• Ryan

    Allow me to add some more quotes for good measure:

    The fate of Civilization is involved. For it is not as if the resistance of the Church to liberal ideas was harmless. The Church is such a tremendous power that its enmity to the forces which bring society into existence would be enough to break our whole culture into fragments. In the last decades we have witnessed with horror its terrible transformation into an enemy of society. For the Church, Catholic as well as Protestant, is not the least of the factors responsible for the prevalence of destructive ideals in the world today…

    The Church knows that it cannot win unless it can seal the fount from which its opponent continues to draw inspiration. As long as rationalism and the spiritual freedom of the individual are maintained in economic life, the Church will never succeed in fettering thought and shepherding the intellect in the desired direction. To do this it would first have to obtain supremacy over all human activity. Therefore it cannot rest content to live as a free Church in a free state [the very slogan of Cavour, the great Masonic enemy of the Church and Blessed Pius IX – CAF]; it must seek to dominate that state. The Papacy of Rome and the Protestant national churches both fight for such dominion as would enable them to order all things temporal according to their ideals. The Church can tolerate no other spiritual power. Every independent spiritual power is a menace to it, a menace which increases in strength as the rationalization of life progresses.

    His zeal in destroying social ties knows no limits. The motive force behind the purity and power of this complete negation is ecstatic inspiration and enthusiastic hope of a new world. Hence his passionate attack upon everything that exists. Everything may be destroyed because God in His omnipotence will rebuild the future order. No need to scrutinize whether anything can be carried over from the old to the new order, because this new order will arise without human aid. It demands therefore from its adherents no system of ethics, no particular conduct in any positive direction. Faith and faith alone, hope, expectation—that is all he needs. He need contribute nothing to the reconstruction of the future, this God Himself has provided for. The clearest modern parallel to the attitude of complete negation of primitive Christianity is Bolshevism. The Bolshevists, too, wish to destroy everything that exists because they regard it as hopelessly bad. But they have in mind ideas, indefinite and contradictory though they may be, of the future social order. They demand not only that their followers shall destroy all that is, but also that they pursue a definite line of conduct leading towards the future Kingdom of which they have dreamt. Jesus teaching in this respect, on the other hand, is merely negation.

    – Ludwig Von Mises in his work Socialism

    RON PAUL 2012!!!!!!!!!!

    • Mark Gordon

      I rest my case. Catholics take note that Mises was an implacable enemy of the Christian faith and the Catholic Church. Mises’ vision of Promethean capitalism stands in direct opposition to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who he considered a prophet of negation.

  • http://tau-cross.blogspot.com/ Tausign

    Well done Mark; a very insightful presentation. As a somewhat traditional conservative, I found myself nodding in agreement along the entire post. The ‘whirlwind’ and ‘destruction’ you describe is unnecessarily dehumanizing. Creative destruction is a reality but its also serious business like death and new life. Also, you point out well that we put the cart before the horse in idolizing an amoral system of economic prowess over the cultural need of a shared banquet.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    I agree with much of this, but what I’m hard-pressed to understand, is who exactly you’re arguing with. Who is contending that society should be “governed entirely by the imperatives of business, which recognises no restraint on trade apart from the market, and which makes business and enterprise into its primary values”?

    As has been stated here before, the main argument in American politics is not whether our society should “emphasize social use to the exclusion of personal rights”, or “emphasize personal rights to the exclusion of social use”. The Democrats are not arguing the former, nor Republicans the latter. Rather, the ongoing argument, for the most part, is where exactly to draw the line between the two.

    You might lean towards the left of the precise middle between these two extremes, and I might lean towards the right; but neither of us, I think, incurs the condemnation expressed by Bishop Sheen of the two extremes.

    • Mark Gordon

      I’m not arguing with anyone, Agellius. Do you always expect an argument?

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

        Oh. But doesn’t, “I rest my case” usually follow upon an argument? : )

        • Mark Gordon

          So true, but I’m making an argument, which is somewhat different than arguing with someone. And of course I’ve learned never to argue with you! :-)

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Very interesting Mark. One thing that I find very appealing (among several things) in the work of Zizek is that his attack on capitalism is strikingly similar to the argument you make. In particular, he points out the ability of capitalism to “ingest” all manner of ideas and movements and turn them to its own ends. Though I have not seen it, I wonder if he does not regard modern China, a communist/capitalist state, as the apotheosis of capitalism’s ability to absorb and subdue competing ideologies.

  • Rodak

    I would think that the Chinese “communist/capitalist state” is indicative of China’s ability to absorb and subdue dangerous antagonists — e.g. the Mongols.

    • Mark Gordon

      Yeah, there is that. The Middle Kingdom is always more Chinese than communist, capitalist, or anything else.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com Agellius

    Mark writes, “So true, but I’m making an argument, which is somewhat different than arguing with someone.”

    OK then, I’ll rephrase my question: Do you contend that there is any serious, widespread movement in this country to either govern our society “entirely by the imperatives of business, which recognises no restraint on trade apart from the market, and which makes business and enterprise into its primary values”; or to “emphasize personal rights to the exclusion of social use”? If so, can you name names and give examples? Or do you agree that in the main, the dispute between “left” and “right” is basically just an argument over where to draw the line between the two extremes ennumerated by Bishop Sheen?

    On another tack, I agree that modern “capitalism” (though it’s not pure capitalism) tends to dilute traditions and cultures, and I find that deplorable. But on the other hand, there’s no question that it has raised the material standard of living of the countries that have become “developed” or are well on the way thereto, measured in terms of, for example, average lifespan compared with their respective predevelopment periods. So my question is, how far can we dilute “capitalism” for the sake of saving traditions and cultures, without also diluting its material benefits?

    • Mark Gordon

      I understand that you would like to bait me into arguing with you, but my “argument” (or case) is that there is a conservative critique of capitalism that stands apart from critiques from the left. That critique asserts that capitalism is a revolutionary force that commodifies human persons, sunders communities and destroys traditional ways of life. The conservatives I quoted make that case, and Ryan’s quote from the prophet of anarcho-capitalism, von Mises, validates it.

      As for your two questions, I think that if you focus your gaze on the narrow, artificial continuum stretching from center-right to center-left, as represented by the American Republican and Democratic parties, then it is difficult to see the broad movement of the culture under the influence of capitalism. But if you scale your view to 30,000 feet, which is the vantage point from which the Church looks at these things, you can see that both parties are entirely devoted to and dependent upon the consumer civilization that capitalism has created in the West. That devotion is expressed in distinct forms of libertinism – one pelvic, the other economic – but both are based on the same premises. Up close it may appear that the American political continuum is in a constant state of flux, with lines being moved here and there, but from 30,000 feet nothing really changes. Put another way, there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference – real difference – between Barak Obama and Mitt Romney. They are both products and manifestations of late-stage capitalism.

      Regarding the material benefits of capitalism, it is true that capitalism is an amazing generator of material wealth. Even Marx recognized that fact. For him the movement to socialism was only possible because of the incredible store of wealth created by the capitalist system (which is also why he didn’t believe that an agrarian society could move directly to socialism without capitalist development). So, everyone recognizes the material success of capitalism. The question is: At what cost?

      • Rodak

        @ Mark Gordon —

        At what cost? indeed. But having decided that the cost is too high, what would be the realistic alternative? The alternatives for the individual are easy to see; but for society-at-large, not so much. Isn’t it the case that all of the charities, schools, and hospitals run by the Church are supported by the trickle-down surplus wealth of greedy capitalist Catholics?

    • http://tau-cross.blogspot.com/ Tausign

      Agellus, let me relate a current example to unveil what is being considered. Last week a story ran on Al Jazeera network of suicides of workers in a Chinese manufacuting center. As they investigated we were shown a very modern city/center in which hundreds of thousands were draw to relatively high paying technical work. The workers lived in clean dormitory like facilities with perhaps 8 or so to each room. None knew each other. They were disconnected from family and general interpersonal relationships. They didn’t even know each others names. They were well fed and had free time each evening to shop or attend a movie, but as you can imagine they were completely disassociated from the life they knew within a family and community. In all of this there were lines waiting to take new jobs. (This group was making Apple products btw).

      The facility management seemed to have the best of intentions evidencing pride in their wages and modern facilities. But they were perplexed as to the emotional stress and duress that was resulting from a decultured population. I use this example because its unfamiliar to our own sensibilities, and that strangeness illustrates what Mark is alluding to. Now consider the history of our own industrial revolution, with its dislocations from rural to urban, etc. The dehumanization of work to repetative rote tasks performed a thousand times each day. The reversal of family roles, the separation of parents from children and on and on. We’re past the turmoil and disruptions of sweat shops and now we’ve entered a phase in which social contracts are meaningless. Young people commit to costly technical and specialized training to serve a role that might be easily transferred overseas in a heartbeat.

      We see corporate favoritism and welfare in many areas including the demand for public service and sacrifice while extracting tax exemptions from competing communities which are forced to shift burdens towards those unable to bargain. This is a dance of cultural/economic darwinism. Is it necessary? In fact no, This post-critique may not have specific answers but it is a welcomed critique, at least to me. More than anything its a fresh perspective where anyone (even a conservative) can get unhypnotized from capitalism for a few brief moments.

      • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius


        I too consider the post a welcome critique. The more Mark has explained his intent, the more I appreciate it.

        I agree that modern industrial capitalism (understanding that it’s not “pure” capitalism) can be toxic to culture, and thereby has resulted in misery to millions, though they may not understand the reasons therefor. Though at the same time, as has been acknowledged, it has greatly reduced misery of other kinds, such as hunger and disease. In other words, it provides great material benefits while often being harmful to human dignity and happiness.

        It would be great if we could have the best of both worlds. I do hope (as I’m sure most would agree) that we would proceed with caution in any attempt to reform “capitalism”, so that in trying to restore dignity and happiness we don’t end up decreasing wealth, thereby increasing material misery.

  • http://agellius.wordpress.com agellius

    “I understand that you would like to bait me into arguing with you,…”

    You’re not pretending that in writing this post, you neither intended nor foresaw any arguments arising out of it, are you? : )

    In any event, I’m making a simple point. I’m indifferent to whether or not you call it baiting. The point is, that it seems to me that in critiquing “pure” or “extreme” capitalism, you are tilting at windmills, since in reality no one advocates it, nor would it be tolerated by the American electorate.

    I get your point that from 30,000 feet (good illustration by the way), “left” and “right” in this country are just two cogs in the same machine. However you are the one who introduced Bishop Sheen’s dichotomy between left and right, expressed as communists emphasizing the collective at the expense of the individual, and capitalists doing the opposite. That is what led me to point out that no one actually advocates what Sheen (and you by quoting him) condemns capitalists for advocating.

    I also agree that there is a terrible cost to capitalism, as I said before. It provides great material wealth at great cultural cost. We have no quarrel there, as much as you seem to want to create one — just kidding.

  • http://deeperpolitics.wordpress.com Kevin Gilbert Mauer

    Reblogged this on Christian Democracy and America's Future and commented:
    Conservative, in the sense of being pre-Enlightenment.