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  • I find Doran Hunter’s endorsement of socialism to be poorly thought through and not very honest. It describes a caricature of both systems tilted in favor of socialism. Is this something that you’re comfortable with Mark?

    • Elmwood

      one thing is for sure, “free market” capitalism as we have in the US is at odds with the teachings of the church. Look at the monster that we created in China which has everything to do with multinational corporation greed.

      I hope one day Fr. Sirico at the Acton institute changes its name and philosophy to the Dorthy Day institute.

      (maybe not, Dorthy Day was too sympathetic of communism)

      • Alas, the US today is tilting away from free market capitalism and towards crony capitalism, which is worse. The free market would be an improvement over present conditions.

    • JackQuirk

      TMLutas, worker owned enterprises are not socialist in the sense condemned by the Popes. Indeed, worker ownership has received specific papal approbation, while socialism, meaning state ownership of the means of production, has been condemned unreservedly.

      As a matter of clarity, I prefer to avoid using the socialism for worker owned enterprises, because doing so only exacerbates the
      opposition, in the name of religion, to a mode of economy that has
      enjoyed specific papal approval, and lets that opposition use the scary
      “s” word in association with Catholic Social Teaching.

      Now Doran Hunter’s article advocates worker owned enterprises. Worker ownership in enterprises has received specific papal approval from Popes Pius XI and John XXIII. He is in no way advocating the socialism condemned by the Popes.

      • I actually agree with you that worker owned enterprises are not per se socialist. In fact, they exist quite well within a larger free market framework. The trouble is in universalizing the arrangement. What do you do with dissenters? The socialists have alway had a problem with dissenters.

        A Catholic publication should always be careful in endorsing Leon Trotsky (see the article’s footnotes). It’s not that it can’t be done. It’s just so easy to do it badly.

        This was badly done and I question whether you are correct that Doran Hunter was not advocating socialism as condemned by the Popes. Unless you care to share additional information that I, as an outsider, lack, I would say that it is impossible to draw definitive conclusions either way but that, in all possible charity, the present article is a hot mess of confusion on the subject. Being confusing is not a sin, but it is also not very helpful.

        • JackQuirk

          The socialism condemned by the Popes is state ownership of the means of production, and Doran Hunter wasn’t advocating that. Whether universalizing the arrangement would be violative of Catholic Social Teaching would depend on how it was accomplished. The fact that Doran Hunter is explicitly advocating distribution by means of markets, and argues against both East Germany and central bureaucratic planning shows that he is not for the socialism condemned in the encyclicals. Indeed, he specifically says this:

          “The social justice encyclicals have tended to condemn socialism because certain versions of it violate principles of the natural law, like private ownership and markets as
          effective distributors of goods and services. But there are versions of socialism that actually extend ownership by giving workers themselves control over their work places and the wealth they produce, as well as allowing for markets. What makes these alternatives socialist is that workers themselves own the means of production (basically, they own their workplaces) and they and all stakeholders in productive enterprises have control over them. This is unlike capitalist enterprises where only a tiny minority control and own them. The products and services these enterprises produce could then be
          distributed through markets. This would align with Church teaching by both promoting ownership of the means of production (actually, socialism in this sense would represent an improvement over capitalism when it comes to promoting wide distribution of ownership) and distribution would be by markets, not centralized, bureaucratic planning.”

          There, he directly addresses your point. The problem you are having is his use of the “s” word. While I don’t use that word for anything other than what the Popes condemn, I can’t conceive of why that has to be a rule. It seems imprudent to exalt form over substance.

          I’ll add that Doran Hunter is using the word “socialism” in the manner that it is commonly used nowadays. I think it is fair to suggest that many would indeed consider worker owned enterprises “socialist.” People even call Obamacare “socialist,” and that is a program for mandating payments to private insurance companies.

          • I do not know what Mr. Hunter is advocating. If he’s the Doran Hunter that pops up at the top of the google search for that string that would be professor of political science Doran Hunter with 38 years under his belt at this and he should know better given that level of experience. Provisionally I am going to assume that this is the Doran Hunter that wrote the article.

            The problem I have is the long history of socialist liars who proclaim peaceful reform and create gulags when they achieve power. This is an evil that has nothing to do with the state ownership of the means of production.

            It is possible, at least theoretically, to climb up the steep hill of that evil history and try to salvage the term because of some urgent reason. Professor Hunter does no such thing. Instead he blithely pretends that the history is not relevant and needs no careful explanation of why this time it is different.

            It is very likely that this time it is not different. I’m willing to listen to explanations why I am mistaken but ignoring the issue of history, ignoring the great mounds of dead Trotsky’s sort of socialism has produced is the mark of a sly propagandist for evil and not an honest seeker of truth. After a century of socialist con jobs, isn’t it time to just say no?

            Again, the proposed reform could be and is being done in a peaceful manner in the capitalist framework. I have no objection to such experiments being continued and even widened on a voluntary basis.

            Do something similar to a kickstarter and create a fund to convert companies to this method of ownership. The rules to do this legally in compliance with SEC regulations are being finalized as we converse. I look forward to the innovation as most of the capitalists that I know do as well. This would enable the conducting of experiments quite similar to the utopian communists of the 1800s who were wrong, but not necessarily evil.

            If the results are superior in companies reorganized by new ownership, the fund will prosper and eventually the whole of the economy will be converted without any need of socialism. The biggest warning against Prof. Hunter is that he discards this eminently practical method of achieving his stated goals, a method that requires very little effort compared to the path he has taken. The discard of this easy path without even addressing its merits and problems leads me to strongly suspect that the stated goals are not the true goals in the case of this article.

            • Doran

              Um, the author of that article is not Professor Hunter. Don’t you think you should dig a bit more deeply before launching into a tirade against a guy?

              • It was a provisional identification and I am happy to be proven wrong. Somebody who was around when the Khmer Rouge turned from agrarian reformers to communist butchers shouldn’t be that naive.

                I take you at your word as to your identity.

                • JackQuirk

                  Well, the fact is that there are different things being called socialism these days. There is the socialism which the Popes have condemned which is the state ownership of the means of production. Doran Hunter in no way has advocated this, as a side dish or otherwise. There are also worker owned enterprises. This is also called socialism in some circles, apparently. I think the ideas are so different that they should be called different things. The Popes have not called the latter socialism, and, indeed, have advocated for worker ownership.

                  Just because the “s” word is used doesn’t warrant an accusation that someone is seeking to put people in reeducation camps. While there is ambiguity in the word “socialism” when it is used to denote an economic configuration other than state ownership of the means of production, that ambiguity doesn’t license a deliberate equivocation.

                  But you seem to have moved beyond trying to understand Doran’s point, and now are basically suggesting that he dissembles about his true aims. Such omniscience is hard to argue with.

                  • The fact is that there have always been different things being called socialism. It’s an essential part of the meme’s survival that the evil firmly attached to one variant doesn’t easily attach to the others even though they predictably share the same end point because they share the same essential features.

                    The meme shouldn’t survive. After a hundred million dead of its domestic politics, it deserves the same opprobrium that Naziism deserved after its 32 million corpses at the very least. Yet otherwise seemingly sane people don’t do it. They line up to try to kick socialist Lucy’s football time after time. They cooperate in the meme’s survival by making excuses. This time it will be different is the common refrain.

                    It will not be different. We have had enough trials in the past century that the excuses have run out. The only legitimate one left is that nobody has exposed you to that history.

                    There are only two endings to this neverending story of socialism. You pull out of socialism democratically before it has eaten up your politics to create a totalitarian horrorshow (as Sweden is in the middle of doing) or you pull out of it afterwards (see the former Soviet bloc for a long list of examples). Neither case is a happy ending and the pull out can get nasty in and of itself (Franco and Pinochet come to mind). Steering clear of the whole policy complex is the only sane option.

                    For me, the only mystery is why such a word and meme that is loaded down with so much evil and blood and so little good consequences has any attraction at all.

                    • JackQuirk

                      It’s a word. But if it’s the word that bothers you, then strike the word “socialism” from worker owned cooperatives, which you have already said comport with Catholic Social Teaching, and you, Doran, and I will all be in agreement. I personally reserve the “s” word for state ownership of the means of production just to keep distinct things distinct. But not everybody does that. As I mentioned elsewhere, some folks are even calling Obamacare socialism even though it involves compulsory payment to private insurance companies.

                      So, in sum, Doran favorably mentions worker owned enterprises in his article. We all agree that they have had specific papal approval. Doran refers to them as a version of socialism, and your objection is to that word because of its connotations. Neither you, Doran, nor I favor state ownership of the means of production. So we will be in agreement if henceforward we reserve the “s” word for state ownership of the means of production, and call worker owned enterprises something else. “Distributism” is a word that I have seen applied to them, and that would be fine with me, except I think we should await permission from an authoritative and card carrying Distributist first.

                      How’s that?

                    • I think you’re trying to do your best but you really don’t seem to understand the reason socialists are a problem. Perhaps a socialist might help explain. If you get time, try reading Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia.

                    • JackQuirk

                      Well, I know why I think socialism as I define it is a problem. Socialists, being people, aren’t problems, but people in the image of God. But surely you agree that worker owned enterprises have received papal approval.

                    • I have said that there is no problem personally with these sorts of things or a problem that any sort of capitalists have with worker owned enterprises. That’s not the issue. When both socialism and capitalism have no problem with an initiative of the Church and are equally willing to accommodate this issue, to promote the initiative as socialist is not promoting the initiative in reality. It is promoting socialism under cover of the Church. That is not acceptable.

                      I do take your point about the difference between socialists and socialism. You are perfectly correct and I misspoke there. I’ll try to keep that distinction better in future.

                    • JackQuirk

                      I don’t think Doran would want to promote socialism under cover of the Church, but I think we have arrived at pretty close agreement here. Here is a lesson both in making a good faith effort to understand others and the importance of arriving at a common language of discourse.

                    • If you think we closely agree, I fear we have not been communicating well. The problem is *not* the lack of a common language of discourse. That is a surface symptom, but I fear you will not understand the issue on this round. I hope you do not get a subsequent one.

                    • JackQuirk

                      Well, you’re right that we haven’t been communicating well, but I thought we agreed that state ownership of the means of production is a bad thing, and that worker ownership in business enterprises is something that has received papal approval. I also stipulated that “socialism” should from now on be used only for state ownership of the means of production. But this is Mark Shea’s blog, not yours or mine, and we’ve taken up a lot of space here, so we should probably stop. I’ll try to understand you better in the future.

                    • I’m still waiting for Mark to answer my original question.

                      Smart man, I may have a long wait.

            • JackQuirk

              As Doran has already mentioned, he’s not the Professor you were referring to.

              Now I see nothing in the article indicating that Doran Hunter would object to the kinds of social experiments you are advocating, nor is there anything in the article that proposes gulags for those who disagree with him, or even hints at it. And as Doran Hunter as already said, the fact that the article cites Trotsky does not mean that he is advocating Trotskyite solutions.

              It was not the purpose of his article, as best as I can see, to delineate the best way to implement workers’ cooperatives, but, rather, to show that free market capitalism does not enjoy the Church approval that some of its advocates would claim for it. It is, therefore, a misplaced criticism that he somehow disregards methods for bringing worker owned enterprises into existence.

              While your concerns about the socialism condemned in the encyclicals are valid and correct, your insistence on characterizing Doran Hunter as an advocate for same is incorrect, unfair, and wrong.

              • When somebody’s pimping poison as a side dish, I don’t particularly care about how wonderful the main course is. The dinner will remain uneaten.

                For some mad reason, the trend is to give people the benefit of the doubt on advocating leftwing genocidal ideas even as we are much harsher on deviation outside the pale on rightwing genocidal ideas. The asymmetry is neither justified, nor amusing. It’s most pernicious long term effect in Europe seems to currently be the revitalization of fascism there, a truly depressing prospect.

                Usually when people figure out that they’ve unconsciously channeled the program of the NSDAP, the reaction is a horrified mea culpa and distancing. This isn’t what happened here. I gave the author, whoever he is, a fairly easy roadmap out of this circumstance and he declines to take that way out or any other reasonable retreat. Instead I get the hoary old communist apologist excuse that well into Stalin, the USSR was largely capitalist. I thought the last of that crowd had died of old age and regret. Apparently I was mistaken in that. This time it will be different is not credible anymore. It hasn’t been credible for decades.

                If you wish to ignore the signs, I’m not in any position to save you. I wish you wisdom, if not good luck. I cannot support your project.

        • Doran

          If you’re really interested, Mr. Lutas, look more deeply into the works cited in the footnotes. According to the socialisms advocated by Wolff and Alperovitz, system change is to be achieved not through (say) armed revolution but through peaceful social movements on the one hand and, on the other, direct competition of worker self-directed enterprises with capitalist enterprises.

          Also, saying “See this work” doesn’t mean “I endorse this work” or “I agree with everything this work has to say” and certainly not “this publication endorses this work.” The point is simply that even after 1917 and up to the 1930s under Stalin, a huge slice of the Soviet economy was capitalist.

          • Just out of curiosity, I googled up Wolff and Alperovitz and came up with a video of them together at a forum at Pace University. I stopped wasting my time when Wolff’s disingenuous description of capitalism exceeded any reasonable limits, making it exceedingly unlikely that his solutions would be reality based. It took him a remarkably short amount of time to achieve this state of socialist weaseldom. In short, he’s playing a very old siren song.

            Very few communists or socialists will come right out and straight off talk about how they want me dead. I have to engage them, identify the weak points of their particular instantiation, and tenaciously determine what is their plan for dissenters. Eventually the admissions come that “measures must be taken” at camps to separate and reeducate dissenters eventually and it’s the gulag all over again. A friendly university audience generally doesn’t afford that sort of pressure. The format is all wrong.

            After so many “agrarian reformers” have morphed into totalitarian monsters in the 20th century, this siren song of peaceful socialist reform has lost all credibility. Since the coops you advocate can be equally well implemented in a capitalist framework, and with less difficulty, there must be some sort of necessity to rub philosophical elbows with monsters like Trotsky, Castro, and Pol Pot. What is it?

            Why not just gather together like minded people and file incorporation papers? If the method works well, the enterprise will grow and gather imitators. Land O’Lakes, Ocean Spray, et al are a much better salesman for the concept than the socialists and they have the advantage of tossing off free propaganda with every corporate filing they produce.

            The fact is that in matters of production, there is a tradeoff, risk for reward. If you put yourself at the front of the line for the proceeds to the extent that you get paid before the sale is made, your proceeds from the production rightfully should be smallest. The greater the risk, the greater the reward. So many of our fellow human beings are jostling for that front-of-the-line spot that the rewards have grown small. If they decide (as I think they should but would never compel them to) to accept a position further back in line, their rewards would grow but necessarily so must their prudence in managing their personal financial reserves because the risk of not profiting at all from production grows the further back in line you are.

            • Doran

              This kind of irrationality among Catholics is exactly what my piece is directed at. If you disagree with my views that’s fine, but please don’t jump to conclusions about what they mean without having done your homework. I reject free-market capitalism, but I’ve also read pretty deeply about the subject. You didn’t bother to learn about these economic alternatives beyond a Google search; the rest is your imagination. I honestly don’t know where to begin responding to your comment since it’s just so full of (confidently-stated) inaccuracies and misinterpretations. If you feel passionately enough about these matters, I urge you to read the works cited in the article.

              One thing I would like to address here, though, is what I tried to address in the article to forestall this kind of ranting: these alternatives have NOTHING to do with the Stalinist regimes of the Soviet Union, North Korea, Cuba, the Eastern Bloc or any of the rest. (And Pol Pot’s regime was not socialist or communist. One senior Khmer Rouge Official spoke for the regime when he said, “We are not communists. We’re revolutionaries.”) Most socialists of Prof. Wolff’s stripe were deeply critical of the Soviet Union as being both basically capitalist (small class of people, the bureaucrats, appropriate the wealth, just like the capitalists in a capitalist society) and anti-democratic (most socialists who are not Stalinists would say that you can’t have socialism without democracy, and vice versa).

              Now, I don’t mind having a dialogue with you or anyone else about these matters. But it is irrational to 1) interpret my position as implicitly or secretly endorsing Stalinism (which is what you are really talking about, not Trotskyism, which doesn’t match the description of things you laid out above) and 2) to attribute to Alperovitz and Wolff the same secret Stalinist views on the basis of a Google search and without having read their works.

              • Mr Hunter, or Prof Hunter, I learned about these alternatives at least two decades ago. The only question is whether a particular socialist is a representative of a known type or a new wrinkle. I have a family and a life and really ought to be attending to more important business but my perhaps irrational appreciation for the author of this blog leads me to try to clarify what I normally wouldn’t bother about. In the large scheme of things, history has passed you by.

                Every flim flam socialist con man tries to avoid association with the obvious past failures while they repackage the old lies into a less obviously compromised configuration. You advocate socialism to accomplish something that manifestly is being done already in a capitalist framework and you studiously ignore this central reality to peddle a huge social and economic change that is unnecessary to implement the reform that you suggest. This is a big flashing neon sign that is screaming out that you are not being honest about what you are trying to accomplish.

                You seem to believe that socialism retains some sort of basic credibility, that it deserves the normal benefit of the doubt. It does not. The 100 million dead of the 20th century who died of socialism do not permit such foolishness.

                Your position puts you smack dab in the middle of a pack of liars and violent felons who have used deceit and violence to take over a large number of countries in the previous century. This does not individually condemn you. It does, however, lead to the rational use of very efficient sorting algorithms. That you think I should give you more of a chance has nothing to do with whether you deserve one.

                • Doran

                  More groundless ranting and unsupported assertions. And this diagnosis: “You advocate socialism to accomplish something that manifestly is being done already in a capitalist framework and you studiously ignore this central reality to peddle a huge social and economic change that is unnecessary to implement the reform that you suggest. This is a big flashing neon sign that is screaming out that you are not being honest about what you are trying to accomplish.”

                  I regret that, as you have other more important things to do, you won’t be able to enlighten us as to how you gained this uncanny insight into my psychology and motivations.

                  • I just read what you wrote and watched how you twitched when I replied. This is an old game and you aren’t anything new under the sun, more’s the pity.

            • JackQuirk

              Doran Hunter cited Trotsky in a footnote. He didn’t endorse him. And he didn’t mention Castro and Pol Pot at all. All the article is saying is that free-enterprise capitalism doesn’t enjoy the Church endorsement that many would claim for it, and he’s right.

          • He said a great deal more than that. He left an excluded alternative out there of implementing the idea through a capitalist framework, an alternative that happens to be the easiest implementation path and one that is in successful operation today. He also, by citing Trotsky in a neutral way in a matter of politics, whitewashed Trotsky and his many violent crimes. Had he done the same with a different ideology, say referred to Franco or Pinochet, the problem would hardly have needed me to point it out. And yes, I do mention this sort of thing to people who whitewash Franco and Pinochet. All of these figures should be handled with great care to avoid indirect endorsement of their unjustified violence.

            We generally engage in an embargo of national socialists lest we encourage a resurgence of their evil. Where there are alternatives, we simply cite the alternates and leave the national socialists off the list. There is no reason why Trotsky should not receive the same treatment. He didn’t.

            • Doran

              The Founding Fathers were violent revolutionaries; do we conclude from that they were evil people? But the reason I cited Trotsky should be quite clear from context in which the quote appears. And just a point of historical truth: Hitler was a national socialist, and so was Stalin. What they had in common was the idea of socialism in just one country, and nationalism. Hence, national socialism. Trotsky, on the other hand, rejected the nation state (and so, nationalism of any sort) as an instrument of class rule. He was a Marxist internationalist, the exact opposite of the ideology you attribute to him.