A Catalonian nun is being hailed as one of the foremost political thinkers of our time. Residing in the convent of St. Benet, Montserrat, Sister Teresa Forcades is causing a stir both in Roman Catholic circles and in European political circles because of her apparently radical views. The Harvard educated nun has her own YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook pages, and has started a movement – Proces Constituent – which has over 50,000 signatories.
So what are her radical policies? She has put together a ten-point program, which runs as follows:
- A government takeover of all banks and measures to curb financial speculation
- An end to job cuts, fairer wages and pensions, shorter working hours and payments to parents who stay at home
- Genuine “participatory democracy” and steps to curb political corruption
- Decent housing for all, and an end to all foreclosures
- A reversal of public spending cuts, and renationalisation of all public services
- An individual’s right to control their own body, including a woman’s right to decide over abortion
- “Green” economic policies and the nationalisation of energy companies
- An end to xenophobia and repeal of immigration laws
- Placing public media under democratic control, including the internet
- International “solidarity”, leaving NATO, and the abolition of armed forces in a future free Catalonia
Wow! Radical stuff! Powerful and thought provoking, eh? I mean, just imagine if she got her way and these ideas really began to take off, not only in Catalonia, but throughout the world. Why, we might end up with big government centrally controlling entire economies, mass redistribution of wealth, a gargantuan welfare system, massive government debt, abortion on demand and state control of the media. Like I say, powerfully radical! Remind you of anything?
Actually, aside from reminding me of every failed socialist state of the 20th century, and much of the status quo in our Marxist-lite nations, what it also reminds me of is an essay produced by a rather dull 14-year-old idealist who despite having never worked, raised a family, owned property or paid taxes, has for some unknown reason been asked for his solutions to the world’s problems:
“I think that there should only be one bank. If there were only one bank it would be much easier to control and that way you wouldn’t get any corruption. I think that everyone should have a job and if there aren’t any jobs about, companies should employ more people. Everyone should get paid the same wages as everyone else. That would be fair.”
Or maybe the answers to the sort of questions they ask contestants in the Miss World competition:
“So Miss Catalonia, if you could remake the world, what would it look like?”
“Oh, there would be world peace, everyone would have the job of their dreams and a nice house. Politics would only be open to truly good people with truly good views. And I think that we should get rid of nations because nations cause so much strife and bad feeling. In a world without nations, people would have no reason to hate or distrust one another, and would live together in peace and harmony. Just like John Lennon said.”
“And what about free ice cream?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot that. Free ice cream for everyone in the whole world.”
“Thanks Miss Catalonia. We’ll email your solutions to the General Secretary of the UN.”
Sister Teresa is being hailed as Europe’s most radical nun, to which I can only lament the shortage of radical nuns in Europe these days. So what about the details? Let’s just follow through on some of the points.
Sister Teresa wants a government takeover of banks, forming part of her apparent aim to tear down international capitalism. Here at least we can agree on one point. I want to see international capitalism torn down as well. But our reasons for wanting this and what we would like to see replacing it are, shall we say, somewhat different.
I want to see international capitalism torn down because it bears as much resemblance to true capitalism as Sister Teresa’s teachings do to the teachings of the Bible. What we have masquerading as capitalism is phony capitalism, crony capitalism, or – as Doug Wilson has so eloquently named it – crapitalism. True capitalism is a free market, not a state-regulated market such as we now have. True capitalism lets businesses open freely and businesses trade freely and businesses go to the wall freely when they are unprofitable. The only role played by the state in a truly capitalist system would be to prosecute if a business commits fraud or theft.
Sister Teresa wants a government takeover of all banks, but she appears not to have noticed that governments already control the banking system through the mass of regulations which create insurmountable barriers for anyone else entering the market. In fact, the market is so heavily regulated by the state that if anyone else wanted to join in, the best advice you could give them – unless they happen to be a billionaire with links to the political parties – would be “forget it”.
What we have is fascism – in the true sense of that word – where governments largely control businesses through regulations. What Sister Teresa is proposing is not doing away with free market capitalism – this is impossible because it doesn’t exist – but rather doing away with fascism and moving to pure Marxism, where instead of a having a few bloated and corrupt organizations running the entire market in cahoots with the government, you have one gigantic bloated and corrupt organization called the government running the entire market. Is that a good thing? Well Sister Teresa is welcome to take us to one of the many places where this has been tried and show us where it actually enhanced the quality of life of the poor – if she can find one.
What of Sister Teresa’s call for no job cuts, fairer wages and shorter working hours? What does this actually mean? What it means is more government intervention in businesses, regulating who they can and can’t hire and fire, how much they pay and how long they work. Would this result in more people being employed on higher wages and working lower hours? No, the result would be to drive smaller companies out of business, as they would no longer be profitable, and it would mean preventing other entrepreneurs from entering the market, thus leaving the market in the hands of a few gigantic companies. And then of course when the corruption of those oligarchies becomes apparent, capitalism can again take the blame and the state can once again come riding to the rescue.
As for decent housing for all, well it’s a nice idea, but in the real world this is what ought to be called the economics of Santa Claus – the kind of thoughtless idealism that actually believes that money, jobs and housing can just be dropped from the sky by the state and nobody has to pay.
But the problem is that somebody does actually have to pay for all of this and it isn’t the state. It is the taxpayer. And the more you take from taxpayers to pay for all that decent housing for others, the more you disincentivize their work. Besides, I think that the Sister needs to get out more and go and visit some of the “decent housing” aka “little grey, square, concrete squalor-holes” that socialism has provided whenever it has attempted this act of benevolence.
A reversal of all public spending cuts? I had always thought that the one thing nuns learnt in their convents was the idea of thrift. Not the modern radical nuns it seems. I had also thought that the size of the government debt in countries like Spain ought to have freaked people out enough to see that it is a really bad idea to continue on this course. Again, apparently not. What are they teaching nuns at Harvard these days?
What about the call to end xenophobia? How do you intend to bring this about Sister? Can you change hearts by state decree? Actually, there seems to me to be a rather funny contradiction here. The radical Sister is calling for an end to xenophobia and an end to immigration laws at the same time as calling for Catalonian independence. There may not be anything in this, but the more mischievous amongst us might wonder whether there is any latent xenophobia toward the Spanish in the Sister’s desire for independence. Maybe, maybe not. But why can’t you Catalonians and Spanish just be friends, forget national borders and just all get along with each other?
What exactly does placing the media and internet under democratic control mean? The internet is one of the few things that comes close to a truly free market. A few years ago, if I wanted to buy a book, for example, I had the choice between about three or four giant booksellers and some random second hand bookstores that I might chance upon. Now, through companies like Amazon and ABE, I have the choice of a multitude more from across the globe, which means that a) I can get my hands on just about any book I want to and b) I can usually get it much cheaper than I would have been able to a few years ago. Is there a problem with this? Does it sound too much like a free market and enhancing the quality of life for some? How would placing this under “democratic control” – whatever that means – enhance it? Would it mean more books, more competition, and cheaper prices? Or is the cynic inside me right to suspect that “democratic control” probably means the opposite?
There is one final point, and it is all about choice. Now everybody would agree that choice is not an absolute right. There are some things that choice cannot be given for. The question is where you draw the line between choice and non-choice.
For example, if the question “Do you think people have the right to choose to kill an innocent person?” were asked, most people would answer no. And if the question “Do you think that people have the right to choose which bank they use?” were asked, most people would answer yes.
Yet in Sister Teresa’s thinking, and the thinking of multitudes, the answers to these questions are actually reversed because they redefine the questions. “Do you think people have the right to kill an innocent person?” is changed to “Do you think that a woman has the right to have an abortion?” and suddenly the answer shifts from no to yes.” Do you think that people have the right to choose which bank they use?” is changed to “Do you think that the banking system, which is so corrupt, should be allowed to continue this way without the government taking control of it?” and this time the answer shifts from yes to no.
This appears to be the world that Sister Teresa is offering us: one where a woman has the right to choose to kill her unborn baby, but does not have the right to choose which bank she uses because there is only one. Is there not something peculiarly warped and twisted about this?
Sister Teresa claims to be driven by her Christian faith in absolutely everything she does. Yet her solutions are certainly not driven by the teachings of the Bible which contains no such worldview. Rather, they are simply a return to the failed policies of every socialist and communist state since the bearded one and his friend wrote their solutions a century-and-a-half ago. For truly radical ideas on how to sort out the economic mess our nations are in and build a society that actually does enhance the quality of life of the poor, the Sister will have to leave behind the Gospel of Marx and go and find the answers in a book he despised.