Saturday, February 27, 2010

Can This Market Be Saved?

In the May edition of U.S. Catholic (a magazine I'm actually not too fond of) there was an excellent article called Can This Market Be Saved. The author, Daniel Finn, touched on a number of very important issues: notions like the common good, solidarity, subsidiarity, and the excellent point that “free markets… exist in a context”, which includes at least some government protection. However, though I agreed with just about everything in the article, and was delighted to come across some novelties, I don’t think it went far enough.

Since the nineteenth century, people like Hillarie Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, Bishop Fulton Sheen, *Aldous Huxley, Mortimer Adler, and even certain popes, like John Paul II, have been warning us that the type of capitalism we have favors an uneven accumulation of wealth and purchasing power to those few who own the means of production; that this imbalance tends to need state intervention, which gives inordinate power to bureaucrats; and that the only way to approach economic equilibrium (a truly free market) is to favor an ownership society where the means of production are widely distributed (thus the economic theory Distributism, popularized by Belloc and Chesterton, carried on by folks like Dale Alquist, and modernized by authors like John Medaille).

Moreover, this growing divide (between capital and labor) was, and still is, exponentially accelerated by what Pat Buchanan calls “quasi-religious faith” in free trade. Free trade has dismantled our manufacturing base (the true wealth of nations). Consequently, banks, lacking investment in a productive economy, have had to stay alive by making speculative loans -- it’s not just greed but a matter of the incentive to survive. The problem, therefore, is structural, and, according to Mr. Buchanan, can only be fixed, in part, by implementing the wisdom of Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt; by re-establishing the “American System”.

So, to conclude: Though I was enlightened by Finn's article and agreed with the main points, I would have liked to have seen mention both of the deeper causes, not just the symptoms, of our recession, as well as certain approaches to address those causes -- like the economic theory **Distributism, and the trade approach of the American System.

*Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World Revisited, stated that "if you believe in democracy, make arrangements to distribute property [the means of production] as widely as possible". Such an "arrangement" a) makes for economic stability, and b) makes for a self-sufficiency that naturally desires limitations on government.

**An excellent modern day example of legislation distributists would support is The Employee Ownership Act of 1999, co-sponsored by people spanning the political gamut; unfortunately it failed to pass.

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