Solidarity? In America?
Putnam and Garrett take the data from diverse spheres and produce different versions of the same chart, which is an inverted U. Until the late 1960s, American life was improving across a range of measures. Since then, it’s a story of decay.
Why did all these different things happen in unison and then suddenly turn around all at once? Maybe economic change drove everything? But no, the timing is off. Economic inequality widened a bit later than most of the other trends. Maybe it was political dysfunction? Nope. That, too, happened a bit later.
The crucial change was in mind-set and culture. As Putnam and Garrett write: “The story of the American experiment in the twentieth century is one of a long upswing toward increasing solidarity, followed by a steep downturn into increasing individualism. From ‘I’ to ‘we’ and back again to ‘I’.”
The use of that word “solidarity” reminded me of something I wanted to share with you. I’ve been agonizing for a while over my presidential vote this November. When I looked at the Louisiana ballot, I was surprised to see the American Solidarity Party candidates — Brian Carroll and his running mate Amar Patel — on the presidential line. There are several people I know somewhat and respect — Leah Libresco, Fordham professor Charlie Camosy, Tara Thieke — who are enthusiasts for the ASP, and even active in the party. I checked out their platform the other night. Excerpts from it:
Our party is founded on an unwavering commitment to defend life and to promote policies that safeguard the intrinsic dignity of the human person from conception until natural death. To this end, we advocate legal protections for vulnerable persons, as well as laws that facilitate authentic human freedom and ensure that all people have access to everything they need to thrive. Our whole-life approach guides the entire platform below, including subsequent segments on the right to a social safety net, criminal justice, and foreign policy.
Federal and state governments must enact constitutional and legal measures establishing the right to life from conception until natural death. These measures specifically include a constitutional amendment clarifying that there is no right to abortion, as well as laws that prohibit or restrict abortion. Because human life begins at conception, the intentional destruction of human embryos in any context must end.
Federal, state, and local governments must end taxpayer funding of organizations that provide, promote, or facilitate abortions, and of health-care plans that include abortion coverage. Such funding should be redirected to organizations that promote healthy pregnancies and prenatal care.
Federal and state governments must end capital punishment in light of its disproportionate use against those with fewer legal resources, the impossibility of reversal, and the existence of alternative ways to ensure protection for the rest of society.
We support efforts to help prevent the tragedy of suicide, including universal access to affordable mental-health care and the destigmatization of mental illness. Assisted suicide and euthanasia are a violation of disability rights, medical ethics, and human dignity, and must be prohibited in every state.
Federal and state governments should collaborate to guarantee universal healthcare by diverse means, including single-payer initiatives, direct subsidization of provider networks, subsidized education for medical professionals willing to work in rural areas, support for cost-sharing programs and mutual aid societies, home care grants, simplified regulation, and the easing of restrictions on the importation of prescription drugs.
Health policy must include protections for those with preexisting, chronic, and terminal conditions. We must include those who have no means to save for an emergency, people at every stage of life from prenatal care to hospice care, and people who find themselves in need of medical assistance while away from their home network.
Since the United States has the worst health outcomes of any developed country in proportion to the amount of money it spends, the federal government needs to negotiate pricing to end corporate exploitation of the captive audience of patients.
The natural family, founded on the marriage of one man and one woman, is the fundamental unit and basis of every human society. Family breakdown is a key contributor to widespread social problems in this country. In order to promote stable families, it is in the interest of the state to support marriage recognized as the exclusive union of one man and one woman for life. At the same time, we recognize that the state must support the needs of people—especially children, as well as the elderly and disabled—in families of all kinds.
States should repeal policies that penalize couples for getting married or that encourage divorce. At the same time, such reforms should not come at the cost of helping single parents.
States must repeal no-fault divorce laws, which effectively undermine the permanence of marriage. At the same time, it is vital to continue efforts to prevent and prosecute domestic violence.
In opposition to the commodification of children and the reproductive process, gestational surrogacy contracts and sperm banks should be prohibited. Adoption and fostering should be encouraged as a redemptive alternative, but with the understanding that the separation of children from their biological parents is never the primary goal.
Federal and state governments should allow public funding for services that promote stable, healthy marriages and the flourishing of children, even when such services are provided by religious institutions with religious values.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and neonatal care should all be fully covered by all healthcare plans so that no family need worry about the expenses of bringing a child into the world.
Workplace accommodations for parents, including paid parental leave, flexible scheduling, and affordable child care should be available to as many families as possible. Further, no family should be forced to have two full-time incomes just to survive, and thus policies subsidizing child care by parents staying at home should be enacted. Funding and services should also be provided to encourage families to care for elderly and disabled family members at home without being impoverished by lost income. This could include preferential housing options, tax credits, and respite care.
We reject the idea that surgical or hormonal treatment to circumvent the natural, healthy development and function of the body is necessary health care. In particular, we vigorously defend the right of parents to protect their minor children from such treatment. We call for legislation prohibiting any form of gender reassignment surgery on children.
To create a more pro-family culture and strengthen the social fabric of neighborhoods, we favor efforts to make public spaces child-friendly, encourage outdoor play, and reform legal and administrative practices that unfairly penalize parents for giving children a reasonable degree of independence.
The American Solidarity Party believes that political economy (economics) is a branch of political ethics, and therefore rejects models of economic behavior that undermine human dignity with greed and naked self-interest. We advocate for an economic system which focuses on creating a society of wide-spread ownership (sometimes referred to as “distributism”) rather than having the effect of degrading the human person as a cog in the machine.
Our goal is to create conditions which allow single-income families to support themselves with dignity.
We support policies that encourage the formation and strengthening of labor unions. Efforts by private entities to use public power to prevent union activities or to retaliate against workers who organize for their rights ought to be resisted at every level.
We call for the repeal of corporate welfare policies, for shifting the tax system to target unearned income and reckless financiers, and for changing regulations to benefit small and locally-owned businesses rather than multinational corporations. Economic rentiers and speculators who produce nothing but only take from workers through gimmicks allowed by corrupt relationships with public power need to pay their fair share through taxes on land, capital gains, and financial transactions.
We will work to restore the requirement that corporations must serve a public good in order to be granted the benefit of limited liability. We support the prohibition of corporate bylaws and the repeal of state legislation requiring shareholder profit to trump considerations such as employee wellbeing and environmental protection.
To deprive workers of their wages is a “sin that cries out to heaven.” The Department of Labor must investigate all cases of wage theft and fraud in a swift manner.
We support mechanisms that allow workers to share in the ownership and management of their production, such as trade guilds, cooperatives, and employee stock ownership programs. Rather than consigning workers to wage slavery under far-away masters, such ownership models respect their essential dignity.
Industrial policy and economic incentives need to be re-ordered to place human dignity first and to recognize that the family is the basic unit of economic production. We are committed to policies that emphasize local production, family-owned businesses, and cooperative ownership structures. Measures that prevent large corporations from passing on their transportation costs to local communities will help re-energize local production and local enterprises.
The bloated, “too big to fail,” multinational economic concerns which dominate the economic landscape need to be brought to heel and concerted antitrust action must be taken to break up the oligarchies that use their private power to corruptly influence public governance.
The monopolistic power of corporations, especially in the area of patent and copyright law, allows them to price-gouge workers and families. We call for a restructuring of intellectual property laws to encourage innovation rather than rent-seeking.
We support and encourage measures which allow local communities to limit the power of outside interests in managing their land. Tenant unions, community land trusts, and community-oriented development are to be supported in the effort to ensure the availability of affordable and inclusive housing. Allowing local communities more flexibility will allow for more diverse and innovative solutions to local problems rather than imposing them from a far-off central authority.
We advocate for social safety nets that adequately provide for the material needs of the most vulnerable in society. These programs need to also help the most vulnerable find a path out of poverty by providing them with the tools they need in order to fully participate in their communities with dignity, and not trap them as subsidized labor for private interests.
To restore long-term solvency to the Social Security trust fund, we call for an end to the FICA tax cap.
Unemployment benefits need to include the option of allowing beneficiaries to take their benefits in the form of start-up capital to start or purchase businesses or create cooperative enterprises that help them to escape poverty on their own terms.
Natural monopolies and the common inheritance of the natural world need to be closely managed and protected by the public and not surrendered for a pittance to private greed. Our support of private property rights does not mean that we should surrender our common property into the hands of private oligarchs. Policies that deliver citizens their fair share of our common wealth and inheritance of natural resources are to be encouraged in the form of a citizen’s dividend and baby bonds.
Predatory practices which care more for stockholder value than human life must cease. We call for community-oriented lending practices and mutual aid organizations to replace predatory lending agents that target poor people and working-class communities. We must reject a financial system based on saddling workers with debt and interest payments that merely fuel consumerism and instead embrace one that encourages productive activity.
We call for student loans to be dischargeable in bankruptcy.
I don’t agree with 100 percent of the platform, but when I finished, I thought: for the first time in my life, I have the opportunity to cast a presidential vote for a candidate and a party whose principles I believe in, instead of like every other time, voting against the worse of two candidates from parties that mostly leave this Christian conservative cold. What an unusual and pleasant feeling. From what I can tell, the American Solidarity Party is basically a US version of a European Christian Democratic Party.
Are you thinking of voting third party this year? If so, which party, and why?
UPDATE: This in today from Prof. Alex Salter at Texas Tech, who gives me permission to post it:
This is Alex Salter, from Texas Tech University. We’ve corresponded a few times over the years. I read your post about the American Solidarity Party and wanted to share why I, a free-market economist, decided to vote for them.I’m currently writing a book about distributism, which is under contract with Catholic University of America Press. I went back to the classic works of Belloc and Chesterton to see what sort of a dialogue contemporary economists could have with distributists. I was surprised at just how much political-economic wisdom I found.A central claim is that a free society (by which I mean one that preserves ordered liberty) requires not only political freedom, but economic freedom as well. Freedom in this sense is positive, not merely negative: it requires access to capital. Property must be widely distributed, or at least widely accessible, or else the modal household/family has no reason to ‘buy in’ to the social order.In economics jargon, you could say that the distributists argue there is a negative externaltiy associated with the market mechanism: the free-market allocation of resources, including productive capital, is not necessarily the allocation that will result in the preservation of democratic-republicanism, subsidiarity, etc.The American Solidarity Party is the only organization I’m aware of that is taking these arguments seriously. They are also the only party with a substantive commitment to the common good. For these reasons, although I have my reservations about many things in their platform, I eagerly want them to have a larger political voice, both locally and nationally. The rest of my ballot was a mix of parties, but Brian Carroll was my vote for President. (Carroll is an approved write-in candidate in TX.)