Joe Carter calls Jerry Salyer “fascist”

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.

11 Responses

  1. The irony being that capitalism is itself usually fascist in application, meaning the state interferes with the “free market” (usually to promote centralization) in order to advantage state power.

    Historically speaking, usually the “capitalist” state is little more than a front organization for the economic elite to defend their privilege and power.

    I think to fend off the ridiculous attacks on Distributism, and to short circuit the “capitalist vs socialist” brain lock, the correct term to be used should be REFORM CAPITALISM.

    It is essentially capitalist, after all, being based on the assumption and protection of private property. But it is REFORMED by preventing the abuses that centralization brings.

  2. Distributism is pretty utopian. Like socialism, it tends to just posit an end and doesn’t really consider what means are actually available to achieve that end and what the unintended consequences of using those means will be. Neither does it consider how the massive government intervention required will attract rent seekers.

    Many of these issues were discussed here:
    http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/03/whats_wrong_with_distributism.html

    You’re right though that coercion isn’t the issue.

  3. Imagine people on a neocon website using the methods of the new left to defend plutocracy! Never seen that before …

  4. The devil was the first anti-monarchist.

  5. Wasn’t Carter the fellow who posted the defense of the death penalty on First Things? Guess coercion isn’t such an equivocal evil after all, eh?

  6. I think it’s Salyer, and not Sayler…just sayin’

  7. Thanks.

  8. Which spawned a whole argument between David Bentley Hart and several commenters, on the one side, and Carter on the other, about whether the Noahic covenant is still binding, whether Noah existed, and whether Christ knew whether Noah existed or not. He certainly gets things started and I agree with him on the death penalty but it is difficult to take his high school debate team tactics. Intellectually he is a boy among men at both First Things and FPR. But he disagreed with Joseph Bottum in that article as well and that’s good enough for me.

  9. To get from here to distributism doesn’t require any more government intervention than we’ve been having. After the collapse…voila!

  10. First Things really needs to accept the facts and acknowledge that history has a long track record of liberalism leading to coercive leftism. I am more of an Agrarian than a Distributist (because of my suspicions of Distributism) but I First Things needs to acknowledge that the common person and the elite are morally corrupt in a modern consumerist society.

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