Is this Socialism or Distributism?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/business/global/14frugal.html?ref=business

18 comments:

Anonymous,  Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:18:00 AM CDT  

This looks like the Servile State to me. (One could call it socialism in the common sense of that term--not nationalized industry -- although they have that, too).

The problem with the nanny state is that it denies people and civil society their proper sphere of moral action. It is an assault on subsidiarity (the point of which is to ensure that the munera of individuals and various social groups is protected). No wonder the article ends with the story of a drug addict. Despite the ability of these people to live on the fat of oil money, these countries suffer from the emotional poverty described by Mother Teresa.

The whole point of distributism is to make people independent of the state and corporations (hudge and Gudge). By encouraging ownership of property, man is truly free and authentically participates in economic society (which is a goodly portion of what people do from day-to-day). Property and fredom give greater dignity to man's work and allow each individual to flourish.

The nanny state also diminishes solidarity and snuffs out our moral responsibility to be our brother's keeper. Dorothy Day was so good on this point.

Danby Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 11:35:00 AM CDT  

It's more like living as a perpetual college student on your uncle's trust fund. For now, Norwegians are thrifty and disciplined enough to save their money and deny themselves the free spending party of cheap credit we have been throwing ourselves in most other western countries. The next generation will not hang on to these habits.

Anonymous,  Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 8:18:00 PM CDT  

It seems, these days, that some want to consider Marxist Socialism as the only type of socialism to hide their socialistic agenda. That is, make people dependent on the state. Essentially, slaves of the state. I even heard Michael Medved fall into the same mistake.

They do not consider that Fascism and Nazism were both socialistic ideologies. If fact, any ideology that makes the state all powerful can be, and should be considered Socialism.

Those who do not realize this have their head buried in the quicksand of Socialism.

Peregrinus

Tim Friday, May 15, 2009 at 4:14:00 AM CDT  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Friday, May 15, 2009 at 4:16:00 AM CDT  

He says that the $1,500 he gets from the government each month is enough to keep him well-fed and supplied with drugs.

Mr. Bruum, 32, says he has never had a job, and he admits he is no position to find one. “I don’t blame anyone,” he said. “The Norwegian government has provided for me the best they can.”
Yep, I'd say those closing paragraphs pretty well sum up the difference between distributism and socialism. And the previous commenters have also made it clear--I love the 'perpetual college student' analogy. Um, I can relate a little, and it's not such a favorable comparison for the poor Norwegians. (:

Yet, let's give them credit for prudent budget and mortgage policies. Also, with a population of only 4.6 million, it's hard to judge them on grounds of subsidiarity. As Catholic social doctrine affirms, government has a positive role to play, especially government on that small of a scale. For what is government but a group of people working together and holding each other accountable?

Tom Laney Friday, May 15, 2009 at 6:23:00 AM CDT  

Forget the druggies. I am thinking that the Sovereign Wealth Fund is potentially Distributist.

Anonymous,  Friday, May 15, 2009 at 8:26:00 AM CDT  

Tom,

Okay, let's focus on the sovereign wealth fund. Do we really want the state sucking up resources and investing them??? Again, this is an obnoxious contravention of subsidiarity, IMHO.

Three obvious problems (which plague our politics): original sin; what public choice theory tells us; and the idea that bureaucrats will wisely invest society's money when there is no real personal stake in the process.

The whole ball of wax described in the article can be summed up by the following excerpt from Mark Steyn's graduation speech at Hillsdale. (It's not the actual money spent; it's the principle--).

***
And now the last holdout, the United States, is embarking on the same grim path: After the President unveiled his budget, I heard Americans complain, oh, it's another Jimmy Carter, or LBJ's Great Society, or the new New Deal. You should be so lucky. Those nickel-and-dime comparisons barely begin to encompass the wholesale Europeanization that's underway. The 44th president's multi-trillion-dollar budget, the first of many, adds more to the national debt than all the previous 43 presidents combined, from George Washington to George Dubya. The President wants Europeanized health care, Europeanized daycare, Europeanized education, and, as the Europeans have discovered, even with Europeanized tax rates you can't make that math add up. In Sweden, state spending accounts for 54% of GDP. In America, it was 34%—ten years ago. Today, it's about 40%. In four years' time, that number will be trending very Swede-like.

But forget the money, the deficit, the debt, the big numbers with the 12 zeroes on the end of them. So-called fiscal conservatives often miss the point. The problem isn't the cost. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a check to cover them each month. They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal. That's the stage where Europe is.

America is just beginning this process.

***

Tim Friday, May 15, 2009 at 9:23:00 AM CDT  

Okay, let's focus on the sovereign wealth fund. Do we really want the state sucking up resources and investing them??? Hmm, it's hard to accuse the state of "sucking up resources" since this money did not come from taxes but from licenses (or whatever) for the extraction of oil revenue. It seems legitimate to me that the state receive those revenues. But I think the more distributist thing to do with those funds is to, um, distribute them to the population so they can purchase their own capital personally.

Tim Friday, May 15, 2009 at 9:24:00 AM CDT  

I don't know who Mark Steyn is, but he doesn't exactly sound like a careful thinker to me. Please show me the projection that has U.S. state spending going above 50% of GDP in four years time. Nor does the 2009 budget double the national debt (i.e. it does not add more debt that all previous presidents combined--it's not even as much as Reagan alone: http://zfacts.com/p/480.html ).

Now, if we actually stick to the facts, there still may be cause for alarm. But why muddy the waters?

Tim Friday, May 15, 2009 at 9:24:00 AM CDT  

They're wrong because they deform the relationship between the citizen and the state. Even if there were no financial consequences, the moral and even spiritual consequences would still be fatal.Yes, this is the question to focus on, but I just don't agree. I ask you, what smaller unit than the state can address the health care crisis adequately? (I expect you have an answer, I just want to know what it is so we can discuss.) What small unit than the state can address huge disparities in education funding across school districts? What alternative arrangement other than subsidizing preschool/childcare do you propose to make up the growing difference between falling market wages and a living family wage?

The details are the key here. Whereas Europe is content send out checks from the federal government to finance drug habits, the U.S. models subsidiarity in even it's most harried federal programs: witness how each state has flexibility to shape its own Medicaid program, it's own Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (a.k.a. welfare reform), and so on.. Federal money flows more and more to private, charitable organizations like Catholic Charities or the institutions founded and run by religious orders such as the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

Yes, Dorothy Day is the right prophet for our time: if we are concerned about encroaching socialism as she was, the thing to do is to act--practice the works of mercy, voluntarily give our wealth to those who wish to purchase the means of production for caring for others. Rather than worrying about government crowding out private charity, we can crowd out government by giving away so much of our income that there is nothing left to tax. And they will say, "See how those Christians love one another, at a personal sacrifice."

John Médaille Friday, May 15, 2009 at 10:18:00 AM CDT  

I have difficulty seeing this as anything but socialism. The SWF could be counted as a "commons", which makes the socialism more functional than most. But weighing one thing with another, it would still be socialism, imho.

Anonymous,  Friday, May 15, 2009 at 11:21:00 AM CDT  

Definitely socialism. But, the key distinction between Norway and the America is not one of economy but one of sanity.

Michael Bindner Friday, May 15, 2009 at 1:08:00 PM CDT  

It is socialism and there is nothing wrong with it in this form.

Not liking the term socialism does not make the action wrong, by the way. There is nothing intrensically wrong about the commons holding common property, especially when you consider the alternative of a private corporation exploiting the resources of the commons without paying for it.

Saying that you don't like socialism, so anything socialists are doing must be wrong, is an exercise in circular logic.

Anonymous,  Friday, May 15, 2009 at 7:45:00 PM CDT  

I would like to add. It seems the Socialists do not like to be considered Socialist due the atrocities committed by them in the past and even in the present in Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and even China.

Peregrinus

Anonymous,  Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 2:29:00 PM CDT  

What atrocities by socialist in Venezuelea? Seems like most of people are better off with the socialist than with the previous government.

Can't compare with the atrocities committed during the past 8 years by the Capitalist.

Anonymous,  Saturday, May 16, 2009 at 4:02:00 PM CDT  

I was wondering when someone from the Bush bashing crowd would show up and spread their lies.

The body count of the socialists are in the hundreds of million and that is just from their cleansing efforts. It does not take into account their eugenics and infanticide activities of the last number of decades.

Socialists are an abhorrent breed that like to place the blame for their crimes on others.

Peregrinus

Tom Laney Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 5:52:00 AM CDT  

“This is an oil-for-leisure program,” said Knut Anton Mork, an economist at Handelsbanken in Oslo. A recent study, he pointed out, found that Norwegians work the fewest hours of the citizens of any industrial democracy.

Isn't this a good thing? I recall Chesterton worrying that Distributist production probably couldn't get the coal mined.

Peter Maurin might not have been able to run the Norwegian oil business. Norway runs a better business than, say, Halliburton. If the profits are used to reduce worktime, that is really a good thing for families.

I hear from Ford workers that they are so exhausted by their 10-hour days on the line now, that they are too tired to do much other than eat and sleep during the work week.

If the U.S. government ran the oil business perhaps we might have greater education assistance, health care for all, a 32-hour work week and more support for honest bankers.

Tom Laney Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 6:05:00 AM CDT  

I should say that IF we had an honest U.S. Govt.

As for Venezuela is it at all possible that someone could bend Chavez's ear for Distributism?? I agree with one of the Anon's hear that most people and especially the poor are better off with the Chavez gov't. than the Capitalists' Govt.

Chavez is a Catholic Paratrooper after all. There's a true upside to him. Are there any high-level Distributist officials in the Vatican who could talk a little turkey to him?

Who knows? If we could turn Venezuela to Distributism the goodness might fall across the world like good dominos.

Then we'd have a real fight on our hands....

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