samedi 30 août 2008

Cooperatives, cartels, guilds, corporativism Catholic and Fascist

... and other collected fragments on guild socialism, distributism, fascism et c.

Last post, I spoke about the milk giants cartel in Sweden. As far as I've heard, or can remember, it originates in a series of dairy farmers' cooperatives.

These cooperatives fought dishonest retailors who simply watered milk down. This was how crooked free market capitalism was back when Chesterton was young. At least, that is what I heard. Be it noted that already in those times, the farmers were not selling their milk directly. Probably because the work was too hard.

They needed cartels to do so, and Sweden ended up with these four or five milk cartels. A real oligopoly.

But cartels can change too. The guilds, so bragged by both distributists and corporativists, originated as a kind of cartels, fighting against feudal overlordships over the towns, then constituting towns, and guaranteeing a level price thought of as just. The principle that each patron is an ex-empleyee (ex-journeyman) and each employee (including future patrons) an ex-apprentice, and the equal treatment of employees and apprentices involved considerable advantage to the apprentices that never went beyond employees. Dr Byrne has shown that even before the end of the Middle Ages, some guilds were already more cartels than level price justice.


In further response to Fantasia on a Theme of Hilaire Belloc by Dr Carol Byrne

The core of Belloc’s view was the primacy of revolutionary political action in the reconstruction of society, and his affinity with Rousseau’s theory of the General Will – to which individuals would have to give up their rights (redefined as “selfish” individualism) – indicates that Belloc’s view was characterized by profound totalitarian instincts. This is confirmed by his biographer who avers that, in Belloc’s world view, political power was “something to be seized…and centralized to the highest point of efficiency.”

So Carol is judging Belloc's political thought not by what she read in his own works - or not alone - but also (?) after works about him? The biography by R. Speaight? And also of "common knowledge" (as they say) on works by another writer (Rousseau) with whom he had "affinities"? The method is some kind of guilt-by-association.

Belloc and Chesterton, though not wishing autocratic take-overs in England, were not dead against everything autocratic. But they were against anything totalitarian. What is the difference? Autocracy means that one man for and by himself decides about the state, totalitarianism means a state which leaves nothing and nobody unaffected by its decisions.

Let us quote Chesterton on the theme he called THE RETURN OF CAESAR:

The Totalitarian State is now making a clean sweep of all our old notions of liberty, even more than the French Revolution made a clean sweep of all the old ideas of loyalty. It is the Church that excommunicates; but, in that very word, implies that a communion stands open for a restored communicant. It is the State that exterminates; it is the State that abolishes absolutely and altogether; whether it is the American State abolishing beer, or the Fascist State abolishing parties, or the Hitlerite State abolishing almost everything but itself.


Dollfuss died like a loyal and courageous man, asking forgiveness for his murderers; and the souls of the just are in the hands of God, however much their enemies (with that mark of mere mud that is stamped over all they do) take a pleasure in denying them the help of their religion. But Dollfuss dead, even more than Dollfuss living, is also a symbol of something of immense moment to mankind, which is practically never mentioned by our politicians or our papers.


Whether we call it the Empire, or the Old Germany or the culture of the Danube, what Austria meant and means is this. That it is normal for Europeans, even for Germans, to be civilised; that it is normal for Europeans, even for Germans, to be Christians; and, we must in historic honesty add, normal for them to be Catholics.

He meant no offence to the Orthodox Serbs, their villages were the nearest contemporary example of his distributist ideal. Catholic he used as opposite of Protestant, like in the essay WHY PROTESTANTS PROHIBIT:

Protestantism is in its nature prone to what may be called Prohibitionism. I do not mean prohibition of drink (though it happens to bea convenient comparison: that none ot the ten thousand tyrants of Mediterranean history would ever have dreamed of uprooting the vine since Pentheus was torn in pieces); I mean that the Protestant tends to prohibit, rather than to curtail or control. His theory of Prohibition is rooted in his theory of progress; which began with expectation of the Millennium; but has ended in similar expectations of the Superman.

Chesterton totalitarian? A man who respected Mussolini, admired Dollfuss and abhorred Hitler? A man who thought of "Protestant prohibitionism" as too totalitarian? Because he thought, after the restoration of small property in England to levels still seen in parts of Italy - like the olive fields of Olivetta - a restoration he thought of as having to be done mainly by personal striving of the dispossessed to become legal and legitimate owners of their work (workplace, machinery or tools, stock of raw material, et c), he thought corporativist regulations might be necessary to keep it small?

Belloc admired Napoleon. And Napoleon was a tyrant against some - like against Cadoudal and Le Duc d'Enghien, also against the king of my Swedish & Scanian forefathers, Gustav IV Adolf, by letting the Czar open war against him.


With all due respect to Il Duce ...

... I do not think the occasion is well chosen to go about killing every Communist in sight, as I saw on a page dedicated to him (I hope it was a joke).

I mean: when he did it, and only them who resisted, the Communists tended to be very violent. I mean, Rosa Luxemburg was not killed for founding a womens knitting cooperation or a trade union. She, Bela Kun, Trotskiy ... they were basically killing a lot of innocent people who owned more than they or happened to have more power. And the people with more property were not necessarily Bill Gates or such-like, they were often enough if very rich (by their standards, not Mr Gates') inheritors, and often enough, whether inheritors or not, small family enterprise owners, including farmers. And priests were usually not even rich, personnally. Killing Communists back then meant defending innocent people against an army of pillagers

Now the situation is somewhat different. Communists tend to be citizens, often poor citizens, often the kind of people Mussolini defended with his original blackshirts.


Was Robespierre a hippie?

Read this, for starters.

Furthermore, the foundation of modern leftist thought can be traced in an unbroken chain from Rousseau and Robespierre, who respectively led the thought and action of the French Revolution, to Mussolini, Hitler, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, the hippy movements of the sixties, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

Robespierre took the "popular will" part of Rousseau. Leninist Communism takes the part about (private, non-communal) property being theft and the foundation of war; not without retaking "popular will" part. But hippy movement is rather the "Emile" part of Rousseau, a k a free education, alas along with antidogmaticism, a k a Savoyard Vicar. Rousseau wrote many things, and many of them differ. Lumping all of them together because they hanker back to Rousseau is ... plain stupid. That includes classifying Robespierre as a Hippie.

A more pleasing thought: was St Ambrose of Milan a hippy? Most definietely NOT, since he was against long hair in men. (My excuse for it is poverty, and growing the beard too: when in 2004 I had a chance to cut the beard I insisted on cutting the hair too, indeed I shaved it to the skin.) And yet, his chapter thirty ("on doing good deeds") of book one of On Duties is much closer to hippie culture than to some of its late modern adversaries.

What is a cartel? Snow and milk business compared

In further response to Fantasia on a Theme of Hilaire Belloc by Dr Carol Byrne.

The dynamics of free market Capitalism ensure that there is enough competitiveness for prices to remain within the grasp of consumers, and that no one firm controls enough of the whole market to be able to set its price indefinitely – those businesses which succeed are the ones that produce a better and more diversified product at a lower price. If any business tries to charge higher prices than its competitors, it will lose all its business to competition; as soon as it tries to undersell its competitors, they will have to reduce their prices to keep their customers. These are the powerful counter-tendencies and self-correcting measures which act to prevent the formation of a general cartel, as Distributists fear.

A cartel is that thing in Medellín that deals in narcotics, right? Well, that too.

According to Dr Carol Byrne cartels are impossible because each participant in the competition is too concerned with his own expansion and profit to submit to the rule of a cartel, limiting his chances for immediately profiting by taking market shares in order to insure long time profits by keeping up prices.

Actually, due to this egotism and this competition, every enterprise is always trying to snatch market shares from every other enterprise than itself ... or its partners. And since this is done thoroughly and since most enterprises are not partners of other enterprises in same sector and market (like by mutual shareholding or by double loyalties of physical persons) the enterprise that sets the lowest price forces all the rest to follow suite (I remember a "gazoline price war" like that ... last millennium; and OPEC is of course not a cartel).

Back to Medellín, then. Well, not physically, I am not going there to make a scoop. But to common knowledge or safe guesses about things like the Medellín narcotics cartel. Supposedly - according to Dr Byrne's line of thought - the one thing that allows them to be a cartel is that the police take down all their small competitors, if there have been any. Otherwise the price of their "snow" would be considerably lowered, not only by getting rid of the money they need to pay criminals and crooked officials, but simply by competition. I must therefore conclude, since dairy is legal, either there are no milk cartels, or the milk cartels have managed to make (potentially dangerous) competition illegal.

In Bombay* milk is usually not sold in air tight plastic bottles, like in France, nor in tetra-packs like in Sweden. Early in the morning, just after milking, the farmer leaves for the city and serves the milk from a bucket, like soup from a kettle. In Sweden or Norway, a farmer who sold unpasteurised milk to his neighbours across the street in the same village (and these neighbours, like themselves, had a fridge!) was sued last millennium. Or maybe this one. But taking your milk to town and serving it from the bucket like soup from a kettle is - at least outside India, all over the "free world" - forbidden, nowadays.

Otherwise this would be both cheap and tasty. Cheap because transport to central dairies in refrigerated milk tank cars costs, pasteurising costs, maybe other processes like skimming in alpha-Laval machines cost too, packaging in tetra-packs costs, transport in refrigerated trucks to the stores cost, and the stores take their percentage too : the "Bombay way" would give the farmer a higher price and the customer would still pay less. Tasty, because the milk is neither pasteurised nor skimmed, and above all fresh same morning from the udder.

And saving transport and storing is as hygienic as making transport and storing very elaborately hygienic. But if the hygiene adequate for milking into three buckets and driving them to town selling it within a few hours is not adequate for transporting milk across half Sweden and selling it up to three days later, somehow - it is not deemed adequate for selling your own milk 10 km from where you live either.

Because this egotism that ensures that Skaanemejerier or Arla (or Norrmejerier or Milko) wants to expand (these last years they have all tended to expand over all of Sweden, but before Sweden was divided into their regional monopolies), equally guarantees that the farmwife selling her milk would want it ... is it not so? And when she would expand (as any judge in this business would presume she would sooner or later, even against her denial) then that system of hygiene would be again inadequate (which, to my, of course, distributistically biassed mind, is the reason she would either not expand or else buy more complex hygienic arrangements if she did).

Speaking of the will to expand - Dr Byrne herself, and her collegues at University, are presumably unsatisfied with their livelyhood, and eager to expand? Somehow I doubt it. And somehow, this mythically universal ruthless egotism is both used against the hypothetical little upstart enterprise, when it is questioned "yes, that may be all right now, but how about later, when you will want to expand?" and for the real companies, as an argument that makes sure they form no cartel!

The real threat to Sweden's four dairy giants is not adding Finnish Valio to a competition of four national giants rather than four times a single regional giant. The real threat to them is precisely the reintroduction of the Bombay way of dealing with milk.

Let us return to Bombay. After all, it is a very very hot place, there are flies ... how do Indians avoid getting sick from drinking milk? If hygienic laws are applied even in cold Sweden or Norway, maybe at least they should apply there? Or does Bombay offer another solution?

  • A) They do not buy and drink fresh milk after a certain hour.

  • B) They do take the milk home to boil it. Like the basic milk candy recipy: boil, take off the skin, put it aside, take off next skin, put it on top of the first, and so on: afterwards the milk skins are "baked" to candy, usually with tasty additions.

I will offer a few suggestions along the b line, not because drinking milk while fresh is a worse idea, but because it is not very much more to say about it:

  • A) Some people enjoy milk and sugar in their coffee - or tea. To such, European customs offer an equivalent to that Indian way of preserving the milk: take the fresh milk, add an equal proportion of sugar, boil till volume is halved, and the colour is hazel nut brown. This will keep consumable for a year, if kept in a closed jar. I found the recipy in a Russian cooking book, but the emigrés on Côte d'Azur may be behind the fact that the product is also found ready made by factories in France.

  • B) Let the milk go sour, heat until it curdles, separate the curdles from whey in a clean cloth and make fresh cheese of the curdles.

  • C) Let the milk go sour, skim the cream, make butter of it.

And what is the milk and dairy cartel - since such it is - doing about the Bombay system? Tetra-Pak was these last years into the arrangements for introducing vacuum packaging into Bombay or Delhi or whatever.

Hans Lundahl,
17/30 August,

*from Portuguese Boa Bahía/Bom Bahía : "Mumbay" is no ancient name, just anti-colonialist balderdash to wash off the memory of the Portuguese colony - no matter, since I am here praising one commercial custom of small commerce in that city.

series: 1 Defending Distributism 2 Mom & Pop Stores ... 3 What is a cartel? Snow and milk business compared

mercredi 27 août 2008


Je n'entretiens aucun doute sérieux sur l'existence du paléolithique. Mais, comme créationniste de l'école création récente de l'univers, je crois tout simplement pas aux dates allégués.

C14 peut tromper. Si au paléolithique le taux de C14 dans l'atmosphère était vastement inférieur à l'actuel ou à la moyenne imaginé par les compteurs, alors les os et peaux d'animaux de l'époque vont se montrer beaucoup plus vieux que réellement. Comme inversement le Saint Suaire, s'il y a eu de contamination quantitativement sérieuse de matière organique comme suie de bougies ou huile (dans une incendie de 1532, le suaire étant plie, une moniale a éteint le feu - qui donna les quatre marques de brulures - avec ce qu'elle avait le plus accessible, à savoir huile: suffisamment pour que son froid éteigne le feu malgré sa nature inflammable: ma référence pour l'huile est ma mémoire d'une émission télé en 1978 ou 79, mais pour la date wikipédia), il n'y a pas seulement le C14 des textiles et des tâches sanguinaires, mais aussi le C14 naturellement de plus haut taux parce que plus récent de cette huile et de la suie. Ou encore, si le divin rajeunit et le diabolique vieillit, si le divin préserve et le diabolique détruit, on peut aussi compter sur la possibilité surnaturelle, que le suaire garde son C14 moins affecté par le temps que normal - et que certains rélictes d'ogres sont plus vite viellis que normal, ce que donnerait des dates fantaisistes pour les humanoïdes farouches. D'autres ont dit que les néanderthals étaient des hommes presque millésimaires - les patriarches avant le Deluge tels que les décrit la Genèse.

Si la date fait dispute, néanmoins nous les créationnistes (en tant qu'on puisse parler d'une contre-culture comme d'un mouvement homogène ou établi, un "nous"), nous ne doutons pas qu'il y a eu d'hommes qui vivaient aux Les Eyzies de Tayac en Dordogne et qui, qu'elle qu'était leur rapport avec les agriculteurs dans la suite d'Adam, montraient une culture qu'on déchiffre communément comme une culture de chasseurs et cueilleurs. Ni qui leur oeuvre artistique comprenne la grotte de Lascaux. Ni - surtout pas - que la tradition d'interprétation (telle que la lectio divina pour la Bible) ait été perdue.

Car interpréter l'art de Lascaux, c'est comme reconstruir le proto-indo-européen ou encore le proto-nord-européen pré-indo-européen et pré-fenno-ugrien (un hobby linguistique de Tolkien qui nous a donné Le Seigneur des Anneaux presque comme sous-produit). L'énigme persiste, les solutions différents se succèdent.

A certaine époque, il s'agissait de scènes de chasse et de magie de chasse. Plus tard, les Vénus paléolithiques ont été interprétés comme la grande déesse mère de tout gibier comme des hommes. L'écosophie tachait de "réhabiliter" cette culte prétendument pas seulement féministe et chamaniste mais aussi sans échelle de valeur et pré-rationnelle.

Maintenant ça se remet en question aussi. Apparamment les habitants de Dordogne étaient loin d'être féministes avant le mot, mais plutôt ultra-machistes qui disposaient de leurs femmes comme des choses, sinon comme de marchandises au moins comme d'objets de diplomathie. Car auprès des divers animaux, il y a des vulves. Pour les féministes écosophes, c'était une prière à la déesse mère de reproduir tel ou tel gibier, mais pour Emmanuel Anati - interviewé par François Dufay pp. 22 et suivv. L'EXPRESS 14/8/2008 - les animaux sont des clans et les vulves sont le nombre des femmes cédées à un tel ou tel clan. Il s'agit

"d'une sorte de contrats de mariage: on fournit cinq réproductrices au clan du Bison..." (p 22).

Et les Vénus paléolithiques sont désormais très difficiles à interpréter, mais probablement des mascots - déesses inférieures ou des porte-bonheur - domestiques pour les accouchements (ibid. p 26).

Enfin, G K Chesterton, in his Everlasting Man (voir p. 16 ce lien), ajouta une autre théorie: Lascaux et les autres grottes étaient peut-être des crèches à décor magnifique.

Pourquoi pas, enfin? Comme le C14, il s'agit des signes non-verbales et non accompagnées d'une explication verbale traditionnelle depuis l'époque, et par là-même interprétables et réinterprétables à souhaite et d'avantage! Comme le dit C S Lewis: "the man who made the worst pottery might have made the best poetry - and we shall never know". Emmanuel Anati reprend ça: "Je pense qu'il existait pas seulement des peintres, mais aussi des troubadours. Autour de cet art pariétal, il faut imaginer de la musique, peut-être des danses, de la socialisation, des rélations sexuelles" (p 23, article cité). Mots clefs: existait, car les éventuels troubadours paléolithiques sont décédés, et ils n'ont pas laissé, ni textes en écriture alphabétique, ni enrégistrations sur CD; et encore imaginer, car la réconstruction de ces textes manquants - ou tout simplement de leur signification et fonction générale - est un oeuvre tout aussi fictif que la Silmarillion comme reconstitution des mythes nordiques avant leurs états connus dans les Edda, Kalevala, et c.

La Genèse, au moins, reclame être la mémoire retenue des débuts de l'humanité. Ses textes composants (les chapitres) sont tous suffisamment simples pour avoir été transmis oralement sans défiguration jusqu'à ce que Moïse les léga aux lettres.

Hans Lundahl
14/27 août 2008
St Césaire d'Arles (NC)

lundi 25 août 2008

Mom & Pop Stores ...

And what happened to the medieval Mom and Pop merchants who could not produce goods in larger quantities or deliver them to distant ports? They could not compete with the politically dominant “cloth barons”, and many found themselves extremely disadvantaged. (footnote already cited in my first response)

That was cloth. What about cobbling? If we take Sweden, I know my grandfather (born 1900), as a young, very poor man was cobbler's apprentice for a short while. He showed me an awl he had used. It is used for shoemaking. I e shoes, unlike the era of ecco (founded in 1963), Scholl (over 100 years), and their the Goodyear Welt shoe toe laster - gramp used a pincer (see picture to left, where right is that machine, both near bottom) - were long a local product. Gentlemen usually had them sewn individually. A Swedish television series shows a shoemaker's nephew in a curious friendship with a girl living in the house of the "häradshöfding" (judge/notarian of a hundred). The point here about this series is that the shoemaker was poor and had many children to feed- living, mainly, from his shoemaking. Shoe repairing, as in modern malls, would not have sufficed. In that village, shoes were obviously produced and sold in a mom & pop shop.

Later my grandfather became a qualified worker in a very big business indeed: he was a distiller of our then state monopoly of Swedish distilling, V&S. But when I was born in Vienna (1968), he found a friend there: a vinyard owner, wine producer and taverner in a combination seen in Austria since Maria Theresia. He and even more his wife were part of my childhood. That is a mom & pop shop (with agrarian roots) for you, and less poor than cobbling!

In Austria as in Germany and France ... God knows how many other countries ... it is still usual to buy your bread fresh from a local bakery. Some of them buy half-baked from a central factory and only add the last five minutes, but this is not universal. Even those who do that for one bread or two (la baguette/la banette, le pain au chocolat/la chocolatine) may be baking other products from scratch.

Arabs (with other Orientals) are a model for mom & pop shops! The family works, pays part of their earnings to a family hoarding, from which family members may then make rent free loans to - for instance - open shops. Usually they are either restoration or oriental merchandise in Europe. In Lund, studying in the early nineties, I was neighbours with a Persian double business - restaurant and food store. Brother and sister were the two owners. And how many cyber cafés are owned by Arabs? The technology as such is very big business, but the local access is very distributist.

Distributist ideals are not dead as realities. As Dr Carol Byrne said herself, mom & pop shops may well co-exist with big business. A capitalist reform going in since Reagan and Thatcher has been reusing distributist themes. Including small companies. G. K. Chesterton himself had no quibbles about the post office being a big business (and indeed, in those days, recently changed by privatisations, a state monopoly). And how many small companies (including some family business) depend on sale by mail order? But she will not concede that the distributist ideal was once the main reality and big business the exception. However, I think she will concede:
  • distributism has diminished, lost market shares (up to whole sectors)

  • big business has taken over market shares (up to whole sectors)

  • this process has been going on in the West since the Crusades introduced capitalism to the West

The conclusion will be that when the process started, mom & pop shops/farms were greater and big business smaller than now.

If in 13th C England cloth trade was exceptional (among some 80 different kinds of guilds) by being big business, and in early 20th C Sweden cobbling was exceptional by being still a mom & pop shop, the conclusion would be that most shops in 13th C were mom & pop shops, as most shops now are owned by bigger businesses. G K Chesterton maintained that this could again be the case.

It seems that Dr Carol Byrne is making a real straw man of Belloc's Mediaevalism - for Chesterton's, it is obviously the case, if it is thought to correspond to "Belloc's":

The facts of history, however, are at variance with this utopian dream. To begin with, it presupposes that the whole of the medieval economy was sustained by subsistence farming and local, small-scale production of goods. According to this view, whatever commerce existed in those days was confined to the small tradesman solely preoccupied with earning a living for himself and his family. So it is simply assumed that there was no commercial activity of any magnitude to justify belief in a class of capitalist merchants in Europe prior to the Reformation.

She is conflating two categories which, though not always neatly separate, were held apart in theory and much of the practise. In Cicero, full honesty applies to autarchy, to own production for own consumption, next step is someone buying what he will consume or selling what he has produced. Buying one thing only to sell it - which is what a merchant does - would be only third level honest, and edging on dishonesty. Though Aquinas contrasts merchants to mainly civil and domestic servants, he makes a minor distinction between selling something as one bought it for a greater price (what is usually called being a merchant) and selling something at a higher price than bought, after improving it (i e being an artisan buying one's raw or proximate materials). Merchants, who sold luxuries from abroad and raw materials not found everywhere (salt, iron, wool - since sheeps don't grass on wheat fields) were obviously Capitalist. But farmers began an existence less feudal and artisans making local products had not ended it and did not end it until the industrial revolution.

Hans Lundahl
14/27 August 2008,
St Cesarius of Arles (NC)

series: 1 Defending Distributism 2 Mom & Pop Stores ... 3 What is a cartel? Snow and milk business compared

Not Skeeter either ...

You Are Scooter
Brainy and knowledgeable, you are the perfect sidekick.
You're always willing to lend a helping hand.
In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.
"15 seconds to showtime!"

Which Muppet Personality are you?

You Are Tea

You are mellow and reflective. You don't allow yourself to feel in a rush and frenzied.

You're likely to appreciated the ideas or connections that come up over a warm cup of tea.

While you do enjoy the energy of a caffeine boost, you love that it allows you to take a break.

You're not in a rush to do anything. You're content with your life, and in no rush to change it.

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

You Are Milk Chocolate

A total dreamer, you spend most of your time with your head in the clouds.

You often think of the future, and you are always working toward your ideal life.

Also nostalgic, you rarely forget a meaningful moment... even those from long ago.

vendredi 22 août 2008

Defending Distributism

In response to by Dr Carol Byrne

The following quote shows Belloc's misplaced criticism of modern bankers who provide financial services to the world's corporations and institutions:

The bankers can decide, of two competitors, which shall survive. As the great majority of enterprises lie in debt to the banks-any one of two competing industries can be killed by the bankers saying: "I will no longer lend you this money"....This power makes the banks the masters of the greater part of modern industry. (Hilaire Belloc, Economics for Helen, p. 96)

But if banks did not exercise such discrimination, they would be guilty of irresponsibility to their customers; credit lines available to the bank would be cancelled and its share price would plunge, to the detriment of many. It was Belloc's view, expressed in The Servile State, that the mass of small owners would have provided the accumulation of wealth for material prosperity "without the leave of the bankers."

My dear Carol: such powers and responsibilities existed in Mediaeval/Renaissance Venice too. As you say, and as is also witnessed by The Merchant of Venice. Difference: the Jew who exercised them was seen as a villain. At least by the Englishmen who watched Shakespear. The ideal back then, as the ideal for distribustists now, is an artsman or merchant not endebted and therefore not subjected to that kind of power used for the ends of such responsibility. You have made pretty heavy weather out of the fact that large scale banking existed in "the Middle Ages" (around 14-15th C) whereas Distributists hanker back to "the Middle Ages" (around 11-12th C). But the salient fact now as compared to those times is not the presence of banking, but the near absence of business (farming or otherwise) not subjected to its powers by endebtment. Also, back then greed and avarice was seen as guilty, now it is irresponsibility (a wide spectrum, most of which includes either non-greed or non-avarice) which is seen so.

We can also cite the Knights Templar Bankers who established financial networks across the whole of Christendom, making them the world's first multinational corporation! They invested their immense wealth not only in land (e.g. they bought and owned the whole island of Cyprus), farms and industrial pursuits (e.g. financing the building of Gothic cathedrals), the shipping industry (they owned their own fleets) but also in the Pilgrimage industry which brought huge revenues to the Church and created jobs for workers like innkeepers and ferrymen. The Knights also arranged safe transfer of funds for international and local trade, and loaned money to kings, emperors and princes, bishops and entrepreneurs alike. In fact, Templar wealth was so great that it helped shift the balance of power in medieval Europe from the feudal lords to the "merchant class".

Remember what Pope and French King did to them? Chesterton or Belloc (I forget which) admitted that the process with torture was a judicial murder. But their claim was that these powers were fighting for their life against - Capitalism. The kind of economy, not in which private property or even entrepreneurs exist, but in which they control ultimately public power.

One only has to think of the merchant-banking organizations bearing the name of single families – Medici, Lombard, Frescobaldi, Bardi, Peruzzi for example – that were in control of commercial companies and enjoyed great political power and wealth. (See Edwin S. Hunt, The Medieval Super-Companies: A Study of the Peruzzi Company of Florence, Cambridge University Press, 2002)

I have not read that particular reference, but I seem to recall that was something like 15th C (North of Alps; maybe earlier south of them). The Fuggers started their great carreer back then. The Medici bank was founded after 1400 by Averardo. And so on, and so forth. The Peruzzis were, indeed, earlier off, starting their Capitalist company in 1300. They are also less known, therefore probably smaller than the Medicis. "Throughout the Middle Ages" means that your "Middle Ages" start around 1300. Others would say that is when the Renaissance starts - on the south side of the Alps, add a hundred years before it crosses that border.

Distributists criticize the capitalist system for being based on credit (banking, mortgages, loans, credit cards etc) without realizing that these aspects of modern banking are the development of traditional methods dating from medieval times.

A - A Distributist may answer that even in Mediaeval times these things were not ideal.
B - He may especially answer that in Mediaeval times these things were not even regarded as ideal or as a normal basis for business.
C - Which means that he may very well be arguing against the development of them.

It is also of interest to note that the usury laws did not forbid lending capital for business purposes and receiving profits on the investments. (George O'Brien, An Essay on the Economic Effects of the Reformation, London, 1923, p. 70: "The usury code never forbade any transaction analogous to what we now call investing money in business. So long as the person advancing the money was prepared to share in the risks of the enterprise on which it was employed, he was perfectly entitled to share in any of the profits in which the enterprise might result.")

It would seem that that was a kind of shareholding rather than a kind of interest taking. And as for shareholding, the novelty is "limited liability" share holding. Maybe what are now called directed loans were back then precursors of these limited liability companies.

It is one of those ironies of history that Capitalism has been instrumental in procuring many of the things Distributism originally hoped to foster but failed to do so: wider ownership of private property, greater economic participation, co-operative enterprise, etc.

Has that maybe happened after distributism?

And what happened to the medieval Mom and Pop merchants who could not produce goods in larger quantities or deliver them to distant ports? They could not compete with the politically dominant "cloth barons", and many found themselves extremely disadvantaged. (For further details see E M Carus-Wilson, who states in Medieval Merchant Ventures: Collected Studies: "This industry, moreover, was already "capitalist", the weavers and fullers being in effect employees of entrepreneurs, amongst whom the dyers were prominent." Professor Carus-Wilson elaborates on this situation in 'The English Cloth Industry in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries', Economic History Review, 1944. As workers in the textile industry, the weavers and fullers lost their independence when the entrepreneurial dyers, using their political influence as members of the Merchants Guild, abrogated their monopoly rights which they had held by royal charter. This meant that they were subordinated to the authority of the dyers who set earnings and established quality control standards. In London and Oxford, for example, the dyers also exercised pre-emptive rights over their weavers' and fullers' production by restricting their business dealings, and preventing them from taking their cloth (the products of their own labour) to the fairs and regional markets.)

The example tells that this is once again about the English Mediaeval Cloth market, which admittedly led to the growth of Capitalism, as known today.

Late phenomena for Middle Ages, early ones for Capitalism/Renaissance - used to smudge a main picture, in which most artisans, though not most Merchants, were independent of banking.

If Distributism can be seen as ahistorical, it is in this: in towns' trades they go for 11th-12th C, before banking arose in the West. In agriculture they go for the 13th-14th C, when slavery was in practise abolished, when feudalism was decaying and peasantry was there. But maybe there was a golden Moment corresponding to the coincidence of both these stories.

For example, with the discovery of new agricultural technologies, food production has increased much more rapidly than population, enabling millions to stay alive who would otherwise have died of starvation.

Ah, well? Now that is a moot point. How much of the agricultural produce by acre is due to new technologies? How much of the agricultural produce per farmer/farm worker is due to them? A tractor is producing food - for unemployed people who might, some of them, have produced the same food by going behind an ox-drawn plough, having employment as well as food.

Similarly with improvements in technology – the Wright brothers' project would not have taken off the ground without Boeing, Lockheed and other airline companies to develop it for public transport;

Indeed. With consequences like air borne ww epidemics and terrorism. Old technology was not behind september 11, old social morality not behind the indignation for it. And the Airport tyranny (and "plans vigipirates" - ma présence en France, vous savez). And responding to needs of people who live not where their food is produced, because it is produced in new ways that need less men.

In short, it is only the big firms that can turn innovations into products which ordinary consumers (not just the wealthy) can afford to buy or use, surely a benefit to mankind.

You presume that the ordinary consumer must be the one either disemployed or employed by large companies, in whose profits their wage is a small share. If you say that modern Bauhaus architecture ("houses without eyebrows") is the only one affordable for industrial workers and social cases to live in, I may moderately and hesitatingly agree. If you add that a working distributist system is one in which most people have only that class of relative prosperity, I disagree. Also, artisanal products concentrate more than usual on the expensive since the market for the cheap is taken over by ... big business run industries using new technologies. That - along with rising land prices, adapted to an industrial rather than modestly artisanal exploitation - falsifies the prices of artisanal production. At least as far as relative social price is concerned.

A small Wealth Pie brings fewer goods and services, long queues in the shops, stagnation in development, with resultant deprivation of essential commodities (food, hygiene, health care etc.) – not a good idea if you want a long and healthy life above the barest minimum of subsistence.

I take the long queues first, with relief. If fewer live in towns and more on the country - replacing tractors - there are fewer to queue in the shops. Because more eat from what they pick or harvest in fields or gardens. This is where distributism differs most from Communism of the East bloc variety.

Less health care. True. Belloc dreaded a society in which preserving the sick takes priority over giving birth to healthy. Not because he wanted to kill the sick - he was a Christian, and Pol Pot would have nauseated him - but because he foresaw a society in which the balance of generations and otherwise of the working and the depending would verge to a great discomfort. I think this is happening. Death is not a friend, but an enemy. But the fight against death goes by babies more than by preserving invalids. Nowadays doctors are getting closer to dictators, and young mothers ask themselves - or are brutally asked by others, including close relatives - if giving birth is really "responsible". In Germany the old are already so many that old voters outnumber voters raising families. Double working parents with few children; young workers too ill at ease to make fertile couples; all that to maintain a system of old age insurance based on a very big business: the State. It is now supplemented by another big business: insurance companies. But the problem is not who keeps the nominal money between when you earn it and when you get old or sick enough to spend it, but how many work when how many spend. The old age insurance based on bigger things than your own children and your own neighbours ... I do not think it will survive for masses, even if it will for misers.

A little question of definition:

Another advantage of big business is that ownership of such enterprises (and profits from them) is widely dispersed among many shareholders, often including some large institutional investors (insurance companies, pension funds, universities, religious bodies, charitable foundations, and the like.) Their benefits accrue to individuals and to society as a whole. Therefore terms like 'oligarchy' and 'robber barons' are misplaced as a description of the few who become mega-rich in the process. Their wealth is always a source of benefit to communities whether in the form of taxation, job creation, investment, philanthropy or their personal expenditure.

I used the same argument to defend monarchy. If Versailles danced, while peasants starved, Versailles at least employed servants who did not starve. The French King enjoyed not all the food there was in France leaving all other eaters to starve to death. But that does not change the fact that he was King and had powers which neither commons or Aristocrats had. And Capitalism does not means that a small class eats all the ice cream, far from it - but it means that a small class decide who produces most of the ice cream eaten. Because they have shares in Ben & Jerry's or the different avatars of Unilever, but not in the next "Italian" who uses a recipy for more than his own family's private consumption. Unless there is a tourist resort, where people ask for home made ice cream.

Concretely it is in Europe impossible to get Root Beer because A&W has sold its international rights to Coca Cola Company, unless I misremember, who are producing A&W for Asia, but not for Europe.

Difference between a monarchy like Louis XVI and an oligarchy like that of ... well, I had a family connection working for the one which came unsought to my mind, so I pass ... and other big pharmaceutic companies? The job of the monarch is to maintain justice. The job of pharmaceutic companies is not to maintain health, but a consumption of "health related" products. Some of them produce condoms and abortion pills.

Hans Lundahl
9/22 August 2008

Written the day before in the space of SFR Jeunes Talents Photo Exposition (Thanx for their unwilling participation).

series: 1 Defending Distributism 2 Mom & Pop Stores ... 3 What is a cartel? Snow and milk business compared

mardi 19 août 2008

Between two 15 August

Between the Gregorian one and the the Julian one. By a sinner unworthy, but trying to make peace in his life, and with those he hurt.

I believe the Dormition of Our Lady the Theotokos. She ceased to breathe, her heart ceased to beat. Her earthly life took an end. She was buried. Thomas opened the grave later, and she was no longer there. Probably she was assumed into heaven.

Pius XII tried to make a dogma of that assumption. My problem with his bull is elsewhere.

...Yet, according to the general rule, God does not will to grant to the just the full effect of the victory over death until the end of time has come. And so it is that the bodies of even the just are corrupted after death, and only on the last day will they be joined, each to its own glorious soul.
5. Now God has willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be exempted from this general rule. She, by an entirely unique privilege, completely overcame sin by her Immaculate Conception, and as a result she was not subject to the law of remaining in the corruption of the grave, and she did not have to wait until the end of time for the redemption of her body.

from Munificentissimus Deus

This seems to state that she alone was exempt from "corruption of the grave" (the Latin text I remember is closer to such understanding than this English one) - but if the word means simply death, that seems to contradict the dormition. And if the word fully means corruption, this would seem to contradict all the uncorrupt saints, including St John the Theologian, the adoptive son of the Theotokos.

First I solved this by denying Pius XII was Pope. That would logically have made me a Colinist, but by a misunderstanding I was Palmarian instead. The Palmarian theory that real popes, prisoners in the Vatican had false (or adulterated?) documents published in their name seemed to me to make sense. Now I rather think that the Popes were never meant as direct rulers of the Church Universal. As judges when some of the other bishops fail - yes. As bishops of the other bishops - no. I think their writings (except when confirmed by universal tradition or a council accepted by all the Orthodox Church) could be regarded as the Lefebvrians regard "non-infallible Papal teaching" (Gaudium et Spes, Centesimo Anno).

May God grant me true orthodoxy of faith and help me to make peace with whomever I have hurt who did not really deserve it.

Hans Lundahl
6/19 August 2008
OC Transfiguration Feast

lundi 18 août 2008

Bon ordre des possédants - liberté des démunis

Ça s'appelle aussi hospitalité. J'en ai eu, heureusement.

Merci, merci!

Ajoutons que je dois le rencontre au fait d'avoir respecté la propriété plus tôt même soir. Squatter dans l'escalier d'un immeuble - oui, mais juste tant que les locataires ou copropriétaires sont d'accord.

samedi 2 août 2008

Anarchie des propriétaires, communisme des démunis ...

Anarchie veut dire qu'on peut faire quoi que ce soit sans être puni par ordre d'un juge, communisme veut dire réglimentation et inculcation d'esprit d'équipe.

Quand à Avignon un mendiant peut être insulté parce qu'il n'aille pas au Secours Catho, quand une fois là il doit payer certains services, notamment d'hygiène, quand à Avignon c'est qu'on blesse des gens si on entre les bibliothèques avec des fringues qui puent, quand à la campagne on se voit interpellé par police et recommendé de prendre travail parce qu'on mendie sa nourriture quand on peut être insulté parce qu'on vient de demander argent que ce soit là ou là .... il me semble que le titre de ce message soit un peu juste quand même.

Juste pour ne pas laisser que des liens aujourd'hui ... 20 juillet/2 août 2008, Avignon

Hans Lundahl

O governo Lula e o combate à castidade (enlace)

The Holy Orthodox Popes of Rome/OrthodoxEngland (link)

Les tradis à Jérusalem (lien)

Airport Tyranny/Dinoscopus (link)