October 20, 2011

The Eminently Real Free Market (XLII): Sketchy Stories (30): Kicking Capitalism While (Fan)Fanning the Embers of Fascism (1)

Before examining Mr. Ferrara’s seventh historical “sketch,” we urge upon our visitors Stephan Kinsella’s recent (October 18) and extensive answer to those who, like Mr. Ferrara, Kevin Carson, Joel Bakan, et al., seem to regard the notion of corporate personhood as the root of all modern evil, which we addressed in recent posts. It is entitled, “Corporate Personhood, Limited Liability, and Double Taxation.” A lively discussion with Mr. Kinsella follows in the combox.
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The next sketch under review, reproduced below, continues Mr. Ferrara’s by-now boring recitation of historical examples of some capitalists seeking and winning governmentally granted privileges, subsidies, and other non-market advantages over their market rivals—as though such stories bore on the Catholic reception of Austro-libertarianism, i.e.:
7. The use of State power to impose the legal and social uniformity required for “efficient” large-scale commerce (27)
to which our by-now equally boring response is that such episodes only reinforce our case for ethically regarding the State—no matter how “constitutionally limited,” no matter how “small” by today’s measure—as an unacceptable moral hazard.* Here’s the latest laundry list:
Capitalists were instrumental in achieving State-imposed uniform legal codes and weights and measures, the abolition of the guilds and other intermediary social bodies, the repeal of the Sunday closing laws and legal religious holidays, the repeal of laws against usury, and a host of other State-imposed “reforms” that cleared away all the underbrush in the once Christian socioeconomic landscape that had interfered with the business of buying cheap and selling dear over as large a territory as possible. Capitalism thus achieved, through the exercise of State power, “still greater advantages from being able to expand over the wide territories of a State in which the feudal substructures were demolished one by one.” (27-28)
Our first reaction to this was, “So, for crying out loud, work to abolish the State instead of trying to influence it!” Taking these items on a case-by-case basis, we notice problems that the market solves when it is free to (e.g., standards), and others that are not problems at all (“usury,” to which we will return in future posts). The generalization “were instrumental in achieving” is a template of conceptual laziness that dilutes any content poured into it. If Mr. Ferrara laments the passing of “feudal substructures” (along with their intertwining royal and papal intrigues), or prefers buying dear and selling cheap to the alternative arrangement, he should step up to the microphone and remove any doubt.
Our second reaction was based on what we found in the reference note appended to the concluding quote, whose author is not identified in the main text. We were surprised, at least initially, to see his nonchalant reference to Fanfani’s Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism, an erudite anti-capitalist tome that should give its readers, especially Catholics among them, a whiff of the ideological hothouse within which early 20th-century anti-capitalism grew.**
Mr. Ferrara’s note gives the uninformed reader the impression that Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism is a new book, as it bears a publication date of 2005 and the imprint of IHS Press, a pro-“Catholic Social Thought” outfit after Mr. Ferrara’s own heart. In the next sketchy story he obscures more than identifies Fanfani, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
At the Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, which he graduated from in 1932, Fanfani wrote a thesis that was published three years later as Cattolicismo e Protestantismo nella formazione storica del capitalismo, also published in the United States by Sheed & Ward as Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism. So this is not a new book.
The ‘30s were a busy time for Signore Fanfani. In 1935, the year this Fascist Party member’s first book was published (while Mussolini’s “imperial” troops were mustard-gassing Haile Selassie’s), he found regular outlet for his literary production in a magazine with the charming title La Difesa della Raza (The Defense of the Race). Since we are in an inflammatory mood, we reproduce a few covers:

Furthering the goals of its movers and shakers was a “Manifesto della razza,” which many public figures and academics, including our devout Catholic social scientist, signed. The Manifesto quickly metamorphosed into a law in July 1938 that deprived Italian Jews of their citizenship, thereby provoking the displeasure of Pope Pius XII with equal alacrity.
In short, to say that Amintore Fanfani was a Fascist is not to engage in leftist name-calling. According to the July 14, 1958 issue of Time magazine, Fanfani “once wrote” that
the European continent will be organized into a vast supranational area guided by Italy and Germany. Those areas will take authoritarian governments and synchronize their constitutions with Fascist principles.
“Once” was probably fifteen to twenty years earlier. Certainly no Italian dreamt such dreams after July 25, 1943, the day King Victor Emmanuel III had Mussolini arrested, a month and a half before Italy’s surrender to the Allies. Signore Fanfani was probably not even in town at the time: having been drafted into the service of the lost cause of that grand synchronization, he fled to Switzerland to teach Italian expatriates and conceptually alchemize his fascisto-Catholic or "corporatist" ideology as “Christian Democracy.” This former Fascist cheerleader, who continued to expound Fascist principles as late as 1942, when his anthology Il Significato del corporativismo appeared, reinvented himself as Catholic Prime Minister of post-war Italy five times (not to mention numerous other governmental posts).
Mr. Ferrara didn't think any of this was worth bringing to his readers' attention.
To Be Continued

* Catholics wary of drawing that anti-state, i.e., anarchistic, conclusion should remember that man’s fallen nature and the nature of the State as the territorial monopolist of the means of violence form a fateful combination. It is just because "men are not angels" that they should not be trusted to exercise that monopoly. We anarcho-Catholics are happy to have a discussion about how social order is to be maintained in the absence of such a monopoly. We only ask that those who see it as indispensable to such maintenance entertain our skepticism for an evening. We remind them the State does not “abuse” its power the way a bad parent abuses his or her parental authority or a bishop his episcopal. As a network of interpersonal relations, the State is constituted and sustained by aggression, the initiation of violence against persons and their property. It is intrinsically, not accidentally, a rights-violating agency. The monopoly it enjoys in the provision of defense, police, and judicial services only underscores the State’s constitutional instability and the incoherence attaching to “the State” as a summary term for such diverse activities as taxation, defense, and ensuring the delivery of mail.
** Ironically, Murray Rothbard prepared a brief report bearing that same title, dated August 8, 1957, for the Volker Fund. Its content should be of interest to followers of this blog.