This is a bracing article in Crisis Magazine about the only two methods of economic organization, regardless of the endless complexity-spinning politicians and economists all too often engage in.
“Catholic discussion of economic policy usually takes place on a ridiculous level of abstraction. What is fairness, and can the market accomplish that? Shouldn’t the civic order bear responsibility for the health and well-being of its members? How can we balance the demands of social equality and individual ownership?
“These are all very high-minded questions, but they have essentially nothing to do with either the core choices we face or the operation of the state as we know it.
“Let’s state with utmost clarity the issue at the outset: There are only two possible ways to organize the economic life of a nation. There is the market way, which relies on voluntary exchange, protection of private property, and no unwanted invasions of another’s space. The result of this system is commonly called the free market, or capitalism, if you will, but both terms are too limiting. The voluntary, property-rights approach encompasses more than economic exchange; it also encompasses the whole of the voluntary sector that empowers houses of worship, charitable institutions, the family, and every other institution that serves an intermediating role between the individual and the state.
“The other system is very different. It uses the state to intervene in this voluntary system by use of the police power of force, coercion, guns, and jails. That means more laws enforced at gunpoint, taxation, forced redistribution, monetary manipulation, nationalization, war, and all the rest.
“There is no third system.
“You can invent all the terms you want — solidarism, distributism, fascism, democratic socialism, localism, or any other -ism — but it is logically impossible to get around the central issue of consent vs. coercion, of market vs. the state. You are either forced by law to do something — and the law always means force — or you are not. This is also true of the management of individual sectors of society, such as business relationships, education, international relations, consumer protection, care of the vulnerable members of society, health care generally, and all the rest.
“Either voluntarism or force will prevail.”