Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stephen Hand Talks to John Médaille

The New Beginning links to this interview on "the third-way economic philosophy formulated by such Roman Catholic thinkers as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, placing great emphasis on spreading truly private property and agrarian value" — John C. Medaille on Distributism.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Blogger love the girls said...

Thanks for linking to this. I always appreciate materials like this to listen to while working.

This is along the same vein :

12:14 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

You're welcome and thanks. I'm at the 40 minute mark now, and find myself more impressed than I expected.

I used to have a job which allowed me to listen to a lot of talk radio. Now, I can only do it on weekends, as I am doing now.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

The Distributionist vision of Chersterton and Belloc is a critical component of any sane conservative polity. The wide distribution of property within a society is what creates the middle class and encourages the growth of both civic virtue (thanks to the incentives created by a wide demographic of property owners -- the "ownership society") and social solidarity (because of a large number of common interests held by small property owners and small businessmen).

12:31 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

This interview has convinced me to read the biography of General Douglas MacArthur, said to be a distributist, which has been languishing on my shelf for years.

12:36 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

During the interview, I've been struck by how just about everything said could be echoed by Thomas Woods, except the ad hominem attacks against Thomas Woods. Divide and conquer.

12:53 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

"just about everything said could be echoed by Thomas Woods"

For instance?

3:51 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Government causing monopolies.

8:50 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

The nefarious nature of government subsidies.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Procopius said...

The main difference between Medaille and Woods is that at the end of the day Medaille is not adverse to state coercion to keep organizations to the desired size. He would also AFIK deny that large organizations are beneficial under any circumstances for the production of any goods, largely on the argument that such things as tanker ships or numerically-controlled machine tools are "bads" rather then "goods".

2:17 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Procopius, I think you're right. By that time, I had had one too many glasses of wine. He did seem to hint before that that the State was the cause of much of the bigness that he despised.

10:48 PM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Thinking back, it is noteworthy that Mr. Médaille praises Georgism, which I believe the Catholic Church condemned because it rejects ownership of land (which is mentioned in the Book of Genesis). This from a man who is quick to call Austrianists, whose ideas go back to the very Catholic Salamanca School, heretics.

10:25 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Western confucian writes :"it is noteworthy that Mr. Médaille praises Georgism, which I believe the Catholic Church condemned because it rejects ownership of land"

Thanks for pointing that out. That is more than noteworthy and calls into question all his writings which would be influenced by it.

It's also rather unfortunate because it likewise means that his arguments will not be practical and useful because they will tend towards the extreme and not the mean.

Likewise, extreme positions lack common sense and will not get a fair hearing, so his being a well know spokesman on the subject can cause a good deal of harm.

And speaking of common sense, did you see this :
"Quantum physics asserts that such an independent existence is actually unreal. The sun does NOT in fact rise and set if nobody is there to observe it. It is a direct violation of common sense, but it has been proven on the quantum scale."

If it lacks common sense, check your premises for the hidden error. God created a world which is knowable.

4:30 PM  
Blogger John Médaille said...

Two issues seem to have arisen here: Henry George and Thomas Woods. Concerning George, the timing is good because I am giving a paper at the History of Economics Convention this month in Syracuse, NY. It is not correct to say that George is condemened by the Church. Rather, he was briefly on the Index from 1889-1892. A New York Priest, Edward McGlynn, was also excommunicated for supporting George. After investigation, there was nothing in George that was contrary to Catholic teaching, and the condemnation was lifted and McGlynn re-instated.

It would be more correct to say that George opposed the Lockean notion of private property, which was a new notion at the time, a notion that became necessary after the seizure of the guild and monestary lands, which created both a new land owning class and a new notion of ownership.

Nor do the earliest land codes in the Bible permit individual ownership of land. The land was owned by the tribe and used by the various families that comprised the tribe. It could not be sold because it was not "owned" in our sense. "You shall not sell the land in perpetuity [says the Lord] for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants." (Lev 25:23)

The early fathers were nearly unanimous that private ownership was limited to autarkeia, the amount needed to be self-sufficient, and that anything over that was Konia, for common use. St. Augustine said that private property was aptly named, since it represented a privation and a diminution of the public good.

St Thomas, who was a defender of private property, held that property was not a natural right but a legal one. Common ownership was the natural law, and division into private property a prudential arrangement of the law to better bring forth the common values. (ST II-II, 66, 3, ad 3) But where there is want, all property reverts to the natural law: "“In cases of need all things are common property, so that there would seem to be no sin in taking another’s property, for need has made it common.” (II-II, 66, 7).

I do not bring these up to give an exhaustive Christian and Biblical history of the question, I merely wish to indicate the complexities involved, and to suggest that we do ourselves and our faith a diservice if we rely on Locke rather than, say, Augustine or Thomas in thinking about these matters.

6:03 AM  
Blogger John Médaille said...

As for T. Woods, it trivializes a serious dispute to say that it is just about big gov't. Rather, it is about how we get big gov'ts, which is by following the prescriptions of the Austrians and similar philosophies. Every attempt to implement pure free market systems has led to that combination of Big Gov't and Big Business that Belloc called The Servile State. This is simply the history of the question; you can argue with me, but it is harder to argue with history.

The other problem is the crude materialistic anthropology and epistemological errors of the Austrians. There is a very good symposium on this subject in the current issue of the Journal of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, with a modest contribution by yours truly, which you can read at

The opinion that Austrianism is incompatible with Christianity is not so much mine as it is Ludwig von Mises, who held that the two could not co-exist, and one must destroy the other. Further, he held that if his axioms of action were correct, then God could not exist.

Christopher Ferrara has a book coming out next month, "The Church and the Libertarian" on just this topic. I had the honor of writing the introduction, and I would recommend it to any interested in this topic.

6:18 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

Thank you so much for the clarifications. They also make me realize how much I'm a product of modern culture. And how libertarianism is even more so a product of modern culture.

9:09 PM  
Blogger love the girls said...

I really appreciate your clarifications. They make me realize how much I am a product of the modern culture, and also how libertarianism is even more so a product of the modern culture.

9:17 PM  
Blogger John Médaille said...

ltg, thanks. In my opinion, the Austrian version of Libertarianism is merely modernism writ large and impervious to actual experience. Indeed, "libertarianism" is just an alternate spelling of "liberalism." This is not to condemn all forms of what is called libertarianism; my work has been greatly enriched by libertarians such as Kevin Carson. But the limitations of the theory must be acknowledged.

1:44 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Yes. Thanks for the comments.

6:35 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.