Capitalism as an Unnatrual System

Ever since capitalism made its appearance in the late Middle Ages and came to dominate both production and politics in the late 18th century, there has been a vigorous debate on just what the nature of capitalism is. Central to these debates has been the question of capitalism's relationship to the state, and particularly the question of whether capitalism was an enemy or a child of the state. There have been no shortage of great names in this debate: Smith, Marx, Mill, Mises and many other great minds weighed-in with weighty tomes on the topic. Yet I do believe that the honor of formulating the question in the most succinct and elegant terms possible must go to Sorin Cucerai in his brief but powerful essay, “The Fear of Capitalism and One of its Sources,” in the May issue of Idei in Dialog. Mr. Cucerai is a libertarian philosopher in Romania, and his article is important because it is the most candid look at capitalism I have ever seen from an Austrian libertarian. [Note: the article is in Romanian, but for anyone who wants to read an English translation, please email me.] In but a few pages, and in a few powerful phrases, Mr. Cucerai captures the essence of capitalism and its relationship with the state.

Sorin's arguments are directed primarily at the “anarcho-libertarians” who, like the Marxists, would have a “withering away of the state.” However, the historical reality is that under “conservative” regimes the state grows as fast—or even faster—then it does under liberal and social democratic regimes. Indeed, only the communists could grow the state faster than the conservatives, and they grew the state until it collapsed of its own weight, a feat which the conservatives in America are trying to duplicate, and may yet succeed Certainly something odd is going on here. An historical reality that pervasive and powerful cannot be overlooked or ignored I the name of ideology. However, it must be noted that in “defending” capitalism, Mr. Cucerai raises questions that challenge its very legitimacy. Indeed, Marx in his attacks on capitalism never said anything as negative about that system as Mr. Cucerai does in its “defense.”

It is important to understand Mr. Cucerai's argument in its elegant simplicity. I summarize it as follows:

  1. Men naturally seek direct access to the means of subsistence, usually in the form of their own land or tools.

  2. This access makes a man less dependent on his neighbors and therefore less dependent on the markets.

  3. But capitalism is the condition of dependence on the market for one's very subsistence. Therefore, “the fundamental condition for the existence of a capitalist order is the absence of the individual autonomy in the sense of owing the source of your food,” and of forcing people to seek a monetary source of subsistence. This is not a natural condition, as is owning one's own land, because “People do not search instinctively for a source of monetary revenue.” They do so only because they are forced to do so.

  4. Capitalism is made possible only if this natural process is interrupted by an instrument that makes sure nobody could have access to food and shelter unless a monetary revenue is used as an intermediary.”

  5. “Therefore, the capitalist order is not natural. Such an order can be maintained only if there is an institutional arrangement which prevents the individual from not engaging in commercial relations through the agency of money.”

  6. That “institutional arrangement” is a government that requires people to pay taxes and fees only in the form of money. Only the state can perform this coercive function upon which capitalism depends. “The source of the revenue gets prominence over the source of food; the commercial relations are widespread because, basically, it is impossible to avoid them.”

  7. The state is necessary for another reason, namely that “free competition is as unnatural as capitalism itself.” In absence of the state, commerce would be a matter of rent-seeking, a behavior only government regulation can prevent.

  8. Paradoxically, the “freedom and prosperity of capitalism” are possible only “by denying people direct access to food and shelter.” In order to have this capitalist “freedom,” we must be alienated from our own nature. But if this is done, then “he breech created between us and our nature- and between us and nature in general - open a space previously unknown to human freedom and it is a form of civilization.”

  9. Because of this fundamental alienation from nature, “ any individual that lives in the capitalist order is a fundamentally precarious being, of a radical frailty. It is the precariousness of the one who has no firm ground under his feet.”

What is remarkable about this chain of reasoning is that it can be read as either an attack or a defense of capitalism. Indeed, it is difficult to discern, from within the argument itself, which way it will turn out. Mr. Cucerai offers only an instrumental defense of capitalism, namely that it will result in more goods and higher wages. Aside from the fact that such “consequentialism” is morally suspicious, at best, there is a question of whether the basis of comparison here is valid; one would have to compare the subsistence and security of a wage-based economy with that of a property-based economy, that is, of Mr. Cucerai's “unnatural” economy with a more natural one. We know that in 16th century England, before capitalism came to dominate social relations, a common laborer could provision his family by 15 weeks of work, and a skilled laborer by 10. A century latter, after the closing of the commons and the seizure of the monasteries, which instantly converted England into a capitalist country, those numbers became 40 weeks and 32 weeks, respectively.1 Moreover, in a global economy, it is necessary, to weigh the wages of the workers in sweatshops before reaching a judgment on this question. Further, the plain fact of the matter is that nations which fed themselves comfortably for millennium before the coming of the capitalists find themselves starving under Mr. Cucerai's “freedom.” But laying that question aside, we can address the strength of Mr. Cucerai's arguments.

The first point is that this is very much an Aristotelian argument, even if it reaches conclusions opposite to Aristotle, in its division of economics into “natural” and “unnatural” exchanges. For Aristotle, natural exchange was that necessary to provision the household, while unnatural exchange had money alone for its object. The first sort of exchange was “natural” in the sense of having a natural limit. For example, a man buying bread for his family will buy what he needs and no more. But a man whose object is not bread but money might buy up every loaf of bread and every grain of wheat in order to corner the market and set the price to his own advantage. Since there is no limit to such exchanges, Aristotle regarded them are “unnatural.”

The second point we can note is how well the arguments accord with the actual history of capitalism. The plain historical fact is that capitalism and government grow hand in hand; the larger the business entities, the larger the government necessary to protect them. This fact had already been noted by Adam Smith in 1776, in The Wealth of Nations, three-fourths of which is devoted to documenting the incestuous relationship between big government and big business.

The third point is that Mr. Cucerai provides libertarianism with something it normally lacks, namely a theory of government. Hence the performance of government can be judged against that standard of its proper function. One may not agree with Mr. Cucerai's definition of the function of government, but at least the standard is explicit; the question now comes under human intentionality and can therefore be controlled, at least in principle. For the anarcho-libertarians especially, government is despised in and of itself and hence every question of government becomes an “all-or-nothing” question. But framing the question in this way always works to the advantage of the “all” of the state, since in times of crises there are simply not enough nihilists to vote for the “nothing.” Thus, the increase of state power is always and everywhere the unintended consequence of libertarianism.

The fourth point is that Mr. Cucerai has accurately described the rule-bound nature of competition and exchange, and the fact that rules must be external to the market. Indeed, competition, properly understood, only works in a larger framework of cooperation, and this cooperation is expressed in agreement to rules which are imposed by institutions of common consent. Think about a football game. It is certainly a competition, and a violent one at that. Yet, it cannot take place without the framework of cooperation, namely, that all players will be bound by the rules and judged by referees who are not themselves players in the game. Unless the game stops when the referee throws the yellow flag, the game cannot really start. Without the referee, there can be no game, but only warfare, which will continue until one side is utterly defeated or even killed, at which point both the game and competition end.

The fifth point is that Mr. Cucerai has correctly identified monetization as foundational to capitalism. One historical confirmation of this point comes from the “hut tax” that the English imposed on their African colonies. The point of this tax was not revenue; indeed, it probably cost more to collect then it raised in income. Rather, its point was to force the Africans to get something they had never needed before: a job. The climate supported the people in relative comfort with relatively low levels of work, and the Africans, left to their own devices, were happy with this arrangement. But a money tax forced them to take employment in the English mines, plantations, and factories. The point of the hut tax was not revenue, but labor.

Finally, we can note that Mr. Cucerai has certainly given us an accurate description of capitalism, and all discussions of any system must begin with an accurate description. However, it is a description that leaves out one crucial element, an element that flows from the description but which Mr. Cucerai does not address. I will return to this point a little later.

All that being said, we still cannot determine whether capitalism under this description is a good or a bad thing. Indeed, do we really want a system that alienates man from his own nature and results in a “radical frailty,” a social arrangement in which we have “no firm ground under our feet”? There is a bleak, Orwellian character to Mr. Cucerai's description in which “freedom is slavery,” in which man has to be a wage slave in order to be free; in which he has to be denied access to the ground of his freedom (that is, property) in order to participate in “free” markets. But is this a proper definition of freedom? Is it even a proper definition of economics? I believe that the author has made two fundamental mistakes: one, he has reduced all markets to monetary markets, and; two, he has confused the “free market” and “capitalism” as if they were the same, when in actual fact they are more often things opposed to each other.

A purely “monetary” exchange market is problematic in several ways. The first has to do with the nature of money, which should be merely the unit of account for all the circulating goods within a given economy. However, money can too easily be manipulated apart from the market for real goods and services. The Americans have proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that trillions of dollars in financial wealth can be created without having any relation whatsoever to real wealth. Men who contributed not so much as a grain of wheat to the commonwealth are paid billions from the common purse in reward for their failure. And this was done by men operating in largely unregulated markets. Money, as a unit of account, is an abstraction, and the more abstracted an economy becomes, that is, the more monetized, the more easily it may be manipulated by those “in the know” about the mechanics of abstraction, and a completely monetized economy is the easiest of all to manipulate.

The truth is that man operates in several markets simultaneously, most of which are not monetized, and all of which serve are checks on the other. When all markets are monetized, all markets fail, and fail decisively, without any hope of recovery. The first market in which we operate is the gift economy of family and the community. We are first called into being by the ready-made community of the family, and from this community we receive a variety of gifts. Our being, to be sure, but also the gift of our name, our family, our language, our first moral perceptions, our first experiences of love and belonging, and so forth. This economy of grace (gifts) is the primary economy, and all other economic and social activity must be judged from the standpoint of how will it serves the family. Without this check, there is really no way to know whether the economy “works” in any concrete sense. A fully monetized economy erodes the gift economy of the family upon which the whole social order depends. Beyond this family economy, there are economies of community service, economies of political activity (in which votes are the medium of exchange), religious economies, and so forth. All of these depend on the economy of production and exchange (note both terms), and hence are checked by that economy, even as they provide checks for the exchange and production economies.

Mr. Cucerai states that capitalism “opens a space previously unknown to human freedom.” But what he does not mention is that this must be a very small space, one occupied by the possessor's of land and capital alone. That is why we call it “capitalism.” Indeed, the very fact of denying access to the means of subsistence to most men means that a few will end up in possession of the vast bulk of these means. This point flows naturally from Mr. Cucerai's own description of capitalism, but it is the crucial point which he has left out, and without which his description cannot be considered complete.

Not only is this concentration of capital bad morals, it is bad economics and bad social theory. It is bad economics because all market theory is based on the “vast number of firms” hypothesis, which states that production is spread over such a vast number of firms so that no firm, or no possible combination of firms, can have any influence on market prices; that is to say, they are all price-takers rather than price-makers. When you have consolidation in any industry, the whole basis of the free market collapses, and monopoly and oligopoly are the result.

But that is just a part of the problem. I will skip over Mr. Cucerai's preposterous claim that you can have, simultaneously, a rise in production prices and a fall in consumer prices, as if the later were not dependent on the former, to note that rising wages are not the norm in capitalism. Indeed, in the United States since 1973 the median wage has remained flat, even though productivity for all classes of labor has increased dramatically in the same period. This means that the workers are producing more goods, but must purchase them with the same rewards. Since this is not possible, the economy has resorted to three stopgaps to maintain consumption. The first is to put more family members to work, and to work longer hours. The second is to increase the role and size of government to absorb more of the output. And the third is simple usury (consumer credit); have the class that is over-compensated—that is, the possessor's of capital—simply lend the excess to consumers to soak up the excess goods. But all three methods have reached their logical limits. The family is working as hard as it can (to the detriment of that family life which the economy ought to serve), the government cannot expand much further without discovering those limits on expansion that the soviets discovered, and the credit system has collapsed. There is no further that we can go without changing the system.

Mr. Cucerai assumes rising wages in a free market. Capitalist defenders assume that “free contract” is sufficient to ensure such rising wages. But Adam Smith noted the problems with this theory:

It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in number, can combine more easily...A landlord, a farmer, a master manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman, could generally live a year upon the stocks which they have already acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month and scarce any a year without employment.2

Thus Smith identifies actual wages as the result of a power relationship between masters and workers and not a result of purely “economic” forces; it is power, not productivity, that is arbitrated in a wage contract. An American CEO gets 500 times what the line worker makes not because he is 500 times more productive but because he is 500 times more powerful. The seamstress in a sweatshop gets a pittance not because her productivity is low but because her power is pitiful.

The power to negotiate a wage comes only with the power to say “no” to the terms offered, and this power comes only from the possession of an alternative to the wage. And only property confers this power. Where workers have their own property and can make their own way in the world, any wage contract they accept is likely to be a fair one, one that fairly rewards their productivity. But in absence of a real alternative, there is no real negotiation; you cannot negotiate if you cannot say “no.”

What a free market really requires is free men, and what men require to be free is access to their own means of subsistence, which is precisely what capitalism denies them. The proper ground of freedom is one's own proper ground, the very ground which Mr. Cucerai would cut out from under the worker. What is denied to the mass of men must fall to a minority of men, men who will then be the masters of society and the effective rulers of government, co-opting it to their own ends. This is what has happened. The higher the piles of capital gathered in a few hands, the thicker the walls of government necessary to protect that capital, and capital and government combine to limit freedom, to restrict property. Capitalism is therefore not to be confused with the free market, but to be identified as its mortal enemy, and to confuse the one with the other is to totally misunderstand the reality of modern economic, social, and political life.

Mr. Cucerai is to be praised for his almost unflinching look at capitalism, but he is to be critiqued because, at the last minute, he flinched, he looked away from the logical consequences of his own description to skip the crucial point upon which the whole discussion must turn. He went to the edge and turned back just a hair's-breadth from the truth. But we cannot turn back, for only if we have the courage to look at things as they are can we expect to have the strength to make them what they ought to be.

1J.E.T. Rogers, Six Centuries of Work and Wages: The History of English Labour (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1884), 239.

2Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1991), 70


John Kindley Monday, June 22, 2009 at 5:54:00 PM CDT  

All I can say is, wonderful post. Money really IS the root of all evil. With regard to your point that a market, like a football game, cannot function without rules and a referee, I'd point you to a thinker I've recently come across that has shifted my paradigm on such issues: Georgetown professor John Hasnas, whose published articles and essays can be found at

Of particular interest to the point mentioned is his essay "The Depoliticization of Law," which focuses on customary law as the historical and legitimate foundation of the common law. Other essays of particular interest are "The Obviousness of Anarchy" and "The Myth of the Rule of Law."

Roy F. Moore Monday, June 22, 2009 at 6:01:00 PM CDT  

John, another great article from your pen.


John Médaille Monday, June 22, 2009 at 11:08:00 PM CDT  

John, that was an interesting link. John Hasnas makes some persuasive arguments, but like all anarchists, he takes it too far and does not meet his own standard of proof. His first complaint is that the definition of anarchism by outsiders is all wrong, that it is not a lack of order, but "governance without government." The problem with this claim is that I have tried it on anarchists, and they tell me I am all wrong. So the extreme definition of anarchism is not something forced by outsiders, but comes from within the movement itself.

Secondly, his standard of proof is the correct one, namely, that one shows that something is possible from the fact that it exists. But he really doesn't show that. All his examples are from within a structure of government that already exists, and makes the more informal structures possible. Or at least, he can't show that it isn't the formal structures that enable the informal ones.

In his discussion of the moot courts, he does catch the flavor of common accurately; it was law because it was commonly accepted as such. However, even the moot courts were an institutional and (dare I say it) governmental framework guaranteed by the prince, the king, or the warlord. And of course, he conveniently excludes the national defense on the grounds that a world without government would be without nations and hence without wars. But the opposite is the case. Nations (and technology) may have made wars more bloody, but also less frequent. In fact, one advantage of the nation (if not the modern nation-state) is that they were more peaceful than tribal existence.

I am deeply sympathetic to minarchism and especially localism. But to push the argument to extremes turns it from a reasonable philosophy of gov't to an unreasonable ideology of chaos.

Septeus7,  Monday, June 22, 2009 at 11:12:00 PM CDT  

Excellent articlce! I really like the part about power to negotiate being tried to property because you point out the physical necessity of land and capital to man's survival and therefore no free action can take place in a market where property ownership is equal.

That's why I don't believe in free market because equilibrium of property is impossible and if achieved would render moot the need for exchange because exchange is based on diversity of property.

Henry C. Carey pointed out this fact way back in the 1850s and so the question economy becomes one of getting people of different levels property to act based on a harmonic principle of action between the agricultural, manufacturing and commercial rather than trying to monopolize of those areas.

The reality is that the monetary economy that taught today as be all and end all of economics is but a small of real economy.

Most of real economics is the physical economy and the political economy and the monetary is just usually a poor illusion of the that real economy.

Real economic recovery will come when we set aside the illusions of money and re-learn the proper harmonic relationships between the different sectors of economy and culture.

John Médaille Monday, June 22, 2009 at 11:23:00 PM CDT  

Sept, wouldn't property still be "diverse" even if it were widely dispersed? Some property will be better for raising corn and some better for raising pigs. They will trade, in absence of any restraint.

Mark Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 1:38:00 AM CDT  

I am still coming to grips with this concept of 'Distributism', so please pardon my rather arbitrary questions.

Regarding both the 16th century English laborer and the African cited in the essay (re: being forced into a dependence upon a monetary system), there seems to be no credit given to a monetary system for the ease with which exchange is made.

Suppose I brew beer for a living (still working on that one, by the way), and you are a farmer, and you want to trade potatoes for my beer. Well, I already have all the potatoes I need. What I really want is tomatoes. But you don't have those, and you don't easily have the means of getting to me, at least not without bartering two or three times, by which time you return and I've found someone else who wants my beer and who had tomatoes. I don't want to take your extra potatoes in the hope of trading them for tomatoes because I don't know potatoes, I don't have the room to store them, and I don't know that I can trade them before they expire (beer is good that way).

It seems elementary to me, so I'm hoping you can explain what I'm missing.

On another point, you wrote, "The power to negotiate a wage comes only with the power to say “no” ...And only property confers this power".

It seems to me that a worker can always say 'no'. The question is whether the pain in saying 'no' is greater than in saying 'yes' to the offer. His freedom is not affected, only the degree of pain to which he might be subjected in one, or the other situation.

I have not owned property for some time, and yet I have the 'power' to say 'no'. This is due to my ability to liquid assets. Assume for a moment my assets are kegs of beer. I can manufacture more beer, but it is rather difficult to manufacture more land. In fact, it is expensive and would take many years of selling beer at ideal conditions before I could acquire it. My only alternative would be a bank, which of course is not an option because banks deal in money and we've discarded that option...

I recognize that many of the adherents to Distributism are men of far greater intellect than me, but I'm having a hard time getting my head around the rules of this system and the notion that it would ever work in anything other than a vacuum. I can explain the free markets to my teenager (or my toddler, for that matter) via Mises and Rothbard, but I can't answer the most basic questions about Distributism. And I'm trying...

John Médaille Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 7:49:00 AM CDT  

Mark, I think you have answered your own question, because I don't know how you can make beer without having some property, both in land and in equipment. And yes, a person can always say "no," if they are willing to let there children starve. Adam Smith's objection still stands.

Donald Goodman Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 8:32:00 AM CDT  


Mark, distributism doesn't say there should be no money, just that real wealth needs to be the governing factor rather than currency, which is properly merely a measure of existing real wealth.

John, this article was stupendous. I'm marking it down as a general reference for people who ask me for basic explanations for why capitalism isn't acceptable.

Praise be to Christ the King!

steven P. Cornett,  Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9:39:00 PM CDT  

Is there a translation of the article in English?

John Médaille Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 9:49:00 PM CDT  

Steven, yes there is; email me and I'll send you the article, john at medaille dot com.

John Médaille Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 12:04:00 PM CDT  

Somebody sent me a request for the article, but my inbox crashed and I don't have the address. Please send your request again.

Septeus7,  Wednesday, June 24, 2009 at 8:44:00 PM CDT  

Quote: "Sept, wouldn't property still be "diverse" even if it were widely dispersed? Some property will be better for raising corn and some better for raising pigs. They will trade, in absence of any restraint."

Not if they people only produced the same thing using the same methods. If we are all hunters and can hunt down our own meat then why trade?

This was the case before civilization as property was open to everyone but there was little trade or economy and that economy could only support about 10 millions persons.

It is a fallacy that some land is better suited for corn and others for pigs. At our current technology some land is better suited corn and others for pigs but in order for economy to advance you transform land for greater capacity.

Henry Carey documents this by showing that the worst land in America was settled first and better lands later. The land is made value by the creative farmer and only the creative action of farmer allow him transform the land into something that can raise pigs or corn.

The value lies with the man not his property so in order to produce a better economy you have to produce a better man.

Culture is economy. We have become static and dependent on monoculture and chemical farming and crushed the many family farm that I think where a cultural wellspring of diversity.

It's the family farmer that is creative and will try things like permaculture not big agriculture.

Can there by anything less creative than monoculture?

It's not just the dispersion of property that think will make for a just and improving economy but an economy that centered around local production and limits trade that damages the self-development of the local economy.

Now, I believe take different approach than most distributist as think that before we can more regionally based economy we have get our national economy back and stop globalization.

I'm a economic nationalist because I believe the nation-state is last hope for humanity against imperialist globalism and therefore the national interest has to be strong enough to counter the imperial interest.

For some Distributist, I get the impression that they think America is just big to be a nation but I disagree. I don't think issues of population size is what should be thought of when saying small is beautiful.

Perhaps this question of what should we mean when we say that "small is beautiful" should be a topic for later discussion.

Donald Goodman Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 8:35:00 AM CDT  


"Henry Carey documents this by showing that the worst land in America was settled first and better lands later. The land is made value by the creative farmer and only the creative action of farmer allow him transform the land into something that can raise pigs or corn."

Well said! The farmer, like all craftsmen, must not only preserve but *improve* what he has been given.

I agree with you on globalization, and I'd much rather have an "economically nationalist" economy than what we have now; consequently, as a distributist, I support many measures that could be considered as economically nationalist, because they would result in more local production than the contrary.

I don't think America's too big to be a *country*; I think it's too big to be a *homogenous* country. The economy for this enormous political entity cannot possibly be treated as the same, or even similar, throughout. The economy must be governed much more locally. I think that's an essential part of subsidiarity.

Praise be to Christ the King!

P.M.Lawrence Friday, June 26, 2009 at 5:33:00 AM CDT  

About 'Further, the plain fact of the matter is that nations which fed themselves comfortably for millennium [sic - and there are quite a few other typos] before the coming of the capitalists find themselves starving under Mr. Cucerai's "freedom."', in general today's cases are a later development now improved child mortality has raised population levels above what they had been, but it took over from shortages created by diverting local resources to cash crop production etc. under colonialism, and it has been aggravated by that diversion continuing. Oddly, mere sweat shop work hasn't usually had that aggravating effect (see Nassau Senior's work on wages for some insights on how this works out).

More below, broken up because of a space limit.

P.M.Lawrence Friday, June 26, 2009 at 5:40:00 AM CDT  

Some of the material in the post, e.g. hut taxes and 'That "institutional arrangement" is a government that requires people to pay taxes and fees only in the form of money' (but "only" is not quite right, as the following shows), reminds me of something I found in The Drama of Madagascar (Sonia E. Howe, pp. 331-2. Methuen & Co. ltd. London, 1938) that was interesting and frank enough that I posted it here at wikipedia:-

"There was the introduction of equitable taxation, so vital from the financial point of view; but also of such great political, moral and economic importance. It was the tangible proof of French authority having come to stay; it was the stimulus required to make an inherently lazy people work. Once they had learned to earn they would begin to spend, whereby commerce and industry would develop.

"The corvée in its old form could not be continued, yet workmen were required both by the colonists, and by the Government for its vast schemes of public works. The General therefore passed a temporary law, in which taxation and labour were combined, to be modified according to country, the people, and their mentality. Thus, for instance, every male among the Hovas, from the age of sixteen to sixty, had either to pay twenty-five francs a year, or give fifty days of labour of nine hours a day, for which he was to be paid twenty centimes, a sum sufficient to feed him. Exempted from taxation and labour were soldiers, militia, Government clerks, and any Hova who knew French, also all who had entered into a contract of labour with a colonist. Unfortunately, this latter clause lent itself to tremendous abuses. By paying a small sum to some European, who nominally engaged them, thousands bought their freedom from work and taxation by these fictitious contracts, to be free to continue their lazy, unprofitable existence. To this abuse an end had to be made.

"The urgency of a sound fiscal system was of tremendous importance to carry out all the schemes for the welfare and development of the island, and this demanded a local budget. The goal to be kept in view was to make the colony, as soon as possible, self-supporting. This end the Governor-General succeeded in achieving within a few years."

However, the status quo ante hadn't been all that idyllic; the dominant tribe had oppressed its neighbours and practised slavery, which the French abolished (although their usual practice, like the Belgians, was to conscript all "freed" slaves into a constabulary and its support structures - more nationalising than liberating).

Septeus7 cited Henry Carey as "showing that the worst land in America was settled first and better lands later".

This is almost certainly the same paradox as the one the Greeks commented on, when they noticed that Byzantium was colonised later than a city on the opposite shore of the Bosphorus, even though it was better. But the other city had less hostile natives around (until Byzantium could pacify its neighbours), and Byzantium's better harbour didn't have a value for merchants until the first wave of Greek colonisation had moved through and settled potential grain exporters around the Black Sea. Similarly, in general the North American land that was taken first was the "top land" above valleys, not the more fertile and better watered "bottom land" in the valleys. But top land was easier to clear and get the first crop in, and to defend, without having to survive so long until improvements were made; in all the circumstances, it was better, only using it changed the circumstances.

Gulag,  Friday, June 26, 2009 at 12:37:00 PM CDT  

“Some 40 percent of Romania's 22 million citizens live in rural areas. These villages are among the last surviving (and thriving) peasant societies in Europe.”(Leif Petterson, “Perceptive Travel”). After the fall of Communism, all the neo-communist governments in Romania continued the Communist policy of destroying the subsistence farms, this time using the social and economic engineering developed by globalism and its institutions (EU, Soros’ ”open societies”, Mises Insitute etc). On an intellectual level, the Romanian “elites” (both the Romanian neocons/libertarians and the “multicultural” atheistic “new left”) have promoted an aggressive anti-peasant agenda, accusing the Romanian peasantry of “fascist”, “nationalist” orientation and of Romania “backwardness”. On an economic level, the neo-communist governments did not distribute the PRODUCTIVE properties to the peasants; they reluctantly returned to them the lands stolen by communists; and yet the neo-communists NEVER did return to the peasants the tools to till the lands they got back. As a consequence, many peasants have to sell their land to foreign investors or to Romanian oligarchs; or to mass migrate to the West – where they became waged slaves - leaving behind their kids/ families and deserted villages. An agricultural powerhouse in Europe before the Communist takeover in 1944, Romania is now a net importer of food products. And yet, both EU and the Romanian governments continue to complain loudly that Romania has “too many peasants”. In my recent visit to Romania, I was appalled to see all over the country vast fields of rapeseed for the production of biodiesel – in EU command economy, Romania MUST become a biodiesel producer (rapeseed oil being highly subsidized by EU) while the organic agriculture will stay in the “elite” countries of France, Germany or Italy. I read Sorin Cucerai’s article, not as a critique of capitalist economic engineering, but as a cynical endorsement of it. While in US, the libertarians, the neoconservatives and the “multicultural” left need to disguise their real intentions, in Eastern Europe they do not have to hide too much under a masque. In the last 20 years, this “holy trinity” have obediently promoted the interests of Big Business and a globalist, anti-Christian agenda. Maybe it’s time for honest people in US to take at look at was is going on out there. What happened to the Romania and other Eastern Europe's "lab rats" in the last 60 years, might be perfected on a much bigger scale in USA today.

David W. Cooney,  Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 3:34:00 PM CDT  


I would say that your principle difficulty in explaining the distributist system is that you insist on putting it in a vacuum. For example, you assume that there is no currency under distributism, but that is not the case. Currency can certainly exist, but its value cannot be arbitrary (as it is today). Therefore, I am not limited to finding someone willing to trade tomatoes for my potatoes. I can sell my potatoes to someone for currency, and then use that currency to buy beer from you.

In regard to being able to say "no," in your example, you manufacture the beer. However, the point of distributism compared to capitalism is that you are very unlikely to be the manufacturer. The average person is not, and the laws are set up to make it difficult for an individual to become one. Even if you manage to go into manufacture, the laws favor the large brewery against you.

The brewer has the freedom to say no. The brewer's employee has less freedom to do so. It may not be lost entirely, but his dependence on his wage puts the employee at the mercy of his employer. As the capitalist process consolidates the large breweries into huge conglomerates, the option of going to a different employer is diminished, and the employee's freedom to say "no" is as well.

Donald Goodman Monday, June 29, 2009 at 11:20:00 AM CDT  


Mr. Cooney makes an excellent point. Capitalists, particularly Austrians, always like to make examples out of shoemakers, brewers, and tomato-growers. They never mention that their system has an extreme paucity of such individuals. Rather, the normal citizen in a system governed even partly by their ideals is not a producer; he merely works for a producer. This makes many of their examples completely unhelpful.

Praise be to Christ the King!

Infinity Dollar Wednesday, July 8, 2009 at 1:32:00 PM CDT  

Natural Vs. Unnatural

Before Capitalism humans lived in a what we now consider a barbaric fashion. In Nature, the Natural way is competition.
Kill or Be Killed.
Capitalism was a theory of a system in which we could balance the necessity of this natural order of things and become "Civilized."
Good or bad, Capitalism was created by intellectuals as a way for those who could use there brains to even the playing field. Also Capitalism is without a doubt a means of Control. Again to aid in creating a Society. Thought to be an improvement on the cannibalistic "Natural" System.

Decentralist Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 9:24:00 PM CDT  

It is a little late but just want to say, very good post.

And to infinite dollar I'd hardly call the middle ages "cannablistic". Try an actual critique of John's arguments.

Chris Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM CDT  

Septeus7 states:
"It is a fallacy that some land is better suited for corn and others for pigs"

Selenium is lacking in soil in most of NC, though rich in other of Greece are so rocky that you really have a hard time with large fields of produce, even if terracing....taht is why Greece has a large herding industry, esp sheep....same w/Scotland, usually small hold farming was all that could be done, most of Scotland was too rocky...and support large scale farming and diverse crops...Distributism takes a while to really learn, it is much different then what we grow up with..give it time, keep reading!!

Chris Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:00:00 AM CDT  

Donald G says:
"I agree with you on globalization, and I'd much rather have an "economically nationalist" economy than what we have now; consequently, as a distributist, I support many measures that could be considered as economically nationalist, because they would result in more local production than the contrary.

I don't think America's too big to be a *country*; I think it's too big to be a *homogenous* country. The economy for this enormous political entity cannot possibly be treated as the same, or even similar, throughout. The economy must be governed much more locally. I think that's an essential part of subsidiarity."

Well said, Americas impending downfall is result of the new pax Roman aggressive policies, at home and abroad...Roman got too big, lazy and centralized...hence it fell and for centuries, technology needed for clean living (I am thinking of waste removal) actually regressed...sanitary conditions worsened.....I have urged, usally to blank stares..the "buy American" any day over cheap Chinese goods.....still step in right direction, though not fully home-spun/home-made like, say, a has to start at least with baby cannot usually go from Walmart to spinning own yarn, etc overnight..but seeking out stores or websites that sell American made is a good start, certainly provides more support for US workers than a Chinese or latin American sweatshop.....

Many Catholics support subsidiarity, but leave off me, they need to work hand-hand....

Chris Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:10:00 AM CDT  

Infinity Dollar said...
Natural Vs. Unnatural

Before Capitalism humans lived in a what we now consider a barbaric fashion. In Nature, the Natural way is competition.
Kill or Be Killed.

Comment-capitalism really only evolved as we know it, live it today in 12-13C, soe your comment would mean that the monks during the Middle Ages were barbarians....the "kill or be Killed" was not a part of human existance really since the "stone age", even then, there was likely laws and a tribal system in palce to deal with conflicts...during and after Rome's fall, there was still remnants of civil law, some of it part of natural law, some a part of Church's influence on is a mistake to believe that prior to late Middle Ages or Renisance (?) we were brutish barbarians....that is why I do not use the often secular/Protestant "Dark ages", as it means barbarians,illiteracy and repression (for fundies) of bible believers.....John and others have written some good refutes of this, that culture was far better than often portrayed.....and often, more just......

Chris Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 9:14:00 AM CDT  

Infinity states:
" Also Capitalism is without a doubt a means of Control. Again to aid in creating a Society. Thought to be an improvement on the cannibalistic "Natural" System."

So, then the natural law written on the hearts of men is bad?? it certainly built some impressive buildings,laws,etc-both pagan Rome and later under Christians..some of best architecture, literature,music came out of those "barbaric" times....natural law is different then the "jungle" of human, fallen passions and sins...why in some pagan societies, they made remarkable advancements in medicine and law.despite no Gospel....why a child that never has heard the Gospel knows it is wrong for incest,etc....Natural law is telling me, along with Catholic Faith, this crummy windowless cube I sit in is not healthy or right.I am divorced from nature, which is God's creation....just my $0.02

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