Green Patriarch: Human Economy Failing

One would think that, having established a worldwide reputation as the Green Patriarch, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I — and his advisers — would approach the writing of a statement on Orthodox Christian stewardship of the environment with a certain gravitas, a sense of responsibility to those in the Church searching for answers on the weighty and complex problem of how to live in this Creation, deeply troubled but still productive and beautiful. One would also hope that these environmental statements from the Phanar would be informed with the sort of intelligence and insights that display some familiarity with environmental science, economics, public policy, the political realities of living in advanced democracies, and the awareness that these problems are often technical and leave ground for well-meaning Orthodox Christians to debate or even disagree on the particulars. This sort of approach to understanding environmental problems does not in any way undermine the non-negotiable demand to practice stewardship of the environment in a sacramental, liturgical and ascetical way that is truly Orthodox. We are, after all, called to be “priests of creation.”

Unfortunately, the latest brief “message” on the environment from the patriarch amounts to little more than pious Sunday School affirmations (“We need to bring love into all our dealings”) and simplistic denunciations of capitalism and globalization that, in effect, indict just about anyone with a job in today’s market economy as an accomplice to the destruction of the planet.

We do get a blessing for a forthcoming environmental conference sponsored by the United Nations, an organization led by a man who recently warned that we have only four months to act if we are to save ourselves. I believe that is what’s known as alarmism.

This patriarchal statement does not portend well for the forthcoming “symposium” at various locales along Mississippi River in October. What will Orthodox Christian young people learn about environmental stewardship from this event? What witness will we offer to the wider culture?

This brief message is notable for its really one sided “exhausted Earth” view of stewardship (which really isn’t a guide to stewardship but to despair). There’s not a word about how exactly we are to help the poor if we replace “big business” with something else. But what?

Having endured, for the past year, one of the worst financial crises in decades, with much attendant suffering, and endless analysis as to its root causes — again a subject on which Orthodox Christians can charitably find room to disagree — we are now told that the market economy is “failing.” Certainly, the rapid rise of unemployment in the United States in the last year has caused a lot of anguish and suffering. We have an obligation as Christians to take this problem seriously. But we did not get a serious statement from the Phanar on the subject.

It seems not to have dawned on those composing this message that you cannot begin to address the very real problems of pollution and environmental degradation, including what goes on in lesser developed countries, unless you first create wealth. Things like solar power technology, hybrid vehicles, energy saving appliances, and thousands of other products and services designed to be green, are really luxury goods. They are, by and large, created by the same market economy that the patriarch condemns without qualification.

This statement is also mute on the question of social and human development. Which economic model is best suited to lift people out of dire poverty? Or is that a problem that can be cured by aid from rich countries — as is hinted at in the text? If simply throwing more money at the problem of dire poverty solves it, we would have “cured” poverty long ago. Whoever worked on this encyclical should buy a copy of Dead Aid, by Dambisa Moyo, for circulation at the Phanar.

In the past fifty years, more than $1 trillion in development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Has this assistance improved the lives of Africans? No. In fact, across the continent, the recipients of this aid are not better off as a result of it, but worse—much worse.

In Dead Aid, Dambisa Moyo describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth.

Or read the new post on Daniel Hannan’s blog, “Stop giving us aid, say Africans.”

Or perhaps a better idea: Instead of coming to the world’s richest country and holding a symposium on the environment, maybe the patriarch should go to India or China and lecture them about the failings of the market economy. The Indians and Chinese, however, would find it much more helpful if the patriarch could show them how to increase growth and international trade, as this report makes clear:

For Asia to cope with the global downturn, it needs to strengthen domestic demand to sustain growth, said chief ADB economist Lee Jong-wha. Global demand for Asian exports was expected to remain sluggish, but the region could see a V-shaped recovery in 2010, he said.

“It’s unlikely that Asia can export its way out of this slump, as they did after the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis,” Lee told The Associated Press. “This crisis clearly shows that Asia cannot rely only on external demand but must diversify its sources of growth and revive its domestic industries.”

“A return to a fast-growing developing Asia will require some rebalancing of growth toward domestic demand in the region as a whole,” it said.

Governments should focus not only on fiscal stimulus and large enterprises but on supporting small and medium-sized enterprises — where most Asian workers are employed — to build a substantial urban middle class with spending power, he said.

They could do that by strengthening infrastructure, particularly transportation and electricity links, and removing regulations to make it easier to do business.

But doesn’t the market economy lead to tremendous inequality of wealth? Yes, it can, and the progress from an agrarian to a developed economy can be halting and uneven. But the surest way to make incomes perfectly equal is to impoverish everyone, as the communists did, or somehow keep your people permanently in a condition of scarcity, limited life expectancy, high rates of infant mortality, poor nutrition and sanitation — and simple squalor — that they enjoyed before the evils of industrialized “globalization” arrived.

Here’s another insight from a new book by a professor of environmental studies:

In the mid-19th century Sweden was one of the world’s leading producers of iron ore; today it’s a multidimensional modern economy. “It’s quite possible that if those resources were not used, they would not have had a more service-oriented economy later,” Ali says. Botswana, meanwhile, has used the much-maligned diamond, first discovered there in 1966, to transform itself from one of the poorest countries in Africa to the one with the highest per capita income. That’s not to say that development in Botswana has been flawless; the country suffers from high unemployment and an aids epidemic. But the question to be asked, Ali says, is not whether things are perfect but whether a country would be better off if the diamonds–or oil, copper or natural gas–had never been extracted. Probably not.

What’s puzzling is that Patriarch Bartholomew did actually disavow any move toward income redistribution in his 2008 book Encountering the Mystery. “I am by no means advocating the sharing of wealth or eradication of poverty through some abstract dogma or Marxist formula for the redistribution of wealth,” he wrote. “The reader should remember that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is nonpolitical in its role and responsibility; it seeks to underline the spiritual value of social justice and to challenge the spiritual dangers implicit in the vice of greed.”

All well and good, but what exactly is the patriarchate advocating with the latest message? Is this the best the Phanar can do?

No one of course, can ask the Church to endorse a given economic system. That’s not what the Church is there for. No one should expect the Church to “baptize” capitalism or any other economic system. We should expect — demand even — well reasoned, informed, moral reflection on important social issues. And we do have some practical, hard won experience in the Orthodox world of what works and what doesn’t work. We need to go beyond the cheap and easy moralizing, and by that I mean the reflexive condemnation of an entire way of life that does not recognize the real good that has come out of this “failing” U.S. economy. It is the same “failing” economy that has built so many Orthodox churches in this country with the wealth earned and freely given by the laity — not from the “largesse” of government (taxpayer revenue) that flows to established churches in some countries.

If we’re going to talk about social problems, and endorse groups like the UN or those who will be along on the Mississippi symposium, we need to first acquire a deeper understanding of these problems. You can’t, for example, make definitive pronouncements about economic policy without understanding something about economics. The same is true for environmental issues.

I’ll stop here. My comments below are in the brackets.

Ecumenical Patriarch’s Message for the Day of the Protection of the Environment

Aug 31, 2009, Prot. No. 862

† B A R T H O L O M E W
BY THE MERCY OF GOD ARCHBISHOP
OF CONSTANTINOPLE, NEW ROME AND
ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH

TO THE PLENITUDE OF THE CHURCH
GRACE AND PEACE
FROM THE CREATOR OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE
OUR LORD, GOD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST

***

As we come again to the changing of the Church year, we reflect once more on the state of God’s creation. We think about the past and repent for all that we have done or failed to do for the earth’s care; we look to the future and pray for wisdom to guide us in all that we think or do.

These last twelve months have been a time of great uncertainty for the whole world. The financial systems that so many people trusted to bring them the good things of life, have brought instead fear, uncertainty and poverty. [On the face of it, this sentence is preposterous. Despite severe economic problems during the past year, and rising unemployment, some 155 million Americans got up today and went to work in the most productive economy in the world.] Our globalised economy has meant that everyone – even the poorest who are far removed from the dealings of big business – has been affected.

The present crisis offers an opportunity for us to deal with the problems in a different way, because the methods that created these problems cannot provide their best solution. We need to bring love into all our dealings, the love that inspires courage and compassion. Human progress is not just the accumulation of wealth and the thoughtless consumption of the earth’s resources. The way that the present crisis has been dealt with has revealed the values of the few who are shaping the destiny of our society [who, exactly, are these people? And why would we as free people let them shape our destiny?]; of those who can find vast sums of money to support the financial system that has betrayed them, but are not willing to allot even the least portion of that money to remedy the piteous state the creation has been reduced to because of these very values, or for feeding the hungry of the world, or for securing safe drinking water for the thirsty, who are also victims of those values. [what about that $1 trillion for Africa?] On the face of every hungry child is written a question for us, and we must not turn away to avoid the answer. Why has this happened? Is it a problem of human inability or of human will?

We have rendered the Market the centre of our interest, our activities and, finally, of our life, [Christians don’t do that] forgetting that this choice of ours will affect the lives of future generations, limiting the number of their choices that would probably be more oriented towards the well-being of man as well as the creation. Our human economy, which has made us consumers, is failing. [If we’re talking about advanced industrialized countries this is simply wrong. The “human economy” has problems, which is a different thing than failure.] The divine economy, which has made us in the image of the loving Creator, calls us to love and care for all creation. The image we have of ourselves is reflected in the way we treat the creation. If we believe that we are no more than consumers, [I don’t know any Orthodox Christians who believe that] then we shall seek fulfilment in consuming the whole earth; but if we believe we are made in the image of God, we shall act with care and compassion, striving to become what we are created to be.

Let us pray for God’s blessing on the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, so that the industrially developed countries may co-operate with developing countries in reducing harmful polluting emissions, that there may exist the will to raise and manage wisely the funds [Won’t we be forced to ask the few “destiny shapers” that control everything in the world for the dough? Are we talking about will power and personal sacrifice, or taxing authority?] required for the necessary measures, and that all may work together [and with the approval of the United Nations] to ensure that our children enjoy the goods of the earth that we leave behind for them [we don’t leave goods of the earth behind like litter. We create them.]. There must be justice and love in all aspects of economic activity; profit – and especially short-term profit – cannot and should not be the sole motive of our actions. [what exactly is the moral distinction between long-term and short-term profit?]

Let us all renew our commitment to work together and bring about the changes we pray for, to reject everything that is harming the creation, to alter the way we think and thus drastically to alter the way we live.

September 1st, 2009 A.D.

Your beloved brother in Christ and
fervent supplicant before God,

† BARTHOLOMEW of Constantinople

Comments

  1. I really love Daniel Hannan, I found his channel on You Tube and listened to it all day. I don’t disagree with anything he says.

    Even though the Ecumenical Patriarchate is nonpolitical his push for “environmentalism” implies a political agenda. At least to conservative Americans like my self, who typically identify “environmentalism” with a neo-Marxist plot to cripple the remaining remnants of Free Market Capitalism or even more blatantly, redistribute the world’s wealth from the so-called “polluters” to the so-called “enviro-victims.” This has the effect of identifying the Greek Orthodox jurisdiction in America as the “liberal” or “mainstream” Orthodox denomination, where one is just as likely to see bumper stickers for Obama or encounter people advocating the acceptability of homo-sexuality or euthanasia. This is the experience of my friends, who live in a town where the only Orthodox parish is a GOA. They feel isolated and outcast because they are not Greek and are politically conservative.

  2. It is interesting, the EP’s almost dualistic contrast of the “human economy” with the “divine economy.” In another post, I never made such a bold statement as if the “human economy” is evil and failed. This seems inline with the non-Christian idea that human industry and even the human presence on the earth is essential parasitic and destructive. I believe that God created man, in part to cultivate the world, to take the raw materials of the earth and create something of value as an offering back to God. I did say that economies of different scales should be in harmony and that the small economies function best as analogies of the “great economy.” Otherwise it is just cutting against the grain, moving forward only by force rather than like a stream taking the path of least resistance. Water isn’t lazy, just smart and still capable of creating great beauty and powerful industry. In a sense, smart economies will hitch a ride on the Great Economy because it works efficiently and moves forward with great momentum in a sustainable way.

    And it goes without saying that conservative stewardship involves a long view that does not needlessly destroy resources that are necessary for the economy’s continued sustainability. But man does deserve to enjoy the fruit of his labors. Much environmentalism seems to be anti-human and alarmist. The EP’s Encyclical seems to be needlessly critical in the European progressive tradition.

    Great comments!

  3. Multiple responses come to mind.

    (1) It is interesting that those cultures that assume a “zero-sum” approach to economics are also “zero” productive. Actually, they are worse than non-productive, often relying on oppression and theft. (If they believed that wealth was created, they would get to the business of actually creating it.) Those countries that are successfully building wealth has shed this assumption – at least in practice.

    (2) How can one who indicts the market be so dependent upon and eager to receive the fruits of the same market? Indeed, they seem very intent on raising money from the people who have built wealth through the market. (Of course, I have read that the hypocricy of doing one thing and saying another does double your chances of getting it right.)

    (3) The extensive and sloppy use of all-or-none thinking is inexcusable. While it may be a standard element in partisan posturing, it has no business in a serious discussion. (Of course, this may be a ploy to foster re-union with the Catholic Church since it makes the subtle mind of Pope Benedict look so very VERY much better by comparison.)

    (4) It is exactly such misbegotten notions of charity that have left the world’s poor in a permanent and growing state of impoverishment. Contrast that with the impressive effectiveness of micro-loans. It’s the difference between cultivating dependence by giving a man a fish and cultivating independence by teaching him how to fish. (But that requires that your goal is to actually improve the lot of the world’s poor and not just feel good about being generous.)

    (5) So much of this message seems rooted in a stale and self-congratulatory perspective that experience would seem to have rendered long obsolete two or three decades ago. But then again, many very intelligent people think that because they are “really smart” (or, as Thomas Sowell notes, “enlightened”) they are able to comprehend something that actually depends on billions of highly-adaptive day-to-day decisions. Hayek rightly indicts the limits, blindness and arrogance of these armchair generals.

    It is because the US is structured to work in the opposite manner that we have been effective. That is, we have 50 laboratories. If any one state’s policy “experiment” fails, it can be an object lesson to the others and stopped before spreading elsewhere (in theory, at least). Impose it from the top, however – like, say, health care, and we ALL get to discover the “unintended consequences” of some blanket policy.

    This can be disastrous. A quick example: governments have their own criteria for making decisions. Because DDT was deemed as potential threat to the food chain, its use was banned. People facing the threat of malaria would naturally make a very different decision. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to choose. Tens of millions have died since. The death toll is catastrophic, yet Rachel Carson is celebrated to this day. If health care if mediated through government committees in a similar way, the government will view costs and benefits from a VERY different perspective than you will – especially when you are the patient.

    (6) It is almost always unhelpful to have someone who clearly knows nothing about business make moral judgments about business. Here St. Maximos’ dictum applies: theology without practice (or experience) is a theology of demons. The “nicer version”: Better to keep quiet and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. (Of course, that doesn’t impress the folks at the cocktail parties.)

    Pardon my snarkiness, but so much of this message exhibits the worst in “pulpit economics.” (Not that it is ever practiced when the plate is passed.)

    The only thing I deeply regret (and must go to confession about) is that this involves the Patriarch, who deserves the utmost respect, honor and prayers. The content of the message is unworthy of him. I can only hope that some newly graduated desk-jockey actually wrote this pablum.

  4. John,

    Thanks for the post and the comments in the EP’s “Message for the Day of the Protection of the Environment”.

    A few, possibly petty, anthropological observations if I may.

    His All Holiness writes that

    We have rendered the Market the centre of our interest, our activities and, finally, of our life, forgetting that this choice of ours will affect the lives of future generations, limiting the number of their choices that would probably be more oriented towards the well-being of man as well as the creation. Our human economy, which has made us consumers, is failing.

    First, it is in the nature of human choosing that any personal or corporate decision will by its very nature limits human action in some areas even as it opens up opportunity for different decisions in other areas. For example, assuming I am reasonably responsible in my financial stewardship, the choice to purchase a new car means I can’t use that money in other ways. Every decision–and not just an economic decision–is a trade off.

    What concerns me here is not the EP’s good will but his unwitting assumption of an anthropology that does not take seriously the finite nature of the human person and community.

    Second, it is not clear to me that future generations will necessarily choose any better than we have. Nor is it at all clear to me what future generations want me to do. Again the problem here is as much a faulty anthropology as it is anything else.

    Together with his All Holiness we have no idea what future generations want much less what they will do. But even assuming future generations want for themselves what His All Holiness wants for them what his do His All Holiness wants for them (which is not clear from his letter, but that’s another matter) it is not at all clear that circumstances will allow future generations to make these decisions he thinks they ought to make. This brings me to my third, and final, point.

    It seems to me that the letter does not take into account the rule of unintended consequences. I may act with the best will in the world but I NEVER possess a complete knowledge or understanding of the meaning and consequences of my actions.

    It is this third anthropological lacuna that concerns me most. Good will is simply not enough–right intention requires right knowledge and in the case of the EP’s letter that means a sound grasp of not only economics and geo-politics but also of human nature. The absence of this anthropological knowledge, or (more accurately) the EP’s seeming uncritical adoption of an anthropological vision alien to the Gospel is unacceptable and is harmful to the witness of the both the EP and the Church.

    What the world needs, if I may presume to say, is not a mere Christian gloss on environmentalism but a compelling vision of the human person and community. Alienated as we are from God we are also estranged from ourselves and the right ordering of our desires. Until we are reconciled to God and to our own nature not only we will make no progress in our care of the creation we will also see our best intentions twisted to hellish ends.

    Here endth the lesson.

    In Christ,

    +FrG

  5. His “All Holiness” (who used to be referred to as His divine All Holiness) is still pandering.

    I’m sorry to say it because it will offend some, and especially his phanariot sycophants, but this means, plain and simple, that he has no respect whatsoever for those he is writing to, or on behalf of.

    Who ever is writing his material should be ‘replaced.’ That’s good byzantine talk for fired, right?

  6. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    John, strong words but they confirm my initial reaction as well. The entire piece is disrespectful of the reader. The author (I’m assuming a functionary wrote it) displays an arrogance by speaking down to the reader and covering sloppy thinking with moral platitudes. You are correct. The pandering is thoroughly transparent.

    It even includes a reference to a UN Council on Climate Change. The author has His All-Holiness stepping directly into a political thicket here but takes on the tone that the reader should sit back approvingly as if global warming is settled science. This is a failure of cultural awareness and informed reasoning.

    Why isn’t this stuff vetted before it is released? This ranks with Abp. Demetrios’ unfortunate statement comparing Pres. Obama to Alexander the Great. Apparently this latest missive didn’t make it past the echo chamber either.

  7. Is this a right wing, conservative political blog or an Orthodox Christian one, because it is not obvious?

    “We have rendered the Market the centre of our interest, our activities and, finally, of our life, [Christians don’t do that] forgetting that this choice of ours will affect the lives of future generations, limiting the number of their choices that would probably be more oriented towards the well-being of man as well as the creation. Our human economy, which has made us consumers, is failing.”

    First, why the commentary in the middle of sentences, can’t people think for themselves if it is that obvious? Second, I disagree. I believe a vast majority of Christians do precisely that and have forgotten what lies at the heart of the Gospel. It is a real minority of Christian that have not succumbed to the spirit of materialism in my opinion.

    “The divine economy, which has made us in the image of the loving Creator, calls us to love and care for all creation. The image we have of ourselves is reflected in the way we treat the creation. If we believe that we are no more than consumers, [I don’t know any Orthodox Christians who believe that] then we shall seek fulfilment in consuming the whole earth; but if we believe we are made in the image of God, we shall act with care and compassion, striving to become what we are created to be.”

    Orthodox Christian may not say they are only consumers but may live in a manner that says otherwise. Sorry but I see all to much of this.

  8. Somebody should send the Phanar and 79th Street a copy of Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose

  9. Stephen, for the reasons Fr. Gregory pointed out and others besides, the first paragraph you quoted is nonsense. By way of summary: every choice we make in a limited contingent world affects others. We can not know how. We can only make what we believe is the best decision at the moment.

    The argument presumes that choices should be limited. (They are certainly being limited for the EP by the Turks. Not sure that that is going over so well.)

    HOW would one limit another’s choices? WHO gets to decide that? By what criteria? After all, what matters to you may not matter to the one who gets to decide what is “more oriented to the well-being of man.” One person’s preference is another’s necessity. Where must you stand to be able to determine that for another? What happens if the Decider chooses poorly? Since we now must apparently know the long-term consequences that will result, what might be lost as a result of limiting such options? Limiting options always has consequences, too.

    Thus the writer claims that we need to be more attentive to the long-term implications of our choices. Leaving aside the god-like abilities that this would require, it is simply condescending. I can say that as a parent, I am MUCH more sensitive to the formative consequences of my decisions than I was before. This is true of most parents I know. (This is also true of most business owners or anyone whose decisions have a material impact on the lives of others. I have watched a number of business owners really suffer – and cut their own income substantially – to avoid laying off people for whom they feel responsible. Wouldn’t that be EXACTLY the kind of care the EP is advocating?)

    As far as unforeseen and unintended consequences, government policies are perhaps the worst offenders. This may be inherent in a centralized process, since they can not make the minute adjustments that a dynamic market can. History is replete with the tragic results of non-responsive centrally planned decisions. (See my example about the catastrophic consequences of well-meaning environmental policies regarding DDT; Rachel Carson may be giving Stalin a run for his money at this point. See also the contempt that the GI in the trenches had for the “armchair General.”)

    By contrast, the “market” has been wonderfully responsive to consumer desires. As a result you have more choices, more “solutions” to your specific needs at a lower cost than ever before. This has been a greater boon to the poor in the developed world than all the great intentions of the enlighted. It has also allowed you to own a relatively inexpensive computer with which you can post your views on the internet. While the internet was a military invention, you can thank private enterprise for the hardware, software, platform, and distribution systems, as well as low cost energy to power it that make all of this so accessible and affordable.

    While I am not sure what the writer means by “the market” (is it the financial markets? the free market?), it is absurd to indict IT for our sins – for our greed and our fear. As I read St. Paul, sin is pervasive (“we have ALL fallen short”) and is in the user (me) and the manner of use, not the thing used, per se. Sin mis-uses the good gifts of God. The market (whichever form is meant) is simply the manner in which you and I make an exchange that we both value. If we demand purity in this arena – or in any area of life – we are going to be in deep trouble. (In such case, however, we could start with the Church.)

    The claim that the “human economy” is failing borders on incoherence. It could be true, but only in the sense that everything human ultimately “fails” on its own. It is clearly false that the economy “has failed.” It “failed” far worse during the Depression (due in no small part to chaotic government policies that made it difficult and imprudent to deploy increasingly precious resources), yet it recovered from there to go on to create more wealth than anyone then could have imagined. Our lives are considerably more comfortable and we have unimagined options as a result. (Of course the author doesn’t really explain what freedom – options- would be a problem.)

    Are we Orthodox Christians “only” consumers? This is an adolescent view; no one is “only” anything. I have known more than a few recovered alcoholics,and even in the depths of their addiction, they were always more than booze – which is why they could recover. (A Christian should know that.)

    And what is the basis for this sweeping judgment? I know quite a few affluent Orthodox Christians. While a VERY superficial assessment might view them as “excessive” consumers (presumably “because they have stuff I don’t think they need” – an arrogant perspective), they also give an extraordinary amount of time and money to great causes – especially the Church. They know that they have been blessed and they seek to bless in turn. (Ironically so many “pulpit socialists” then look to them for money when they need it. Nothing like unintentionally – or intentionally – denigrating the hand that feeds you.)

    Worse, the comment borders on hubris. While I may be in a position to look into my own heart and sense a need to live a more ascetic life, I am in no position to judge others. Unless I have read the Fathers incorrectly, no one is really in that position except one’s spiritual father. Again, where must ask where you have to stand to be able to make these judgments. This is an absurd claim unworthy of a great leader.

    It is precisely the careless and condescending nature of the judgments made that led me to suppose that this missive was written by some young pup with half-baked notions of life. You may agree indeed with the author’s conclusions, but I doubt it is because of the arguments offered in this letter.

  10. Andrew (#8) – or Hayek’s Road to Serfdom.

  11. cynthia curran :

    Well, the Orthodox tend to be more left of center, and Catholics tend to be more divided between left and right. Evangelicals who tend to live in the South were housing is cheaper tend to be more right of center. I have read one author that states people who live where housing is more expensive tend to be more liberal. Both the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire and the Russian Empire were societies that could be considered land aristocracies. There were periods were the peasants were able to own their land than others. But the Eastern Roman Empire had the coloni which were almost like serfs since they were not able to leave it. The Justinian Code addresses this about that the coloni can’t leave the land and there were more wealthly landlords over them. The Russian Empire didn’t abolish serfs until the only 19th century,granted there might have been less serfs by them. So, Orthodox countries have not always been that eqaul either.

  12. Well, I’m uncertain that the anicent and medieval world had low levels of water pollution. The Classical Romans use lead pipes in their sanition systems. During the anicent and medieval period, human waste and animal waste was thrown in the streets. The medieval period had poor sanition, hence the two most worst Plagues in Europe, the Justinian Plague in 541 A.D. and the black death in the 1300’s. At least, one of the referances did mention that the communists did some pollution as well.

  13. “Well, the Orthodox tend to be more left of center, and Catholics tend to be more divided between left and right.”

    Really? On what spectrum and by what definition?

  14. George Michaloupulos :

    Sigh. Where to begin? Perhaps we can start by calling Bartholomew simply “Patriarch Bartholomew” instead of “Bartholomew the First.” He won’t be officially designated “the First” until there’s a “Second.” Same thing with his two predecessors.

    I just hope we Orthodox are so marginal to the discussion that the entire riverboat extravaganza will be downplayed by the media. Such a stunt makes evangelism so difficult.

  15. Sometimes, you wonder if the EP realizes he is calling for the death of the goose that lays the golden egg. Instead of calling the EP the “Green Patriarch” we should call him the “Poverty Patriarch” because his views ultimately consign the most vulnerable among us to an endless cycle of Poverty.

    Here is another thought, The EP has his yacht and is going to have his big party in NYC at the Waldorf. He relies on the money generated by business, commerce and capitalism to have a do such things. This is what keeps the lights on at the Phanar. Yet he calls for a world in which propserity is punished and poverty becomes chic in the name of being “Green”.

    Lets be honest it is the Free Market and Capitalism that allows the Phanar to stay open.

  16. Andrew, you nailed it! There is one and only one engine of value creation in society “ethical capitalism” and free markets. There is no other! All other systems are parasitic (socialism, communism, etc.) versions and depend on that very same engine, even as hypocritical leaders criticize, blame, and demonize it and all producers and risk takers. Meanwhile these leaders wear nice clothes, eat healthy and good food, live in luxurious air conditioned homes, drive safe cars, use powerful computers, have fantastic medical services and technologies, and fly in amazing planes produced by that very same engine of creativity and innovation.

    I would also add that religious institutions also depend fully on that very same engine when the Church and its entire administrative apparatus draw salaries, benefits, pensions, and operating budgets from the “profits” coupled with the generosity of all of the people who work hard and rely on that engine for their livelihoods.

  17. Michael Bauman :

    Being a consumer is bad according to the EP. From an ascetic standpoint, the EP is correct. Unfortunately, he is not teaching Christian asceticism which is focused on union with God and salavation.

    Modern environmentalism is a sort of chiliasm in my opinion; a distraction from the genuine struggle human beings are called to engage. Environmentalism posits evil not as a conscious, personal separation from God that can only be healed by repentance and His grace; not as a resident reality in one’s own heart but as an external thing such as capitalism, etc. If only such evil can be removed the natural righteousness of humans will be allowed to prevail. It is a positivist eschatology rather than Christian. With environmentalism, it is assumed that human beings are capable of creating order by government policy and force that will work. Salvation is subsumed to ‘progress’.

    That is breathtakingly at odds with the Christian paradigm revealed in the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the saints, and prayers of the Church. If we will witness to the Gospel and allow ourselves to be transformed by His grace and love, God’s order will emerge, but it will never be complete until He comes again.

  18. George Michalopulos :

    Michael, may I expand on your point? One of the things that nauseates me about “progressives” is that they don’t believe in personal sin but collective sin. Hence

    “consumerism is bad,” but gluttony is not an issue. We can go down the list:

    Poverty is a sin, but not alcoholism/drug addiction/sloth are, even though these lead to poverty.

    exploitation of women is a sin, but not pornography, etc.

    This is not the ascetic struggle. When liberals invoke such collective sins they are looking for grace on the cheap.

  19. George Michalopulos :

    P.S. I forgot to add, when you believe in collective sin, you open the door to collective guilt. How’d that work out? Are all Jews responsible for the Crucifixion? Before you answer that question, answer this: Are we all responsible for Adam’s sin?

    That’s why the Constitution forbids “bills of attainder.” There was not “taint” on the blood descendents of a malefactor, hence there could be no ex post facto laws.

    It’s sad to me that the Founding Fathers of the United States understood this but our modern theologians (in all Christian confessions) don’t.

  20. Chrys, Thank you for your lengthy response. I do not presume to know much about economics and politics but it seems everyone has an opinion about the state of our economy and how we got to where we are. To some degree we all bring our own presuppositions to articles like this and many have become set in their ways. Unfortunately the article was written with heavy political undertones, instead of sticking to a more spiritual tone and spiritual matters, to put it lightly. Would you not agree that we live in a consumer driven society that has had many negative implications for us , and is now causing hardship to many because of our recklessness in spending? What is wrong with staying in a house and fixing it up instead of moving to a bigger and better one? What is wrong with eating vegetables in season? When we make choices to spend more than we have and use the world without thinking of consequences, we put ourselves and our environment at risk. The environment, in the fact, that many large scale operations are not sustainable and only hurt our health and our land in time and what of the small farmers whom are being driven out? Is that all we care about, getting cheap goods? We may receive a plethora of affordable goods but what of the quality? What are they doing to our environment and to our own bodies? What about the spiritual implications? for ourselves and of our neighbors? I do not have the answers and am not saying a free market or capitalism is entirely wrong. Obviously there have been many benefits in medicine and technology to name a couple. But are we using these things in the most productive way for the good of our society and world? In many ways I am more concerned about the spiritual implications of a consumer driven society. Is it really the best way to love our neighbor? Can you name any Saints that embraced such a lifestyle or society? Maybe one could become a saint in this society but it seems difficult at best. I know this is off topic but it is related in my mind.

    “Worse, the comment borders on hubris. While I may be in a position to look into my own heart and sense a need to live a more ascetic life, I am in no position to judge others. Unless I have read the Fathers incorrectly, no one is really in that position except one’s spiritual father. Again, where must ask where you have to stand to be able to make these judgments. This is an absurd claim unworthy of a great leader.”

    You are right about this if we are talking about personal judgments on individuals here. But can we not comment on the direction of a whole society? If this was the case, a Christian could never make any comment on anything at all that they do not agree with and all the comments on this message board would be thrown out because they all make judgments to one degree or another, whether implicitly stated or not.

    Sorry for the disjointed and confusing writing but I often feel caught in the middle since I do not embrace agendas either on the left or the right politically (for me anything that helps someone other than ourselves is good and of course values human life). The only agenda I feel comfortable with is the Gospel but then politics and political agendas get read into that. I suppose this is nothing new.

    In Christ, Stephen

  21. Stephen, It’s really simple: “Who decides?” Virtually every time the leftists, communists, political demagogues, etc. want to decide for the rest of us and vest all the power in a handful of people, and we have a never-ending stream of unimaginable human and economic disasters with hundreds of millions of innocents starved, imprisoned, abused, tortured, and killed as the ultimate “alternative” to freedom, capitalism, and “consumerism.”

    Freedom entails that individuals will abuse their liberties to their own detriment. But that’s life! Even Christ did not force anyone to follow Him. God demands VOLUNTARY choice to do His will. You might say He is the most staunch supporter of freedom and free will.

    “Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  22. Michael,

    “With environmentalism, it is assumed that human beings are capable of creating order by government policy and force that will work. Salvation is subsumed to ‘progress’”.

    You may be correct but should we disregard environmental issues entirely because of this fear?

    “That is breathtakingly at odds with the Christian paradigm revealed in the Holy Scriptures, the lives of the saints, and prayers of the Church. If we will witness to the Gospel and allow ourselves to be transformed by His grace and love, God’s order will emerge, but it will never be complete until He comes again”.

    Does this mean that you belive that free market capitalism is not at odds with the Gospel? Are not all political agendas more or less at odds with the Gospel?

    Generally I like your thoughts here and they seem more reasonalble than the majority of poltically packed comment here. I don’t understand why we can not put Christ and His Gospel first and see what the implications for our lives are, rather than come up with a social theory and then try to read the Gospel in to it. It seems things are turned upside down.

    In Christ,

    Stephen

  23. Chris, this may over simplify things but on a large scale I would answer either government or corporation decides. My decisions seem limited other than personal, spiritual ones. At least I can vote for a politician but I do not have any authority over a company unless I own enough stock.

  24. Chris, “Who decides?” Virtually every time the leftists, communists, political demagogues, etc. want to decide for the rest of us and vest all the power in a handful of people, and we have a never-ending stream of unimaginable human and economic disasters with hundreds of millions of innocents starved, imprisoned, abused, tortured, and killed as the ultimate “alternative” to freedom, capitalism, and “consumerism.”

    Where did this come from? I am not sure that “true” freedom-being the freedom presented by Chrsit in the Gospel- has any connection to capitalism or consumerism.

  25. Stephen, please educate yourself about “capitalism” so we can have an intelligent conversation: http://chrisbanescu.com/blog/2009/01/22/a-primer-on-capitalism/ otherwise it is pointless to go on with your finger-wagging, straw-man argumentation.

  26. Chris Banescu and Andrew are right! If only Patriarch Bartholomew would make a call for “ethical capitalism” and greater participation in free markets, denouncing the parasitic statist socialisms that only create broad poverty! Chrys (#3) says,

    How can one who indicts the market be so dependent upon and eager to receive the fruits of the same market? Indeed, they seem very intent on raising money from the people who have built wealth through the market.

    Banescu is right that hypocritical leftist ideologues “criticize, blame, and demonize” a market that they “depend on.”

    The market is not failed. It may have failed in a few areas, it may have some problems, but it is a remarkably resilient engine for creating value. One problem is that privet property is not protected as well as it could be because of invasive government agencies and obligatory bureaucratic regulations. Government continues to grant certain classes special legal status and interferes too much in the Market following a Kensian economic model.

    Despite example of “unethical capitalism” there are many hard working ethical men and women helping generate value. Cultivation of many more ethical business men, many more entrepreneurs will generate even more value and stimulate general prosperity. Enabling greater participation in free markets makes people more independent than giving them welfare! Just as Chrys (#3) says,

    It is exactly such misbegotten notions of charity that have left the world’s poor in a permanent and growing state of impoverishment. Contrast that with the impressive effectiveness of micro-loans. It’s the difference between cultivating dependence by giving a man a fish and cultivating independence by teaching him how to fish.

    Less people should be government welfare dependents. More people should participate directly in the free market capitalist generation of value free of all government interference of any kind what so ever!

    Thus it was unethical statist capitalism, capitalism manipulated by socialist politicians that got us into the current economic crisis by mandating low income loans for people who could not afford them. Now, in the name of charity, under the pretext of granting the “positive right” of health and safety, they will again take from the rich and give to the poor, thus enslaving both.

    And what is the basis for this sweeping judgment? I know quite a few affluent Orthodox Christians. While a VERY superficial assessment might view them as “excessive” consumers (presumably “because they have stuff I don’t think they need” – an arrogant perspective), they also give an extraordinary amount of time and money to great causes – especially the Church. They know that they have been blessed and they seek to bless in turn. (Ironically so many “pulpit socialists” then look to them for money when they need it. Nothing like unintentionally – or intentionally – denigrating the hand that feeds you.)

    This is an important point. Progressives and environmentalists are too quick to judge.

  27. This is really embarrassing. The EP is calling for a Christian imagination rather than the Austrian one that so many here given over their first loyalty to.

    You all have been poisoned by the spirit underlying the Acton Institute. Begin judging the world through the eyes of the Church again instead of the Church through the eyes of the world’s “realism”.

  28. Time for the supporters of the Green/Poverty Patriarch to enjoy a wonderful insight from an exchange between Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76frHHpoNFs

    Just remember it is freedom and capitalism that gives the EP his yacht and his parties at the Waldorf. It is the free market that gives all the folks at 79th Street their wonderful trappings and large salaries.

  29. Ryan, You focused really well on a key root cause of the crisis and the devastating consequences of gov’t “good intentions” divorced from reality and wise decision-making:

    Thus it was unethical statist capitalism, capitalism manipulated by socialist politicians that got us into the current economic crisis by mandating low income loans for people who could not afford them. Now, in the name of charity, under the pretext of granting the “positive right” of health and safety, they will again take from the rich and give to the poor, thus enslaving both.

    In the name of “caring for the poor” statists and leftists act to destroy the very engine of value and wealth creation that helps the poor the most, through increased tax collections, more social services paid for with tax dollars, cheaper food, products, and services, increased standards of living (the US has the highest in the world and it’s been constantly upgraded), free education, free health care, etc.. In the end they hurt the poor the most. The George Soros, Warren Buffets, most politicians, and rich hierarchs of the the world are barely affected by this. But the rest of us and especially the poor pay the price.

  30. Here is an example of how we may make wiser decisions in a free market.

    Imagine that the free market produced the creativity and adventure that produced the giant crane. This is an amazing invention of great ingenuity that would have been impossible in a nation where ingenuity, creativity, and adventure were discouraged or even severely restricted. But the crane can do great good, such as quickly erect buildings for the poor and disposed. So socialist seem to criticize the very value engine that let the giant crane come into existence, the same crane they must use to build low income housing.

    But let me ask this question: Should we use the crane to life tool boxes and small containers of nails? Of course not.

    Second example: The free market has lead to great advances in medical science and technology. So much so that American high tech medicine is the greatest in the world. People from all over the planet, especially those from democratic socialist countries come to America to treat serious diseases. It is the best, hands down, thanks to the ingenuity, creativity, and adventure of inventors and scientists promoted by the promise of reward.

    But let me ask this question: Should we use the high-tech medicines, medicines and tools best for healing huge life threatening to life diseases for treating very minor injuries or in simple preventive health. No. Some medical needs could be treated using inexpensive low-tech medical methods. But some of these are not covered by insurance companies and government medical programs.

    Here is the reason why: Pharma companies pay a lot of money to doctors to sell their new drugs. It is better for the doctor to make a profit from kick-backs from prescribing a high-tech solution to a relatively simple problem where an inexpensive solution would have done just as good or better. The problem is not that high-tech solutions are no good. They are the best in the world for what they do the best. It is just that in some cases they are being applied uncritically and in an unscientific way without comparing them to other methods and control groups.

    Equally, factory farming is great for what it does. And it provides a service that is in great demand. It is even claimed that it is very scientific, which it is. But some of our criticism of factory farming is that it is not scientific enough. It has not been scientifically compared with control groups based on nature at long time scales.

    You are right to ask, “Who decides?” Because the government is currently very restrictive of farming operations, especially small scale ones that do not fit into the industrial hole. The FDA is empowered to come on to your land and kill all your animals if IT DECIDES your animals are contaminated, and you have to responsibility to determine that they are not contaminated by testing the corpses. I don’t want the government involved in any of this at all in any way what so ever.

    Increasingly, consumers want organic foods and alternative medicines. Wal-Mart sells a lot of organic products now. This gives me hope for the future. But it is monopolies that lobby government to outlaw small scale alternatives or make alternatives difficult to obtain. THAT IS NOT FREE MARKET because it is blocking the consumer from making his own decision about how he wants to feed his family or treat disease. Can anyone tell me why as a consumer in a free market I should not be allowed to eat natural foods or take herbal remedies IF I DECIDE THAT IS WHAT I WANT TO CONSUME?

  31. For example, if I don’t like the idea that a lot of beef comes from what I consider to be environmentally destructive animal feeding operations, that pollute the water supply and contaminate the meat so that it has to be treated with ammonia, and I decided I would rather have ammonia free meat, why should I be restricted from either raising ammonia free meat or buying ammonia free meat? Is it free market capitalism for large companies to use government regulatory agencies as a kind of anti-natural mafia? Of course I know it is not agreed that this is happening, but if I feel it is, “who decides?” I should decide for myself and buy the ammonia free meat whether it is illegal or not, right? Right now I drink milk that is illegal to sell, but I still buy it. Am I breaking any free market AOI dogma or is this kind of activity “free market” after all?

  32. Chris, Are you looking for a conversation or someone to agree with you? It sounds like you enjoy preaching to the choir. I am not saying that I do not agree with most of your points. Questions are not straw man arguments, they are questions. Why are questions so offensive to you? Also who is finger waving? I am simply trying to learn something here because, I admittedly do not understand politics and economics very well and may never understand. But I do need to have enough understanding to make good decisions. I am amazed at your reaction and lack of humility with regards to your points (this is not a judgment on you as a person). You use my questions as a vehicle of attack and a attempt to humiliate. Where is the Christian love? I have listened to and read most of the material that you have put out there and can find someone else who would disagree point by point. You just personally appear to like capitalism so it seems to be a matter of preference. I may never understand capitalism at your level but does that make everything that you say right? This is an Orthodox website and I see nothing in your speech about Christ, the Gospel, saints, etc. and how it relates to Capitalism other than “God created us free”. That is one theological point that you have based your arguments on but God also suffered and died voluntarily for our sakes.

  33. Paleocon,

    Is that you Jeremiah? Well, either way, could you describe what you mean? Could you actually give me something to think about rather than just ad hominim arguments, name calling. I am not being impertinent, I am genuinely interested in your perspective. You say,

    The EP is calling for a Christian imagination rather than the Austrian one that so many here given over their first loyalty to.

    You have stipulated a fact but have not proven it to be true. Just saying it is true doesn’t make it so. And even if it is true, I haven’t been given the opportunity to learn and correct my thinking since you haven’t presented me with anything to learn from.

    You all have been poisoned by the spirit underlying the Acton Institute. Begin judging the world through the eyes of the Church again instead of the Church through the eyes of the world’s “realism”.

    What does this mean? Does it mean that the eyes of the Church think the government should decide for me whether I drink raw milk or not? I don’t think that is paleo-conservative. Does it mean that in the eyes of the Church the money the EP relies on magically appears without the hard work of the capitalist consuming he uncritically castigates. I am really interested.

  34. Stephen,

    I think that all other systems, whether feudalism, socialism, communism (statist socialism), the Servile State, the Business State, end in tyranny. In tyranny, a secular eliet or oligarchy decide everything for you and exploit you. Socialism leads inexorably to communism because of the question “who decides?” is ultimately answered “the biggest actor, the state.” There is no hope for overcoming the heavy burden of poverty.

    There are only three ways to generate value. (1) You ethically earn it by working, in other words work has value especially as it transforms raw material into objects of use that people need. (2) You appropriate it from others, in other words you steel it, or (3) Someone voluntarily gives it to you. If someone gives value to you they must have first either stolen it from someone or earned it. If someone steels value, they must be steeling it from someone who was gifted with value or who earned it. Thus there is only one way to generate value: You generate it by hard work.

    Hard work is more beneficial for the soul that theft or laziness. These principals apply no matter what century you live in. History tells us that in time periods when more people were able to freely trade fruits of their labor for other things of value, without being restricted, they were more prosperous without the heavy burden of poverty restricting their access to value or steeling it away from them. Thus, the more people who can be brought into the circle of capitalism and participate in the free market, the better.

    Lastly, the more prosperous they are the less dependent on welfare they will be. Welfare is only necessary when people are not independent, but rather depressed from the free exchange of the market into dependency on the state.

  35. Stephen, of course there are aspects of capitalism that are not in accord with the Gospel. This is especially true when an industrial model of capitalism is used or when materialism is the philosophy behind one’s economics.

    Unlike socialism and communism or any other statist solution, there is a place for genuine virtue in a free-market approach to things. The more virtue people have as they make their economic decisions, the more the market reflects those values, i.e, there is more charity for instance. Also, the nature of a free market is that it tends to reward labor, not just power. Labor is a form of capital after all. It is also quite possible for individuals, by their labor and discipline to create their own money capital.

    Chris, because of his early life experiences behind the Iron Curtain tends, IMO, to be a little dogmatic about the virtues inherent in capitalism, idealizing it a bit rather than realizing that it can be misused by folks who have a tyrannical agenda.

    My position seems to be similar to yours: no political philosophy or economic system or activity is inherently Christian. We are on dangerous ground when we make too close a link between particular philosophies and ideas that are extrinsic to the Gospel with the Gospel itself. It is a trap that St. Paul warns against in Romans 1–worshiping the created thing more than the creator.

    Unfortunately, it seems to me that the EP and his advisors have fallen into just such a trap.

    Holy Tradition makes it abundantly clear that our God-given vocation is to dress and keep the earth, for His glory, not our own. That is our general vocation to which each of us must respond as we are able in specific ways. Such response includes the work we do, what we eat, all of our activities and thoughts.

    God gives us the absolute freedom to make those choices as we see fit. Such choices are intimate and personal. Chris is correct that non-statist economies (if there were any) more closely mirror the gift of freedom God has given us. However, we must continue to realize that it is the good gift from above that we are participating in. We must not begin to think that participation in a given economic way of life confers the gift or is the gift. At best it is a manifestation of the gift.

    It is blatant blasphemy for example to say that because the Bible tells us that early Christians tended to hold everything in common, that Jesus was a socialist.

    Nor to say that because St. Paul was adament about people working and caring for themsevles that he was a capitalist.

    The Gospel is not about economics. It is not about politics or political philosophy. It is part of God revealing Himself to those whom He loves. It is our response to His love (or lack of response) determines whether or not each of us and our communities are in line with His will or not.

    BTW, one does not have to constantly refer to the Saints or the Church specifically to be speaking from within the Tradition.

  36. Stephen,

    A big part of our vocation to dress and keep the earth is our responsibility to magnify and improve the rest of creation so that we may offer the fruits of our labor and those of the earth through us back to God. We have dominion.

    A dynamic, free market economy allows for that in a way impossible in any other economic system that I know anything about.

    Our dominion does not mean we have the right to exploit without care simply for selfish ends. But once again, no laws or policies created by the mind of man and implemented by the coercive power of the state can accomplish anything Christian.

  37. Michael, You misconstrue my stance on capitalism by saying that I idealize it. That’s like saying I idealize the laws of gravity. What I correctly define as “capitalism” (a term dreamed up by socialist academics) is simply the laws of value creation and economic interaction of free individuals, nothing more. So, if you believe that someone’s defense and acknowledgment of the laws of gravity and human economic interactions is equivalent to “idealizing” them then I guess that’s your prerogative.

  38. Ryan, thank you for your thoughtful response and your time. I do not believe Capitalism to be a form of, or entirely, evil. Even your more socialized countries such as Sweden-were I lived for 4.5 years, relies on many of the principles of capitalism. Most people there are hard workers but of course you find slackers anywhere. My questions were more aimed at seeing both sides. Every system has it’s weakness and Capitalism is no exception. But it seems that there are some that are blinded from these weakness and get angry if anyone questions their knowledge and expertise. Going back to the original post which is about environmentalism, it appears that Capitalism is at least partly responsible for some of the destruction of the earth and we as individuals all have played our own part.

    Chris, I have read your article now read “The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture” By Wendell Berry.

    I have no problem with Capitalism as you presume. Let us just be responsible with it. It does not look as if we have been. I say we because I am also responsible and try to do my part.

  39. Michael, IMO, I think you again fall into the liberal and leftist trap and using their definition of that made up term, “capitalism”, and enforcing the falsehood that it is “a particular philosophy and idea” which is “extrinsic to the Gospel.” Just because many treat, describe, and abuse it as such, does not make it so.

    Capitalism as it should be defined, “describes the laws of value creation and economics of free individuals” is NOT an ideology, just like the laws of gravity and laws of economics, chemistry, and mathematics are not philosophies or ideologies, but concepts that describe reality and attempt to explain how humanity interacts with the physical world.

  40. Thank you Michael, Maybe it’s just me, but I feel better when thoughts are balanced with the mind and tradition of the Church including Scripture and this is explicitly stated. Maybe this shows my weakness. I feel that you have done that quite effectively. I like to focus on the cross and move out from there. No system of man will ever do this but every conceivable system will allow a man or women to give their life to God.

  41. “Capitalism as it should be defined, “describes the laws of value creation and economics of free individuals” is NOT an ideology, just like the laws of gravity and laws of economics, chemistry, and mathematics are not philosophies or ideologies, but concepts that describe reality and attempt to explain how humanity interacts with the physical world”.

    Be that as it may, whatever Capitalism is or is not, there are many facets and degrees within. It is nearly impossible not to label things. These “laws” as you call them can be assembled to make a “sunny day” or a “terrible storm”. To say that Capitalism is a fabrication of the mind is a red herring in my mind. BTW, we can also manipulate the laws of any of the other areas of science and bring destruction or harmony, i.e. nuclear weapons vs. energy. The point is that anything can be used for evil purposes or good, even the beloved, and so called “Capitalism”.

  42. Chris Banescu, I have a question. What about other forms of value, the kind of value generated by domestic labor?

    In the modern capitalism this labor is replaced because there in no one left in the home to generate this value through domestic industry. What if the cost of purchasing what used to be produced in the home is actually more than 1) the value of the labor that used to be expended to produce the same product in the home when there was only one wage earner, or 2) the value generated by the second set of wages? If it is more, then the family would be better off as single wage family so that it can reap the benefits of domestic industry rather than an insubstantial second wage that must now be used to purchase what could have been produced more inexpensively in the home.

    A well known example of this is child care. If both parents of a child are occupied in industry (value generation) outside the home, childcare must be sought outside the home as well at a considerable cost. There are many other forms of domestic labor (value generation) that are lost in double wage families that must be replaced with purchased alternatives.

    Could this be depressing low income families who could benefit from the inexpensive production in the home of industry they are currently purchasing outside the home? If a family wishes to be a single wage family but are prevented from doing to by forces beyond their control, who is to blame?

    I will follow up with a quote:

  43. From THIRD WAY by Allan C. Carlson:

    Late-twentieth-century “proletarianization” could be defined as the gradual elimination of independent sources of household income other than wages and the “redistributed” wages of state transfers, where economic gains from private property, “commons” rights, informal economic activity, household production, and other forms of nonmarket work were steadily displaced by factory labor, commercially purchased goods, and public welfare. Most working-class families in the 19th and early 20th centuries struggled to avoid this end.

    In a compelling article, Jane Humphries has shown how the effort by rural laborers in England to hold on to “commons” rights to grazing plots and woodlands in the face of legally mandated “enclosures” rested on the desire to preserve some sense of liberty. Access to a “commons” meant that a wageless laborer “would not starve. Nor would his family.” The commons also liberated landless workers from the beck and call of the emerging industrial farmers. “In the terms of the times these were not paltry degrees of freedom,” writes Humphries. In those places where the full industrialization of social relations broke through, the result was the elimination of an economic base to the family, very low fertility, and full dependence on employers for subsistence.

    Under a family-wage regime, the working family accepted the industrialization of one of its members as a necessary adaptation to the new order. However, the value of the domestic labor of others in the family was retained by the family itself, in defiance of industrial capitalism’s incentives.

    Industrial capitalism certainly obscured the value of household production. In the early 19th century, commons rights and various types of cottage industries allowed mothers and wives to increase their real family income without becoming industrial wage workers or disrupting child care. By the end of that century, however, the still substantial contribution of woman’s household production to family support was being either veiled or denied. As Jane Humphries has explained, capitalist relations both “corrupt pre-industrial family relations” and simultaneously hide “the primitively communal core which the family retains in the union of laboring and non-laboring individuals.”

    Only recently have economists fairly documented the worth of this hidden “nonindustrial” labor. Reuben Gronau has calculated the average value of home production of American wives, near the end of the American family wage regime, to have exceeded 70% of the family’s after-tax income. With at least one young child in the home, this unpaid, untaxed contribution was nearly equal to the potential market earnings.

  44. Paleo-con, the Austrian school simply recognizes something that most economic theories failed to: that economics is about behavior and that people respond in a generally rational manner to incentives and costs. When the incentives and costs are changed, behavior (“the market”) responds according to the self-interest of the participants.
    While I appreciate deeply the insights that they offer, I am happy to recognize truth wherever it is found. (By the way, the Austrian school shared many of the same insights developed by the scholastics at the School of Salamanca (Spain). Since these were Catholic monks, I think we can reasonably suppose that they were Christian in their outlook, not likely to be susceptible to 21st century American concerns and were not tainted by any connection to Wall Street.) The Wealth of Nations, the great work of Adam Smith – who was a moral philosopher – identifies many similar insights because he was simply describing how people behave.
    If the label bothers, how about game theory, which certainly develops some of the same insights in different ways. Regardless of the reference, the free market is largely just an expression of humanity’s self-organizing interaction. As Michael notes, it permits virtue by virtue of the relatively free manner of participation. Seen in this manner, the “market” is a venue, not an ideology; it is a forum that provides a continuous stream of data about the needs and desires of its participants. It is no more virtuous or vicious than its participants – though it does reward virtue and punish vice. (If you doubt it, just ask yourself: will you continue to patronize ANY provider who charges more than they deliver? Wont’ you, conversely, recommend to others someone who provides MORE value than you expect?) Seen in this manner, the “market” is simply a way to express economic interaction. It is wildly inappropriate to make it an article of faith or an object of blame. It’s the same sloppy thinking that blames guns for murder and silverware for obesity.
    In my experience, the market – like any other forum for interaction – can permit one to live a VERY sacramental life. Through my labors, I can offer up to God and my fellow man my very best effort to bless them. While I watch “the numbers” (cash flow, profit margins, etc.), it is NOT because of what I get out of it, but rather to “measure” how effective I am in offering my gifts for the benefit of others. Most of the best business owners I know are AWARE of their numbers but never focus on them; they focus on providing the best product or service they can – which blesses me. And for that, I do thank God.

  45. Michael Bauman :

    Chris, being a stubborn, arrogant man I will make one final attempt at communicating to you what I am saying (plus I like you and value most of what you say). I have never said that capitalism is an ideology. You are over generalizing. All I am saying is that there are people who approach economics from a ideological and philosophical foundation that is called capitalism or free-market economics that is profoundly anti-Christian in its view of society and its anthropology. As Christians we have a responsibility to address such things (which I really believe you are trying to do).

    You have repeatedly dismissed my point of view with pejorative epithets and the circular and illogical assertion that “that’s not real capitalism”. That is as effective and communicative as simply saying Morman’s aren’t real Christians. Okay, so what, they say they are.

    Fortunately, not everyone that disagrees with you is a ‘leftist’ (whatever that means). If you talked to all the people who know me, I doubt that you would find one who would consider me a leftist by any reasonable definition you choose to give to that term.

    Capitalism as it should be defined, “describes the laws of value creation and economics of free individuals” is NOT an ideology, just like the laws of gravity and laws of economics, chemistry, and mathematics are not philosophies or ideologies, but concepts that describe reality and attempt to explain how humanity interacts with the physical world.

    Chris, you seem to live in an idealistic world. You under estimate the capacity of human beings to make an ideology (idol) of anything, even things that are intrinsic to the Church herself such as the episcopate. With the exception of gravity, the other disciplines you mention are, as you say, human observations about the created realm from which we derive tools that allow us to structure our world and exercise our dominion. Each of them, including mathematics (the Pythagorians were after all were a Greek mystery cult), are subject to interpretation and application based upon one’s foundational assumptions or first principals. They are not just descriptive enterprises. They are also attempts to influence choices and values, hence they each have a philosophical basis. Everything we do as human beings does.

    If you don’t think that quantum chemists, for instance, do not promote a specific world view, you haven’t read much. Depending on the belief of the chemist, differing interpretation of the same experimental data are offered.

    When one descends into the maze of the social ‘sciences’ it becomes even more confusing and dependent upon the philosphical beliefs of the particular economist, sociologist, etc.

    For better or for worse the popular understanding and practice of capitalism and the free-markets is founded upon a materialistic, even hedonistic philosophy which twists and distorts our economic decisions and negatively impacts all of us. It is the hallmark of ideologies that they take useful ideas, even truth and subsume it selfish, destructive ends.

    One of the things I like about you Chris is your fire. I even appreciate it when it is directed at me. However, in my case, if you’d take the time to really listen to what I’m saying, I think you’d find it’s not necessary.

    Please forgive me if my clumsy arrogant words have offended you.

  46. George Michalopulos :

    Paleocon, what’s wrong with the Austrians? Is it because some of them were Jewish?

  47. I fully sympathize with Michael Bauman. I am considered by most of my friends as the most conservative person they have ever met, but my arguments are usually convincing. Here I have been called a statist and a neo-Marxist and accused of believing and saying things 180 degrees from what I actually believe and have said. I passionately fight statism very comprehensibly both through writing and in conversations with friends.

    The irony is that I read “Orthodox Leadership in the Brave New World,” by Fr Johannes L. Jacobse and “Conflicted Hearts: Orthodox Christians and Social Justice in an Age of Globalization” John Couretas and they present there a nuanced and balanced defense of “ethical capitalism” that seems agreeable to the absence of one-sideness. I find I gree with every last thing in these two articles, as I imagine you do to Michael. It is frustrating to be called a leftist, I know.

    For instance, Couretas says, “It should be pointed out that in patristic thinking, the non-negotiable concern for the poor, the sick, and those in prison was frequently balanced with demands for personal responsibility, honest work, and “orderly” social life.” I totally agree,

    Yet when I criticise the exclusion of certain class from entrepreneurship and imply their greater participation would be better I am a romantic antiquarian. If I say my neighbors would be more prosperous if they did not have to choose between diabetes and eviction because carrots are twices as expensive as candybars I am a neo-Marxist. Sure market forces have driven the market to provide candy bars at half the cost of carrots, but what’s free about being forced to make that kind of choice? The diabetes medicine cost a lot of money too. As an architect, my criticism of say the physical arrangement of our cities being ugly and repetitive means I am “against the free market.” In visual aesthetics polling I have conducted the vast majority of Americans prefer the look and feel of old world pedestrian streets to huge ugly utilitarian asphalt streets with telephone wires and neon signs and parking lots. What’s free about not being given the choice to live in a pleasing environment because retail developers and secular government planning agencies have decided what is best?

    If one makes comments like yours or observations like mine, they are attacked as being critical of American economic might and “the fruits of economic globalization” that they depend on and enjoy. Yet Neil Postman can say:

    What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy

    and no one gives him a hard time for being romantic and neo-marxist for hankering back to a time when people read books, people were less passive and egotistical, and life was less trivial. Since I agree with every thing these people write and say I will stick it out a little longer. I value their perspectives, they just cannot abide ours, and simply criticize us as leftists.

  48. cynthia curran :

    I really don’t have a personal taste about housing or streets. Some people like the 1950’s type of housing and street arrangments while others don’t. People should be able to choose what they want. And some enviromentalists believing that everyone will go back to large cities or public transporation is not realistic. I think that there should be more private enterprise verisons of public transporation to reflect the fact that we have moved from large cities like New York to middle size cities like Glendale Az, around the 250,000 mark. We have just started to make education more private with the home school movement. Middle class people use to think that only the government could provide this.

  49. Michael (Ryan, thanks for your thoughts as well), Would you say that there is an even bigger difference in natural science or mathematics- though like you said they are subject to interpretation- and economics or even psychology which are both a result of human intervention or action to a large degree. By this I mean, the physical world would go on without us and the principles of mathematics would hold the planets in order, but where would economics be without man. It may be based on simple laws but the interpretations of the laws can be as vast as there are people on the earth. These things are dependent upon the variables and interaction between humans, and as such will always be subject to our falleness. Your thoughts at least display some balance to the “rightest” thoughts being fired out here and have been most helpful. Hey, if one can say “leftist” than I can say “rightest”. I wonder how many people on the extreme right have ever lived in another country? I have, and the fears that most on the extreme right put forth are a myth for the most part, designed to scare people into believing a particular agenda. Of course this happens on the extreme left too. Red flags go up for me when I see or here extremes being pushed. One thing I have observed is the difference between how the disabled are treated in the USA and in Sweden. They were treated more ethically there. I work with the disabled here and can honestly say that the more privatized things become the worse it becomes for the disabled. This is, I believe because people are not products. A few years ago some geniuses wanted to start calling them “consumers”. Fortunately this language has almost died. Again there are certain things that are done much better here but I thought it worth noting. Having lived in to different cultures it is natural that I would have a lot of questions but it seems that the far right wants to shoot down these questions as ignorant and ill informed. They may be correct to some degree but my real life experience just does not allow me to buy what they are selling.

  50. im starting to pay attention to who my religous leaders are and what they are saying…..i am totally disgusted to realize they are leftists!! i call for their resignations!!

    in todays evil world , we need leaders who will guide us thru to salvation and eternal life, we dont need bartholemyou and demotratios to lead us in planet worship!!!!!!shame on them shame shame shame!!

  51. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Yet when I criticise the exclusion of certain class from entrepreneurship and imply their greater participation would be better I am a romantic antiquarian. If I say my neighbors would be more prosperous if they did not have to choose between diabetes and eviction because carrots are twices as expensive as candybars I am a neo-Marxist.

    It’s not about you, Ryan. It’s about your confusion between moral imperatives substituting for clear thinking.

    Socialism and capitalism (state controlled economies vs. free markets) are not “two sides of the same coin” — an assertion you made above and have never addressed even when called on it. Your “Third Way” can only be more statist, neo-Marxist blather. It simply cannot be anything else. No amount of outrage that carrots are more expensive than candy bars or what ever the complaint-du-jour happens to be changes this.

    You will get the last word. After that you will have to take your “Third Way” evangelism somewhere else.

  52. George Michalopulos :

    All, I like what Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic said: “the Third Way leads to the Third World.”

  53. Ryan, I think you have confused absolute freedom with economic freedom. They are not the same.

    If I say my neighbors would be more prosperous if they did not have to choose between diabetes and eviction because carrots are twices as expensive as candybars I am a neo-Marxist. Sure market forces have driven the market to provide candy bars at half the cost of carrots, but what’s free about being forced to make that kind of choice? The diabetes medicine cost a lot of money too.

    As limited and contingent creatures, our freedom is exercised only in a limited manner. No one is “forced to make a choice.” Gravity also puts limits on my choices, but I am not “less free” because I don’t get to choose to fly. In the same way, if I have a genetic condition (such as diabetes), I certainly didn’t choose the condition to begin with. (Are we blaming God then for our limitations? Shades of the garden.) Actually, I am free to ignore my condition – and buy the candy bar – but at my peril.

    This is the nature of choice: when I chose one thing, I forgo others. (If you doubt me, just ask your wife how she feels about your dating options.)

    Freedom does not mean – can not mean – that I get whatever I want at whatever price I want. (I may want to own a light saber or possess super powers, but the fact that neither option exists doesn’t mean I am not “really” free.)

    The fact that things even have a price is an indication that (a) there is a limited supply, and (b) that buyer and seller reach a point of agreement in the value of making an exchange. Economic freedom consists in each party being able to choose between available options. I am “free” to choose what I value and the price I am willing to pay. It also allows the provider to sell it to me at a price he is willing to settle for.

    We violate these rules only at our peril. If I force the provider to sell them for less than they are worth simply because that seems just or preferable to me, he will have no incentive to provide more of them. This is how artificial shortages occur. (It is also why the words “Cuba” and “pharmaceutical innovation” never occur in the same sentence.) Conversely, if we insist that prices should be higher than the value of the product (usually to provide a “just wage” to the producer), we end up with a surplus because folks won’t pay more than something is worth unless forced by necessity. (Ironically, this was tried during the Depression – to disastrous effect.)

    Sometimes other areas of life make this dynamic more obvious. For instance, many high school students would love to be on the varsity team, but . . . others potential players get to try out, too; Coaches also get to choose. The fact that only a limited number will “make the team” does not mean that we are less free. (The justice in all of this is that those who are willing to pay the price will have the best chance of success; yet that still does not guarantee anything. The grace in all of this is that even among those who pay the price and fail often find that, in fact, they have gifts elsewhere which would not have been discovered otherwise.)

    We see the same thing when it comes to dating: you get to choose and so does she. Just because an adolescent doesn’t have the choice to date the Starlet of the moment doesn’t mean he is not “really” free. A relationship – or even marriage – may result when each finds another that they value enough to pay the cost. I can’t imagine progressives applying the same logic to their personal relationships and artificially restricting choices.

    As created beings, our choices are inherently limited. Indeed, virtue ultimately consists of choosing well precisely in the face of the demands of contingency.

    This distinction is vital. As Fr. Thomas Hopko has pointed out, a good deal of our spiritual combat consists of learning to deal with what we’ve been dealt. And to do so with gratitude. In the end, it is the height of ingratitude – and a repeat of the fall in the garden – to deny the real but limited freedom we do have because we do not have the god-like freedom we think we “should” have.

  54. Man, the EP can’t catch a break.

    I am very new to the whole “Green Patriarch” discussion (I know he is more than that.), but there does seem to be a whole lot of “reading into” the original letter.

    Greg

  55. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Welcome Greg. You should know at the outset however, that you will be asked to back up your assertions with some kind of coherent reasoning. For example, if you believe too much is being read into the Patriarchal Encyclical, you will be expected to point out where that happens and why you think the analysis offered is wrong. Don’t worry though. You won’t get hammered if you disagree but except some spirited debate.

  56. cynthia curran :

    Well, this doesn’t have to do with enviromentlism but I notice by studying certain church growth of the Orthodox churches in the United States, places like Houston or Dallas are now starting to have more influence than San Fran, Chicago or New York city since both immirgants and native born are moving to Texas since it has more job opportunities while pay might be lower. So, Texas culture which is more moderate or conservative than the old places means a clash of cultures in the Orthodox world. Not saying there are not some liberals in Texas.

  57. Fair enough.

  58. Jolynn Ruggerio :

    Cynthia,

    I’m curious by what measure are you determining which communities are most influential in Orthodoxy?

    To be sure Dallas and Houston have Dynamic Orthodox Communities. I cannot speak for New York and San Francisco but what exactly do you know about Orthodox life in Chicago that would cause you to backhand the many dynamic communites,ministries and spiritual growth that goes on here?
    Is one upmanship of one community over another what we are looking for towards unity, or do we look to support one another’s ministries?

    I look foward to how you will “back up your assertions.”

    Faithfully.
    Jolynn Ruggerio

  59. cynthia curran :

    Well, I think I heard that Chicago had over 100,000 Orthodox because of various immirgant groups that settled there long ago from Greece, Russia, and so forth. New York City, a lot of Greeks, Russians settled there. And San Franciso Ca, the Russians and Greeks were there prior to the 20 century, and Russians still immirgant to San Franciso.

  60. George Michalopulos :

    Jolynn,

    I don’t believe that Cynthia was “backhanding” places like Chicago. As a general rule though, the South has seen more dynamic growth, both in population and in Church growth. If Cynthia doesn’t mind, I’ll be glad to provide some statistics: in 1978, when the Diocese of the South was formed, there were six parishes and six missions. Now there are 68 parishes and missions, two sketes which are being upgraded to full monastery status and two monasteries/sketes on tap. That’s in the OCA.

    In the GOA, Texas alone supports two monasteries. In the AOCNA, mission parishes are likewise being planted.

    I’m not as up on things in the Midwest as I should be, but if you took the Red State/Blue State divide as exemplified in the 2004 election, you see a belt of “red” states that make up a gigantic “L”: all of the South going west to New Mexico and then a wide swath of Mountain West and Midwest going north to Canada. These states have seen a growth in their population and in the 2010 census will pick up 12 seats (I believe) in the Congress. These come at the expense of mostly “blue” states (Penn, Ill, NY, Mich, Calif). Ohio is a traditionally red state but became blue in 2008. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing: is Ohio in the crapper because it became more liberal or is it liberal because red-state type people were driven out by high taxes?

    Anyway, the Church is the people. We’re all hurting now because of the recession, but when when things were going good (1983-2007) things were really going good for the red states and deep blue states like Michigan were going downhill. (There are exceptions: Oregon and Washington State are deep blue but they had good economies unlike Calif, Mich, Maine, NY, NJ, etc.)

    What does this have to do with church dynamism? First of all, as stated, the Church is the people. Here in the South and in the Midwest, the language issue in the AOCNA and the OCA had been worked out a long time ago. It makes a difference. Inquirers tend to feel more included in parishes in which the people by and large look and talk like them. The parishes there are coming up with inventive ideas all the time: soup kitchens, free medical screenings, thrift stores, inquirers classes, mission trips to Mexico, participation in Habitat for Humanity, etc.

    Also, another fact, the more dynamic bishops (Mark, Basil, Dmitri, Benjamin) seem to be coming out of the Red state nexus (even if some of them are from back East). Jonah of course is from Illinois but he grew up in Calif when it was still a conservative Red State with a dynamic population and vibrant church scene. Of course, he went to Valaam, became a monk, came back to Calif and established a monastery so he’s a true monastic. He’s the exception which proves the rule in this case.

    In the GOA, you don’t see this same type of dynamism among the bishops (it’s all in the monasteries I might add, so it’s not all doom-and-gloom). That’s one reason why the EP is coming to America I suspect. (OK, this is supposition, I don’t really know why he is coming, perhaps he believes that by going down the Mississippi River that people’s consciousness will be elevated. Anyway, I’m eager to see how the average GOA parishioner –who are very conservative politically–will react to the whole thing.)

    Regardless, the picture is more complicated than simple caricatures. I applauded Iakovos of Chicago for forcefully coming out against the abortion culture which was being foisted on the Illinois Legislature by the Obama acolytes. God bless him. I pray that his diocese took up his clarion call. I pray that it spreads to the entire GOA.

    Anyway, this has been somewhat of a ramble, but I tried to make things as factual as possible. Cynthia, again, I hope you don’t mind.

  61. Firstly, I am not a proponent of the “Third Way.” I have said that more than once. The difference here is not between capitalism and socialism but between Jeffersonian Conservativism and Hamiltonian Conservativism. Jefferson and Franklin advocated thrift as a means of procuring wealth and accumulating capital or property so that America could become progressively independent of Europe. Hamilton wanted to establish state controlled banks to finance wars, public works, and foreign trade. Jefferson thought of this as selling the country back to the British.

    WWII got America out of the Great Depression. But after the war politicians believed that consumerism, as distinct from pre-war American ethical capitalism, would continue the prosperity recovered during the war. Half a century latter Americans joke about their “patriotic duty” to go shopping. Today, with the economic crisis, Americans are recovering an appreciation of thrift. They are saving whatever extra money comes their way rather that buying things with it in order to “stimulate the economy.” This distresses politicians who don’t want people to save money because saving money does not “stimulate the economy.” They would rather Americans go back to their “institutionalized debt” fueled, economy stimulating, trivialized, consumer lifestyles. As people save more and go into debt less, maybe even producing goods and services in the home through domestic industry, they will acquire more personal ownership of small property and thus independence through capitalist entrepreneurship. Banks and other social institutions that rely on government restriction of entrepreneurship and unchecked debt based consumption will go into financial decline. But local economies will thrive.

    By saying this vision is neo-Marxist, besides making nonsense of language’s ability to describe anything, you have accused all the American founding fathers, excluding Hamilton, of being statist neo-Marxists.

    + + + + +

    Secondly, “state controlled markets” and “free markets” are not two sides of the same coin at all. I don’t believe we have had a free market in America for over 100 years. I did specifically addressed this in comments #52 of the last conversation, where I said:

    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.

    + + + + +

    The carrying capacity of a biological species in an environment is the population size of the species that the environment can sustain in the long term, given the food, habitat, water and other necessities available in the environment. Thus, the carrying capacity is the number of individuals an environment can support without significant negative impacts to the given organism and its environment. Since our entire industrial economy is based only on the standard of production it has employed methods that are ultimately destructive to the environment momentarily producing a greater harvest of value at the expense of future sustainability. For instance, the housing bubble was the result of building more houses then could be consumed or absorbed into the economy resulting in economic disease. The equilibrium was disturbed by government intervention. Industrial farming is also a case of exceeding the carrying capacity by producing so much it damages the land and reduces the ability of the land to naturally produce future yields.

    + + + + +

    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.”

    What I am in favor of 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 abhors state control of anything at all of any kind what-so-ever. It wants the means of production and allocation of resources to be privately controlled by more private individuals, particularly families. That means production and allocation of resources are controlled absolutely by private citizens with absolutely no state interference of any kind what-so-ever. What I favor does not refer to an egalitarian method of compensation but to proper and proportional market driven remuneration of labor and industry through capital traded in a free market without government interference of any kind what-so-ever. Profits are distributed to owners without government interference. There are more owners, not because of any kind of state interference of any kind what-so-ever but because people take responsibility for themselves, save more, spend less, build up capital and become entrepreneurs rather than remaining in debt as if buying things they don’t need is their patriotic duty thus reinforcing their dependence on wages for their sustenance. The state should have nothing to do in “forcing” people to be owners except not inhibiting ownership or small property (as they do) and protecting privet property (which they do not). All state regulations that prohibit or restrict entrepreneurship and alliances between business and big-government that grant privilege to certain businesses over other should be abolished absolutely.

    + + + + +

    I agree with the balanced defense of “ethical capitalism” Fr Johannes L. Jacobse and John Couretaswrite have helpfully provided us. I will continue to distribute their articles because what they say in them is so important. Yet these same intriguing people have called me a statist and a neo-Marxist and accused of believing and saying things I don’t believe. They claim I support an ideology, statism, that I passionately fight against in a very comprehensive manner as the politics of antichrist.

    If you had “clear thinking” you would know that when someone says they want absolutely no state interference of any kind what-so-ever, no taxes at all, and more free market there is no way they can be described as “marxist” or “statist” unless definitions have no meaning. There is no way. I passionately repudiate statism and marxism, and every single part of each definition of statism and marxism, with the strongest possible language. I must conclude that if in your way of seeing the world more ownership, fewer employees, no welfare at all, pure free markets, more saving, and less corruption and government interference is equivalent to Marxism then we have nothing more to say to each other since there is no way for us to intelligently communicate.

    My wife suggests that my posts were longer than you could read. I will assume this is the truth since if I assumed you read my posts I would be forced to conclude you were intentionally misinterpreting me or had no interest in the truth. I am sorry, but I must discontinue this conversation indefinitely. I hope I have not caused you as much pain and hurt feelings as you have caused me. I hope I did not disrespect you. I am sorry if I misrepresented you in any way. If I said you believed one thing after you explicitly and repeatedly said you believe the opposite then I apologize. Please forgive me.

    Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture.

  62. “Paleocon, what’s wrong with the Austrians? Is it because some of them were Jewish?”

    Such ugly slander is beneath you Mr. Michalopulos. You should be embarrassed.

    Michael Bauman spoke my concerns pretty well above at #45.

  63. George Michalopulos :

    Cynthia, I’m with you in the Jeffersonian/Hamiltonian divide. I too despise the consumerism of post-WWII America.

    Paleocon, the reason i asked is because many in the paleoconservative movement tend towards anti-Semitism. That’s why National Review started after all, The American Mercury started going off the rails with stuff. This stuff keeps coming back, like in the new mag by Taki Theodoracopoulos and Pat Buchanan (The American Conservative.)

    As for myself, I’m just a conservative with pronounced liberatarian and quasi-isolationist leanings.

  64. RE 54|Greg|September 05,2009|3:46pm… there does seem to be a whole lot of “reading into” the original letter.

    I recant this comment.

    Greg

  65. I wonder, given the poor reception that the EP’s latest letter on the environment received here, did (or would) the 2002 JPII & EP COMMON DECLARATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS be considered a better Christian response, or just more drivel?

  66. Oops. Here is the link.

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2002/june/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20020610_venice-declaration_en.html

    (I couldn’t figure out how to get the document title and the link to show together.)

  67. George,

    Obviously, I knew why you threw that libelous ad hominem into the conversation, hence my calling you on it.

    I resist the Austrians (and Acton’s propagandizing) because their materialistic libertarian philosophical underpinnings are so deeply un-, even anti-, Christian (their technical models are another question, of course). God forbid that the ideology should gain control of the Orthodox American mind the way it has of so much of the conservative Evangelical.

  68. Paleocon,

    Thank you for the explanation. In the face of many descriptions offered on this thread about the nature of capitalism allowing for sacramental living, can you describe how the Austrians are un-Christian? Is there a resource where I can read about this?

    I just noticed that Michael Moore is making a new movie critical of Capitalism. The tag line is “Capitalism is Evil.” He says in one interview that you cannot reform an evil system, you must utterly destroy it and replace it with something better, something beneficial for all people: democracy. This is unclear thinking. For one, I wonder why he doesn’t give this movie away to everyone who wants to watch it. Why charge people an admission fee? Michael Moore is a hypocrite because he benefits from capitalism much more than most hard working Americans and entrepreneurs.

    But at second glance, he seems to be most critical of the bailouts and the government intervention that spawned the housing bubble. He says his movie is against “capitalism” but it isn’t really. It is more properly against “state capitalism” or the “Servile State.” Who would have thought a year ago that the federal government would be owning a car company? The Fed has made the warfare state and the welfare state possible leading to the utter atrocities of the 20th century.

    And what about the new Constitutional Convention that will posses power to rewrite the Constitution in the vein of FDR’s positives rights, that rights are something granted by the state rather than given by God. That is why the Constitution did not create a finite list of citizen’s rights, but rather limited government to certain powers allowing states and people to govern themselves. Rights in the constitutional sense are “negative” because they are “freedom from” government interference in your life. All revolutionary American communist politicians and justices hate this about the Constitution and can’t wait for the day they can “break free of it’s restrictions.”

    New “positives rights” such as “living wage” or “health” are in reality a further level of control and thus grant power to the government. By granting these rights they give themselves the power to take money from the rich and give it to the poor thus enslaving them both in the name of the common good. Furthermore, any right granted by a civil magistrate can also be revoked. The new constitution will make all rights provisional and thus revocable during times of crisis. What’s to stop the government from declaring a never ending crisis? They are already moving toward this now with the supposed “swine flue’ pandemic and the President telling students to wash their hands. It is not by coincidence that the President has now taken on the mantel of universal motherhood. Totalitatian regimes always start out by confusing the governing powers with the mothering instinct.

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busy-bodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may… at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. -C.S. Lewis

    I’ll close with words from Robin Phillips:

    What are some of the first things that come to your mind when thinking about the great dictators of the 20th century?

    Doubtless there are an array of attributes that are associated with men such as Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin and Stalin, but I can venture that qualities such as “caring” and “compassionate” are probably not the first things that spring to mind.

    And that is unfortunate, because it obscures an important part of why individuals and nations find totalitarianism initially so attractive. Totalitarianism never starts with steel fences and ID checkpoints. Rather, it begins with a leader who is human enough to empathize with your needs and just possibly shrewd enough to fulfill those needs as soon as sufficient power is entrusted to him.

    When totalitarianism does arrive, it arrives as the concomitant of a population that has been oriented to view the state as benefactor and protector, even as the great mother. When Mussolini first coined the term “totalitarianism” it was not a pejorative slur, nor was it something connoting tyranny. Rather, he used the word 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 grasp.

    There is such a huge tidal wave of political momentum sweeping away every last vestige of the traditional institutions that preserve liberty. With or without a new constitutional convention, will our grand children live in liberty?

  69. The proper relation to the world is good work. By good work you honor God who gave you the world, hands, and mind to work with. You also honor the world made good by God by not changing it into something poor. You also honor the people who will use w…hat you have made. Capitalism rewards good work and discourages poor work encouraging me to offer my life as a sacrifice of love to God in everything I do. Socialism encourages sloth, envy, and entitlement. But even a slave can offer his of her work as a sacrifice of praise to God.

  70. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note 66. To make a link, highlight the text, click “link” (above the comment box), paste the url in the pop-up box, click OK.

    I wonder, given the poor reception that the EP’s latest letter on the environment received here, did (or would) the 2002 JPII & EP COMMON DECLARATION ON ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS be considered a better Christian response, or just more drivel?

    A better response, unquestionably. Why? Because it (studiously) avoids any endorsement of cultural fads like global warming; facile, even ignorant, economic prescriptions; weak moralizing in place of critical thinking; implied endorsement of the UN programs (often scandalously biased); — almost all the pitfalls that the author of the Patriarchal Encyclical managed to insert the Patriarch’s foot into.

  71. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Ryan, the blog is not your personal soapbox — the place where you get to give lectures. It is for discussion, and discussion requires engagement with others. Shorten the responses, answer or ask questions, don’t engage in a monologue.

    (Your wife is right, BTW. Your posts are way too long.)

  72. George Michalopulos :

    Paleocon, I’m sorry for any offense, it’s just that almost all of the self-described paleocons I know have –how shall I say it?–“curious” views about Jews.

    As to the Austrian schools views about economics, the libertarian/conservative principles that underlie free market economics are clearly the most liberating and wealth-creating the world has ever known.

    Are they perfect? No, this is a fallen world. All human endeavors are imperfect. Some are just more imperfect than others. I’d take a government that was guided by the Austrian school over fascism, socialism, communism or even the “mixed economic” system that we’ve had here since the New Deal. (Make no mistake, the end-result of New Deal liberalism is subjugation and rationing.)

    Why liberty? Because there is no glory in having an abusive government forcibly grinding the faces of its citizens (subjects?) into poverty. Chris Banescu has spoken far more eloquently about the reality of philosophic principles which sound good on paper but are horrible in practice.

    BTW, I blame significant elements of an increasingly immoral population for allowing the governments of the world to aggrandize this much power to themselves. It was ever thus: Aristotle said that “men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm.” It was the people which allowed the likes of Mussolini, Lenin, Pol Pot, etc. to become powerful. And it was deocratic citizens which voted the likes of Hitler into power. Our own slide into Gomorrah here in America has been attended by people electing leftist politicians and the concommitant loss of civic virtue.

  73. George: For the record … The current issue of Faith & Economics, published by the Association of Christian Economists, features an article titled, “Christianity and Hayek.” Authors Kenneth G. Elzinga and Matthew R. Givens say that F.A. Hayek, born on 1899 in a nominally Roman Catholic home, “was a self pronounced agnostic, yet Christianity was influential in the Hayekian framework. Even though Hayek abandoned a personal faith in a revelatory God, his hope for a ‘constitution of liberty’ depended on the creation and continuance of a moral society that would extend and uphold liberty.”

    The authors offer a quote from Hayek which shows how little he cared for matters of faith. “So far as I do feel hostile to religion, it’s against monotheistic religions, because they are so frightfully intolerant,” Hayek said.

  74. George Michalopulos :

    John, this reminds me of a conundrum: Jefferson was a Deist, not a Christian, whereas Hamilton was a Christian. Yet I much prefer Jefferson’s vision of governance and aversion to debt and national banks as being more constitutive of liberty. I guess this is where Martin Luther’s famous aphorism kicks in: “It’s better to be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.”

    As for Hayek, he forgets that the “intolerance” of the monotheistic religions is what allowed them to dominate the world. Lest anyone think that I believe that Islam and Christianity are similar in this regard, I would say this: Christianity has the benefit of being true and the grace of the Holy Spirit has enlivened the West in ways that are not possible elsewhere. (That doesn’t mean that the West isn’t in the midst of throwing away its Christian inheritance presently –it is.)

    On a more mundane level, Hayek’s belief in liberty was only possible in the world of Christendom. As was the birth of the scientific method, the rule of law, and the emancipation of women. So I would personally take his distaste for “monotheism” with a grain of salt. Perhaps a lapse in critical thinking on his part?

  75. George Michalopulos #72, most excellent response. Where can I learn more about this? Fr. Johannes Jacobse #71, I agree with my wife. She is never wrong. Question1: Do you think FDR’s New Deal liberalism and new bill of [positive] rights leads to the end of liberty? Question2: If a new constitution was written that did not protect natural rights and free market, what should we do? Question3: Why does the Orthodox leadership seem to support progressive and statist agendas like enviro-activism and criticism of consumerism? It is really disappointing.

  76. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    1. Yes. 2. Buckle down for the soft slide into tyranny. 3. They’ve bought into the language of progressives and confuse it with the Gospel imperatives; from the other direction, they don’t understand the ideas the language obscures.

    Last Sundays readings spoke of the punishment of the wicked servants who stole the land of the heir. Sounds like a defense of private property to me.

  77. Ryan, let’s clean up some ideas just a bit. Consumerism for instance: what do you mean by that term?

    I look at it as the true optiate of the masses. Rather than encouraging folks to build their own capital, knowledge and skills so they can make intelligent economic decisions in freedom, consumerism plays directly into the type of wage-slavery you have railed against in previous posts.

    Consermerism as I understand it is fundamentally materialistic and non-ascetic therefore at odds with our divine mandate to dress and keep the earth since it denies the sacred. Consumerism displaces quality with quantity. While that is not always bad, often it is. Consumerism is antithetical to wide-spread wealth creation. Consumerism also tends to homongenize products while distorting language and culture by producing the illusion of choice rather than actual choice. As an example, do we really need 5 to 10 differently branded OTC allergy medicines each with the same actual active ingredients, or 3000 TV channels each with nothing worth watching? Consumerism is driven, it seems to me, by manipulation using appeals to greed, lust gluttony and envy as primary motivators.

    Many people maintain or at least un-critically assume that consumerism as described is essential and fundamental to the continued success of our economic systems. If it is then I say our economic sytems are fundamentally flawed and need massive correction.

    Socialism, fascism, communism or any other statist utopian fantasy are worse by far, but good grief, the Church has plenty of good reasons to oppose consumerism. She just needs to do so from the context of Holy Tradition rather than fostering the previously mentioned statist ideologies.

  78. I agree Michael. This does seem to be what I was saying and what John Couretas was getting at with his post on thrift. Additionally, many things that we “consume” used to be generated by domestic industry. Now that we buy them, seems as though we he have the illusion of choice, just as you say. My question about “consumerism” related to our discussion that leftists criticize the system that produced the wealth and prosperity they rely on.

    When I wrote “Capitalism rewards good work and discourages poor work encouraging me to offer my life as a sacrifice of love to God in everything I do.” my friend James wrote me this,

    Capitalism is a word with a loose and elusive definition. I would say it is often a system that rewards monetarily profitable work (of any quality) while discouraging less profitable excellent work. Would you care to offer your definition of capitalism?

    I think this is at the root of your question for me. I agree with both of you as well as Chris Banescu. So to be more precise, capitalism is the investment of an individual’s labor, time, or money, otherwise known as capital, in a venture where he or she works to earn a profit. If the venture provides bad work and thus produces a poor product the “consumer” is free to look else where to find a craftsman who provides more value. In this way, the free market is based on the natural behaviors of un-coerced “consumers.”

  79. Michael,

    The problem with this and similar conversations is that it is posited that these are the only two options. Any criticism of our current social/economic regime (and especially criticism of its underlying Enlightenment philosophy, even a soft and indirect criticism like that which can be vaguely sensed in the EP’s rather bland and unremarkable statement on the environment that caused such great offense to the ideological feelers of some) is seen as an endorsement of socialism or statism. A word, from a Patriarch no less, at least referencing if not grounded in Holy Tradition is met with denunciations and recommendations to read secular philosophers like Friedman and Hayek. Something is undeniably off-kilter in such a reaction.

    I’m certainly no friend of the Modern state. It’s greatest damage has been it’s destruction of the authority of intermediary associations (Church, culture, region/state, community, guild, family, etc.) in its ever-expanding claims of sovereignty and its sustained policy of turning us all into consumptive machines “free” to be ruled by our passions (aka children or Last Men or slaves to sin), but the Libertarian embrace of individualistic freedom is just this same logic in its fundamentalist or deconstructivist form. It’s the cancer of the Enlightenment’s “freeing” of man from obligation through the power of the State, turning on the State itself.

  80. “Last Sundays readings spoke of the punishment of the wicked servants who stole the land of the heir. Sounds like a defense of private property to me”.

    Just to clarify, is this referencing the parable of Jesus in Matthew 21:33-42?

  81. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Yes.

  82. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note 78. Paleocon, I agree that the roots of statism, and it’s step child – tyranny, has it roots in the Enlightenment (the French Revolution is Exhibit A), but I can help but hold Calvin responsible for the present mess too. He rationalized Christianity (true, the antecedents lay elsewhere), descramentalizing it to the point where the import and meaning of creation was a matter of private belief and not objectively present.

    True, one has to have the ears to hear in order to have the eyes to see, but in our day the notion that creation has a sacred dimension never escapes this world of private conviction even among most believers. Even Christians see the creation primarily as mechanism, and even though beauty and meaning are perceived as have a source and end outside of the individual, we function in the world as if it does not.

    We live in a time where logical positivism and philosophical materialism are exhausted giving rise to environmentalism, animal activism, and all the other movements that (correctly in some ways) assert that the creation is more than a machine, more than an object for consumption. We have witnessed the fall of Freud, Marx, and we will witness the fall of Darwin, by whom the great mysteries of creation were purportedly explained.

    But the tendency of these movements is towards the authoritarianism that has its roots in the rebellion against Monarchical Catholicism and expressed today as complete antinomianism, a rebellion against all authority, especially moral authority (how many times have you heard the barbarians of popular culture praised for “breaking taboos”?), that will lead to another kind of slavery.

    My point in bringing up Calvin is that I think the crisis is, at bottom, religious. And here Orthodoxy has something to offer — if we get to work. We really do (or at least our Tradition does) understand that what needs to be restored is what Robert Nisbet called in his great work “The History of the Idea of Progress” a “sense of the sacred.”

    This is why the Patriarch’s recent encyclical, particularly the tepid approval of the political currents that drift toward statism (all in the name of the common good of course) displays at best a cultural naivete and at worst irresponsibility.

  83. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Note 74. George M. writes:

    On a more mundane level, Hayek’s belief in liberty was only possible in the world of Christendom. As was the birth of the scientific method, the rule of law, and the emancipation of women. So I would personally take his distaste for “monotheism” with a grain of salt. Perhaps a lapse in critical thinking on his part?

    More likely the conceits of educated men who lived during a time when the Christian narrative was still the ground of culture and thereby offered a stability and certainty despite the hardships that life presented. George Bernard Shaw is another example. It is easy to be skeptic, or a cynic, or even a mocker, when the cultural weight it carried by others and the only consequences are personal.

    Apply it to all of society however, and the consequences are catastrophic. We see the loss of the Christian social consensus all around us today. Suddenly the conceits don’t seem so benign, so safe to hold anymore. In fact, we see these men as naive in ways.

  84. Been reading Vigen Guroian’s book “Incarnate Love” recently.

    Forgive the long quote that follows, but the whole is required to make the point I think:

    MORE THAN MORAL FORMATION IS NEEDED
    Lots of ethics may look Christian and use Christian categories, but when the liturgical context is missing and the eschatological dimension is forgotten a variety of transmutations occur. For example, since the Enlightenment, advancing processes of secularization have opend ways of entrance for secula ethics–Kantian, Lockean, Millsian, Hegelian, or Marxist–into the bloodstream of Christian life. The deterioration of Christian worship and disciplines of prayer deprives the Church of tools of discernment and creativity to build ethics from within the ecclesial body itself, and so there has been wholesale borrowing from these secular ethics.

    In a variety of ecclesial locations, the fundamental antinomy of being ‘in the world not of the world’ loses its edge while simultaneously the eschatological horizon of Christian belief is overlaid with a transparenchy of one or another secular ideology. Thus, Protestant fundamentalists claim that the ‘traditional’ middle-class family and its moral values unambiguously reflect or embody the Bible’s teaching. Mainline liberal Protestants often quickly assume a correlation between liberalism’s standards of liberty and equality and the essence of biblical faith. Practicable goals of social amelioration and reform are treated as if they constitute the raison d’etre and telos of Christian morality. Orthodox Christians, who view themselves as entirely traditional but who are deeply imbued with modern notions of nationalism, conflate ethnic idenity with the peoplehood of God and supplant the eschatological hope for the reign of God with secular dreams of nationhood. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic liberationists assert that Marxist theory and analysis are compatible with the redemptive message of Scripture. In this instance, Christian eschatology is flattened as it get read into economic and political processes, while erroneous claims are made that the people of God come into being through revolutionary practices. In all these cases, holiness is no longer represented at the heart of human existence or as being the horizon of human destiny.

    Modern claims for the priority of moral formation have lead to similar confusions. It is assumed that all that is needed to ‘make’ good Christians is to devise more and better models of religious education. The free gift of Christ’s own perfect life received in the Eucharist through the action of the Holy Spirit is not believed. Mere Christianity devolves into mere morality and falls short of true repentence and conversion. As I have already suggested, God calls Christiansthrough morality and ethics beyond morality and ethics. He calls them to perfection in the communion of love for one another and with God. Christians are instructed to be (become)
    perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48 RSV), striving together to become a single body in Christ, moving ‘from one degree of glory to another’ (2 Cor. 3:18 RSV). Moral formation may improve our lives but it alone does not make us free; a greater formation, a conversion, must also happen. Becoming holy makes us totaly free as we leave behind the wounded body of ethics. “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor 3:17 RSV)

  85. Note 82: Amen, Father! Well said and very insightful. (Have you developed these ideas elsewhere, by chance?)

    At the risk of theological sloppiness, one could say that Christ is not just God incarnate but also THE Sacrament of God. A sacramental approach to life and the world follows Him in His ministry, healing the rift between matter and meaning. As the various elements of the world rebelled against monarchical Catholicism – or even expressed the fragmentation that began in the garden – they threw out the baby with the bathwater. (Passion will blind you that way.) So many of the -isms that have arisen have undone what God united – have de-sacramentalized the world – resulting in one defective reaction after another. The recovery of sacramental living and sacramental life, more fully realized in the lives of the saints, shows the way to the healing of our cultural wounds.

    Amen, as well, to note 83. The ironic man presumes and depends upon a sober world. In a mad world, his emptiness and impotence is transparent, offering no food to a hungry culture and no help to a dying society.

  86. Michael (84): The July/August 2009 issue of Touchstone published a fascinating book review of Lori Branch’s recently published work “Rituals of Spontaneity.” It seems to arrive at the same conclusion from a very different perspective. The study looks at

    “How and why did the popular conception of poetry shift from ritual recitation and communal performance to the unstoppable pouring forth of the individual inspired heart? How was it that the history of Christian worship seemingly stopped on a time – that an evolving millennium-and-a-half liturgical tradition suddenly witnesses a principled defense of the effusions of free prayer that lives on in today’s televangelism and megachurches?”

    From the article:

    English Protestants attacked the ceremonies of the Catholic Church and the remnants of ceremony in Prayer Book liturgies because they thought these ceremonies lacked biblical support but also because they believed that set liturgical forms were, in themselves, inimical to religious sincerity. This had the effect of detaching believers from communal actions. Medieval Christians were participants in rituals; after the Reformation, Christians began to see themselves as detached individual selves, desperately ginning up religious passion.
    For many Protestants, sacramental rites could not accurately represent or effectively communicate the grace of God. Faced with this “crisis of representation,” Christians looked inward to find a place of communion with God. Not just any experience would do, however. . . . What Bunyan is looking for, after all, is clear and distinct proof that he is truly saved, that his individual religious experience is genuine. . . . (Lori) Branch sees this as a sign of profound self-alienation.

    Later, discussing Wordsworth (using a perspective I have never heard before, but it is compelling):

    The problem of human agency is a central point in Branch’s treatment of Wordsworth. The problem arises directly from the ideology of spontaneity, for which valuable human action must be an autonomous expression of the individual. If he has been influenced in any way, the sincerity of his action is vitiated. Yet we know that we are subject to all sorts of influences that we don’t control. Is there a way to account for the freedom of human action while also acknowledging the reality, and the legitimacy of those influences? . . . Wordsworth’s answer tuns back to the original concerns of Branch’s book, for he finds in liturgy a form of double agency, in which human acts are free yet not autonomous. Liturgy also is the site for the formation of moral agents. The repetitive acts of daily ritual and the ritualized prayers of the Church cultivate love. In the repetitive acts of daily rituals, moral beliefs are, Wordsworth claims, shaped as beliefs. Wordsworth’s turn to liturgy is not, as many have suggested, a retreat into a safe zone of privacy. Rather, Wordsworth comes to see spiritual practice as the basis for a constructive politics, the ground for resistance to the solvents of commercialized culture.

    Later yet, an intriguing quote from the book:

    What was lost in the Reformation crisis of representation and its rejection of the vast, varied communal Christian ritual life: faith in the possibility of communing with God through the action of a community rather than the isolated self.”

    Her findings seem to strongly support both the quotes from Vigen Guroian and Father’s thesis above.

  87. Well, I think that both Catholics and Orthodox have some blame as well as Protestants for the world situation. Both Catholics and the Orthodox were critical of the modern world more than Protestants, and the development of Catholic and Orthodox countries made them more suspectiable to movements like communistism. After World War II, both Greece and Italy had stronger communist movements than Germany and England. Granted, secular thought is a great part of it but religious movements back in the middle ages also wanted to overthrow the Godless Church and set up a collective utopian society. So, certain religious leaders in the name of the poor were and are attractive to this no matter what their religious beliefs are.

  88. i mean West Germany not the communist East.

  89. De-sacramentalized views certainly pre-dated the Reformation; they express the fragmention and distortion that resulted from the fall. In a way, all heresies de-sacramentalize our view of reality, just as they do Christ – they either deny or diminish (or confuse) the material or the transcendent. Just as the truth about Christ is expressed in the Orthodox faith (the creed, etc.), so too is found the truth about existence and creation, for which Christ is the foundation and pattern. It is this sacramental approach alone that sees the healing of the division between God and creation, that rightly sees existence as designed for and realized in the unconfused communion of created and uncreated. The more I think about it, the more it seems that our problems – personal, interpersonal, social, economic, ecological, what have you – arise from living in a non-sacramental manner. I really think Father has touched on what may be THE framework for an Orthodox critique.

  90. It is the transmutation of the person into the individual. A person is a person only in community, i.e, in inter-relationship with other persons. One’s personhood is forever unique precisely because no one else in the community is the same. An individual is always serching for meaning and what ‘sets them apart’ from the group (not community) yet at the same time longing for the experience of community which alone allows for wholeness.

  91. “Last Sundays readings spoke of the punishment of the wicked servants who stole the land of the heir. Sounds like a defense of private property to me”.

    Could you explain to me how this is not proof-texting? Nothing against private property-I own a house- but if we use scripture to support private property what is to stop one from using it to support communism or some form of socialism? Can we not assume that the words of Christ are always talking about a deeper, spiritual level which is ultimately about our salvation? I know that it might be stated, there are or can be multiple layers to interpretation, but it still seems like proof-texting. One of the reasons that I appreciate Orthodoxy is because it generally avoids using scripture to make social or political commentary and sticks to the matters of the heart while telling the story of our salvation.

  92. To finish my comment #90: It is in the sacraments, especially Holy Communion that the person is affirmed both in his uniquness and as part of the community by partaking of God’s presence, gift and grace. The more we have confessed our sins to God and to those we have hurt, the more completely we are able to experience both.

  93. 79 | paleocon

    I agree!

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