In case you haven’t heard, there is apparently a new small sub-group of Catholics who have decided that it’s time to end the American Experiment. They call themselves Tradinistas.
In their own words, the Tradinistas are “a small party of young Christian socialists committed to traditional orthodoxy, to a politics of virtue and the common good, and to the destruction of capitalism, and its replacement by a truly social political economy.”
“a small party of young Christian socialists committed to traditional orthodoxy, to a politics of virtue and the common good, and to the destruction of capitalism, and its replacement by a truly social political economy.”
The term itself is a combination of the words “traditionalist” and “Sandinista.” Whether or not this ‘group’ is really a group is debatable. But they do have a manifesto that spells out their aims. It also calls attention to the phenomenon that in large part drove many millennials and Generation Zers to support Bernie Sanders. It has also given John Zmirak a reason to have some fun at their expense, saying the Tradinistas “want a guaranteed lifelong paycheck, without the indignity of actually having to work. They also want a pony.”
In fairness, the Tradinista 20-point manifesto is one which is in a few instances praiseworthy – but in others very foolish. For instance, it says, “Jesus Christ is the way, and the truth, and the life, who became man for the salvation of all.” And “Abortion is a horrifying crime which must be eradicated immediately.” Praiseworthy statements these. But then it also makes some rather odd declarations like “The goal of political authority is to create a good and virtuous people.” And “Capitalism must be abolished.” Methinks these young people are reading the wrong books.
Millennials and Zers Want Something Better
Today’s young people are smart enough to know that this country is in a bit of mess. They blame Wall Street, the banks, big corporations, and a dis-functional Washington, probably in that order, for our problems. They see that our politicians owe their jobs to their donors and they see cronyism as the bane of society and our democracy. And many of them have fully bought into what the Social Justice Warriors are selling.
To some extent, it’s not that hard to understand where these Millennials and Gen Zers are coming from. It’s why they liked Bernie Sanders. He confirmed their opinions of who is to blame for all our problems and offered socialism as the cure.
Unfortunately, just like Bernie, they mistake cronyism for capitalism and the role of government for that of religion. Many of them may be college graduates, but they are woefully ‘undereducated’ in economics as well as in matters of faith and doctrine.
Feelings Are Replacing Reason
As one Bernie fan wrote in a com box on an article about voting, “Bernie Sanders, however, (a truly good, sincere and honest man who cares about the people, and has a 100% consistent record) is the only candidate worthy of a Christian voter with any kind of intelligence and spiritual discernment. I would love to see the church turn its influence once again to issues of social justice.”
The young lady also opined that “The problem is not the state. The problem is exploitation. The state exists because of exploitation, and in support of exploitation. The state cannot and will not be ended until exploitation is ended, yet those who claim a desire to end the state refuse to admit that exploitation is even real.” Karl Marx would be proud.
It’s hard to tell if this young lady is Catholic or Protestant but it’s telling that she would favor a candidate who is a pro-abortion socialist. Her feelings for the poor, the marginalized, and the “exploited,” have resulted in an abandonment of reason. Her “feelings” are now the sum and substance of what she calls “spiritual discernment.”
Debt And No Jobs
Throughout much of history, the goal of each new generation has been survival. But since the Enlightenment many of the young people of every new generation have wanted to cure the injustices they see in the world. As such, socialism, because of its (false) promise of equality, has a certain appeal for many young adults. As Winston Churchill once said, “A man of twenty who isn’t a socialist has no heart. A man of forty who is still a socialist has no head.” But the fact that young Catholic adults would think that socialism can be reconciled with Catholic Dogma and Social Teaching bespeaks of the secular-progressive education they are getting. It is at the same time evidence that their faith formation is lacking.
Today’s college grads are saddled with a significant amount of student loan debt and they are finding that the only jobs available are working as a Barista or waiting on tables. Not a wonderful prospect. It’s easy to see why economic issues are so important to them.
On top of that, some 35% of parents today have one or more of their 30-something offspring still living at home. Many millennials and Gen Zers just can’t afford to live on their own. Many of them are also putting off marriage plans because they can’t afford to get married.
Systems Are Not The Answer
Some young adults are becoming fans of distributism as a cure for what they see as the evils of capitalism. Others, however , seem to think socialism is the answer. Those who like distributism are at least looking at a Catholic alternative economic system that was proposed by Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton. It is also part of the economic foundation of the new American Solidarity Party. But those who are espousing socialism are going against the teaching of no less than 11 different Popes, from Pope Pius IX in 1849 (Nostis et Nobiscum) to Pope Francis in 2013 (Evangelii Gaudium).
The Tradinistas, and many others for that matter, do not seem to recognize that neither our system of government nor the economic system we use are guarantors of fairness and equality. Only virtuous people, not new systems, can bring about fairness and equality.
As George Weigel wrote recently,
“In a small book published in 2005, The Cube and the Cathedral, I raised a question that is even more urgent today than when the book was first published: Can a culture without agreed moral reference points to guide its public life sustain democratic self-governance over time?
“The answer that history has given since 2005 is hard to avoid: No, it cannot.”
And neither, I would add, can it sustain a healthy economy or make for a fair and free market that functions for the common good.
Virtuous Behavior is the Answer
The Sandinistas, the distributists, and the American Solidarity Party, too, for that matter, have all hit on without realizing it apparently. It is that the moral truths and virtuous behavior that are part of Catholic Teaching is what are needed today. We don’t need new systems.
If man were virtuous in his behavior in the market, capitalism, or more precisely the free market, would function just fine. The problem with business and any economic system is that money, growth, and profits are always the goal instead of virtuous behavior and the common good. In sports and in life in general, competition is both fun and enjoyable. But in business, the competition is that which must be eliminated at all costs. And if that means a corporation has to get some politicians to pass a law that makes it harder for some new start up to compete, or put someone out of business, so be it.
It is what Pope Francis was saying in Evangelii Gaudium:
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
“Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading.”
A Catholic World?
The same holds true for politics and government. If politicians would focus on virtuous behavior and the common good things might be a lot different today. Instead, politicians are constantly trying to curry favor to build up their campaign coffers just so they can get re-elected. Our democratic republic might work a lot better and cronyism would be a word that might never get used if virtue was the overriding concern in government and politics.
I’ve often wondered what kind of world we would be living in today if the Reformation had never taken place. What if the Catholic Church was the only Christian Church in existence today? Would the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution still have taken place? What about the French Revolution, the American Revolution, or even WWI or WWII? What if guys like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau had all been devout Catholics? And what if Adam Smith’s invisible hand had instead been virtuous behavior?
This seems like a good place for a pithy quote. And since the previous paragraph was all about imagining, here’s a quote from a fictional character:
“If more men valued home more than gold this world would be a merry place.” Thorin Oakenshield, just before he died, to Bilbo Baggins, in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.