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richards and wittI hardly know where to start in responding to Messrs. Richards’ and Witt’s “response” to my earlier article on “Distributism in the Shire”. More to the point, I hardly know where to end. There seems so much to discuss. There is the question of Tolkien’s agreement with Belloc on the practical aspects of distributism, specifically Belloc’s advocacy of economic “force.” There is the question of whether “the scouring of the Shire” should be seen simply as a Just War or whether it can also be viewed as a Bellocian “restoration of property.” There is the question of whether Belloc’s vision of distributism would lead to less or more government. There is the question of whether I was justified in accusing Messrs. Richards and Witt of conflating distributism with socialism. There is also the question of whether I am correct or justified in describing my honourable interlocutors as “free market libertines.” Finally, there is the more cheerful suggestion that I might find things to cheer about in their book, The Hobbit Party.

In spite of so many inviting avenues beckoning me to defend my own position, I am going to begin by thanking R & W for the restrained and civil, indeed civilized response to my earlier piece of provocation. It is the mark of a gentleman that he can remain fair and charitable even in the midst of the pugilistic fray. In this sense it can be said, quite truly, that R & W are true gentlemen. Inspired by their noble example and desiring to continue in the same commendable spirit, I will not be taking my proverbial gloves off, though perhaps R & W should be warned that the gloves I am wearing are nonetheless boxing gloves and not kid gloves!

The issue of whether Tolkien would “sign off” on Belloc’s practical ideas for “the restoration of property”, as discussed by the latter in his Essay on that topic, is a moot point until we can agree on what Belloc meant by the “force” necessary to restore property. We should note, therefore, that Belloc’s position is inspired by, and aligned with, the Catholic Church’s teaching on subsidiarity. Thus, in the preface to his essay, he writes about the dangers to the freedom of the family that is posed by the excessive power of big business and big government:

If the State can cut off livelihood from the family it is their master, and freedom has disappeared. Therefore there is a test of the limit after which such restriction of freedom is hostile to our aims and that test lies in the power of the family to react against that which limits its freedom. There must be a human relation between the family and those forces which, whether through the division of labour or the action of the State, restrict the family’s liberty of choice in action. The family must have not only power to complain against arbitrary control external to it, but power to make its complaint effective.

In other words, any “force” employed to restore productive property to the family must never negate the family’s power to remain politically and economically free from the encroachments upon its liberty by either the State or Big Business. As an aside, is it not refreshing that Belloc makes the family and not the individual the basic unit of a healthy society?

In essence, Belloc’s vision, like that of the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church, is centred on the necessary tension between subsidiarity and solidarity, or, to employ the language of Actonian and Burkean political philosophy, it is the tension between Acton’s maxim that “power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” and Burke’s maxim that “liberty itself must be limited in order to be possessed”. In terms of Belloc’s approach in his Essay, the “force” which R & W seem to find so objectionable is nothing more or less than the enactment of just laws designed to re-empower the economic freedom of the family against the power of the state and big business. R & W have a problem with this because their free market libertinism sees all political intervention in the economy as bad. There is, however, no evidence that Tolkien held their laissez faire views and it’s mischievous to suggest otherwise.

Moving on to the question of whether “the scouring of the Shire” was simply a Just War against alien invaders, with nothing whatever to do with distributism, it is noteworthy that R & W fail to respond to Tolkien’s graphic depiction of the ravages inflicted by the laissez faire economics of the industrial revolution:

It was one of the saddest hours in their lives. The great chimney rose up before them; and as they drew near the old village across the Water, through rows of new mean houses along each side of the road, they saw the new mill in all its frowning and dirty ugliness: a great brick building straddling the stream, which it fouled with a streaming and stinking outflow. All along the Bywater Road every tree had been felled.

As they crossed the bridge and looked up the Hill they gasped…. The Old Grange on the west side had been knocked down, and its place taken by rows of tarred sheds. All the chestnuts were gone. The banks and hedgerows were broken. Great wagons were standing in disorder in a field beaten bare of grass. Bagshot Row was a yawning sand and gravel quarry. Bag End up beyond could not be seen for a clutter of large huts.

After the Just War had been won, what happened to the “dark satanic mills”? Did the hobbits embrace the “progress” of industrialism, building more great chimneys and more rows of new mean houses? Did they build more new mills to pollute the rivers of the Shire with “a streaming and stinking outflow”? Did they emulate the example of Saruman, shriveled in his evil to Sharkey, by felling all the trees and digging quarries? Did they leave their primitive and mediaeval hobbit holes to live in skyscrapers or sanitized neighbourhoods? Of course not. After the war, the hobbits pulled down the monstrous temples to Mammon and all other manifestations of the “dragon sickness” of commercial “progress.” In short, the hobbits employed justifiable “force” after the war had ended to restore widely distributed property to the Shire folk, reversing the damage done by the imposition of the industrial revolution. Does this prove that Tolkien “signed off” on Belloc’s distributism? I would call it pretty compelling evidence that he did. In any event, and whether or not it proves Tolkien’s approval of Belloc, it would certainly win Belloc’s approval of Tolkien!

In an effort to end on the cheerful note of finding something to cheer about in R & W’s book, I can indeed find much that is good and insightful. The overarching problem, however, is that the authors’ ideological agenda reduces the whole book to a woeful and unconvincing effort to squeeze the square peg of Tolkien’s traditionalist genius into the round hole of the authors’ modernist ideology. It’s akin to trying to squeeze the majesty of the Church into the travesty of the factory chimney. It doesn’t work.

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32 replies to this post
  1. This discussion brought objections from some of us who talked about the potential for abuse of power inherent to the whole idea of “Distributionism”. Or, as I pointed out in a previous post – Who watches the watchers? Indeed, the much larger theme of “Lord of the Rings” is the danger of power even over the good, which is demonstrated when Gandalf refuses the Ring, knowing that, no matter how strong his good intentions, its power would eventually corrupt him.

    But, that aside, what is the point of this Distribution idea in the first place? The public doesn’t seem to want it, only the Distributionists themselves. And why should a small group get to dictate the economy of an entire country?

    • The point of distributism is that it is traditional conservatism applied to economics. Its point is to include priorities more important than pure material production in our social and economic thinking, especially what T.S Eliot and Russell Kirk called the permanent things. Our modern corporate and state capitalism has largely ignored these concerns and been destructive to the permanent things. Indeed, Russell Kirk, whilst being more coy about what should be done, clearly thought we needed to value more that material output in our economies and societies. He attacked the opposing position as essentially the same as Marxism.

      And the symbolism of industrial society in the actions of many of the evils forces in the Lord of the Rings is quite obvious. You would have to bend over backwards not to see clear defence of a more simple and rural way of life in Tolkien’s great work and an attack on some of the evils of industrialisation and modern life. Tolkien even didn’t like motorcars much. There is little doubt he was no fan of industrialism and quite the agrarian, some might say luddite.

      I’m very decentralist, but the traditional conservative, though sometimes he may wistfully flirt with a sort of agrarian anarchism (as Tolkien did), does not share the libertarian’s complete paranoia of government. Tolkien himself said “My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy.” It is clear from the Lord of the Rings itself that his anarchism is closer to Prince Kropotkin’s or Proudhon’s than to Murray Rothbard’s, though in the end it is his own vision. He seems against government precisely when society is organised on a distributist pattern – the Shire. Otherwise, he seems to prefer absolute monarch, where there is no one watching the watchers.

      • “The point of distributism is that it is traditional conservatism applied to economics. Its point is to include priorities more important than pure material production in our social and economic thinking, especially what T.S Eliot and Russell Kirk called the permanent things. ”

        I’m sure Elliot and Kirk were fine fellows, but why should the opinions of two dead guys be given the force of law over a nation of 300 million living people?

        • Well, I base my comments on distributism here on it being a discussion between traditional conservatives. Those writers represent here the traditional conservative perspective. Discussions on the subject with those who are not traditional conservatives and Christians would be somewhat different and I leave them for another time and place.

  2. “it is noteworthy that R & W fail to respond to Tolkien’s graphic depiction of the ravages inflicted by the laissez faire economics of the industrial revolution:”

    I’m sorry, but this scene has exactly zero to do with free market economic or the industrial revolution. What it is is the result of an invading force imposing its will over the previous inhabitants. The moral evil here is invasion, not commerce or industry.

    A modern day example is the German Blitz of WW II. In 1940, London was a modern, industrialized city when the Germans started bombing it. When the war was over, the English simply rebuilt the parts the Germans had destroyed, they didn’t abandon industry itself.

  3. One quibble. The Battle of Bywater isn’t “after the end of the war”. It is properly seen as the last battle of the War of the Ring. This changes the calculus of when force is properly used in the seizing or restoration of property. Which frankly undermines the majority of the logic of this post.

  4. Eric: thank you for expressing how BADLY begged the question is here. “Great chimney,” “ugliness,” “rows” of houses: this is a general depiction of ugly civic planning. Not capitalism. Obviously. In fact, were I as wanton in my proclivity to beg questions by picture-thinking in lieu of building upon premises (as does this article’s mischaracterization of Tolkien’s description of the Shire), I would say that this sounds more like a description of any instance of a 20th Century European centrally planned economy. But I’m not that wanton, and so I wouldn’t say that.

    Instead, I would show that governmental non-intervention in individuals’ property/contracts (ie capitalism) doesn’t lead to this untoward image. I know I’m an outlier on this thread for DEFINING TERMS up front, but perhaps if terms (socialism, capitalism, libertinism) were defined, we could get at which economic system is most aligned with subsidiarity (the single term that is sufficiently defined here).

    More important than the view by Tolkien or Belloc is Thomas Aquinas’ view of government theft and redistributive justice’s inapposite stance with respect to subsidiarity. (I suppose Thomas Aquinas is a “libertine” by Mr. Pearce’s reckoning.). Thomas only counts three types of taxation which are lawfully available to the government–none of them avail distribution or redistribution. These appear in “On Law, Morality, and Politics”:

    “But public authority is committed to rulers in order that they may safeguard justice. And so they are permitted to use force and coercion ONLY in the course of justice, whether in 1) wars against enemies or in 2) punishing civilian criminals.”

    “To take other people’s property violently and against justice [defined above as any exercise of taxation besides military or police exercise], in the exercise of public authority, is to act unlawfully and be guilty of robbery.”

  5. I don’t really understand this debate. That no force in regards to property rights and the economy can be used is surely some sort of libertarian purism and free market fundamentalism which has little to do with reality or traditional conservatism. It is a far less realistic concept than distributism and has no grounds in any actually existing economy.

    The real question is what sort of intervention is being proposed and whether there is a serious risk it will compromise what traditional conservatives and Christians hold dear (and by this I don’t mean some absolutist, non-proviso Lockean conception of property rights, but rather the permanent things).

    • “I don’t really understand this debate. That no force in regards to property rights and the economy can be used is surely some sort of libertarian purism and free market fundamentalism ”

      You talk about “Force” rather glibly, as if the whole thing was just an academic exercise and not something that affects real people in the real world. In the real world, force means violence, or the threat of it. Further, what happens when the people you intend to use force against use force in response to defend themselves and what is rightfully theirs? These are things libertarian minded conservatives think about. Have you?

      • Actually, I think it is more your position that is the more purely academic one. No government that has ever existed has come close to the free market fundamentalist ideal of a government that only conducts external defence and protection of person and a absolutist, non-proviso Lockean idea of property rights.

        Of course, if by force you mean actual confiscation and redistribution, then basically no distributist believes in this kind of force. Your comment about people using force against us seems to rely on the idea that this is what we are advocating, which is a strawmen. Either that it relies on some questionable libertarian ideological point that equates anything but protection of property and person as leading to tyranny and anarchy. If this latter position is yours, you will certainly have to actually argue for it and support it.

        The most you will get from some distributists is support of a progressive taxation regime to achieve some distributism. And not all distributists believe in this. I myself am certainly on the decentralist and relatively anti-statist side of distributism and would rather get rid of income taxes. I certainly don’t support using progressive taxation to achieve distributism, or the distributist state part of it.

        Traditional conservatives, or any conservatives worthy of the name, do not agree with the what you Americans call libertarians about the government being entirely restrained to external defence and protecting property and person.

        • “No government that has ever existed has come close to the free market fundamentalist ideal of a government that only conducts external defence and protection of person and a absolutist, non-proviso Lockean idea of property rights.”

          Actually, that government happened to be the American government up until two things happened:

          1. The income tax
          2. The new deal

          That’s when our government went from being our servant to being our master.

          • This is simply inaccurate. As Kevin Carson has written on in depth, in the gilded age there was all sorts of intervention from the government. Even before then the U.S government was hardly just a minarchist libertarian government. It got involved in all sorts of things like tariffs, infrastructure, land purchases, regulations, and so on.

            It is true some governments had a lot less intervention than today, but they were hardly built on some fundamentalist notion of free market libertarianism.

    • Did not Tolkien himself say he was a libertarian monarchist? ‘Libertarian’ can have more than one meaning. It can become immoral when promoting the wrong kind of liberty

  6. Thank you. I do not understand economics, but if I read enough of these articles, maybe I will build up a structure of understanding in my mind!

  7. There is no argument here if both sides give a different interpretation to Belloc’s use of the word “force” and what exactly he meant by it. If Messrs. R and W have allowed their ideology of Laissez Faire economics to conclude that his force meant central state planning and they happen to be right, then it follows that Belloc in not in possession of an understanding of Catholic Social Teaching grounded in the Catholic Principle of Subsidiarity- If Mr. Pearce is in possession of an understanding of what Belloc intended by his use of “force” and if Belloc was in possession of a proper understanding of CST and Subsidiarity, and Mr. Pearce has conveyed effectively and honestly what Belloc intended, then that is a different matter altogether. The discussion goes wildly off track when one gives their own meaning to an author’s words. Before we can proceed, if indeed these two sides can proceed, we ought to show the respect of examining the three following points concerning Belloc’s words giving them their proper weight- 1st, what are the direct implications on its face of a particular statement, 2nd, how does the statement fit into the context of the author’s assertions pertaining to his particular historical context, and 3rd, what were his explicit intentions by the statements. If we do anything other than this than we are talking about apples and oranges and the argument is fruitless (no pun intended).

    The sides are talking past each other because as Mr. Gordon said, terms are not adequately defined. At this point either one side is wrong, or both are wrong, they can’t both be right.

    • “The sides are talking past each other because as Mr. Gordon said, terms are not adequately defined. ”

      Actually, I think the term that hasn’t been adequately defined is Distributionism itself. Mostly what we’ve been told is what it *isn’t* – it isn’t Marxism or socialism or redistribution. Well, if it isn’t any of those things, then what IS it?

  8. I ran across the idea of Distributism many years after reading the Lord of the Rings and as soon as I grasped the concept I realized that Tolkien’s description of the Shire was Distributist. The two meshed perfectly. Frankly, I can not imagine how anyone could not see it.

  9. “It is true some governments had a lot less intervention than today, but they were hardly built on some fundamentalist notion of free market libertarianism.”

    The Founders clearly set up our government along libertarian lines. That is what the bulk of the original Constitution was designed to do. Most of the first 10 Amendments (the Bill of Rights) are about putting strict limits on what government can do, and much of the rest was about setting up the structure of government so as to divide power and see to it that no one person or governing body had too much power at the expense of the others.

    Libertarians are based on love of freedom, and believe the best government is one whose prime function is to protect our rights and liberties. But libertarians are also realists in that they know that the lust for power is one of mankind’s greatest seductions and also the source of the greatest forms of evil. Thus controlling the size and power of government is of great importance.

    • 1.) Russell Kirk and many of the figures prized by this site would deny most of the U.S FFs were anything like doctrine libertarians.

      2.) It is highly questionable that the original U.S federal, state, and local governments adhered to anything like pure libertarian or free market principles.

      But I took you to be a traditional conservative. I will save libertarian versus distributism debate for another time and place. This is the imaginative conservative site.

      • “1.) Russell Kirk and many of the figures prized by this site would deny most of the U.S FFs were anything like doctrine libertarians.”

        My point is the Founders were libertarians in the *practical* sense of the term and so was the Constitution. Fear of excessive government power was obviously a very large concern of theirs, as was the desire to create a government where protecting human liberty was its principal purpose.

        • Most distributists and traditional conservatives do not want excessive government, especially excessive centralised government.

          What is most important is that the U.S FFs were not died-in-the-wool libertarians. The federalists at the convention wanted to increase the role of the central government, though within limits. Even the anti-federalists were willing to allow some interventions – by state and local governments – modern libertarians would not.

          So, few of the FFs were doctrinaire libertarians, and this is important (if one is claiming them as authorities – I’m not an American!) because it means that distributists (except perhaps the few that have a social democratic-esque vision of distributism) can claim to not be exceeding the amount of government action that the U.S FFs endorsed.

          It should be said, as some have been referring to confiscation, that many of the FFs felt it okay to confiscate property from those who had simply remained loyal to their anointed King.

          • “What is most important is that the U.S FFs were not died-in-the-wool libertarians.”

            That’s why I said they were libertarians in a *practical* sense. I don’t think the term had even been invented yet. That’s how far ahead of their time they were.

          • “that many of the FFs felt it okay to confiscate property from those who had simply remained loyal to their anointed King.”

            What Europeans don’t get is Americans have rebellion in their blood. We bow to no one. A pig farmer in America is equal to any duke or lord in Europe. The whole idea of a monarchy sickens us. Why should we bow and scrape to some titled swine just because he was born lucky? You might as well worship a rat or cockroach.

  10. No conservative has rebellion in his blood.

    The problem with your practical libertarian claim is all it amounts to is saying that the U.S FFs thought the role of government should be as limited as is possible conversant with order and good government. The conservative and distributist (at least those of us on the decentralised wing) would agree. But where all three disagree with the libertarian is that good government can only ever be must only be limited to strict protection of person and (no-proviso Lockean) property. We also don’t usually have the libertarian paranoia of government that the libertarian does – the FFs wished to limit and restrain government but did not, in general, have the consuming jealousy of it that marks American libertarianism.

    in summary, although the precedent of the U.S FFs might be said to be contrary to social democratic-esque distributists, it is not so against the decentralised variety.

    • “No conservative has rebellion in his blood.”

      American ones do. Indeed, the very thing we’re “Conserving” are the values established by our own Revolution. The things we are conserving, in fact, are not tradition or culture but rather ideas. Ideas that are themselves revolutionary. So, you can define a conservative one way, but American conservatives define themselves very differently.

      • Then these people are not conservatives. If a conservative has a rebellious attitude towards settled, prescriptive institutions in his blood then he is not a conservative. Pat Buchanan and Russell Kirk, amongst others, have given the obvious conservative refutation of neoconservative comments on America as a land of ideas. No conservative, in a meaningful sense, could describe any healthy nation as one simply founded on ideas. He is too aware of tradition and of the importance of history rooted, prescriptive institutions and social associations to think a few platitudes can replace these.

        There is a difference between being cautious of government and treating it as the enemy. The latter is paranoia. Indeed, the implication that the current Western governments, as bloated as they are (I agree with you here) are akin to Nazis or Communists, then that is slightly paranoid.Over the top, ideological rhetoric helps no one. Government is natural and from God, as any traditional conservative knows.

        Anyway, the main point is that, yes, the U.S FFs (who are not authorities to me) were keenly aware that government must be kept within its place, but conservatives and distributists would not disagree. This does not mean they would have acceded to the narrow ideology of contemporary libertarians or that their precedent is necessarily closer to libertarians than distributists.

        • “Then these people are not conservatives. If a conservative has a rebellious attitude towards settled, prescriptive institutions in his blood then he is not a conservative. ”

          Sorry, but you don’t get to define who (or what) is conservative versus who isn’t. All you can determine is what is conservative *for you*. American conservatives are different from you, and even among ourselves there are many varieties of conservatism. For example, William F Buckley at one time seriously proposed legalizing all drugs, as did noted economist Milton Friedman, a position that’s too libertarian even for me! You’ve got gun rights conservatives, small government conservatives, traditional values conservatives, anti-abortion conservatives, and so on. This country is simply far too big and our people far too varied to try to create a one-size-fits-all box and then force them to fit in it.

          “There is a difference between being cautious of government and treating it as the enemy. The latter is paranoia. ”

          Your problem is [you are referring to] a different time when politicians (at least in civilized nations) recognized some sort of limits on what they could (or should) do. Like I said, times have changed. And you don’t have to reference the Nazis or Communists to see it in action. Just right now our own Dear Leader is poised to essentially tear up our immigration laws and create a new policy out of thin air, showing no concern at all for what either House of Congress (or the public at large) thinks about it. In this he is acting exactly like a dictator, and unfortunately, with our complaint press, he will probably get away with it. This is REAL LIFE, not some kind of paranoid fantasy.

        • “Pat Buchanan and Russell Kirk, amongst others, have given the obvious conservative refutation of neoconservative comments on America as a land of ideas. No conservative, in a meaningful sense, could describe any healthy nation as one simply founded on ideas. He is too aware of tradition ”

          If Pat Buchanan said that, then he was wrong. Ideas ARE more important than tradition. If tradition were all that mattered, we’d still be living in caves.

          As I said before, it is the conserving of ideas that American conservatives care most about. That’s why our Supreme Court fights are so important. Our side wants the ideas and principles of the Founders preserved whereas our enemy (the left wingers) see the Constitution as an object of convenience, to be used when it suits them and ignored when it doesn’t.

          • Conservatism, to be any use as a term, must have some kind of fixed meaning. There must be some sort of meaningful core to conservative belief and it is usually taken to be the basic beliefs and ethos of Edmund Burke. Conservatism, Burkean conservatism, stresses the importance of rooted, historical community and rights. This conservatism, the only meaningful conservatism, sees revolution as the absolute last resort. It hardly has rebellion in its blood.

            On conservatism versus ideology, you are wrong. Yes, the permanent things and political principles are important, but they need to be embedded within a historically rooted society. Anyone who thinks a society can ruled simply by a few abstract ideas has little notion of the reality of man and society.
            How can one reduce the social creature man’s universe, who only exists embedded within a web of tradition and culture and social associations, to a few abstract ideas separated from this tradition, culture, and social associations. And they must be so separated if thy are to play the abstract role you wish.

            Yes, in the end it is ideas – most centrally faith, virtue, love – which are most important, but mortal man can only have access to these through society, not, for the most part, abstractly. The same goes for lesser goods, like liberty and equality. These are not for man to grasp in an abstract and asocial way. They must be embedded within society and culture and exist as particular, historical liberties and right. As Burke put it:

            “Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favourite point, which by way of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness.”

            This is the conservatism viewpoint.

            Obama is hardly about to start slaughtering millions of people, which was mentioned earlier. Yes, government should be watched and kept in its place, but paranoia is not needed, nor is endless suspicion and hostility towards government, which is of God and nature. A proper balance is what is required.

  11. “We also don’t usually have the libertarian paranoia of government that the libertarian does – the FFs wished to limit and restrain government but did not, in general, have the consuming jealousy of it that marks American libertarianism.”

    That’s because times change. The Founders understood tyranny and loathed it, but the tyranny of the 18th century was quite different than that of the 20th. They probably could not conceive of a world where about 100 million people would be killed by their own governments. It’s not paranoid to fear governments (and ideologies) that have that kind of power.

  12. “As Burke put it:”

    Problem is, Burke was talking about a time and a place that no longer exists. Things have simply changed too much. A better guide for modern times would be CS Lewis. He lived through both world wars and the horror of all of it. And he saw a trend that could make things even worse, which he wrote about in “The Abolition Of Man”. His theme, as best as I can describe it, seemed to be that there was a new class of men arising whose primary goal was not to control nature but rather mankind itself. The idea being, through a combination of modern science, psychology, propaganda, and indoctrination, especially in the schools, you could mold men into whatever you wanted, with the end result being you would have a world full of creatures who weren’t human at all (hence the title “The Abolition Of Man”) but simply robots who looked like men.

    Anyway, what’s my point in all of this? Simply that things have changed so much that’s someone like Burke’s world view no longer applies. A new and deadly type of evil has entered the world. Call it Marxism, Communism, Collectivism or whatever, its end goal seemed to be to eliminate human freedom entirely and reduce people to the level of insects. It is against this new horror that modern conservatism has been fighting, especially American conservatism.

  13. Eric: you’ve carried the banner very, very well. I had to duck out: it’s simply too frustrating to hear Wessexman and his fellow travelers fumble around with American notions of conservatism. It’s bad guesswork, at best. Truly, they don’t understand limited government. (Good point about the failure of defining Distributism, which is their game, btw.)

    Here’s what ALL conservatives struggle over: as Thomas Aquinas noted in q94 of P1 of the Summa, there is a space in between the Venns “what man has a proper ‘right’ to do” and “what the gov’t has a right to legislate.” That is the basis for a PROPER (yours or mine) sort of fusionism (which 19 out of 20 so-called libertarians utterly miss). Fo example, I don’t have the “right” to fornicate…but the gov’t doesn’t have the right the regulate that. Therefore, a Catholic libertarian understands the truth: that I can legally get away w/ fornication non-righteously, and that thus many spuriously come to believe that because the positive law cannot punish for fornication infractions, the natural law christens the act.

    Leo XIII says PRECISELY this Thomistic point in Rerum Novarum as to employers’ duties to pay “fair” (who decides that?) wages: that law should butt out but that an “ancient, imperious” law still requires it, even in the dearth of on point legislation. That just means that only God can judge such matters. Europeans (even good ones) simply cannot understand this.

    By the way, it is noteworthy that Thomas Aquinas is really history’s first systematic apologist of just, people’s revolutions. What he calls “tyrannicide.” While the British Whigs followed Thomas and later Jesuits on this point, they had to cite fellow Protestant Northern Europeans like Grotius and Pufendorf such as to SEEM like there was such a thing as Protestant Natural Law rebellion, which is a contradiction in terms. Also, Thomas Aquinas rejected as “thievery” most forms of taxation. This is often overlooked because on sites like this which are quasi-conservative-Catholic, there aren’t many pure philosophers and a Finnis-intoxicated Aquinas is thus enabled to rule.

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