20 January, 2023

Capitalism Eating Itself

One of the criticisms that have been made about the distributist movement is that we make false characterizations about capitalism. We take selective examples of abusive behavior taking place within capitalism and use them to criticize capitalism as a whole. We use terms like calling average employees the proletariat and “wage slaves” to reflect how capitalists treat the working classes they claim to “lift up.” Our critics say that these are not the norm for capitalism; they are the exception and not the rule. However, what distributists actually say is that capitalism as a system is morally neutral because it is only about money and “what the market will bear.” Distributists respond that this is how capitalism really exists in the world, and that very fact is what ultimately makes it an unjust system. As I have mentioned many times, most capitalists will insist that everyone involved in business should act in a moral and ethical way, but many of them will also admit that capitalism as a system does not enforce that in any real way. The revelations of Steven Crowder and the Daily Wire over the last two days have shown how right we are.

Now, I need to start by clarifying that I am not, in any way, claiming that Steven Crowder is a distributist, on his way to becoming one, or even that he’s friendly to our movement. He seems to be arguing that the dispute he is having is more of a “conservative” versus “liberal” issue, and that the conservatives at the Daily Wire are acting more like liberals by making the offers they do and holding the positions they have. His “Stop Big CON” movement seems to be more of a claim that the big corporate conservative media movement, as represented by the Daily Wire, is actually a false flag because they actually cooperate with the policies of the liberal leadership of the big tech companies rather than help smaller creators be successful without having to bow to Big Tech.

Now, distributists may laugh as such an assertion, but Crowder seems to be sincere in thinking this. I’m not surprised. Today’s capitalists, particularly those who are conservatives, don’t seem to realize that what they believe to be the ideals of capitalism have never actually been part of capitalism as it has actually historically existed. Few aspects of Adam Smith’s view have actually been implemented besides the “invisible hand.” Crowder laments that the phrase, “it’s just business,” is what capitalists throughout the history of capitalism have said to justify actions that, to normal people, are wrong. Think about it. Capitalists do actually say that, so much so that it has become a meme. When do capitalists say “it’s just business?” He points out that it isn’t when they are giving large amounts of money to charity that they say this. It is usually when they are laying off a lot of employees after a corporate buyout, or when they are using predatory anti-competitive practices to put competitors out of business. The distributist point is that they do say it, and it is perfectly natural for them to do so because capitalism as a system has always been viewed as a field separated from ethics and morals.

The basic information about the disagreement between Steven Crowder and the Daily Wire can be seen through three videos that have been released at the time of this publication. “It’s time to stop…” by Steven Crowder,[1]Our Offer to Steven Crowder” by the Daily Wire,[2] and “I didn’t want to do this…” by Steven Crowder.[3] There have been lots of commentaries, but these videos represent the positions of the actual parties involved in this disagreement. One thing that needs to be said about Steven Crowder in this issue is that he is taking a moral stand for those whose position in conservative media is nowhere near his own. He appears to be genuinely looking out for the “little guy,” and I commend him for this. The Daily Wire made it clear in the conversation Crowder recorded that the bad terms were part of their normal process of negotiating with everyone, and not an exception because they were dealing with someone with as large a business as Crowder has. In fact, the Daily Wire representative actually said that the smaller creators would work as “wage slaves” for a little while. Yes, he actually used that term about the smaller creators in a serious, matter of fact, way as though “it’s just business.”

So, while I still have some fundamental disagreements with Crowder, the information revealed so far indicates that Crowder is trying to apply some ethics to conservative capitalism and the Daily Wire seems to be acting in a predatory manner. In this, he appears to stand much closer to our position than the Daily Wire, even if he would cringe at hearing this fact. Even if the terms sent to Crowder were just a preliminary position to start negotiations, Crowder’s argument is that smaller creators don’t necessarily have the legal resources to recognize the truly bad portions of the deal, and might sign it without sufficient negotiation. Does anyone believe that the Daily Wire would pull back on those provisions which are extremely beneficial to themselves if faced with someone willing to sign the contract? This appears to be a major factor in Crowder’s objection to the practice.

This should help you understand the actual position of distributists against capitalism. Capitalism could be done in a moral way. There is nothing inherently immoral with one person owning productive capital and employing others to do the actual productive work on that capital. However, capitalism as it exists is part of a philosophical movement that separated economics from ethics and morals. In trying to convince other conservatives to apply ethical standards in their economic interactions, Crowder is taking a similar stance to our own position. Distributism is based on a view that economics, as a field of study and activity, is a sub-category of ethics, and we are actively trying to show others why society needs to return to that view.

[1] https://rumble.com/v260f88-its-time-to-stop....html
[2] https://rumble.com/v267coq-our-offer-to-steven-crowder.html
[3] https://rumble.com/v26c2hu-i-didnt-want-to-do-this....html 

Cover image is a screenshot from the video "It's time to stop..." by Steven Crowder

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