Skip to comments.Catholics Against Capitalism
Posted on 06/10/2014 6:36:50 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
Something strange happened in Washington last week: A panel of Catholic intellectuals and clergy, led by His Eminence Oscar Andrés Maradiaga, was convened to denounce a political philosophy under the headline Erroneous Autonomy: The Catholic Case against Libertarianism. The conference was mainly about free-market economics rather than libertarianism per se, and it was an excellent reminder that the hierarchy of the Church has no special grace to pronounce upon matters of specific economic organization. The best that can be said of the clergys corporate approach to economic thinking is that it is intellectually incoherent, which is lucky inasmuch as the depths of its illiteracy become more dramatic and destructive as it approaches coherence.
The Catholic clergy is hardly alone in this. There is something about the intellectually cloistered lives of religious professionals that prevents them from engaging in anything but the most superficial way with the 21st-century economy. Consider Tricycle, the American Buddhist review, which periodically publishes hilariously insipid economic observations e.g., the bracingly uninformed writing of Professor Stuart Smithers of the University of Puget Sound religion department, whose review of Conscious Capitalism by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and Raj Sisodia contains within it a perfect distillation of fashionable economic antithought. Like Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, he writes about the structural problems of capitalism, but gives no evidence at all that he even understands what that structure is. Unfortunately, relatively few do.
As Marx pointed out, Professor Smithers writes, capital is full of contradictions. Capital not only creates wealth, value, and jobs it also destroys wealth, value, and jobs. Those wondrous technologies also manifest as wrathful deities, efficiently eliminating or reducing the need for labor. The implicit economic hypothesis here is that producing a certain amount of goods more efficiently in this case, with less labor makes the world worse off. (Why not use spoons?) The reality is the opposite, and that is not a matter of opinion, perspective, or ideology it is a material reality, the denial of which is the intellectual equivalent of insisting on a geocentric or turtles-all-the-way-down model of the universe.
The increasingly global and specialized division of labor and the resulting chains of production i.e., modern capitalism, the unprecedented worldwide project of voluntary human cooperation that is the unique defining feature of our time is what cut the global poverty rate in half in 20 years. It was not Buddhist mindfulness or Catholic homilies that did that. In the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens, neither of those great religious traditions, nor anything else that human beings ever came up with, made a dent in the poverty rate. Capitalism did. One of the great ironies of our times is that so many of the descendents of the old Catholic immigrant working class have found themselves attracted to an American Buddhism that, with its love of ornate titles, its costumes, its fascination with apostolic succession, and its increasingly coddled professional clergy, is a 21st-century expression of Buddhism apparently committed to transforming itself plus ça change! into 15th-century Catholicism. Perhaps it should not be entirely surprising that it has embraced the same intellectual errors.
Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and likeminded thinkers, stuck as they are in the hopelessly 19th-century distributist model of economic analysis, apparently are incapable of thinking through the implications of their own dogma. The question of how certain goods are distributed in society is a second-order question at best; by definition prior to it is the question of whether there is anything to distribute. To put it in Christian terms, all of the great givers in Scripture the Good Samaritan, the widow with her mite, Joseph of Arimathea had something to give. If the Good Samaritan had been the Poor Samaritan, with no resources to dedicate to the strangers care, then the poor waylaid traveler would have been out of luck. All the good intentions that we may muster are not half so useful to a hungry person as a loaf of bread.
Those who put distribution at the top of their list of priorities both make the error of assuming the existence of some exogenous agency that oversees distribution (that being the Distribution Fairy) and entirely ignore the vital question of what gets produced and by whom. Poverty is the direct by-product of low levels of production; the United States and Singapore are fat and happy with $53,101 and $64,584 in per capita economic output, respectively; Zimbabwe, which endured the services of a government very much interested in the redistribution of capital, gets to divide up $788 per person per year, meaning that under circumstances of perfect mathematical equality life would still be miserable for everybody. Sweden can carve up its per capita pie however it likes, but its still going to be 22.5 percent smaller than the U.S. pie and less than two-thirds the size of Singapores tasty pastry. You cannot redistribute what you dont have and that holds true not only for countries but, finally, for the planet and the species, which of course is what globalization is all about. That men of the cloth, of all people, should be blind to what is really happening right now on the global economic scale is remarkable, ironic, and sad. Cure one or two people of blindness and youre a saint; prevent blindness in millions and youre Monsanto.
Unless His Eminence et al. have come up with a way to apply something akin to a literal loaves-and-fishes model to the global economy and Im going to go ahead and predict that that isnt happening, no matter what color the alleged economists hat is then production precedes consumption. The poor you will always have with you, Jesus said, but in the capitalist world, that simply is not true there is no poverty in the capitalist world comparable to poverty in the early 18th century, much less to the poverty that was nearly universal in Jesus time. Our people are clothed, fed, and housed, and the few shocking exceptions, as with the case of the neglected mentally ill, are shocking because they are exceptions and those are not economic failures but political failures.
Which brings us to our fundamental problem: The errors of the Catholic hierarchy regarding the economy are the product of errors in its thinking regarding the state. Catholic thinking about the role of the state has evolved precious little since render unto Caesar, even though there is, especially in the Christian world, a blessed shortage of Caesars just now, and has been for some time. The Catholic clergy still operate under the Romans 13 assumption that the powers that be are ordained of God. (Paul apparently forgot to add . . . and the Electoral College.) From the old royalist Right to the redistributionist Left, there is an implicit and sometimes explicit belief that the state is a channel for moral expression, whether that expression takes the form of entrenching traditional ideals about family life or or collaborating with the state in the seizure and redistribution of wealth. (Probably worth keeping in mind the clergys historical track record here: The last economic idea that it got itself exercised about was Marxism.) But the state is in fact no such thing. It is a piece of social software, a technology, a tool with no more moral significance in and of itself than a hammer. Like a chainsaw, its uses depend on whose will is controlling it sometimes you get the United Chainsaw Carvers Guild (which, no kidding, exists) and sometimes you get Patrick Bateman. Having failed to reckon with both the epistemic challenges to the various economic-planning orders they dream of (without understanding how little they know about what they imagine they can design) and the public-choice analysis of state action, Catholic economic thinkers conclude that they can invent a chainsaw that can cut through wood but not their legs. (Which keeps going wrong and wrong and wrong.) Enthralled by the power of selecting among the millions of choices about what the state should do, they never consider the relatively restricted and plebiean question of what the state actually can do.
This is true even among the so-called conservatives. Consider John Paul II writing on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum:
If Pope Leo XIII calls upon the State to remedy the condition of the poor in accordance with justice, he does so because of his timely awareness that the State has the duty of watching over the common good and of ensuring that every sector of social life, not excluding the economic one, contributes to achieving that good, while respecting the rightful autonomy of each sector. This should not however lead us to think that Pope Leo expected the State to solve every social problem. On the contrary, he frequently insists on necessary limits to the States intervention and on its instrumental character, inasmuch as the individual, the family and society are prior to the State, and inasmuch as the State exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.
But the state in fact has no way of knowing to any practical effect what the common good even is or how its policies might affect priorities relating to it. The common good may seem like a relatively straightforward thing when your theater of operations is the general moral intuition of a saint, but its something else when youre working with 20,000 pages of Affordable Care Act regulations and that, not refined sentiment, is the realm in which the state operates. Meanwhile, he also expects the state to determine just wages and union work rules, to administer unemployment insurance, to calculate the economic consequences of immigration, and a hundred other things that the state has no capacity for doing. Like Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and others, he assumes that the state will act in the cause of justice for the poor rather than being the most ruthless and pitiless exploiter of the poor, as history, including the history of this country, very strongly suggests that it will be. The relevance of these reflections for our own day is inescapable, the sainted epistolist writes, saying perhaps rather more than he meant to. Put not your trust in princes. Expecting them to deal rationally to say nothing of morally with systems of incomprehensible complexity is an error.
The case against libertarianism? As usual, the most important part of the question goes unstated and unanswered: Compared with what? You can have free trade or you can have trade managed by politicians; you can have free markets or you can have capital managed by politicians; you can have real prices or you can have shortages, waste, and chaos; you can have a society in which people are free free, among other things, to follow the Gospel to a higher kind of freedom or you can have . . . something else. Can you be Catholic and libertarian? the Washington Post asks. I suppose that it depends on how you intend to fulfill the Lords command to feed His sheep with rhetoric or with bread and how much faith you put in the proposition that deep within his conscience, man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. And it must depend very heavily upon how you feel about the peaceful, cooperative, egalitarian, collaborative, poverty-pulverizing economy that we built when Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga wasnt looking, the billions it has saved from poverty, and the billions more that it will save. Can you be Catholic and celebrate that? How could you be Catholic and do anything else?
I myself first felt the pull of the Church in a very, very poor place India, as it happens that was at the time engaged in the humane project of making itself a considerably less poor place, largely by ignoring the advice of the Hindu versions of Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga. I am grateful to our clergy, and if my criticism herein seems unduly uncharitable to these princes of the Church, it is only because their backward views on capitalism are doing real, material, irreversible damage to the world and especially to the lives of poor people, who are most in need of what only capitalism has to offer. His Eminence may not entirely understand it, but the banks and boardrooms are full of men and women doing more in real terms for the least of these than he is more, in fact, than he would even understand how to do and what he proposes mainly is to stand in their way. For Gods sake, stop it.
Isn’t that just the USCCB?
“Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and likeminded thinkers, stuck as they are in the hopelessly 19th-century distributist model of economic analysis, apparently are incapable of thinking through the implications of their own dogma.”
Stuck in distributism? No, I don’t think so.
This anti-enterprise stuff does immense harm to the poor. Clericalism. It's poison.
I’d like to hear more of your point of view on what’s called “distributism”. All the explanations I’ve heard so far seem garbled because of using different definitions.
Just yesterday I warned of the “Christian Left” loose in Texas, particularly out of San Antonio Catholic seminary and bishops, wholesale.
On a thread trumpeting Texas conservative certainty in their future, I beg to differ. I was wondering if Texas Republicans leaders and strategists have even noticed this quiet source of socialist thought.
Both G. K. Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc were distributists.
Chesterton once said that socialism and capitalism were two sides of the same bad materialist coin.
Libertarianism, whether as an economic policy or political philosophy or even a basic way of understanding life, is shot through with internal inconsistencies and bogus assumptions.
I can see why the Church, and any thoughtful person or groups of persons, would be opposed to a thoroughgoing libertarianism.
Before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith penned The Theory of Moral Sentiments. He was no believer in the market solving all problems. He certainly was no George Gilder who believed that a free market was not only the best economic arrangement but also the best molder of character.
There are lots of reasons to be skeptical of a "free market", not least of which such an animal has never been seen and will never arrive. It has as much likelihood to exist as the communist utopia predicted by Marx.
Also note that libertarians are for open borders and are OK with corporations using their profits to lobby congress to pass legislation to skew the markets in their favor. They will never connect all those dots at one time, but they believe in every step along the way.
This is the second time in a month I find articles from National Review that could have been written by Politico.
One of the many blessings of the Catholic faith is that the only “truth” comes from the Catechesis of the Catholic Church. nothing outside of this is church doctrine.
What anyone else says is personal opinion, or possiblly intentional slander. personal opinion all really depends on how you define capatalism. The crony capitalism we have today is NOT Christian. That said the problem isn’t “capitalsim” or private business, The problem is having a government that functions under the guise of Democracy, but is actually beholden to Fat Cat bankers and hedge funds managers who launder money for cartels. It is taxation without representation, which is tyranny. A government funded by enemies of its’ citizens is treasonous. The message of the Catholic Church is distorted daily, because the criminal cartels are in charge.
Afghan poppy fields are at record production under US military protection, and we have an opium epidemic in the country that exceeds alcohol and car accidents in accidental deaths. World markets are being flooded with pure heroin, and world citizens are bring deceived beyond most people’s comprehension. Our complicit government has the blood of American children on its hands, along with the enabling “media”. God will take care of them, everyone else take care of your families.
Also note that the extreme right (and not just Catholics) have always declaimed against "usury," bankers, and "the money power."
“Id like to hear more of your point of view on whats called distributism.”
That’s part of the problem - defining distributism - especially in an age where we are all dependent on the economy of scale, massive production to lower costs, and mass participation in activities driven by global economic developments like nothing the world has ever seen. Many of the greatest texts on distributism are seriously out of date going back to the 1920s, 30s, etc. The humane principles involved are still good, but the denial of the economy of scale (which we all enjoy the benefits of) is a serious flaw. I like the internet. The internet never would have come about without vast investments of capital which distributism really doesn’t allow for fear of too powerful robber barrons or governments dominating the little guy.
“All the explanations Ive heard so far seem garbled because of using different definitions.”
I’m afraid that will continue. One place to start might be:
http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Capitalism-Socialism-Statement-Ideal/dp/1932528105/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1392737482&sr=8-1&keywords=beyond+capitalism+and+socialism I am not a big fan of the press that publishes it. Yes, they have some good books but a rather sordid leadership.
And then there’s this: http://www.beyonddistributism.com/articles.php
Here are some other worthwhile reads (recent ones):
http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/the-pontifical-council-for-peace-justice-and-sauron (hey, anyone who can work Sauron into an article on economics...)
And then from three weeks ago: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/05/why-is-distributism-so-intolerable
What we need to do is to go back to the cave man days and start over, Since there will be no one getting paid for sitting on their butts and whining, they will have to get busy doing something.
It would be my guess that the socialist whiners would be some of the first to put capitalism to work.
The problem is the lack of differentation between small business and multinational corporations.
Calling them both “capitalism” - which is commonly done - is absurd.
As a result, we live in an absurd world.
Anything these faux-Catholics have to say is nonsensical, putrid garbage.
Yes, well, it influences and it’s an agenda among many seminaries serving illegals and Hispanics.
This needs to be noticed in Texas and countered, because it’s growing. So far, crickets. And, I am Catholic forever.
This isn’t making sense to me. Most of the businesses in America were started by Catholics and other believers in God.
Most of the businesses in America was started by Catholics?
Catholics who didn’t even start showing up until the 1840s and who reached 5% in the 1850s? The voters who as their numbers grew brought in unions and Europeanism?
Americas First Mass [Ecumenical]
George Washingtons Return from Service to Mount Vernon, Christmas Eve, 1783
Remember, Remember (George Washington and Guy Fawkes Day)
A Tea Party Thomist: Charles Carroll
Americas Catholic Colony [Ecumenical]
The Catholic Church in the United States of America [Ecumenical]
Catholic Founding Fathers - The Carroll Family [Ecumenical]
Charles Carroll, founding father and "an exemplar of Catholic and republican virtue" [Ecumenical]
CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Founding Catholic [Father]
"How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" ( Book Review )
LOL, Check your history, when the United States was created it has about 0.4% Catholics, they were almost nonexistent, and then they started immigrationa in the 1840s, and by the 1850s were about 5% of the population.
But all of the many countries south of us were founded as Catholic.
The United states was created by an almost 100% Protestant population, just as Mexico and the Latin countries were created purely by the Catholics.
“Catholics were settled on this continent before anyone else.”
Yeah, in Mexico and New Orleans but they had almost nothing to do with the British colonies that became the United States.
Maryland was established to be the ‘Catholic’ colony but that didn’t last long. The only prominent Catholic I can think of as a Founding Father was Charles Carroll.
America was regarded as a WASP country for good reason.
What about the Catholics that settled in the southern part of Florida?
Established missions in California?
I think 99.5% is a pretty good reason, Mexico was founded as about 99.5% Catholics, as was just about everything to the south of us, in some, or many of the countries south, being Catholic was the law.
“What about the Catholics that settled in the southern part of Florida?
Established missions in California?
Every one of them was a subject of the Kingdom of Spain. They weren’t part of the development of United States.
Spanish Florida was mostly unsettled other than St Augustine. It was absorbed by treaty into the United States in the 1820s.
California was Spanish territory but had very few Spanish in it. The Missions were for the Indians. California didn’t become part of the US until 1850.
The only early Catholic University in America that I know of us in Mexico City. And that’s still Mexico.
There were pockets of Catholicism in early America, most would have been in the South along the coast.
I had Catholic ancestors in America in New Orleans but that wasn’t part of the US until Jefferson purchased it from Napolean.
Well, unlike the author’s suggestion it does not get it’s name from anything to do with the distribution of goods, it has to do with the distribution of productive property. I’ve noticed several articles published lately criticizing distributism, but upon reading all of them it was apparent the authors heard the word “distributism” mentioned by someone somewhere and just sort of guessed at what was meant by the term.
Lately, I’ve been reading G.K. Chesterton’s Outline of Sanity, which is basically his treatise on the subject. I’d recommend getting a copy (I found mine dirt cheap), so that, at the very least, you won’t be wondering about what distributism is. I’m only halfway through the book and I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the subject, but regardless of what you find yourself thinking about Mr. Chesterton’s economic philosophy (which differ in many ways from American conservatism) I can definitely recommend his other works, his writing style has much in common with Mark Steyn. Not only were his thoughts on theology profound, but he also knew how to humiliate the progressive liberals of his day.
however, I’m only about halfway through so I’m wouldn’t consider myself an expert on the subject.
Basically, the economic philosophy behind distributism is that productive property (whether land or capital) should be dispersed widely amongst the population. The ideal is that as many people as possible should be proprietors of their own small businesses instead of working for others (I should note, that because of this distributism’s critics frequently equate it with agrarianism) . Like socialism, distributism holds that working for big business is exploitative, and eventually becomes wage slavery (though not necessarily so at first, basically the view of distributism is that capitalism will inevitably evolve into what we would call “crony capitalism” today. As Chesterton put it, he does not ‘condemn capitalists, for their capitalism, but for their socialism.’). Unlike socialism, distributists view private property as a big part of the solution to that exploitation, distributists hold private property as something essentially sacrosanct, and the only way to protect the freedom and independence of the productive class.
Do I buy into any of this? 10 years ago I wouldn’t have. However, many of the criticisms he has of capitalism seem to hit awful close to home when I see the increasingly incestuous relationship between big business and big government, especially during the current administration.
My late grandfather gave me a dressing down I will NEVER forget when he found out I had a 401K. He was very old school, lived through the Depression, and had a very well informed position on Usury and the results of such.
Wish I had listened to him a bit more, but I was young and dumb.
I have read that document, and while is sound great, there is one glaring issue. Human nature.
There has to be an all powerful body that can take part of a business or productive enterprise and give it to someone else. In the cases that Chesterton cited, it was mainly farm land taken from the great estates and given (sometimes forcibly) to the lower classes. All good in theory. It would free up land that was enclosed by large estates to a more Common’s plan.
The problem is that if I was a powerful man, I would try to make sure to influence that body that distributes things up. Maybe get a son or two on the board. Maybe give a generous donation to the guild. Maybe a nice donation to the Church. In short, it would be corrupted rather quickly by those who corrupt everything. Namely people.
It is a great theory on paper, and Chesterton and Belloc address a great many things that are abused today (Belloc is very correct in saying that capitalist materialism leads to the same place and communistic materialism). But both men were Romantics in the best sense of the word. They assumed that men could be angels, without looking at times when such economic arrangements, or something close to it, held sway. Instead of something to give the means of production to every man, it would be used to exclude those men out of production in order to support those guilds who held sway.
In other words, I fear we would end up the same way we are today.
Thanks for this. I’ll read it.
Marx praised usury-based capitalism as the best system for the purposes of destroying all of traditional society before it. He saw that capitalism was functioning as the destructive engine which would undermine and collapse the family and relations based on custom, religion and morality. The further capitalism rolled the more it would centralize ownership and control, depriving vast numbers of people of small proprietorship, the free and responsible use of their own productive property.
The usurers would capture the state. And then, the overthrow, and the socialist state.
Oh, my goodness. Thanks for all the links. I honestly don’t know if I’ll take the effort. I have friends who argue about this endlessly, and ——MEGO, as they say.I’ve never been able to make heads or tails of it.
I found this quote (tagline):
Will read the links later.
Correction: Jews are forbidden to lend at interest to other Jews (and even then there's Hillel's prozbul) but are explicitly permitted to lend at interest to non-Jews. As a matter of fact, one of the blessings Israel will merit if it is faithful is that it will lend and not borrow, whereas one of the curses for unfaithfulness is that it will borrow and not lend.
I confess that I am not aware of whether or not non-Jews are permitted to loan at interest, but I could find out.
There are good things and bad things about interest and capitalism. A good thing is that it enables social mobility. A bad thing is that this very social mobility is at odds with traditional pre-capitalist society. The highly stratified medieval European society was derived ultimately from the hindu caste system, and while much more sane morally required one and all one's descendants to be doomed for life to the same social status . . . which was fine if one was nobility, but not if one was a serf. The truly Theocratic society of ancient Israel was neither medieval Europe nor the modern "West" but rather something quite unique.
Unfortunately, Catholic and palaeocon anti-capitalism/usury is often a front for anti-Semitism (please note that I am not accusing you of this; I'm merely pointing out that this is so). But at any rate, this point of view is almost absent from American conservatism, and more American conservatives need to be exposed to it, whether they agree with it or not. For this your post is much appreciated.
Whatever similarities there may be between a feudal society and a caste society, the former did not derive from the latter. Hindus had virtually no contact with Europeans until well past the era of feudalism, which declined in the 14th century partly as a consequence of the Black Plague, when labor became scare and workers were in a position to demand wages.
There was a surprising amount of contact between what is now India and the west. There are trad routes from Constantinople to India dating from the pre Constantine era, or even the pre Roman era.
Remember the Eastern Roman Empire did extensive trade to the east, and had contacts spread through out.
As befits one who is fascinated by languages, I assume that European culture, like European languages, ultimately derive from India. This of course doesn't mean I'm right. (Then of course there's the Jewish Tradition of Roman/chrstian Europe being 'Edom, which is descended from Jacob's twin brother.)
The important point is that Biblical Israel was absolutely unique in world history. Despite superficial resemblances it was comparable to neither modern secularism nor any other religion on the face of the earth--not even the other Semitic ones.
Ancient Israel was the only true Theocracy in world history. May it be HaShem's Will to restore it and bring all mankind under His Laws soon, speedily, and in our day!
There is no evidence that Hindu social-religious systems influenced, let alone established, European feudalism.
The Hindu castes were seen as sacred and immutable, almost as if the people in them constituted different species (I don't mean this literally, but as an analogy). In contrast, the tumultuous nature of European history, and the incipient egalitarianism of its Christian basis ("You are neither slave nor free, but one in Christ") insured that people did not see classes as inevitable, nor as expressive of God's perfect and permanent will.
Let me first confess that I am not an expert on the Middle Ages, but chrstianity as it developed in ethno-geographical chrstendom was very different from the plebeian religion of the early chrstians. The medieval corporativist model with its guilds mult-generational social classes were interpreted as the model society and Paul's "ye are members one of another" was invoked to prove this. Catholic advocates of a restored chrstendom today justify this highly stratified society (the TFP people being merely one example) and there are sites and articles on the Internet dealing with this very subject.
I'll ping to wideawake. He's the expert here.
Multi-generational guilds were indeed a feature of the Middle Ages, and in fact were one of the best features: they fostered a stable society in which every trade or profession had its own public honors, its own ethic of mutual aid, and its own fraternal and intergenerational obligations. This included making sure that everyone in the rising generation would receive the tools and the skills needed to support himself and his family honorably.
It was a way of life rich with customary relations; many of its exchanges were embedded in local folkways rather than mercantile calculations: e.g. customary gift-giving accounted for a surprising amount of the circulation of property.
Whether the Hindu ideal or classic practice of caste relations included this, I do not know. Somebody who knows a whole lot more about Hinduism would have to tell me. My impression, though, is that caste fostered non-contact with other strata of society, whereas the European guild system fostered interaction, e.g. the joint festivals of saints' days and so forth.
The novel "Kristin Lavransdatter" (Sigrid Undset, Nobel Prize 1926) has a fascinating view of how it worked in 14th century Catholic Norway. One character in particular, Lavrans (Kristin's father) is a model of how an honest and religious man undertook his reponsibilities for the commmon good. In contrast, Kristin's husband, Erlend, is a far more tarnished example of how an unprincipled man would take everything to his own advantage.
When you look into the history of guilds and of the economy of the Middle Ages, you see a lot of good and bad.
Guilds served much the same function then as today. Limit competition, increase prices to the customer, and stifle invocation. If you look at the modern day guilds in say publishing, and their desperate attacks to destroy e publishing, you realize they are not doing it to support the authors, or the readers, but to advance themselves and their political agenda.
There is a reason that so many people fled to the larger “free” cities. If you could get to one, and live for a year and day, you were free of your guild/serfdom.
Yes, it did give you some stability. In theory at least. But it also locked you into your father’s profession. If you were a son of a shoe maker, you would be a shoe maker. Even if your talents led to something else.
The reason such arrangements were made came from the great plague during the time of Justinian. The depopulation was so great, the costs of labor became so high, that the State decided to force sons into their fathers profession in order to stabilize (in theory) the economy. Since the rich Senators and nobles could not pay the peasants to till the land, they forced them to. Now it wasn’t all one way, the noble became the patron of the peasant, which was a times a rather expensive prospect. In return however he got a cheap labor force.
What is interesting to me is that the fall of serfdom has often be attributed to another great plague. I suspect that it happened that way because during the Black Death, there were not any major invasions coming from outside Christendom. During Justinian’s time, living as a serf (or being forced into life as a tradesmen like your father) was preferable to dealing with the waves of germanic barbarians coming in. During the Black Death, while the armies of Islam were advancing, the populace didn’t feel the same level of panic that the prior generations did. They were more willing to leave the land to go to a place with more rights and freedom.
>>>Ancient Israel was the only true Theocracy in world history. May it be HaShem’s Will to restore it and bring all mankind under His Laws soon, speedily, and in our day!<<<
Which “Laws” are you referring to: the laws of “Moses,” as are commonly named?