October 22, 2014

Archbishop Demetrios’ Encyclical for the Beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year

Aug 24, 2009 | Protocol 63/09 | September 1, 2009

Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment

To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We give thanks to God for the beginning of this Ecclesiastical New Year and for His abundant blessings, which fill our hearts with gratitude, deepen our faith, and strengthen our souls. The date of September 1 on our calendars marks the beginning of many things in our lives. For some, it presents the beginning of another academic year filled with worthy goals and challenges. For others, it is the return from summer vacation with refreshed bodies and minds, and renewed commitment to vocation and responsibilities. For those who work in agriculture, this date marks the beginning of the agrarian year and the tasks of planting, nurturing, and harvesting.

For Orthodox Christians, September 1 begins a new liturgical year in which we participate in the life of the Holy Church through Her divine services. September 1 is also the date that has been designated by our Holy Ecumenical Patriarchate as the Day for the Protection of our Natural Environment. For more than one reason, the joining of our observance of this Day with the beginning of the Ecclesiastical New Year, is significant, as it guides us in understanding the important relationship between our world created by God and our Orthodox Christian faith.

First, as human beings, it is within our world that we experience communion with God through our worship in the divine services of the Church. Our natural environment calls us to be in communion with God and with others. God brought the natural world into existence out of nothingness and He then created humankind within the natural environment for a harmonious coexistence and fellowship. While this harmony was interrupted through the sin and disobedience of man, our God, out of His great love for us, entered into His creation as flesh and blood in order to redeem us and all that is under the bondage of sin and death, restoring the harmonious fellowhip.

Second, through the liturgical life of the Church we are not only strenghthened in our journey of life but we also become aware of the great spiritual significance of our natural environment. This happens through the usage of purely material elements, as the bread and the wine, in the most holy Mystery of the Divine Eucharist which as the Body and Blood of Christ unites us with God Himself. Here, the spiritual and physical relationship is significant. We are both physical and spiritual beings, created for life, and blessed with the ability, unique only to human beings, to worship our Creator within a natural environment that not only provides for our basic physical needs, but also enables us to exprerience perfect communion with God.

Finally, our liturgical life and our life in the world cannot be considered as separate spheres of existence, but as one realm of living and relationship. In the services of the Church, we are called to liturgy, to a collective work as a people that will be our vocation for eternity. Within the Church, we strive for deeper communion with God, and we nurture our relationships of faith and love with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our natural environment is also dependent upon our faith inspired work as a people, specifically as stewards of what God has created. We have been called to oversee and protect the natural environment. This requires cooperation with others in a spirit of love and fellowhsip. It also requires that we appreciate the impact of our actions and inactions, and that we cherish the beauty, function, and purpose of all that God has created, consistent with the manner by which we invoke His holy name in our worship of Him.

Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is on this day of the inauguration of this Ecclesiastical New Year, it is at this time, that all of us are called to think seriously about what St. Paul said to the Corinthians: behold, now is the happily acceptable time, behold now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2). Let us then, hear this apostolic saying as a call to an enhanced participation in the liturgical life of our Church, to a renewed relationship to our natural environment, and to a deeper understanding of the preciousness of the time given to us by our God and Creator.

With paternal love in Christ,

† D E M E T R I O S
Archbishop of America

Comments

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    Chris Banescu says:

    I wasn’t aware that we’re supposed to have a “renewed relationship to our natural environment.” Not sure exactly how we can have a “relationship” with rocks, streams, clouds, the ocean, fish, ants, trees, etc..? I thought God gave us dominion and control of our “natural environment” and we’re supposed to be wise stewards and masters of it. Christ told us to have a renewed relationship with other humans (our neighbor) and with God. He showed us how we are supposed to relate to others and use “nature” and the material goods He has blessed us with to the glory of God and to the care of our neighbor.

    Anyone else feel this statement seems a little “off.”

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    Andrew says:

    You know I really did like the 4th of July Epistle but this epistle is a dissappointment. The whole Green Orthodoxy movement is going to self-destruct for a variety of reasons.

    Another disappointment is the following post on the goa blog about how to honor the Successor of St. Andrew

    http://blogs.goarch.org/?paged=4

    August, 10 2009
    Chronicling my environmental cuts
    Filed under: General — Theo Nicolakis @ 5:09 pm

    I’ve embarked on the journey of further trying to reduce my family’s impact on the environment.

    For years we have been recycling, I’ve replaced most of my lights with energy efficient fluorescents, cut aerosol products, etc.

    In honor of the forthcoming visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I have been trying to think of another project and chronicle my journey.

    I think I have it:

    I am going to audit electric use in my house and energy loss. I’ve researched some products and purchased them at my own expense.

    I’ll be posting some pics and progress in the coming weeks. Thanks for following my journey! I hope my experiences can help others learn about the message of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our Orthodox Christian Faith.

    For more check out:
    Ecumenical Patriarchate
    Environmental Symposia led by His All Holiness

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I believe that Orthodoxs don’t have to be either conservative or liberterian in their politics on the enviroment. But, I think the leadership takes its beliefs from the enviromential left just like liberal Catholics or liberal mainline Protestants. It would be interesting if some of them took a position on this issue out of the mainstream.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Chris, the EP’s approach to environmental issues is ‘off’ as you say but that does not mean that there is not a certain level of interaction between us and the rest of creation, an inter-relationship We have the role of sanctifying the rest of the creation as we allow ourselves to be sanctified. Dominion is not so much about control as it is order, care and improvement. The Divine command is that we dress and keep the earth, to be fruitful.

    Even the rocks are known by God, not as unique living souls, but as specific types each type with its own place in the order of things. With the Fall that order was disrupted and as St. Paul said, “All of creation groans and is in travail…”

    The danger lies in concentrating on the ‘environment’ as if it is a thing in itself paying more attention to it than to our own sins; our own need for mercy, forgiveness and holiness. The ‘environment’ will be just fine if we are are right with God. The mistake is abandoning the witness of the Gospel with the singleminded concentration on union with Christ revealed there and replacing the Gospel with ’causes’ that can be managed by external means such as government policies, economics and laws. Christ is replaced with the nothing, love of God with ideology even idolatry, life with death.

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    Douglas says:
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    Chris Banescu says:

    Oh no, not SVOTS too!

    How about some seminars on:
    – facing, challenging, and fighting evil in society and organizations
    – practical ethics in leadership and day-to-day activities of institutions (Walk the Talk)
    – defending the innocent and preciousness of life
    – being “salt of the earth” in our culture
    – challenging the myth and lies of “macro evolution”
    – truth of the Creator evident in Nature and intelligence permeating all life
    – identifying the lies and corruption of “popular” culture and spotting the anti-Christian bias in schools, colleges, universities, and the media (news, movies, documentaries, and TV shows)

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Maybe we should worry less about Orthodox Unity and more about maintaining fidelity to Orthodox theology and praxis. SVOTS is also formalizing ties with the politely called “Oriental Orthodox” who used to be called Monophysite heretics.

    Not that I’m in favor of heresy hunting, but it seems a bit disingenous that we can now perceive that the 1600 year separation was just a matter of language interpretation that did not really mean anything after all. Especially when no one really speaks the languages in question anymore.

    But what do I know in the face of such academic luminaries?

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    Chrys says:

    While we need to have good policies, we also need to remember that these policies are (we hope) just our best ideas — and our “best ideas” are often a stench before God. (They also usually express our desire to exercise control.)
    As Christians, we serve a God Whose Will transcends anything we can think or imagine. Not only does He want to accomplish more than our “policies” contemplate, His grace is far more effective than our efforts. Even the best policies can not heal the heart, transfigure the soul or tame the wild beasts. Yet someone whose heart and soul are transfigured will in fact be a source of blessing far beyond anything contemplated by such policies. As a vessel of the divine energies, a saint will be an effective instrument to effect God’s Will and plan for a transfigured cosmos. By contrast, for all of our great ideas and collaborative efforts, we who are not saints will flail ineffectually, apart from God’s hidden purposes.
    If then the Church simply focused on its primary mission (which no one else can do) – that is, participation in the life of the Trinity – and less on the stuff that everyone else is already doing, it would accomplish so much. It would certainly accomplish far, far more than could ever be realized by taking up the mess of pottage on display in the political trends of the day.
    The Church’s “distraction” by such interests borders on the abandonment of its mission. If we have indeed found the pearl of great price, it is absurd to set it aside for baubles of mere passing interest.

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    Pavlos says:

    If it is a “pottage” of “political trend” to call for holy treatment of Creation by humanity in the manner in which God in human flesh would act towards Creation, then the Church should also stop the “distraction” of opposing abortion, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. Of course such is deceived “logic” and foolishness, for Christ Himself says that when we do for the “least” we do unto Him. Creation is the “least” of all (subject to humanity) and without Creation in a healthy state of ecological balance, there will be, at some point in time (future generations: children, grandchildren, etc.) no means for human provision for the hungry, naked, etc. (no ag soil for food, fiber crops for clothing, forests for building material, potable water, etc.)

    To abuse these things created by the Word of God from nothing, for the Life of Riley based on such absurdities as fast food burgers (for which rainforests are destroyed in order to raise cattle) is outrageous. No moral person would act in such a way or oppose those who call for an alternative to such behavior, which is what Archbishop Demetrios is doing in calling for a “new” relationship to Creation as opposed to the centuries long “old” way of abusing Creation for short term sensual jollies.

    Real senselessness (Christian dispassion) does not live by the senselessness of such sensuality. While All Creation was created by the Word of God and intrinsically contains such word (logismoi) as essence of its being as evident in Adam “naming” all creatures, humanity was created from within Creation, from created matter itself (dust of the Earth). That dust (dirt, soil) is nothing less then finely weathered rock particles, so therein is a direct relationship between human and rock that can only be denied as anthropological impossibility.

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    cynthia curran says:

    I think that the main problem is moderate, or conservative or libertarian christians have not known how to handle the enviroment situation with liberals or leftest. Sure, there are business that care about profit more than the enviroment-criticized from the left. On the other hand, the former communist countries had enviromential problems as well, since the government was interested in a fast-tract industrical develeopment, no matter what was the consequences. As someone here states, we don’t live in a perfect world, so there is a certain trade off between humans and animals. A small fish in an agricultural area who is protected could prevent the harvest of food for humans. Also, I read that protecting a certain primate in Africa is made it difficult for some hunter and gathers in the same area of africa to get the own food and be productive.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Pavlos, you are, I fear, mistaking means for the end. It is a divine command that we dress and keep the earth, one of the first we were given by our creator and central to our purpose as His creatures.

    The problem is when, as in leftist environmental ideolgy, founded on anti-Chrisitian principles, man is displaced from his central role as steward and microcosm and becomes the problem. Many ‘environmentalist’ hold such ideas, often clothed in neo-pagan, pantheist even Marxist rhetoric and philosophy It is these types of ideas which the EP seems to endorse, albeit using more Christian language. IMO we can have no part with these methods and ideas and remain true to the faith and Holy Tradition.

    Of course neither should we endorse misuse of the fact of our dominion over earth to mean that we can and should do anything we want any time we want as some Protestants seem to do. That is a twisting of both the Christian Incarnational understanding and the principals of capitalism that places the material creation into a type of slavery simply for our pleasure. This manner of thinking is also a violation of the Christian paradigm.

    The Church should speak out and act, but from a true Christian foundation. Poltical policies that are patched together to provide power and money to the favored ones are not the way to go. Unfortunately, either due to ignorace, or worse, the EP seems to have thrown in his lot with using the policies of failed poltical and economic ideologies as the proper foundation of ecological action. In so doing he has squandered and ignored the riches of Holy Tradtion and spiritual reality to which you yourself refer.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, Protestants are not the only culprits on the enviroment. Also, Catholic Countries and Orthodox countries as well have not always treated the enviroment as well as they should. But in many countries pollution is less severe than 40 years ago,poor countries can’t afford to be as enviromentally aware as richer ones. There are many Catholic and some Orthodox Countries that are still poor compared to the west or the US or Japan.

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    Pavlos says:

    Michael, if you think Archbishop Demetrios or others are acting in pseudo-Christian, political ideological fashion, I suggest you contact them directly and make manly accusations there instead of cowardly ones here. Even better, I suggest you practice some serious asceticism, and see what surfaces in your same “mind” during contemplation about your Self regarding your own tendencies to mask political ideologies with “christian” hypocrisy. After all, none of us is without sin, and the finger we point at others most likely turns about to point at ourselves. Make sure there’s no beam in your own eye before picking at the spec in Archbishop Demetrios’s or the EP’s by refraining from any accusations until your asceticism and dispassion exceeds theirs and everyone elses. Have you advanced to such great heights of Grace energized spiritual progress that you know the minds of others and can “judge” their motives so perfectly as you presume to be able to do? Don’t try to convince me, convince your priest and Bishop, then those whom you accuse.

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    Greg says:

    Interestingly enough, in the same week the Pope also spoke – briefly – on the environment.

    “… (S)ince the natural environment is given by God to everyone,…our use of it entails a personal responsibility towards humanity as a whole, particularly towards the poor and towards future generations… (L)eaders (are obliged) to act jointly, respecting the law and promoting solidarity with the weakest regions of the world… (I)t is essential that the current model of global development be transformed through a greater, and shared, acceptance of responsibility for creation: this is demanded not only by environmental factors, but also by the scandal of hunger and human misery.”

    The poor are never far from the Holy Father’s thoughts.

    I think that the UN climate change meeting he is referring to is this one: http://en.cop15.dk/

    Greg

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/audiences/2009/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20090826_en.html

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    Greg says:

    RE 13|Pavlos|August 31, 2009|5:05am. “Have you advanced to such great heights of Grace energized spiritual progress that you know the minds of others and can ‘judge’ their motives so perfectly as you presume to be able to do?”

    This is constant challenge.

    We certainly can judge and criticize what people DO. And we can have opinions about what they should DO. (Hopefully we are using a Christian standard.) We cannot, however, know – with any real certainty – and therefore we cannot judge, their motives.

    (And that knife cuts both ways.)

    Greg

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 13. Pavlos, finger-wagging, scolding, empty-headed moralizing — anything that substitutes for real engagement with real ideas — is called out on this blog.

    We are not really interested in your moral scoldings. We are interested in understanding why hold the position that you do, but expect to be challenged and expect to defend it.

    Finger wagging is not an argument.

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    Ryan Close says:

    I think that Pavlos is right to call us to “holy treatment of Creation.” If it was God’s love for the world that made the Son of God become Incarnate for us then it makes no sense to deny that world in order to reach heaven.

    But the capital “C” is a bit suspicious of a latent nature worship. Creation is not God and is not an object of worship. The Archbishop and the Patriarch are not wrong in pointing out the need for a sacramental worldview especially impacting our relationship with the visible world, but perhaps they are presenting it in a rather superficial way full of catch phrases. All the same let’s be slow to anger!

    As Michael Bauman pointed out an Orthodox Environmental Theory would not displace man as cosmic priest, nor elevate the “creation” above what it is, the love of God made physical, made manifest. Man as priest is meant to unite all creation in a cosmic hymn / sacrifice of thanksgiving.

    The atheist does not see through the world to its source. For him the world is dark and opaque. He eats because food is fuel for the body engine. Consequently he thinks of humans as machines or animals. Eating is not something special, but neither is anything else. As Christians we know this debases the dignity of man as the image of God and devalues human life.

    Our lives are dependent on the death of other beings. So you might say that we daily break the bread and drink the blood of creation. One must receive these sacrificial lives in a properly reverent manner. When we do this reverently, knowingly, and skillfully it may be called a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, and destructively it is a desecration. In so doing we condemn our selves to spiritual alienation and others to want and need. In needlessly destroying creation we fail to pass on to those after us what we have received, a happy and whole world to enjoy and in which to receive the life of God. This is a violent blaspheme.

    When we receive the life of the world from God reverently two things happen. First, a right relationship with God is restored where by we acknowledge God as our Creator, Giver, and Lover. Our relationship to him is also restored as thankful beloved creatures. Second, our original edenic vocation from before the fall as priests is restored or recapitulated in Christ, whose once for all sacrifice on the cross for our salvation enables us to make a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. When we do this on a cosmic scale, the whole cosmos is being transfigured with us.

    This is the appropriate Orthodox and patristic basis for a non-superficial non-sentimental Orthodox Enviro-Ethic. Anything less than all creation united in Christ to offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is sub-Orthodox. Environmentalism for the sake of the environment alone is sub-Orthodox.

    The Biblical and Patristic Roots of Agrarian Philosophy

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    schuyler mccurdy says:

    I think the real problem is cultures are changing whether we like it or not. The unity of man and earth cannot be denied. Truth. To say by affirming creation we are slipping into some nature worship I say go for it. I do not believe it is a God but it is a creature created “very good”. Deserving of our care, concscious communion, enjoyment, and dare I say veneration. I believe todays world is no different than the days of the fathers. We all have zeal but tis undiscerning. Today I believe the biggest problem we have in our churches is a type of gnosticism. Especially in our judgementalism towards our Holy Fathers. Our Fathers in general good and bad. Also sinful is the repungance of people in there obvious repulsion towards dialogue of enviromentalism, ecumenism, modernism, multi-culturalism. All these things come from God as all things do for good or bad. The Gnostics also worried about “just there sins” as if they only existed in there heads and as if it did not effect this wonderful creation or we were not responsible what we or our fathers did towards it, This is also true for heresies, racisms, enimities betwwen men .One last question for the liberals and the conservative, Did liberalism baptise you, were you baptised in conservatism. Thanks be to God I did not baptise any of you. What does John prophesie about those who destroy the Earth. I am not judging any of you only the things you put in our world. I.E your words! be careful how you teach! children as for me leave me be I bear the wounds of christ.

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    schuyler mccurdy says:

    Either way even if I am wrong. Love defeats all, knowledge puffeth up but Love conquers all.

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    Andrew says:

    Lets not forget a classic “Green Patriarch” moment – the debacle in Havana Cuba where the EP called Fidel Castro an environmentalist and yet could not find the time to visit political prisoners or acknowledge Fidel Castro’s human rights abuses.

    Orthodox Christians do not need a “Green Patriarch” they need the successor of St. Andrew the Apostle who will carry the cross of the Faith both in season and out of season.

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    Ryan Close says:

    That is most excellently true. If we get the Gospel right, if we love the liturgy and preserve the Parodisis of Christ we all this will follow. My description of the liturgical theology of modern industrial society as violent blaspheme is only a diagnosis. We should focus on the preaching of the Gospel and blaspheme of all kinds will diminish organically. Focusing on Green for Green sake is a distortion of the Parodisis, for the Tradition says that Christ exactly became like us so that we could become exactly like he is, a god by grace, except identity of nature. Theosis has cosmic implications, but if we don’t preach the Gospel we are guilty of the blood of the martyrs. And as with any fanaticism, an unbalanced obsession with any one thing will lead to compromises. There is nothing a fanatic won’t do in pursuit of their single-minded agenda. Orthodoxy is the absence of one-sidedness!

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Ryan, Schuler, you comments are so vague they are impenetrable. Statements like this:

    …but if we don’t preach the Gospel we are guilty of the blood of the martyrs…

    …don’t help either. It doesn’t mean anything, at least it has no concrete contextual meaning although is has an appearance of — what? -moral profundity?

    Or…

    What does John prophesie (sic) about those who destroy the Earth…

    Well, I am not sure John prophesies anything about destroying the earth, at least in the context you employ. Care to fill us in?

    Lot’s of thunder here guys, but not much light. Got to focus.

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    Ryan Close says:

    Exactly, the martyrs gave their lives for the Gospel that Christ became exactly like us so that we could become exactly like him through union with Christ in Baptism and Holy Eucharist. They did not give their lives for some vague notion of “communion with Creation.”

    Now the Gospel that the Word of God has been enfleshed to reveal and unite fallen mankind into the life of the Holy Three-Personed God by recreating the world on the Life-giving Cross certainly has implications that deny dualism and gnosticism. The teachings of the Holy Fathers give definite priestly responsibilities to all Christians. As Fr Hopko says, if we belong to Christ we are responsible for the whole world, we pray for the whole world. For Christians who see through the world, knowing it as the love of God manifest and made physical we can never abide the thoughtless and clumsily destruction of the world and living things because our vocation is to unite the world in a cosmic sacrifice of Thanksgiving united to Christ’s one oblation on the Cross.

    That said, if we are distracted from the Gospel by a vague pagan environmentalism to the extent that we neglect to tell the world that they must be healed of sin and united to Christ, then haven’t we betrayed the martyrs. They died for the Truth that God and man had been concretely united in the Person of the Incarnate Logos and that creation had been recreated on the Cross. They did not die because some business men were polluting the air and rivers. If the business men became Christians they would not blaspheme in such a way, treating the world and living things as machines to be exploited. They would enter into a caring stewardship with the gifts God has given us. It is a matter of priority.

    As for ecumenism, one must distinguish between secular ecumenism and righteous ecumenism. Secular ecumenism is the dismissal of disagreements about beliefs as if belief was actually a bad thing that disrupts the only virtue called “unity.” The Fathers of the Church call this “false union” because it is not based on love of Christ and the Truth that can heal people of sin and unite them fully to Christ. It places an equal sign between true and false. Thus righteous ecumenism is a sacrificial witness that only in the One Holy Catholic and Orthodox Apostolic Church can one find the the Truth, the True Faith, the fullness of salvation. Anything less than telling non-Orthodox christians the truth that they must join the One Holy Church is not born of a godly love for souls but out of a humanistic desire to be tolerant and not to offend anyone so that you will be liked. Telling the non-Orthodox that there is only One Holy Church is not popular, but it is the essence of Patristic ecumenical witness.

    The problem is not liberalism, conservatism, environmentalism, modernism, or multi-culturalism. It is the “ism” which is the absolutizing of these things above everything else in one’s life so that a “ism” becomes an idol.

    Schuyler, I hope you do not see my comments as “puffed up knowledge.” We agree, but I do not insist on my “rightness.” I am aware of the dangers of the heresy of “super-correct-ness.” There is one thing that matters, becoming like Christ our God by Grace and thus Christ bearers to a hurting world. Don’t we agree?

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Pavlos, if I thought for a moment that any hierach would even deign to notice me I would have no problem talking directly to them. That’s part of the problem too, they only talk to people they already agree with (unlike here). They are isolated in their ‘power’ instead of connected in their servanthood.

    I agree that true Christian ascesis is the only way to heal and re-order the natural world. That is the Gospel message. No government policy ever conceived leads to Christian ascesis. All governmental authority is founded on at least the implied threat of coercion. Every single ‘environmental’ policy I have ever seen is coercive. That is the opposite of Christian ascesis which is a willing submission to the love of Christ in the Church. Among other things such ascesis is a recognition that the grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for us physically as well as spiritually.

    It is as we pray that we are connected to each other and the rest of creation, including the rocks. Psalm 103/104 is indicative. We do not connect by forcing people to drive only certain types of cars, etc.

    As fallen human beings, we are all tempted to the sin of worshiping the created thing more than the Creator. All ideology is evidence of that. We worship the creation of our own minds rather than God. The first chapter of Romans speaks eloquently to our condition. Again, only the grace of God allows us to overcome such false worship.

    Thank you for the reminder that I am indeed a sinful man, an unworthy servant of our God and I ask that you forgive any hurt I have caused you. I would be interested in knowing what specifically you find ideological in my posts. It is not often easy to see one’s own transgressions.

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    George Michaloupulos says:

    well-said Michael. The hierarchs for the most part and for the longest time, have insulated themselves from an honest and robust give-and-take with the laity. That’s why my respect for +Jonah increass daily. when he convened tht seminar last June, he invited honest critics and let them have their say. The recent interview by Frs Chris Metropulos and Mark Arey was nothing but an Alphonse et Gaston mutual admiration society dressed up in statistics selective history.

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    Ryan Close says:

    Michael, I didn’t say it as well as you did. What you said was brilliant.

    I too love + Jonah but I think we must not idolize him. I think his genius is exactly his humility, his deep identification with kenosis as a monk. He will be able to find a way to work with the other hierarchs in America and the world through kenosis and submission. Our struggle, as members of the OCA, will be to let him submit gracefully to Chambacy. When I first read it I was mad. As +Jonah said, there is already an Orthodox Church in America. My wife read the Chambacy decision and when I told her the end result was to create an autocephelous Church in America she said, “There already is an autocephelous Church in America.”

    The interview between Frs Chris Metropulos and Mark Arey actualy made me hopeful. Another thing that makes me hopeful is that John of Pergamon was the Chairman. Is this Bishop John Zizioulas? If so his Conciliar and Trinitarian theology of the Church is very close to that of St Ireneaus and just what we need.

    Additionally Bishop Hilarion of Volokolamsk has consistently defended a more sobornost view of the Orthodox Church. As a member of certain consultations with the Roman Catholics, he has told Papal delegates that his Church (MP) does not accept any definition of the Orthodox Church that defines it as “those local churches in communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople just as the Roman Catholic Church is all those local churches in communion with the Pope of Rome.” The Moscow Patriarchate does not accept that Ecumenical Patriarchate is the Pope of the Orthodox Church, or that communion with him is the criteria of Orthodoxy, nor that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has the sole power of granting autocephaly. So I see his presence as defending our (OCA) interests in pan-Orthodox meetings.

    The only thing that bothers me is ecumenism. Can any one tell me if there is really anything to worry about concerning ecumenism. The monks of Mt Athos seem to be telling us, the faithful, that it is time for us to make a stand. Furthermore, the future G&H council seems to want to change the Holy Tradition concerning fasting. If it does this it will be a Robber Council.

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    John Couretas says:

    Ryan (#17): Your article would have made my Yiayia (may her memory be eternal) laugh out loud.

    Because the natural world is organic, an industrial society wars against the Great Economy. An Agrarian economy offers man a more harmonious life integrating a robust family life, civility, heretage, personal responsibility, independence, liberal generocity, pride of place, and liberty. All of these are aspects or analogies of the natural world. For instance, the earth naturaly produces a bountiful harvest and is thus generous. The earth itself is the extention of the liberal generocity of the loving providence of God. Only a local economy that re-presents this aspect of the Great Economy can produce a happy, harmonious, and integrated community. It must be the goal of this local economy to produce these kinds of virtues in its men and women so that they can lead happy lives.

    The Earth “naturally produces a bountiful harvest”? Seriously? Have you ever heard of famine, which you can read about in the Bible? Or maybe you could flip through Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” and learn how the Okies had to pack up and leave because they were starving, not so long ago. And where is famine still a problem? Where there is no industrialization, mechanization, refrigeration, sanitation, market economy, good governance and international trade.

    My grandmother married late because she wanted to find a husband who would rescue her from the “Agrarian economy” of rural Greece with its backbreaking work, constant insecurity, and low life expectancy. Yeah, they had a “local” economy. You bet. Local was as far as the donkey could take you. My Yiayia finally found a good man to take her to America, land of opportunity, where they did well in the restaurant business. When they needed food for the table at home, they picked vegetables from their spacious backyard garden (as close as they ever wanted to be to a farm again) or went to the A&P. In their Ford. They never looked back.

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    Ryan Close says:

    Distributism is the idea that more things, specifically more property and means of production, are owned by more people not less. It is a movement away from all forms of centralization and consolidation.

    The difference between socialism and Distributism is that in socialism the state or government owns all the property and means of production. In capitalism an elite capitalist class owns the majority of the property and means of production. Distributism is critical of capitalism in that it isn’t “free market enough” because the property and means of production are still controlled by a relative few who exploit the worker class. In both systems, the majority of people become indebted employees. In Distributism there are fewer employees, more independent and free men and women. See the difference?

    Capitalism and Socialism are two sides of the same coin. The whole statist / capitalist / industrialist world is based on exploitation of both the natural world and people in particular. Whether they see a human child, an animal, or land, the socialist / capitalist asks one question, how can we exploit this. Capitalism and Socialism operate on the principle of consolidation (merger or collectivism?). Today the two systems are being consolidated into the new “Market State.”

    For example, if I owned a cabinet shop, the city can still take my money and give it to the new Lowes by improving infrastructure and tax breaks so that Lowes can employ 50 new employees at minimum wage. Meanwhile my cabinet shop is out of business and I resort to subsidized housing and food programs as a state dependent. I may end up working in a government labor camp or in a government owned car (or tank or missile ?) factory.

    In Distributism more people own more things and the government ensures the right to privet property so a big centralized corporate enterprise married to a corrupt centralized government cannot take my property, my land, from me. Because I own the land, or a shop, I own the means of production to provide for my family without recourse to the elite capitalist owner class and I never surrender that to anyone because it is what makes me a free man.

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    Ryan Close says:

    For example, 100 years ago there were thousands of family owned slaughterhouses. Today, over 95% of our meat comes from factory slaughterhouses owned by four or five companies. 100 years ago every county in my state could make all the tools, clothing, and food it needed. Every county was self sufficient. Now each county in our state must import nearly 100% of these resources in a process that is slowly destroying the world, a process controlled by an elite corporate class. That’s consolidation, merger, collectivism. It is also an environmental disaster. It means fewer owners and more employers.

    So, imagine more people owning more things! More things being owned privately by more people controlling their own destiny and not consolidated into the hands of the few controllers who exploit and destroy the natural world for profit in order to sell inferior products, tainted industrial food, and synthetic pharmaceutical drugs to deal with the systemic sickness related to such a life lived out of harmony with nature. Imagine more people owning their own business rather than being an employee! Less people in debt! That’s the way it used to be!

    Jefferson’s vision of an agrarian civilization was based on his own “desperate yearning for settledness.” The absence of large-scale commercial interests, industrialization, and over seas commerce was exactly what guaranteed the stability of American liberty, a nation without creditors, fear of debt, or taxes. The politically progressive thinkers of the day wanted to see America “mature” or “develop” into an industrial urban-based nation with over seas trade just like the European nations. To Jefferson this was exactly the “opportunity,” so essential in to today’s global capitalism, which represented instability and indebtedness. Judging from where we are today, running head long after a bankrupt “Manegerial State” of the European model, perhaps he was right. Hamilton, the first Secretary of Treasury, produced an economic plan which called for a the establishment of a national bank for funding development projects, financing War debt, and subsidizing manufacturing interests. This benefited Hamilton’s financiers but was bad news for the landowners who would have to pay the taxes. To Jefferson, this seemed like selling the states back to the British.

    So Distributism is a 3rd way that says that the greatest prosperity would result if more people owned more things, thus controlling their own destines to a greater extent as free men not slaves or employees. Distributism is what most think when they say “socialism.” But the kind of socialism liberal progressives would like to implement is communist state ownership of everything and micro-management of every citizen’s daily affairs.

    Distributism is the enemy of centralization and consolidation, the champion of the common man, of diversity, of freedom, and harmony with nature! Thoughts? Bound to be controversial.

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    Isa Almisry says:

    yeah, all this “pal”ing up with the dirt worshippers. At least it will keep his All Holiness busy here and he won’t be interferring in Church affairs on his visit to “diaspora.”

    Anyone seen any of the programs “the Day After” where it shows how civilizations remains will be reclaimed by the flora and fauna after we are gone? Mental self abuse for those who view the human race as terretial parasites.

    Btw, his grace, as exarch, has Ukrainian Orthodox, Carpatho-Russian Orthodox, Albanians and Palestinians-at least that is what the EP’s Chief Secretary came and told us this year. No word for them? You would think that amongst all those he ennumerated, they could be squeezed in.

    Or he could have just said ORTHODOX, without the G- prefix. Just a thought.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Speaking of “The Day After”…

    Yes, I’ve watched a few of them. What strikes me about them is the effort we expend to keep things from slipping into undifferentiated chaos — unless of course, like Ryan above, you hold to a romantic notion of nature (Rosseau, Gaugiun, Margaret Mead, Rachel Carlson, et.al). Of course, if undifferentiation is a good thing (no real difference between, say, a bannana and poison ivy) we would have to give up pontificating on computers (part of the vast capitalist conspiracy) and employing the…

    …data, high-speed broadband Internet, network and data security, or local, we’ve got what you need. But having the right products is just part of what we do. Being connected means building solutions that help your business succeed…

    …that routes Ryan’s missives to this blog (whois Ryan’s IP — 209.248.150.234 — to see for yourself.)

    Yes, Hamilton was wrong, Jefferson correct. Yes, socialism is a huge threat and debt crushes men. But socialism and “capitalism” (free markets?) the same thing? Not on your life.

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    John Couretas says:

    Ryan (#30): You haven’t revealed the identity of the Grand Distributor who will pull the levers and create the conditions amenable to your Utopian vision. Can you point to an actual occurrence of this “Third Way” and explain to us how it has organically, and not through a state mechanism, arisen and provided people something better than what they have? You say this:

    So Distributism is a 3rd way that says that the greatest prosperity would result if more people owned more things, thus controlling their own destines to a greater extent as free men not slaves or employees. Distributism is what most think when they say “socialism.” But the kind of socialism liberal progressives would like to implement is communist state ownership of everything and micro-management of every citizen’s daily affairs.

    Distributism is the enemy of centralization and consolidation, the champion of the common man, of diversity, of freedom, and harmony with nature! Thoughts? Bound to be controversial.

    Vaclav Klaus on “Third Way” thinking (which I assume you take as an analogue to Distributism):

    The Third Way remains to be a very vague concept which has no operational definition, which has not been properly defined. It blocks its serious discussion but it does not block its use and its irresponsible dissemination, and it does not devalue the promises it contains.

    It is not only vague, it is “wide” and expansive as well.

    It was originally used in the economic field. Those who did not like both central planning and free markets (and I would add: did not understand both central planning and free markets) preferred to promote third ways which – in their naïve understanding – were shaky mixtures of central planning, interventionism and markets. It seems to me useless to repeat to this audience the arguments of Mises and Hayek which were used in their dispute with Lange, Lerner, Dickinson and other advocates of market socialism in the thirties. It seems to me superfluous to return to the arguments used against German “Soziale Marktwirtschaft”. It represents another example of a third way and we have to admit that its beginning was connected with a famous MPS member, Ludwig Erhard. To be fair, I have to stress that he defined it differently than current German politicians – both in SPD and CDU (see my Ludwig Erhard speech, reprinted in my “Tschechische Transformation und europäische Integration”, Neue Presse Verlag, Passau, 1995).

    The present-day exponents of third way thinking have been relatively successful in pretending that they endorse conservative economic policies which is, of course, not true. We should not be misled by their rhetoric. They never discuss details, they never reveal what they have in mind when they talk about regulation and they never suggest how to solve grave financial problems of high level of government expenditures on their social welfare programs.

    The Third Way, or Distributism, is simply socialism with better aesthetics. It sounds good if, say, you live in a university town. Call it Economic Theory for English Majors. Or Decorative Agri-Nostalgic Socialism.

    As in past exchanges here on Distributism, I’m linking to Thomas Woods very good critique of the theory on the Web site of the Acton Institute. Excerpt:

    According to distributists, the unhampered market led to radical economic inequality and the dispossession of the vast majority of the people who lacked productive property and had to rely for their sustenance on the good will of employers. Cutthroat competition destroyed small competitors and led to monopoly. These injustices might be redressed by a return to the less individualistic medieval economy, when productive property was widely distributed, guilds kept competition in check, and the poor and vulnerable were better cared for.

    The arguments offered in defense of this system, while perhaps superficially plausible, turn out to be based on logical and economic fallacies, as well as on a serious misreading of European history. Distributists blame widespread indebtedness on the free market instead of on central banks (which are creations of government) that make credit artificially cheap and thus all the more tempting–an abuse whose effects the global financial system is now suffering. The medieval economy that distributism holds up as a model bears little resemblance to that which professional historians and economists have come to understand. Neither land ownership nor ownership of the means of production was widely dispersed under the feudal system. Even urban workers outside traditional feudal bonds often did not own the means of production. Peasants labored exhausting hours and barely made ends meet even with all members of their families working. The guild system, far from being a liberating force, was actually the source of true monopoly and exploitation.

    As for counties and states becoming self sufficient in food supply, if I understand you correctly, please see “The Omnivore’s Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals” by Blake Hurst on AEI’s Web site.

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    Ryan Close says:

    Fr Johannes #32

    + + 1 + +

    Yes, I acknowledge that the internet, even though it is a huge step forward in the advance of decentralization and democratization of information, is part of the vast and interconnected technology island ultimately dependent on “cheap oil.” Once cheap oil is gone many thing will change. Electricity will be scarce. Products will no longer be imported from sweat shops in China in boats fueled by oil. Desil powered trucks will no longer be able to drive across the nation on roads made of oil bring us products from far away. As centralization breaks down we as a people will have to create new ways of living and resurrect older market ideas. Each locality will have to find ways of being self sufficient. And though many people may suffer during the transition to a post oil economy (and I make no predictions when the transition will occur) it means that Americans will no longer prop up their “lifestyle” on the backs of underpaid factory workers in other countries. It will also mean an end to the industrialist destruction of the environment.

    Secondly, I never intimated a philosophy of undifferentiation as if nature is always healthful, as if there was no difference between arsenic and honey. This is almost an ad hominim attack.

    + + 2 + +

    Yes, socialism is a huge threat and debt crushes men. But socialism and “capitalism” (free markets?) the same thing? Not on your life.

    I don’t have a romantic vision of “capitalism” or “free markets.” Non-statist or popular socialism where government favors small property wouldn’t be a “huge threat.” It is only the collectivist / statist form of communist state socialism that is dangerous. By “popular socialism” or “distributism” I mean more free market for more people. More property and capital for more people. Less employees, less debt, and less government interference.

    Taken in this way, statist socialism and market capitalism are two sides of the same coin, not the same thing. They are two sides of the same coin because they both aim at keeping the vast number of people as employees (serfs), either employees of the elite corporate owner class or employees of the vast nanny state who gradually becomes the sole source of a nations GDP. In fact the two combine quite easily where the corporate owner class owns all the means of production and pays the worker class minimum wages and the nanny state provides universal welfare benefits to the worker class.

    The difference comes when people own their own means of production, whether that is a field or a shop. They are no longer dependent on employers for a wage or the nanny state for welfare benefits. An industrious man can provide for his family from the land, make what his family needs, trade with his neighbors, and give liberally from his excess to the poor. If you don’t own your own land because you are in debt, dependent on wages and state welfare benefits then you cannot be independently and self-sufficiently industrious or liberally charitable and all your hard work as an employee only goes to benefit someone else.

    How can we refute the fact that more things are owned by less people now than 100 years ago? How can we refute that our local communities are not self-sufficient anymore but reliant on a centralized retail import process owned by less people than ever? Buying products from thousands of miles away only makes them wealthy. Is it that we love our life style more than freedom? Is it that we prefer dependence rather than independence? And how do we ignore the fact that our industrial economic system and lifestyle is bought at the expense of the exploitation of the environment and the slave labor of people over seas we callously forget.

    + + 3 + +

    So I am not saying capitalism is bad. Distributism means more capitalism for more people! It means government protecting privet ownership, favoring small business, and encouraging a free, virtuous, industrious, and independent population. Such a society would have less of an impact on the land and natural environment because it doesn’t only value profit but rather values generational prosperity for all and refuses to benefit from the suffering of anyone.

    I never said there was a “capitalist conspiracy” nor did I ever say humans were “terrestrial parasites.” It is only natural that a people disconnected from the land will exploit it. Is it conspiracy or sin that makes us value money more than people? If a rich man can pay his workers an unfair wage, or even harness the law to prevent his workers from owning their own shops, who can blame him? He is only doing what comes natural. But he is ultimately a fool because he is killing his workers and destroying the natural world, both of which he depends on for raw materials.

    For those of us living in the technological consumerist future any awareness of the sacrament of life or of a meaningful connection with the natural world is critically missing. As mere interchangeable parts of the modern industrial world, people become alienated and detached from the world around them and from themselves. Farming itself has become a technological industry and an environmental disaster. Thus food becomes merely another product. Quite often modern people are ignorant of where food, water, or clothing comes from. They consider acquiring these things as a primarily monetary or consumer transaction without thinking of God at all.

    + + 4 + +

    What is so wrong about more people owning more things, more free market for more people? What is wrong with liberal charity and industrious self-sufficiency? What is so wrong with connection to land, thankfulness for life, and environmental responsibility / stewardship? If this is romantic then so be it. I know the alternatives: exploitation, disconnection, apathy, alienation, unthankfulness, and slavery, are not Christian.

    Those who have an abstract and non-contextualized zeal for “environmentalism” or “socialism” or “capitalism” as if these ideologies will help things are naive. You get the impression from some people that you can save the world by turning off the lights when you leave a room, recycling, and driving a Pries. Tweaking your lifestyle isn’t going to change anything because all you will have is solar powered greed, environmental exploitation, and consumption of products made by slaves in other countries. It takes a total change of mind. I can understand the extreme reaction against such a notion.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note: #34

    The difference comes when people own their own means of production, whether that is a field or a shop. They are no longer dependent on employers for a wage or the nanny state for welfare benefits. An industrious man can provide for his family from the land, make what his family needs, trade with his neighbors, and give liberally from his excess to the poor. If you don’t own your own land because you are in debt, dependent on wages and state welfare benefits then you cannot be independently and self-sufficiently industrious or liberally charitable and all your hard work as an employee only goes to benefit someone else.

    Debt is crushing, no doubt about it. The US is now a debtor nation. Most Americans are deeply in debt.

    But, jumping from a debt dependency to “ownership of the means of production” is merely using resentment to justify neo-Marxism. Look, employees are not “dependent on an employer for a wage” unless you discount entirely the dependency of the employer’s company on the employee for his value and expertise. It works both ways here. You have the mentality of an old union boss, the kind that drove GM and other dinosaurs into bankruptcy because they grew complacent about the quality of product they need to produce to stay competitive (more specifically, the bosses on both ends — management and unions — got complacent, the employee went along with it while the going was good, and they all lost).

    A free market economy leaves open the possibility that a man who cannot stomach working for someone else has the opportunity to strike out on his own. For those who like their jobs, it provides opportunity for making something else on the side. Castigating work for an employer as oppressive however (echoing Marx), is merely a personal value judgment, even if it is dressed up in agrarian romanticism.

    John Couretas asked you:

    You haven’t revealed the identity of the Grand Distributor who will pull the levers and create the conditions amenable to your Utopian vision. Can you point to an actual occurrence of this “Third Way” and explain to us how it has organically, and not through a state mechanism, arisen and provided people something better than what they have?

    You have not answered it.

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    Ryan Close says:

    John Couretas #33

    Thank you for interacting with these ideas. I would not say that Distributism is “The Third Way.” It is a third way. For a very informing and well written explanation of the origins, specific and concrete (not vague) policy positions, and political impact early 20th century English Distributism has had I highly recommend the first chapter in the new book Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies – And Why They Disappeared by Allan Carlson.

    You say that Distributism was based on a flawed view of history. I don’t think Distributists would equate their policy position or vision of a free independent people as equivalent to feudalism. Feudalism is just about what we have. The corporate owner class is like the feudal land lord who owned the fields and land and huts. Middle management are like the knights who keep the workers working in the field. The employees are like the serfs or villen who own nothing, obliged to work a certain number of days in the land lord’s fields in return for living in the huts and protection from brigands. On his time off he can work on his own little plot of land. As an employee, I don’t own my own field or office, nor my hut or house (a bank owns it). Only difference, a serf would work three days per week in the land lord’s field except in harvest time. I work five days per week all year.

    When was their ever a distributist society? Right after the Revolutionary War. I am basically describing the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal of a free yeomanry.

    Who would implement it? The implementation of such a Distributist Economy would be as simple as government passing laws that favor small property, privet ownership, favoring small business with tax breaks and subsidies, making sale of land to the poor easier and from the poor to the rich harder, making a purchase in installments clause automatic in all rental agreements. Opposite laws, that keep small property from thriving, are today in place not because of some “Enforcer” but because government favors a certain class of people and does not promote the freedom of it’s population. Just as our current American system arose rather quickly without an “Enforcer” a new system favoring the common man could arise organically if citizens demand equal protection under the law and public promotion of small privet property and family industry. It comes about slowly and organically, one family at a time learning about the benefits of buying local and shopping less at big-box stores, insisting on the health of local economies, and actively promoting their local community.

    I want to point out that Archbishop Demetrios’ Encyclical calls us to a new relationship with nature. Well, this is rather abstract, and I have registered my complaints above. Our relationship with nature is a symptom of a deeper sickness and it is all very vague to suggest a “new relationship with nature.”

    A return to decentralized local economy is one way to reduce corporate environmental destruction, lifestyle based pollution, and human exploitation as well as renew traditional relationships between vibrant family life, strong local communities, healthful agrarian food, and sustainable connection to the land. Distributism is not reductionistic, reducing all problems into a left / right dialectic, but is critical of both mainstream political positions for not being consistent their own philosophical core. John, I don’t claim to be “more right than you.” I did learn a lot from what you pasted in your response. Can you explain how either “statist socialism” or “corporate / monopoly capitalism” lead to a better more healthful, prosperous, independent, and free populous with a more responsible relationship with nature? Has the accendency of either of these systems in the 20th century been ultimately beneficial or harmful? Will the new “Business State” do any better? Or can you explain why more capital owned by more people, or more free market for more people, would be harmful or detrimental.

    As far as the “Omnivore’s Dellusion” I agree with Rod Dreher over Cargil and Monsanto, and I think Blake Hurst is trying to take the reasonable middle ground. I think he proves too much when he says “we have to farm industrially to feed the world.” We don’t need to feed the world we need to feed ourselves responsibly and healthfully. And if Mr Hurst harvest’s corn, he isn’t feeding the world unless he means the world’s McDonalds. In the new documentary Food Inc. you will see that most of the corn in America is funneled to centralized feed lots called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” or CAFOs. This where millions of cows are fed corn in over crowded conditions. These cows are sold primarily to processed food chains. The contaminated run off contains e-coli, a sickness not found in cows who eat exclusively grass, that then runs in plumes into neighboring fields of spinach and other crops endangering our food supply. Corn is also used in most processed foods. Most processed foods are just reorganized forms of corn. America also exports cheap corn to other countries putting farmers there out of work and driving them into welfare dependency or illegal immigration to the United States to work as slaves in industrialized slaughter houses, 95% of which, like I said before, are owned by four or five American companies. I think Blake Hurst should have the right to farm how he wishes and say what he pleases, but if I have the chance to have a farm I will try to farm in a way most consistent with my values.

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    Ryan Close says:

    Fr Johannes #35

    Debt is crushing, no doubt about it. The US is now a debtor nation. Most Americans are deeply in debt. But, jumping from a debt dependency to “ownership of the means of production” is merely using resentment to justify neo-Marxism.

    I don’t think it is fair to compare Distributism or decentralized small property as Marxism. Marxism is the statist socialism I have described as having as it’s goal that 100% of people are employees of the state, 100% of people are dependents of the state, and 100% of a states GDP is from government spending. I am advocating a system where as few people as possible are employees because they own their own business. A system where as few people as possible are dependent on government welfare because they are self-sufficient, and more than that, they have excess to be liberally generous. A system where government spending accounts for as little of a nations GDP as possible. If that is neo-Marxist then revolutionary America was Marxist! Unless I do not understand what you mean by the word “Marxism” in which case I am very willing to learn. And how does “ownership” equal “resentment?”

    Look, employees are not “dependent on an employer for a wage” unless you discount entirely the dependency of the employer’s company on the employee for his value and expertise.

    I am dependent on my employer for wages because I have student loan debt. Now, about a decade after my first year in university, how I wish I had just gotten to work rather than seeking to gain “value and expertise” at such a high cost, a cost I am not proportionally compensated for today. Furthermore, when there were thousands of family owned slaughterhouses in America, it was a nice job to have. The centralization of his work caused previously skilled laborers to become minimum wage earners performing repeated industrialized movements all day long. They also no longer share in profits. The difference here is between a chef at a fancy restaurant who can do almost anything in the kitchen and gets paid a family wage, and an unskilled burger flipper who only knows how to do one thing and gets paid minimum wage. The fast food restaurant is dependent on the vast numbers of under educated people willing to that kind of work without appropriate remuneration.

    You have the mentality of an old union boss, the kind that drove GM and other dinosaurs into bankruptcy because they grew complacent about the quality of product they need to produce to stay competitive (more specifically, the bosses on both ends – management and unions – got complacent, the employee went along with it while the going was good, and they all lost).

    I don’t follow you, and I am equally sorry if I have been unclear. How is each man industriously working in his own land, shop, or office without thought of benefiting from another’s misfortune and overwhelmingly concerned to produce a good product because he sells that product face to face at all equivalent to complacency of any kind?

    A free market economy leaves open the possibility that a man who cannot stomach working for someone else has the opportunity to strike out on his own.

    This is what I hope for. Unfortunately I see more roadblocks than ever before, erected by a corrupt combination of big government and big business, preventing people like me from striking out on our own through subsidies for big businesses, tax penalties for staring a small sole proprietorship, and institutionalized debt. Big monopoly businesses have easier access to information and advertising and can broker deals to obtain materials and services at significant discount. They lobby for restrictive regulations that are financially prohibitive for small businesses and can under cut smaller competitors until they drive them out of business and then raise prices to exploit the poor who can now only shop with them. Please refer to my cabinet shop example in Note 29 for another example of how “striking out on my own” is discouraged by the government. All I am saying is that government should promote “striking out on my own” by protecting small property and ownership.

    You have not answered it.

    I have shown that our current system arose without a “Grand Distributor” who distributed the wealth into the hands of the few. Governments were naturally and organically complicit in creating laws favoring merger and corporate ownership, and institutionalized debt while simultaneously discouraging small property. It will happen slowly and organically or not at all as people realize they on longer wish to participate in a system dependent on exploitation of workers and the environment at the expense of healthy and prosperous local communities make the conscious decision to buy local and even produce local. The end of “cheap oil” may or may not hasten the end of centralized ownership.

    As I said twice already, 100 years ago there were thousands of family owned slaughterhouses and many other kinds of small decentralized industries. Today 95% of all meat in America passes through a relatively few number of slaughterhouses owned by only four or five companies. This shows that our country once had small property and more people owning more capital. 150 years ago the people of my county were entirely self-sufficient in terms of food, tools, and clothing, now we import everything. My question is, who does this “importing of centralized production” benefit. The answer is an elite corporate owner class who own the means of production, the means of transportation, and the means of big-box-retail. 150 years ago, if each county was self-sufficient, more capital and production must have been owned by more people.

    In 1800 only 36 percent of the English population was engaged in agriculture, whereas between 75 and 90 percent of Americans were engaged in it. The English were moving away from the countryside and toward the city. They were rejecting rural settledness and embracing industrialization and the urban opportunities that Jefferson despised so much. He saw the same trends toward “Europeanization” in his America. America must have had a more settled agrarian way of life then, a way of life not dependent on centralized monopolistic control by an elite corporate class.

    America’s contemporary chasing after European style democratic socialism is another manifestation of it’s envy for the opportunities of the “modernized” Old World countries which have historically lead to worldwide bankruptcy. I don’t see why we should not try to find third way out of this mess since neither Europeanized capitalist industrialization and international trade nor Europeanized democratic socialism have been ultimately beneficial.

    Thank you for all for helping me think more critically! I love the feed back.

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    John Couretas says:

    Ryan (#36):

    We’re running down a lot of rabbit holes here. A couple of questions on this statement:

    Who would implement it? The implementation of such a Distributist Economy would be as simple as government passing laws that favor small property, privet ownership, favoring small business with tax breaks and subsidies, making sale of land to the poor easier and from the poor to the rich harder, making a purchase in installments clause automatic in all rental agreements

    Who would make sale of land to the “rich” more difficult? And on what moral grounds would you restrict their ownership? And if they bought land anyway, in contradiction to your agrarian dream, how would you punish them? What about property rights? Or do only the poor hold these rights?

    Can you explain how either “statist socialism” or “corporate / monopoly capitalism” lead to a better more healthful, prosperous, independent, and free populous with a more responsible relationship with nature?

    Don’t put words into my mouth. I don’t espouse any of this nonsense, nor is it inevitable in a more or less free market economy. If we did indeed have these sorts of monopolies, there would be no entrepreneurs. At least none working except in the underground economy.

    We don’t need to feed the world we need to feed ourselves responsibly and healthfully.

    Is that a Christian teaching? Where did you hear it?

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    Ryan Close says:

    Who would make sale of land to the “rich” more difficult? And on what moral grounds would you restrict their ownership? And if they bought land anyway, in contradiction to your agrarian dream, how would you punish them? What about property rights? Or do only the poor hold these rights?

    I would say that if a large corporation gets a massive tax break and subsidies that our government is making it easier for them to purchase land from the poor. This is especially the case when a company only pays it’s employee minimum wage and then the desperate employee feels forced into selling the land. The employee then ends up renting a room in a tenement probably owned by an umbrella company that now owns his land. This results in more and more land being held by fewer and fewer people. It is a resurgence of the vast land holdings of the medieval nobility. Since the government is complicit in this favoritism then they could just as equally be complicit in favoring small privet ownership.

    Don’t put words into my mouth. I don’t espouse any of this nonsense, nor is it inevitable in a more or less free market economy. If we did indeed have these sorts of monopolies, there would be no entrepreneurs. At least none working except in the underground economy.

    If you don’t believe in “corporate / monopoly capitalism” then we agree. The ideal would be more entrepreneurs, not less. I am not saying the state should coerce people to be entrepreneurs. I am just saying, wouldn’t average people be better off if they were not dependent in anyway on any one but their neighbors and family for anything and could be self-sufficient? If yes then how? More capitalism for more people sounds simple enough. I am just not saying it is a government enforced “more capitalism.” Yet the state should not be complicit in preventing entrepreneurs. Distributism could be called More Entrepreneurship. If that is what it was called would we have less disagreement?

    Now I would like to point out that I read the article about Distributism that John suggested and I totally disavow any kind of guild that would create regulations that restrict entrepreneurship. I am in favor of more free market for all. But I am also interested in why you think monopoly or universal consolidation is not inevitable?

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    Ryan Close says:

    We don’t need to feed the world we need to feed ourselves responsibly and healthfully. – Is that a Christian teaching? Where did you hear it?

    I think this is one of those “value added” moments where you can feel charitable by buying a coffee because they tell you that by doing so you are helping people in other countries. This act of charity hidden within an act of consumerism disguises the reality that you could really care less about poor people in other countries and how your lifestyle choices cause social and environmental chaos in their lands. Ever see the film “Blood Diamond?” Much talk about sustainability, green, or organic is exactly this kind of “value added” consumer product designed to let you feel as though you are part of the salvation of the world in some abstract way without really caring or changing. That’s why I described the other side of industrial farming, which has some benefits, but does not really feed the world anyway. Whether you buy main stream foods or organic foods your not saving the world, and farmer Blake Hurst does a good job of point out the hypocrisy of the “value added” organic buying experience.

    Blake Hurst seems to be saying that when critics of factory farming describe the “unspeakable deprivation” of factory farming they are not fully committed to the full ramifications of their words. For instance he says, “Paul Johnson is forecasting a move toward vegetarianism.” Perhaps he is. But that is his choice and he has freedom of speech, unless you are a well know media personality who was sued by a powerful cattleman’s association for saying she would no longer eat hamburgers on television. Blake Hurst says, “I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand.” And that is just it: people are demanding it, so much so that Wal-Mart now sells millions of dollars worth of products labeled “organic.” The mainstream food industry is running into the organic farming movment.

    Here is what would feed the world. Imagine third world countries not being asked to confiscate land from farmers to finance debt to world banks so that American’s lifestyle choice can be reinforced for yet another year. Imagine Americans buying land for dispossessed farmers who now live starving in slums. Imagine carrots cost less than hamburgers and candy bars so Americans don’t have to choose between rent and diabetes. Teaching people worldwide how to farm sustainably, using the best technology, and thus decentralizing food production will alleviate the more hunger than creating a vast worldwide welfare and food distribution system. Corn has almost no nutrition anyway.

    For me it is a personal choice to support food producers who I know personally in order to support the local economy and promote small privet ownership. I feel safe knowing that my friend cares about the land, about his animals, and about me. I prefer this over doing business with companies who do not support my local economy, who do not care about me, about their workers, or about animals, and who are responsible for environmental crisis. I have been in the milking parlor feeding a cow alfalfa while my farmer milks her. I know how much he cares. I don’t have any reason to buy food, and increasingly tools and clothing, from someone who isn’t a friend of mine.

    This is “a” way of turning vague generalities about “environmentalism” into a concrete connectedness (relationship) with nature and community. I am always trying to turn this back to the Archbishop’s Encyclical.

    I hope this finds everyone in good health and I am sorry if I put words in anyone’s mouth.

  40. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    Michael Bauman said that “true Christian ascesis is the only way to heal and re-order the natural world. That is the Gospel message. No government policy ever conceived leads to Christian ascesis. All governmental authority is founded on at least the implied threat of coercion. Every single ‘environmental’ policy I have ever seen is coercive.” I agree and don’t think anything in my article about Agrarianism was inconstant with this and the first chapter of Fr Alexander Shmeman’s “For the Life of the World.” I apologize if I stepped on someone’s sacred horse.

    I don’t disagree with Archbishop Demetrios’ Encyclical at all. I think most of the negative comments about it had more to do with the seemingly non-stop enviro-babble we have been hearing for years. There is certainly more pressing needs for the Orthodox Church to address such as secularization (unfaithfulness to Parodisis), abortion, and dis-unity. For me, living consistent with a sacramental worldview does include living more in harmony with the land, though I believe that Christian ascesis comes before environmental activism. Living in a more agrarian way seems to me a more consistent and sacramental way of being conscious, thankful, and responsible for the life I receive from God. This goes hand in hand with promoting healthy families, local communities, and discouraging any profit from the misfortune of others. These are all virtues that wage ceaseless war against the American lifestyle. And these are virtues that seem to have gotten me in trouble for defending.

    Distributism, or more accurately, More Entrepreneurship, has got a bad wrap. First it is attacked for being vague and without definition or romantic. When it is defined it is attacked as being too Marxist for conservatives and as to Free Market for progressives. It advocates more people being entrepreneurs so those in favor of centralized employment hate it. It advocated independence from state welfare so statists hate it. I have presented many arguments. I hope not many were unfriendly, ad hominim attacks, or begging the question, for I feel this is mostly what I got in response. I was asked questions which I answered succinctly. I was called names. I asked questions and none were ever answered.

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    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Distributism, or more accurately, More Entrepreneurship, has got a bad wrap. First it is attacked for being vague and without definition or romantic. When it is defined it is attacked as being too Marxist for conservatives and as to Free Market for progressives. It advocates more people being entrepreneurs so those in favor of centralized employment hate it. It advocated independence from state welfare so statists hate it. I have presented many arguments. I hope not many were unfriendly, ad hominim attacks, or begging the question, for I feel this is mostly what I got in response. I was asked questions which I answered succinctly. I was called names. I asked questions and none were ever answered.

    This sounds like the television reporter who trots out a critical letter from the left, follows it with more criticism from the right, and then expects us to believe he is objective (as if such a thing exists in journalism).

    Look, you are all over the map here. Lots of moral outrage (some of it justified), but precious little in specifics. Everytime you are asked a question, the answer is three more five paragraph posts. It gets tiresome.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Ryan Close, does bring up one good point about hispanic immirgants from rural parts of Mexico moving to the US because of lack of work. Its not fair to compete against farm interest in the States but I don’t know how small Mexican farmers can compete. Actually, a lot of illegal immirgants live in the Greater Los Angeles area and San Diego- the number one region for them in the US-about 1.6 million of them live here where there is very little farm work and few slaugherhouses but lots of jobs related to tourism-Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego. Also, a lot of construcation in the fast growing Inland Empire-Riverside- and San Berandrino before the economy turn down. And low skilled manufactoring jobs there in the garment industry and some othr industries. It would be nice to be able to change the situation in Mexico since a lot of young people under 30 years old are leaving these rural areas and going to the States. These rurual parts of Mexico are losing their young people and are going old fast.

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    cynthia curran says:

    John Couretas is right preindustrial societies did experiance famine problems. The Eastern Roman Empire did. Even after Constantine gave his city the same free or reduce grain dole for Constantinople like Rome had this didn’t always prevent people from going hungry or straving. The Empire abolish the grain dole from Egypt around 618 A.D. The emperors store some grain for severe weather during the hard times. Some redistute the land without compensation but like John mention farming conditions in preindustrical societies were harsher than modern societies. The price of grain was more regulate to prevent food riots but if you control prices it might increase demand to supply.

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    Ryan Close says:

    I totally agreed with Chris Banescu article on Capitalism!

    I am sorry father, I don’t watch tv, not that I am better than anyone because of it, I am just too busy, so I don’t follow your argument. Yet, I bear equal blame for not being as clear. And I never claimed to be impartial. I have an interest in entering the market and providing for my family.

    In his article, suggested by the intriguing John Couretas, Thomas E. Woods Jr. says,

    In a true market system, no one may employ state coercion to gain an advantage at his neighbor’s expense.

    This is what I mean by “More Entrepreneurship.” I do not believe that America or any nation on earth has a pure free market system and that is the problem. Large corporate interests influence government to create regulations and taxes thus employing state coercion to gain an advantage at their neighbor’s expense. Since John Couretas agreed that he did not believe “monopoly capitalism” was the ideal then we all agree, a decentralized popular capitalism, as in more people being able to enter and participate in the free market, would be the ideal.

    Additionally, I believe that big corporations have been responsible for environmental destruction, at least in the past, though I admit not everyone will agree and that it was American lifestyle that drives that destruction. So we are all at fault, not that I think it is government’s place to coerce anyone to do anything about it. Thomas E. Woods Jr. goes on,

    The market economy is the remarkable engine of civilization that people are all too often taught to hate. All other economic systems make fantastic promises that turn out in practice to be cruel and empty delusions. Theory and experience alike testify that the market alone can deliver an economy that is just, humane, and prosperous.

    This is an uncritical and absolutizing perspective. “All other economic systems make fantastic promises that turn out in practice to be cruel and empty delusions.” Wow! But I am the romantic one? Even though I couldn’t agree more emphatically with the first sentence!

    I don’t hate the market! That’s where I buy eggs and tomatoes and edumame. It’s the most pure form of capitalism where men and women sell the produce of their hard work in a free market where no one coerces them by telling them what to sell and how much to sell it for.

    I was the one mocked and ridiculed and had my privacy violated, and I continued to be congenial and polite. It reminds me of when my wife was publicly scorned on the internet for writing a letter to the editor about raw milk. Looking up someone’s internet service provider doesn’t make a rational proof of anything. It is a rhetorical tactic attempting to show that I am contradictory and therefore my argument is invalid. It assumed that I dislike modern technology and hate the market, none of which is true, and could not have reasonably been implied by my previous posts. It was just mean.

  45. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    I totally agreed with Chris Banescu’s article on Capitalism!

    I am sorry father, I don’t watch tv, not that I am better than anyone because of it, I am just too busy, so I don’t follow your argument. Yet, I bear equal blame for not being as clear. And I never claimed to be impartial. I have an interest in entering the market and providing for my family.

    In his article, suggested by the intriguing John Couretas, Thomas E. Woods Jr. says,

    In a true market system, no one may employ state coercion to gain an advantage at his neighbor’s expense.

    This is what I mean by “More Entrepreneurship.” I do not believe that America or any nation on earth has a pure free market system and that is the problem. Large corporate interests influence government to create regulations and taxes thus employing state coercion to gain an advantage at their neighbor’s expense. Since John Couretas agreed that he did not believe “monopoly capitalism” was the ideal then we all agree, a decentralized popular capitalism, as in more people being able to enter and participate in the free market, would be the ideal.

    Additionally, I believe that big corporations have been responsible for environmental destruction, at least in the past, though I admit not everyone will agree and that it was American lifestyle that drives that destruction. So we are all at fault, not that I think it is government’s place to coerce anyone to do anything about it. Thomas E. Woods Jr. goes on,

    The market economy is the remarkable engine of civilization that people are all too often taught to hate. All other economic systems make fantastic promises that turn out in practice to be cruel and empty delusions. Theory and experience alike testify that the market alone can deliver an economy that is just, humane, and prosperous.

    This is an uncritical and absolutizing perspective. “All other economic systems make fantastic promises that turn out in practice to be cruel and empty delusions.” Wow! But I am the romantic one? Even though I couldn’t agree more emphatically with the first sentence!

    I don’t hate the market! That’s where I buy eggs and tomatoes and edumame. It’s the most pure form of capitalism where men and women sell the produce of their hard work in a free market where no one coerces them by telling them what to sell and how much to sell it for.

    I was the one mocked and ridiculed and had my privacy violated, and I continued to be congenial and polite. It reminds me of when my wife was publicly scorned on the internet for writing a letter to the editor about raw milk. Looking up someone’s internet service provider doesn’t make a rational proof of anything. It is a rhetorical tactic attempting to show that I am contradictory and therefore my argument is invalid. It assumed that I dislike modern technology and hate the market, none of which is true, and could not have reasonably been implied by my previous posts. It was just mean.

  46. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    The idea that one could feed the world is both abstract and romantic. How can anyone of us “feed the world?” No, Christ does not tell us to feed the world, he says feed your neighbor. And when I said that we need to feed our selves responsibly and healthfully, I was including my neighbors, my actual neighbors in my neighborhood, many of which are paid so little that when they need to get something to eat, they must choose between buying something healthful like vegetables or candy bars and fast food hamburgers. The vegetables cost more than twice as much junk food per once. So they must choose between diabetes or cancer on the one hand or eviction on the other!

    When I praise what was right about American life 100 years ago it doesn’t mean I am elevating even what was wrong. Maybe that is what is being missunderstood, as if everyone thinks I love slavery and famine because I admire the diversity and great number of small entrepreneurs of the pre-war pre-FDR American economy.

    I think it is ironic that I have Canadian Orthodox people calling me an unenlightened God hatter for not agreeing that single payer government health care is an essential human right because I think it would kill millions of people and take away my health freedoms and I have American Orthodox people calling me a neo-Marxist for wondering if the world would be a better place if my neighbors could be entrepreneurs, if we could strengthen the family as the sovereign atom of political life, and if local communities could become self sufficient free markets! I am totally out of breath!

  47. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Cynthia, Ryan brings up a lot of points that are valid. For example, the industrialization of say, chicken farming, is atrocious. I’ve been in those barns that mass produce chickens for consumption. It’s inhumane. There is no other way to describe it. The only way you can tolerate the brutality is to believe that the animal has no value, which is clearly not true.

    But Ryan posits more, much more in fact. His “Third Way,” while ostensibly a moral call, is in fact a kind of “compassionate socialism,” — nice on the outside but treacherous on the inside, a lot like socialist health care that promises us a generation of happy-faced children while deep-sixing Grandma and Grandpa in the back room (see: London Telegraph, Sentenced to death on the NHS).

    John Couretas brought up Vaclav Klaus in response to Ryan’s promotion of a “Third Way.” Ryan apparently does not know that when you receive a reference like this, you should take the time to read it. Klaus makes a point anyone reading this discussion would do well to ponder:

    Tony Blair made recently a very apt statement: “The third way is a new alliance between progress and justice” (The Washington Post, September 27, 1998). I know that it is difficult or almost impossible for us to take it seriously but it should have been done. It was a mistake that such a formula was not immediately analyzed and attacked – we either did not care or were not able to easily discuss such fuzzy words like alliance, progress and justice and especially their unspecified combination. We can laugh at it but we must be aware of the fact that such loose phrases have been more or less accepted as a new basic dogma, as a currently dominant anti-liberal ideology.

    [...]

    The Third Way remains to be a very vague concept which has no operational definition, which has not been properly defined. It blocks its serious discussion but it does not block its use and its irresponsible dissemination, and it does not devalue the promises it contains.

    Finally, Klaus touches on my complaint with Ryan’s three-post-five-paragraph responses (none of which engage the questions he is asked):

    The present-day exponents of third way thinking have been relatively successful in pretending that they endorse conservative economic policies which is, of course, not true. We should not be misled by their rhetoric. They never discuss details, they never reveal what they have in mind when they talk about regulation and they never suggest how to solve grave financial problems of high level of government expenditures on their social welfare programs.

    Like all progressives, Ryan catalogs a multitude of sins and then expects us to accept his economic prescriptions because of the moral repugnance they generate. Again, it’s a lot like socializing health care. The inequities of the present system are reason enough to turn the entire enterprise over to secular elites (can you imagine having your health care decided by a committee appointed by Barbara Boxer or Barney Frank?) — Grandma and Grandpa notwithstanding.

  48. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Fr. Johannes Jacobse says:

    Note 47.

    I think it is ironic that I have Canadian Orthodox people calling me an unenlightened God hatter for not agreeing that single payer government health care is an essential human right because I think it would kill millions of people and take away my health freedoms and I have American Orthodox people calling me a neo-Marxist for wondering if the world would be a better place if my neighbors could be entrepreneurs, if we could strengthen the family as the sovereign atom of political life, and if local communities could become self sufficient free markets! I am totally out of breath!

    Better slow down then and take a breath.

    Look, your presumed virtue, ostensibly affirmed by being criticized by both right and left (like that TV reporter I mentioned upstream — did you read it?), really has nothing to do with your economic prescriptions.

    All I really see is statism. You offer a cascade of moral imperatives to advance what is essentially state control of the economy (just like the health care aficionados). Employing the language of morality instead of the economic language of Marx, or the increasingly shop-worn language of “fairness” of the progressives, you want us to believe that somehow that a state directed agrarian nirvana constitutes a “Third Way” that (surprise!) nobody has ever thought of before.

    You gave it away with your comment upstream that “socialism and capitalism” are two sides of the same coin; more accurately that state controlled economies and free markets are one and the same. Marx knew this is not true. So do most progressives (why do you think they wont allow a “public option” in socialized health care?). Scratch a socialist they say, and you always find a totalitarian impulse lurking underneath.

    If you really believed this, you would move off to a subsistence farm and live happily ever after. Instead, you expend a flurry of words trying to convince us that the state can create a utopia somewhere if we can just find the right reasons.

  49. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Michael Bauman says:

    Distributionism ignores a fundamental reality of economics: resources and wealth move to the most efficient and/or powerful actors in the economy. That is true under every economic system. The only way to prevent that is to have the most powerful actor, the government, regulate and re-distribute. Some regulation is necessary, but the more you allow that camel’s nose under the edge of the tent, the more trouble you have. The problems of capitalism are not solved through government regulation, they are solved by practicing the virtues. Government controlled economies penalize virtue and reward vice(See Chris, no moral equivalency in my mind).

    The primary flaw here is that of egalitarianism (as well as a healthy dose of the ‘noble savage’ myth). Egalitarianism is a perverse and prevalent philosphical idea that is profoundly non-Christian.

    I agree that all other things being equal, relatively small-scale, local economies are more healthy but they are only sustainable when there is a relatively low level of demand for anything but basic goods and services.

    Looking to a ‘golden age of agrarianism’ is not the way to foster vital localized economies however. Computers, IMO, offer the best chance of having a more localized, distributed economy. However as the Cyber-security Act of 2009 shows, our friends in Washington want to control that, especially the Secretary of Commerce. See report on http://www.eff.org

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    Ryan Close says:

    This is untrue. How can you tell me that I believe one thing manifestly contradictory to what I have repeatedly written and then demur me for posting long responses in my defense? To be very clear, on almost every point you have described a political position I passionately fight against daily as if I held to it. In my defense I remind you that:

    a) I read and interacted with many articles that were suggested to me.

    b) I do not advocate “The Third Way” which is a contemporary political movement I know very little about and may just be a form of centrist statism that I deplore.

    c) Rather than being vague I have given details and policy positions that only amount to removing the privileges a certain class currently enjoy and removing impediments to entrepreneurial enterprise. I have also demonstrated that this is the way things used to be in early America.

    d) I do not advocate any social welfare at all, such as when I said it would be ideal to promote a society where as few as possible, even 0% of citizens, would be state dependents, therefore countering the claim that “they never suggest how to solve grave financial problems of high level of government expenditures on their social welfare programs.” I am not one of “them” anyway.

    e) My “economic prescriptions” are more free trade, protection of privet property, promotion of entrepreneurship, and severely limited government. I wish to limit federal government to the point that it operates on a tithe of a 10% state tax. I don’t see how we could possibly disagree on my “economic prescriptions” unless you think the federal government should not be cut back as far.

    f) I even said that I repudiated single payer government health care in my previous post at the expense of being ridiculed in Canada!

    g) And even I agree with farmer Blake Hurst that it is perhaps more humane to raise chickens and turkeys in sheds rather than outside where they can be decapitated by weasels or die in a rain storm. I read the article!

    You think I want to coerce the world with sweeping changes for the sake of moral outrage. I just long for the status-quo of America 100 years ago when more small businesses were owned by more people and there was less government interference. That’s not moral outrage, its nostalgia. Rather than demonstrate that there isn’t such contemporary government interference you resort to telling me I believe the exact opposite of what I say I do.

    I don’t see how what I believe is socialism, statism, or egalitarianism. I am in complete agreement with Jefferson, Dabney, Wendell Berry, and Clark Carlton, veritable giants for traditional conservatives, whom none would dare call a progressive, whose very name makes progressives shudder. And I would go live on a farm if I wasn’t indentured into white-collar employment. Besides my farm could be confiscated by tyrannical state agencies because there is no such thing as privet property.

  51. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    We don’t disagree about statism either. Everything you said about statism I rejoice to loudly agree. I don’t think the “state” can create anything let alone a utopia. Articles on my website demonstrate what a fierce and informed opponent of statism I really am in it’s every manifestation:

    The political principles that under gird the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution go back to the English philosopher John Locke. According to Locke and his spiritual heirs such as Thomas Jefferson, the function of government is to secure the liberty of individual citizens. Freed from the burdens of indentured servitude and the depravation of life, citizens mature and then enter into the kind of industry best suited to result in Prosperity and Virtue ending in abundance, hospitality, and generosity. This belief, that the purpose of government is to secure the liberty of its citizens, necessarily entails limited government. Limited government allows opportunities for more self-government, improved representation, and choice in the political process.

    Today a massive centralized government has grown too big and too corrupt to allow for any meaningful representation or self-government. Furthermore, the government’s goal is to grasp as much political control for itself and for corporate concerns by promoting a culture of fear. By means of a crippling tax burden, obligatory bureaucratic regulations, and the systematic limitation of individual rights the government is slowly eroding the personal integrity, independence, and liberty of their people.

    Since it is the nature of governments to seek greater power and control through tyranny, political philosophers have been very suspicious of politicians. Therefore the principles upon which this nation was founded sought to limit the power of government. That is why the United States Constitution did not prescribe a limited number of people’s rights. Instead it delineated clear boundaries and limits as to what government could and could not do leaving most of the power and rights in the hands of the people.

    Clark Carlton, in his letter, writes, “The equation is quite simple: the bigger the government is, the more it tries to do, the less freedom is available to its citizens. The purpose of government within the American tradition, then, is neither to make its citizens righteous nor to take care of them from the cradle to the grave, but to protect their God-given liberty.” This is the political philosophy known as “political liberalism.”

    And how about this grave warning from my article The Politics of Antichrist,

    If the traditional society was envisioned as helping people live virtuous lives, now the purpose of society is to keep people from suffering. Where as the first goal aims at removing impediments to virtue it left open the possibility of suffering. In fact it thought of suffering as something that could sometimes build character. The end result is a nation of mature, productive, strongly independent, and liberally generous people. The second goal aims at removing opportunity for suffering by limiting individual rights and “protecting” people from themselves. The end result is a nation of immature, lazy, and strongly dependent people with an entitlement attitude “cared for” by a state that encompasses all of life within its total grasp.

    ‘When Mussolini first coined the word “totalitarianism”, it was not a pejorative slur, nor was it something connoting tyranny; rather, Mussolini used totalitarianism to refer to a humane society in which everyone was taken care of and looked after by a state which encompassed all of life within its total grasp. The oppressive totalitarian state always begins by being the compassionate totalitarian state.’

    The classic British and American traditions have prized liberty just as highly as safety, as encapsulated in Benjamin Franklin’s dictum, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Richard Weaver warned of this tendency toward the totalitarian, ‘total care’ state in 1962 when he said, “The past shows unvaryingly that when a people’s freedom disappears, it goes not with a bang, but in silence amid the comfort of being cared for. That is the dire peril in the present trend toward statism. If freedom is not found accompanied by a willingness to resist, and to reject favors, rather than to give up what is intangible but precarious, it will not long be found at all.”

    So how can you honestly accuse me of statist pretensions when I expose the dangers of statism in such a nuanced way for all the world to read?

    By “socialism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin” I meant statist socialism and corporate monopoly capitalism. I said before that, Statist socialism [has] as it’s goal that 100% of people are employees of the state, 100% of people are dependents of the state, and 100% of a states GDP is from government spending. Monopoly capitalism also has as it’s goal that 100% of people become employees of corporations. I am advocating a system where as few people as possible are employees because they own their own business. A system where as few people as possible are dependent on government welfare because they are self-sufficient, and more than that, they have excess to be liberally generous.

    Statist socialism and corporate monopoly capitalism can merge easily because by the first the worker is provided a minimum wage rather than a family wage and no opportunity to start a business of his own. By the second he is provided state welfare benefits.

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    Ryan Close says:

    I totally agree that “government controlled economies penalize virtue and reward vice.” But government control is exactly what we have today. I am pointing out that we have never had a free market and it would be better to start now with a free market. I am trying to say we have been under a form of soft corporate socialism since FDR, where the small cabinet shop paying workers a family wage is stolen from by the government to give to Big-Box-Stores to put the cabinet shop owner out of business and create 50 minimum wage jobs and result in more state welfare dependents. Progressives want more state welfare dependents. Neo-Conservatives are in favor of corporate favoritism. They go hand in hand. And that is today’s status quo.

    So how is what I am saying anything like “socializing health care?” Did I say “the inequities of the present system are reason enough to turn the entire enterprise over to secular elites?” No I did not. I said, turn it over to mom and pop, give my neighbors a chance to get ahead by becoming entrepreneurs.

    Since John Couretas said he was arguing for no such nonsense, referring to “monopoly capitalism” and we all agree that if there was a free market without state favoritism and more entrepreneurship then more people would be better off, then how do we even disagree?

  53. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    “Distributism” not “distributionism” does not ignore “a fundamental reality of economics: resources and wealth move to the most efficient and/or powerful actors in the economy.” That’s my basic point. More free market for more people is better for more people. When governments interfere in the market to help in the movement of resources and wealth to the most powerful actors, monopoly capitalism is ensured. But distributism disagrees with you that the most powerful actor, the government, should interfere to make things better. It shouldn’t interfere at all. In any way! First of all, I believe that government should be the smallest actor. Secondly, government interference has already gotten us to the point where there is less free market for most people.

    I too see computers and the internet creating a more localized and distributed economy because it democratizes information. I also agree that tyrannical governments have always been threatened by the internet so that the Cyber-security Act of 2009 is another attack on liberty such as we have already seen in dictatorships around the world. In fact it is perhaps too obvious since every college philosophy and social science student understands this very principal. Thus it is perhaps the clearest evidence of the growing statist tyranny we see in America today.

  54. Back to Recent Comments list  Back to top
    Ryan Close says:

    Your inability to abide any constructive criticism of the contemporary economic regime and it’s society leads you to arbitrarily label me as backward and romantic because I see virtue we could learn from in the past.

    In traditional societies the birth rate of illegitimate children was around 3% or 4%. Today it is almost institutionalized. Your attack of my ideal of small property and decentralized production just because it is not contemporary is as logical as attacking conservative sexual values because illegitimacy is currently in vogue.

    Just suggesting that the thousands of family owned slaughterhouses at the beginning of the 20th century were better than the few centralized slaughterhouses owned by only four companies makes me in your eyes a champion of polio, wife beating, racism, famine, anti-technology primitivism, and strangely neo-Marxism. I don’t understand it but I am going to let it go.

    As far as egalitarianism, there are many definitions. In my opinion there is a kind of Christian egalitarianism that is implicit in the Scriptures: “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike…” (Deut 1:17) “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism…” (Acts 10:34) A form of egalitarianism is also at the core of American political thinking. Thomas Jefferson first used the phrase “All men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther King, Jr. called these words the creed of the United States. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 says, “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property.” Yet the progressive movement in the United States has extrapolated from this traditional understanding to a new form of egalitarianism. “Equality of outcome” is a form of social justice rhetoric which seeks to reduce or eliminate incidental inequalities individuals in a society. “For example, granting a greater amount of income and/or total wealth to poorer individuals or households at the expense of relatively wealthy individuals or households.” This is the statist re-distribution of wealth that results in equalizing of poverty and destroys the work ethic. I simply acknowledge that an over bearing corporate capitalism can also crush a man’s work ethic through despair.

    Lastly, wikipedia defines socialism as referring “to various theories of economic organization advocating state, worker or public ownership and administration of the means of production and allocation of resources, and a society characterized by equal access to resources for all individuals with an egalitarian method of compensation.” Capitalism refers “to an economic and social system in which the means of production are privately controlled; labor, goods and capital are traded in a market; profits are distributed to owners or invested in new technologies and industries; and wages are paid to labor.”

    Distributism, as I understand it, is like decentralized small capitalism. It does not want state or public control of the means of production, allocation of resources, or anything at all. It wants the means of production and allocation of resources to be privately controlled by more private individuals, particularly families. Distributism does not refer to an egalitarian method of compensation but to coerced remuneration of labor and industry through capital traded in a free market. Profits are distributed to owners just as in capitalism, just that there are more owners. The state has nothing to do in “forcing” people to be owners except not inhibiting ownership or small property and protecting privet property. Wages are paid to labor, though I think a “family wage” rather than a “minimum wage” is most conducive to the sustained existence of the work force, as even Adam Smith admitted. A “minimum wage” is a state regulation that helps keep the work force from starving, and like all state regulations should be abolished.

    I cannot say it clearer than that. I am sorry if I have been vague in the past.

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