Wednesday, February 23, 2005

MH - Let's Talk About Distributism - Part I

Yes, let's.

For one thing, what is it?

To answer that question, let's take a step back for a moment, to an article in the January issue of First Things. Written by William McGurn and entitled "Bob Casey's Revenge," it discusses how the Democratic Party got to its present pro-abortion state, and subliminally asks the question "what would happen if we had a pro-life Democratic Party?"

We need pro-life Democrats to be able to breathe again. This means that we need a Democratic leadership that doesn’t demand that Democrats vote against, among other things, judicial nominees whose only crime is their “deeply held” personal beliefs or a suspected skepticism toward the one dogma in the Democratic Party: that while all other Supreme Court decisions are malleable and must bend to the social and political agenda of the day, Roe v. Wade is holy writ.
Aye, therein lies the rub. Many conservative Catholics have concerns about America's direction politically - the war in Iraq, various government policies regarding spending, taxes, civil rights, the growing influence of Corporate America. In other words, issues on which they might normally be expected to side with the Democrats (never mind for the moment that the Democrats are far from perfect on these issues themselves), but because of issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, euthenasia, and embryonic stem cell research - the social issues, in other words - they find themselves with the choice of either voting GOP while holding their noses, voting for a third party (and "throwing their vote away"), or not voting at all.

Conservatives find themselves frequently distraught over what they see as a "betrayal" by the Republican Party (or the "Stupid Party," as the late Sam Francis put it) on issues ranging from spending to a perceived softness on those social issues. Of course, as I learned long ago, one problem with mixing politics and religion is that religious leaders frequently find themselves working so hard for a seat at the bargaining table, they forget the one waiting for them at the Lord's table. Well, what can you expect? After all, the GOP is a political party, not a church. I'm not trying to excuse the squishiness so often found in Republicans; merely pointing out that a political party, like all other organizations created by fallible man, is nothing in which to put your trust.

Many conservatives are drawn to Libertarianism, but on social issues they can be morally bankrupt. Third-parties such as the Constitution Party stand for all the right things, but they're usually seen as trying to out-Republican the Republicans. They also run the risk of being preceived as even more "cruel and heartless" than the Republicans, although I don't much hold with that. Then there was the Reform Party (or the "All Others" Party, as I called it) - true, Pat Buchanan took it over a few years ago, but that was such a hash to begin with, there wasn't much hope.

Someone once suggested (all right, it was me who suggested it) that what this country really needs is a genuine Christian Democratic party, similar to the ones that you used to see in Europe. Not just a tweaking of one of the existing parties, but an entirely new and radically different concept. One might think of it as a party that was socially conservative and economically moderate.

Is such a thing possible, you ask? Practically speaking - probably not. Third parties don't have a great history in this country. Besides, a lot of important forces would join together to prevent the formation of a Christian Democratic party. But if we begin to inform ourselves of the moral and spiritual dimensions of such a movement, we might find ourselves changing in our political outlook, and thereby influencing our friends and colleagues in different ways.

Where do we begin in looking for the foundation of this philosophy? Well, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we need to look at Catholic social teaching and the writing of great Catholics such as Chesterton and Belloc. In short, we need to talk about Distributism.

Which we will - in the next post in this series...

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