Arthurian Republicanism in America?

Over at The Josias Felix de St. Vincent gives a good exposition of the sort of politics that Aelianus likes to call ‘Arthurian Republicanism,’ arguing that in played a role in the founding of the United States. I have written an introductory note, in which I disagree with some of his points, but agree with him on the desirability of reviving an ancient style republicanism of the common good in America. Here are some of the concrete consequences that he sees flowing from such a politics:

Today, the Catholic republican may have something to say about the obnoxious power of moneyed interests, corporate lobbyists, media gatekeepers, special interests, entrenched bureaucracies, etc. The Catholic republican may have something to say about pluralism. Hardworking American families, out of charity that sometimes seems misguided, tolerate an awful lot of shenanigans by those who presume to flaunt our republican values, even as they drive our roads, attend our schools, and sleep peacefully defended by our servicemen. And if he is called a socialist, the Catholic republican may have something to say about the billy club of “anticommunism,” which has twisted the very meaning of the American Republic and hammered it into a brittle mold of Enlightenment rationalism and atomistic individualism. It is time the Republic was reforged to dispel all of this obnoxiousness.

Do read the rest over at The Josias.

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civil and religious liberty

In the civil wars, the Egremonts pricked by their Norman blood, were cavaliers and fought pretty well. But in 1688, alarmed at the prevalent impression that King James intended to insist on the restitution of the church estates to their original purposes, to wit, the education of the people and the maintenance of the poor, the Lord of Marney Abbey became a warm adherent of “civil and religious liberty,”—the cause for which Hampden had died in the field, and Russell on the scaffold,—and joined the other whig lords, and great lay impropriators, in calling over the Prince of Orange and a Dutch army, to vindicate those popular principles which, somehow or other, the people would never support. (Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil)

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione

The liturgy of Ascension Thursday puts a tremendous emphasis on joy: ‘Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God, and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,’ as a collect puts it. The first reason for joy is the triumph of Our Lord: Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, et Dominus in voce tubae. ‘God has gone up with shouts of joy, the Lord with a trumpet-blast.’ As the members of His body and the subjects of Kingdom we rejoice that the Lord has gone into His glory. The Exodus of Christ from death to life is not complete until He has left this world of corruption, and returned in triumph to the glory that He had before the beginning. The second reason for joy is that exaltation of our Head gives hope to us the members that we will attain to glory: Christi … ascénsio est nostra provéctio, et quo procéssit glória cápitis, eo spes vocátur et córporis. ‘the ascension of Christ … is our exaltation, and, where the head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.’ Continue reading

Use Values and Corn Laws, Aristotelian Marxists and High Tories

In a reply to Owen White’s comment on my last post I claimed that English Toryism worthy of the name suffered it’s final defeat in 1846 with the triumph of the free trade movement and the abolition of the Corn Laws. To explain what I meant I want to consider the account of the anti-conservative nature of capitalism in The Communist Manifesto.  Marx and Engels point out that bourgeois capitalism has dissolved the feudal ties that used to tie men to their ‘natural superiors,’ and that it has stripped human relations down to ‘egotistical calculation,’ and reduced human values to ‘exchange value.’ But they think that this was in a way necessary (one might almost say good) because it has enabled the rise of a revolutionary class who know that they are being oppressed: «for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.» (p. 16) But what if the religious and political institutions that founded pre-capitalist society in Western Europe were not illusions? What would become of their argument then? If one thinks that earthly societies ought to reflect the hierarchical order of the cosmos, then one might indeed think that ‘feudal’ society may have been more defensible then Marx and Engels thought, and that the rise of bourgeois capitalism was not a necessary unveiling of exploitation at all, but just an unmitigated disaster. Continue reading

Schadenfreude and the Elections in the UK

Schadenfreude is not the most noble of human emotions, but it can certainly be very sweet. I must confess that to me the most enjoyable thing about the recent Tory election victory in the UK is the impotent rage and naked despair in the left-wing English newspapers. I don’t much like what passes for Tory politics in England nowadays, and I don’t actually think this Tory victory will make much difference, but the progressives’ despair is really amusing. For a moment the worshipers at the idol of progress doubt their god, and shout in rage at the meaningless nothingness left over after his absence. Continue reading

Strength as Weakness; or the Double Edge of Political Form

The US Supreme Court recently oral arguments for why it should judge “gay marriage” to be required by the United States Constitution. One of the main objections brought against the argument was that this question should not be settled by “nine people outside the ballot box,” but rather “the people acting through the democratic process.” I have little sympathy for this line of argument in the abstract. I approve of the idea of nine learned judges wielding great power in the state by deciding which laws are in conformity with the basic principles of the nation. Continue reading

David Graeber on Usury and the Psychology of the Conquistadors

The ostensible reason for the Spanish conquests in the New World was the bringing of Christ to the natives. But the extraordinary rapacity and cruelty shown by many of the Spanish soldiers often made a mockery of this purpose. Bartolomé de las Casas describes in gruesome and almost incredible detail how countless Indians, including women and children, were murdered. There was something diabolic about the measureless frenzy of their cruelty as de las Casas says, they behaved, “more inhumanely then rapacious Tygres Wolves and Lyons.” Continue reading

per manus sancti angeli tui

I think it probable that created intelligences are at work in all natural operations. They are also, of course, involved in supernatural operations. In the Roman Canon the priest prays that the gifts might be carried “by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high.” Nikolaus Gihr comments as follows:

It must not appear strange that we should implore the ministry and assistance of an angel to present our oblation, for the purpose of making it more acceptable to God and salutary to us. It is a tradition originating in ancient Christian times and frequently expressed by the Church, that the angels who participated in the work of redemption from beginning to end, are also present at and take part in the celebration of the holy Sacrificial Mysteries. As St. Chrysostom says (Of the Priesthood VI, 4): “The priest is himself at that solemn moment surrounded by angels, and the choir of the heavenly Powers unite with him; they occupy the entire space around the altar, to honor Him who lies there as a Sacrifice.” Then the Saint describes a vision, in which was seen a multitude of angels, who, robed in dazzling white garments and with head deeply bowed, surrounded the altar, as warriors standing in the presence of their king. The blessed vocation of the heavenly spirits consists in glorifying God by praise and in assisting man to attain salvation. Now, where could this twofold object be better fulfilled than is actually done during the holy Sacrifice? Hence hosts of angels collect about the altar to procure for God honor on high and for man peace on earth. Between the angels and the Holy Eucharist there exist, undoubtedly, intimate relations, which, indeed, to our weak vision here below remain always shrouded in a mysterious obscurity. Christian tradition speaks not only of the presence of many angels at the celebration of the Holy Mysteries, but it often, moreover, mentions in a determinate manner and yet, at the same time, in an indeterminate manner, a certain angel specially commissioned to carry our prayers and sacrifices before the throne of God. Tertullian says (On Prayer, Chap. 16) that it is highly irreverent to sit in church “before the face of the Living God, while the angel of prayer is still standing there” (sub conspectu Dei vivi angelo adhuc orationis adstante). St. Ambrose writes (In Luc. 1. i, n. 28), that we cannot doubt that “an angel assists” (assistere angelum), when Christ is sacrificed on the altar. Thus the text of the Canon also mentions but one angel. Does it not appear from this that the Church herself would thereby indicate that God intrusts an angel with the special mission of bringing the oblation of the priest and people into His presence? More minute and accurate information relative to this Angel of the Sacrifice of the Mass (Angelus assistens divinis mysteriis S. Thomas III, q. 83, a. 4 ad 9) is not granted to us. Many saints and servants of God had a particular devotion to the angel here mentioned, without being able or willing to decide as to his name.  [Nikolaus Gihr, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, pp. 662-663].

Michel Houellebecq on France’s Distributist Future

I recently listened to an audiobook of the German translation of Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel Soumission— which, as most readers will know, is about Muslim party taking power in France. I am working on a review, and have been checking my favorite passages in the French original. I hope to complete the full review soon, but in the mean time here is a  rough translation of some passages in which Houellebecq discusses distributism. The main objective of the new government is to strengthen the family, and for this purpose they turn to distributism:

Apart from this superficial agitation, France was in the midst of rapid development and profound change. It soon became clear that Mohammed Ben Abbes [the new Muslim president of France] had other ideas apart from Islam; in a press conference he declared to general astonishment that he was influenced by distributism. Actually he had already mentioned this multiple times during his campaign, but since journalists are very naturally inclined to ignore information that they cannot understand, these statements were not passed on to the public. This time he was the sitting president of the republic so that it was necessary for them to bring their research up to date. And so the public learned over the next few weeks that distributism was an economic philosophy that had been developed in England at the start of the 20th century by thinkers such as Gilbert Keith Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. It wanted to take a ‘third way’ between capitalism and communism (which it understood as state capitalism). Its basic idea was the overcoming of the division between capital and labor. The normal form of economic life was to be the family business. If certain branches of production required large scale organization, then everything was to be done to ensure that the workers were co-owners of their company, and co-responsible for its management.  […] An essential element of political philosophy introduced by Chesterton and Belloc was the principle of subsidiarity. According to this principle, no association (whether social, economic or political) should have charge of a function that could be assigned to a smaller association. Pope Pius XI in his encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, provided a definition of this principle: “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.”

(Au-delà de cette agitation superficielle, la France était en train d’évoluer rapidement, et d’évoluer en profondeur. Il apparut bientôt que Mohammed Ben Abbes, même indépendamment de l’islam, avait des idées ; lors d’une séance de questions à la presse, il se déclara influencé par le distributivisme, ce qui plongea ses auditeurs dans un ébahissement général. Il l’avait à vrai dire déjà déclaré, à plusieurs reprises, au cours de la campagne présidentielle ; mais les journalistes ayant une tendance bien naturelle à ignorer les informations qu’ils ne comprennent pas, la déclaration n’avait été ni relevée, ni reprise. Cette fois, il s’agissait d’un président de la république en exercice, il devenait donc indispensable qu’ils mettent à jour leur documentation. Le grand public apprit ainsi au cours des semaines suivantes que le distributivisme était une philosophie économique apparue en Angleterre au début du xxe siècle sous l’impulsion des penseurs Gilbert Keith Chesterton et Hilaire Belloc. Elle se voulait une « troisième voie », s’écartant aussi bien du capitalisme que du communisme – assimilé à un capitalisme d’État. Son idée de base était la suppression de la séparation entre le capital et le travail. La forme normale de l’économie y était l’entreprise familiale ; lorsqu’il devenait nécessaire, pour certaines productions, de se réunir dans des entités plus vastes, tout devait être fait pour que les travailleurs soient actionnaires de leur entreprise, et coresponsables de sa gestion. […] Un des éléments essentiels de la philosophie politique introduite par Chesterton et Belloc était le principe de subsidiarité. D’après ce principe, aucune entité (sociale, économique ou politique) ne devait prendre en charge une fonction pouvant être confiée à une entité plus petite. Le pape Pie XI, dans son ency- clique Quadragesimo Anno, fournissait une définition de ce principe: «Tout comme il est mauvais de reti- rer à l’individu et de confier à la communauté ce que l’entreprise privée et l’industrie peuvent accomplir, c’est également une grande injustice, un mal sérieux et une perturbation de l’ordre convenable pour une organisation supérieure plus large de s’arroger les fonctions qui peuvent être effectuées efficacement par des entités inférieures plus petites.»  [Soumission, pp. 201-202, 210])