Vox Nova on the New Gilded Age

Some reasonable points here.

And they remind me of this, of course.

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  • Sally Wilkins

    Mark, is the second link above supposed to go somewhere else?

  • ivan_the_mad

    Insightful, especially concerning the social teaching itself: “Of course, Catholic Social teaching has always talked about these things. And it has always been rigorous and consistent – laying down the same core principles and seeking to adapt them to the particular circumstances of time and place.” Vox Nova rarely disappoints.

    I will make a study of the linked Program for Social Reconstruction, it is sure to be rewarding.

  • Since my comment there doesn’t seem to be showing up, I’ll put it up here just in case:

    Were the description of the economy accurate, there would be a chance that the recommendations might work. Since it is not, there’s a problem with the article, a serious rot at the foundation.

    In 2010, China hit its demographic peak and with the close of its demographic golden hour, bought at the cost of so much abortion and infanticide, now it will start paying the piper for the next several decades. We are starting to see industrial moves of production from the PRC to the USA. This is a change in trend but certainly not the only one.

    Production has always paid out income to several categories according to their place in line. First in line is the worker who is included on the payroll and gets all his income ahead of production resulting in sales and therefore income. The risk has always been lowest at the front of the line and the reward lowest. It is this segment that has had its ranks engorged by Chinese and Indian newcomers to the global labor pool, thus wage stagnation. Where supply goes up, price goes down all other things being equal.

    But there are other places in line, ones whose possibility is simply not acknowledged in the article. The salesman who works partially or entirely on commission has existed for quite a long time. The entrepreneur who pours his life into a firm is not quite the same as the coupon clipper who invests in preferred corporate bonds. All these roles have existed and have shifted but they are little in evidence in this article.

    Once you abandon accurately describing the world, you can spin any tale you like but the only contact with reality is likely to be accidental.

    • Clare Krishan

      well said, perhaps more precise than a spatial arrangement of labor and capital would be their relation in time, and how paper FIAT reserve currencies (a radical, but elite, revolution introduced contemporaneously into the USA that the Bishops seem sadly oblivious to, however well-informed they were on the numerous manifestos of Anglophone working / chattering classes, chuckle. The more things change, the more they stay the same…) usurp the value created by the creators via a process of seignorage. The Austrian school of economics critique of current economic policy hinges on this very malinvestment of capital made possible by financial confiscation of wealth from those placed furthest from the money-spigot (low-income serfs) by those placed closest (rich oligarchs).

      I could endorse the ecclesiastics’ opining if they had “stooped to conquer” by backing-up their abstract secular arguments “there are such things as fair profits, fair interest and fair prices…” with concrete spiritual reasons, ie metaphysical definitions for “are,” “things,” “fair,” “profits,” “interest,” or “prices,” and given sources from patristics (ie VII’s endeavor at “Ressourcement”) I would be willing to assent to their befuddled grammar, but absent any attempt at magisterial activity (aka teaching authority) I find their lesson rather hollow at the distance of 100 years…

      • I would agree that a fiat currency regime is a problem but it is a different problem than the one that I am talking about. To live a dignified life in the Catholic sense, Catholics generally understand that we can’t all become priests or accountants. Somebody has to farm, raise animals. weave cloth, etc. A distribution is normally achieved that is workable but when it doesn’t happen, the economic life of a community is negatively impacted, sometimes to the point of disaster. Boom towns where everybody does one thing and when that thing no longer needs to be done you get a ghost town are painful ways to live and not particularly a dignified life.

        The common sense adjustments that argue for a balance in professions also argue for a balance in who gets paid when and at what risk levels. It is this latter balance that is greatly out of whack because of the number of poor people meaningfully entering the global labor market and increasing labor supply in the salaried ranks. I have yet to see any meaningful episcopal teaching on this subject and would welcome pointers from anyone on it.

        As to what you are talking about with fiat currency (paper money with nothing real backing it) we are approaching something of an inflection point. In the 20-40 year medium term we’re possibly going to hit a major supply disruption with the arrival of cheap lift and extra-terrestrial mining. This does not negate the many and well established problems with fiat currency but it makes ‘old reliable’, the gold standard, not quite look as safe a bet as it usually is.

        • Clare Krishan

          yesterday’s Mass gospel was a repeat of this year’s 27th Sunday’s on the dishonest steward, perplexing for some, clarified here by the USCCB scripture scholars:
          “The parable of the dishonest steward has to be understood in the light of the Palestinian custom of agents acting on behalf of their masters and the usurious practices common to such agents. The dishonesty of the steward consisted in the squandering of his master’s property (Lk 16:1) and not in any subsequent graft. The master commends the dishonest steward who has forgone his own usurious commission on the business transaction by having the debtors write new notes that reflected only the real amount owed the master (i.e., minus the steward’s profit). The dishonest steward acts in this way in order to ingratiate himself with the debtors because he knows he is being dismissed from his position (Lk 16:3). The parable, then, teaches the prudent use of one’s material goods in light of an imminent crisis.”

          Perhaps the Lord is allowing this congruence in secular time with liturgical hours for our edification? Consider the ‘Dark-age’ money theories we are laboring under currently:

          “Medieval thinkers were tempted to believe that if you throw a rock it flies straight until it runs out of force, and then it falls straight down. Economists are tempted to think of prices as a linear function of the “money supply”, and interest rates to be based on “inflation expectations”, which is to say expectations of rising prices. The medieval thinkers, and the economists are “not even wrong”, to borrow a phrase often attributed to physicist Wolfgang Pauli. Science has to begin by going out to reality and observing what happens. Anyone can see that in reality, these tempting assumptions do not fit what occurs.” H/T http://keithweinereconomics.com/2013/10/31/the-theory-of-interest-and-prices-in-practice/

          FYI, here’s a true trajectory for a man-made projectile: http://www1.uprh.edu/rbaretti/Rocket13.gif ie arching and non-linear … since grace is dark matter, we can be certain our actions will have consequences, but they are hard to predict, since the social atmosphere into which we have projected into orbit our tyrannies of relativism, economic, political and sexual (economics — according to the Austrian school — being a branch of the social sciences not the physical sciences, rooted as it is in classical metaphysics) can and will resist to differing degrees… the law of nature if you will is no longer in our “dishonest steward” hands but in the hands of the Master and his debtors.

  • Clare Krishan

    Not ones to monitor their threads very assiduously are they? I’ve been waiting all afternoon to have a comment appear… dialog still depends on a partner to dialog with even if we’re no longer tied to gilded-age pen and paper technology, no? So permit me to post my tuppence-worth here:

    The 1919 logic, rhetoric and grammar used by the US Bishops is muddled if not muddied (being creatures with feet of clay we cannot expect less) a sample suffices:

    “No female worker should remain in any occupation that is harmful to health and morals. Women should disappear as quickly as possible from such tasks as conducting and guarding street cars, cleaning locomotives, and a great number of other activities for which conditions of life and their physique render them unfit.”

    God forbid the model themselves on La Pucelle aka St Joan of Arc, eh?

    The male members of the Administrative Committee of the National Catholic War Council would never approve of that, even tho’ Mark Twain had been championing her cause since 1895 and she was canonized a year later in 1920.

    Forgive me do, but I think I’ll skip Vox Nova’s reverence for fusty old documents and stick with our more up-to-date +Gomez on anthropology in the imago dei (inspired by another celebrated Catholic lady, Dorothy Day) http://www.la-archdiocese.org/archbishop/Documents/2013-0801_Napa_talk.pdf