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The Socialist Perspective

Lyle J. Arnold, Jr.

Not everyone is saying it, but many are thinking that the road that will lead the United States out of its economic crisis is Socialism.

Socialisms spectre on wallstreet

The spectre of Socialism on Wall Street...
"The nervous breakdown" of Capitalism must be cured by "shock therapy" in the form of Nationalism. So writes William Greider in the leftist publication The Nation. He laments that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's bailout package is at this point voluntary, "not to be confused with the genuine nationalism that Britain and other governments have undertaken." (1) Is Nationalism in this context a veiled term for Socialism? It would seem so.

In a statement that is more to the point, American Spectator writer Roger Scruton comments:
"Prime Minister Gordon Brown has therefore made a point of extolling a new kind of national loyalty, one which is compatible with the disappearance of England. He reminds us of the `core values' of Britishness, which includes freedom, toleration, compassion, social responsibility, and other qualities that can be read in ways favorable to the Socialist State." (2)
A comment by Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive is likewise telling, "If there are no atheists in foxholes, there are certainly no capitalists in a financial crisis. They become socialists overnight." (3)

Such hype is not just coming from the left, although some of the center-right publications make a try at offering balanced statements. For example, The National Review, in an article by Andrew Stuttaford, affirms:
"As we survey an economic landscape littered with shattered 401(ks), broken banks and anxious businesses, the idea of leaving the free market to clean up after itself comes perilously close to the old notion that it was sometimes necessary to destroy a Vietnamese village in order to save it. The free market is a very powerful engine for economic growth, the best we have, but it is that power that makes it too dangerous to be left solely to its own devices." (4)

The Ayatollah: "The American financial crash is the wrath of Allah"
In the same article, however, the author reproduces statements coming from leaders of hate-America, expressing nothing less than babbling idiocy:

"Both Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Iran's Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati (a hardliner's hardliner) are arguing that the 2008 crash is down to the Big Fellow upstairs. Ortega reportedly maintains that the Almighty is using the chaos on Wall Street as a scourge to punish America for imposing flawed economic policies on developing countries. The ayatollah, meanwhile, insists that it is Uncle Sam's unspecified `ugly doings' that have brought down the wrath of Allah, and with it the housing market." (5)

The hubris and histrionics being bandied about in the media today seem to be entirely focused on the question of private property vs. Socialism from a materialist outlook. Almost everyone wants a fast solution; few want to consider principles.

The failed Israeli Socialism of the kibbutzim

In the debate that is bound to continue for a long time, it would be good to begin by taking a look at Israel’s experiment with the kibbutzim. I’m sure some of my readers remember the great hype over the kibbutz, a utopian collective community in Israel based on agriculture – a form of communal living that combines Socialism and Zionism. It was going to be the model project for the world, coming from the then newborn Israeli State. In the beginning, the kibbutzim followed strict socialist policies forbidding private property and required equality of income regardless of differences in productivity.

Communal dining at the Mahot Kibbutz

Enthusiasm for communal dining at the Mahot kibbutz has dwindled
In a recent Time magazine report about the failure of Israel’s oldest kibbutz, nothing good is said about Socialism. The kibbutzim leadership has voted to abandon its socialist principles and policies. The communal kibbutz system became a worn out machine as rusty and useless as the battered farm tools on display for tourists. The kibbutz was a socialist dream based on equality that never worked. “From the start,” the article reports, “it was never equal. It was a fake equality.” (6)

There are lots of reasons for the failure of the kibbutz in Israel: motivational problems, economic crisis, internal bickering, disillusionment, and so on. Many members started working outside the kibbutz. The lesson learned about Capitalism was one that any boy with a lemonade stand could have taught them: the individual works harder for himself than for the collective.

As Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker points out, “Nowhere is the failure of Socialism clearer than in the radical transformation of the Israeli kibbutz." (7) The Israeli kibbutzim had all the supposed advantages for success: the support of the government, dedicated volunteers strongly committed to socialist ideology, extensive government subsidies. But over time, kibbutz residents became frustrated with the perverse incentives created by Socialism.

Only by watering down or abandoning their commitment to Socialism have a few kibbutzim managed to survive. Becker concludes that if Socialism cannot work under the highly favorable circumstances of the Israeli kibbutz experience, it almost certainly cannot work anywhere.

The conciliar Popes lean toward Socialism

It is easy to see why earlier papal encyclicals support the principle of private property and condemn Socialism in its very essence. (9) With the conciliar Popes, however, slippage began on these principles. John XXIII began it by approving "cooperation with non-doctrinaire socialists;" Paul VI followed through by making "greater restrictions on private property," and John Paul II advocated a "participatory Socialism." (10)

The door is now open for socialists disguised under the aegis of Distributism, a form of Socialism easily exposed as materialist by Patrick Odou in his critique of Arthur J. Penty, as well as other articles refuting its leaders Eric Gill, Belloc et. all (11).

Peter Maurin

Communist Peter Maurin is the thinker behind the Catholic Workers Movement
Today some Catholic conservatives and traditionalists seems to think they are striking a blow against the Establishment by favoring this “third way” termed Distributism, which ironically is also defended as the roots of the Catholic Workers Movement. (12) Even the conservative Catholic newspaper The Wanderer today advocates this false solution with a recent article claiming that today’s economic crisis has a “Bellocian” solution. (13)

Don't be fooled. Socialism is wrong in its essence. The Catholic Church always opposed Socialism. Its essential incompatibility with Catholicism is explained by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira in The Church and the Communist State: The Impossible Co-existence.

He notes that “the temporal order exerts a profound formative - or deformative - action over the mentalities of peoples and the souls of individuals.” Therefore, the Church cannot, accept a freedom which would involve her being silent about the errors of Communism or Socialism.

Further, Socialism violates the 7th and 10th Commandment which are the basis of private property. To accept a regime that violates these precepts would be to recognize a disfigured image of God Himself. “Such a condition,” he states, “would be gravely prejudicial to the love of God, the practice of justice, and the full development of the faculties of man, and, as a consequence, to his sanctification.” (14)

The remedy of Catholics is to move away from the materialist approach and focus on the principles. Inequality is good in itself, because, as St. John Chrysostom teaches, it is "the base and the bond of human society. Indeed, it is inequality that binds one man to another, causing them to render mutual services to each other." (15) Once we set aside this principle, the road is open for a completely wrong notion of society.

The egalitarian outlook ends in a Socialist and Marxist outlook. Our Lady warned us at Fatima that these errors would spread throughout the world unless man converted. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6: 33) and not be taken in by false prophets and false solutions at this critical time in History.

We should reject the socialist ideals that rest on a materialist view of the world. Pius XI words apply aptly to our times. "No one can be at the same time a sincere Catholic and a true socialist."
1., 10/17/08.
2. "The Forbidding of England," The American Spectator, November 2008, page 48f.
3. “Wall Street Socialism,” The Progressive, November 2008, p. 8.
4. "The Ride of the Regulators," National Review, November 3, 2008, p. 30.
5. Ibid.
6. Tim McGirk, "Postcard: Galilee," Time, May 7, 2007, p. 8.
7. “The Transformation of the Kibbutz and the Rejection of Socialism,” The Becker-Posner blog, September 2, 2007.
8. Benjamin Wiker, 10 Books that Screwed Up the World - And 5 Others That Didn't Help, (Washington DC: Regnery Pub/Inc), pp. 153-154.
9. Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum; Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno.
10. "100 Years of Encyclicals: Church and Capitalism," NY Times, May 3, 1991.
11. P. Odou, “A Distributist Manifesto Strongly Spiced With Communism." See also TIA section on "Social-Political" issues for numerous articles refuting Distributism and its leaders.
12. “Roots of the Catholic Worker Movement: Distributism: Ownership of the Means of Production and Alternative to the Brutal Global Market” by Mark and Louise Zwick, Casa Juan Diego blog.
13. Paul Likoudis, "Economic Crisis Has Bellocian Solution," The Wanderer, October 2, 1908, p. 1.
14. Online book
15. St. John Chrysostom, "Inequalities Are the Base and Bond of Society," Tradition in Action, May 24, 2008.

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Posted December 5, 2008

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