’ll be able to harvest his crop later. But most often economic actors relate in many more obvious ways with others, with employees, with customers, with those we call competitors, and in a sense, with the general public or society itself. Each way of organizing economic activity, each economic system, necessitates or at least makes probable certain ways of interacting with these other persons and groups. Let us examine the contrast between how capitalism and distributism do this. But first, how do we define these two economic systems?

Capitalism, as I use the term here, refers to “that economic system in which were provided by different people the capital and labor jointly needed for production” (Pius XI, encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, #100). In other words, under capitalism, for the most part those who own the means of production hire others to do the actual work. Sometimes the capitalist owner manages the enterprise, but in its most extreme version, the corporation, the legal owners do nothing except collect their dividend checks or watch their stock prices rise or fall. They hire others to do the work of the corporation, including managing it. Many of these owners are not even real persons, but mutual funds or pension funds, and, in the back and forth of stock market transactions, they may own a particular stock for only a few minutes.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Distributism: Price

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“I have presented in several articles that distributism is not just another way of juggling numbers in an attempt to make sense of economics. Just as capitalism and collectivism are fundamentally different ways of envisioning the economic and political environment of a society, distributism is yet another way that is fundamentally different than those views. Some people think that distributism is an attempt at a “middle ground” or blending of capitalism and socialism. In fact, such a blending will result in what Belloc called the Servile State – something entirely different than what distributism hopes to achieve. It can be difficult for distributists to appreciate just how fundamental these differences in economic views are, and that makes it difficult to appreciate just how much of a change we are asking of those we are trying to convince. We face tremendous obstacles in trying to establish even some of what distributism proposes. I would like to present an example of this by considering the concept of price, and the difference between the capitalist “market price” the masses have been taught to accept, and the distributist “just price” we are trying to help them understand.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Justice, Fairness and Taxation, Part Four

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“I would like to wrap up this series with an examination of a few more types of taxation. Keep in mind, that this series is not intended to be exhaustive. It is intended to open the door to discussion by presenting ideas for consideration. I do not pretend to provide the definitive “Distributist view” on taxation. It is a complex topic and there can be legitimate differences of opinion while staying true to the idea of Distributism.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Achieving Distributism – Part III

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“There are two social foundations of distributism; decentralized political authority according to the principles of subsidiarity, and the wide-spread private ownership of productive property. When established, these foundations will result in greater freedom for individuals and families throughout society in general and a more stable national economy supported by strong local economies. What is needed to actually achieve this? I believe it starts with shifting our philosophical outlook. We need to realize that economics is not the kind of science we have been told it is. We need to look beyond the immediate end of our economic activities and see how those activities fit within the overall community. If we do this, we will start to see how a local community is self-supporting in ways that corporate capitalism is not. We will start to see that, when we consider how our economic decisions can benefit or harm others in our community, we will all benefit.

Subsidiarity will empower citizens of local communities to make changes they need to fit their local circumstances. They could change zoning laws to eliminate the need to purchase multiple properties to live and work in most cases. This would eliminate the need to commute unless you didn’t work at a local business. They could choose for themselves what businesses will be in the community, and protect their local businesses from anti-competitive activities by those who would seek to undermine them. They could establish their own organizations to ensure health, safety, and quality standards. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Achieving Distributism – Part II

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“Asserting the right to own private property is not the same as asserting the right to acquire unlimited amounts of it, nor is it the same as saying there are no other limitations in regard to that acquisition. This is one point where capitalists will raise a huge objection. We must keep in mind that the basis of the right to private property is the right to secure for oneself, and one’s family and heirs, the basic needs of life and the ability to achieve a good standard of living according to the social norms of the society at large. This is not merely a social right; it is a right based on our very existence as rational beings. Those who do not have this must be able to better their situation so that they do, and society must be structured so that anti-competitive forces cannot act to hinder them from being able to accomplish this for themselves.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Achieving Distributism – Part I

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“There is a persistent question which is hurled before us as a gauntlet. Just how do distributists propose that we achieve the wider distribution of productive property? We are accused of secretly advocating a powerful central state on the grounds it is necessary to forcibly redistribute the property to fit our scheme. We are accused of having no plan other than to rob the current owner of what is lawfully his in order to give it to others. This is a charge that must be taken seriously and clearly answered.

To begin with, it must be remembered that distributism is founded on a different philosophical view than that which is generally accepted by present day society. It is my view that this is our greatest obstacle. Society in general will simply not accept our ideas if they can’t comprehend the basics that are the foundation for change, even if they agree that the current system is both corrupt and essentially flawed. It is this obstacle which will cause most of the negative reactions to the suggestions put forth in this article. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Post Navigation