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From Karen House Catholic Worker:

-  Building a New Society: Spring 2008 RoundTable

- The Global Economy: Fall 2001 RoundTable


From the Los Angeles Catholic Worker:

- Free Market Capitalism: Robbing the Poor  - Jeff Deitrich

- The Bailout: Socialism For Wall Street - Interview with Mark Engler


From the Houston Catholic Worker:

- Faith and the Financial Crisis  - Jim Consedine

- It's All About Usury - John Médaille








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From the Des Moines Catholic Worker:

- Trying to Serve God and Money is a Losing Bet - Frank Cordaro

- Heterosexism as a Metaphor for Capitalism and Other Sins - Mona Shaw


From the Catholic Worker Founders:

- On Economics: Easy Essays- Peter Maurin

- On Interest and Money Lending- Dorothy Day








More on Distributism (economic system promoted by the Catholic Worker):

- JustPeace.org

- "Roots of the Catholic Worker Movement: Distributism: Ownershipof the Means of Production and Alternative to the Brutal Global Market" - Mark and Louise Zwick





Free Market Capitalism: Robbing the Poor 

- Jeff Deitrich


Please visit the LA Catholic Worker website to download the Catholic Agitator, and this article.

Information for the following article was drawn largely from "The Shock

Doctorine" by Naomi Klein (see Catholic Agitator Aug. 2008) and "How to Rule The World" by MarkEngler.


Karl Marx may have gotten

a lot of things wrong, but one

of the things that he did get

right was the concept of class

warfare. We are in a class war and

the wealthy elite are winning, and

the poor of the world, including the

poor and even the middle class of the

United States, are losing. The $700

billion Wall Street bailout is only the

latest skirmish in a powerful resurgence

war of capital against the poor

over the last thirty years, which has

precipitated a world-wide transference

of wealth such that the top 1%

of the population now owns more

than the bottom 56% combined.

Along with our foundress, Dorothy

Day, who once said that our problems

stem from our acceptance of

this "filthy rotten system," I share an

abhorrence of a system based upon

greed, hoarding, and competitiveness.

So, I hesitate to make distinctions

between a good capitalism and a

bad capitalism, but it is almost

impossible to explain our present

dilemma without recourse to such


For purposes of this article,

then, we can regard the "good

Capitalism" as the one that was

born out of the twin disasters of the

20th century—The Great Depression

and World War II. This is the

economy formed most essentially by

economist John Maynard Keynes,

and Franklin Roosevelt and the

New Deal. It is an economy that

was created to save capitalism from

its own excesses. It recognized

the dangers of unregulated markets

and unprotected workers. It was

what Naomi Klein, in her book

The Shock Doctrine, called “decent

Capitalism—social security in the

U.S., public healthcare in Canada,

welfare in Britain, workers' protections

in France and Germany.” It is

to some extent the economy that most

Americans think we still have, that

protects us from the worst aspects of

capitalism and redirects wealth towards

pressing social needs and the

common good." (Klein p. 55)

This Keynesian doctrine was also

practiced in a more radical form in

the emerging Third World nations of

the post-war era, where economists

sought an even more radical variant

of the "managed economy," advocating

the regulization or even nationalization

of oil, mineral, and other key industries, so that a healthy share

of the proceeds fed a government-led

development process. "Nationalists

like Argentina's Juan Peron put their

ideas into practice with a vengeance,

pouring public money into infrastructure

projects such as highways and

steel plants, giving local business

generous subsidies to build their

new factories, churning out cars and

washing machines, and keeping foreign

imports out with forbiddingly

high tariffs." (Klein p. 56)

According to Klein, and others, the

post-war engines of regulated capitalism

were not only creating vast new

pools of wealth, but the wealth itself

was being redistributed in an unprecedented


numbers both in the industrial world

and the Third World were doing

well under a regulated or even

nationalized market system. But

the titans of capital chaffed at the

bit of government regulation and

sought to dismantle the ideology

of the New Deal. And they found

their Avenging Angel in economist

Milton Friedman.

Again, for purposes of this essay,

we will call Milton Friedman's

brand of unregulated, rapacious

capitalism, "bad Capitalism." In the

1950s, at the height of Keynesian

regulated Capitalism, Milton Friedman

was a little-known professor

at the University of Chicago who

developed his theories of unregulated

free-market Capitalism as a

direct antidote to the New Deal, and

called for the complete deregulation

of capitalist markets. It was

Friedman's project to develop an

economic theory that rivaled the

hard sciences in its precision and

accuracy. He envisioned the market

much like a natural ecosystem that,

if left to its own, would find its

natural balance.

Thus, his theories called for

deregulation of the markets,

privatization of public utilities and

services—water, power, health care,

libraries, schools—and the elimination

of all social services. Once the

government got off the back of the

market, there would be a painful

sorting-out period, but ultimately

balance would be restored in a natural

manner resulting in tremendous

wealth creation and, ultimately, a

trickle-down to the poorest levels of

the economy.

Friedman’s economic theory is

variously known as “Free Market

Capitalism,” “free trade,” or “neo

liberalism.” And during its early

years, when John Kenneth Galbraith

and the Harvard School of

New Deal economics held sway, his

theories got very little traction in

the intellectual world. But not surprisingly,

he found quite a following

among the powerful. “Though

always cloaked in the language

of math and science, Friedman’s

vision coincided precisely with the

interests of large multinationals,

which by nature hungered for new

unregulated markets.” (Klein p. 57)

Friedman, a brilliant mathematician

and skilled debater, lent an

aura of academic respectability and

scientific detachment to doctrines

that would otherwise seem selfserving,

at best, or rapacious and

immoral, at worst, if proposed by

members of the wealthy corporate

elite. Friedman quickly became

the darling of the rich and powerful

who enthusiastically promoted his


As Mark Engler says in his new

book, How to Rule the World: “Of

course a select group of elites stood

to profit handsomely from the implementation

of Milton Friedman’s

ideas and they were naturally eager

to see them put into practice. The

event that provided the neo-liberals

a real world opportunity to test their

ideas was one of the most ignoble

moments in Latin American history:

the 1973 assassination of Chile’s

democratically elected president,

Salvador Allende, and the institution

of dictator Augusto Pinochet.”

(Engler p. 10)

The implementation of Friedman’s

policies was a disaster for Chilean

workers and the poor, but the

wealthy elites made out like bandits,

and the “Chilean Model” became

the prototype for other emerging

states in the world economy. “As

a generation of neo-liberals gained

power over time...their ideas became

known as the ‘Washington Consensus.’

In country after country they

recommended privatizing public industries,

opening markets to foreign

investment and competitions, and

reshaping local economies that were

traditionally based on small scale

agriculture; they curtailed government

spending which cut away

safety nets for the displaced....they

promoted reforming taxes, often

shifting the burden away from the

wealthy; they advocated tight money

which limited government’s ability

to stimulate their economies and

reduce unemployment. And they

favored controls on capital flows,

changing investment from a longterm

‘bricks and mortar’ endeavor to

a speculative game in which billions

of dollars could cross borders in an

instant.” (Engler p. 13)

Though most Americans are unfamiliar

with the term neo-liberalism,

Milton Friedman’s doctrines of free

trade and free markets have actually

been the guiding principles of

the U.S. domestic economy since

Ronald Reagan, and they form the

very heart of the neo-conservative

doctrine of the Bush regime, providing

religious fervor to its growing

number of advocates, Republican

and Democrat alike, who want to

“get government off our backs.”

Every time a Republican legislator

calls for increased tax cuts, he wraps

himself in the ideology of Milton

Friedman and speaks with the

righteousness of an Old Testament

prophet, seeking to save his people

from the abomination of big government.

But, unlike most religious

fanatics, we can, thanks to Friedman,

actually “prove” mathematically and

scientifically that tax cuts to the rich

will in fact bring salvation to all the

people, rich and poor alike. He fervently

believes that the world will

be saved by tax cuts to the rich. The

beauty of the Friedman ideology is

that it provides its adherents the best

of both worlds: religion and science,

faith and certainty,all in the same

package—it is an incomparable doctrine

of religious orthodoxy.

But it has been a disaster for the

U.S. economy, precipitating the loss

of manufacturing jobs, the plethora

of cheap Chinese goods produced

by slave labor, the deregulation of

markets, rampant speculation and

exorbitant bailouts.

It is the source of many of our domestic

ills; increasing illegal immigration,

(a direct result of NAFTA,

which destroyed the domestic economy

of Mexico and forced millions

to migrate north or die) and creating

our exploding prison population of

over two million (the largest prison

population in the world, a sure sign

of our nation’s inability to provide

jobs and education). It is the single

most important reason why the U.S.

has the worst healthcare system in

the industrialized world.

Beginning with Reagan, taxes on

the very rich (those making over

2.5 million) have been slashed from

91% to 27%, and with George Bush,

their taxes have again been slashed

to 15%. According to Warren Buffet,

the richest man in the world, the

poor are losing the class war. "Since

Bush became president," he says,

"over 5 million people have slipped

into poverty; 7 million people in the

U.S. have lost their health insurance;

median household income has gone

down by nearly $1,300; 3 million

manufacturing jobs have been lost;

3 million U.S. workers have lost

their pensions; home foreclosures are

now the highest on record; personal

savings is below zero, which hasn't

happened since the Great Depression;

real earnings of college graduates

have gone down by 5%; entry level

wages for male and female high

school graduates have fallen by over

3%; and salaries are now at the lowest

share of the GDP since 1929."

(quoted on Air America)

We can only hope that this ongoing

market disaster unveils the failure of

neo-liberalism and exposes it for the

self-serving ideology that it is: vile

plunder of the poor and of the common

wealth of the nation.

Though I am a Catholic Worker and

I find the entire capitalist system reprehensible,

I much prefer a "leashed

capitalism" to the unrestrained,

rapacious capitalist dogs of neoliberalism

that have run rough-shod

over the world economy for the last

thirty years

According to economist Robert

Polin, "This is a massive crisis of

Friedmanite economics and neo-liberalism

in general—which all along

touted free markets and de-regulation

to privatize profits, but comes begging

for government bailouts when

the inevitable crisis emerged...I

would say that if the Left is unable to

defeat neo-liberalism now, and build

some version of social democracy

or 'leashed capitalism,' then we will

never do it." Ω