The great error underlying all modern social and economic thought and practice is the assumption that capitalism and communism, as supposed opposites, are the only options.

Since the appearance of Adam Smith's Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations  (1776) and of the Communist Manifesto (1848) of Marx and Engels, humanity has been locked in a false dichotomy of thought and practice -- wrongly viewing capitalism and communism as thesis and antithesis, and as mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive theoretical and policy options. The truth, however, is that these two doctrines -- at the most fundamental level -- are kindred creeds that, for kindred reasons, operate in ways contrary both to human flourishing and to Divine favor.

Capitalism and communism -- despite appearances, despite propaganda, and despite certain functional differences that prove ultimately superficial -- agree on a deeper level by viewing men in the abstract as deracinated, calculating agents. Both capitalism and communism view people as little more than producers and consumers, devoid, for example, of real and created individual uniqueness, Providential value, and Divine vocation. Under both systems, life without deeper meaning and deeper connection to God and to others is suffered and spent in a cold, grubbing, faceless and profoundly anti-social "society" within a Godless, egalitarian, techno-materialist world.

The capitalist creed of selfishness and self-interest says at bottom: "Every man for himself, and Devil take the hindmost." And this is true, despite all Austrian School economic rationalizations of self-interest, and despite all tendentious Ayn-Randian moral encomiums to the "virtue of selfishness." Marxist communism says at bottom: "Christianity is a mere superstition and opiate of the masses, capitalists are expropriators who should themselves be expropriated for justice's sake -- and don't fret the totalitarian state used therefor." But beneath these ultimately kindred agendas of selfishness and expropriation lies the deep and shared problem of both systems. Neither capitalism nor communism view man as he actually is -- as a concrete social being with a rational soul and a divine vocation. It is true, orthodox (pre-Enlightenment) Christianity alone that views man as he actually is.

True Christianity, as the (one and only true) religion established by God the Creator, views men as, at minimum, Divinely wrought vessels of common -grace gifts, recipients in unequal measure of physical and mental powers and attributes unique to each individual. And scattered among humanity at large are the minority elect of God, recipients of saving and sanctifying grace superadded to common grace. So humanity at large consists of vessels of Divine wrath and vessels of Divine mercy.

Human societies, at any given time, are majority unbelieving, and majority reprobate. Establishing and maintaining Christian society — characterized by selfless love of God and neighbor, ordered liberty, and limits on State power -- is therefore a statistical improbability and Herculean challenge in any age. In modernity, the capitalist appeal to selfishness and material prosperity -- followed closely and hotly by the communist appeal to "distributive justice", envy and power-lust -- have proved compelling, unstoppable, and impossible to resist for weak -- and highly suggestible and corruptible -- fallen mankind. This is especially so since these doctrines came dressed in clever and subtle intellectual rationalizations of their great and characteristic sins.

In little over two centuries, industrial capitalism transformed humanity and the globe by its enormous and unprecedented material productive forces and achievements. Since 1750, and especially since 1800, human populations and aggregate wealth have exploded exponentially. Amidst the enormous den and bustle of capitalism, combined with the loud clamor of socialist-communist critics, materially-occupied humanity, despite much suffering, has been little disposed to fathom the moral effects and spiritual costs of modern economies, whether capitalist or communist.

Institutions -- including family and church and other local associations -- that historically have prioritized and cultivated individual character and the virtues have fared poorly in materialist modernity. The moral-institutional destruction wrought by modern capitalism and communism has been staggering and unmatched since the Flood, and has entailed vast (and as yet unreckoned) concomitant human suffering. In short, the wealth and population and technological explosions wrought by industrial capitalism, combined with Marxist atheism, have pushed humanity further than ever from the Lord.

But, however seductive and chimerical, capitalism and communism, as doctrines purporting the human good, are proven failures. They fail, at bottom, because they focus on a part and not on the whole of man's nature. They fail because they view some chosen and favored part of man as the whole of man. They fail because, as doctrines conceived by carnal and unregenerate minds, they don't clearly see and acknowledge man's fallen nature, and don't love man enough to grasp his whole nature and to take his good more seriously.

Though capitalism and communism acknowledge in somewise unequal ability and unequal needs, neither attends — in a prudential and tailored and loving way -- to the needs of persons for more or for less externally-imposed personal supervision or government, or for more or for less protection from predations by others. Neither system acknowledges the fundamental political truth that those who cannot govern themselves from within must be governed from without, both for their own sakes and for the good of society. As Burke famously said: "Men of intemperate minds cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters." And neither system acknowledges how, due to unequally distributed gifts and opportunities, some may sinfully dominate others in the wars of wits that characterize competition for power, position and wealth in markets and in governments. But Christian society, in contrast, with its emphasis on love of God and of neighbor as of self, involves personally tailored government — the ideal being government at all levels — from family to State -- in proper measure. Christians call this the principle of subsidiary, whereby as much decision-making and governing as possible is done at the more local levels, starting with the family — the foundational and most fundamental political unit.

Though capitalism and communism recognize, in their own ways, that the political wits and market acumen of men are far from equal, neither fathom -- or counter by endemic doctrinal provisions -- the inevitable resultant exploitation, plunder and tyranny that violate the Biblical commands to love God and neighbor. Unequally distributed grace — manifested as self-control or its absence -- necessitates tailored and unequal government between individuals. Mental and physical weakness and vulnerability invoke the Christian duty of the mentally and physically strong to protect the weak. But protection, to be effectual, requires that the protector control the protected as needed. In return for this protection and personal government, the overseeing person or master receives as a right due payment in the form of the labor of the protected servant or slave.

Neither the capitalist nor the communist understand or value true freedom or liberty. But in Christian society, liberty is rightly understood as a Providential reward for actualized moral and intellectual virtue, while slavery is recognized and honored both as necessary and loving personal government for the vicious and as loving protection for the weak. Scripture makes clear the rights and duties of both master and slave in the Old and New Testaments. And this system of Christian domestic slavery, for which there is historical precedent, when properly organized and maintained in accord with Old and New Testament commands from God, benefits all.

But of course, in modernity, all forms of personal slavery, Christian and otherwise, are anathema. As George Fitzhugh (1806-1881), the great Southern social philosopher, observed: "The ancients took it for granted that slavery was right, and never attempted to justify it. The moderns assume that it is wrong, and forthwith proceed to denounce it."

In modernity, capitalist and communist propaganda FOR capitalism and communism has included propaganda AGAINST Christian society in general and Christian slavery in particular.

The proponents and beneficiaries of both the capitalist and communist systems have done much propagandizing, not only against each other, but against, most of all, their shared enemy, traditional Christian society. Espousing so-called "free society", capitalists and communists have joined in denouncing all social and economic arrangements involving hierarchy and subordination in accord with evolved custom and with inevitable individual moral-intellectual differences found in real society. The result of this modernist propaganda was the destruction of traditional, feudalistic Christian political order across Europe and in the American South.

Few have noticed that many abolitionists — in America, Britain and elsewhere -- were both advocates and direct monetary beneficiaries of emerging "free labor" industrial capitalism. The capitalist saves capital when laborers — free to work and free to starve -- underbid one another in competition for jobs. He saves again by paying a wage only, and not for support of the worker during illness, age or other incapacity. After all, workers are more easily exploited by the

capitalist when torn away from and unprotected by Christian slave-masters. Workers are more easily commanded, indoctrinated, used up and cast aside by capitalists or by the Marxist Total State when they are first atomistically severed from master and family. And the capitalist and commissar, unlike the Christian slave-master, have no incentive in personal property to care for the expendable and easily-replaced "free" worker. But the master had cared for his slave, in large part, precisely because the slave was HIS; and Christian States further implemented provisions to ensure the masters' or lords' proper care, provision and treatment of their people. What historic tragedy then, when the tyranny and poverty of "free-labor" wage slavery replaced the cradle-to-grave affection and care of Christian domestic slavery. Family destruction, penury, beggary and crime rates, for example, exploded across the land.

Modern capitalism bulldozed Christian feudalism; and it is no accident or mere coincidence then that the authors of the Communist Manifesto heap high praise on modern capitalism for that demolition. The selfish individualism of capitalism has indeed generated enormous and unprecedented wealth and paved the way for atheistic, totalitarian state communism. And, per the Marxist narrative, after the final overthrow of capitalism — somehow -- the state would wither away and "society" as a whole would JUSTLY command the means of production, assign duties and distribute proceeds to all. In 1848, Marx and Engels promised: "... the public power (i.e., the State) will lose its political character. ... In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all."

The withering away of the State is the great unexplained and unexplainable of Marxism — the great counter-intuitive, counter-factual and counter-historical promise -- a fantastical article of faith, and a promissory note impossible of fulfilment. The wily authors, one suspects, banked on gullible readers. But then, as Malcolm Muggeridge put it: "People do not believe lies because they have to, but because they want to."

In the Manifesto, the authors contemptuously state that Christian replies to "enlightenment" critiques of the faith are unworthy of response: "The charges against Communism made from a religious, a philosophical, and, generally, from an ideological standpoint, are not deserving of serious examination." And all ideas and claims to objective truth, except pro-Communist ideas and claims, are mere subjective products of changing material conditions. And significantly, for Marx, capitalism is worthy of criticism but Christianity is not: "When Christian ideas succumbed in the 18th Century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie." And this, in part, is because the sins of capitalism — with its grasping materialism and abuses of labor -- were plainer to Marx and followers, making it the easier and preferred target.

But again, contrary to popular belief, the main enemy of Marx and the main target of Marxism was never capitalism. It was and is, instead, true, orthodox, pre-Enlightenment Christianity and traditional, conservative, 'feudalistic' Christian society.

But the atheistic materialism of capitalism and communism — whatever their supposed progressivism and inevitability -have not redounded to human happiness and human flourishing. Believing himself enlightened and free and progressive and superior to all that came before, benighted, deracinated modern man — whether capitalist or communist — understands neither himself nor the world around him. Isolated, appetitive, animalistic, alienated and spiritually impoverished, modern man has, by degrees, become depressed, violent and suicidal. These fundament social realities -in which we tiny and finite men now swim -- prompt deep questions about the roles of capitalism and communism in our infinite God's wider Providence.

God allows men, both individually and politically, to stray, but only to a point, and never without consequences. Underscoring this truth, the Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC) said: "You may drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she will nevertheless come back." In modern times, certain political movements -- reactive against and contrary to capitalism and communism -- evince created nature's less and more forceful attempts to return. And we perceive this as we thoughtfully review modern political doctrines and practice.

Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. Communism is a political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class warfare and leading toward an increasingly internationalist society in which all property is "publicly" owned, and each person

works and is paid according to the principle: from each to his abilities to each according to his needs. Socialism is commonly viewed as a softer form of communism, or as a transition stage to it. Meanwhile, the return of nature in modernity can be seen in the phenomena of conservatism and fascism.

Conservatism dreams of seceding from or of decentralizing and minimizing the modern consolidated communist or state-capitalist Leviathan. Nationalistic or fascistic socialism aims to preserve private property and nationhood and Das Volk — against internationalist laissez-faire and communist predations and threats -- while harnessing large capitalistic enterprise in behalf of general, national society.

At root, the conservative responses to the French Revolution and the fascist responses to Bolshevism were rebellions by hierarchical, created nature against the deracinating egalitarianism, atheism, atomism and hyper-abstract anthropologies of anarchistic capitalism and statist-totalitarian communism. Conservatism and fascism are, at bottom, naturalistic and religious counter-rebellions against prior anti-Christian metaphysical rebellions by capitalism and communism.

Put another way, conservatism is a traditionalist response to liberalism; and fascism is a defiant and forceful response, in behalf of conservative values, to violent, revolutionary communism. So communism is the militant form of liberalism, while fascism is the militant form of conservatism. And these essential but unpopular truths — dear reader -- are hard to descry in part because conservative movements and policy typically sport market mechanics and rhetoric while their fascist counterparts sport socialistic state mechanics and rhetoric. As deep spiritual responses to modern anti-spiritual, atheistic materialism, conservatism and fascist -- while often found bound up in the market and state mechanics of modern capitalism and communism respectively -- are, at root, essentially pre-modern voices in defense of tradition, church and nation.

Conservatism and fascism are defined by the fact that they strive, in their overlapping and disparate ways, in behalf of pre-modern values. They reject both the abstract individualism of modern capitalism and the abstract collectivism of modern communism. Conservatism and fascism are rebellions by created nature against the prior atheistic metaphysical rebellions by capitalism and communism against pre-modern, feudalistic, traditional Christian society.

Rightly understood, the centralized Caesarism and fasces of Spanish, Italian and German fascism were natural, prudential and necessary martial responses — in defense of the West and of European Christendom — to the dual existential threat posed by the demoralizing and piratical imperialist-internationalist capitalism of the United States and Britain, and by murderous, atheistic, carnal-Jew Soviet Bolshevism. So in modernity, conservatism and fascism point backward to Christian feudalism, forward to possible earthly Christian renaissance, and then finally, to the Lord's direct and perfect rule, in the After, of the elect in Heaven, and of the reprobate in Hell.


Winston McCuen is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Furman University, holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Emory University and is a John C. Calhoun scholar. A former Latin teacher, he also holds multiple welding certifications and is a certified and senior nuclear metallurgical welding engineer.

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