On The Distribution of Power and Wealth: A Christian Perspective [1/2]   Leave a comment

Introduction

How does a Christian respond to the world when it comes to Power? Power as we know comes from 3 areas of living, but they are all intertwined. The first is social power, or influence. The second is economic power, or property and wealth. The third is political power, which is usually determined by the aggregate of the previous two aspects. Politics, at its root is, “the study of distribution of power.” Indirectly, when we speak about where power is distributed we speak also of freedom. In this essay I want to write about the purpose of hierarchy and centralization and the purpose of decentralization and common ownership. To do this however, I am going to need to write about my own personal political transition from Right-Libertarianism into a hybrid of Distributism with Libertarian Tendencies.

Personal Journey: Right-Libertarianism to Distributist Hybrid

My own personal journey from a predominantly Right-Libertarian position over an into a Distributist Hybrid was marked by a sense of failure in the political realm, elsewhere I had written a document called “The Synthesis of My Work” back in June 2011 that,

“My workings in politics in the active way I used to work are concluded. I tried the political world, and while I will not mind visiting or coming to certain political functions or enjoy the new economic functions that we set up and helped spread the news of, my work is going to take a back seat, a more inactive, less driven manner. Back when I worked more actively in politics I was more active in regards towards: (1) Developing on prior theories and practices of a libertarian nature with the community, (2) Understanding Libertarian Theory in both the Left and Right Libertarian worldview, and (3) Mobilizing the Community by Spreading the “Good News” of our mission and in effect changing minds whether in my community or the digital community.”

Those ends were realized only in part, and without the needed assistance to accomplish this work I gave up on Right-Libertarianism in the same document I stated further that,

“At the end of my political involvement at that time, I came to a more fuller embrace of Anarchism, in particular Libertarian Socialism. It was at this time that I surrendered all hope of parliamentary politics, in favor of more direct action and non-violent wisdom of Gandhi espousing the belief that one ought, ‘be the change they want to see in the world.’ I shifted slightly in my libertarian views, from a more Right-Libertarian to the more Left-Libertarian viewpoint. I tried my best to envision a world where there would be no need of a hierarchy based on worldly gains. It was at this point that the culmination of certain economic ideas I had were written down and recorded for any person of the future to use.”

I had for a time been dealing with the issues pertaining to property, keeping in mind the lessons of Proudhon who said paradoxically that, “Property is Slavery. Property is Freedom.” From this stemmed a discussion based upon the nature of Property, prior to my Catholic Rediscovery I heard of Distributism and saw it as it a nice way way point between the two perspectives of Capitalism and Libertarian Socialism. The Capitalist was a pure property rights believer in the individual whereas the Socialist wanted said Property Rights to belong to the Community. After my Catholic Rediscovery I desired to comeback to the notions of Distributism and upon reading Pope Leo XIII encyclical, Rerum Novarum I learned that the Catholic Social Teaching is one in which Property is seen as a good but also acknowledges that Property needs to be addressed in a way in which people are not exploited as evidenced by these excerpts:

“Here, again, we have further proof that private ownership is in accordance with the law of nature. Truly, that which is required for the preservation of life, and for life’s well-being, is produced in great abundance from the soil, but not until man has brought it into cultivation and expended upon it his solicitude and skill. Now, when man thus turns the activity of his mind and the strength of his body toward procuring the fruits of nature, by such act he makes his own that portion of nature’s field which he cultivates – that portion on which he leaves, as it were, the impress of his personality; and it cannot but be just that he should possess that portion as his very own, and have a right to hold it without any one being justified in violating that right.” – Paragraph 9

“And in addition to injustice, it is only too evident what an upset and disturbance there would be in all classes, and to how intolerable and hateful a slavery citizens would be subjected. The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected, since it only injures those whom it would seem meant to benefit, is directly contrary to the natural rights of mankind, and would introduce confusion and disorder into the commonweal. The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property. This being established, we proceed to show where the remedy sought for must be found.” – Paragraph 15

“Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers – that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages axe fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. ‘Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.’ Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?” – Paragraph 20

When I was even younger, when I was just starting out on this journey, back when I mixed my simplistic religious beliefs with economic systems, I believed more so in a State Socialism, that government not only should BUT MUST provide for us by reason of Divine Dictate must the poor and sick be taken care of. However, what was ignored was a simple fact, namely that Charity and Alms-giving if they are to be truly Charitable must come from a basis of Voluntary Self-Sacrifice, by removing voluntary gift giving and replacing with involuntary taxation to subsidize welfare for the poor and sick would amount to nothing but gross injustice both in terms of those who receive the benefits of said taxation as well as those who lost their labor through taxation. It was in light of this that I believe was the call that lead me away from State Socialism, into Libertarianism as a whole philosophy. At the end of the day it also comes back to what has been written in The Catechism of the Catholic Church,

“A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).” – Entry #1753

Therefore to my mind, in addressing the concerns of the needy and sick, the answer does not lie in force or threats of force of the State (via taxation and inflation) to tie the welfare of the needy to government. This notion is only confirmed when we realize how bad government bureaucracy can be in addressing the needs of those it was created for, the care of the needy can sometimes never be addressed in order to justify increasing the size of government and thus more taxation and inflationary measures are added to the population in a never ending spiral of the destruction of wealth in the nation. However, in a system of Free Association and Exchange, the competing organization can maximize the money to obtain the resources necessary for those in need. This is not to say that there would not be any corruption or inefficiencies but when facing legal charges tying a person to embezzlement in a voluntary organization would be easier as opposed to trying and convicting an employee of a similar Government organization.

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