Chronicles Magazine has published an interesting three-article series in which three authors defend “Laissez-Faire Capitalism”, “Economic Nationalism”, and “Christian Distributism” against one another. They are written by Walter Block, Darrell Dow, and Allan C. Carlson respectively. I suggest that any conservative reader of my blog check them out as they are all well-written and offer short but specific insight into the proposed policies of each economic schema.
I was particularly interested in Dr. Carlson’s article as he notes that, “Critics of Christian distributism commonly fault its lack of specificity.” Of the little that I know about Christian distributism, this was also a criticism I had. But, to my pleasant surprise, Carlson points out that, “In truth, important architects of this way of living have been very clear about the policies that should be pursued.” Carlson then lists specific policies proposed by G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc, two Christian distributists.
I’m no expert on Christian distributism, G.K. Chesterton, or Hilaire Belloc, but I know a thing or two about libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism. Here, I want to take the policies that Chesterton and Belloc propose and answer to what extent they are compatible with an anarcho-capitalist model.
1. Breaking up monopolies, supporting expanded profit sharing, and transferring ownership to worker guilds
Where does the anarcho-capitalist or libertarian stand on breaking up monopolies? If by monopolies you mean private businesses who make their money from voluntary exchange, who happen to be the only sellers of a particular good or service in an area, then we cannot advocate that we take their justly acquired property. These companies have sold to the public what the public is willing to buy If we find no other seller who can provide desired goods at a desirable price, then so be it; the consumers have chosen this one firm to be the only seller of that good or service.
But, consider the definition of monopoly provided by early American economist, Francis Wayland: “A monopoly is an exclusive right granted to a man, or to a company of men, to employ their labor or capital in some particular manner.” With this definition in mind, the anarcho-capitalist is all for breaking up monopolies! Who is the greatest holder of monopolistic enterprises? The state! In many cases the state has given unto itself the right to be the sole producer of energy, defense, adjudication services, postal services, and more. Why should any group of people have the sole right to use their own labor or property in some specified way. Let loose the dogs of competition and let everyone produce. The consumer will decide who is best, not the government.
And when we scrap these government monopolies, who should gain ownership? The workers! They are the ones who were using the dam, the postal delivery trucks, or whatever it may be. They can become the rightful owners of government “property” and use the capital to produce what the market will buy. And if they cannot do so, then the doors of competition will have been made wide open for anyone who can produce at a higher quality or cheaper price.
2. Redistributing farmland and other natural resources, taxing transfer contracts to discourage the sale of small properties to big proprietors, and encouraging the division of big estates for sale to families
Here, the libertarian cannot agree. Why should a man not be able to decide for himself to whom he will sell his land? What if a farmer should be poor and think it best to sell his land and find new occupation elsewhere? Should we tell him that he does not deserve the highest price for his land, that he must sacrifice unto the small farmer, the potential profits he could have had from the sale to the larger? Must we impoverish him further by taxing the proceeds from his sale?
3. Prosecuting fraudulent capitalists, such as the financiers behind the economic crisis of 2008
The libertarian should wholeheartedly support this. As anarcho-capitalist Murray Rothbard writes,
Under our proposed theory, would fraud be actionable at law? Yes, because fraud is failure to fulfill a voluntarily agreed upon transfer of property, and is therefore implicit theft. If, for example, A sells to B a package which A says contains a radio, and it contains only a pile of scrap metal, then A has taken B’s money and not fulfilled the agreed upon conditions for such a transfer-the delivery of a radio.
And this is to say nothing of the bankers guilty of destroying America’s prosperity in 2008. Why should these crooks have been bailed out? Why should the American people be forced to foot the bill when these bankers have so recklessly invested their money? These wealthy elites should suffer the same consequences as all business owners. If they cannot pay their incurred debts, then they must go bankrupt! And, if their gains come from fraudulent business activities, then they should be tried and prosecuted fro their crimes. Let no man get rich from ill-gotten gains.
4. Encouraging healthy self-sufficiency, by scrapping urban zoning rules that ban fences, chicken coops, vegetable gardens, and small shops;
The libertarian must agree! Let us do away with the horrific zoning laws which have only caused harm by forcing people to use land sub-optimally. Of fences and coups, the libertarian is, again, supportive. These implements are important for the protection of one’s own private property. Let us not forget that barbed wire was invented to protect one’s private property from ranchers’ cattle who would trespass and destroy the land.
5. Decentralizing industry, cheapening electricity, and expanding power grids which Chesterton said “might lead to many little workshops”
Just as above, let us eliminate the government monopolies, including those that they have on energy. Why should we let one monopolistic power decide who will get electricity and at what price?
6. Encouraging a healthy countryside and family-scale agriculture, which Belloc said “must be privileged as against the diseased society around it” in terms of both credit and taxation
If the anarcho-capitalist had their way, then we could accept no such privilege in taxation for anyone. Instead, we would eliminate all taxes. No one would have to pay taxes including agricultural property tax, sales taxes on agricultural products, taxes on the fuel used to transport agricultural products, export taxes on agricultural products, or tariffs on farming equipment. Everyone, including farmers, could benefit from the reduced taxation upon their justly acquired property.
Under an anarcho-capitalist regime, credit would be given to those that earn it. If farmers can produce greater revenue, are more able to pay off their loans on time, have lower rates on insolvency, then availability of credit will be abundant for them on the market.
7. Restoring small shops and using differential taxation against giant retailers.
Unfortunately, we must, again, part from the Christian ditributists as the anarcho-capitalist supports equal amounts taxation for all; none.