Why Are Young People Cheering for Socialism?

Why Are Young People Cheering for Socialism?

February 11, 2016 by

Winston Churchill said something like, “If a man is not a socialist in his twenties he is a scoundrel. If he is still a socialist in his fifties he is mad.”

He was acknowledging the attractive idealism of the young. He was also acknowledging its impracticality.

So often I heard, “All these people who want socialism…They’re just looking for more free stuff.”

Well, maybe. But maybe not.

In fact what many of them are looking for is something called justice. They see the huge (and growing) income inequality in this country. They see the enormous college debt they feel the must accumulate to get a good job (if there is any job at all) They look at the criminally low minimum wage.They look at poor families struggling to work hard who can never get ahead. They look at the poor who have discovered that they are better off on welfare than getting a low paid, stressful and dangerous job and being worse off.

They look at the super rich who are obscenely rich and who are too often rich because of crooked finance deals, shady bankers, crony capitalism and unfair working practices and they cry out for justice. They say it isn’t right that the poor are expected to “work harder and dream the impossible dream” because it is increasingly an impossible dream to get ahead.

Then they expand their vision to the developing world and realize that the inequities are even greater.

Socialism, it seems to them, offers a way towards justice.

Whether it is the best way towards justice is what all the discussion is about,and why Churchill acknowledged that the mature person  comes to realize that socialism doesn’t work.

However, the young person’s longing for justice is not misplaced. It is a cry every disciple of Christ should share, and every Catholic should hold true to the church’s demand for the “preferential option for the poor.”

The fact of the matter is, the cry for socialism and government solutions would not be necessary if the rich took their proper responsibility and their proper role in helping to create a just and fair society.

It is true that the social teaching of the Catholic Church condemns socialism, but it also demands that workers be treated fairly, that a true living wages is supplied, that hours of work are moderated with plenty of time for family, for worship and for leisure. The Catholic Church’s social teaching demands not only that individual capitalists have a responsibility, but that a civilized government also has proper duties and responsibilities to build up and maintain the common good.

When the rich get richer by schemes that rob from the poor, people cry out for justice. When the powerful consolidate their power and wealth at the expense of the workers, the vulnerable, the immigrants and the homeless, then people cry out for justice. When the fabulously rich do all they can to avoid taxes, secrete their wealth overseas and castigate the poor and treat them badly, people cry out for justice.

This is why, in this election, people are turning away from the established politicians of both parties with anger. This is why they are following extremists like Trump and Sanders.

They are crying out for justice and (mistakenly for socialism) because they have seen and experienced the cruel inequalities in America and in the world.

Revolutions are rarely the fault of the rebels. In every revolution if the ruling elite had not been so greedy, decadent, corrupt and vile, if they had not suppressed the people for so long, the revolutions would never have been necessary.

Read the source & comments: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2016/02/why-are-young-people-cheering-for-socialism.html

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The Virtue of Socialism

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Cosmos The In Lost is hosting an insightful guest post on the difference between Democratic Socialism and totalitarian socialism, particularly as it relates to Church teaching. It very clearly lays out the problem with a notion that I see constantly in Catholic right-wing spaces that “socialism has been condemned by the Church” — an argument that is invariably leveled against forms of “socialism” which are neither Marxist, nor atheistic, nor totalitarian and which, far from being at odds with Church teaching, actually have a great deal in common with Her social doctrine. Even very reasonable expositions of the conservative position, as in Father Longenecker’s excellent post on why young people are cheering for socialism, tend to equivocate between forms of communist socialism that have proven disastrous and forms of social welfare that have been effectively enacted in most of the developed world.
There is one point the article addresses that I’d like to expand on: that’s the argument that social welfare programs destroy charity, that there is no virtue in being forced to provide for the needs of others through taxation. This argument is based on an excessively individualistic misapprehension of how civic virtue works.
In Popularum Progressio, Paul VI writes, “Each man must examine his conscience, which sounds a new call in our present times. Is he prepared to support, at his own expense, projects and undertakings designed to help the needy? Is he prepared to pay higher taxes so that public authorities may expand their efforts in the work of development?” Far from seeing a discontinuity between private charity and public works, he demands of Christians *both* the willingness to give voluntarily, *and* the willingness to accept taxation for the sake of the poor. In other words, both individual charity and institutional social justice have a roll to play in the exercise of Christian virtue (a point made not only by Paul VI but also by Benedict XVI, among others.) Just as we are generous in the former, we are called to be cooperative in the latter.
To take a stand for the common good is on the one hand to be solicitous for, and on the other hand to avail oneself of, that complex of institutions that give structure to the life of society, juridically, civilly, politically and culturally, making it the pólis, or “city”. The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them. Every Christian is called to practise this charity, in a manner corresponding to his vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis. This is the institutional path — we might also call it the political path — of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbour directly, outside the institutional mediation of the pólis. (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate)
The use of taxes to secure justice for the poor does not deprive people of the opportunity to act virtuously because:
a) deliberately voting for social justice initiatives is an act of civic virtue and an exercise of solidarity and compassion
b) freely providing for the needs of the state, including the public good and the good of the poor, through taxation is an exercise in the virtues of obedience and honesty
c) the acts of a community or polity may be just and virtuous, in which case each individual who willingly participates, without rancor, in the virtuous activity of the state exercises virtue in doing so.
It is also worth pointing out in this connection that providing for the basic needs of the poor — needs including housing, food, and medical care — is not a form of gratuitous charity according to the teaching of the Church:

St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: “Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.” “The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity” When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2446)

Just as the state may rightly regulate and compel justice in other matters, so too is it perfectly in accord with Catholic teaching, and with the “universal destination of goods” (cf. CCC 2402) for the state to regulate social justice through law and taxation.

Photo credit: pixabay

Catholic Vote’s Socialism Freakout Highlights the Necessity of Clearly Defined Terms

Does this man look like a totalitarian? (Source: Flickr; Author: Phil Roeder; Title: Bernie Sanders for President, CC by 2.0)

Does this man look like a totalitarian? (Source: Flickr; Author: Phil Roeder; Title:
Bernie Sanders for President, CC by 2.0)

On behalf of the Catholic Church, I would like to apologize. I apologize for our complicated theology, especially where the Church and the State intersect. I apologize specifically that the Church has led so many people into thinking that Catholicism is a religion of unbridled capitalism. I apologize that it is a religion that considers socialism antithetical to the very idea of caritas while simultaneously saying that socialism is not antithetical to the very idea of caritas.

An intern at CatholicVote, Kate Fugate, recently wrote an article haranguing Catholics advocating for Vermont Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. Why? Because Senator Sanders’s socialist agenda “fundamentally undermines the spirit of Christian charity, assuming the marginalized will only be cared for if the federal government forces you to care” and “economic redistribution […] is counter to the belief that God grants our worth and hard work is a mainstay of Catholic teaching.”

On one hand, Fugate is correct in a few of her assumptions. Socialism forces equality by law. The value of work is a mainstay of Catholic teaching. But underlying her argument is a series of poorly defined terms, equivocations, and misinterpretations of Catholic Social Doctrine. The most immediate term that needs to be clearly defined is socialism, with others to follow.

Have you heard what the future Pope Benedict XVI said about democratic socialism? Probably not.

Have you heard what the future Pope Benedict XVI said about democratic socialism? Probably not.

Senator Sanders repeatedly refers to himself as a democratic socialist, as opposed to a socialist. Already, we have reached an impasse: are socialism and democratic socialism the same thing? To answer this question, we must first look at how the Church defines the former and then turn to the latter. Socialism, in the eyes of the Church, has a very specific definition, later amended as real or true socialism (though even here there is ambiguity, especially when one considers Marx’s use of the phrase). Leo XIII, throughout his encyclicalQuod Apostolici Muneris, made it clear that the socialism he spoke of was that which strived “to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one’s mode of life” (Quod 1). InSollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope St. John Paul II clearly refers to a planned economy, wherein the State is the owner and decision-making body, placing “everyone in a position of almost absolute dependence, which is similar to the traditional dependence of the worker-proletarian in capitalism” (Sollicitudo 15). Further clarifying, though not in his office as Supreme Pontiff, Joseph Ratzinger wrote that socialism “subdivided into two different paths, the totalitarian and the democratic,” concluding that “democratic socialism was and is close to Catholic social doctrine” (Europe: Today and Tomorrow, page 28).

The Church has in mind totalitarian socialism when it considers socialism as such; that is, a socialism in which the State owns the means of production and a bureaucratic apparatus plans the economy, an admittedly failed and undesirable system.

Approaching a definition of democratic socialism is unquestionably trickier than asking “What does the Church mean by socialism,” primarily because there is no central authority on democratic socialism. We might look at the writings of Michael Harrington, founder of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), though even his writings are not completely what Senator Sanders imagines as democratic socialism. To this end, we must let the good Senator speak for himself:

Senator Sanders is advocating something radically different than socialism, as used by the Supreme Pontiffs going back to Leo XIII. He is advocating something different than democratic socialism as defined by the DSA’s founder Michael Harrington, whose views were primarily a Distributist model, that workers should own the means of production and that labor precedes capital (which is the Catholic understanding of a humane economy). No, Senator Sanders is advocating something more akin to theNordic model, a social democracy – a market economy with a strong welfare component. His use of the term democratic socialism is as sloppy as Fugate’s use of socialism, though it is more levelheaded and decidedly more defined. Fugate fails to realize that Senator Sanders is not advocating the totalitarian version of socialism.

Bernie Sanders has been clear that he is not a socialist in the Leninist and Stalinist senses of the term. He has said that he does not “believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production,” and that he believes that “the middle class and working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a decent standard of living and that their incomes should go up, not down.”

Frequently discussed, infrequently read and understood.

Frequently discussed, infrequently read and understood.

The problem with Fugate’s thinking, and that of the Catholic Right on the whole, is that the term socialism is always used equivocally. Socialism is always in the totalitarian sense when coming from the Catholic Right, disregarding every clarification and redefinition over the years. If one reads the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, you will see more than a few similarities between it and Senator Sanders’s definition of democratic socialism. You will see even more similarities between the Compendium and Michael Harrington’s work.

The sloppy use of terms, including that of Christian charity – or simply, caritas – brings up Fugate’s most important point, that a welfare state destroys the necessity of caritas. To this claim, we must first consider the purpose of welfare as such. Social welfare, in its most general sense, is a system of public and private programs that provides for those things owed to the other in justice. This requires a public and private approach based upon solidarity and subsidiarity. Subsidiarity makes it clear that what can be accomplished at lower levels of society – be they individual, familial, or local – should never be simply assumed by a larger level. Solidarity is a social charity, the love of neighbor. Following the social philosophy of Karol Wojtyla, subsidiarity is not even possible without solidarity, for solidarity is preeminent among the social virtues. It is one of the Great Commandments, and is the motivating force in all matters of achieving social justice. But can one say that a promotion of welfare destroys caritas? More pointedly, does Senator Sanders promote the welfare state? The answer to this question stands on the precipice between yes and no, one which should be debated. I would tend to say, “No, he does not,” because his welfare idealism assumes work, even full-time work. Does Senator Sanders’s State subsume all the work of lower levels? Perhaps that is the question that ought to be debated more thoroughly, though that is not my program here. More importantly, Fugate makes an equivocation typical of Christians – of both the Left and the Right – that charity is simply a private act motivated by the desire to do good. But caritas – in its most basic definition – is “willing the good of the other for the other’s own sake.” I do not think that Senator Sanders approaches anything close to destroying this idea.

As I have said, Fugate is correct in saying that socialism and Catholicism are incompatible, if one is referring to the Church’s definition of totalitarian socialism. But she is incorrect in stating that Senator Sanders’s idealism is akin to that of Lenin or Stalin. She is incorrect in stating that Senator Sanders’s ideals destroy the necessity of caritas. She is incorrect in stating that Senator Sanders’s socialism “would render Catholicism, and it’s [sic] members, archaic,” because Christ himself said that even the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (cf. Mt 16:18). I doubt a 74-year-old Senator from Vermont could do what every empire, including that of the damned, could not.

Joseph Antoniello received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and Theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He is co-founder of The Harmonium Project. In 2013, he was one of only a handful of American representatives at the first International Meeting of Young Catholics for Social Justice, hosted at Pontifical Lateran University by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife.

This was a guest post.


You might also want to take a look at the comprehensive survey What Do the Popes Truly Say About Socialism?Read the source & comments: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cosmostheinlost/2016/02/12/catholic-votes-socialism-freakout-highlights-the-necessity-of-clearly-defined-terms/

Related Articles/ Videos click below:

Is Socialism Making a Comeback? – Despite Bernie Sanders’s best efforts, socialism is still as bad an idea as it ever was http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/10/is-socialism-making-a-comeback-despite-bernie-sanderss-best-efforts-socialism-is-still-as-bad-an-idea-as-it-ever-was/

Why Are Young People Cheering for Socialism? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/13/why-are-young-people-cheering-for-socialism/

What Do the Popes Truly Say About Socialism? http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/02/13/what-do-the-popes-truly-say-about-socialism/

“A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order. A system that ‘subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production’ is contrary to human dignity. Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. ‘You cannot serve God and mammon’”(CCC: 2424).

“The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modern times with ‘communism’ or ‘socialism’. She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of ‘capitalism,’ individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for ‘there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.’ Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended” (CCC:2425).