I don’t know diddly about money, and I don’t much care, either. In fact, the only D I ever received academically was as a college freshman in a basic Economics class. It was taught by Dr. Robert Eisner, a hard-ass conservative professor who was known to be an advisor to the Reagan administration.
In retrospect, I am glad I didn’t “get it” back in school. Maybe even at age 18, I could intuit who the real winners and losers are in the brazenly capitalist system we’ve been running since the 1950s, and I didn’t like how the deck was stacked against the losers. as an idealistic youngster of working-class parents, I didn’t want to believe that the economy of my own country depends on such an unfair system, so maybe in my denial I refused to learn the equations and principles upon which that system is based. However, I’m not a communist or socialist, never have been. It wasn’t until later, about ten years ago, that I found out what my economic philosophy is called: I’m a distributist.
Wiki says this: “According to distributism, the ownership of the means of production should be spread as widely as possible among the general populace, rather than being centralized under the control of a few state bureaucrats (some forms of socialism) or wealthy private individuals (capitalism). A summary of distributism is found in G.K. Chesterton’s statement: ‘Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.’ “
G.K. Chesterton, a free-thinking British novelist, theologian and amateur economist of the early twentieth century, was another of those gutsy Roman Catholics that I claim as heroes. And right up through Pope John Paul II, I think the Catholic church offered a good social justice critique of both the capitalists and the communists.
So as a Catholic-Mennonite-evangelical hybrid, I’ve always tried to keep my eye on the interplay of politics, economics, and the church. I find it fundamentally, theologically scary that the U.S. has a $250 billion dollar deficit now. I can’t stand that so much of the “paper” for that debt is held by China, whose suppression of religious and human rights in their own country and worldwide is beyond the pale. (Therefore I’m pleased that Stephen Spielberg withdrew yesterday as an Olympics consultant because China’s hands are so filthy with the blood of Darfur.)
I am also shocked and scared at the prospect of Warren Buffet (or any single investor, for that matter) wielding so much power that he can practically buy and sell the entire municipal bond market. When I heard this news story yesterday, the first thing I thought of was Jimmy Stewart/George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, at the onset of the Depression, saying: “Potter’s not selling, Potter’s buying!” And indeed, smart opportunists always succeed in such a warped economy as ours. The weight of credit card debt alone among the middle class in America threatens to topple us into another severe depression, if we’re not courageous enough to make big changes in what we teach and how we spend.
I’m not sure even Barack Obama is willing to go far enough in changing these fundamentally unjust and unsound systems. But nobody else looks even interested in trying to elevate the poor and curb the injustice perpetrated upon them by the top 5%. So on the heels of his primary sweep this weekend, and looking toward depressed, working-class Wisconsin (up next), I say this:
Share the wealth! Vote Obama!