What Communists Do

What Communists Do July 23, 2013

Because America’s tortured history is wound tightly around the twisted bowel of race rather than class hatred, and because we fought and beat the Nazis and not the Soviets at great cost of blood, and because we are a revolutionary nation like the Soviet Union, our elites have never really taken seriously the fact that Communism was responsible for vastly more slaughter than Hitler, which is saying something. All the time I was growing up, opposition to Communism was treated as a sort of silly jingoism and Commies were treated like bogeymen. All you have to do is watch MASH reruns to get the atmosphere of how Enlightened People regarded those who thought Communism evil. All such ninnies were Frank Burns and Col. Flagg.

Nonetheless, the Commies were, in fact, butchers. Here is one small tale plucked from the ocean of blood they shed. Communism has an almost infallible track record of killing and blighting everything it touches. It one of the worst scourges ever to visit the earth.

And it remains to be seen if post-Christian western culture manages to beat it in terms of body counts. But we are giving it a college try. And we are moving far and fast in imitating it as a police state too. Not hard to do once you decide that human rights come not from God (how passe!) but from the generosity of the state.

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  • Chris W

    College try? Are you kidding Mark?
    Look at just the U.S. abortion numbers over 40 years and the Communists, Nazi’s, and all the genocidal maniacs of the 20th century are amateurs in comparison.

    • anonymous

      In 2012, NRLC estimated about 55 million abortions since 1973. In 1997, Stéphane Courtois, editor of the Black Book of Communism, estimated about 94 million deaths at the hands of communist regimes, including 65 million in China alone.

      • Mariana Baca

        Not to mention that doesn’t include the abortion numbers in communist countries, too, which except for Romania under Ceacescu, is/was really high, too.

        • Ceausescu banned abortion because the abortion rate in Romania was shockingly high. I have been told it hit 80% pre-ban.

    • Mariana Baca

      You are omitting abortion numbers in communist countries, though. China? Russia?

    • Dr. Eric

      330,000,000 abortions in China since 1971.

  • Steve

    “America’s tortured history is wound tightly around the twisted bowel of race rather than class hatred”

    Am I the only one who thinks that this might change as the country becomes more and more elitist?

  • 42Oolon

    Agreed that there were enormous numbers of people killed under Communist regimes. The biggest killer was Mao. However, it misleading to suggest that these deaths were caused by the Communist way of thinking, any more than to say that the crusades, the inquisition, the wars of religion were caused by religion. Mai could not be bothered to run his own communist bookstore. He was into power, not communism so much.

    • 42Oolon


    • The deaths were caused by the communist way of thinking, specifically the idea that proletarians get to have their own brand of logic. Once you swallow that, it’s all over.

      • 42Oolon

        What brand of logic is that?

        • You seem not to have encountered proletarian logic directly. Count yourself fortunate. Try googling the term as well as polylogism for an eyeful.

    • ACN

      Right and this is an important distinction. Opposition to totalitarianism in all of its forms should be swift and vocal. Mistaking communism/socialism economic systems for totalitarian governments is missing the forests for the trees.

      • Communism is *still* evil, whether it is a full-on totalitarian system or not. The Catholic Church has consistently taught this since the Communist Manifesto came out. It conflicts with the Catholic view of the body and soul, the role of the state, and of course God.

      • Communism is either self-limiting or totalitarian. I say self-limiting in the sense that when you try the pure stuff, you quickly run out of money, realize the ideology doesn’t work, and then stop. The only way you keep on after the obvious economic consequences wreck your economy is by imposing totalitarian political controls.

        Reducing the dose slows down the economic bankruptcy, sometimes to the point where you’re just slowing down economic growth. People at that point just tend to leave as they realize staying in such a system means they will fall further and further behind.

    • Procopius

      Also, a great many of the deaths were due to starvation and disease concomitant to Communist repudiation of the scarcity of capital and denial of the role of catallatics in in economics

    • Black JEM

      Communism, fascism, socialism are all based upon that notion of power, for the state, to control all levels for the state, with individual considerations being unimportant speed bumps on the way to a centrally planned utopia. Communism is totalitarianism in all its forms, raw power..

      • 42Oolon

        This is simply not true. I will grant you that state control of all property, does lend itself rather easily to corruption and power grabs, than less central controlled governments, but this is simply not the case with socialism. Fascism also does not require state control of all levels of the state. You are making generalizations that suggest you are quite unfamiliar with these ideas.

        • Fascism absolutely does require state control. It merely is content to control without formal ownership. So long as you did not oppose the nazis, you could make your fortune under their government. However, nazi economic performance was based on a massive fraud, the so-called MEFO bills whose quantity were a state secret under Hitler, funded German rearmament and goosed the performance of the economy during the 1930s. The inability to pay those bills off and the impending sovereign default of the German state explains a good deal of the timing of WW II. Hitler’s economic house of cards was about to come down so he had to invade quickly and grab money and goods from his new lebensraum.

          As for socialism, the term is so elastic as to need further definition. The decay of freedom and ownership under soft socialist systems can be quite slow but Thatcher was correct, eventually you do run out of other people’s money. You also run out of respect for other people’s rights as the several countries who have been forced into “do over” referendums can attest.

    • The Crusades were called to protect international pilgrimage routes and liberate lands that had been Christian for six centuries prior to Muslim conquest. These battles claimed one million souls over hundreds of years.
      The Spanish Inquisition (which I assume you’re referring to) killed 5000 people over 300 years.
      By most accounts the Ukrainian Holodomor was twice as lethal as the Wars of Religion.
      There’s really no comparison between medieval Christian excesses and Communist genocides. The underlying philosophies of the cultures involved may not suffice to explain every atrocity they committed, but that’s not to say that ideology had no role in either case.
      Atrocities committed by Christian cultures happen when Christians act against their own moral code. Communist thought, on the other hand, facilitates (or is at best neutral toward) mass murder due to its fundamental materialism and reduction of human beings to animals capable of work.

    • Mariana Baca

      Sure, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, might have been more “evil” than the rest. There were still tons of government deaths and widespread use of prison camps for labor and to some degree sponsored starvation under Lenin and Khrushchev, too, though. There was evil in East Germany — in the form of detention, spying, torture, and killing of those that attempted to emigrate. Built into the system of Communism is the individual is nothing compared to the State and the Party (and should be punished or killed when he thinks otherwise, even in jest, or in placing another ideology like religion above the state), and the notion that to some degree prison labor is required to prop up the communist economy (every Marxist-Leninism derived form of communism had these) — this turns into a vicious cycle, where there is economic incentive to imprison the population. The only country that still follows a communist economic model, North Korea, relies heavily on forced prison labor for its economic development.

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    “All the time I was growing up, opposition to Communism was treated as a sort of silly jingoism and Commies were treated like bogeymen.”

    A lot of it was just classic denial. A friend of mine was an ardent communist in the ’60s. He said the late ’60s and ’70s were a big wake up call for him. When the Soviets finally ‘fessed up to all of Stalin’s atrocities, followed by Phol Phot, the Viet Cong, etc., it really woke him up to the fact that “the party” (as he still calls it) might not be the utopian deliverers he thought they were.

    • chezami

      After the Soviet archives were opened in the 90s, Robertt Conquest joked that he considered publishing a revised edition of _The Great Terror_ and retitling it _I Told You So, You Fucking Fools_.

      • Surely a subtitle, at best. I think we’d have been better off if he had.

  • Elaine S.

    Another ex-Communist who “saw the light” was Joy Davidman, the wife of C.S. Lewis, who as a young woman in NYC in the 1930s and early ’40s joined the Communist Party and wrote poetry for New Masses magazine. In 1949 she gave an interview to the NY Post — published in 12 installments under the title “Girl Communist: An Intimate Story of Eight Years in the Party” — in which she described her eventual disillusionment with the Party.

    For her, the last straw came when she and her first husband, William Lindsey Gresham, had their first child, David (this was before she became a Christian or had ever heard of C.S. Lewis): “I realized that if the interests of my baby ever collided with the interests of the Party, the Party could go hang.” I can’t find a copy of the actual article online but it has been quoted in several biographies of Lewis and/or Davidman.

    There has been some speculation that Joy’s emigration to England in the ’50s may have been motivated as much by the McCarthy era attempts to purge U.S. public life of anyone who was or ever had been a communist (since she had a pretty well-documented Red past) as by her crumbling marriage to Bill Gresham and her budding relationship with Lewis. I dunno about that; but I do suspect that a lot of the pooh-poohing of anti-Communism in the ’60s and ’70s was simply a reaction, or overreaction, to McCarthy — who identified a genuine problem but went way too far in trying to fix it.

    • It’s interesting that McCarthy was a complete liar in terms of the lists he actually claimed to have, but was correct in saying that there was in fact deep infiltration of the State Dept. by the Communists.

  • Paul H

    “All the time I was growing up, opposition to Communism was treated as a
    sort of silly jingoism and Commies were treated like bogeymen.”

    Maybe it depends on where and when you grew up. I grew up in the rural midwest, and I remember as a teenager in the mid-80s getting the impression from teachers and other adults that communism was an absolutely evil form of government, and that it is our duty as good Americans to oppose it vigorously.

  • Duane Gran

    Act 4:32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

    • chezami

      Annnnnnnd? What? Therefore 100 million victims of Commies were just eggs broken to make that omelette? What are you saying?

    • I think it is interesting that when I was tempted my Marxism, I often missed the first sentence of that verse.

    • The Deuce

      So a group of people voluntarily sharing their possessions with each other because they are all of one heart and mind has what to do with Communism exactly?

    • Rosemarie


      Don’t forget the larger context of the Book of Acts. Many of those first Christians in Jerusalem lived in other parts of the Diaspora; they were just visiting Jerusalem for the feast. After converting, they decided to settle in Jerusalem to learn more from the Apostles. Scripture indicates that they numbered in the thousands, and now they all needed food and lodging right away. That’s why the Christians who lived in Jerusalem generously shared their possessions with them and some even sold their property to help the situation.

      Acts 5:4 shows that this was not forced; people chose to sell their property and give the money to the Apostles. They shared their possessions freely after experiencing a conversion to Christ. They did not have socialism forced on them by a secular government with no personal religious motivation behind it, as happens with communism.

      The only way socialism can really work is in small groups which have a
      spiritual or otherworldly goal, such as monasteries or Christian intentional communities. Even then, they are dependent on donations from outsiders or sales of products or services from the community. In fact, St. Paul, in his Epistles, asks Christians in other cities to contribute funds to help the Church in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:1-3).

      • I’m convinced the only way *any* economic system can really work is in small groups which have a spiritual or otherworldly goal.

        Even capitalism has the base otherworldly goal of profit, and it is at its worst and most oppressive when it is big and anonymous, and at its best and most life affirming when it is two friends trading goods in barter without money.

        • I think you need to understand what profit is. Profit is simply the generation of economic surplus. That’s the goal of all economic systems.

          • The goal of distributism is to make sure that each family their corporal needs met, so that they can pursue the spiritual needs of the family. Economic surplus would occur, but only by accident.

            So no, not all economic systems are as focused on profit as the various types of materialism are.

            Some value Tradition, Family, and God above material wealth.

            • The Deuce

              The goal of distributism is to make sure that each family their corporal needs met

              In other words, the goal, as far as the economics of distributism is concerned, is economic surplus for each family. This shows that TMLutas is right.

              • Each and *every* family- that is to say, no family left out of the loop.

                Unlike Communism, which while they have a 100% labor utilization rate, doesn’t provide a profit at all.

                Unlike Capitalism, which can’t even seem to provide a 48% labor utilization rate anymore and requires massive injections of welfare to keep from going into revolution.

                The point is that unlike those other two systems- the human family comes *first* in distributism- the entire economic system is designed around the family, for the family.

                Not the individual, not the corporation, God forbid the horror of being organized around the Party. But the FAMILY.

                • You can find the labor force participation rate at the Department of Labor. It’s dropped, significantly, but is still north of 60%.

                  I’m not entirely sure where you get that welfare is a capitalist institution. It is not and thank God it isn’t because it is ongoing proof of Capitalism’s ability and willingness to coexist in a real way with alternate organizing principles. Capitalism is properly occupied with how to create wealth and organize its distribution to create even more in future. As we get past the era where people are starving, it will inevitably shrink in importance. But unless we wish for our economy to stagnate and the worst forms of poverty to reappear and spread, it needs to be maintained to fulfill its proper role.

                  • Labor force participation rate – unemployment rate = labor utilization rate. It was from their numbers that I’m taking that figure.

                    I didn’t say welfare was a capitalist institution. I said that capitalism didn’t do a good enough job taking care of the population and required welfare to continue.

                    • I think I understand where you’re getting your number. You’re subtracting the U6 marginally attached unemployment number of 14% from the labor participation rate of 62% which is extreme but not completely out of the ball park. That Obamanomics is being used as an indictment of capitalism is something of a joke but ok, at least I understand your point better.

                    • I was doing it long before I ever heard about Obama. I’ve been using the labor utilization rate figure since the mid 1980s.

                      The only difference is I am now rather pessimistic about it.

                    • Clare Krishan

                      TARP was passed as the last act of Bushonomics – TMLutas this really isn’t a left or right thing, the credit-cronies are in both parties. The Fed finances US treasury debt instruments (govt borrowing) whether they pay for right wing wars-on-terror. bail outs of banks & corporations or left-wing subsidized social engineering and insurance deficits not covered by a diminishing tax revenue stream produced by our economy in crisis. This is a different kind of ideological battle – an anthropological one not a political philosophical one. “Clanging gongs” and all that…

                    • I think that the shallow slope of the unemployment recovery can fairly be laid at Obama’s feet. I agree with you about TARP but it’s not the relevant metric here.

                      We have so much accumulated regulation and fear of new regulation coming that we are losing our ability to quickly bounce back from recession.

                  • Andy

                    Capitalism in a theoretical pure form may be all that you say- i have read your other comments. However, as practiced today it is not capitalism – it is more of a worship of mammon, a reduction of human beings to commodities, an emphasis on excessive profit at the expense of the workers. Wall street is famous for its “cut-throat” activities, it downgrading of a company that did not meet expectations even though the company made a profit.
                    Today’s capitalism is not about organizing for the future creation of profit, it is about maximizing the present profit. I am not an economist not even a business person, I work with folks who want to become teachers of individuals with severe and profound disabilities. One of the major problems now facing the institutions who work with these folks is that contracts for piece work once easily obtained are now being machine completed because it is cheaper. Heaven forbid that a company make only a 85% profit instead of a 90% profit to help people.

                    • You are correct that there are mammon worshippers out there. This is something to be fought against. This is not a specific indictment of capitalism.

                      Upgrades and downgrades of companies are expressions of changing levels of confidence that a company will execute its business plan and fulfill their promises to their shareholders. This does not reduce human beings to commodities.

                      As for your own work, bless you. Have you considered the creation of digital goods as an alternative? There’s a tremendous market out there and it’s quite fluid. I don’t think the digital guys even think about these people as an option.

                    • Andy

                      I was not clear in my writing – I was suggesting that the current version of capitalism has placed profit above all else. It is part of the fabric of business today. Profit for today does not mean that in the future wealth will be created. It seems to me that the current version of capitalism is dominated by greed – it is dominated by immediate gratification instead of what you say it should be organized for – I recall Greenspan, not that I trust him greatly, saying when the great recession began that he couldn’t believe that the banking businesses would act against their own long term interests. I am not against the classic capitalism which is what I perceive you to be describing, I am appalled by the “vulture capitalism” that is in vogue today. And perhaps I am confusing behaviors – a s a kid I recall the system being less about immediate profit and more about establishing a long term growth plan.

                      For the record i am a distributist – I know that in large societies and the hyper-integrated societies we now find ourselves in that it most likely would not work. But I believe that the focus on an economic outcome that is just for all is what we should be striving for, and I see distributism as the path.

                      It is neat that you mentioned digital goods – one of the “techies” I work with is exploring the possibilities int eh digital arena. I pray that he is successful as I see a bleak future for many folks. Thank you for your encouragement.

                    • Certainly, there are companies who do exactly as you say and just maximize profits. They don’t generally do well as they tend to have high turnover of employees and are easy pickings to more moderate expressions of the profit motive.

                      Vulture capitalism is vulnerable to attack from within capitalism by capitalists who adopt models that are more aligned with Catholic social thought and the attack on vulture capitalism as dishonestly purveyed by Goldman Sachs et al is best done as a capitalist intramural fight. At least this is my opinion.

                      I do not know what is practical for these people that have been doing piece work to date are able to accomplish but creating digital objects might very well be up their alley because the cost of doing something badly is just time and a bit of electricity. It’s pretty hard to ruin a piece when all a piece is is simply bits in a matrix that are periodically saved to a file and can be rolled back if you set things up correctly from the beginning.

                    • I thought that idea was goofy from the need for education, but then I remembered freegeek.org, which can train *anybody* walking in off the street to build linux-based computers from scrap well enough to give away every sixth one to the volunteer working.

            • Just because you’re hiding the need to profit by labeling it “make sure that each family their corporal needs met” does not mean that it is not focused on profit. Capital naturally degrades. Weather, oxidation, entropy all take their toll and you have to create a surplus to reverse this trend. As people have children, there must be a surplus. As children move into adulthood, there must be more of a surplus for their education and the start of their own households. Surplus is not a bad thing. It is what allows us to be charitable without hurting our own and stinting their needs.

              • Corporations don’t have children.

                What I’m talking about is economy of scale creating return on investment when I talk about profit. I don’t see providing for yourself, on a family farm, creating everything you need yourself, as being profit, though it is certainly surplus.

                • The Deuce

                  I don’t see providing for yourself, on a family farm, creating
                  everything you need yourself, as being profit, though it is certainly

                  And perhaps you don’t see massive bodies being attracted to each other as gravity, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is.

                  • In what way is the equation “Price-cost=Profit” supported by your idea that even natural surplus, which is normally a part of cost, is profit?

                • Please just call it flargh or some other word instead of overloading the term profit with a meaning that is different than how it is generally understood.

                  • Uh, since when is that equation NOT the definition of profit? It is for most of us. It costs me so much to create a good (both in material cost and labor), I’m able to sell that good for such and such price, and the difference is my profit.

                    • For some strange reason the comments are out of order. In my “flargh” comment, I was responding to your prior statement “What I’m talking about is economy of scale creating return on investment when I talk about profit” and not the statement “In what way is the equation “Price-cost=Profit” supported by your idea that even natural surplus, which is normally a part of cost, is profit?” but somehow my comment now appears to be addressing the latter, not the former.

                      Price – cost = profit is certainly true and it is just as true for the smallest lemonade stand as it is for GM.

                    • They’re just two different ways of saying the same thing. Profit is what you can wrangle out of lowering cost and raising price, as much as the market will bear.

                    • Your description is incomplete. You’re omitting the part where you constantly have competitors trying to arbitrage away your profits. Profitability margin changes are not a one way street.

                    • That is what “as much as the market will bear” means.

                    • Unfortunately these days it’s become necessary to make it crystal clear that large profits trend downward as a rule due to arbitrage. It’s the dominant phenomenon. Businesses have to continually work to improve their offerings in order to avoid commodification and margin erosion.

                    • There is an easy solution to arbitrage- tariffs.

                    • You seem to think that arbitrage occurs only across borders. It doesn’t. Tariffs, however, are a border phenomenon. An example may help. Microsoft arbitraged Apple’s ability to generate high profits with their Macintosh operating system by introducing Windows.

                    • Arbitrage is the practice of taking advantage of a price difference between two or more markets, and is profitable whenever the price is higher in one market than the others.

                      I suppose replacing an overpriced good that nobody can afford, with an underpriced good that barely works, would count, but it isn’t the classic form of arbitrage. Must be an alternate definition of which I’m not aware.

                    • It’s true that I was bending things a bit, the correct term for the phenomenon isn’t arbitrage (though sports arbitrage does actually occur as I said it) but the phenomenon of competition putting downward pressure on profits is real enough. And it’s a good thing as it stimulates the impulse to continue to improve the economy.

                    • Competition is real enough- we need much more of it, not less. But when a man can earn $5.9 million while wholesale laying off workers who dare to unionize, there are other issues involved.

                    • I’m sorry, I seem to have lost the thread as to how CEO salary suddenly became relevant here.

                    • The outsized CEO salaries are due directly to rewards from stockholders (and more usually stockbrokers voting proxies) for outsized profits.

                      Show me a business whose CEO is earning within 10x that of the janitor, and I’ll show you a business that is honest about costs and price with both labor and consumers.

                      Show me a business whose CEO is earning more than 100x that of the janitors, and I’ll show you a business where stockholder dividends and stock price are the real business- and both labor and customers are being squeezed for whatever blood you can get out of the stones.

                    • You might be right, or maybe not. A lot of ideas that look very good on paper don’t actually work as advertised in practice. That’s the sum of my point, that hashing that out in the capitalist marketplace is the way to determine whether your point is correct. Adding size limits to voluntary structures like corporations as the distributists want or C level compensation limits like the left want is going to chop off some good ideas. If there’s a correlation between compensation and poor performance over the long haul, suss it out and sell the information in a newsletter. It would be more effective and happen without having to go through the pain of a political rule change that can be gamed by the system insiders.

                    • My response seems to have gone down the memory hole. I’ll try to dredge it back again.

                      Outsized CEO salaries are a problem with an easy cure, create a school and a certification for being a CEO and start companies that hire these CEOs for the kinds of salaries you’re talking about, $250k. There are plenty of people who would try to get into the CEO game for that kind of money so go hire them and pocket the difference.

                      There is a problem though, companies that require a professional CEO scale pretty broadly. How do you differentiate compensation to attract people to the tougher jobs at the bigger firms?

          • Clare Krishan

            no TMLutas, profit is surplus value, where the price of the goods and services are real ie contingent and the cost just ie absolute. Economic surplus to a communist is the greater good (price-fixing of risk into fictive future) for the greatest number (costs relativized by sacrificing principle). Arbitrary economics can always create a capricious surplus (at someone elses expense). Under Solomon’s Law, arbitrary and capricious conduct represent sins. Not just the venial kind, rather the laborer-denied-his-wage kind “that cry out to Heaven.”

            As Mark says, these are biblical admonitions that both sides of the aisle must heed if we are to escape the wrath that is due, the sort of reckoning the Soviet Union faced upon collapse….

            • When I google Solomon’s law, I get an obsolete WOW quest which is probably not what you intended. Please explain what you mean so I can meaningfully answer.

              I agree with you that both sides of the aisle need to have care regarding economic issues.

              • I think he means “As in King Solomon”

                • If you want to take up the task of mind reading Clare, feel free. It isn’t helping so far.

                  • I’m sorry, I was unaware that you were so unaware of Davidic Kingdom economics. You can start with Deuteronomy chapter 24, as well as Exodus 22 for background, before proceeding on to 1 Kings chapter 4 through 2 Kings Chapter 5. Solomon basically redid Israel’s entire economy and presided over a massive expansion of wealth, basing his wisdom on his religion.

                    • The original quote was “Under Solomon’s Law, arbitrary and capricious conduct represent sins”. I quickly went through your first reference and got nothing. I’m not going to plow through the rest on the chance that there might be something there. I’m trying to figure out what she meant by arbitrary economics and how capitalism fits into that. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 with its divorce regulations is a bit off point.

                    • Hey, if you want to stay ignorant and not read the Bible, no skin off my nose, but you will not understand Davidian Economics without it.

                    • As a mind reader, you seem to be a fairly poor polemicist.

                    • As a person with Asperger’s, that’s a given.

                    • To understand Solomon’s law, one must actually read about not only Solomon, but the culture in which his law was created. I find your reluctance to read the Bible puzzling.

                    • Having been led around the nose a time or two, I’ve learned not to just charge off into large reading assignments given to me by people who are internet debating opponents.

                      In this particular case, I don’t give a hoot about the proper details of what to do after I’ve written out a certificate of divorce. You might have noticed that husbands don’t have the right to do that anymore. If you aren’t going to take enough care to craft your reading recommendations on an economics point to actually be relevant to the subject at hand then your recommendations are not worthwhile. You might have just as well have said “read the Bible, it’s in there” and been just as useful and relevant.

                      We’ve had a great deal of law development since Solomon’s time. I don’t doubt that he was a smart man and got closer to what good economic law should be than had been true prior to him. But that doesn’t make him relevant to today unless we’re talking about a facet of the economy that even existed back then in a relatively unchanged way. We’re not muslims. We don’t have to shoehorn everything back to the Bible as the Sunnis do with the Koran and the hadiths.

                    • The employer-employee relationship hasn’t changed one whit since Solomon’s day. Nor has the concept of a fair good being provided for a fair price (fraud).

                      But one cannot understand the fullness of the law, without first understanding the culture that produced that law. How women were treated in divorce and other such items, is certainly a part of that.

                      I already narrowed it down to just the two chapters of background from the Torah and then of course the actual history of Solomon’s rise from the loose unification of 12 tribes to one of the greatest trade unions in the ancient world. Are you really so narrow of a thinker that chunk is too much for you to handle?

                    • In Solomon’s day they had 401k, ESOP, job shoppers, franchising? Really?

                      Your sometimes spotty contact with reality is why I’m not jumping in with both feet to follow your reading suggestions. You see, the employer/employee relationship *has* changed.

                      That doesn’t mean that we should rip out those passages from the Bible, by no means. It means that we should be cognizant of the changes when we apply those truths to the present day. And so we end up back to where I started, what was Solomon’s policy and why does Solomon’s economic policy hold true in this instance?

      • The Deuce

        The only way socialism can really work is in small groups which have a spiritual or otherworldly goal, such as monasteries or Christian intentional communities.

        Which is to say, socialism doesn’t work at all, ever. The only way it can even be made to sound workable is by conflating socialism (a system of government) with private, voluntary sharing.

        • Rosemarie


          Well, yes, socialism as a political system in a large society doesn’t work, not in its pure form. Smaller intentional communities can choose to hold possessions in common and have more success with it, particularly if they take vows of poverty (and so forgo wealth) and chastity (no family to support). It’s trickier for communities with families, but some like JPUSA seem to pull it off. Even in such cases, however, there must be a larger society full of people with extra income to either donate to the community or purchase its goods and/or services to keep it going.

  • Will

    “All the time I was growing up, opposition to Communism was treated as a
    sort of silly jingoism and Commies were treated like bogeymen.”

    Everything I remember about communism is about fighting the Cold War until 1989. As Paul H says, perhaps it depended on where you grew up.

  • Communists in this case are just Capitalists who have learned to use government effectively to create more profit for themselves. And a great way to create that profit, is to make sure the useless third of your economic system is killed.

    • Capitalists do not, as a matter of ideology, rent seek or enlist the state to kill their opponents. As a matter of ideology class enemies of the communists are imprisoned and killed. Sometimes the death patterns are indeed among those who are not economically productive, but that seems to be the minority pattern.

      • “Capitalists do not, as a matter of ideology, rent seek ” – who told you that? The whole basis of capitalism, the stock market, is rent seeking; attempting to use the ownership of capital to leverage income without labor.
        As for the rest, that just depends on whether or not they have enough capital from profit to purchase politicians to rewrite the laws in their favor.

        Just because the communists were significantly better at the second, does not mean that given the chance, the “free market” would not also devolve into a system of oligarchical monarchs doing exactly the same thing.

        The difference between the totalitarian communists and totalitarian state capitalists mean NOTHING to those they oppress. The problem is in the theology of materialism to begin with, not in the specific way the materialism is organized.

        • Sorry, but the stock market simply is not rent seeking. It is a formalized method of exchanging money now for money in future if certain conditions are successfully fulfilled (this varies depending on the type of financial product so I’m being necessarily vague here). Rent seeking is more like restricted entry into a trade, a government granted monopoly, or some other form of government privilege.

          The ability of rich and powerful people to buy politicians and corrupt the system is an unfortunate feature of *every* system. The less that is in the hands of the government to control, the less it happens, not because the capitalists are more moral than the socialists but the government officials have less ability to betray.

          At present, the trends seem to be going away from large oligarchic businesses. Microsoft has tried for decades now to dominate the internet server business. They failed and are likely to continue failing. The anti-oligarchic business models are spreading from code to other IP and now into the physical world, all in perfect compatibility with capitalist organization and all without the necessity of a constitutional change.

          Capitalism is a materialistic ideology that deals with the material world and the material world alone. By limiting its scope, it eliminates any possibility for it to become totalitarian.

          • “Sorry, but the stock market simply is not rent seeking. ”

            And then you go to show that it is *rent seeking*- the leveraging of capital ownership to show a profit without labor on the part of the investor- the very definition of rent seeking!

            And if you think you can’t be totalitarian limiting yourself to the material world, then you’ve missed the 40% who aren’t even allowed private property in the United States.

            • The Deuce

              And then you go to show that it is *rent seeking*- the leveraging of capital ownership to show a profit without labor on the part of the investor- the very definition of rent seeking!

              In other words, any time you pay someone for a service or product, it’s rent-seeking, apparently.

            • You have, multiple times in both this thread in others, used words in ways that are not in general usage and repeatedly generate confusion by doing so. Rent seeking requires the use of power institutions to force profit into your hands. The stock market doesn’t do that.

              I’m also a bit confused about your assertion that 40% of people aren’t allowed private property. It reminds me of the fellow who went to my church and wailed about how it was impossible to buy a house, that down payment requirements were too high. In a couple of minutes I calculated out that 5 years of his family cigarette and Blockbuster video habits equaled a down payment for a house in NYC at the time. But I guess he too wasn’t “allowed” private property.

              • Clare Krishan

                TMLutas … oh dear here we go again, but “Capitalists do not, as a matter of ideology, rent seek” sorry, your idea of what constitutes ‘capital’ is about three decades out of date (or more since the seventies and the US decided to go it alone with a currency untethered from real exchange valuation).
                “Rent seeking requires the use of power institutions to force profit into your hands. The stock market doesn’t do that.” tell that fiction to the people who own stock in businesses who need aluminum (ie me anyone else vested in a mutual fund instrument in our 401K pensions) that has been shipped to and for warehouses located near Detroit to inflate prices and commodity profits by rent seeking at JPMorgan: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/07/the-huge-threat-to-capitalism-that-republicans-are-ignoring/277985/

                It is regretable a lot of young people, perhaps like yourself, have been extended credit to be indoctrinated in the fantasy that is our current crony capitalism, while those brave enough to use the intellect God gave them to formulate a truer valuation of the fragile state of finance and business practices are being shunned (http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/detroit-gap-reveals-industry-dispute-on-pension-math/ “When state and local governments go looking for a new pension actuary, they sometimes post ads saying that candidates who favor new ways of calculating liabilities need not apply.”) It is not kind to permit you to continue on in the delusion that the system “works” the way you have been led to think … its not working… its failing… why? Because my generation are unwilling to discipline ourselves with honest accounting… and keep kicking (the aluminum) can down the road for our children and children’s children to find tenants to pay the rent. But what happens if they don’t stick around, like in Detroit? Who pays the piper then?


                There’s no there there to pay for legacy costs of dividends on municipal bonds, pensions and healthcare for retirees. Is that the creditor’s (bondholder pensioners) fault? Yes. They were taught math at grade school, and they chose to ignore reality. Is it just to let them bear this burden alone? Yes. Because everyplace else faces similarly egregious debt problems, and with ZIRP there’s no magic accounting tricks to create returns of 8% out of zero percent cost of cheap money… Is it charitable to let the needy off the hook with bankruptcy? Yes, and the sooner we apply that kind of welfare to the rest of the crony capitalists the better for us all, but so long as they are TBTF, the rent-seeking legal regime that permits corporate welfare will continue. Just don’t call it ‘capitalism’ when it’s not: its nothing but an evil simulacrum.

                • My personal policy is to assume that anything Goldman touches is crooked and not have anything to do with it. They deserve the corporate death penalty of shunning and loss of business until they simply close up shop. Crooks and liars bedevil all systems. They absolutely have to be fought and capitalism certainly has its share.

                  You are tripping up on the part about “as a matter of ideology”. Communism, as a matter of ideology, believes in a pricing formula that simply does not work, has never worked, and will not ever work. That’s a fatal problem. Capitalism is infested with rogues and con men and all sorts of immoral operators who, in a more virtuous society, would have a harder time getting away with their scams. That’s still a problem, a major one, but one that is a different order of magnitude.

                  Happily I am in Indiana and we’re largely moved off the defined benefit pension suicide run. Part of what I am trying to do with my project Citizen Intelligence is to get ordinary citizens the tools to fix these problems.

                  The unfortunate fact is that the workers often negotiated these pensions in a corrupt deal with politicians to stick it to taxpayers and now are finding their scam is reaching the end game. Some are innocent dupes while others traded their votes and union dues for a great deal that for a couple of generations worked out, but the great deal isn’t going to last.

                  As for TBTF (too big to fail) I abhor the term. I prefer “insufficiently insured” which gets the point across quite well. The use of the term insufficiently insured institutions also is the cure for such institutions because to be labeled as such is to lose business and to shrink down to the size where they are no longer insufficiently insured.

                  • Clare Krishan

                    insured by whom? If you mean the FDIC, which is a publically funded backstop that’s never been tested, then you’ve proved MY moral hazard point – rentseeking crony capitalist corporate welfare. Some things can’t be adequately insured, that’s why if you can afford to risk your capital you earn a return on it. If you can’t afford to risk loss of your investment, you’re not a capitalist. The problem with current over-generous corporate legal situation is that state grants the legal ‘person’ absolute protections that it is unwilling to grant HUMAN persons. Explain that and I may follow your logic, but absent a deeper anthropology you’re on very fragile epistemological ground.

                    • I simply mean insured. People do buy insurance apart from the government idiocy at the FDIC. If, a priori, you define something that is TBTF as insufficiently insured, you ensure that people will avoid this label like the plague because it would mean the dismemberment of the firm. The corporate leaders of these firms would no longer eagerly court the designation in order to get a preferred spot on the government teat. In an emergency, the government may very well step in when private arrangements fail and something emerges as TBTF, but the penalty would be that everybody associated with anything triple A would have to cut ties until they were certified no longer TBTF. That’s a very big penalty.

              • “Rent seeking requires the use of power institutions to force profit into your hands. ”

                Since when? Not under Adam Smith’s original definition.

                If you have a down payment and a mortgage, you don’t own the house, the bank does. You’re buying it on time.

                If your buying on credit exceeds your assets, your net worth is less than zero- and you have effectively been denied the right to private property.

                • Actually, you own the house. Go look at the owner of record of your house at the county clerk’s office (name changes depending on jurisdiction YMMV). The bank has a lien on your house. To sell it, you have to pay them first or the county recorder of deeds won’t register the sale. People do occasionally sell short and cut a check at closing.

                  Considering that there are communities where you can get land for free, color me doubtful that what you are describing actually exists in a meaningful way. Small towns looking to stabilize their population do give land away. That the land isn’t where you might like to live does not mean that you have been denied the right to own property. It just means that your desires exceed your economic grasp.

          • Barfly_Kokhba

            Doesn’t the Federal Reserve claim a government-granted monopoly on currency? That monopoly is airtight, iron-clad and 100% government-protected. Why should currency–the lifeblood of any free economy–be an exception to the rule against private monopolies?

            • I believe in a competitive currency regime and support Ron Paul and whoever will take up his mantle in the quest to break the monopoly. Hopefully Paul’s successor will be more politically nimble and have greater success.

    • The Deuce

      By that logic, we could say that Capitalists are just Communists who don’t murder people.

      • Except, of course, with the example of Capitalist Corporations like Planned Parenthood, we can’t.

        • The Deuce

          That doesn’t even make sense. How on earth is a leftist organization like PP, which produces nothing and relies on government funding, capitalist? Are you trying to claim that anyone who tries to make profit (which would include you) subscribes to capitalism?

          • $1.244 billion in assets. $350 million in profit. Yes, I’d call them capitalist. Clearly they are leveraging the capital of their assets to make a profit, even if their biggest customer is the federal government.

            Is Boeing not capitalist because they depend on government funding through defense contracts?

            • You’re still confused about what profit is. Profit is just the creation of economic surplus and is a goal of all economic systems.

              • How is destroying people to earn a profit the goal of Catholicism?

                • When did Catholicism become an economic system?

                  • With the publication of Rerum Novarum.

                    • It is simply not the case that a letter “on the condition of the working classes” is the same as an economic system. I sincerely doubt that Pope Leo XIII meant it as such. An economic system is about everybody and how they act economically. That was explicitly not the Pope’s intent.

                    • Sure seemed to be about everybody to me. He started out on the condition of the working classes, then in the rest of the document expanded it to how everybody else needs to relate to the working classes (spending a lot of time on the owner class and the communists, both of whom he saw as specifically damaging to the interests of the working class).

                      In it, he set forth a set of priorities for an economic system that has since been expanded upon by every Pope since him- and I’m sure Francis will get around to writing his own economic encyclical one of these days.

                    • I’m inclined to believe Pope Leo’s text over your interpretation of same where the two disagree, as seems to be happening. In all that body of knowledge you claim constitutes a distinctive Catholic economic system, how is a price to be calculated? I haven’t seen such a thing. The calculation of prices is a crucial function of any economic system. So who laid that out and where?

            • The Deuce

              That’s what I thought. You’re conflating profit-seeking from assets (which would make *everyone* a capitalist, including you) with subscribing to capitalist thought.

              They’re no more capitalist than you are, and I can guarantee that if you were to ask most of PP’s members what they think of capitalism, they’d sound about like you do, albeit with probably fouler language.

              • “More children for the fit, fewer for the unfit”. The fit are those who can make a profit. The unfit are those who are a drain on resources. Planned Parenthood has been capitalistic from the very beginning.

  • Clare Krishan

    Oh no. please no — liveblogging the opening WYD mass (rockin’ mass hand wavin’ choir pit Latin Gloria) — with episcopal heads frozen in mutual discomfort…
    “Oremus let us pray o God who has sent the power of the Gospel as leaven into the world….
    Amen to that. Let this be a lesson…

    Subsidize something (fund it with incentives) and you get more of it… pay a pop composer to write liturgical music and you’ll get a great big ‘Eurovision Song Contest’ mass

    If you don’t want something, benign neglect is the most charitable thing to do – don’t encourage it.

  • Dave G.

    I agree with the overall points, but I think it’s a bit more complex, especially when thinking about the reasons why Communism seems less evil. To many Americans, Communism was every bit as evil as Nazism. To others, the US was every bit as evil as Nazism and Communism. And to some, the US and Nazism were evil, but as bad as Communism sometimes turned out (and often because of outside interference from places like the US), there was still a better hope in some of its ideals than the traditional Christian West. That last part was not uncommon in with some of the professors I had (we used to call one Comrade), and was obviously held by many in the popular culture, as the references to MASH or All in the Family would demonstrate.

  • If I may butt in (and perhaps I may not, in which case–sorry), I think a great deal of the debate in this thread between Mssrs. Seeber and Lutas could be obviated if Mr. Seeber replaced the word “capitalism” with some clunky but precise formulation like “actually-existing corporate-corrupted welfare states with regulated market economies” and Mr. Lutas added a descriptor like “laissez-fare,” “pure,” “entirely free market,” or “libertarian” to each of his mentions of capitalism.

    Mr. Seeber seems to be arguing that theoretical distributism would be superior to “actually-existing corporate-corrupted welfare state capitalism,” and Mr. Lutas seems to think that Mr. Seeber is blaming pure laissez-faire free markets for the sins of the current mixed economic regime. Two men of good faith who seem to me to be talking past each other: When Mr. Lutas says that “capitalists do not, as a matter of ideology, rent-seek,” I think he is talking about the honorable libertarianism of, e.g., the Acton Institute. Mr. Seeber is talking about, e.g., the aluminum-shuffling regulatory arbitrage of the corrupt bankster/captured regulator revolving-door courtiers at Goldman Sachs–who may not even qualify as “capitalists” at all in Mr. Lutas’ more idealistic usage.

    Indeed, without getting into the weeds about “profit” and “rent-seeking,” I think similar merely semantic issues are at work: Mr. Seeber is perhaps comparing the actually existing finance industry (with its tax-loophole driven hedge funds, Goldman Sachs aluminum warehouses, and HFT algorithms that do far more to produce windfall rents than to provide liquidity sufficient to move capital to its most efficient use) to a more bucolic bazaar setting in which sturdy yeomen trade Berkshares or something, whereas Mr. Lutas takes Mr. Seeber to be impugning not actually-existing Wall St. (a casino and a cesspool) but the very theoretical idea of bourses (an entirely legitimate way to capitalize even the most idyllic family enterprises and for even the most yeomanly farmers to hedge commodity-price risks).

    I suspect that beneath their semantic disagreements, these two honorable Catholics loathe many of the same diabolical principalities and powers: corrupt corporate Behemoths and captured regulatory Leviathans–Hudge and Gudge. Either distributism or laissez-faire capitalism would be a radically subsidiaristic departy from the present sprawling mess. There is MUCH common ground here, and common enemies to fight.

    • I agree with one caveat: I see corporate welfare states with regulated market economies as the natural outgrowth of laissez-fare economics; it’s what happens when politicians get into the game by selling promises (shares) to fill campaign warchests.

      But perhaps the “very theoretical idea of bourses” is what I’m missing. I need to look that up and study it.

      Edit, make that two caveats. I’m pretty much against the capitalization of any enterprise. Mainly because I’ve seen it go so badly in so many ways. The one exception to this is the general concept of ESOPs, where one must be a current employee to buy in to the program, and all owners are either current employees or former employees. I know a good many family owned businesses that have gone that route. Of course, you don’t even need a bourse for that. You can get by with just an adequate and honest bookkeeper who keeps track of # of shares sold/earned, who owns them, and knows how to divide.

      I’m not even sure I’m for inheritance of ESOP shares, though it would seem to me that any good “extended family” business would want to see some recompense to the heirs in a buyback upon a death.

      • Thanks, Ted.

        As distributist John C. Medaille has noted (See: http://distributistreview.com/mag/2010/07/naive-experts-economists-and-the-real-world/ ), markets for fungible commodities (like, e.g., wheat) are actually acceptably modeled by laissez-faire theory. If you are a small-scale farmer who sells some of your surplus (e.g., to acquire currency for paying taxes or for your shopping trips to town) on the market, you would be well advised to insure against fluctuations in the market price of your crop or livestock. Specialist commodity market traders have aided with this since the days of ancient Sumer, but the modern commodity bourse really began to develop during the heyday of the Catholic middle ages in western Europe. The joint stock companies that financed American colonization are a later example of Western financial innovation providing entrepreneurs with legitimate risk hedging. They are the ancestors of today’s publicly traded corporations.

        Ted, I think you are entirely correct that the modern mixed welfare-capitalist regime is a natural outgrowth of the Dickensian abuses of Victorian-style laissez-faire.

        However, despite my deep attraction to distributism as one way to instantiate Catholic social teaching, I am open to worries that laissez-faire capitalism was in its turn an equally natural outgrowth of medieval farmers and Elizabethan merchants legitmately hedging risks, and of the dramatic efficiency gains to both manufacturing and farming that can come with “bigness.”

        I think the distributist instinct to redistribute capital is well in line with the preferential option for the poor and the universal destination of goods. However, I worry that a nostalgic Chestertonian agenda of “three acres and a cow” is not remotely realistic for providing anything beyond subsistence-level poverty. You can no more roll back the Industrial Revolution than Mr. Lutas can return to the night watchman state.

        In one of his rare false notes, Chesterton muses somewhere on how the automobile is restoring the “freedom of the King’s highway” (or some such phrase) to the freeborn Englishman. His musings about the desirability of everyone being a home-owner are similar: the simple fact is that attempts to use government tax preferences and loan programs to recreate the age of horses and cottages in our day of SUV’s and subdivisions have resulted in sprawling suburbs stitched together with neighborhood-gutting highways and full of the over-subsidized McMansions that led us to the 2008 financial crash as surely as any Tulipmania or South Sea Bubble. Sometimes it’s more efficient to let a specialist manage your groundskeeping and utilities and hedge for you against the risk that property values will decline in your metro area. This is called renting. It’s particularly well-suited to dense, walkable, diverse urban neighborhoods. There is no need for a massive distorting tax subsidy for home-ownership over renting, for suburban isolation over man’s living in a polis.

        The preferential option for the poor cannot be a regulatory preferential option for inefficient small-scale farming and unaffordable artisanal craft manufacturing, or a preferential option for owner-occupied single family homes. Like rent control and agribusiness subsidies, such an agenda distorts the free market to the detriment of all–dramatically lowering shared surplus. Similarly, nostalgia for guilds and trade unions *in actually existing practice* often means nothing more than letting the doctors’ cartel keep affordable nurse practitioners out of strip mall minute clinics, and letting the teachers’ cartel stop vouchers from funding Catholic schools.

        In all this, I agree far, far more with Mr. Lutas than with the amateur economics over at “Distributist Review”: much of the modern distributist agenda is nostalgic, neo-medievalist, and sadly unworkable: the Mondragon model is not going to conquer profit-maximizing competitors. I wish it would. It won’t.

        The Church flourished in urban ancient Rome as well as in rural medieval England. Distributism is too much wedded to the temporal accidents of the medieval economy, just as Catholic monarchism is too much wedded to the temporal accidents of medieval politics. The New Evangelization can flourish in actually existing America without neo-medievalism.

        So does this make me an Acton Institute libertarian? No. Laissez faire Dickensian squalor is even worse than misguided Chestertonian peasant poverty.

        Lately, I have been feeling my way toward what I think might be an agenda for the honorable Rand Paul wing of the G.O.P. that offers more to the poor than uncompensated cuts to food stamps and health care programs: a far more deregulated, indeed, almost laissez faire night watchman libertarian shrunken state, combined with a high enough progressive tax rate on capitalism’s winners (I am agnostic as to what kind of tax, although property, carbon, and consumption taxes all strike me as less disincentivizing than the income tax) to finance the provision of a Basic Income Guarantee to every citizen.

        If distributism is right (and it is!!!) that the problem with capitalism is that there are too few capitalists, then give the people capital. But give them currency. Let THEM decide if they want to spend their capital on health insurance, education, 3D printer manufacturing equipment, or that 3 acres and a cow. Don’t have a paternalist distributist state choose the cow for them.
        This seems to me like it would prevent Dickensian squalor without introducing immiserating market distortion. It runs afoul of St. Paul’s dictum that they who won’t work oughtn’t eat, but it seems to me like the least bad option for realistically *accomplishing* distributism’s Catholic goals, instead of just sitting around reading Chesterbelloc and Front Porch Republic, pausing for the occasional Jacobite toast of our overpriced micro-brewed local porter to the Catholic Stuart kings over the water.

        I’d welcome comment from all here: I’ve yet to convince myself this is a viable agenda, and humbly seek correction.

        • I humbly submit that one acre, a 3D printer, and 3 chickens is an entirely adequate solution. I base this on advances in permaculture and urban farming that Mr. Chesterton simply didn’t have the advantage of.

          My mistake being that I allowed the Himalaya Blackberries, invasive in my area, into my wild garden. Now I have to wipe it all out and start over. Time to water with crossbow.

          • I think it’s an entirely adequate solution *for you.* It’s a fine ideal. I share it! But I’m not sure it’s the best or only model of human flourishing. (I also have many memories of warring against Himalayan blackberries during my years in Oregon. Good luck!)

            • It most certainly isn’t. It is one solution among many.

              The main ideal of distributism is individual dignity. The main ideal of libertarianism is individual wealth.

              I’m not at all sure the two are compatible, though they are similar.

              • Fair enough. I share your misgivings about libertarianism, as any reader of my bleeding heart comments hereabouts knows. And I think urban farming is an incredibly promising trend. I just worry (as a fellow traveler, if you will) that distributism doesn’t take modern conditions and risk-hedging seriously enough. I want its goals to succeed–hence my concerned critique.

      • ESOP shares are attractive in theory (employee ownership), but in practice they often amount to little more than retail sales associates owning a derisory amount of shares in their Big Box store instead of adequately hedging against risk through an index fund or another diversification strategy. It makes little economic sense to invest such that your ESOP portfolio collapses at the same time as your firm has to lay you off: your employer is thus the WORST stock for you to buy. This is one of my issues with the fetish for mortgage debt-and-tax deduction-financed owner-occupied housing, too: you will get stuck in an underwater mortgage at the exact moment your metro area economy takes a dive and you need to sell your house so you can move to find work. You’d be better off investing in a Real Estate Investment Trust in some faraway city, if you could find a REIT that wasn’t run by crooks. The nostalgia for roots that motivates employee ownership and home-ownership needs to take more account of prudent risk-hedging.

        Having worked on ESOP regulation at the Dept. of Labor when I was in law school, and having once been the unimpressed owner of some ESOP shares when I was hawking computers at Best Buy, my view of ESOPs is rather dim. ESOPs are no more Mondragon than an SUV driver is a freeborn Englishman riding a horse on the King’s highway. The instinct is laudable, but in practice the implementation is deeply flawed.

  • Loretta

    Her errors have spread throughout the world. I recently had a conservative quote me some logic (on a gun control initiative) that sounded like a redress of the dialectic of materialism, and said conservative couldn’t even identify where the logic had come from. They just don’t teach social studies any more.