Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Blowing the Dynamite

Writing about the Catholic Church,
a radical writer says:
“Rome will have to do more
than to play a waiting game;
she will have to use
some of the dynamite
inherent in her message.”
To blow the dynamite
of a message
is the only way
to make the message dynamic.
If the Catholic Church
is not today
the dominant social dynamic force,
it is because Catholic scholars
have failed to blow the dynamite
of the Church.
Catholic scholars
have taken the dynamite
of the Church,
have wrapped it up
in nice phraseology,
placed it in an hermetic container
and sat on the lid.
It is about time
to blow the lid off
so the Catholic Church
may again become
the dominant social dynamic force.

--Peter Maurin

I'm not a political philosopher, but I've been thinking a lot about Distributism lately.  This interest arose out of my general interest in Chesterton, and had nothing to do with this election season.  But I must say that my inability to support either Trump or Clinton has prompted a bit of reflection.  What kind of candidate would I like to vote for?  And of course the answer is: one who supports Catholic Social Teaching.  And it turns out that there is a new party that is more or less based in Catholic Social Teaching; namely, the American Solidarity Party.

There are some minor problems with their platform, in my opinion.  (Two examples.  I do not believe that a consistent pro-life ethic entails advocating for an end of the death penalty.  And I can't quite get my head around advocating for a single payer healthcare system.)  But my disagreements are relatively few.  And my agreement runs deep.  The American Solidarity Party's platform includes some elements that threaten, if properly spelled out, to blow the dynamite, although the phrasing on the platform makes it all sound very sober and respectable.  I worry it's a bit too wrapped up in nice phraseology.  But the message is there, for those with ears to hear.

The best part of the platform, of course, is the pro-life section (even with my quibbles over certain elements).  But the second best part is the section on economic participation, which reads in part:

-We support the creation of family-owned businesses and worker cooperatives. We oppose regulations designed to inhibit competition from smaller firms.
-We call for the repeal of subsidies which encourage urban sprawl and discourage local farming and production.

Now, one minor worry at the start.  "...regulations designed to inhibit competition from smaller firms"--this is too weak, since it doesn't matter in practice whether regulations are designed to inhibit small firms.  What matters is whether they do inhibit them.  (There could be cases where such inhibitions are actually called for.  I'm not saying no small firm should ever be inhibited in any way.  Obviously.)  I would think the platform piece could be helpfully rewritten to say "..regulations that unjustly inhibit competition..."

But putting that aside, I have to say, these are two interlocking points that need to be addressed.  Regulations that unjustly inhibit competition from smaller firms?  Discouraging local farming?  Have you ever looked at our so-called food safety regulations?  Here's Joel Salatin talking about the process of selling ham.  Please watch it--you need to.  The really relevant part starts at about 2:00.  And he has a whole book that covers a lot more of the same.  Now, Salatin is a libertarian, so I certainly wouldn't endorse all of his views, and he certainly wouldn't endorse the American Solidarity Party.  (Though I think he'd like a lot about it.)  But regardless--he's making crucially important points.  And to see a political party actually talking about this is very exciting.  And kind of dynamic.  Turning loose small farmers, coupled with killing off our insane subsidy policies, would indeed revolutionize farming in this country, pushing us quickly in the direction of a good Distributist agrarianism.

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