Sunday, June 3, 2018

Why the Catholic Church Cannot Accept Socialism By George Searle


Why the Catholic Church Cannot Accept Socialism By George Mary Searle 1913

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See also Why No Good Catholic can be a Socialist by Kenelm Digby Best 1909 and The History & Mystery of Money & Economics-250 Books on DVDrom

IT may seem strange to many who have a fairly good knowledge of the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church, that there should be such a conflict as we find existing between it and Socialism. For the two seem to have a strong resemblance; and it seems that there should be sympathy rather than antagonism. If Socialism meant anarchy, of course the conflict would be easily understood; for the Church is a well—ordered and governed society. But so is the ideal social state; in it everyone has his proper place and regular duties.

And the ideals or aspirations of both seem really very similar. The Church fully acknowledges that the highest form of its own life is that practised in its religious orders or communities, which is modeled, we may say, on that led by our Lord Himself with His chosen Apostles during His ministry on earth; with a common purse, in charge of one of their number, for the common good. And this form of life was the one adopted in the beginning by the Church of Jerusalem. It did not become that of the whole Church throughout the world; but that was not because it was disapproved as a form of life, but simply because, as men are actually constituted, it could not be successfully carried on by all. But still we find the Church reverting to it here and there, in her religious communities, and carrying it on most successfully; indeed it is only in the Church that it has been an actual success. And it has always, when showing signs or promise of such success, and when undertaken in the manner necessary to produce it, been most highly approved of by the higher Church authority.

Why, then, should the Church condemn in mankind at large what she so highly approves among her own members? Why should she tell men in general not to do what she so strongly recommends and indeed invites some, at least, of her own children to do? This really seems to many a sort of scandal, and to imply that the Church is not quite sincere in this approbation which she gives to the common or, as it may be called, the socialist life in her communities, but only tolerates it, her authorities really preferring to have private property retained by the great mass of her members, and indeed to a very large amount by some of them; and this, it may be said, in order to receive substantial assistance for themselves in this way.

These questions, which are not imaginary, but really raised, are not, however, so puzzling as they may appear. Let us consider the matter carefully, and we shall see why the Church cannot adopt the socialist programme for a general one; why, if so adopted, she must regard it as dangerous to the general welfare.

The first reason is that what we may call the fundamental idea of Socialism is absolutely erroneous, and contradictory to Catholic teaching. And that idea is, that morality is a matter entirely in the jurisdiction of mankind, instead of being subject to the law of God; that it rests on and can be determined by popular vote. This idea may not be expressly formulated in all socialist teaching; but still it exists. In particular, it finds utterance in the dogma, generally held by Socialists, that private ownership of land, or of the means of production in general, is intrinsically wrong, or at any rate can be made so by popular consent. Some Socialists, still recognizing that there is such a thing as Divine law, would content themselves with declaring that private ownership is contrary to this law; but others ignore the existence of any such law. Now the Catholic Church not only holds that there is such a law, but also that private ownership is not forbidden by it; and that no vote or consent of mankind can make it otherwise. The Church of course admits that a man may lawfully abandon this right; but she denies that he can be forced to do so. In what are called the solemn vows of her religious orders, such an abandonment is made, but the Church takes extreme care that it should be perfectly and absolutely voluntary, and that even such vows do not radically abolish the capacity of those who make them to hold property, so that if circumstances justify it, in the judgment of the Church, the capacity may return.

The words of our Lord Himself, Whom some Socialists are desirous to claim as the first of their number, are quite explicit to this effect. We read in St. Matthew’s Gospel (chap. xix.)—and the same event is also recorded by St. Mark and St. Luke—that a rich young man came to our Lord, and inquired what he should do to have life everlasting. Our Lord told him that he should keep the commandments; and on the young man‘s asking Him what commandments He meant, He mentioned several of the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue, adding also that of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. One of the Commandments He mentioned was, “Thou shalt not steal.” The young man answered that he had kept all these. Our Lord did not say, “No, you have not, for you have no right to possess private property of your own, for you, in doing so, are taking what belongs to the community.” No, He acknowledged that the lawful possession of private property is not stealing. But on the young man asking what yet was wanting to him, our Lord said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” In other words, “join our community.” You will notice that He told the young man to sell what he had. But how could he sell it, if it was not really his to sell? Now notice just what these words of our Lord were in reply to the young man’s repeated question. He told him to sell what he had and give the money to the poor. But He did not absolutely require this. He told the young man to do this, if he wanted to be perfect.

Now the Catholic, and really the only possible, explanation of these last words is that there are some things which a man may do to please God, but which are not required as of obligation, or under pain of sin. These are known in the Church not as laws, but as “counsels of perfection.” They principally come under three heads: namely, the renunciation of property, of marriage, and of one’s own will by obedience to someone to whom one gives a right to require it in the name of God. This obedience, of course, only extends to actions not contrary to the laws of God, or of some regularly constituted general authority—as that of the State—acting also, of course, in a way not contrary to the Divine law.

St. Paul writes specially in his first Epistle to the Corinthians (chap. vii.) of the second of the counsels just named. He himself had never married. He says, “I would that all men were even as myself; but everyone hath his proper gift from God; one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried, and to the widows: it is good for them if they so continue, even as I. But if they do not contain themselves, let them marry.”

Now in religious communities or orders, sanctioned by the Church, which may be said to be on the socialist principle as to property, the two other counsels which have been named form a regular part of their rule. To give greater security, as well as merit in their observance, all three are usually strengthened by vows to be faithful to them. When these vows are taken, they of course become not merely counsels, but real laws of conscience; that of obedience, however, only being so under the restrictions mentioned above. No religious Superior can require anything contrary to the laws of God, or of the regular and general authorities which God has established.

These religious communities have been the only experiments on the socialist principle with regard to the first counsel, that of the renunciation of private property, which have ever succeeded for any length of time. And notice that they all rest in the beginning, for each individual, on a voluntary act on his or her part. And, also, the Church has always regarded this act as one resulting from a special call or inspiration on God’s part. She has distinctly, especially at the Council of Trent, forbidden even parents to compel their children to make such an act. She holds that, as St. Paul says, everyone has his proper gift from God. This gift from God she calls a ‘vocation.” And she requires such a vocation even for the priesthood, on account of the second counsel as well as on account of the special sacred duties and responsibilities which those becoming priests undertake. She even requires this vocation for the orders preparatory for the priesthood, of deacon and subdeacon.

It is or should be plain, then, why the Church does not and cannot look with favor on the idea of making the socialist régime or arrangement binding by law on all citizens of the State at large. It can only work successfully when adopted by each individual with absolute freedom of choice, and, moreover, with a special Divine call. To establish it as the right course for all, is in her judgment simply a case of “fools rushing in where angels fear to tread.”

“But,” it may be asked, “if this life in community, with property in common, is so pleasing to God, why should He not give this special call to all who would like to have it, and make it a success for everyone, instead of merely for a few?” This is a question which may be interesting, but one which no one has any Divine commission to answer. The important fact is simply that He does not, and that there is no reason to think He ever will. With all the care, both for the sake of the community and of the individual, that the Church takes in the matter, there are many who, though at first fully persuaded that they have a vocation to this common or— as we call it—religious life, find on trial that they must have been mistaken. An actual trial of it is usually necessary, and it is for this reason that the Church insists on what is called a novitiate, or time of experiment for everyone desiring to engage in it. It is not probable that many who have a Divine vocation to it refuse to make this experiment; so there cannot be many who would succeed in it outside of those who actually try. But the proportion of those who even try is exceedingly small, and many of those who do try fail. So it is evident that a vocation to it is a very rare one, even among Catholics, who have every encouragement to make the trial.

It does not, then, require any great perspicacity to see what would be the result if everyone should be required to make it. All would like to have it tried, if it simply meant that they should have a share of other people’s property; but when it came to giving up their own, the result would not be satisfactory, even if their own subsistence were secure, as is the case in most of the religious communities of the Church. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that if all were required to adopt the socialist manner of life, all would be contented with it. In our religious communities, those who find, in the novitiate, that it does not suit them can leave; and indeed they can do so even afterward. No force compels them to remain. And they can even obtain proper permission to do so. But in a socialist state, comprising all citizens, such would not be the case. The great majority, in fact, would, if not returning by a revolution to the previous conditions, return to them individually by disregarding its regulations so far as possible, and by securing for their own use as large a share of the goods of life as they were able. You can say no one can consider anything as his own; but you cannot prevent his using it as his own, if he wishes, and has an opportunity to do so. And, furthermore, there must be officials of some kind in the social state, as well as in any other; indeed everyone in it would be a sort of official, with regular duties and responsibilities. In other words, you cannot prevent what is known as "grafting" any better under Socialism than you can as things are now. The only thing that can effectually prevent it is conscience, which says to a man: “Thou shalt not steal;” and the force of this Commandment is much weakened if you tell him that no individual has any real right to property. As it is now, people have much less scruple against defrauding the government than they have against cheating an individual; and there is no reason why the government, in a socialist form, should acquire a peculiar sanctity in the general estimation.

The only way in which a socialistic government can hope to succeed would be the same way in which the religious orders succeed, that is to say, by an enthusiastic and persistent devotion to its principles on the part of the whole people. Simply establishing it will not produce such a devotion.

Of course Socialists claim that if it is once introduced, everyone will find its results so agreeable that such a devotion to it will arise. But that is a mere assertion, not borne out by facts, even in the case of religious communities, which always tend to lose their first fervor instead of increasing it, though every individual member has in the first place entered upon this life voluntarily.

For this common sense reason, the propaganda of Socialism, if carefully considered, even though merely advocating that all should begin by entering on it voluntarily, cannot be considered as resting on a sound basis. Human nature cannot be expected to undergo a complete and radical change. If such a change, or rather such a victory over human nature, can only be expected in those who are the very best disposed, and the least selfish of all, who have made the sacrifice of their own property, and of all except the necessities of life, in a Catholic religious order, and if even some of these fail to persevere in these unselfish dispositions; how can it be expected to continue steadily, even in those who first entered into the socialistic agreement; and how much less
can this be expected in their children and their children’s children, or in immigrants who for various reasons enter into a socialistic state? There are quite enough as it is who refuse to admit the obligation in conscience of submitting to any government at all; anarchists we call them. How many more will there be if sacrifices such as the socialistic plan requires are exacted of them? Even if you succeed in convincing them that private ownership is essentially wrong, or can be made so by popular vote, how can you expect them to persevere in this conviction, or to receive it as a certain dogma from their predecessors, in face of the numerous and urgent temptations to a contrary opinion?

No; Socialism, even if adopted in the only possible way that the Church could approve, that is to say in the way in which it exists in her religious orders, by a perfectly free and voluntary consent, would, as was said in the beginning, lead only to disaster; simply because it is certain that the consent of human nature to it would not persevere. Catholics hold that perseverance in the voluntary poverty of the religious life can only be obtained by a special grace of supernatural help from God, which He will grant to those whom He has called to that special virtue, but which it would be rash to expect without such a call. To expect everyone to persevere in it, simply because they had, even voluntarily, begun, would really be almost, if not quite, as rash as to expect men in general to keep absolute virginity through life, which is of course the only lawful alternative to the state of matrimony. And if the poverty of the religious life is not kept perfectly, the evil only affects the delinquent, or at most the particular religious house to which his example may spread; and, moreover, if he finds his virtue inadequate to it, he can be permitted to go. But in attempting the same thing in a whole nation, the government will be a failure, either by the neglect of its principles or the departure of its citizens. The idea that everyone will be even a passably good citizen under it, is simply a rose-colored dream. It invites and is sure to lead to corruption, and consequent failure and disaster; for it is asking from nature more than it can accomplish without a special supernatural help. The world in general may not believe this, but we Catholics, if understanding our religion, know that it is true. This is a quite sufficient reason for us to oppose the socialist plan.

Strangely enough, there is another of the special virtues belonging to religious communities which Socialists would force on the public at large. This is, evidently, the virtue of religious obedience. The socialist plan necessarily involves this. In the present state of things, as far as the government is concerned, a man is quite probably able to fit himself for and enter upon any occupation which seems to him most agreeable and suitable to him. But on the socialist plan he must be assigned to his occupation according to the needs of the community, rather than his own preference. He is to be assigned to his post very much like an officer or soldier in an army. Some pressure may, of course, under the present system, be put on a young man in this way by his parents or others; but he can generally manage, if he has a decided preference, to gratify his own desire. He may want, for instance, to become a medical man; and probably be able, at least, to try. But in Socialism, the government must decide what will be the best disposal of him for the common good. If it considers that there are enough doctors already, or that he could do better at something else, off he goes to that something else. He is, indeed, very much like a Jesuit; for the Jesuits make a special point of the virtue of obedience. But there are not so very many Catholics who have a real vocation to be jesuits. The socialist young man, however, has to be as good a jesuit as he can, without any special vocation. From our somewhat extended experience, success is hardly probable. It is not likely, indeed, that he will even desire it. Love of the socialist régime, even if he has it, is far from being as strong a motive as the love of God.

It would seem, then, very improbable that Socialism can succeed in enabling the average citizen to sacrifice his liberty in the way that it is sacrificed in religious communities. It is liberty which is more prized than anything else by men, especially at the present day and in a country like ours; and the restraints placed on it by government are very slight with us. But Socialism increases them very decidedly. The only way in which the obedience of a religious community can be observed is by regarding it as paid to God through His representative in the Superior; and Socialism does not present this motive to us. Religion is a side issue with it; a man may be religious if he wishes; it does not undertake to prevent him from being so; but certainly religion has nothing to do, in the socialist idea, with his duties in the State.

If we now consider the remaining one of the three virtues of the religious community life, that of absolute chastity, it is quite evident that this does not and cannot form a part of the socialist plan, unless, as among some non-Catholic communities like the Shakers, inviting all to join them, it were proposed as a fitting preparation for the end of the human race. Socialism may then be considered as being the community life on the basis of the other two virtues of poverty and obedience; in other words, of the renunciation of individual ownership and of individual will. But even with these it is quite arduous, as has been seen.

It may be presumed that for absolute chastity, Socialism would substitute the married state, as the world in general does now, always has, and always will. If it would abandon the idea of union for life in marriage, that of course would be more than enough to make any approval of it by the Church utterly impossible. We would need nothing more to show why it could not be accepted by us. We assume, then, that Socialism is to include marriage and the natural existence of families.

But here, again, a difficulty immediately arises, namely, who is to have charge of the family? The logical conclusion of the socialistic scheme would seem to be that the ownership of it, as of property, must reside in the State. It must be supposed to belong to the State, though perhaps under the principal care of the parents. But radically, like everything else, it must be a State asset, and to be taken care of as the State directs. And this seems to be the usual socialist view, as actually held by those who thoroughly develop that view or theory.

Now here we have an irreconcilable difference between the teaching of Socialism and of the Church. In the Catholic view it is to the parents, not to the State, that the direction of the children is divinely committed. Even in case of the neglect of the parents, or of their death, the State has no absolute right over them. It only has the right to see that they are brought up to be good citizens, not to injure the State or their fellow-citizens, and to obey the laws of the State when these are not contrary to the law of God. It must leave them to the control of the parents in other matters, as long as they need such control. They are the natural guardians of their own children, and the State must not take this natural and Divine right to guardianship from them.

The parents are responsible to the State, in some matters, as has just been said; but beside this the Catholic view is that Catholic parents are also responsible to the Church in other matters, particularly in regard to the religious instruction of their children. And it is here that practically a very serious Catholic objection to Socialism comes in.

This difficulty is felt even now to a great extent in the exaggerated ideas prevalent as to the functions of the State in this matter. And it would, in all probability, be much increased by the still more exaggerated idea of the State which is inherent in the socialistic theory.

Religion, with us, is not simply a matter of sentiment, to be felt or carried out by each individual according to his own private taste or preference. It is, in our view and belief, a system of truths and consequent practical duties coming to us as a revelation from God, through Christ and His Apostles, and committed to an organization founded by Divine authority, and known to us as the Church. We do not regard the Church as simply a society like others in general, based on mutual consent and for mutual convenience. No; we look upon it as a Divine association, into which Almighty God requires that all should enter, though many may be excused from sin in not doing so by ignorance of its claims. But for those who do belong to it, its orders, when acting in its proper spiritual sphere, are as binding as any laws of any State can be. And we cannot agree that any secular government has a right to override its orders, or ignore its laws, even though that government, personally, should be in the hands of men who are Catholics; and still greater, necessarily, is the difficulty if they happen to be men who do not recognize the claims of the Church, or who are, perhaps, infidels or even atheists.

There is no need that we should prove our position on this point at present, or even to show any reason for it; we are only saying what the fact is with regard to our belief in this matter; and why, finding considerable difficulty as we do from the opposition to this belief generally prevailing now, we cannot be inclined to accept a system like Socialism, in which the difficulties, owing to the overweening claims of the secular authority under the system, would become much greater than they now are. The probability, of course, with regard to the last point, concerning the family and children, is that the Socialist State would insist on Socialism being taught in all schools, and the Catholic view of the authority of the Church being entirely repudiated.

Let it be thoroughly understood then, that

I. The Church does not reject Socialism in the sense of a voluntary agreement as to the renunciation of individual property, or the sacrifice of the individual will among a certain number of chosen souls called by God to this renunciation and sacrifice, and specially aided by His grace to carry it out.

2. She does absolutely reject it as far as it teaches that individual ownership  is forbidden to all, or that the only right condition of things in any nation is the thorough subjection of all to the State system which Socialism proposes.

3. She holds that this system, so far from being the only right system, is fraught with great dangers to the liberty which we all so highly prize; since it is not in human nature, unaided by a special grace, to carry it out in the perfection necessary to its success; and that, therefore, corruption is sure to ensue in it, and the virtues which it requires to become tyranny on the part of some, slavery on that of others.

Now, in conclusion, it must also be thoroughly understood that the Church fully realizes the great evils which have grown up by the accumulation of immense amounts of wealth in the hands of a few, which threatens to reduce the great majority of mankind to a condition of practical slavery, and that she sympathizes with the advocates of Socialism in their desire to abolish these evils; but that she simply rejects this special plan as being primarily founded on statements as to human rights which are absolutely false, and which, if carried out in practice, would tend to increase these very evils rather than to abate them.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Socialism is Unscientific By Sir Guilford L. Molesworth 1918

Socialism is Unsound and Unscientific By Sir Guilford Lindsey Molesworth 1918

Modern Socialism is based on that unintelligible and self-contradictory work of Karl Marx, "Kapital," which Socialists have styled The Bible of Social Democracy and the scientific foundation of the modern Socialist Movement.

Socialists of the present day have disguised the ugly features and past failures of Socialism by dressing it up in the pretentious garb of "Scientific Socialism," although it is, in reality, absolutely unscientific. The very foundation-stone of it rests on the exploded Ricardian fallacy that labour alone produces wealth, or that all value is the product of labour. Professor Macleod, in his History of Economics, has completely demolished this fallacy. He wrote:— "In short, there never was any doctrine in science which has received such a crushing and overwhelming overthrow as that labour is the cause of value; hence, that system of economics which founds its ideas of wealth and value on labour is utterly fallacious" History of Economics, Macleod, p. 646).

Amongst the numerous cases Macleod has cited to prove the absurdity of this doctrine it will only be necessary to quote one:—

"If a lump of gold and a lump of clay were obtained by equal quantities of labour, they ought to be of equal value" (p. 642). In his endeavour to prove his contention Marx has involved himself in a network of confusion, from which, in his efforts to disentangle himself, he has floundered out of his depth, and has had recourse to pseudo-scientific nonsense. He has admitted, with regard to his theory of "labour power," that "this law clearly contradicts all experience based on appearance," and that the whole question is enveloped in mist. He argues:—

"A commodity appears at first sight a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. ... A commodity is, therefore, a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men's labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour. ... It is value, rather, that converts every product into a social hieroglyphic. Later on we try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of our own social products; for to stamp an object of utility as a value is just as much a social product as language. The recent scientific discovery that the products of labour, so far as they are values, are but material expressions of the human labour spent in their production, marks, indeed, an epoch in the development of the human race, but by no means dissipates the mist through which the social character of labour appears to us to be an objective character of the products themselves."

But, apart from the unsound character of Marx's Socialism, his assumption that labour is robbed by capital is absolutely disproved by the fact that the employers of labour in Great Britain have, for the past forty years, been struggling to avoid bankruptcy, and the majority of them have failed disastrously. Sir Benjamin Browne has shown from statistics, and from his own experience, that "labour gets about £10 for every £l that is paid in dividends to capital" (Industrial Peace, p. 11).


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Saturday, May 12, 2018

Taxation, Socialism & Pauperism by Sir Guilford L. Molesworth 1918

Taxation and Pauperism by Sir Guilford Lindsey Molesworth 1918

Bastiat, the French Economist, thus discriminates between the good and bad economist:—

"Between a good and a bad economist this constitutes the whole difference—the one takes account of the visible effect; the other takes account both of the effects which are seen, and also of those which it is necessary to foresee. Now this difference is enormous, for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favourable, the ultimate consequences are fatal, and the converse. Hence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good, which will be followed by a great evil to come; while the true economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil" (Essays on Political Economy, F. Bastiat, p. 48).

It seldom occurs to the Socialist legislator to look beneath the surface or beyond the superficial aspect of any measure. So great an authority as Professor Foxwell has rightly said:—

"The incidence of taxation is one of the most difficult problems of political economy."

Sidgwick, perhaps the most eminent modern economist, has pointed out that—

"We can only partially succeed in making the burden either of direct or indirect taxes fall where we desire; the burden is liable to be transferred to other persons when it is intended to remain where it is first imposed" (Principles of Political Economy, H. Sidgwick, p. 567).

This frustrates the great Socialist aim "to make the poor richer by making the rich poorer." But Socialists "rush in where angels fear to tread." It is a common saying of Socialist workers, "Pile it on the rates and taxes; it doesn't affect us"; but it does affect them vitally. Lecky said:—

"No truth of political economy is more certain than that a heavy taxation of capital, which starves industry and employment, will fall most severely on the poor" (Democracy and Liberty, vol. i, p. 287).

More than thirty years before the outbreak of the great war Herbert Spencer prophesied that pauperism and unemployment which have actually prevailed in the pre-war years from this cause. He pointed out how the enormous and ever-increasing rates and taxes, whether local or Imperial, falling chiefly on the employers of labour, must necessarily be met from the industries of those employers, and eventually by the working men themselves, either in decreased wages, or in shortage of employment. Since that time, until the outbreak of the war in 1914, local taxation had nearly tripled—Imperial taxation had increased 3.5 times, and was £20,000,000 in excess of the maximum taxation caused by the Boer War. This increase has been due to reckless taxation of the most useless and mischievous character, not for the benefit of the people, but for the purpose of gaining the Socialist votes. At the same time the very foundations of our national defence were being sapped by the short-sighted policy of military and naval retrenchment. The volunteer forces, several battalions of infantry, and batteries of artillery were discarded; the militia, the great source of recruiting, was wiped out; and experienced munition hands were dismissed from Woolwich Arsenal, and eagerly snapped up by Germany; coastguard stations were broken up and sold; and during the three years 1906-8 there had been a total reduction of naval expenditure amounting to nearly £19,000,000.

Shortly before the war the public awoke to the fact that a largely increased taxation would be needed to restore, to some extent, the national defences to that state of efficiency from which they had been allowed to lapse. It also became aware of the connection between taxation and pauperism. Mr. Gordon Harvey, the member for Rochdale, declared:—

"The slackening of trade to-day, the growth of short time and stinted wages, are largely due to the financial stringency of the moment which is largely brought about by the wicked extravagance of Governments."

It would have been well if the member for Rochdale had discovered this fact at an earlier period; for he and his fellow Radical members had been mainly responsible for that "wicked extravagance" from which the country has suffered. Professor Shield Nicholson, in a very able address to the British Association in 1894, attributed the decay of the nation to excessive taxation. He said:—

"By excessive taxation Rome ruined her provinces and shattered her Empire; France accumulated the miseries that broke into the great Revolution; Turkey laid waste the most fertile regions of the earth. At this moment Italy is smouldering with discontent, and even the vigorous colonies of Australia feel their progress checked through the immoderate expenditure of the State. . . . Stripped of all this disguise the very object of Socialism is to impose taxes beyond the limit ever attempted by the rapacity and audacity of Governments."

Monday, May 7, 2018

Free Speech Leads to Tolerance and Prosperity


J.S. Mill was an early advocate for our current view of free speech. He wrote, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

Such a rule is likely rhetorically supported in many liberal democracies, and beyond as Greg Lukianoff from FIRE notes, however there exist variations to the rule. European countries permit more restriction on speech and have adopted, by convention or individually, some form of prohibition on hate speech, no longer allowing it, unlike the American system. Hate speech as a category has always been difficult to define and is hued in ambiguity, but generally, it limits speech aimed at people based on race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. The United States has advocates intent on including this as a form of unprotected speech, a category which has been previously unrecognized.

Additionally, information from Pew shows a stronger culture of free speech in the United States when compared to other regions, reflecting the few narrow exceptions to free speech legally permitted now.
Not only is the United States an exception in terms of legal protections for free speech, a product of the First Amendment, but it embraces concepts of free speech to a greater degree than most of the rest of the world. This indicates a culture of free speech which is partially rooted in the legal protections but not solely.

To further illustrate the point that the U.S. is quite exceptional in regards to free speech, consider this survey which found the U.S. at the top of 38 nations.
What we see in the United States is not only a strong legal presumption in favor of speech but strong cultural and political acceptance of free speech as well.

The Consequences Thereof
I suspect John Stuart Mills got it right, or his version is close enough, as a matter of what speech policy yields the best outcomes. Consider this 2016 Pew Survey from their Global Attitudes Survey.
Among the polled countries, the U.S. didn’t just come out ahead, it came out far ahead with only seven percent saying that growing diversity makes the U.S. a worse place to live. This is not reported enough, in my opinion, despite the limited use.

At the very least one should be dubious, in light of this contrast, when claims are made that the U.S., unique in its level of speech protection and tolerance, should adopt the European model of speech laws.

The contrast in attitudes regarding tolerance is so stark that even the least tolerant in the United States appears to match more closely with the most tolerant in other countries. Consider the ideological analysis below parsing out how diversity is viewed within similar groups.
Though much in society, both the good and bad, is multi-factorial and difficult to parse, it appears that broad protection of free speech either does not impact tolerance or it does not increase intolerance, at least when compared to other regimes (this comparison is limited, and temporal comparisons would help draw a more certain conclusion). This may appear counter-intuitive, but I suspect two things occur that help increase tolerance as people are exposed to various types of speech, including offensive speech. First, they see the consequences of offensive or inappropriate speech and adjust their behavior accordingly. Second, they are exposed to various views and are better able to compare them against the alternatives.

The benefits of speech also extend to economic activity and human welfare. Many have extolled the value of speech in economic growth and human flourishing. From science to the exchange of ideas, to the changing view that commerce should be pursued rather than shunned- as it, as well as finance, were once viewed as second-rate economic activity, the ability to converse has been central to human progress.

Deidre McCloskey argues that rhetoric and dignity help explain the Great Enrichment, the period wherein real income, per head “increased, in the face of a rise in the number of heads, by a factor of seven — by anything from 2,500 to 5,000 percent.” No such event in history compares in terms of human flourishing. That this coincided with a rise of traditional liberal values, free speech included, appears to be more than coincidence.

Here the Great Enrichment is graphically represented from Tyler Cowen and Alex Taborrock’s Principles of Economics.
This should amaze you.
That speech is tied to economic development has an intuitive appeal when considering that much of wealth creation is done via communication. From prices to ideas, economic activity is often tied to speech, not only to find benefits but to avoid costs. Whether to find wares, move resources, or spur innovation, speech is crucial to economic growth and prosperity.

Sliding Away From Free Speech
There is a serious concern regarding the future of free speech in the United States. College campuses have become the battlegrounds for much of this cultural battle over how much speech should be permitted. Students and activists on the left and right use the Heckler’s Veto to shut down speech with which they disagree, creating an illiberal turn in our free speech culture.

This attitude appears to be spreading beyond a few activist groups. A 2015 survey found that 40% of Millennials would support bans on certain types of offensive (but currently protected) speech. This in contrast to the, somewhat ironically, low levels of support from the Silent generation, which suggests that about 12% of those polled would support bans on offensive speech.
I do want to be careful to not overstep here in concluding too much from this data. First, I think that since the concerns of the time, the so-called topic du jour, changes from one generation to another it seems likely that what once was considered a speech taboo is no longer relevant and no new taboo arose to replace the outdated one for older generations. Combined with other variables such as the perspective of having seen the positive benefits of speech, such as the end to the draft, perhaps attitudes drift towards more speech tolerance as time goes on.

Nonetheless, these illiberal anti-speech attitudes have been confirmed more recently by Brookings, where free speech was shown again to have unusually low support from college-age adults, not only endorsing bans on speech but demonstrating support for heckling and interrupting a speaker with whom you disagree.

Which again turns us to the culture of free speech. Free speech is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is a legal guarantee. Make no mistake, I believe the fact that the United States is foremost in speech protection and tolerance is closely related, a reflecting glass of sorts, where our moments of speech antagony are met with the protections of the First Amendment allowing us to culturally realign with the underlying message and expand tolerance towards each other and diverse, even wrong, ideas.
However, an illiberal cultural development is possible. We have seen it time again with free trade. Despite the overall benefits, we continue to find anti-trade attitudes bubbling up into our politics and policy, pushing away long-term economic development to alleviate the fears that a few may lose employment. Same is true for the Luddites among us who insist that efficiency and prosperity is a poor trade-off for a static employment regime and scarcity, and wage war against automation.
It is to our benefit to remember that speech brings varied, hard-to-replicate benefits to ourselves and society. Recently, the great American classic, To Kill A Mockingbird was banned in a Mississippi school district as the racially tinged language “[made] people uncomfortable.” It is hard to argue this book has not brought net benefits to many, including myself, despite the fact that it may induce discomfort. So it is with speech. Indeed there are downsides, but they are far outweighed by the benefits, which stretch unseen into our relatively prosperous lives.
Reprinted from Medium
James Devereaux
James Devereaux is an attorney.  All views are his own and not representative of employers or affiliations.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Economics Book Your Friends Might Actually Read


Ballve - Essentials of Economics (mobi)

Ballve - Essentials of Economics (epub)

Imagine you have a friend who is completely unfamiliar with economics. Imagine further that he says he is going to read exactly 99 pages of economics and no more. What would you suggest that he read? I submit that Faustino Ballve’s Essentials of Economics: A Brief Survey of Principles and Policies would be an excellent candidate. The book offers an admirable combination of breadth and brevity, and it delivers on everything promised in the title. The reader will come away with a brief survey of the essential principles of our beloved dismal science, a bit of familiarity with the intellectual genealogy of some of the ideas, and a handful of applications.
By the end of the book, the reader should be convinced that it is not possible to escape from economics.


At 99 pages of text, Essentials of Economics is a masterpiece of efficient communication of economic ideas. It is an ideal introduction to economic thinking for people who haven’t the time or the inclination to conquer such massive tomes as Human Action, Wealth of Nations, or Man, Economy, and State—though I suspect that the uninitiated reader with Essentials of Economics on his nightstand or e-reader for a few days will be much more likely to read further.

By the end of the book, the reader should be convinced that, in the words of Gustavo R. Velasco’s preface to the Spanish edition, “it is not possible to escape from economics.” Ballve’s method follows in the tradition of the economists working then (and now) in the tradition of Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises. He begins from a set of very simple postulates—scarcity and action—and deduces from these a body of propositions that help us make sense of the world around us. Ballve writes with a passion and verve that makes sometimes-dry concepts come to life. In the course of ten short chapters, he explains to the reader what economics studies, how markets work, what entrepreneurs do, how income flows to factors of production, the origins of money and credit, the origins of business cycles, and the fallacies of protectionism, nationalism, socialism, and interventionism.
While reading, I was continually impressed with the problems we face as teachers, scholars, economic communicators, and citizens. Research on public opinion and public policy—like Bryan Caplan’s 2007 The Myth of the Rational Voter, for example—suggests that the fundamental problem with economic knowledge is not that many voters don’t understand the fine points, nuances, and subtleties of sophisticated macroeconomic models. Rather, from all appearances, it looks like voters take issues with the most basic ideas in economics: people respond to incentives, resources are scarce, and trade creates wealth. Without getting bombastic or unnecessarily strident, Ballve reminds us how important these principles are in a translation that absolutely sparkles.

Much of what Ballve wrote will seem obvious today, and some readers might find his criticism of econometrics somewhat dated. It is important to remember the context in which Ballve was writing. The book first appeared in Mexico in the 1950s and in English in the early 1960s. The consensus at the time, even among professional economists, was that Mises and Hayek had lost the socialist calculation debate, and Keynesian macroeconomics ruled the roost. Ballve stepped into this environment and produced a very short, power-packed volume that offers an unapologetic defense of markets and liberty that relies not on a stubborn refusal to remove ideological blinders but on a nuanced understanding of the sciences of human action.

For the uninitiated reader, it is a fantastic introduction. For the expert, it is a valuable refresher.


Speaking of which, readers familiar with Mises’s Human Action and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations will find much in this book that they recognize; indeed, there were times when I felt like I was actually reading Mises or Smith. For the uninitiated reader, it is a fantastic introduction. For the expert, it is a valuable refresher. For everyone, it is a valuable addition to any reading list. I expect to return to my notes on it quite frequently.

In short, Essentials of Economics is a book that any economist would be proud to have written. It offers a valuable corrective to the errors that inform too many policies. If we take Ballve’s lessons to heart, we can perhaps fix some of the damage done by policies made by those who either do not understand economics or reject it outright. At the very least, we can avoid making bad situations worse. That Essentials of Economics has not received more attention than it has is curious, if not scandalous. I hope that this book can gain a wider appreciation. The world will certainly be better for it.
Art Carden
Art Carden
Art Carden is an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business. In addition, he is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network. Visit his website.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

5 Things Marx Wanted to Abolish [Besides Private Property]


One of the remarkable things about The Communist Manifesto is its honesty.

Karl Marx might not have been a very good guy, but he was refreshingly candid about the aims of Communism. This brazenness, one could argue, is baked into the Communist psyche.

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims,” Marx declared in his famous manifesto. “They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.”

Like Hitler’s Mein Kampf, readers are presented with a pure, undiluted vision of the author’s ideology (dark as it may be).

Marx’s manifesto is famous for summing up his theory of Communism with a single sentence: “Abolition of private property.” But this was hardly the only thing the philosopher believed must be abolished from bourgeois society in the proletariat's march to utopia. In his manifesto, Marx highlighted five additional ideas and institutions for eradication.

1. The Family
Marx admits that destroying the family is a thorny topic, even for revolutionaries. “Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists,” he writes.  
But he said opponents of this idea fail to understand a key fact about the family.

“On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie,” he writes.
Best of all, abolishing the family would be relatively easy once bourgeois property was abolished. “The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital.”

2. Individuality
Marx believed individuality was antithetical to the egalitarianism he envisioned. Therefore, the “individual” must “be swept out of the way, and made impossible.”

Individuality was a social construction of a capitalist society and was deeply intertwined with capital itself.     

“In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality,” he wrote. “And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.”

3. Eternal Truths
Marx did not appear to believe that any truth existed beyond class struggle.

“The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class,” he argued. “When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie.”

He recognized how radical this idea would sound to his readers, particularly since Communism does not seek to modify truth, but to overthrow it. But he argued these people were missing the larger picture.
“‘Undoubtedly,’ it will be said, ‘religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.
There are, besides, eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc., that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience.’
What does this accusation reduce itself to? The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs.”
4. Nations
Communists, Marx said, are reproached for seeking to abolish countries. These people fail to understand the nature of the proletariat, he wrote.
“The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”
Furthermore, largely because of capitalism, he saw hostilities between people of different backgrounds receding. As the proletariat grew in power, there soon would be no need for nations, he wrote.
“National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.”
5. The Past
Marx saw tradition as a tool of the bourgeoisie. Adherence to the past served as a mere distraction in proletariat’s quest for emancipation and supremacy.
“In bourgeois society,” Marx wrote, “the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past.”
Reprinted from Intellectual Takeout
Jon Miltimore
Jon Miltimore
Jonathan Miltimore is a senior editor at Intellectual Takeout.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Economics Book Your Friends Might Actually Read


Ballve - Essentials of Economics (mobi)

Ballve - Essentials of Economics (epub)

Imagine you have a friend who is completely unfamiliar with economics. Imagine further that he says he is going to read exactly 99 pages of economics and no more. What would you suggest that he read? I submit that Faustino Ballve’s Essentials of Economics: A Brief Survey of Principles and Policies would be an excellent candidate. The book offers an admirable combination of breadth and brevity, and it delivers on everything promised in the title. The reader will come away with a brief survey of the essential principles of our beloved dismal science, a bit of familiarity with the intellectual genealogy of some of the ideas, and a handful of applications.
By the end of the book, the reader should be convinced that it is not possible to escape from economics.


At 99 pages of text, Essentials of Economics is a masterpiece of efficient communication of economic ideas. It is an ideal introduction to economic thinking for people who haven’t the time or the inclination to conquer such massive tomes as Human Action, Wealth of Nations, or Man, Economy, and State—though I suspect that the uninitiated reader with Essentials of Economics on his nightstand or e-reader for a few days will be much more likely to read further.

By the end of the book, the reader should be convinced that, in the words of Gustavo R. Velasco’s preface to the Spanish edition, “it is not possible to escape from economics.” Ballve’s method follows in the tradition of the economists working then (and now) in the tradition of Carl Menger and Ludwig von Mises. He begins from a set of very simple postulates—scarcity and action—and deduces from these a body of propositions that help us make sense of the world around us. Ballve writes with a passion and verve that makes sometimes-dry concepts come to life. In the course of ten short chapters, he explains to the reader what economics studies, how markets work, what entrepreneurs do, how income flows to factors of production, the origins of money and credit, the origins of business cycles, and the fallacies of protectionism, nationalism, socialism, and interventionism.
While reading, I was continually impressed with the problems we face as teachers, scholars, economic communicators, and citizens. Research on public opinion and public policy—like Bryan Caplan’s 2007 The Myth of the Rational Voter, for example—suggests that the fundamental problem with economic knowledge is not that many voters don’t understand the fine points, nuances, and subtleties of sophisticated macroeconomic models. Rather, from all appearances, it looks like voters take issues with the most basic ideas in economics: people respond to incentives, resources are scarce, and trade creates wealth. Without getting bombastic or unnecessarily strident, Ballve reminds us how important these principles are in a translation that absolutely sparkles.

Much of what Ballve wrote will seem obvious today, and some readers might find his criticism of econometrics somewhat dated. It is important to remember the context in which Ballve was writing. The book first appeared in Mexico in the 1950s and in English in the early 1960s. The consensus at the time, even among professional economists, was that Mises and Hayek had lost the socialist calculation debate, and Keynesian macroeconomics ruled the roost. Ballve stepped into this environment and produced a very short, power-packed volume that offers an unapologetic defense of markets and liberty that relies not on a stubborn refusal to remove ideological blinders but on a nuanced understanding of the sciences of human action.

For the uninitiated reader, it is a fantastic introduction. For the expert, it is a valuable refresher.


Speaking of which, readers familiar with Mises’s Human Action and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations will find much in this book that they recognize; indeed, there were times when I felt like I was actually reading Mises or Smith. For the uninitiated reader, it is a fantastic introduction. For the expert, it is a valuable refresher. For everyone, it is a valuable addition to any reading list. I expect to return to my notes on it quite frequently.

In short, Essentials of Economics is a book that any economist would be proud to have written. It offers a valuable corrective to the errors that inform too many policies. If we take Ballve’s lessons to heart, we can perhaps fix some of the damage done by policies made by those who either do not understand economics or reject it outright. At the very least, we can avoid making bad situations worse. That Essentials of Economics has not received more attention than it has is curious, if not scandalous. I hope that this book can gain a wider appreciation. The world will certainly be better for it.
Art Carden
Art Carden
Art Carden is an Associate Professor of Economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business. In addition, he is a Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics, a Senior Fellow with the Beacon Center of Tennessee, and a Research Fellow with the Independent Institute. He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network. Visit his website.
This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.