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« When Did the New Covenant Begin? (Video) | Main | Save the Dates: 1/7-14/12 »

January 04, 2011

Comments

Hi Louis,

However, since I was only

attacking a characteristic of capitalism, there is no need for the full definition of capitalism to be considered. You are

working way too hard. Take it easy. :)


Not a full definition, but an accurate one would help.
For instance, when you say "The driving force behind capitalism is the philosophical idea of economic self-sufficiency as the ultimate path to a satisfying life. " you are talking about an idolatry that the church is not widely disseminating. And you are not talking about the driving force behind capitalism, but behind some godless consumerism. The two are not the same.

This is not a definition of capitalism, this is only a part of the definition of capitalism. It is a defining

characteristic, but it only partly defines it. That is why I stated that my scope was limited.

Actually, it's not a partial definition nor a defining characteristic. It is an idolatry that you have incorrectly chosen to call capitalism.

More precisely stated, the inherent evils of certain aspects of capitalism. I understand your natural tendency to think

of my attack on a portion of the system as an attack of the whole system. It is like my chopping off someone's hand not

being an attack on the rest of the individual.

But again, the evil inheres in the idolatry you are talking about and not in capitalism. As I suggested, if you wish to have fruitful conversations on this topic it would serve you well to describe the thing you are against and not label it as something else.

You keep speaking as if I am attacking the whole patient here. I am not. I am speaking of a portion of capitalistic

philosophy, not the whole definition of capitalism.

But you call it "capitalism" and are misleading when you do so. And even as you seek to clarify now you are calling it "capitalistic philosophy" when it has absolutely nothing to do with the philosophy of ownership and investment.

But since I have clearly pointed to a branch, I do wish you would stop calling it a

tree. :)

Then you shouldn't call the so-called branch by the name of the tree. And you should make sure your branch is actually part of the tree you are pointing to.

But who ever mentions the loss of his children? Is not

this loss greater than any restoration that could be made to Job?

I've heard the story of Job many times and never has the point been that he received back his material possessions. Never, not once, have I heard that given as the meaning of the story or the reason we should trust in God. The point is that God is sovereign, that our actions have cosmic implications, that suffering is not the result of our sinfulness, that we are to trust God who does no evil, etc.
And, (beside the point I know, but you bring it up) if you think about the parallels between Job's restoration and his lost children you will see this is also an indicator of eternal life. While he was returned double for his material possessions he received back only the lost number of children. Why? Because the others are not lost, but will be returned to him at the resurrection or in Heaven. Otherwise, to maintain the parallel, he would have received back double here as he did with his flocks.

Does that not place a higher value on the very things that capitalism holds dear?
Not at all.
P.S. As to your bias...no harm done. We all have them. It is just good be be made aware of them.
Indeed. Do I have to be explicit?

Feeding my bias:
http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2010/10/mass-of-tissue.html?cid=6a00d83451d2ba69e20134883eb398970c#comment-6a00d83451d2ba69e20134883eb398970c

Since America's poor became an issue in that thread as well as this one I will bring a cite over from that one as well:
http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2007/08/how-poor-are-americas-poor-examining-the-plague-of-poverty-in-america

Silly man. All he had to do was consult the Rajah. Surly he knows.

This may sound like it comes out of left field, but it doesn't and I really would like to know the answer: suppose we were to identify societies in which people are genuinely less materialistic. (There is no reason, I think, to assume in advance that in all societies people are equally materialistic, although I do think there is every reason to believe that no society is devoid of materialism). How would we best characterize the economic systems operative in those societies? I don't know the answer to either of those questions, but it gets to the heart of the issue, namely, that economic systems may encourage particular vices. (I strongly suspect free market capitalism as practiced in the US encourages the vice of lust, for instance, although I'd be open to hearing alternative hypotheses).

BTW: my nomination for a less materialistic society is the Amish, and I could not tell you how to describe their market system. I wouldn't call it capitalism merely because the Amish live in the U.S., although it may well be a form of capitalism.

One final point: it may be that the devil is in the details and that there is no single answer to the question "does capitalism encourage vice?" for it depends on which form of capitalism is under consideration and in what society.

Hi Daron,

My point in bringing up outsourcing was to show that the scope of our analysis of the impacts of U.S. capitalism, or the capitalist system of any nation today, must include the entire world. You had pointed out that many of the poorest U.S. laborers are able to afford to live a higher quality of life than the poor laborers of other countries. I understood this to be an argument for the good of U.S. capitalism, that this higher quality of life is a direct result of U.S. capitalism and that capitalism is, therefore, good. My point with globalization was that the poor in the U.S. are living a higher quality of life at the expense of the poor of other countries who our capitalist system has taken advantage of. Since the laborers of the world are part of our nations own economic system, these laborers must also be grouped with U.S. laborers to assess the overall quality of living of laborers in the system. This does not necessarily mean that the U.S. capitalist system has caused the laborers in other countries to be poor. It may even be that our capitalist system is helping to increase their standard of living by providing them with jobs. Those things are debatable, but the point I was trying to make was that one major reason the poor of the U.S. can afford certain luxuries is because there exists a far poorer group of people in other countries. Yes, our capitalist system is providing jobs to the poor of other countries, but one could also make the argument that the slave system of pagan Rome provided jobs. Granted, though, that in a capitalist state the laborer is still legally free to choose who they want to provide their labor to, while those in a slave state do not have that freedom. Whether the labor we outsource is truly raising the standard of living of the poor in other countries is debatable. They still, like most who aren’t poor, remain economically dependent on the owners of productive property.

We actually agree on most of our economic morals and ideals. I believe socialism is one of the greatest evils plaguing the modern world and that those in a capitalist society are far better off than those under socialist rule. I think that the socialistic policies of our country, especially the most recent, have caused and will cause much more harm than if they hadn’t been enacted. I believe that there are many good things about competition and that the government often undermines these things. I don’t necessarily agree with your assessment about competition between big corporations and upstarts. Though the allure of being bought out by a large corporation may provide incentive for some innovation, innovation can, much of the time, only be found within a large corporation since the large corporation has a superior advantage over many of the things that support innovation. One reason upstarts find selling-out to large corporations so alluring is that the upstart usually does not possess the means to compete with the large corporation in the long run. There are, of course, always exceptions.

As you pointed out, I think the problems we’re having in this discussion go back to what we mean when we use the word “capitalism.” I’m using it as a way to describe the socio-economic state that has marked the history of much of the world (at least the Western world) for the past 200 years, though I believe the beginnings of these things go much farther back. Therefore, I’ve included the evil of usury into my definition of capitalism since usury has been a major mechanism in this socio-economic system. Perhaps usury is not an essential attribute of the idea of capitalism and is just a misuse of the ideal capitalist system, but it has generally marked the history of the socio-economic state of things as to become a distinguishing characteristic of it.

Perhaps usury is simply one evil that is not part of the capitalist ideal and can be abolished. Either way, the reality of the economic system is that it has become, if not originally intended to be so, a system that allows and rewards usurious financial practices by allowing interest on money to be earned by money lenders even at a loss of productivity by the borrower. In this way many true owners of productive property have, throughout the last 200 years, become dispossessed, with the ownership being gained by the money lender. If the original owner does not become physically dispossessed of their property when this happens, they still no longer retain true ownership of their property as they are indebted to the money lenders. This economic system has created a new form of usury not simply committed by individual usurers but by a monetary and credit system built on and sustained by a systemically usurious monetary system. This system has allowed banks to gain control of most of the world’s wealth, creating a world where not only are there many people steeped in debt, but many governments have also become massively indebted to banks.

Well, thank you for the challenging discussion. I admit that I’m still learning a lot and do not having a complete knowledge of the economic moral problems, especially not enough to be effective in economic moral apologetics. Here is a link to an interesting talk about the overall issue we were discussing.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stephen-hand/2010/05/15/john-c-mdaille-on-distributism

Hi Chris,
I'm glad to see so much agreement here. I am erasing a lot of my commentary to you as, while reading you further, I see that you keep saying the same things that I am. Throughout your discussion on out-sourcing you acknowledge all the things I would point out. That is that, yes, you have to take into account all the labourers in the system. And when we do, we see that the American poor (not only better off than the world poor, but the world middle class and in many cases the world well-to-do) can gain more necessities and luxuries for less output. Financially, this is a plus (no, Louis, that does not equate to ultimate well-being, happiness, salvation, etc.). And those in the poorer countries make more money than they would have without the out-sourcing and then, in turn, become consumers; allowing themselves and their fellows the opportunity and incentive to create other means of wealth. Unless they are further exploited by their own system, they now have more capital to invest in their own communities and will start to purchase from their neighbors.

Though the allure of being bought out by a large corporation may provide incentive for some innovation, innovation can, much of the time, only be found within a large corporation since the large corporation has a superior advantage over many of the things that support innovation.
I think I disagree with this to a degree. Yes, there are more resources for innovation in the big company (an argument for their size) but they are also slower to act, more inward gazing and more likely to have people thinking alike. I believe the real innovation comes from outside. No company is big enough to house all the world's ideas, and it follows that most of the ideas come from outside the company. I think it happens in the majority of cases where a single person recognizes a single need and works to fill it - usually to improve his own lot. Innovation and the age of reason in Europe followed when the common man was free to improve his own situation rather than that of his Roman overlords.
One reason upstarts find selling-out to large corporations so alluring is that the upstart usually does not possess the means to compete with the large corporation in the long run. There are, of course, always exceptions.
Exactly. So the incentive is for people to innovate and sell to the big guy. Thus, we get innovation from capitalism - either way. But we don't get innovation from protectionism without competition.

Thanks for working on the following point:

Either way, the reality of the economic system is that it has become, if not originally intended to be so, a system that allows and rewards usurious financial practices by allowing interest on money to be earned by money lenders even at a loss of productivity by the borrower.
Yes, usury can be part of the system. But this is not speaking at the level of the essentials of capitalism. Lending money at interest, regardless of the success of the venture, is not capitalism, per se. because it is not an investment in the venture itself. The lender then is taking no risk in the innovation or product, and the purpose of the loan is irrelevant. The usurer existed and exists wherever people interact. The intent of the law against usury reflects the fact that people were loaning for profit to others in need - not others with an idea. Profiting off of another's desperation is sinful. Putting your money to work is not. Jesus' parables reflect this principle.

If the original owner does not become physically dispossessed of their property when this happens, they still no longer retain true ownership of their property as they are indebted to the money lenders.
Here and continuing you are pointing out some very real problems and I agree completely with you. But here the problem is not with capitalism but with evil, fallen, greedy, humanity. I always think of movies where some poor mom and pop company is taken over by a greedy tycoon who buys up their stock. While my sympathies are always with the small company at some point I will pause and ask myself, hey, why do they have shares out there which are being bought up? Why are they being publicly traded? I see two answers. One, is that they are greedy. As Christian economic advisor Dave Ramsay will tell you, you should work hard and only grow your company as you can afford. You should only buy and expand as you can pay cash. To do otherwise, on average, I would say is to be greedy and try to take a big bite when you aren't ready for it. This is not always the case, of course. Neither is it inherent to capitalism. It is inherent to the sinful nature. But perhaps the company was not greedy. Perhaps it was in dire need and would have gone belly-up without a cash infusion. So somebody lends to them and they take the risk of being able to pay it back. But they can't and they lose control to the lender. This is sad, of course. And it might be caused by only a single bad break (early snow one year, in my family's case) but the control was lost before and independently of the loan. If the company at risk could not pay its bills, could not stay afloat without the risky loan, then they had already lost control of the means of production. It already was out of their hands, caused not by capitalism, nor, likely, even by the lender. So they gambled, took a chance that they could borrow money and get back in the game (which they could not afford to be in) and took the loan. In the scenario above this did not pay off. But in losing out they do not lose anything they had, but what they were gambling they could come to have.

Of course these presentations are simplifications, but the point is that it is never capitalism (private ownership/investment of profits) that causes any of the problems. Those problems are not intrinsic to the principle but are human ills imposed upon the system, as they are imposed upon any human endeavour.

Well, thank you for the challenging discussion. I admit that I’m still learning a lot and do not having a complete knowledge of the economic moral problems, especially not enough to be effective in economic moral apologetics.
Thank you as well. I think any economist would tell you that I am obviously clueless on this subject. I just have my intuitions, biases and a fallen attempt to reason.

So, how about that no-fault divorce?

That definitely belongs on any list of moral blind spots.

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