Monday, October 17, 2011

The misdirected folly of Occupy London

Apparently there has been some protest over the past month to occupy Wall Street which is being replicated in all the major cities of the world throughout Asia, Europe, the United States and Canada. Demonstrations have been held in Rome, Paris, Berlin, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Madrid, Stockholm, Athens, Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Tokyo, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Washington, Boston, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver... altogether, some 80 cities and centres of finance have seen tens of thousands of protesters descend upon them, angered by the billions of their dollars/euros/yen/pounds being doled out to bail out the banks during a time of recession, unemployment and job insecurity.

But the best laid plan of the London contingent was to occupy the Stock Exchange, and it all went a bit wrong. Unfortunately (if not unsurprisingly), they were refused access the Stock Exchange, so they occupied St Paul’s Cathedral instead, which is just next door. There they were welcomed by the very accommodating left-leaning Canon Giles Fraser, who ushered away the police from the Cathedral steps so he could divide his loaves and fishes and feed the confused hordes.

Are these people stupid?

By all means, demonstrate and shout your rage at the politicians and bankers. But if buildings must be occupied (which appears to be the nature of the campaign), the targets in London must surely be the Palace of Westminster and the Bank of England. For it is there that they will find those who are responsible for ruining the economy and condemning millions to hardship through greed and bad government. It is the banks who borrowed from banks who borrowed from banks who lent out Monopoly money, all with the manifest consent of Parliament. If you want politicians to be accountable to the people instead of to quangos and the big multinational corporations, you won’t bring it about by picking on the poor Stock Exchange.

Capitalism has it faults and moral flaws, but ultimately it is concerned with the liberty of the individual and the free society. Its spirit is intrinsically democratic; its ethic is non-authoritarian. The moment you rail against capitalism and economic liberty, you usher in tyranny, despotism, absolutism, totalitarianism and dictatorship. Political authoritarianism within capitalism is authority without democracy, which leads to social unfreedom and cultural illiberty. The Stock Exchange instinctively eschews constraint and coercion, and seeks to create the wealth to improve standards of living and alleviate poverty. That is the theory. If, in practice, it does not always work – principally because of the tensions in the nature of man – it is not beyond the wit of man to devise a socio-cultural-economic framework which permits self-reflection and encourages charity. It is entirely possible to inspire an ethic which exhorts individual responsibility and unashamedly exalts the type of social capitalism that can only be achieved through the nation state, accountability, and democracy. Of course, there are tensions between the market and morality, and between the citizen and the state, but these are not the fault of the Stock Exchange.

Caring for widows and orphans, feeding the starving, and clothing the naked, are at the very heart of the Christian vocation. It is incumbent upon a righteous government to alleviate poverty and suffering, and that requires economic growth and wealth creation. Yes, let us protest against the economic morass into which we are sinking. But let us not do it in accordance with the religio-political precepts of the Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser, who seems content to suffer the blasphemous misrepresentation of the Lord upon the steps of the House of God. One wonders if he would have been so generously accommodating of those who took part in the Rally against Debt, or whether he would have insisted that the police do their job in time for Sunday's Matins.


Blogger Owl said...

I wonder who these people are and who is manipulating them. It sounds like a well coordinated action with the level of economic understanding of an LSE student.

I think I have answered my own question........

17 October 2011 at 10:22  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

An insightful blog covering the strengths and weaknesses of our current capitalist system. It is a flawed system but like representative democracy, is probably the best fallen man can achieve. The freedom it permits allows the greedy and wreckless to benefit at the cost of the powerless.

Was really it so bad for the Canon Chancellor Giles Frases to allow the misguided demonstrators to sit on the steps of the Abbey, thereby averting a confrontation with the police? The one time Jesus displayed physical anger it was against a religio-political structure that was taking economic advantage of the poor.

There is much that is wrong with the financial markets and the infrastructures supporting capitalism. Politicians appear unable to control global banks and multi-national companies. Fiscal policy in Britain is being dictated as much by big business and banks as it is by the EU. The government appears powerless to act. Surely this represents as hugh a threat to national sovereignty and democratic liberty as EU membership?

17 October 2011 at 10:25  
Blogger David said...

"Political authoritarianism within capitalism is authority without democracy, which leads to social unfreedom and cultural illiberty."

Pseud's Corner candidate? A proliferation of 'isms' here, Your Grace, which suggests to me you're struggling to conceptualise.

Perhaps you could begin by re-examining the assumptions behind this statement: "Capitalism has it faults and moral flaws, but ultimately it is concerned with the liberty of the individual and the free society".

I don't know about capital-ism, but 'capital' is not ultimately concerned with individual or social liberty; capital is concerned only with making money (almost by definition, one could say), and it moulds the form of society that best furthers that goal or drive. And that is manifestly not always the fairest or most democratic society even if it is, by some definitions of the term, 'free'.

17 October 2011 at 10:30  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

17 October 2011 at 10:38  
Blogger bluedog said...

You Grace, your communicant is an out and out meritocrat and laissez-faire capitalist believing firmly that the law of the jungle can be suitably tempered and his conscience salved by the teaching of Jesus Christ. And so be it.

But equally your communicant has survived by virtue of an excellent nose, being able to sniff trouble (or opportunity) at some distance.
Now, trouble is in the offing.

Whilst it is entirely accurate to describe the OWS movement as mis-informed, mis-representative of the facts and flawed in their analysis, your communicant submits that we should not mis-underestimate this particular push.

Your communicant takes as the text for today this gem:

Like the Arab Spring, this is going to be about twitter, facebook and other social media. Some countries simply don't deserve an OWS movement. But where overall unemployment is greater than 10% and youf unemployment, even for graduates, is greater than 20% (ie most of the PIIGS), you have the ingredients for civil revolt.

Remember, de Gaulle got the Soixante-Huitards wrong in the middle of 'les Trente Glorieuses'. Exciting things can and do happen in European politics, and probably will again. Le Pen to beat Sarkozy, for example?

17 October 2011 at 10:40  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

There is a similarly "left leaning" man of the cloth here in West Yorkshire (by "left leaning" I mean Karl Marx incarnate!) who has blogged to encourage the faithful to support these "Occupations against greed". [He doesn't accept comments from people critical of him ... seriously]

Apparently greed is an exclusive trait of the rich. I have promised to join him on his first "Occupation against greed" on one of our local council estates ... or, if more appropriate, "Occupation against laziness" or "Occupation against covetousness". I'm not expecting to have to mobilise myself any time soon.

17 October 2011 at 10:41  
Blogger Al Shaw said...

Your analysis assumes that the current economic system we currently have is, in fact, capitalism.

At best, it is a developed, distorted and globalised form of it. Genuine capitalism alows a truly free market, which individuals can enter easily, and in which corporations are never too big to fail.

By artificially propping up the current corporate financial institutions, goverments have transferred private debt into public, condemning citizens to punitive austerity.

The current model has manifestly failed. An alternative is needed.

17 October 2011 at 10:52  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Al Shaw

Ah, but what alternative is there?

17 October 2011 at 11:21  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Your sentiments seem to echo this post of Old Holborn's

17 October 2011 at 11:55  
Blogger Belsay Bugle said...

As Dan Hannan said on R4 this morning it's entirely wrong of western governments to print money on such an unbelievable scale to save the skins of a few already unbelievably rich people around the world, ruining us and our descendants for decades to come.

But the people camped outside St Paul's are not going to alter that. I happened to be there yesterday and they were no more than the usual lefty-liberal middle class unwashed, fake rasta hairdos and dogs on strings.

As I bet most of them depend on state benefits arguably they are contributing to the awful financial state we're in.

However, if there were to arise a leader of stature who could weld these disaffected with the responsible coping classes who are really paying for this, then something might happen.

17 October 2011 at 12:02  
Blogger Edward Spalton said...

The trouble is that capitalism has morphed into state-supported corporatism which is as far away from the "hidden hand" of Adam Smith as is Karl Marx.

Whilst today's corporatism does not strut around in uniforms and shiny boots, giving silly salutes, its nearest cognate is fascism. Mussolini said so and he was in a position to know.

The differences between the mainstream political parties are purely those of presentation and emphasis. They all agree on common subjection to euro-corporatism. They are like a hellish, ghastly parody of the Holy Trinity - three persons of one substance.

17 October 2011 at 13:18  
Blogger Richard Brown said...

Your Grace,
The picture that accompanies this post is of a man, no doubt set up and encouraged by Giles Fraser, who has rather misunderstood what that episode at the beginning of Holy Week was all about. Jesus set about the moneychangers (not moneylenders) because of the blatant corruption of the religious hierarchy. It was the use and misuse of the Temple that concerned him.

Slightly ironic then, that Canon Fraser oversees a process which has the tills rattling nicely in St Pauls charging tourists for a look inside.

17 October 2011 at 13:31  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

'I threw out the money lenders for a reason,' says the placard carried by a man dressed up as Jesus in your photograph.

I wonder where this person got the idea that Jesus threw out money lenders. Presumably he was referring to Jesus's actions in the Temple, as recorded in all four Gospels.

But they say nothing about money lenders, instead referring to 'money changers'. The money changers were there to enable pilgrims to change their money into the Temple's own currency. No doubt they made a commission on the exchange.

But the real purpose of Jesus's action, which included driving out the animals, was to suspend temporarily the sacrificial system. Without animals, and without money to buy them, people would not be able to offer the requisite sacrifices.

His condemnation 'You have made my house into a den of thieves,' is usually misunderstood. The 'thieves were not the money cahngers. The Greek word translated as 'thieves' is not the usual one for people who steal, but refers to violent bandits or guerillas. It appears the Temple, being free of Roman presence, was the centre of subversive activities, which were condoned and even supported by the priestly classes, who hoped to dislodge Rome by violent revolution.

By suspending the sacrifical system, Jesus was exposing the way in which the Temple was being misused, and also making a point about himself as the true sacrificial lamb.

And none of it has the slightest thing to do with money lenders.

17 October 2011 at 13:36  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

@Dodo: QFT.

@Belsay Bugle: I hope that one never does rise. The rise of leaders of stature tends to bring with it bloody ruin. Better the unwashed liberals.

Better still our Good Lord, who demanded no blood from His followers, or even His enemies, but offered His own to free us from the tyranny of sin - which at the end of the day is responsible for both the failures of capital and the failures of socialists.

17 October 2011 at 13:42  
Blogger someday said...

"Are these people stupid?"


@Edward Spalton:

Correct. The protestors do not appear to know the difference between capitalism and corporatism.

17 October 2011 at 14:10  
Blogger Belsay Bugle said...

Dear Mr Anonymousin Belfast,

So do I. It was in fear and trembling that I mentioned it.

"Failure of capital"? Umghhh??

Capitalism is a Marxist term for trade and business. What we have here is state tyranny supported by monopoly business, supported by the state, ie corporatism. There is no longer any room for individuals to get into business on their own account in any enduring way.

Take my bete noir, Tesco, they have destroyed small grocers (and many small other retailers); their monopoly is terrifying, yet it suits the state because its directives are obeyed instantly because Tesco only has one head office so there is only a need for its diktats to be served once. It employs thousands of, slaves, sorry I mean women, on part-time contracts to 'help working mothers', on the minimum wage, and the state makes up their income to something they can live on with tax credits.

That might be capitalism, but it's not honest business.

So capitalism hasn't 'failed', it has been spectacularly successful; those in power have got what they wanted and the rest of us are paying for it with our humanity.

17 October 2011 at 14:24  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


A peculiar take on Jesus' actions and His reasons! It's doubtful He was acting as you suggest given He never challenged the sacrificial system, just its corruption.

17 October 2011 at 14:26  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Marx did predict capital would develop this way. He also predicted its internal contradictions would result in its collapse. He underestimated its ability to survive. As we know, its only being held together today by the machinery of States which serve it.

What next?

17 October 2011 at 14:32  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Mr(?) Dodo, you may have somewhat misunderstood my point. Jesus was clearly suspending the sacrificial system by ejecting from the Temple two of the pillars on which it stood: the animals and the currency changers. He did so in order to show up the Temple for what it had become: the den of guerillas.

However, it is also true that Jesus had subverted the sacrificial system on another occasion: when he said to the paralytic man (the one who was lowered through the roof), 'Your sins are forgiven you,' he outraged the Scribes and Pharisees because he was completely by-passing the legal provision for forgiveness, that is the priesthood (Jesus was not a Levite) and the sacrificial system (under the law, forgiveness was pronounced by the priests on performance of the sacrifice).

17 October 2011 at 14:41  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Anabaptist pronounced the correct rendering of the context 17 October 2011 13:36

"'I threw out the money lenders for a reason,' says the placard carried by a man dressed up as Jesus in your photograph."

Most perfectly expounded and a lesson in eloquence and concisement. 'summa cum laude' indeed!

Ernst 'in admiration of said exposition' Blofeld

17 October 2011 at 15:07  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


Except He was the Messiah, the Son of God, Priest, Prophet and Law Giver! I think that permitted Him to forgive sin. He remained a practicing Jew throughout His life and Ministry.

17 October 2011 at 15:37  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

@anabaptist Luke 5:14? And why instruct people to show themselves to the priests?

17 October 2011 at 15:49  
Blogger Preacher said...

IMO He looks more like the Christmas Past character from Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' than the Lord Jesus.
I suppose he could be one of the false Christs that we were warned about.

17 October 2011 at 15:53  
Blogger Anabaptist said...

Yes; of course he was entitled to forgive sin. That is rather the point, so I'm not quite sure what your problem is. He was doing that very thing in the teeth of opposition and incomprehension from the Scribes and Pharisees, thereby demonstrating his superiority to the law of Moses and his right to circumvent it.

17 October 2011 at 16:24  
Blogger E.xtra S.ensory Blofeld + Tiddles said...

Sorry chaps.

Sometimes old Ernst is not very good at being obvious when mocking people, is he?

'summa cum laude' indeed! was the clue but.. aaah? not spotted or was it thought that Ernst had lost his marbles with non stop blogging.

"But the real purpose of Jesus's action, which included driving out the animals, was to suspend temporarily the sacrificial system. Without animals, and without money to buy them, people would not be able to offer the requisite sacrifices."
Could hardly contain himself from giggling and giving the game away. Indeed, so obvious that Jesus did not explain His actions to His disciples for this or they did not even ask why, as they were prone to.

The word "moneychanger" means money-banker or money-broker. They would make large profits at the expense of the pilgrims. Every Israelite, rich or poor, who had reached the age of twenty was obligated to pay a half shekel as an offering to Jehovah into the sacred treasury. This tribute was in every case to be paid in the exact Hebrew half shekel. At Passover everyone in the world who was an adult male and wished to worship at the Temple would bring his "offering" or purchase a sacrificial animal at the Temple. Since there was no acceptance of foreign money with any foreign image the money changers would sell "Temple coinage" at a very high rate of exchange and assess a fixed charge for their services.

The judges, who sat to inspect the offerings that were brought by the pilgrims, were quick to detect any blemish in them.
This was expensive for the wealthy pilgrims, not to say how ruinous this was for the poor who could only offer their turtle-doves and pigeons. There was no defense for them or court of appeal, seeing that the priestly authorities took a large percentage on every transaction.
The Jewish historian Josephus wrote an account of the burning of the archives in Jerusalem and it gives an appalling picture of the incredible debts that were owed by the poor to the rich. It is believed that the intention of the burning was to 'destroy the money-lenders' tallies and to prevent the exaction of debts. After reading about how an infuriated mob (around 30 years later) robbed the Temple booths and dragged the sons of Annas to their death, it can only be imagined how much the Jewish authorities were hated by the humble commoners.
By the time of Jesus Jerusalem had become a parasitic city, lying in wait for the multitudes of pilgrims who flocked into the city in their hundreds of thousands at each Festival. At the Passover there would be at least a million visitors, and Josephus multiplies this figure by four.

Jesus promised the religious aristocracy that their "Temple would be left desolate," and not a single stone of the Temple would be left on top of another that would not be thrown down. Not even forty years passed when it all happened, for in 70 A.D. the legions of Rome came, led by Titus, and the Words of Christ were fulfilled.

Ernst 'sometimes too crafty for his own good' Blofeld

17 October 2011 at 16:51  
Blogger tory boys never grow up said...

"so they occupied St Paul’s Cathedral instead, which is just next door."

No they didn't they are outside the Cathedral, and I am not aware that they have tried to go inside. As long as they are not creating a nuisance they have every right to protest peacefully.

17 October 2011 at 17:52  
Blogger Office of Inspector General said...

Your Grace

The Inspector finds it somewhat gratifying that the citizens (…true descendents of the ancient Roman ‘mob’…) are off their backsides and protesting about what we all feel, irrespective of whether its occupying Parliament, the Stock Exchange or St Paul’s.

The Inspector still hasn’t given up on the financial sector policing itself, and recommends board level directors be inspired by the possibility of lengthy prison sentences should the (…hopefully revised…) protocols we would wish them to trade by are impinged. After all, these people are in for a great reward financially in the good times, only fair that the risks involved should they mess up again be amplified to a ‘daily reminder’ basis with their incarceration in one of Her Majesty’s institutions. Perhaps a study of Pentonville hanging in the Chief Executives office to rally by.

What we don’t want is too much government interference in the area…

17 October 2011 at 17:53  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


" ... demonstrating his superiority to the law of Moses and his right to circumvent it."

Jesus did no such thing during His earthly Ministry. As a man and a Jew He respected Judaism and Mosiac law. Like many of the major prophets He was critical that the intentions of the law had been lost behind ritual and religion.

17 October 2011 at 20:42  
Blogger len said...

Jesus was the only person to fulfil the Law.
All 'works based' Religions' endeavour (unsuccessfully) to do the same.
To fulfil the Law one had to keep all of the Law perfectly, to fail in one respect is to break the entire Law.
This emphasises the futility of 'works 'based Religion.
Jesus Christ is the Way(the only Way,) the Truth,( the only Truth )and the Life.

17 October 2011 at 21:05  
Blogger len said...

Those who wish to live by the Law (Mosaic Law)who wish to have a 'self righteousness' will be judged by the Law.
Now there is no Grace with the Law ,the Law is harsh and demands perfection, if you cannot 'make the grade ' the Law demands punishment.

Christ offers His Righteousness as a gift to those who have faith in Him and His atonement at Calvary.

But you cannot have self righteousness and Christ righteousness.There is a choice to be made.
The proud cannot enter into 'Christ righteousness,' we have to reject self righteousness as being in Biblical terms'as filthy rags'.

17 October 2011 at 21:16  
Blogger bluedog said...

Well said, Mr OIG, it's a fine line indeed between Pentonville and the House of Lords. Under Blair's Reforms it has become too easy to reach the latter.

Communicants should remember the words of Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father of the US, slave-owner, polymath and democrat. Thomas Jefferson definitely got it right 200 years ago when he warned that banks are more dangerous than standing armies, and that if allowed to control the issue of currency they will “deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless”.

Your Grace, on July 21st a deal was struck with Greece that required the European Banks to take a haircut of 21% on loans to the Greek state. The Greeks have not kept their side of the bargain and further negotiations are continuing, with the IMF involved.

If one were cynical, one could see the current market gyrations as a grotesque manipulation of the EU polity via a deliberate system of punishment and reward. Not that the EU polity isn't grossly corrupt and only superficialliy democratic.

When the EU politicians misbehave they are put on the rack of rising bond yields and falling asset markets; business people and consumers panic that markets are falling; investment and consumer spending is threatened; recession looms; politicians are pressed to 'do something'.

When they say, 'OK, OK, we’ll pay the ransom' (give the banks money), markets surge, businesses and voters are relieved, and everyone congratulates the politicians for their wisdom and pragmatism.

German Finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble recently told the Frankfurter Allgemeine that the original haircuts (at 21%) were "probably" too low, saying banks must have "sufficient capital" to cover greater losses if need be. Estimates near 60 per cent have been circulating in Berlin.

The politicians may need another smack – another market sell-off – to focus their minds.

Eventually the EU politicians will write out the correct-sized cheque and the siege will be called off.

This is what the Occupy kids should be protesting about, but not in London where the British government is democratically elected and owns the banks!

Your communicant is concerned that at some point the Red Brigades will re-emerge and we will see another round of kidnappings and assassinations. Violent and murderous protest is a core-competency of the Left.

17 October 2011 at 21:20  
Blogger Atlas shrugged said...

Dear Mr Bluedog

Who told you that The British Government owns the banks?

It would seem that the British government does own shares in a few retail banking outfits, but this is far from the British Government owning The British Central Bank, namely The Bank of England, which is a PRIVATE BANK entirely owned by BANKSTERS.

It this were not bad enough, and you better believe that it is very bad indeed, the exact same people who own The BofE also own the IMF, ECB, BIS, IB, EU, and UN, and therefore YOU, ME, and absolutely everybody else.

This disaster is not the responsibility of The Stock Market, far from it. Indeed the millions upon millions of perfectly ordinary people who wittingly or unwittingly have private pensions or other investments in the stock market, are its primary VICTIMS.

18 October 2011 at 01:50  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Are these people stupid?

No, Your Grace. These people have abandoned the realm of Stupid and marched across the border of Anencephalia.

18 October 2011 at 05:52  
Blogger Edward Spalton said...

Hello Atlas Shrugged.

Sorry, you are misinformed about the Bank of England's ownership. The post war Labour government bought all the shares.

Your misunderstanding may have arisen from the fact (taken from a report in the Straits Times of 15 Oct 1945 which, by a very long coincidence, I happen to have to hand). "The existing stock will be transferred to a nominee of the British Treasury .." but it goes on "and the King will appoint a a governor, deputy governor and directors.."...."...The present proprietors ...will be bought out in exchange for 3% long term government stock which will give the holder the same income as he is now receiving from the Bank of England's stock, namely 12%...."

18 October 2011 at 07:11  
Blogger bluedog said...

Greetings, Atlas. Thank you for the information on the Bank of England.

A further check on Google Inter-planetary discloses that the ultimate holding company of the BoE is in fact Britbank Nominees PLC, c/- Bergstein & Steinberg, PO Box 666, Road Town, Tortola, BVI. Don't tell a soul! I'll let you know if I track them down on streetview.

18 October 2011 at 10:21  
Blogger Al Shaw said...

@The Way of the Dodo

Dear Dodo,

You ask what alternatives exist.


18 October 2011 at 11:57  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

Al Shaw

Yes, indeed.

How to get there though? What political system would best suit it? And, could it actually work in a global, capitalist system?

18 October 2011 at 14:25  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Have we reached a point of desperation where we're seriously talking Distributism? Is this neither-fish-nor-fowl theory making a come-back? To do what? To salve the nagging conscience of the rapatious speculator and to offer a face-saving refuge to the failed and disillusioned socialist? Alas, like socialism and crony capitalism, it too depends on the raw power and bureaucratic reach of the state to, somehow, make it work.

My guess is that this theoretical concoction may work well in pristine, egalitarian and consensus-based societies...such as among small hunter-gatherer bands living in generous and uncontested environments ...but that it couldn't survive even under pastoral or agrarian economies, much less those of the 21st century.

You ask, Dodo, "How to get there though? What political system would best suit it? And, could it actually work in a global, capitalist system?" Very good questions, indeed. Well, I'd say that conditions are such nowadays in the West, that proponents of this imagined and never tried system are free to attempt it voluntarily, at least on a small scale, experimental basis. According to its own premises, it should work without revolutionary disruptions or heavy-handed coersion by an omipresent state. Show that it works and maybe we'll buy!

19 October 2011 at 12:28  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


If only we could start again!

There may well come a time when we have to. Let's face it, capitalism seems to have run its course. Given the choices of corporatism, facism, communism or distributism I know where my preference lies.

It's regarded as a 'third way' between communism and capitalism. Untried, untested and probably idealistic.

19 October 2011 at 17:54  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...

By the way, even our old mate English Viking is an advocate, despite its Catholic roots.

19 October 2011 at 17:56  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...


So sorry, but this "third way" is only a mirage. It cannot exist on its own, because if it could, it already would. It is a variation on communalism, tried many times in history under various forms...monastic and religious communities, military fraternities, guild organizations, agrarian cooperatives, kibbutzim and moshavim, etc. Distributism is a Catholic version of such, but Caholic experiments under monasticism, such as the successful and technologically superior Cistersians (sp?) were much more successful because of the strict hierarchical and disciplined structure which is needed for large scale and long term agrarian settlement projects. Moreover, they had capital and land grants from the Church, access to the high technologies of the times and an energy and work supply in the form human labour by free-holding settlers, monks, serfs, indentured servants and slaves.

Nothing stops individuals and collectives from attempting Distributism in the (relatively) free West. According to some, many are living the ideal on an individual basis (e.g., search "distributism" in But just like credit uions, co-ops, urban gardens and similar communal projects among the willing, it can only exist with the proverbial "infrastructure" of a functioning state with a civil society, under the protection of a sound legal system, a responsible government, a military and a working free enterprise system. This is why Distributism emerged as a concept when it did and where it did; in te modern, industrialized and capitalistic world, and as for why, because it was essentially a protest movement against, an alternative to excesses of the political and economic upheavals. Kind of explains its re-emergence today, doesn't it.

Furthermore, under a well-run, liberal and democratic free enterpise system with an engaged citizenry breathing down the neck of its government, there would be no need for Dostributism. Or, from the end, if Distributism were to appear, it would quickly call forth the democratic free enterprise system we have or long for.

Anyhow, where is and how is Viking? Last I asked you, you said he was off and up to something. A Distributionist commune perhaps? WHy have I such a hard time visualising Viking tending the communal veggies and fruits, leaning on his hoe (as in the farm implement), cheerfully and pleasantly hailing ruddy-faced passerby? I think his talents are better applied here, for we are always short of cool, moderating and soothing opinions as we chirp along happily in His Grace's vinyard.

19 October 2011 at 19:00  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


Viking made a brief reappearance on Saturday, made a few vikingesque comments and hasn't returned since. He will when he's ready. He's obviously wrestlinghis demons, reading between the lines of his comments, and is taking time off.

I really don't know about the prospects for distributism nowadays. Capitalism, being the survival of the fittist, tends towards monopolies and oligarchies as paricular firms rise to the top and take over smaller firms. It also tends towards anti-participatory structures at work. Inevitably, the money markets have gone the same way so today we have muli-national companies and muli-national banks.

Distributism would mean the restraint of growth of banks and companies and would also require cooperative and democratic relationships at work. It is not communist or socialist because it is based on self ownership of property and freedom of individuals. And, yes, it does require a nation state to maintain it and the conditions it needs to flourish.

19 October 2011 at 19:31  
Blogger Avi Barzel said...

Hold these thoughts, Dodo. Stuff like this is mind candy for me and here I am clicking away when I should be out of the house right now getting errands done. A quick thought befor I fly out, though: When we talk of restraining anyone, or enforcing compliance to what will be seen as static approaches on individuals or institutions, and when we want to keep the nation state, we are talking about the kinds of political systems and trappings we already have, which kind of brings us back in a full circle....if we are lucky. Gotta run.

19 October 2011 at 19:45  
Blogger Lakester91 said...

Just been reading about distributivism on Wikipedia. What a brilliant idea! We're always told that Capitalism is the worst system apart from all the others tried; well how about we try this one? It is absolutely true that people care more when they own something than when they work for someone: there's a pride there. I once worked in a shop and it was soul destroying; yet some of the nicest high spirited people I've known work in shops. The difference? They owned the shops!

Maybe this 'Big Society' idea isn't so bad after all...

19 October 2011 at 20:15  
Blogger Lester said...

Hello Dodo
I think that with all grand proposals for change there is a tendency to lose sight of the fact that any such ‘program’ is founded upon abstractions; as such they always represent ‘less’ than the situation they propose to grasp. Capitalism is the socio/economic abstraction par excellence and brutally reductive. I always have a wry smile when the author of this blog writes so heatedly about Prof Dawkins. For in effect capitalism imposes the same movement as would the ‘good professor’: abstractions are situated as transcenden. Woodland, for example, will become a managed resource, that is to say considerably LESS than the ‘presence’, the history and the grace one might experience from the countryside. But the lesser, that is to say the abstract costing of the ‘resource’, is what transcends. Libraries are shut and pits are left to rot, all at the behest of capitalism’s nexus of abstract decision making.
Mrs Thatcher gave this nexus its moral tone. Good and evil were sorted upon the arbitrary basis of being ‘one of us’ i.e. deferential to the abstract Capital.
This isn’t to necessarily denounce Mrs T, or indeed capitalism. But as with Dawkins, I think it is always worth watching where we situate an abstraction and what ‘power’ we might invest in it.
All ‘isms’, I think, tend towards one most brutal reduction: life becomes the subject of probabilities (be they genetic or economic!!). It is only through probabilistic terms that an abstract ‘ism’ can make its claim to determine a particular outcome. Left and Right might argue over mechanism (socialism v capitalism) but our relationships with the terms themselves are hardly ever questioned.

I have to say I know next to nothing about theology, church politics and so forth. But this particular protest warmed me somewhat. I saw on the BBC that the protestors had spread out a huge sheet of paper on which people were invited to make suggestions for change. THE PAPER LAY BARE!! The BBC hack presented this as something of an indictment: “see, they have no answers – no program”. Well I inwardly cheered! Yes, it would appear, they pitched their tents without any notion of HOW (in abstract) to determine a better future. But then, perhaps, they pitched their tents in Hope. Their action then becomes one of a “cry”, or perhaps a yearning: “there must be something better than this”. Yearning appeals not to the probable but to the POSSIBLE. It begs the question of a speculative risk and of creativity. It marks the difference between the predetermined program (the social machine) and the artist who seeks to create from what feels like the edge of an abyss. If a church lacks the stomach for such a cry, it is already dead.

Does this communicate in some way with the Christian ‘rejected stone’? It is always the Grand schemes and their abstractions that will assert what is probable; and hence ‘sort’ and reject (Caesar). And the unlikey is that which is cast aside; we lose that quiet speculative trust in what "might just" be possible. That for which we yearn, goes unheard.

*tin hat on*

19 October 2011 at 20:52  
Blogger The Way of the Dodo said...


As people we do have to have dreams, hopes and ambitions. To make sense of the world we have to 'see' it in particular ways and this means ruling out or playing doen other possible perceptions.

However, at some point imagination has to be translated into active thinking and doing. If not we'd all starve!

How do we feed and shelter ourselves? Then, once that's been achieved, what higher needs do we want to meet? The means of achieving the former have to be in harmony with the latter ones. And that's where 'modern' forms have all failed - capitalism, fascism, communism. They all reduce us as whole people and entrap us in some way. Strangely, they all share a common end point and all dream of a future of human 'happiness'.

Maybe it is the search that matters - but protest and rebellion are not fruitful on their own. Unless one is an anarchist that is!

19 October 2011 at 21:22  
Blogger Lester said...

I think you are right about the 'isms': they do entrap us.
But a hope or a yearning is very distinct from a dream or an imagined fantasy. We can dream in our sleep, but a hope always implies action: "we act in the hope of...".
I start a painting in the hope of origination, but there is no guarantee. These protestors, it would appear, arrived without a plan. But their presence implies a debate, and that debate might inspire a new horizon. We should allow them that possibility I think. (the blank sheet)

I don't think I'm an anarchist!!?? (tho it has been said). I certainly don't oppose all political structure (or even church!). That is indeed futile. But I do believe that structures should be resisted when then try to compel a particular determination of life. Our simplest actions can build new structures of themselves.

I'm speaking out of turn here because I'm not Christian, so I apologise ahead of time. But it always appears to me that Christ lived by the Hope that could flourish from his actions. When He was hungry he plucked wheat, and ushered in a new epoch. The structure of 'Church' followed behind Him, not ahead.

20 October 2011 at 08:34  
Blogger Richard Brown said...

There's another picture appearing in today's papers, of a girl brandishing a large wooden crucifix in one hand, and a half-smoked cigarette in the other. Location: Dale Farm.

Strangely, if religion is dead in this country, the exploitation of religious imagery by people who clearly do not understand it is alive and well.

20 October 2011 at 15:31  

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