The National Catholic Review

Today’s first reading is a brief but stunning indication of one way the early disciples were transformed by the experience of the risen Christ. “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.”

It may not be possible today to hold everything in common. Yet the Church teaches that property we do hold is not ours to dispose of however we wish, but is under what Pope John Paul II in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis called a “social mortgage.” Speaking in Laborem Exercens of “the right to ownership or property,” he had explained, “Christian tradition has never upheld this right as absolute and untouchable. On the contrary, it has always understood this right within the broader context of the right common to all to use the goods of the whole of creation: the right to private property is subordinated to the right to common use, to the fact that goods are meant for everyone.” This reminder that all our property is a gift of God mortgaged to the common good is timely in an era when we are too often tempted to say in our hearts, “It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has got me this wealth.”







Vince Killoran | 4/18/2012 - 11:22pm
The simple exchange of money for goods is not "free market capitalism." The inner workings of the communities is decidedly un-free market capitalism. They're trying to create an alternative to the exploitative capitalist wage system.
J Cosgrove | 4/18/2012 - 6:17pm
''''Technically, MCC worker-owners are thus not wage labor, but associated producers. There is an income spread, according to skill and seniority, but this is set and modified by the workers themselves meeting in an annual assembly. The assembly also elects a governing council, which in turn hires a CEO and management team. Managers can be removed from their posts but worker-owners cannot be fired.''''

Mondragon is an example of free market capitalism.  It is definitely not the only one but it fits the definition.  It operates within the system of free markets.  How it is organized and run internally is irrelevant.  Just as monks in a abbey who sell their goods are part of the free market capitalist system.  Internal wages or the distribution of profits are irrelevant.  As long as there are little or no rules either favoring or impeding their specific operations, it remains free market capitalism.

I have no idea if Dorothy Day advocated free market capitalism but if she wanted to help the poor then she should have.  The statement that was quoted had only one solution and that is free market capitalism.  Nothing else has provided  more for the poor in the history of mankind and nothing has eliminated the unfairness of the social order more than free market capitalism.  You can disagree but the evidence is pretty easy to evaluate.
Vince Killoran | 4/18/2012 - 1:41pm
Dorothy Day as a free market capitalist?!  Mondragon as a family firm?! 

These assertions defy any grasp of the shape and character of the CW Movement or the Mondragon cooperatives. 

Here's how it works-please identify how Mondragon is free market capitalism:

"Technically, MCC worker-owners are thus not wage labor, but associated producers. There is an income spread, according to skill and seniority, but this is set and modified by the workers themselves meeting in an annual assembly. The assembly also elects a governing council, which in turn hires a CEO and management team. Managers can be removed from their posts but worker-owners cannot be fired."
Vince Killoran | 4/17/2012 - 12:55pm
Dorothy Day as a free market capitalist-that's the funny claim of the day!

Your "I hope that India's turn toward capitalism will pay out for everyone"  is a telling comment: it underscores the utopian embrace of the market as the means of delivering justice.  There is nothing "natural" about the capitalism or the unlimited accumulation of wealth.
J Cosgrove | 4/17/2012 - 11:24am
Sunil Korah,

Again thank you for your reply.

''My My! Touchy about Capitalism are we? :-)''
Not at all.  Capitalism has nothing to be touchy about.  It is just that on this site we have a constant parade on inane, irrelevant opinion pieces that are poorly thought out and which distort the reality of the current world in an attempt to justify a failed economic and political ideology.  So a few of us to use a modern phrase, ''push back.''
I pointed to probably the most thorough discussion of the free market there is in Mr. Muller's book.  The problem is not with the capitalist system but with human nature, which will be present in any form of social, political and economic organization.  God made us competitive,  He also made us wildly different in abilities.  He also gave us animal instincts as well as a mind to overcome these instincts.  It is how we use the latter that is important.   In any system that organizes people, all these personal attributes will be of importance whether is be socialism, capitalism, royal oligarchies, totalitarian regimes or any combination of these.
You have some basic misunderstandings which is why I pointed you to Jerry Muller and Deirdre McCloskey.  One obvious one from your second post is that socialism is about the other while capitalism is about the individual.  Socialism is really one of the most selfish ways to organize people there is but it is the selfishness of a few that is behind it.  Because it is a forced condition, it can hardly be about the other when most are constrained to behave in a certain way.  In fact it is definitely a system that is not about the other because it creates such negative conditions for nearly everyone except a select few.  I would look to this select few as the source of coercion behind socialism.  They espouse so called altruistic intentions but in reality it is quite the opposite.  It is a system which has been very successful for creating poor people but enabling a select few to be very well off.  So it can hardly be Christian.  Unless you believe we all must be poor to be saved.  And by the way, Kenneth Galbraith would have been one of the select few in a socialist scheme. 
A system that relieves the society of its poor would seem to be a better one and that is what free market capitalism does.  So I would look to what has made the life of the poor so much better in the last 200 years and not to what has created poor is large numbers.  But since human beings will be human beings and we are all made with different capabilities, free market capitalism has to be channeled to be most effective for everyone.  The problems come when those who think they know what is best, control the channeling and often with very negative results.  A good example is the current economic malaise in the United States that was caused by a severe housing problem which we still have.  This housing problem had its origin in government intervention into the free market by changing the rules by which houses could be purchased.  It created artificial demand for housing and then poured money into these purchases creating incredible inflation in housing that eventually collapsed leaving large number in severe debt.  These interventions which were not free market led to non free market conditions that led to a major economic recession.  It was not capitalism per se that caused the problem but how the government told capitalism to behave which was not normal.  So it wasn't ''free market'' capitalism that was at work.  It was the state implementing social policy that back fired.  It was the elite thinking they knew better.
But you seem to recognize that capitalism may have some negative effects if not channeled correctly and point to Mondragon.  But the Mondragon system is an example of free market capitalism.  It could only have grown up in such an environment.  You seem to have narrow view of what Mondragon is really about.  It competes freely in the market place and how it chooses to compensate its employees is irrelevant except if it has low salaries, it will make it able to provide services and products cheaper.  A wonderful example of free market capitalism.  The salary policies may be a key reason for its success but other enterprises have also succeeded using a different model. There are examples of monks making wine, cheeses and honey and they are embedded in the free market system when they do that and they theoreticaly have vows of poverty and no income disparity at all.  These monks are capitalists.  If 50 people got together and and agreed to share all the profits equally in a venture, and each ended up with $20 million dollars, that is equality much more than at Mondragon and no one would say it wasn't free market capitalism.  But there would be millions who would be jealous and would condemn such an enterprise.  I would look to external jealousy as the source of much of our attitudes and not the failure of free market capitalism.

I hope that India's turn toward capitalism will pay out for everyone.  We have several years to go since it has only been recent in origin that this change has taken place. 
Vince Killoran | 4/17/2012 - 11:18am
Well, sure: when you equate socialism with North Korea and capitalism with all that is good & just then your ham-handed characterization stands.  

Democratic socialist parties and countries are plenty in evidence and do quite well, especially where it counts: nutrition, infant mortality rates, the environment, education, & human rights. "Market populism" is the pipe dream of utopians.   

As for the Gospel message Jesus came (to quote Dorothy Day), "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." 
Jim McCrea | 4/17/2012 - 12:48am
The "faithful remnant" are quite unappealing in their obsessiveness with what Galbraith talks about here:

“The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."   John Kenneth Galbraith
Tom Maher | 4/16/2012 - 9:33pm
Here we go again. The Catholic school boys and girls are drinking the kool aid again.  More Catholic folk tales using the Gospel to promote their favor economic and political utopian ideas,  this time the economic magic of collectivism even though after two centuries of trying collectiivism  has been widely abandoned woldwide. 

Is it a coincidence that collectivism as an economic and politcal idea promoted since the mid 1800s around the world by Marx and others has found its way into church folklore?  But let's not kid ourselves here as the author does, the Gospel or church doctrine does not promote collectivist economic arrangements that society and everyone should imitate.  Today as then the church is sustained by the generosity of people who want to assist the church and its mission of sustaining and spreading the inspired word of the Gospel .  The early church was not following or motiveated by collectivist economics or thinking of the 1800s and 1900s.

The church is not an economic organization concerned with the production of economic goods  and services needed by society and then freely distributing the output based on need.  The church as an economic collective is an extermely unrealistic utopian wish that could never sustain the church and its mission without the constant generous support of donations.   In secular economic collectivism such as collective farms have always and everwhere been a failure and have largely been abandoned with the exception of places like Cuba and North Korea were these organizations barely survive only by government politcal dictates.  
J Cosgrove | 4/16/2012 - 9:23am
Sunil Korah,

Thank you for your comments.  I have no problem defending my comments as part of God's plan or natural as He made us.  God's plan is written all over us in our human nature and it is to that as well as to revelation and Church tradition that we should look.  He made us very competitive and He made us very uneven in our abilities.  He must have done it for a reason.

As far as socialism, I would look at the history of it to see that it is very nonhuman institution.   It has never worked and the reason is because it is not in sync with the human nature that God made.   There are two books I would recommend that are easily available in Kindle or other ebook formats or which can be purchased through Amazon very cheaply.  These are ''Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism.'' The author is Joshua Muravchik.  The other is ''The Mind and the Market'' by Jerry Muller of Catholic University.

The first book by Muravchik really says it all about socialism as it shows socialism for many is not guided by religion but is a replacement for religion based on God's laws with an earthly religion meant to supplant any relationship with God.  A phenomena we see today as people's politics often act as their own personal religion.  The author of this OP is a political activist.  Socialism has never worked except once and there it was abandoned when the implications of it were understood.  Socialism can work in limited areas which is why it will work in religious communities or small communities and as such is probably the best approach for these groups.  However, an economics professor said to me once that socialism can only work as far as the horizon.  Essentially it needs constant self monitoring and self agreement to survive.  It was not an organizing principle that could endure except in isolated small instances.  That is the human nature problem for socialism.  Mises provided the economics, technical reasons why it cannot succeed about a 100 years ago but his works have been ignored by many zealots who continue to espouse it and have force millions of humans into an oppressed and very onerous life.

The second book by Muller is a very excellent history of the market and the wealth it has created along with all the potential social ills that accompany human nature when they are not constrained.  All the pros and cons are discussed.  Another author that helps us to understand the origins of the marvelous accomplishments in technology, health care, food production, education etc. that we see when we look around us is Deirdre McCloskey.  None of this would have happened with socialism or other traditional forms of organizing society.  Our very correspondence here would never have been possible with out the market.

The Mondragon system is a market oriented system,  It exists in a competitive market oriented environment.  It is one model among many that are competing.  And yes it is based on a capitalist system.  How it is organized internally is not the issue, it is competing in the free market and using its capital in a way its owners see fit.  It is not important who the owners are or how they decide to use their capital.  So as such it is to be applauded.  Cooperatives are not new and maybe Mondragon is unique but that does not change that it is a capitalist free market endeavor.  Find the National Cooperative Business Association to see what cooperatives exist in the US.  But given that cooperatives have often been successful, it is not ordained that this is the only way forward nor the best way.  It will be interesting to observe Mondragon as the world moves forward and see how it adapts or changes.  It is one of the competitive free market elements.  I wish it good luck.
J Cosgrove | 4/15/2012 - 10:32pm
A couple things.

First, What was described in the Acts today was an example of the manner of living for a religious community which is still practiced in most cases to this day by religious communities.  This is not an example for how the majority of the community should live.  Some of the evidence for how the Mass was celebrated in early Christian life was from the homes of the rich.

''To each according to his need'' has had devastating effects on those who practiced it on a large scale.

If one wants to say Jesus advocated socialism then they should read the parable of the talents.

Second, The Mondragon cooperative system is a great example of free market capitalism in action and maybe some could try it elsewhere.
J Cosgrove | 4/17/2012 - 10:46pm
''JR take the Mondragon worker owned coop idea to a Tea Party meeting [ and I suggest you have security''

You are entitled to your opinion but your comments indicate your misunderstanding of the Tea Party.  I have been to a couple of their rallies and am familiar with the people and would expect the average person who supports the Tea Party would support a Mondragon type organization as long as it was voluntary and not imposed by any legislation or government mandate.  Why would they not support such an organization.  I cannot think of one.  The Tea Party is all about small business and lots of small business is run with the workers involved.  It seems a natural fit.  And family businesses are almost cooperatives in a way.

Mondragon is a free market entity and that is what the Tea Party is all about so why not let it compete.  I wonder how such an organization would do here but it would be interesting to see especially if it produced good quality lower cost goods without getting any special accomodations.

I would think the auto companies might be especially interested since they are apparently heavily involved in producing auto parts.  If they produced high quality lower cost goods it would be a win for the auto companies and the consumer. 

Let's here it for Mondragon and free market capitalism. 
ed gleason | 4/17/2012 - 9:03pm
Then why does the rep find it necessary to say?   "the discourse that views co-ops as socialistic is not accurate'
 JR take the Mondragon worker owned coop idea to a Tea Party meeting [ and I suggest you have security]
J Cosgrove | 4/17/2012 - 2:45pm
''Maybe JR Cosgrove can post the names of any GOP politicians that admire the Mondragon worker coops?''

Why would they object?  It is a silly question.  Mondragon is definitely a free market capitalist venture.  Here is a quote from the North American representative:

''the discourse that views co-ops as socialistic is not accurate. MCC relies on capital markets and international markets. They acknowledge pay differentials but stress the importance of worker ownership of the companies.''

Mondragon has very little presence in the US so I doubt it is an issue with current politicians.  I cannot imagine anyone being against it especially if they are for free markets.   It is a free market endeavor and there are thousands of cooperatives in the US which I haven't seen anyone objecting to.  It is an exercise in freedom which I think they would applaud.  

The whole discourse here from the basic OP to many of the comments indicates a lack of knowledge on just what free market capitalism is about.  And by the way some cooperatives compete with each other and that is even better free market capitalism.  Who owns the enterprise and how they are paid is not the issue.  The issue is lack of government interference into the markets and the last time I looked they are not interfering for or against cooperatives like Mondragon.
ed gleason | 4/17/2012 - 1:00pm
Maybe JR Cosgrove can post the names of any GOP politicians that admire the Mondragon worker coops?
J Cosgrove | 4/17/2012 - 11:33am
'As for the Gospel message Jesus came (to quote Dorothy Day), ''comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.'' '

The best recommendation for free market capitalism I can think of.  Thank you for your quote that supports free markets.  Because of its success it has relieved the world of more poor than any other way to organize society and economics one can imagine.  Because it is based on free market competition it brings down the mighty who have survived on the backs of the poor for too long a time.  It is when the rich oppose the free markets and establish themselves in some ancien régime that we have problems.
Tom Maher | 4/17/2012 - 11:07am
Sunil Korah # 9

You ask "Touchy about Capitalism are we"?  Yes indeed we are and we have good reason to be.

Maybe you did noit notice but the very title of this article "To each according to his needs" is not the phrasing of the Gospel but of Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto?   Marx states in this book the essential  theme and actual practice of Marxist socialism worldwide : "From each according to their ability; to each according to their needs."  This is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ this is Marxist socialist dialectic materialism and untilitarianism.  An all-powerful and god-like state is the supreme arbiter of all of societies economic needs.   Which is one of the main reasons  that Marxist socialism failed worldwide or is the process of failing in the case of Cuba amd North Korea.  It is extremely provoking and false to suggest the Gospel is promoting socalism or rejecting Capitalism. 

The Gospel does not advocate or reject any economic system.  The Gospel is not an economic text.  The Gospel message merely indicates that people were so inspred that  as a deeply felt personal decision freely donated all or part of their wealth such as they may have had. -  Something that is not ususal since people always have families and others and themeselves to take care of.  This is a big difference from the taking and distributing of all wealth by goverenment such as under Marxist socialism.  

If Capitalism is so terrible why did so many nations including India abandon socialism in the late part of the 1900s and become Captialistic?  Is it not becasue socialism having been tried for decades was rejected by the people worldwide under socialist political system as an economic and political system?  So yes we do favor Capitalism because it works while the alternative socialism is a failure. 

Economic progress can best be made by refining Captialism.  So yes we do get touchy since we have a choice becasue we definately do not want to do more  massive social experiments that will fail using socialism.
Sunil Korah | 4/16/2012 - 4:33am
JR Cosgrave
"This is not an example for how the majority of the community should live."

I would think the opposite. Why should it be desirable only for the religious community? It is another matter that man's selfishness and greed make it difficult to practice. When Jesus said "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" I don't think he meant it only for the religious communities. After all, for the Christian, he is in fact his brother's keeper.

I don't think Jesus advocated socialism, but then he did not advocate capitalism either. In principle I would think socialism is the more Christian system. 

The Mondragon corporation's basic principles include

"In the MONDRAGON Co-operatives it is understood that Labour is the main factor for transforming nature, society and human beings themselves. As a result, Labour is granted full sovereignty in the organisation of the co-operative enterprise, the wealth created is distributed in terms of the labour provided and there is a firm commitment to the creation of new jobs."

"The MONDRAGON Co-operative Experience considers Capital to be an instrument, subordinate to Labour, which is necessary for business development. Therefore, it is understood to be worthy of just remuneration, in accordance with the efforts involved in saving it, although not directly linked to the amount of profit made." 

Sounds quite unlike capitalism to me 
ed gleason | 4/15/2012 - 9:27pm
Maybe Catholic bloggsters instead of arguing about wealth distribution and who pays what tax rate, and a 'war' on women...ought to  a look at Mondragon worker co-ops in Spain and it might bring light where there is rancor. A Catholic idea straight out of the Acts.
The part I like best is the leader makes only 5 times the lowest worker.. and it's a growing system.
Sunil Korah | 4/17/2012 - 4:59am
My My! Touchy about Capitalism are we? :-)

Jim McRea's quote says enough I think. Still just to clarify where I seem to have been not clear.

JRCosgrove and Tom Maher: I too don't think Socialism works. But I think it is fairly obvious to most people outside the U.S and Europe that your version of Capitalism is not a working system either. Socialism has a concept of the 'other' as opposed to Capitalism (in which the 'Individual' is everything) and it is in that sense that I said the former is in principle more Christian. In socialism it is the rulers become the exploiters because they make the rules. In Capitalism the power is with the rich and the skilled. The exploitation of the poor and the less able is more subtle but it is there all the same. And we people, middle and upper middle class for the most part, are usually the beneficiaries of the Capitalistic system and we tend not to notice what happens to the less advantaged. ( I am in India, btw, where we are muddling along with a system which is a mixture of both. I am personally a beneficiary of the Indian economy's move towards Capitalism and consumerism, having a better lifestyle than I would have had in the earlier system. Because I could afford it. The story is different for those who couldn't )

I think you are jumping through hoops to describe Mondragon as a success of Capitalism. Of course it works in a Capitalistic environment. The issue was not whether a cooperative can function succesfully, it was about the reduction in income diparity among the employees. This was the result of adopting specific principles different from that of Capitalism.

David Smith:"socialism, ... it's not natural.  Almost no one will submit himself to it voluntarily.  It's an elitist's ideology.  It must be compelled at the beginning and tightly policed to keep it from falling apart."

Don't you think that with only slight tweaking the same could be said of Christianity. The policing has to be personal and internal, that's all.