The Crisis of Civilization was a curious read. Belloc loathes the Protestant Reformation, naming it a disaster, an explosion, a catastrophe, a manifold evil. Belloc blames the Reformation for the rise in Capitalism, the root, he believes, of our present disastrous economic situation.
This was a smackdown to a girl who spent every New Year’s Eve of her childhood watching the 1953 film Martin Luther and, consequently, has the “Here I Stand” speech memorized. Why would I read this? I had no idea of Belloc’s premise when I got the book from Paperbackswap. Also, I respect Belloc because of his close friendship with G.K. Chesterton. In addition, I am not opposed to reading opposing viewpoints.
A few disclaimers: I am totally out of my depth, reading and responding to Hilaire Belloc. Reading this book was the intellectual equivalent to me doing advanced yoga. Further, I have dear friends who are Catholic with whom I have no wish to quarrel.
Belloc’s argument with Capitalism is that the super-majority of people possess political freedom but are dispossessed of economic freedom. He is equally vehement against Communism and believes the injustices inherent in Industrial Capitalism bred Communism. His solution is better distribution of property, the public control of monopolies, and a return of the guild. Ultimately, he calls for a wholesale conversion, by individuals and by society to the Catholic Church.
Belloc wrote this book in 1937. He saw the rise of communism and shuddered at its ramifications. As I read this I wondered 1) how he would write this book after WWII and 2) how he would assess the current economy. It was a fascinating read in context of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Much of what he predicted has, in fact, come true. Big business has preempted the small guy. Belloc’s example of grocers resonated with me. The chain store kills the small shopkeeper. Where our small town used to have a dozen neighborhood groceries, it now has three chain stores. Belloc wrote about Wal-Mart before Wal-Mart existed. For me this brings up the perennial Wal-Mart question. Evil empire or not? I haven’t fully examined or engaged with this.
Belloc’s ultimate goal of a unified, sanctified church is my goal too. While he was decidedly Roman Catholic, I remain a Protesting Catholic, grateful for the Reformation.