Back in November, Joe Carter at First Things launched an uninformed rant against Distributism, claiming that the whole thing comes from Lord of the Rings fans taking that book way too seriously. It’s not clear how much Carter actually knows about Distributism–he doesn’t say anything about their key concern, the widespread ownership of productive property–because the details don’t seem to interest him. In Carterville, there is capitalism and there is socialism and nothing else, and deviations from capitalism are evil because they are “coercion”. (To see the silliness of the first claim, just glance at pre-1800 history. Was hunter-gatherer tribalism capitalist or socialist? Was feudalism capitalist or socialist? How about the guild mercantile republics of the Renaissance? The question doesn’t make sense prior to the modern separation of state and civil society.) It took Front Porch Republic a while to respond, but eventually Jerry Salyer put out a reply. It is, unfortunately, not one of this best pieces, but it does get across the key point that coercion is an inescapable part of common life, and by no means an evil in itself. Democratic capitalism has its own forms of coercion, only less open and honest ones. Carter replied in a comment, calling Salyer a fascist. That’s when I lost every speck of respect I ever had for Joe Carter. Calling people who criticize liberalism (e.g. economic liberalism a.k.a. capitalism) “fascist” is something that only Leftist hacks do, and that’s what Carter has revealed himself to be. Carter’s other remarks became more and more difficult to follow–he makes some weird comment that the Distributists want to take penicillin away from us. (Because it’s “capitalist”, I guess. I wonder, did the Soviet Union have any modern medicine? I suspect it did.) Later on, Carter put up an attack on Front Porch Republic at First Things. Again he laments that anyone could regard coercion as good and necessary. He also cites John Médaille’s defense of monarchy. He makes no arguments against Médaille’s points; he just throws up a quote and does the liberal point-and-stutter. Apparently monarchism is so beyond the pale that we are just supposed to accept without argument that people who prefer Europe’s historical norm of government over the last two centuries of Jacobin innovation are dangerous radicals. In Carterville, the people are God Almighty. Which means, I suppose, that the pre-Enlightenment centuries of Christendom were just as dark and worthless as the atheists say they were.
I wish I had the time to write a reply that would do this subject justice, but I’m really busy with the beginning of the semester. The main point, though, is that living in a community with a moral consensus (“X is what we do here”, “Y is wrong”) is an important part of human flourishing. It is coercive by nature, but not degrading, because in submitting to it citizens acknowledge the moral order of the universe. Liberalism (including capitalism, the ethos of the brothel) takes that away from people, strips all meaning from the public sphere and throws it in the private, where it slowly withers. If we want to save Christianity and the patriarchal family, we must destroy capitalism.