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Source: (consider it) Thread: New political divides - does anyone recognise them?
mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:


Distributism AIUI is the belief that ownership of the means of production - capital & land presumably - should be spread through the population. Rather than being either in the hands of a few plutocrats (arguably the end-state to which capitalism tends) or in the hands of the State (held in the name of the people).

Am I missing something ?

Yes, I think you are missing the purpose of the whole idea; which is about human dignity. The idea isn't just about spreading the ownership for the sake of it, but because it would enable stable, worthwhile livelihoods rather than having people using their skills to make other people rich whilst living in poverty. And the idea is that instead of creating millions of capitalists who then fight tooth-and-nail against each other to make a profit, instead they'll see the value of other non-economic benefits in society and will co-operate with other local people in ways that would make no sense to a market focussed capitalist.

And I don't think it really is about capital and land - it is much more about the tools of production. Giving individuals the ability to become their own economic agents to support themselves (and their family) rather than needing those things to be supplied by an employer.

So we're back to the neo-luddite idea of having a shoe-maker in every village rather than buying them from a shop which obtains them from massive factories.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:


When I discovered these people's opposition to surrogacy (which they saw as the ultimate aim of SSM) was due to it being, in their terms, part of their "bioconservativism" and "obviously not natural", I put it to their leader that the foundation of his anti-surrogacy argument was not (as claimed) anti-commoditisation of the human body (i.e. rent-a-womb) but "natural law", with Joan's definition in mind, and was met with a resounding "yes".

I'm not sure we can get much further with this aspect of the discussion outside Dead Horses, although I wonder whether further investigation of what bioconservativism and/or natural law and the related ethics might be would have legs here.

Ok, well that certainly seems to overlap with some of the arguments put forward by the anti-GM campaigners - namely that it is dangerous because it is not natural. I hadn't thought of that as a natural law argument.

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arse

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
So we're back to the neo-luddite idea of having a shoe-maker in every village rather than buying them from a shop which obtains them from massive factories.

Pretty much, I think, yes. That certainly sounds like the Shire.

It's ok in values so far as it goes, but like organic farming, I'm not convinced it could actually sustain the world's population, and certainly would be difficult to implement in cities.

Moreover, I suspect (as I have suspected about anarchism for a while) that in a post-industrial-revolution society, as a sustainable lifestyle it is available only to a small, relatively well-off, well-educated segment of the population. It feeds off the excesses of capitalism; I'm not sure it can replace it.

quote:
Ok, well that certainly seems to overlap with some of the arguments put forward by the anti-GM campaigners - namely that it is dangerous because it is not natural. I hadn't thought of that as a natural law argument.
If that isn't a natural law argument, I'd have to do (another) radical rethink of my approach to DH issues - or at the very least, of the terminology involved.

[ 19. February 2018, 08:20: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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mr cheesy
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Yeah, it's my fault for compartmentalising things. I suppose I'm aware of DH issues, I hadn't thought about applying the same criteria to those who are making a "it's not natural" argument outwith of a Christian context.

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arse

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Eutychus
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That takes me back to my other questions. Is "natural law" (thus understood) an intrinsic component of distributism, or a cultural hanger-on? I think it might be an intrinsic component, as I suspect nostalgia might be.

If so, then this isn't the right way to engage Bablyon meaningfully, despite the siren-song.

Transformation cannot be built on rearguard actions.

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Eutychus
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Or to put it another way, how much of CS Lewis' thinking as worked out in That Hideous Strength can I meaningfully salvage, and how much must I regretfully discard?

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:


It's ok in values so far as it goes, but like organic farming, I'm not convinced it could actually sustain the world's population, and certainly would be difficult to implement in cities.

I think the problem is wider than that - unless one has somehow been able to change the whole economy, then setting up individual bookmakers is going to mean that they are competing with mass-produced stuff. I think one can think about ways to compete differently - for example I think France still retains protection and support for rural crafts such as clogmaking, which means that there still is some kind of niche which means that the clogmaker can support himself. We don't really have that in the UK, so our rural crafts are disappearing, partly because the products are too expensive, partly just because they're not valued and the craftspeople are dying without passing on the knowledge and skills.

But then I suppose a question can still be asked whether one could sensibly rearrange the local economy based on the smallest units of production. Maybe we could have individuals with 3d printers producing things locally that are needed. The question is about the point where that becomes more viable than buying from Amazon.

quote:

Moreover, I suspect (as I have suspected about anarchism for a while) that in a post-industrial-revolution society, as a sustainable lifestyle it is available only to a small, relatively well-off, well-educated segment of the population. It feeds off the excesses of capitalism; I'm not sure it can replace it.

I'm not sure it is quite as bad as this. I think there is more potential for a wider number of people to be supported by local production for local needs - but the problem is that we often lack structures that make this kind of thing "normal" rather than exclusive and hipster.

But I am also convinced that neo-luddite ideas are nonsense. The trick is knowing how to use technology in small but beneficial ways rather than allowing the "wider system" to dictate consumption patterns. I'm not sure anyone has worked out a system that really works - and the current efforts such as Transition are notoriously shite.

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arse

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mr cheesy
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That's Transition Towns and Rob Hopkins rather than anything else...

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arse

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

When I discovered these people's opposition to surrogacy (which they saw as the ultimate aim of SSM) was due to it being, in their terms, part of their "bioconservativism" and "obviously not natural", I put it to their leader that the foundation of his anti-surrogacy argument was not (as claimed) anti-commoditisation of the human body (i.e. rent-a-womb) but "natural law", with Joan's definition in mind, and was met with a resounding "yes".

Which certainly jibes with my interactions with self described bio-conservatives, where IVF was seen as the thin end of the wedge that had started the whole process of things they didn't like.
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Zogwarg
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
That takes me back to my other questions. Is "natural law" (thus understood) an intrinsic component of distributism, or a cultural hanger-on? I think it might be an intrinsic component, as I suspect nostalgia might be.

If so, then this isn't the right way to engage Bablyon meaningfully, despite the siren-song.

Transformation cannot be built on rearguard actions.

Hi, French person living in Japan here.

Yes, I think that "natural law" is an essential part of distributism, this is very much about things ought to be.

The way "On the Social Contract" (Rousseau) is taught in France, or for that matter "Le Mal" (evil), definitely advances that the ills of this world are born from a bent society which bends its participants. And the whole core of the French Republic is taught as being a re-assertion of natural law, of which the rights of man are the embodiment.

Article 2 of the 1789 declaration asserting the natural and imprescriptible rights of man:
- liberty
- property
- safety
- resistance against oppression

And Article 1, specifying that
Social distinctions can be founded only on the common good.

I don't think this particular movement, leans too far towards unnecessary fancy ideas, even under the stated goal of "franc-parler" (on their website). I think their ideal is commendable, but that the delivery is lacking by being overly wrapped in academic language, and I personally dislike some apparent aspects of what they take to mean bio/social conservatism.

Now I do think that as we move to a post-scarcity post-modern world as they put it, current society is dysfunctional, and can only become more so unless we radically change our approach to day employment.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but I'm not entirely convinced by what they have to say, and i don't think most French people would be convinced by the kumbaya vibe.

(Personally, I'd like to see something like a less fascist version of star trek take place, but that is science-fiction for now)

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What's a signature?

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mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
# 15978

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quote:
So we're back to the neo-luddite idea of having a shoe-maker in every village rather than buying them from a shop which obtains them from massive factories.

I've been following this thread with interest - I don't know much about politics, but I've read a little Chesterton and Lewis and I'm interested in industrial history.

The shoe-maker illustration is interesting - it takes us to a time when rich people had a pair of shoes, and families of poor kids shared a second-hand pair which didn't fit any of them. Likewise the textile industry - employed folks not so long ago had their suit, and their old suit for gardening, and that was about it. And that was during the steam-textile era - before that, the poor were in rags.

Cogenitally I'm a Luddite, but I can't see how this works out across all of society. I live in a strange publicly-funded bubble (university lab workshop) where my artisan skills (hah!) are valued way above their market rate. But this is all funded by a tax system which runs on the 'real' monster economy. I like reading self-sufficiency books by people like John Seymour - but his position was like mine in that he could opt back in to the real economy -
perhaps the NHS - any time he needed, our neo-medievalism coming without the boils and leeches.

ISTM that resource issues are likely to bring about big changes faster and harder than the adoption of some or other political theory. When it gets too expensive to ship stuff from China, we'll need to make it. Since we've used up our own natural resources, we'll have to make more of it out of recycled stuff.

It will all cost a lot, lot more. A cheap-ish UK-made colour TV from 1968 would cost over £6k in today's money - and having demolished our supply chain, starting again things would be even more expensive. Where I live, the worry is not that we'll have less, but that we'll be breaking into each others' houses to share what little we have like it's 1987.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
Is it really possible to be a Christian thinker and not espouse some concept of Natural Law, even if you disagree with the interpretations many others place on the term and the conclusions they draw from it?

The most obvious alternative is some form of divine command theory. Natural law takes it that natural beings have a good appropriate to their nature; and this decides what is ethical for them to do. To a divine command theorist, who believes that what is good is what God commands, this simply imposes on the freedom of God to command what God wishes.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
In fact, I'd say that the fundamental principle of natural law is that one should arrange one's ethical principles for the sake of human beings as they are, rather than human beings as your favourite theory thinks they ought to be.

As they are now? And where they are now? (I mean, are you saying natural law can be contextualised and still be called natural law?).
Where humans are is rational animals. To be more precise, rational language-using social placental mammals.
I think natural law approaches start from a basically Aristotelian framework, even if they move beyond any of Aristotle's specific doctrines. One Aristotelian way of thinking would be that actions are done by the whole animal not merely a part. So from an Aristotelian standpoint what is wrong with the usual natural law approaches to contraception or same-sex relationships is that the usual conservative natural law doctrines see sex as the action of the genitals and reproductive system rather than as an action of the whole animal. And so they lay down ethical laws based on their theory of what the reproductive system ought to be, rather than based on the goods of the whole human animal.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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quetzalcoatl
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That's very useful, Dafyd. I grew tired of the Ed Feser-type argument that 'genitals are for making babies, therefore gay sex is bad', but your points change the perspective somewhat. What are humans for?

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Eutychus
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Thanks Dafyd, you've blown my philosophy fuse.

Without going too far into Dead Horse territory (otherwise I'll have to reprimand myself...), in a word does this mean Joan Outlaw-Dwarf's use of "natural law" in the link posted above is an incorrect or over-narrow use of the term?

Zogwarg, thanks for joining the discussion - unless France has recently annexed Japan, your "location" line needs updating [Biased]

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mr cheesy
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I don't know: I don't think Distributism necessarily has to have this air of "oh well, this is the way things should be, if you disagree you are against nature".

Maybe I'm wrong and co-operatives are too much of a step beyond Chesterton - but it seems to me perfectly possible to make the argument that what you are doing is making the best of a bad situation.

I live in a Welsh mining area. Labour unions went hand-in-hand with the development of local co-operative solutions, usually set up by miners. That included co-op shops and miner's libraries.

I don't think the suggestion was that a co-op shop or the 'stute or the allotment were part of some concept of what the "natural" looked like - but that this was an effort to make an (arguably) bad situation for miners and their families better.

I don't think that "natural law" thinking is carried over into those things that follow Schumacher either - or at least if it is then the stigma is about different things.

IVF, SSM etc has been mentioned - I don't get the impression from (for example) the Organic enthusiasts that they're signing up implicitly to statements about human reproduction. And yet they clearly have this understanding of what is "natural" and what isn't with regard to agriculture (deceiving themselves, IMO. There is nothing natural about organic agriculture).

Schumacher College uses these buzzphrases - holistic, ecological, sustainable - which certainly imply something (as far as I'm concerned, that's basically code for anti-GM, pro-Organic etc), but I don't see any evidence that they're also against the DH issues mentioned above.

Does that mean it is possible to use ideas about natural/unnatural about some things without it necessarily spilling over into others?

I've no idea, again, where the French bioconservatives are positioning themselves with regard to things like Schumacher, Organics, Transition and so on. Maybe it is just me who sees them as a modern manifestation of Chestertonian Distributism.

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arse

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

When I discovered these people's opposition to surrogacy (which they saw as the ultimate aim of SSM) was due to it being, in their terms, part of their "bioconservativism" and "obviously not natural", I put it to their leader that the foundation of his anti-surrogacy argument was not (as claimed) anti-commoditisation of the human body (i.e. rent-a-womb) but "natural law", with Joan's definition in mind, and was met with a resounding "yes".

With the caveat that I'm never entirely sure what people mean by 'natural law' - is it possible to construct an argument against commoditisation that doesn't amount to a form of natural law argument?

I understand natural law to entail that things or acts or entities can have in-built moral purposes, and that violating those purposes is a Bad Thing in itself even if all agents involved in the activity are happy with the outcome.

The implication of the charge of 'commoditisation' is that the thing being commoditised ought not to be commoditised. So it's permissible to rent a woman's brain for the purpose of solving an engineering problem, but not to rent her womb for the purpose of growing a child for infertile parents. But this in turn implies there is something intrinsic to the womb that makes it unsuitable for being rented out even if the woman herself is happy to rent it out.

(One could argue that surrogate mothers aren't happy, just desperate. But that wouldn't be an argument from commoditisation but from utilitarianism.)

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
Without going too far into Dead Horse territory (otherwise I'll have to reprimand myself...), in a word does this mean Joan Outlaw-Dwarf's use of "natural law" in the link posted above is an incorrect or over-narrow use of the term?

Sadly, I should think most people who say they are adherents of natural law ethics are using it in the Joan Outlaw-Dwarf sense. I think they are wrong to regard that as a valid argument from their principles. Nevertheless they so do. (The situation is somewhat analogous to a Kantian who thinks that on Kantian principles Kant was wrong to forbid lying to an assassin about his victim's location.)

In something of the way that I would think that family values politics should mean campaigning for equal and generous maternity and paternity leave rights, and being happy when Tom Daley and his partner announce they're having a child. Whereas most politicians who say they espouse family values mean by it something nearly the opposite.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Eutychus
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
With the caveat that I'm never entirely sure what people mean by 'natural law' - is it possible to construct an argument against commoditisation that doesn't amount to a form of natural law argument?

I understand natural law to entail that things or acts or entities can have in-built moral purposes, and that violating those purposes is a Bad Thing in itself even if all agents involved in the activity are happy with the outcome (...)

Thank you for expressing my puzzlement so perfectly and making it even more acute [Help]

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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Martin60
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This is all so much not in the Lacanian league.

I vastly overestimated it.

Anyone got an experiment that shows the law of nature?

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Love wins

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Eutychus
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Dafyd, that was really helpful to me too, until you got to this bit
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
and being happy when Tom Daley and his partner announce they're having a child.

I'd thought specifically of this event in this context and specifically the BBC news coverage of it:
quote:
Tom Daley has announced he is expecting a baby with his husband, US film director Dustin Lance Black.
(...)
They have not revealed any more details about the pregnancy

Again trying to steer clear of the Dead Horse, while I'm OK with this in terms of equal rights, I'm not OK with the reporting; it makes me feel deeply uncomfortable.

If one knew nothing about humans but had a reasonable command of English, the first sentence would suggest (at least from where I'm sitting) that no third party is involved; the last maintains this ambiguity. I hope the couple will be more honest with their child once they start asking where they came from than the article is.

I've been around the Dead Horse enough times to have decided that there is no inherent moral advantage to any way of becoming a parent to a child provided it is embarked upon responsibly by all concerned, but where I suddenly have qualms is: - if there really is no moral difference between different methods by which one becomes a parent, why does the article seem to try as hard as it can to make it look as much like the "natural" method as possible?

"He and his husband are expecting a baby"? OK. "Expecting a baby with his husband?" Not OK.

And then the gossipy coyness of that last sentence subverts the whole thing by its insinuation.

Put another way, this kind of reporting, along with CS Lewis' eerily prophetic passage in That Hideous Strength, makes me instinctively want to become a bioconservative even when my intellect can't manage to argue the case:
quote:
“There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty (delicati) in their dreams of lust. Their real children they fabricate by vile arts in a secret place.”


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Let's remember that we are to build the Kingdom of God, not drive people away - pastor Frank Pomeroy

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Martin60
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I seem to recall years back that theoretically a male human could bear a child implanted on the outside of the large bowel. Just as women can ectopically. This isn't that tho'. Just surrogacy. As you say, it's all in the language.

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Love wins

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:

And I don't think it really is about capital and land - it is much more about the tools of production. Giving individuals the ability to become their own economic agents to support themselves (and their family) rather than needing those things to be supplied by an employer.

So we're back to the neo-luddite idea of having a shoe-maker in every village rather than buying them from a shop which obtains them from massive factories.

Tools yes - but that's part of what an economist means by capital.

Distributism doesn't mean no employers, it means many small employers running small firms where they know everyone. Where they deal with their workers person-to-person and not through unions and HR departments.

If you want to call that dignity, well OK. But it's not the essential dignity of the human person, not work as it should be according to natural law. It's a society-level choice. To make work less alienating, less cog-in-a-machine, more satisfying, more human-scale for people as producers. At the cost of making them worse off as consumers.

A shoe-maker in every village means no economies of scale means fewer shoes produced at higher prices. More people who only have one pair of shoes. Or none.

It's a trade-off.

And I don't know how possible it is for one country to make that trade-off in a globalised world. Or whether people would really be any happier thereby.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:


Distributism doesn't mean no employers, it means many small employers running small firms where they know everyone. Where they deal with their workers person-to-person and not through unions and HR departments.

It means people working for themselves and together in cooperatives.

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arse

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Eutychus
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# 3081

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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I'm never entirely sure what people mean by 'natural law' - is it possible to construct an argument against commoditisation that doesn't amount to a form of natural law argument?

(...)
(One could argue that surrogate mothers aren't happy, just desperate. But that wouldn't be an argument from commoditisation but from utilitarianism.)

A quick look here suggests the opposing philosophies might actually be personalism (rather than "natural law"; personalism was explicitly championed by the folks I met) and utilitarianism.

I'm just clueless about all the recongised terms and established joined-up thinking for these things. I lean towards pragmatically looking at outcomes, which sounds utilitarian, but I'm also quite hot on essential human dignity, which sounds personalist, but which according to Russ does not derive from natural law (what does it derive from, then?).

I seem to be missing a lot of tools to express the thinking, which is frustrating when it comes to discussion.

[ETA mr cheesy, what Russ describes sounds a lot like what these people were talking about, and raised in my mind the sort of limits he describes. There were both employers in small businesses and representatives of cooperatives in the room].

[ 20. February 2018, 05:47: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:


[ETA mr cheesy, what Russ describes sounds a lot like what these people were talking about, and raised in my mind the sort of limits he describes. There were both employers in small businesses and representatives of cooperatives in the room].

Ok I don't know, I wasn't there. But Chesterton wasn't into having employers making a profit off workers, whether big or small. The point was that the workers could make a dignified life if they kept the profit they earned rather than giving it to someone else.

Distributism wasn't a manifesto for small business owners.

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Chesterton, Outline of Sanity:

quote:
When I say "Capitalism," I commonly mean something that may be stated thus: "That economic condition in which there is a class of capitalists, roughly recognizable and relatively small, in whose possession so much of the capital is concentrated as to necessitate a very large majority of the citizens serving those capitalists for a wage."
Contrary to what Russ wrote above, Distributism imagines a situation where labour unions are not necessary - not because employers are close to employees, but because there are no employers, wages or labour disputes.

[ 20. February 2018, 06:37: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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That might be what Distributism says - I honestly have no idea - but it doesn't seem to be what that quote from Chesterton says.

If you imagine a situation with little or no income disparity between employer and employee, and only small businesses, then capital could be more widely distributed.

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Show me a situation where an employer gains no profit advantage from having an employee.

It might happen, but that's not a normal situation. Part of the point of business is making a profit, part of the point of having employers is that they're making money for you.

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I don't see that this is a controversial idea: a factory owner has invested in all the machinery and training and offers employees a wage to do a job. They earn more per hour of their work than the costs. That extra goes as profit to the employer.

There's no substantive difference if it is a newsagent with a single employee. The newsagent has invested in the building, stock, etc. The employee earns a tiny wage in order to keep the shop open - and ensure that the newsagent makes a profit.

Chesterton is saying that in both scenarios the employee isn't seeing the full value of his labour - and someone else is taking a good chunk of it simply because the worker doesn't own his own tools to make something in the economy.

And his solution is that individuals, families and cooperatives own their own tools of production - rather than having capitalists and wages.

[ 20. February 2018, 06:54: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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I'm assuming you meant "employee" at the end of your last post but one there.

There's a big difference between what the employer as a natural person takes home at the end of the month and the profit of the "employer" as a legal person (the company).

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
I'm assuming you meant "employee" at the end of your last post but one there.

Yes, I see it now - sorry.

quote:

There's a big difference between what the employer as a natural person takes home at the end of the month and the profit of the "employer" as a legal person (the company).

What do you mean "as a natural person"?

In every business, employee labour is a cost. If you are paying more than you can afford in wages, you don't make a profit. The worker's labour usually has to earn enough to pay all the other costs - including their wages - to make money.

Ideally you pay employees as little as you can get away with and make as much money from their labour as possible.

How do you think it works?

[ 20. February 2018, 07:06: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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I think you are confusing the employer in the sense of the business (the "legal person") and the employer in the sense of the individual owner of the business (the "natural person").

Of course there is a temptation for employers to award themselves fat salaries from the profits, but this is not the only possible use of profits: they can also be ploughed back into the business or indeed redistributed to employees through profit-sharing schemes.

I do contract work for one of the largest companies in its field in the world, which is privately owned. The boss is in the top ten wealthiest individuals in France, but this of course includes his business, and from what I know of him, the vast majority of the profits go back into the business (of course he's not short of ready cash himself, but I don't think he's into an extravagant lifestyle in any way).

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Mm. Exploitation of labour is exploitation of labour however the profits are spent.

If one had a factory of workers on minimum wage making very expensive clothing, you might well see a lot of profit per piece. And you might well be in a position to use those profits in positive ways.

But Distributism says that instead of working for £10 on something your employer can sell for £1000 - get your own sewing machine. Even if you only sell something for £20 instead of being part of a company selling things for £1000, you'd be better off.

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Your first paragraph pretty accurately describes how I perceive the company I mentioned to operate.

But I think your opening sentence trips over the word "exploitation". In English that implies unjust exploitation, whereas the same word in French can, in some contexts, simply mean "use" or even "make the most of" (as in "exploit the potential").

And where I think your second paragraph falls down is that you are considering the employer/employee relationship purely in monetary terms, which I think is at odds with this whole "personalism" thing. You're defining "better off" solely in financial terms.

Employers (both natural and legal persons) shoulder more responsibility for the business than employees. Some people may be happy with less compensation and less responsibility, perhaps enabling them to engage in other activities and areas of responsibility with non-financial rewards.

I also think the margin that you imagine evil capitalist factory owners pouring into their own personal pockets is wildly high. The best product margin in another company I recently worked for was 30%, and that was far ahead of their other products. That company is heavily committed to a profit-sharing scheme, by the way, and aims to become a leading "great place to work".

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Well I'm sorry but you aren't arguing with me, you are arguing with the basis of Distributism - and, by the way, with Marx's analysis of capital - and saying that exploitation of capital which is Marx's term is fine if the employer is reasonable.

Marx and Chesterton would disagree. Their reasoning is slightly different from each other, but for Chesterton the problem is that individuals lose agency and become tools in someone else's profit-taking system, and as a result too often cannot really support themselves even though their labour is worth far more than they are paid.

Chesterton's solution is to take away the layer of ownership of other people's labour and to give people the tools so that they can earn their own crust without the need to have a boss.

It isn't as if Chesterton and Marx didn't have examples of good industrialists who looked after their employees and were philanthropists - but they both identified the problem as being that businesses were not human-focused.

Chesterton's solution was quite different to Marx's. While Marxism looked to replace capitalists with the state, Chesterton looked to empower the workers to become their own bosses.

[ 20. February 2018, 07:53: Message edited by: mr cheesy ]

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Dammit. Exploitation of labour not exploitation of capital was Marx's big thing.

Sorry, I mistyped again.

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
you are arguing with the basis of Distributism - and, by the way, with Marx's analysis of capital - and saying that exploitation of capital which is Marx's term is fine if the employer is reasonable.

Marx and Chesterton would disagree (...) - but they both identified the problem as being that businesses were not human-focused.

Where I struggle with this is that while I have every sympathy for the complaint that businesses are not human-focused, I cannot fully reconcile that with the complaint about capital being expressed in purely monetary terms.

There are no shortage of people of my acquaintance riling against "the bosses" (which, like "the political class", tend to be seen almost as another species here in France), but I never hear their grievance expressed in terms of a lack of human focus; it's only ever about disposable income. The only people bewailing a lack of human focus are people who are already reasonably comfortably off and may indeed already be their own bosses.

quote:
Chesterton's solution was quite different to Marx's. While Marxism looked to replace capitalists with the state, Chesterton looked to empower the workers to become their own bosses.
OK, I'm not sure that self-employment is everyone's idea of empowerment (plus I'm not sure how you have railways).

[not sure if your edit invalidates my point or not; certainly the group I went to seemed to pit "commoditisation" against "human focus"]

[ 20. February 2018, 08:08: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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It's about ownership. And in theory workers would organise into co-ops to do things that they can't do on their own.

But you are right - not everyone wants to be self-employed. But I think for Distributism the point is that this is a choice; you can choose to continue in low wages, or you can believe in yourself and with the right support you will do better on your own.

In practice, I think this very often comes down to how much pay individuals get for a job. These ideas sound attractive to workers who know that they're getting paid £50 whilst being charged out at £450 to the company's clients.

But where the rubber-meets-the-road, living these ideals is difficult. Sharing ownership in a co-op of a business is hard work and people often don't have the headspace - without bosses and owners you have to decide things for yourself and/or with other owner-workers. You have to solve your own problems and have to decide for yourselves (for example) what other people's wages should be.

This thing about human-focused business comes directly from Schumacher. His whole thing was that if one could design businesses that were there for the interests of the people who worked for them rather than (often absent) owners, they look quite different.

And that'd look different to standard businesses, even one's which offer good things to employees and one's which seek to do good things in society.

Because, the theory goes, businesses which were focussed on the human wouldn't pay people less than they needed to live on, wouldn't ask them to do degrading things, would seek to create exceptional working conditions and would be looking for the betterment of wider society and the environment.

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Because, the theory goes, businesses which were focussed on the human wouldn't pay people less than they needed to live on, wouldn't ask them to do degrading things, would seek to create exceptional working conditions and would be looking for the betterment of wider society and the environment.

As I said, the group I met claimed this was possible whilst also delivering better profit margins.

I'd like to think this is true (certainly the profit-sharing firm I mentioned looked like it was making a go of this) but again it strikes me as odd for people so ideologically committed to non-monetary benefits to measure the success of their idea in such monetary terms.

I fully get what you're saying about cooperatives and it leaks into my struggles in trying to organise church on a cooperative basis.

Another misgiving I have is that cooperatives can be just as exploitative, not only financially but also in human terms, and that this exploitation can be all that harder to detect because success is not being measured in purely monetary terms. We might hate money, but the bottom line does at least provide an easy metric.

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
But I think for Distributism the point is that this is a choice; you can choose to continue in low wages, or you can believe in yourself and with the right support you will do better on your own.

I'm beginning to think that the extent to which political action can have an effect on the "human worth" sort of issues we're discussing is to promote education and facilitate the act of choosing as a responsible decision, rather than trying to legislate what that might look like - and I'd apply this principle to all the sorts of issues covered by bioconservativism too.

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Chesterton's solution was quite different to Marx's. While Marxism looked to replace capitalists with the state, Chesterton looked to empower the workers to become their own bosses.

Actually, that was Marx's solution as well. He just thought that you'd need really large workers' co-operatives, possibly the size of the state, to run factories. Marx thought that factories were a good thing in producing the necessities of life efficiently.

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mr cheesy
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Mm.. Chesterton was ambivalent about machines, I suspect he didn't think large factories were necessary.

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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
As I said, the group I met claimed this was possible whilst also delivering better profit margins.

I'd like to think this is true (certainly the profit-sharing firm I mentioned looked like it was making a go of this) but again it strikes me as odd for people so ideologically committed to non-monetary benefits to measure the success of their idea in such monetary terms.

Dunno, seems contradictory to me. Co-ops rarely have high profit margins, I suspect that the ideal for a true-believer Distributist would be to earn only what you need to live on - if you can do that in a day, good. Spend the rest of your time in the allotment.

quote:


Another misgiving I have is that cooperatives can be just as exploitative, not only financially but also in human terms, and that this exploitation can be all that harder to detect because success is not being measured in purely monetary terms. We might hate money, but the bottom line does at least provide an easy metric.

One problem with a co-operative model is that it seeks to address one problem but may be incapable of seeing how to bring changes outwith of their group.

So a co-op clothing factory might do a reasonable job at bringing benefits to their own workers but, as a consequence, might need to look for price-competitive materials to do this. In theory co-ops should be looking to help each other and looking to make changes throughout the community. In practice that can be really hard to do.

I think it is an exaggeration to say that a co-op is "just as exploitative" if it is truly worker-owned. Problems sometimes arise when the model is fudged and people are working for a co-op without actually being a member of it.

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