Beyond Naive Socialist Chic and Capitalist Greed
It should be elementary. There is no more brutal monopoly than state monopoly, where the state owns and controls everything and everyone. Which is why those who fancy themselves radical chic socialists (think Chris Hedges, or any number of good-hearted but dreamy eyed “community organizers”) seem tragically foolish, extremely naive.
It should be obvious to all but those blind to history that the greater the centralized concentration of power the greater the tyranny of the professional class or oligarchy which alone rules, always cynically in the name of “the people”. But history shows, alas, what foresight too often didn’t, that in the end Socialism [none speak the word ‘Communism’ today] may serve the purposes of blood and revenge very effectively, but not justice or compassion.
And as we see in that brutal Panopticon reality we call China today, this kind of dynastic ruling Party is not necessarily against a measure of “free” enterprise just so long as the the state owns all and controls all. If that is not the stuff of the Brave New World I do not know what is. The individual is zero, nothing, in such Socialist hives. The individual is certainly not seen as made in the image and likeness of God. Only the Collective, farmed and controlled by an oligarchy, matters.
And so with Socialism, which tends to Communism, out the window goes justice and all compassion with it. So-called “equality,” which is really a banner under which the oligarchs crush the freedoms of people, is forced often enough at the point of a gun. And those who do not learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them, Santayana wisely said.
The Sins of Capitalism
On the other hand the sins of laissez faire capitalism can be very bad indeed, almost as bad as Socialism. It is what provokes the socialist horrors of history into existence in the first place, when dreamy ones lose their critical sense.
We have just lived through the greatest spectacle of free market recklessness and lawlessness in history, and, consequent to it, the transference of taxpayer capital to the very top. The elites, who today take to gated communities, have looted the commons and now distribute taxpayer wealth to the military, to various forms of social engineering, to their friends, all with a view to protecting their own lush interests and hides.
And, obviously, those who in greed hoard their ill-gotten wealth inevitably think they alone have the right to rule, even if behind the scenes. Divide and conquer, to that end then, becomes the game. Child is cynically pitted against parent, husband against wife, sexual minorities are given a wildly disproportionate amount of media and educational time against the natural majority. All the better to keep the public divided and at one another’s throats.
Ever has it been that chaos and moral lawlessness serves power well, because it begs for some kind of totalitarian “correction” which in turns augments the power of the powerful.
What we should be seeking is not the end of the state but justice; not the end of political authority but the widest possible dispersal of it according to the principle of subsidiary and an end to monopoly; service to higher, transcendent forms of genuine justice, justice with a heart. This is why we should not be seeking the elimination of private property and true ownership of businesses but the widest distribution of such ownership, of these means of production. Real, privately owned ownership. The role of the top (hopefully elected) leadership should be radically limited. Centralization of power and monopoly are true enemies to be feared because they crush true freedom and responsibility. As John Paul II wrote:
A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need, and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good. (Centesimus Annus 48 ) And Pope Pius XI wrote,
“It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of right order for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.”– Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno 5 (1931)
Distributism as a third way economic alternative (not Blair’s and Clinton’s faux “third way”) to both capitalism and socialism does justice to every facet of the need for freedom and just authority. It allows even the rich to seek more riches (after all if greed is a sin, so is covetousness), but it taxes them proportionately so that money can be returned for the Common Good; it also discourages any unjust impulse to monopoly.
That’s what justice and compassion are all about. Let people try to better themselves. Give them unfettered opportunity, but never at the expense of the Common Good.
Tradition has a lot to teach the future, because neither the world nor critical thought were born yesterday.