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May the source be with you, but remember the KISS principle ;-)
Skepticism and critical thinking is not panacea, but can help to understand the world better
I’m not a huge fan of Patriarch Kirill, but his summary of trickle down “economics” is brilliant. Still some of positio on orthodox church as for neoliberlsim makes a lot of sense. One common line of resistances is is fighting extreme inequality under neoliberalism ( “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”)
“we know socialism doesn’t work, and that the modern capitalist approach gives people an incentive to build and keep great fortunes. But those ‘per capita’ figures hide the massive inequalities in a largely unregulated system. Capitalism is great at producing but not at distributing fairly.”
In the words of Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev, the West[ern neoliberlism] offers “freedom from moral principles, from common human values, from responsibility for one’s actions. We see how this freedom is destructive and aggressive. Instead of respect for the feelings of other people, it preaches an all-is-permitted attitude.”
The possibility of a new global resistance to the neoliberal values that have become stays of the mainstream of decadent West raises the question of who will lead this resistance. Interestingly, one person who could fill this role, is Pope Francis. Alfeyev probably has the most robust message of defending traditional Christian values but is little known/appreciated in the Western anti-neoliberal circles ( Russian Orthodox Church against liberal globalization, usury, dollar hegemony, and neocolonialism - OrthoChristian.Com):
Of course, the neoliberal ideology (which, in its core, is neither new nor liberal) is the ideology in which the corporate profits, together with the financial and political power they secure, are the ultimate blessing, the only value that the economy can produce. It is an ideology in which the “markets know best” mantra is advanced and endlessly repeated (normally by those who have a privileged or monopoly market positions). It is an ideology and a system in which deregulation and the imposition of insecurity and slavery upon those placed lower in the social pyramid of wealth and power, is praised as freedom, ethical norm and sometimes even as the law of nature. It is an ideology in which the destruction of everything, including human lives, nature and entire species, is tolerated and even considered ethical, as long as it leads to higher profits.
For thousand years various religions attempted to suppress the excessive greed in men, as this is a prerequisite for stability and functioning of society. In this respect neoliberalism is really Devil Creed as it consider greed to be a virtue ("greed is good"). In other words from the point of view of Christian theology neoliberalism is nothing but a flavor of Satanism (Wikipedia):
Its core beliefs revolves around individualism, egotism, Epicureanism, self-deification and self-preservation, and propagate a worldview of natural law, materialism, Social Darwinism, Lex Talionis ("eye for an eye"), and mankind as animals"
... ... ...
It is atheistic philosophy which asserts that "each individual is his or her own god and there isno room for any other God. "
Neoliberalism explicitly rejects the key ideas of Christianity -- the idea of ultimate justice for all sinners. The idea that a human being should struggle to create justice in this world while realizing that the ultimate solution is beyond his grasp.
As Reinhold Niebuhr noted a world where there is one center of power and authority (financial oligarchy under neoliberalism) "preponderant and unchallenged... its world rule almost certainly violate basic standard of justice". The same is true about globalization as
"no world government could possibly possess for generations to come, the moral and political authority to redistribute power between nations to the degree in which highly cohesive national communities have accomplished this end in recent centuries".
He warned that
"Lacking a deep understanding of the complexities of national aspirations and cultural differences, US foreign policy often lingers between two extremes of offering economic advantage to secure cooperation or overcoming intransigence through military force".
The problem with "greed is good" slogan it cultivates cruelty toward other people, As Pope Francis noted "To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others ... a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion ..."
Here are selected quotes from Evangelii Gaudium, Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, 2013 (see also Pope Francis on danger of neoliberalism)
... Such an [neoliberal] economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.
Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
No to the new idolatry of money
55. One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule.
No to a financial system which rules rather than serves
57. Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside of the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a non-ideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and a return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favors human beings.
No to the inequality which spawns violence
59. Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples is reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized.
60. Today’s economic mechanisms promote inordinate consumption, yet it is evident that unbridled consumerism combined with inequality proves doubly damaging to the social fabric. Inequality eventually engenders a violence which recourse to arms cannot and never will be able to resolve. This serves only to offer false hopes to those clamouring for heightened security, even though nowadays we know that weapons and violence, rather than providing solutions, create new and more serious conflicts. Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
Like medieval chuirch the neoliberal senior management does not tolerate disobedience, protests, different ways of thinking. Neoliberalism is not there to promote freedom, critical thinking, creativity, general well-being, or, for that matter, anything else that might be meaningful from a human and humanepoint of view. It is there to affirm obedience, vertical distribution of power, and, above all, profits, that contribute to the replication and expansion of power. This neoliberal, corporate slavery is, of course, not advertised that way; it is normally advertised as “competitiveness,” “flexibility,” “innovation,” and so forth. In the church context, it is advertised as “tradition,” “centuries-old practices,” “Christian life,” “reverence,” etc.
The alliance between big businesses, political ideologies and religion is not something new. In the U.S. the alliance between the corporate sector and the religious (church) institutions is a very well-known phenomenon. Not so much in the Orthodox world, which often believes that it is immune to the various monstrosities coming from the “West.” And many in the West believe the same, except that they formulate it differently—for them Orthodoxy appears as fundamentally incompatible with the “Western values.” It’s a high time to reconsider and reject this narrow ideological frame, which seriously distorts the image of (our neoliberal) reality.
Russian Orthodox Church against liberal globalization, usury, dollar hegemony, and neocolonialism - OrthoChristian.Com
Jan 07, 2019 | cup.columbia.edu
The Origins of Neoliberalism - Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault - Columbia University Press
The process of the marketization of the economy from Mill to Becker described earlier is concluded in Becker's notions of "Human Capital" and "Economics of Crime and Punishment."
Becker reformulates the ethical modes by which one governs one's self by theorizing the economic self as human capital that generates labor in return for income. Such self-government is conducted by economizing one's earning power, the form of power that one commands over one's labor. Theorizing self-government as a form of command over one's own labor, Becker inserts the power relations of the market, which Smith identified as purchasing power over other people's labor, into the ethical sphere of the relationship between a person andherself.
Becker's theory of self-government also entails a transformation of the technologies of the self into an askesis of economizing the scarce means of the marketized self that have alternative uses for the purpose ofmaximizing the earning and purchasing power one commands in the mar- ketized economy.
The marketization of the self that turned zoon oikonomikon into a power-craving homo economicus also makes him governable by the political monarch, as demonstrated in the Economic analysis of Crime and Punishment. Economic man is governed through the legal framework of the mar- ket economy. Human action is controlled by tweaking a matrix of punishments and incentives that make the governed subject, as a prudent creature who craves to maximize his economic power, freely choose the desired course of action that will ensure economic growth. At the same time that Becker's technologies of the conduct of the marketized self establish a neoliberal self-mastery, they also enable the governmental technology of conducting one self conduct in the all-encompassing and ever growing marketized economy. Although Becker seems to reverse the ageold ethical question, that is, how can a human, as a governed subject, become free in the economy, into the technological one of how one can make a free human governable, the end result is pretty much the same, as the economy is reconstituted as a sphere in which the subject is seen as free and governed.
A neoliberal interpretation of Hobbes's economic power is found in Tullock and Buchanan's use of economic theory to "deal with traditional problems of political science," that is, to trace the works of Smithian economic power that have by now been transposed onto the political sphere: Incorporat(ing) political activity as a particular form of exchange; and, as in the market relation, mutual gains to all parties are ideally expected to result from the collective relation. In a very real sense, therefore, political action is viewed essentially as a means through which the "power" of all participants may be increased, if we define "power" as the ability to command things that are desired by men. To be justified by the criteria employed here, collective action must be advantageous to all parties. (Tullock and Buchanan 1962:23)
Apr 15, 2014 | robertlindsay.wordpress.com
The truth is that neoliberalism really does against the teaching of the Church, especially the Orthodox and Catholic branches of the Church which adhere more to the true religion.
The Russians say that the preposterous Protestant fundamentalist evangelicalism is a "pseudo-religion that represents Western egoism and noting more." This type of Protestantism is obviously anti-Christian at its very core, but this is precisely the type of bastardized and heretical Christianity that would be expected to unfold in the radical individualist atmosphere of the US.
You may be interested to know that many Russian Orthodox Christians think the radical individualist Libertarianism so popular in the US is actually "Satanic." What they mean by that is that it is the polar opposite of the Church's teaching.
... You can have Christ or you can have Mammon. Which do you choose to worship? You surely cannot worship both.
Moscow Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church:
The modern economy is built largely on fraud; it creates money out of thin air. Who's going to pay for all of this? Why, the simple worker is going to, who produces the value behind all of this bubble. We need a fair economic system where money and capital are equivalent, and are the expression of real work.
His Holiness Kirill Gundyaev Patriarch of Moscow and all the Russias
Jan 12, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com
im1dc , January 08, 2019 at 08:38 AMI chuckled when I read the headline but then read Patriarch Kirill's remarks and he's onto something real imo
"Russian Orthodox Church says smartphones a harbinger of the Antichrist"
"MOSCOW (AP) -- The head of the Russian Orthodox Church says the data-gathering capacity of devices such as smartphones risks bringing humanity closer to the arrival of the Antichrist.
In an interview shown Monday on state TV, Patriarch Kirill said the church does not oppose technological progress but is concerned that "someone can know exactly where you are, know exactly what you are interested in, know exactly what you are afraid of" and that such information could be used for centralized control of the world.
"Control from one point is a foreshadowing of the coming of Antichrist, if we talk about the Christian view. Antichrist is the person who will be at the head of the world wide web that controls the entire human race," he said."
Jan 08, 2019 | grforafrica.blogspot.com
Neoliberalism and the Gospel - Or: "Christian Businessman", an oxymoron
Khanya (Orthodox Christians from South Africa)
JesusThe Market is LordAnd Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word (I Kings 18:21).It seems to me that for many Christians the Gospel of Neoliberalism has replaced the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I've known that for a long time, and have blogged about it before ( here , and here , and here ).
But today I was reminded of it again when several people brought various articles on it to my attention:
As one of these articles points out, Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us | Paul Verhaeghe | Comment is free | theguardian.com :
- Neoliberalism has brought out the worst in us
- Sick of this market-driven world? You should be
- CounterscriptBullying used to be confined to schools; now it is a common feature of the workplace. This is a typical symptom of the impotent venting their frustration on the weak – in psychology it's known as displaced aggression. There is a buried sense of fear, ranging from performance anxiety to a broader social fear of the threatening other.And this Sick of this market-driven world? You should be | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian :
Constant evaluations at work cause a decline in autonomy and a growing dependence on external, often shifting, norms. This results in what the sociologist Richard Sennett has aptly described as the "infantilisation of the workers".Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.But in some ways this point is the most telling, and raises the question that Elijah put to the Israel of old: Sick of this market-driven world? You should be | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian :Neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.When a Christian script was running in many people's minds (see Counterscript to know what that refers to) Greed was regarded as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but in the Gospel according to Neoliberalism, it is the supreme virtue.
And for many Christians, the Neoliberal script has started to drown out the Christian one, and so raises the question of Elijah: How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him .
"Baal" is a word that means lord or master, and the deity referred to was Melqart, the god of the Phoenician city of Tyre. Melqart was a god of rain and fertility, and hence of material prosperity, and was invoked by Phoenician traders for protection of their commercial enterprises. In other words, the cult of Baal was a prosperity cult, which had lured the people of Israel, and was actively promoted by their Phoenician queen Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. The people of Israel had the prosperity script playing in their minds.
In our day too, many Christians have the prosperity script playing in their minds.
The post immediately preceding this one, on Neopentecostal churches and their celebrity pastors [& here ] , points to a phenomenon that Christian missiologists like to refer to as inculturation or contextualisation, which, in a good sense, means making the Christian gospel understandable to people living in a particular culture or context. But in the prosperity gospel preached by some Neopentecostals, the Christian gospel has been swamped by the values of Neoliberalism. One could say that "prosperity theology" is the contextualisation of the Christian gospel in a society dominated by Neoliberal values, but to such an extent that the result is syncretism.
But while the Neopentecostals sometimes do this explicitly, many other Christian groups do it implicitly, and we need to ask ourselves where our values really come from -- from the gospel of Jesus Christ, or from the gospel of the Market. Jesus Christ is the love of God incarnate, but the Market, or Melqart, or Mammon, is the love of money incarnate.
When the world urges us to celebrate the virtues of Greed, whether subtly or blatantly, do we resist it? Are we even aware of what is happening? Or do we simply allow that script to play in our heads, telling us "You deserve it"?
Last week a couple of journalists were asking me why Neopentecostal churches that preach a properity gospel, like T.B. Joshua's Synagogue Church of all Nations, are growing in popularity, and one answer is that given by George Monbiot in the article quoted above -- that the values of Neoliberalism, promoted by Reagan and Thatcher, are now colonising the whole world.
Blessed are the sarcastic, for they shall succeed in business
I have sometimes suspected that the phrase "Christian Businessman" was an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, and that suspicion was reinforced by an article I have just read on the Web. Harvard Study Shows that Sarcasm is Actually Good for You :Data from a recent study entitled, The Highest Form of Intelligence: Sarcasm Increases Creativity for Both Expressers and Recipients, suggests that the delivery and deciphering of sarcasm offers psychological benefits that have been largely underappreciated and long overlooked.The article tells us that the research was sponsored by Harvard Business School, Columbia Business School and INSEAD ("The Business School for the World").
For as long as I can remember, I have been aware of the saying "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit."
The article I just cited tells us that people who believe that are stupid and uncreative.
So what is sarcasm, and why is it something that Christians should avoid if possible?
sarcasm n. Bitter or wounding remark, taunt, esp. one ironically worded The English word sarcasm is derived from the Greek sarkasmos , which suggests the image of a predator devouring its prey. So if, as the article, suggests the people most likely to succeed in business are those who habitually go around making nasty remarks about others, and the most effective bosses are those who habitually tear strips off their underlings, the term "unscrupulous businessman" is a pleonastic redundancy.
Well what's new? I think most of us knew that.
I think we all knew that "business ethics" was a contradiction in terms. I recall seeing a cartoon in Mad magazine that had some tongue-in-cheek suggestions for commemorative postage stamps (remember them?), and one showed two people hugging each other, each with knife in hand, stabbing the other in the back. That was to commemorate 100 years of business ethics.
What's new in this article is a kind of psychological proof that nastiness works, that being sarcastic gives you the edge in business. So sarcasm is a virtue to be inculcated and cultivated. Yet it is the very opposite of ubuntu and Christian values.
Nearly every Sunday in Orthodox Churches we sing the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12).
Why so often?
Perhaps because of the frequency with which we are bombarded with propaganda to do the opposite.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy , but being sarcastic is the very opposite of being merciful.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth . Wrong, say the business gurus. Blessed are the pushy.
It is perhaps easier to find Christian values among the scruffy beatniks and drop-outs from society than among the business leaders.
As one beat generation writer said to the square who offered him an advertising job: 'I'll scrub your floors and carry out your slops to make a living, but I will not lie for you, pimp for you, stool for you or rat for you.'It is the worshippers of the bitch-goddess Success who hold out sarcasm as a virtue and a behavioural ideal.
 Concise Oxford Dictionary , Fifth Edition.
 Lipton, Lawrence. 1959. The holy barbarians . New York: Messner.
Christ divided: liberalism, ecumenism and race in South Africa
Orthodox Church & Capitalism: Orthodox Fathers of Church on poverty, wealth and social justice Is capitalism compatible with Orthodox Christianity?
The orthodox old beggar who helps orphans Capitalism, Protestant Ethics & Orthodox Tradition
Capitalisms' ideology Grace and "the Inverted Pyramid"
Église orthodoxe Pères, la richesse et le capitalisme Fathers of Church & Capitalism : Interest, Usury, Capitalism
The holy anarchists... in the Egyptian Desert
Orthodox Mission in Tropical Africa (& the Decolonization of Africa)
LIVE, BEYOND THE LIMITS!
"African needs to be helped, to find his divine roots, for his soul to be at peace, to become united with God..."
Jan 08, 2019 | www.goarch.org
The peacemaking vocation of the church is a dynamic process of a never-ending personal and communal transformation that reflects the human and fallible struggle to participate in God's Trinitarian life. St. Nicholas Cabasilas epigrammatically summarizes the Orthodox view on peacemaking: "Christians, as disciples of Christ, who made all things for peace, are to be 'craftsmen of peace.' They are called a peaceable race since 'nothing is more characteristic of a Christian than to be a worker for peace." In being "craftsmen of peace" the Orthodox churches unite themselves in prayer, vision, and action with all those Christians who pray that God's Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. The aspiration to live in peace and justice unite Christians with people of living faiths and ideologies in a shared vision, hope, and actions for less violence, injustice, and oppression. An effective intervention in situations of conflict, injustice and oppression requires the churches not to ignore what is possible to learn from advances in political sciences and economics as well as from successful economic and political policies and practices that aim to transform conflicts into life opportunities.
In addressing the root causes of injustice and violence in the marketplace, the Orthodox Churches recognize the autonomy of the inherent rationality of the market and leave the development of economic theories and policies to those who understand its dynamics better. The Churches, however, critique economic theories and practices based on their performance and their effects upon the people. Their criticism contributes towards a revisionary logic of the market that favors economic practices that generate greater opportunities for a more equitable and just distribution of power and resources.
Today, one-and-a-half billion people live in areas affected by instability, conflict or large-scale, organized criminal violence. The causes of conflict arise from economic, political and security dynamics. Political exclusion and inequality affecting regional, religious, or ethnic groups are associated with higher risks of civil war, while inequality between richer and poorer households is closely associated with higher risks of violence. The disparity between the rich and poor between and within nations is increasing. Unemployment is on the rise, pushing more and more people into poverty, malnutrition, poor health, depression, violence, insecurity, fear, and desperation. There are nearly one billion undernourished people on our planet and this number is increasing by 68 people every minute; that is more than one every second. The human cost of violence cannot be ignored by anyone who considers all human beings to be icons of God.
The economic and monetary crisis that leads to an increased disparity between rich and poor is understood mostly by the Orthodox Churches to be primarily a 'spiritual' and/or cultural crisis. It is attributed to unrestrained individualism that leads to an excessive desire for wealth and to consumerism. Individualism and consumerism have disconnected people from loving God and their neighbor, thus preventing them from reflecting in their lives God's love for all creation.
St. John Chrysostom, a notable preacher of the undivided Church, stated that not to be an advocate of the poor would be "the worst inhumanity."  Being the advocate of the poor leads him to refute point by point all the arguments by which the affluent justified the marginalization of the poor and their indifference towards them. Christ in a privileged manner is identified with the poor. The poor are not the spectacle of human misery and suffering that evokes compassion or disgust, but they are the icons of Christ, the presence of Christ in the broken world. This is their dignity! If you refuse to give bread to the poor, you ignore Christ who desires to be fed: "You eat in excess; Christ eats not even what he needs At the moment, you have taken possession of the resources that belong to Christ and you consume them aimlessly."  The poor for St. John Chrysostom are the liturgical images of the most holy elements in all of Christian worship: the altar and the body of Christ. 
The Orthodox Churches advocate a culture of compassion in which people share their material resources with those in need. Charity and compassion are not virtues to be practiced just by those who have the material resources and means. They are virtues that promote the communal love that Christians should have for all human beings. Every human being, regardless of whether he or she is rich or poor must be charitable and compassionate to those lacking the basic material resources for sustenance.  St. Basil exhorts the poor to share even the minimal goods that they may have.  Almsgiving leads people to God and grants to all the necessary resources for sustenance and development of their human potential. However, a voluntary sharing of resources in the present world is not enough. Building a culture of peace demands global and local institutional changes and new economic practices that address at more fundamental level the root causes of poverty. It calls for a fusion of the Christian culture of compassion with the knowledge that we have acquired through experience and the advances of social science about the structural sources of poverty and its multifaceted aspects that urgently need to be addressed through reflective concerted actions.
In an increasingly fragmented world, the Orthodox churches acknowledge and defend the dignity of every human being and cultivate human solidarity. In addressing violence in the marketplace, even if people accept in their hearts the virtues of justice and peace, the market operates with its own autonomous logic and economic practices. It is guided by the belief that there can be a 'total free market' in which unregulated competing economic relationships of individuals in pursuit of their economic gains can lead to optimum good. It advocates that free markets without government 'interference' would be the most efficient and socially optimal allocation of resources.
Many economists and institutions of global development agencies embrace economic globalization as indisputable reality and suggest that there is no alternative to this. They assume that Neoliberalism contributes to the prosperity and the equitable development of all nations. Unfortunately though, its economic practices have not been designed to meet the immediate needs of the world's poor people. Global inequalities between nations and within nations are widening. Joseph Stiglitz, former World Bank Chief Economist (1997-2000) and Nobel Laureate in Economics notes that economic globalization in its current form risks exacerbating poverty and increasing violence if not checked, because it is impossible to separate economic issues from social and political issues.
The Orthodox Churches are not in a position to suggest concrete alternatives to economic globalization, nor do they intend to endorse or reject complex economic policies and practices that regulate the global economy. Yet, based on the eschatological orientation of the Christian gospel, Orthodoxy believes that all political and economic theories and practices are subject to criticism and modification aimed to overcoming those aspects of them that generate violence and injustice.
The logic of the market must not only seek the maximization of profits favoring and serving only those who have economic capital and power. Economic practices must ensure just and sustainable development for all people. We cannot talk about a really free economy without entering into particular judgments about what kinds of exchange are conducive to the flourishing of life and what kinds are not.
The Churches are led by their faith to take an active role in fostering economic practices that reflect God's peace and justice. These economic practices integrate in their logic those elements of social life that promote a culture of compassion that unites all human beings in peace and justice. Indispensable aspects of this culture are: respect for the dignity and the rights of all human beings; equitable socio-economic relationships; broad participation in economic and political decision-making; and just sharing of resources and power.
Once, we put human faces to all those millions of people who suffer the consequences of an inequitable distribution of power and resources, it becomes evident that it is an indispensable aspect of the church's mission to the world to be involved through prayers and thoughtful actions in noble efforts to eradicate poverty and injustice.
Mar 01, 2016 | katehon.com
An exclusive interview with Dr. Ovidiu Hurduzeu, Romanian economist and sociologist, and one of the main proponents of Distributism in Romania. Special for Katehon.com
To understand the importance of distributism, we need to compare it to both communism and capitalism, the two systems that distributism is opposed to. In a distributist society there is wide and equitable distribution of property and ownership. In communism you have collective ownership and collective redistribution of property. People do not have economic freedom; they are wage-slaves to the state. In the so called "free, democratic and capitalist" society, the capital, and most of the property, belong to a small class called 'capitalists', while the mass of the citizens are obliged to work for the few capitalists in return for a wage. Distributism does not separate ownership and work any longer. It seeks to establish an economic and social order, where most people have real, debt-free productive property. (In capitalism, the "property" of the common person is mortgaged or purchased on credit; it is merely a rented good). In practical terms a distributist order is achieved through the widespread dissemination of family-owned businesses, employee ownership, cooperatives, and any other arrangement resulting in well-divided property.
What are the main problems that plague Romania and other Eastern European countries? How can they be solved?
The main problem that has confronted Romania and other Eastern European countries is the reckless adoption of the neoliberal economic model. In the aftermath of communism's collapse, the collective ownership of land and the means of production (state assets) were transferred to the private sector (local oligarchs and foreign individuals and companies). Such a process was the main culprit behind the huge concentration of wealth, widespread poverty and the destruction of the national economies. Today, Eastern Europe is made up of what distributists call "servile states", with Romania being a case in point. Politically and economically, the country is enslaved to the globalist power centers, while its citizens are constrained to work under servile conditions in the rich EU countries, or are wage-slaves for transnational corporations operating in Romania. There is no long-term solution unless the system of property rights is completely reformed. Only the widespread ownership of property will make Romanians sufficiently well off so that they can have a say in how they are governed.
Romania is a Christian-orthodox country while distributism is a catholic economic doctrine. Do you see some contradictions here?
Distributism is more than an economic doctrine. It is a set of concrete economic practices based on the Christian anthropology of the person. The main economic actors of liberalism are homo oeconomicus and homo interlopus, while distributism can function only within a community of persons. What I mean by person and personal has nothing to do with the atomistic individualism of liberalism. It refers to the relational aspect of creation. Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy envisage the human person in relation to God, to other human beings, and to the rest of creation. The personalist aspects of distributism and its "small is beautiful" tenet are what makes it very attractive to the orthodox world. It is not surprising that Solzhenitsyn greatly admired the famous distributist thinker G.K. Chesterton. Solzhenitsyn conceived his own version of distributism as a "democracy of small areas" (Rebuilding Russia) in the tradition of Russian zemstvos. Catholic writers such as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were very influential in disseminating the distributist ideas of the West. And yet distributism could never really challenge liberalism and its economic doctrines. In the light of history, one can discern two main reasons for its failure in the Western countries. One reason is the forgetfulness and abandonment of the Person and of the community of persons created in the image and likeness of God; another reason is the loss of the agrarian tradition that Distributism was based on. The Western world replaced the person with the monadic individual of liberalism, while the agrarian Weltanschauung gave way to an addiction to technology and unbridled commercialism.
Distributism had its moment of glory in the 1920's. What can you tell us about the "Green Rising"?
The aftermath of World War I saw an agrarian-distributist revolution, known as "the Green Rising", which swept across Europe from Ireland and Scandinavia through Germany to the Slav world. G.K. Chesterton underscored its historical significance: "It is a huge historical hinge and turning point, like the conversion of Constantine or the French Revolution...What has happened in Europe since the war (World War I) has been a vast victory for the peasant, and therefore a vast defeat for the communists and the capitalists." Chesterton does not exaggerate at all. "To observers in the 1920's" - writes the conservative writer Allan C. Carlson in the 'Third Ways' – "the future of Eastern Europe seemed to lie with the peasant 'Green', not the Bolshevik 'Red' ". The Green Rising saw agrarian parties, with their radical distributist programs, come to power in Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Finland, and strongly influenced the situation in the Baltic States and Yugoslavia. Unfortunately, the great distributist movement of the 1920's was largely crushed by the mid 1930's, and is now mostly forgotten.
What distributist principles of organizing an economy are most suitable to the orthodox countries? Is a "Christian-orthodox economy" still possible?
A Christian-orthodox economy is not only possible; it is the only way that could lead to the transformation of our societies for the better. When communism collapsed, the liberals injected the virus of a plutocratic economy and rampant individualism into our societies. If communists dispossessed the populace in the name of collective ownership and a communal monopoly, the liberals created a dispossessed "lonely crowd" that was forced to work for subsistence wages in the name of the "free market". Both communism and the "new capitalists" instituted master-slave relations in the former Soviet bloc. That is unacceptable from a Christian point of view. As Christians, we cannot accept the neoliberal tenet that "there is no such thing as society" (Margaret Thatcher). Individualism and ruthless competition are utterly unchristian. A Christian orthodox society is a cooperative one in which loving our neighbors is the norm, and the common rules are enforced in a way that maximizes personal responsibility. Due to their communal organization, there was simply no poverty among the first Christians; they had no fear of becoming slaves in order to support themselves. Today, a distributist society should challenge the neo-liberal economic model in the way the cooperative society of the first Christians challenged the slave-based economic order of the Roman Empire. We are not talking here about idealism, utopia or socialist solutions in the form of welfare and punitive taxation. We do not want to repeat the cycle of disempowerment and dependency. We need to provide the conditions for social justice through a widespread distribution of property, the remoralization of the markets, and recapitalization of the poor.
Does Romania have an intellectual tradition of non-liberal economic thought? What value does this heritage have for today's economists?
Indeed, Romania had a solid intellectual tradition of non-liberal economic thought. A mention must be made to the agrarian economists Virgil Madgearu (one of the leaders of the National Peasant Party), Mircea Vulcanescu (one of Romania's greatest thinkers ever, he died in prison as a Christian martyr), and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, the founder of the ecological economy. They belong to different economic schools and yet they share the same fondness for agrarian and Christian values. Today's Romanian economists are too busy following orders from the West to pay any attention to the great Romanian economists of the past.
How can the distributist principles be implemented in real economic policies? Are there any political forces in Romania that want to bring the distributist ideas into reality?
The country needs a new "Green rising" to complete what the Romanian agrarians left unfinished. "If the Peasants' Party is to be victorious in elections" - wrote Virgil Madgearu – "the shape of things would be changed." The National Bank would no longer be the economic fortress of the Liberal oligarchy. Trusts would no longer enslave and exploit the state. Their selfish and venal leaders would no longer be enthroned in overseeing positions over the country's destiny. Civil liberties, nowadays suffocated, and stolen civil rights would be fully restored, and the constitutional-parliamentary regime would become a reality, benefiting the development of popular masses as well as civilization."
Unfortunately, I do not see any real chance for Romania of adopting sweeping changes like the ones envisaged by Madgearu in the 1920's. There are no political forces in today's Romania strong enough to challenge the dominance of liberalism.
Do you see any relevance of the distributist model to Russian society in general, and the Russian economy in particular?
I think that distributism is germane to Russian realities and not a foreign import like communism and liberalism. And it is the only economic model that can vanquish the Liberals on their own ground (the economy). Russia, like the Third Rome, should not forget the lessons of Byzantine recovery. When confronted with a series of serious crises in the 7th century, the Byzantine Empire adopted a brilliant distributist strategy. As a consequence, it went from near disintegration to being the main power in Europe and the Near East. The pillar of this strategy was the peasant-soldier who became a producer rather than consumer of the empire's wealth. Fighting for their own lands and families, soldiers performed better. As staunch Christians, the Byzantines survived by simplifying their social, political, and economic systems within the constraints of less available resources. They moved from extensive space-based development to simplified, local, intensive development. (That's the lesson the Soviet Union did not learn, and failed as a result.) "In this sense, Byzantium" - writes Joseph A. Tainter – "may be a model or prototype for our own future, in broad parameters but not in specific details."
Today's Global Empire is an integrated hyper-complex system that is very costly to human society. It has reached the limits of its expansion and faces collapse because it tries to solve its problems in the same outdated way: investing in more complexity and expansion. So far its growth has been subsidized by the availability of cheap human and natural resources, as well as a "world currency" that the Global Empire totally controls. A multipolar world and a finite planet make investment in complexity no longer a problem-solving tool – the costs exceed the benefits. If Russia could adopt distributism and follow the Byzantium-like strategies of intensive development, the Third Rome can save herself and become a genuine "prototype of our future".
Jan 07, 2019 | katehon.com
In truly "prophetic" utterances, the analysis of present circumstances, along with a consideration of the laws written into human nature which manifest themselves in history, can yield a prediction concerning the general outline of things to come. This judgment of the well-informed and perceptive mind, is somewhat undermined by only one factor. The universe and the "universe" of human society in which the inherent laws written into human nature by its Creator reveal themselves in historical events, is also a universe which contains free creatures who are undetermined as regards the means they can employ to achieve their specifically human end. Human freedom inserts a variable in the material necessity of the universe.
This contingency and variability has its ultimate source in the spirituality of the human soul. It is precisely on account of his materialistic rejection of the human soul, that Karl Marx, for instance, could make such ridiculously precise predictions as to the "necessary" movement of economic, political, and social history. This does not mean, however, that there is not an inherent natural law which determine which human endeavors will "work" and which will lead to catastrophe.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were a group of scholars, theologians, philosopher, social critics, and poets, who predicted the inevitable demise of the capitalist economic system which was just developing in Continental Europe, but had been operative for 100 years in England. When you read their works, especially the British authors of the early 20th century, here we include Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and Arthur Penty, one is struck by the fact that their analyzes are more valid today than they were 70 or 80 years ago, their predictions more likely to be imminently fulfilled.
What they predicted was nothing less than the collapse of the capitalist system. In the case of Belloc, in his book The Servile State, it was predicted that capitalism would soon transform itself into an economic and social system which resembled the slave economies of the pre-Christian and early Christian eras. Why did they predict such a collapse or inevitable transformation? In their writings, many reasons are given, however, we can narrow them down to three. The first, they referred to as the "capitalist paradox." The paradox is a consequence of capitalism being an economic system which, in the long run, "prevents people from obtaining the wealth produced and prevents the owner of the wealth from finding a market." Since the capitalist strives both for ever greater levels of production and lower wages, eventually "the laborer who actually produces say, boots cannot afford to buy a sufficient amount of the boots which he himself has made." This leads to the "absurd position of men making more goods than they need, and yet having less of those goods available for themselves than they need."1
The second reason is now more pertinent than when it was first given. The capitalist system, by its very nature, places the preponderance of wealth in the hands of a small minority. This monopoly on the money supply by banking and financial concerns, becomes more absolute as the capital-needing consumer must go to the banks to borrow money. Usury, now called "interest," insures that those who first possesses the money for loan, will end up with a greater portion of the money supply than they possessed before the loan was issued. As wages stagnate and interest payments become increasingly impossible to make, massive numbers of defaults will inevitably produce a crisis for the entire financial system.2
When entire nations default on loans, there will be a crisis throughout the entire international financial system. Demise is, therefore, built into the very structure of the capitalistic system in which capital (i.e., all kinds of wealth whatsoever which man uses with the object of producing further wealth, and without which the further wealth could not be produced. It is a reserve without which the process of production is impossible)3 is primarily in the hands of the few.
As G.K. Chesterton rightly stated, the problem with capitalism is that it produces too few capitalists! The third fact concerning capitalism which the Distributists thought would inevitably bring down the system or lead to its fundamental transformation, was the general instability and personal insecurity which marks a full-blown capitalist economy. What accounts for this general feeling of insecurity and instability, which characterizes both the individual "wage-earner" and the society living under capitalism, is the always present fear of unemployment and, hence, of destitution and the fact that a laborer's real wages leave him with only enough money to cover the expenses of the day. Saving, so as to provide an economic hedge against the misfortune of unemployment or personal crisis, becomes almost impossible.4
The above were only some of the reasons why the Distributists, who formed the Distributist League in 1926, thought that the capitalist economy would eventually collapse. These were not, however, the only problems which they found with the system.
The social consequences of the majority being unable to afford real property, the decline and, eventual, disappearance of the trade guilds and vocational corporations, the "necessity" of wives and mothers entering the "work force," the end of small-scale family -owned businesses and farms, the decline of the apprentice system were all indictments of capitalism in the mind of those who sought to chart out a "third way" between capitalism, which is simply liberalism in the economic sphere, and socialism.
There is little doubt that the problems with capitalism which were cited by the Distributists have only grown in their proportion in our own time. The concentration of wealth, exemplified by the recent merger of Citicorp and Travelers which produced the largest banking institution in the United States with assets of $700 billion, simply boggles the mind. The institution of usury, always an necessary adjunct of economic liberalism, has caused in recent years more bankruptcies and personal debt than ever before in history. Nations, such as Indonesia, are tottering on the brink of social, economic, and political chaos because of their inability to pay the interest on their hundreds of billions of dollars in bank debt. If such a nation should go into default, it could threaten to throw a whole variety of nations into recession, depression, or worse.
It is not proper to say that the predictions of the imminent demise of capitalism were totally without fulfillment. The 1920s, 30s, and 40s witnessed reaction after reaction to the radical individualism which is the fundamental idea of liberal capitalism. Truly, the market is the institutionalization of individualism and non-responsibility. Neither buyer nor seller is responsible for anything but himself.5
The idea that if every man simply seeks after his own economic interest, all will be provided for and prosper, was almost universally rejected during these decades. We see strong reactions to economic liberalism in Russian Communism, German National Socialism, Italian Fascism, Austrian, Portuguese, and Spanish Corporatism, British Fabian Socialism, along with the American "New Deal" leftism. Thus, in the 1930s and 1940s, most of the world was ordered by ideologies which explicitly rejected the premises of economic liberalism. We must, also, not forget the international economic crash of the late 20s and early 30s, which produced economic depression, totalitarian regimes, and, finally, world war.
There is one fact which separates our day from the days of the 30s and 40s, however. The concentration of wealth and capital, the inadequacy of a man's pay to provide the basics of life and to provide for savings for the future, the lack of real property generously and broadly distributed, is masked by the reality of easy credit. Easy credit, which is not ultimately "easy" at all on the borrower, anesthetizes the populace to the grim facts of capitalist monopoly. Since we seem to be able to get all the things that we want, the reality of real money being increasingly unavailable to the average man is lost in the delusionary state of the consumerist utopia. Only when the "benefit" of usurious credit is cut off, do we realize the full extent of the problem. The greatest problem with liberal capitalism, however, is not the concentration of wealth or real property, the greatest "existential" problem created by capitalism is the problem of the very meaning and reality of work. To work is essential to what it means to be a human being. Next to the family, it is work and the relationships established by work that are the true foundations of society.6 In modern capitalism, however, it is productivity and profit which are the basic aims, not the providing of satisfying work. Moreover, since "labor saving" devices are the proudest accomplishments of industrial capitalism, labor itself is stamped with the mark of undesirability. But what is undesirable cannot confer dignity.7
It is not merely that industrial capitalism has produced forms of work, both manual and white-collared, which are "utterly uninteresting and meaningless. Mechanical, artificial, divorced from nature, utilizing only the smallest part of man's potential capacities, [sentencing] the great majority of workers to spending their working lives in a way which contains no worthy challenge, no stimulus to self-perfection, no chance of development, no element of Beauty, Truth, Goodness."8 Rather, capitalism has so fundamentally alienated man from his own work, that he no longer considers it his own. It is those with the financial monopoly who determine what forms of work are to exist and which are "valuable" (i.e., useful for rendering profits to the owners of money).9 Since man spends most of his days working, his entire existence becomes hollowed out, serving a purpose which is not of his own choosing nor in accord with his final end.
In regard to the entire question of a "final end," if we are to consider capitalism from a truly philosophical perspective, we must ask of it the most philosophical of questions, why? What is the purpose for which all else is sacrificed, what is the purpose of continuous growth? Is it growth for growth's sake? With capitalism, there is no "saturation point," no condition in which the masters of the system say that the continuous growth of corporate profits and the development of technological devices has ceased to serve the ultimate, or even the proximate, ends of mankind. Perhaps, the most damning indictment of economic liberalism, indeed, of any form of liberalism, is its inability to answer the question "why."
A) Corporatism: The Catholic Response
1) The History of the "Third Way"
To understand the history of the "Third Way," a name given to an economic system which is neither Marxist nor Capitalist by French corporatist thinker Auguste Murat (1944), we must consider the social, political, and economic realities which originally motivated its main advocates. Originally, "Corporatism," later to be termed "Distributism" by its British advocates Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, was a response on the part of German traditionalists and Catholics to the inroads which the ideology of the French Revolution had made into their country in the early and middle years of the 19th century. The institutions which were being defended in Corporatist thought were the ancient "estates" or "guilds" which had been the pillars of Christian Germany for centuries. These corporate bodies, grouping together all the men of a particular occupation or social function, were an institutional opposition to the revolutionary doctrines of individualism and human equality. One early rightist thinker, Adam Muller, upheld the traditional idea of social stratification based upon an organic hierarchy of estates or guilds (Berufstandische). Such a system was necessary on account of the essential dissimilarity of men. Moreover, such a system would prevent the "atomization" of society so much desired by the revolutionaries who wished to remake in a new form that which had been pulverized by liberalism.10
2) Von Ketteler and the Guild System
It was, however, a German nobleman and prelate, Wilhelm Emmanuel, Baron von Ketteler (1811-1877), Bishop of Mainz, who directed Corporatism into new avenues and forced it to address new concerns. The realities which Bishop von Ketteler knew the Catholic mind had to address was the new reality of industrialism and economic liberalism. As Pope Leo XIII himself admitted on several occasions, it was the thought of Bishop von Ketteler which helped shape his own encyclical letter on Catholic economic teaching Rerum Novarum (1891).11 The "new things" His Holiness was addressing were capitalism and socialism. Both meet with his condemnation, although capitalism is condemned with strong language as an abuse of property, a deprivation of the many by the few, while socialism is dismissed outright as being contrary to man's inherent right to own property.12
Von Ketteler, also, in his book Die Arbeiterfrage und das Christenthum (Christianity and the Labor Problem), attacks the supremacy of capital and the reign of economic liberalism as the two main roots of the evils of modern society. Both represented the growing ascendancy of individualism and materialism, twin forces that were operating to "bring about the dissolution of all that unites men organically, spiritually, intellectually, morally, and socially." Economic liberalism was nothing but an application of materialism to society." The working class are to be reduced to atoms and then mechanically reassembled. This is the fundamental generative principle of modern political economy."13 What Ketteler sought to remedy was "This pulverization method, this chemical solution of humanity into individuals, into grains of dust equal in value, into particles which a puff of wind may scatter in all directions."14 Bishop von Ketteler's solution to this problem of the pulverization of the work force and the ensuing injustice which this would inevitably breed, was to propose an idea which was the central concept of medieval and post-medieval economic life, the guild system. When responding to a letter from a group of Catholic workers who had submitted the question "Can a Catholic Workingman be a member of the Socialist Worker's Party?," Bishop von Ketteler outlined the basic structure of these vocational guilds or Berufstandische: First, "The desired organizations must be of natural growth; that is, they must grow out of the nature of things, out of the character of the people and its faith, as did the guilds of the Middle Ages." Second, "They must have an economic purpose and must not be subservient to the intrigues and idle dreams of politicians nor to the fanaticism of the enemies of religion." Third, "They must have a moral basis, that is, a consciousness of corporative honor, corporative responsibility, etc. Fourth, "They must include all the individuals of the same vocational estates." Fifth, "Self-government and control must be combined in due proportion."
The guilds which von Ketteler was advocating were to be true social corporations, true vocational "bodies" which were to have a primarily economic end, and yet, be animated by the "soul" of a common faith. These "bodies," just like all organic entities, would be made up of distinct parts all exercising a unique role in their particular trade. In the days of corporate giants and trade unions, it is, perhaps, impossible to imagine vocational organizations which include both owners and workers, along with technicians of all types. These organizations would regulate all aspects of their particular trade, including wages, prices for products, quality control, along with certifying that all apprentices has the requisite skills to adequately perform the guild's particular art.
3) The Guild System and Social Solidarity
Following the intellectual path charted by von Ketteler, another German Catholic, Franz Hitze (1851-1921), wrote of the social, psychological, and, even, spiritual purposes which would be served by the vocational corporations or guilds. Claiming that "economic freedom" was only a myth serving to disguise the fact that capital actually ordered things completely with a single eye to its own advantage, Hitze saw no alternative to the economic and social control traditionally exercised by the guilds. It would be such organizations which overcame the antagonism between capital and labor which fed Marxist propaganda. In his book Kapital und Arbeit und die Reorganisation der Gesellschaft (Capital and Labor and the Reorganization of Society), Hitze states that such organizations would also end the fierce competition which is totally inconsistent with the idea of the Common Good and social solidarity. This idea that an economy can be ordered on the basis of "mutuality" and the identification of the interests of employer and employee, is difficult for those who assume that an economic system must be powered by competition and self-interest. It must be remembered, however, that such was the economic system of Christendom until the guilds were destroyed by the advent of the French Revolution.
What these traditional vocational groups were able to foster during the ages in which they ordered the life of the craftsman, was a decentralization both of property and of economic power. They, also, enabled the average craftsman to have a real say in the workings of his trade. Such economic "federalism" or decentralization prevented the development of financial monopolies. As Hilaire Belloc states, "Above all, most jealously did the guild safeguard the division of property, so that there should be formed within its ranks no proletariat upon the one side, and no monopolizing capitalist upon the other."15
B) Chesterbelloc and Distributism
It was in the early years of this century, that Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, joined by a former Socialist Arthur Penty, inspired by Rerum Novarum, attempted to articulate an economic system which stood on a totally different set of principles than did the "new things" of capitalism and socialism. The name they gave to this system, Distributism, awkward as they themselves realized, expressed not the socialist idea of the confiscation of all private property, but rather, the wide-spread distribution of land, real-property, the means of production, and of financial capital, amongst the greater part of the families of a nation. Such a concept, along with their encouragement of the guild system, of a return to the agrarian life, and of their condemnation of the taking of interest on non-productive loans, formed the core of this "new" economic model.
In his book Economics for Helen, Belloc identifies the nature of the Distributist State by distinguishing this type of state and social and economic system from that of the Servile State and the Capitalist State. The Servile State is the one of classical antiquity, in which vast masses of the people work as slaves for the small class of owners. In this way, the economic state of antiquity is very similar to the economic system of our own time, insofar as a very small minority possess real property, land, the means of production, and financial capital, while the great mass of the population does not possess these goods to any significant degree. How does Belloc distinguish the Servile State from that of the Capitalist State, in which he counts the Britain of his own time? The difference is that, whereas the Servile State is based on coercion to force the greater part of the population, which does not possess property, to work for those who do, the Capitalist State employs "free" laborers who can choose to sign a work contract with one employer or another. In the liberal Capitalist State, one is "free" to choose to apply for work or accept work from one of the various owners of the means of production. In return for this work, the laborer receives a wage which is a small portion of the wealth that he produces.16
What distinguishes the Distributist State from the two States mentioned above, is that instead of a small minority of men owning the means of production, there is a wide distribution of property. In this regard, Belloc defines property as "the control of wealth by someone."17 Property must, then, be controlled by someone, since wealth which is not kept or used up by someone would perish and cease to be wealth.
1) England's Journey for Distributism to Capitalism
It is Belloc's historical thesis, that it was not the industrialism of the late 18th and early 19th centuries which brought about the rise of capitalism, but rather, England was a capitalist state in the making long before the emergence of the railroad or the factory. The Servile State, the state in which a small number of owners controlled the land and the men who worked the land, was a mark of the Roman civilization which gradually transformed itself, under the influence of the Catholic Church, into the feudal system in which the servus went from being a "slave" who owned nothing, to being a "serf" who could retain [some] of what he produced in the fields. The serf had the right to pass the land down to his own kin and he could not be throw off his land. Thus, the personal security and economic and social stability which characterized the Roman estate system, was carried over into medieval times.18
This historical movement, under the aegis of the Church, towards a man working on the land which he himself owned, and working for his own benefit and for that of his family, came to an end in England in the 16th century during the reign of King Henry VIII. Since the Distributist State had grown up under the eye of Holy Mother Church, it should not be surprising that it would end when She was attacked and surpressed. According to Belloc, it was King Henry's confiscation of the monastery lands in England, and his action of parceling them out among his wealthy supporters, which marked the beginning of the transformation of England from a nation in which property, the land, and the means of production were widely distributed, to one in which a small number of families control increasingly greater shares of the land. The coming of protestantism marked the transformation of the average Englishman from independent yeoman to tenant farmer. The concentration of wealth would occur, then, long before England would become the industrial power of the world in the 19th century.19
2) Small is Beautiful
There can be no doubt as to the most general form of family ownership foreseen and advocated by Belloc and Chesterton. For them, the most humane and stable economic system was one in which a majority of families farmed land which they themselves owned, doing it with tools which were also their own.20 Here he was following the lead of Pope Leo XIII, who in Rerum Novarum, advocates a similar aim: "We have seen therefore that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership and its policy should be to induce as many as possible to obtain a share in the land, the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged... A further consequence will be the greater abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, and those that are dear to them. . . men would cling to the country of their birth, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life."21
Being Englishmen, the idea that the land meant wealth was inevitably ingrained in their conception of economics. Ownership of the land by the families who themselves worked the land would also mean financial stability, no fear of unemployment, a family enterprise which could engage, in some measure, all members, an ability to put aside food and supplies to create a hedge against destitution, a way of providing not only for one's children but for one's children's children, along with creating an economic structure which is not oriented towards corporate profits but towards providing for familial subsistence and a local market. Belloc speaks of this type of Distributist economy as the one most general throughout the history of mankind, with the possible exception of the slave economy. Capitalism and Socialism are certainly recent interlopers on the human economic scene.22
Next we must address the ways in which such a Distributist idea can be implemented on the personal and community level. In this regard, our next article will focus on the concept of a "parallel economy" formed by those who wish to begin to implement the economic teachings of Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno, along with focusing on the agrarian idea both as Catholic thought and human good sense.
May 26, 2016 | orthochristian.com
The Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has published a draft of the document "Economy in the context of globalization. Orthodox ethical view. " This document demonstrates the key positions of the Russian Church on a number of issues relating to the economy and international relations.
1. The Russian Orthodox Church demonstrates that it supports only the trends in modern international processes that aim to build a multi-polar world, and the dialogue of civilizations and cultures on the basis of traditional, non-liberal values:
Consolidation of mankind on the basis of the moral commandments of God is fully consistent with the Christian mission. This incarnation of globalization provides an opportunity for fraternal mutual assistance, free exchange of creative achievements and knowledge, respectful coexistence of different languages and cultures, the joint protection of nature - would be a reasonable and pious.
If the essence of globalization is only to overcome the division between the people, the content of its economic processes had to be overcome inequalities, the prudent use of earthly riches, equitable international cooperation.
2. At the same time a large part of the document critically examines the process of globalization. Church officials say that globalization "remove barriers to the spread of sin and vice." The Russian Church condemns Westernization and dissemination of the Western cult of consumption, noting that "the Western way of development" is a road to nowhere, to hell, and the abyss:
Catch-up model of modernization", having before people's eyes uncritically perceived external sample, not only destroys the social structure and spiritual life of the "catch-up" societies, but often does not allow to approach the idol in the material sphere, imposing unacceptable and ruinous economic decisions.
In contrast to the immutability and universality of moral commandments, the economy cannot have a universal solution for all peoples and all times. A variety of people, God created in the world, reminds us that every nation has its task by the Creator, each valuable in the sight of the Lord, and everyone is able to contribute to the creation of our world.
3. The Church denounced neocolonialism and the exploitation of the Third World by Western multinationals. The Russian Orthodox Church considers such a policy to be deeply unjust and sinful. Control over the financial sector as the main weapon of the new colonialism is specially marked:
Although outwardly visible collapse of the world colonial system, the richest states of the world in pursuit of the ever-receding horizons of consumption continue to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else. It is impossible to recognize to be just international division of labor in which some countries are suppliers of absolute values, especially human labor or raw materials irreversible, while others - suppliers of conditional values in the form of financial resources.
4. The Christian approach to the economy that the Russian Orthodox Church insists on is primarily ontological. The only alternative to the global fictitious liberal economy can only be a real Christian economy. The hegemony of global plutocracy, which is based on financial capital and the dollar as the universal currency, can be countered only by a global policy of sovereignty:
Money payed for non-renewable natural resources are often taken in the literal sense "from the air", due to the work of the printing press - thanks to the monopoly position of issuers of world currency. As a result, the abyss in the socio-economic status between the nations and entire continents is becoming increasingly profound. This one-sided globalization, giving undue advantages to some of its participants at the expense of the others, entails a partial and, in some cases, virtually completes loss of sovereignty.
5. As one of the ways to solve this problem (dollar hegemony), the Church proposes to establish international control over global currencies:
If mankind needed freely traded currencies throughout the world to serve as a universal yardstick for economic calculations, the production of such units should be under fair international control, where all states of the world will proportionally participate. Possible benefits of such emissions could be channeled to the development of the poverty-stricken regions of the planet.
6. However, the strengthening of international institutions, according to representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, should not lead to the strengthening of the transnational elite. The unconditional support of state sovereignty against the transnational elite is a distinctive feature of the position of the Orthodox Church. This differs the Orthodox from Catholics, who are members of the globalist transnational centralized structure, in contrast to the Orthodox Churches, which are united in faith, but not administratively.
National governments are increasingly losing their independence and becoming less dependent on the will of their own people, and more and more - the will of the transnational elite. Themselves, these elites are not constituted in the legal space, and is therefore not accountable to neither the people nor the national governments, becoming a shadow regulator of social and economic processes. Greed shadow rulers of the global economy leads to the fact that a thin layer of "elite" is getting richer and at the same time more and more relieved of the responsibility for the welfare of those whose labor created the wealth.
7. The gap between rich and poor, predatory morality of "free capitalism" in the version of Hayek, and neoliberal thoughts, according to the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, is incompatible with Christian teaching:
Moral society should not increase the gap between rich and poor. Strong does not have the moral right to use their benefits at the expense of the weak, but on the contrary - are obliged to take care of those who are dispossessed. People who are employed should receive decent remuneration.
8. The Russian Church openly declares his attitude to usury as a sinful phenomenon, and notes the destructiveness of the global debt economy:
Whole countries and nations are plunged into debt, and generations that are not yet born are doomed to pay the bills of their ancestors.
Business expectations in lending, often ghostly becomes more profitable than the production of tangible goods. In this regard, it must be remembered about the moral ambiguity of the situation, when money is "make" new money without the application of human labor. Declaring credit sphere to be the main engine of the economy, its predominance over the real economic sector comes into conflict with the moral principles, reveled by God condemning usury.
9. Such an important aspect of modern life like mass migration is not left unattended. Unlike the Catholic approach that unduly favors migrants, particularly in Europe, the Orthodox notices the negative nature of the process, as well as the fact that it leads to confrontation of different identities and value systems. In addition, the Orthodox Church propose to look at the roots of this phenomenon. The reason for the migration is the liberal, hedonistic ideology bleeding the peoples of Europe and the interests of the capitalist elite, who need a cheap and disenfranchised workforce:
Attempts by indigenous people of the rich countries to stop the migration flow are futile, because come in conflict with greed of their own elites who are interested in the low-wage workforce. But even more inexorable factor driving migration was the spread of hedonic quasi -religion capturing not only elite, but also the broad masses of people in countries with high living standards. Renunciation of procreation for the most careless, smug and personal existence becomes signs of the times. The popularization of the ideology of child-free, the cult of childless and without family life for themselves lead to a reduction in the population in the most seemingly prosperous societies.
We must not forget that the commandment to all the descendants of Adam and Eve, said: "Fill the earth and subdue it." Anyone who does not want to continue his race will inevitably have to give way to the ground for those who prefer having children over material well-being.
10. The Russian Church noted that the current level of consumption and the ideology of infinite progress are incompatible with the limited resources of the planet:
Globalization has accelerated the consumer race disproportionate to earth resources granted to mankind. Volumes of consumption of goods in those countries, which are recognized worldwide for the samples and which are equal to billions of people, have long gone beyond the resource capabilities of these "model" countries. There is no doubt that, if the whole of humanity will absorb the natural wealth of the intensity of the countries that are leaders in terms of the consumption, there will be an environmental disaster on the planet.
This document is very important because it shows that the Russian Orthodox Church not only occupies a critical position in relation to the liberal globalization, but also offers a Christian alternative to globalization processes. While Catholics and most Protestant denominations have passionate humanist ideas, and in the best case, criticize globalization from the left or left-liberal positions, the Russian Orthodox Church advocate sovereignty and national identity. The most important aspect of the Orthodox critique of globalization is the idea of multipolarity and the destructiveness of modern Western civilization's path.
It in known that the problem of human rights is thoroughly Orthodox: "The power and means for promoting worldwide equality and brotherhood lie not in waging crusades but in freely accepting the cross." He urges a radically personal solution, one that takes as its model the saint, the martyr, and the ascetic. Here Anastasios draws on the traditional Orthodox understanding of freedom, which is ordered and tempered by ascetical practice, self-control, and placing limits on material desires. Churches are to become "laboratories of selfless love," places where the Kingdom of God is manifest on earth. "Our most important right is our right to realize our deepest nature and become 'children of God' through grace," he says.
Lest this approach be interpreted as a justification of passiveness and quietism, Anastasios also urges Christians to exercise their ethical conscience in the world. "Christians must be vigilant, striving to make the legal and political structure of their society ever more comprehensive through constant reform and reassessment," he says.
Jan 07, 2019 | publicorthodoxy.org
The institutional church, in the afore-mentioned "Orthodox countries," basically functions as a neoliberal corporation. If we think of bishops and patriarchs as "top managers" (CEOs), and priests as lower-level administrators, in charge of specific, money-making divisions, and the lay people as simple workers (or, worse, resources), the parallel is striking. The church normally enjoys the monopoly status, and exploits it to a very high degree. There are many direct and indirect benefits that the church (just as any major corporation in the neoliberal world) enjoys: the state support, which ranges (depending on the country) from special, tax-free status for its property and income, priests' salaries and pensions paid by the state, to the privileged access to state officials, party leaders and the media, privileged treatment in the (in)justice system, etc. In return, the church provides useful ideological narratives, and the "moral support" to the dominant socio-political system.
When it comes to its internal functioning, the parallel with the neoliberal corporate world is even more discernible. The selection of new top managers (bishops) is highly nontransparent, subject to various types of corruption, and only occasionally and secondary based on meritocracy and their (real) social contribution. In many (although, to be fair, not all) dioceses, if you're a priest (lower-level administrator) that means that your primary duty is to make money and send the assigned sum/percentage to the top management (bishop and/or patriarch). The more money you produce/collect the better. If you're really successful (you send a lot of money), and you make the senior management really happy, you will be rewarded by certain privileges and the management will be ready to overlook many of your misconducts, incompetence, lack of the very elementary Christian sense of compassion, etc. It normally does not matter whether you're a good priest or not (in the old-fashioned sense, that is someone who cares about the people, who is fully invested in liturgical services and parish life in a self-sacrificing way, who aspires to live, as much as possible, according to the Gospel, and so forth); following our neoliberal church, making a lot of money makes you a good priest. (This, of course, does not mean that there are no many wonderful bishops and priests, who exercise their pastoral service with the utmost care and love, to which the above described system does not apply.)
If you are, on the other hand, a priest who believes in Christ, who tries to practice your faith through the loving relationships with other people, if you, out of that faith and love, use the church property in such a way that is beneficial for others and for the whole community, but you do not produce "profits," you're potentially in trouble. If you, moreover, dare to speak your mind, to tell the truth, to criticize the "management" for their misconducts, for not living Christian lives, for not really practicing Orthodoxy and so on -- you're, more often than not, finished.
The neoliberal senior management does not tolerate disobedience, protests, different ways of thinking. Neoliberalism is not there to promote freedom, critical thinking, creativity, general well-being, or, for that matter, anything else that might be meaningful from a human and humane point of view. It is there to affirm obedience, vertical distribution of power, and, above all, profits, that contribute to the replication and expansion of power. This neoliberal, corporate slavery is, of course, not advertised that way; it is normally advertised as "competitiveness," "flexibility," "innovation," and so forth. In the church context, it is advertised as "tradition," "centuries-old practices," "Christian life," "reverence," etc.
The alliance between big businesses, political ideologies and religion is not something new. In the U.S. the alliance between the corporate sector and the religious (church) institutions is a very well-known phenomenon. Not so much in the Orthodox world, which often believes that it is immune to the various monstrosities coming from the "West." And many in the West believe the same, except that they formulate it differently -- for them Orthodoxy appears as fundamentally incompatible with the "Western values." It's a high time to reconsider and reject this narrow ideological frame, which seriously distorts the image of (our neoliberal) reality.
Davor Džalto is Associate Professor and Program Director for Art History and Religious Studies at The American University of Rome President of the Institute for the Study of Culture and Christianity.
Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in this essay are solely the author's and do not represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.
Jan 07, 2019 | www.theatlantic.com
In Bannon's telling, the greatest mistake the baby boomers made was to reject the traditional "Judeo-Christian" values of their parents. He considers this a historical crime, because in his telling it was Judeo-Christian values that enabled Western Europe and the United States to defeat European fascism, and, subsequently, to create an " enlightened capitalism " that made America great for decades after World War II.
The enormous amount of media attention he has received and his various interviews , talks , and documentaries strongly suggest that he believes the world is on the verge of disaster -- and that without Judeo-Christianity, the American culture war cannot be won, enlightened capitalism cannot function, and " Islamic fascism " cannot be defeated.
This is where Bannon invokes the "Russian traditionalism" of Vladimir Putin, and it's important to recognize why he does so. In his 2014 Vatican talk, Bannon made it clear that Putin is "playing very strongly to U.S. social conservatives about his message about more traditional values." As a recent Atlantic essay convincingly argues, upon his return to office in 2012, Putin realized that "large patches of the West despised feminism and the gay-rights movement." Seizing the opportunity, he transformed himself into the "New World Leader of Conservatism" whose traditionalism would offer an alternative to the libertine West that had long shunned him.
... ... ...
...Bannon also highlights differences between Judeo-Christian traditionalism and the thinking of Alexander Dugin, who he (hyperbolically) credits as being the intellectual mastermind of the traditionalist movement in Russia. In contrast to mainline American social conservatives, Dugin sees the anti-globalism and anti-Americanism of certain expressions of Islam as having much in common with his own distinctive brand of traditionalism. In fact, Dugin views conservative American evangelicalism as an aberration from historical Christianity, and a cipher for neoliberal capitalism.
In contrast to Bannon's realpolitik, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian minister of foreign affairs, has called for a greater long-term cooperation with the West -- for a "partnership of civilizations" to combat modern geopolitical problems, especially ISIS. In his words , "We believe that universal human solidarity must have a moral basis resting on traditional values which are essentially common for all of the world's leading religions. I would like to draw your attention to the joint statement made by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis, in which they reiterated their support for the family as a natural center of life for individuals and society." The same values that motivate Russia's foreign policy (especially its role in the Middle East) are, to Lavrov, the bedrock of the Christian civilization represented by the Patriarch and the pope.
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