Saturday, May 21, 2011

Drawing the Line at Localism

"Catholic discussion of economic policy usually takes place on a ridiculous level of abstraction," rightly writes Jeffrey A. Tucker — There Is No Third Way. He says:
    There are only two possible ways to organize the economic life of a nation. There is the market way, which relies on voluntary exchange, protection of private property, and no unwanted invasions of another’s space. The result of this system is commonly called the free market, or capitalism, if you will, but both terms are too limiting. The voluntary, property-rights approach encompasses more than economic exchange; it also encompasses the whole of the voluntary sector that empowers houses of worship, charitable institutions, the family, and every other institution that serves an intermediating role between the individual and the state.

    The other system is very different. It uses the state to intervene in this voluntary system by use of the police power of force, coercion, guns, and jails. That means more laws enforced at gunpoint, taxation, forced redistribution, monetary manipulation, nationalization, war, and all the rest.

    There is no third system.

    You can invent all the terms you want – solidarism, distributism, fascism, democratic socialism, localism, or any other -ism – but it is logically impossible to get around the central issue of consent vs. coercion, of market vs. the state. You are either forced by law to do something – and the law always means force – or you are not. This is also true of the management of individual sectors of society, such as business relationships, education, international relations, consumer protection, care of the vulnerable members of society, health care generally, and all the rest.

    Either voluntarism or force will prevail.
He is right as far as the "possible ways to organize the economic life of a nation," and the wrongness of "solidarism, distributism, fascism, democratic socialism," but not about "localism."

Communities, where any "level of abstraction" is well-nigh impossible, are within their rights to have a say in "the management of individual sectors of society, such as business relationships, education, international relations [conservatives should support, not mock, the fact that Berkeley, California has a foreign policy], consumer protection, care of the vulnerable members of society, health care generally, and all the rest."

Neighboring the town in which I grew up was the Village of East Aurora, which year after year denied a certain big box from operating there. Was anybody living there really harmed?

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7 Comments:

Blogger Pints in NYC said...

What about within families? Why should parents educate their children if there is no discernible inter-personal, intra-familial market relationship(s) thereof?

;-)

1:00 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

It's not coercion except to those who don't understand that man is by nature a political animal.

All Church documents on social life do understand man's nature, because that is how God created us.

One system is natural to man. The other is unnatural.

2:47 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

adding on. "Am I my brother's keeper?"

The capitalists answer No. It's coercion.

But the correct answer to that question is found by looking to where the rich man who stepped over Lazarus ended up.

2:51 AM  
Blogger Mark in Spokane said...

If I have to pick between libertarian ideology and the social teaching of the Catholic Church, I pick the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

The author you cite obviously has never really studied the linked concepts of subsidiarity, solidarity and the common good in Catholic social thought.

4:04 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Tucker says that there is only "consent vs. coercion." What a bunch of libertarian nonsense. He's forgetting that there is also something called custom, which is situated between the two and which makes civilization possible. It's because Tucker leaves custom out of the picture that he cannot conceive of a third way. It's not surprising, though, that Tucker would leave custom out of the picture, since capitalism has been just as responsible as communism for the destruction of local customs. The localism you favor would necessarily have to be based on customs shared by a specific group.

It's also distressing how Tucker equates the market with consent and freedom. A lot of people are forced to take bad jobs because of market forces beyond their control. Is that really freedom?

7:49 AM  
Blogger Pints in NYC said...

I like Tucker, when it comes to his aesthetics and liturgical sense.

Is he still shaving without cream?

9:03 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

To quote Mr. Tucker from his article, "These are all very high-minded questions, but they have essentially nothing to do with either the core choices we face or the operation of the state as we know it."

He says, "The first question to ask anyone, Catholic or not, who decries the free market is: What is it that you want the state to force us to do?"

I differentiate, as most libertarians do (to differing degrees), between the State and local governments.

8:59 AM  

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