“Capitalism is not a philosophy. It is simply a method of allocating resources based on voluntary exchange instead of coercion. While some say that such a method promotes greed, history indicates that greed is no less present in any other system of allocating resources. Distributism is completely compatible with capitalism to the extent it is a voluntary expression of the desire to make such market exchanges by reference to appropriate moral values and not just profit. Distributism is most difficult to apply in the context of enterprises that need large amounts of capital to compete successfully. Such businesses tend to organize as public companies whose ownership is distinct from management. Such companies have a very difficult time voluntarily expressing values that are inimical to profit maximization. It is not impossible, since corporations can be organized expressing other goals which would be disclosed to investors, but thus far such efforts have not proven all that successful. Instead, non-pecuniary values are imposed via government regulation, which plainly can be blunt and political instruments. It is also important to realize that non-investor corporate constituencies, especially consumers, do alter behavior by imposing their values thereby affecting corporate profits. Imperfect information and imperfect consumers limit the efficacy of such forces, but truly there is nothing about a free market system that renders it inherently incompatible with Catholic values.”
–– a comment by M. Petrik at The American Catholic’s oldish post on “Distributism and the Futility of Third Ways”
I think his point is that capitalism is not presented as an entire Lebensphilosophie, but simply as a model for commerce. It’s a fallacy to say that, because capitalism puts profit above all else in business, therefore it puts profit above all else in life. One’s dealings in the business world are, hopefully, but a part of one’s life. Indeed, the desire for profit assumes that one has higher ideals and ends to which those profits can be committed. In any event, I agree with JP2 that it’s better to speak of and work for a “market economy” rather than “capitalism,” since the latter is by now perhaps inextricably tied up with the Marxist critique, and thus perhaps trapped inside that interminable dialectic.
I’m inclined to agree with my friend, himself another Catholic tormented by the apparent rift between economic realities and “well meaning” Church teaching on economics: “I don’t think there is any alternative to capitalism. It’s simply the economic face of a complex society. The other stuff is all book invention and fantasy. Soviet Communism simply managed to produce, in the words of one wise one I have forgotten, ‘super monopoly state capitalism’.”
- The War Against Capitalism: Wrong On So Many Levels (thecollegefix.com)
- My Views On Capitalism (wecapitalistsrock.wordpress.com)