Plutoyperetonism in its Proper Place
A reader with the inattentive, fraternal, amorous yet equine name of Distracted Brony asks:
I have learned a lot from your blog about the evils of socialism and other such wealth-redistribution ideologies. But I have not learned much about the possible corruptions and other problems of free-market systems.
It would be nice to hear about these things without having to go to a liberal site to do so. If you have any solid reading suggestions, or if you have written elsewhere on the subject, I would be pleased.
The comment flatters me beyond my merit. I am in no position to list the errors and drawbacks of the free-market and for this reason:
The problems are fraud and greed.
This has been known to all men since the dawn of time. What needs to be said of them?
The only thing to be said is that master can and do treat apprentices and employees badly, but that being a slave is even worse, because the employee is legally free to depart and seek another master. If the circumstances, for whatever reason, make the legal right difficult to exercise, enslaving the fellow do not alleviate such problems, but rather aggravate them.
You will have to seek elsewhere for your information. Since I have heard nothing but lies, horror stories, lies, criticisms, lies, nonsense, lies and lies about the free market since the time I was old enough to be propped up in front of a TV to watch THE FLINTSTONES, I am puzzled that you or anyone thinks there may be some criticism of the free market which has not yet been aired, discovered, trumpeted from the rooftops, refuted by sane economists in a paragraph or two, and, after being refuted, refuted again, triply refuted, and proven beyond any possible scintilla of a shadow of a doubt by a century or two of example and experience, the false belief goes on to become an ingrained and unshakeable core dogma of all Democrats and two thirds of the Republicans, and shows up in all the dramas and sitcoms and rock songs and half the news stories.
A man dying of thirst in the desert is not the right person to ask about the dangers of drowning in a teacup, not when you live in a culture where all the murder mysteries concern rich uncles found with mouth and nose jammed in teacups, with water in their lungs, and ninety percent of all public debates, laws, regulations, and court cases concern the manufacture, distributions, handling and filling of teacups so as to prevent accidental drowning.
In case you think I am exaggerating, I assure you most solemnly that the number of people harmed by unfair trade practices who are protected successfully by unfair trade practice laws against such things, or harmed by monopolies who are protected successfully from that danger by antitrust laws, is LESS THAN ZERO. No one has ever been harmed by such things, and no one has ever been protected, but many, many, many people have been harmed. If you believe, as I do, that the bad economic practices of Germany between the wars were a contributing factor to the rise of Communism and Fascism, then the number of people harmed by bad economic practices is literally incalculable.
So, no. Do not expect me to say anything but curses and anathemas against such wicked, illogical, counterproductive, unamerican, unchristian, vile and tyrannous and stupid laws as these. The science of economics studies the laws of economics, and human laws cannot refute them or overrule them any more than human laws can overrule the law of gravity.
You will never hear me arguing against the free market because there is no argument against it. Laws against fraud, breach of contract, and false advertising protect the free market and do not hinder it.
Another reader, Nate Winchester, my fan, read the above and writes and comments:
…the number of “capitalist-Catholics” out there seem very very few (heck, you don’t have to go far to hear some claim that the free-market is incompatible with Catholicism)…
My answer: Capitalism rewards and encourages greed and materialism, and a countless hoard of advertising agents calculate how to make men stupider and greedier to buy products we do not necessarily want or need. So, yes, indeed, the WORSHIP of Capitalism, Ayn Rand’s religion, is definitely, utterly and absolutely antithetical to Catholicism, or any sane religion.
Logically, if word good means anything other than whatever it is whim desires at the moment, then there must be an objective hierarchy of good, and an apex where the Highest Good rests. This highest good is the source of all action and the goal of all motives. It is what Aristotle called the Unmoved Mover, and Socrates called The Ideal of Good, and Lao Tzu called the Way, and Confucius called Righteousness, and the Stoics called Mind, and the Buddha called Enlightenment, but Aquinas called God.
If so, than the worship of any lesser good in the hierarchy for the highest good is an error both in logic and in morality. It is an error in logic because the goodness of the lesser is derived or defined by the greater, that is, the lesser good is good because the highest good makes it good, and ergo to sacrifice the greater good to get more of the lesser is a self defeating act. It is an error in morality because to decrease the good is to increase the evil, and it is disobedience to the one and only thing that is the source of moral authority, namely, the the Ideal, the Way, Righteousness, Mind, Enlightenment, God.
So, capitalism is efficient, and it is a good thing, but it is not the best thing, and like all things in real life, it has drawbacks and costs. It is an attempt to draw the chariot of good fellowship by means of the dragons of greed. This is a dangerous chariot to ride, but it is far more dangerous to cut the traces and let the dragons turn, wreck the chariot, and rip the charioteer to shreds.
The reason for my vehemence in being unwilling to debate the evils of capitalism is that the other other option aside from liberty and the free market is slavery and the unfree market.
I am not talking about laws against fraud and deception — those are part and parcel of the free market not an alien intrusion. Unfreedom can take many forms, but it is always ultimately the use of force or fraud, either by brigands or by Caesar.
The only option aside from the code of liberty is the code of conquest.
The code of liberty praises the cunning merchant, the industrious man, the hard worker, the innovator, the man of reason, the persuasive salesman, the clever negotiator, the silver tongued orator. The code of liberty like men who work with their hands, self made men. These are all good things in their place, and when they are out of place they turn into mere admiration for frauds and liars and cheats and dragons sleeping on hoarded gold.
The code of conquest praises the bold soldier, the fearless and cunning fighter, the innovative strategist, the glorious leader, the noble king, the ruthless warrior, the self sacrificing brother in arms, the faithful comrade, the worthy knight, the loyal squire, the orator who can stir an uncertain army to fire and glory, drinking death like wine and slaying foes as farmers slaughter swine. Is it not passing brave to be a King and ride in triumph through Persepolis? These are all good things in their place, and when they are out of place they turn into mere adulation for brigands and slavers and vampires drunk on blood, werewolves who ruin the peace of the world, Jinn who burn for the sake of hearing the lamentation of widows.
The only option aside from the code of individualism, treating each man’s life as God’s unique and sacred gift not to be destroyed nor chained nor used as an instrument for the pleasure of others at the pleasure of others, is the code of collectivism, which treats men like ants. Collectivism praises self sacrifice, obedience, uniformity, consensus, conformity to the laws of man and to the leaders of men. Individualism praises responsibility, self reliance. Out of place, the collectivism turns all mankind into slaves and insects, or, worse, as cogs in a clockwork, and its realm is death. Out of place, individualism is pride, the sin of Lucifer, and its realm is hell, the one place where one is utterly alone.
But I play no glib game of moral equivalence here: collectivism is incompatible with Christianity at its very root. For the collectivist, there is no salvation and no desire for salvation. There is only power, and the group is preferred to the individual for the very logical reason that the group can overpower the individual. The collective is saved by its unity, like the separate rods of the fasci which cannot be broken when they remain in a bundle.
This concept is so alien to Christendom that even atheists and agnostics who doubt or who deny Christian truth cannot even begin to understand what denying this concept would mean.
Imagine a world where you go to heaven if your baron or count who owns you and owns your soul does righteous deeds and avoids sin. Whether you yourself sin or do right matters nothing.
But every true pagan instinctively understands this world. The Egyptian knew the glory of his nation and the wealth of his people and the plenty of the waters to irrigate the fields depended on the virtue of the Pharaoh, who was the greatgrandson of he gods. The Chinaman knew the same thing of the Son of Heaven ruling in Forbidden City. Failure to commit the proper rituals and sacrifices in the Middle Palace of Harmony would cause bad weather, and the heavens would curse the prosperity of the people.
The loons who believe in Global Warming believe the same thing, except that the rituals are even more meaningless, things like recycling and erecting windmills, and the sacrifices are of whole industries rather than cattle, but, unlike the ancient pagans, the Greens lack any rational explanation as to how and why the sky gods will curse us if there are no sky gods.
The idea of relying on your incompetent royal family to save your souls is so laughable to a Christian that no one even bothers to make a joke about it. Where republics rather than royal families rule, the idea of relying on your incompetent and venal public servants to save your soul is an idea so repugnant and absurd that only Democrats believe it, and not the ones who actually make decisions for the Party, only the sheep who are herded into booths to pull levers on election day, to bless the Lightworker.
Likewise, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism is incompatible with Christianity at its very root. The reason why, even to this day, the Oriental potentates of old retain an air of alien cruelty is that they were totalitarian, and Christian kings, be they howsoever cruel or tyrannous, were cruel in the face of their oath and tyrannous despite the atmosphere of their world, whereas the Oriental Sultans and Brahmins were in keeping with their oaths and their atmosphere.
Much ado is made of the fact that certain Protestant preachers in the antebellum South sought Biblical excuses to ward off criticism of slavery. No ado is made of the much more striking fact that no other religion, no philosophy, no creed, no land, no peoples, aside from Christians motivated by Christian principles in Christendom have ever criticized slavery, ever excommunicated all slaveowners, ever abolished it, first in the Middle Ages by suasion, and then in the Enlightenment by force of arms. Seek through all lands for the Islamic Antislavery Society, of the Egyptian, or the Chinese, and you will find an idea invented in Christian lands.
The free market is not an ‘ism’, not a system, not a political scheme, not a philosophy. It is the natural result of men living as equals in rank (albeit not in intellect, strength or ability) where even the poor and weak are respected, and where mutually binding laws make wealth the servant of mankind rather than its master.
The reason why the two codes are not a case of moral equivalence is that the drawbacks, temptations, sins, and evil which the code of liberty might produce, the code of conquest definitely produces, and moreso. Owning a large business might tempt the unwary man to pride and greed; owning a large harem and a host of plantation slaves requires pride and greed as an inescapable necessity, and adds many vile inhumanities thereto, and corrupts even the beneficiaries of the system.
Socialists are under a far greater incentive to be greedier than Capitalists for the obvious reason that in Socialism, whoever can bribe, threaten, or corrupt the quartermaster distributing all the wealth for the alleged good of the collective is the one man who gets the most by being the least productive or useful to society, that is, the laziest and the greediest. Socialism is based on greed: on the false promise that running the economy along military lines with commanders and hordes of obedient underlings will produce MORE material goods more efficiently, and the equally false promise that all spiritual problems will be solved by these more material goods more efficiently produced, including alienation and disharmony.
Likewise the code of collectivism encourages all the flaws of the code of individualism and makes them inevitable. The collective crushes the individual so that all merit comes from obedience to the group, which means, in effect, obedience to the allegedly divine Pharaoh, Tennyo, or Lightworker allegedly speaking for the group interests. The selfishness which often tempts the individualist here becomes not a temptation but a necessity; you must look out for your own interests more diligently than in an individualistic commonwealth when you are a unit in a hive, for no one else will. Love and sympathy, loyalty and fellow feeling, by being universally compulsory, are universally destroyed. Each man is such a system must be a Lucifer in rebellion against the Lightworker or Pharaoh leading the hive merely for his own survival, because this rebellion is the rebellion of human nature against soullessness.
Is this clear? Individualism is not good except when in its proper place, and even there it is open to the temptations that afflict the lot of fallen man; but Collectivism makes indulgence in those temptations a necessity, and hypocrisy inevitable. Likewise, the code of liberty is not good except when in its proper place, and even there it is open to the temptations like pride or greed; but the code of conquest makes pride and greed for the land and woman and gold and lives of other men its top priority, and the only way to assuage that greed is war.