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Cult of Rothbard Update


The Apotheosis of McDonald’s

Christopher A. Ferrara POSTED: 7/23/11

Sancte Ronaldus McDonaldus

(  Aided by massive federal subsidies of the corn and wheat that are the foundation of its products, and by local government privileges in the form of  tax exemptions and zoning variances unattainable by small owners, the American fast food industry, in partnership with government, sits atop and dominates our nation’s food chain.  Its gargantuan size and buying power dictate decisions throughout the entire agricultural sector of the American economy.  America, as the title of the book says, is now literally a Fast Food Nation.

Fast food, of course, is trash. Fast food hamburgers are disgusting compositions of thawed-out frozen meat patties, extracted from a thousand different cows that were filled with antibiotics before they were slaughtered, combined with assorted additives, including perfumes—literally perfumes—that lend appetizing aromas to denatured beef product laden with fat and salt. 

Fast food chicken filets and nuggets are obtained from hormone-inflated chickens, soaked in brine and combined with additives such as (to quote McDonald’s list) “liquid soybean oil and hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, mono-and diglycerides, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate... artificial flavor, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, beta carotene (color).” The “sauces” and coatings that cover these blobs of pseudo-food are likewise laden with salt and sugar and spiked with chemical colors and flavors.

The Internet features numerous depictions of “immortal” Big Macs kept without refrigeration for years to demonstrate that they do not spoil because their organic content has been all but processed out of existence. McDonald’s French fries are so far removed from actual potatoes that their shelf life equals that of inorganic matter. The artificially colored and flavored beverages with which people wash down pounds of this slop are loaded with government-subsidized corn syrup.

Fast food is not only trash, it is deadly. Addicted by the abundant salt and sugar that make the trash tasty, the Fast Food Nation is bellying up to “free market” feeding troughs on the highways or piling boxes, bags and bottles of the stuff into shopping carts. The result is pandemic obesity, coronary artery disease, and Type II diabetes.  America has become a nation of fat slobs, the laughingstock of the world.  In The Last Train Home, a documentary on the “free market” migrant workers of China, who abandon their families to travel a thousand miles to make blue jeans for obese Americans in return for slave wages, one factory worker marveled at the size of a pair of jeans made for export to America: “You can fit two people in them.  The waistline [holding up a pair] is 40 inches.  Have you ever seen a Chinese with a  40-inch waistline?  Americans are fat.  Fat and tall so they need big pants.”

The “free market” fattens us up with fast food and then sells us pants with 40-inch waistlines, manufactured by Chinese wage slaves for the profit of multinational  companies and the communist oligarchs with whom they do business.  The same “free market” then sells us the drugs that treat all the diet-related diseases and discomforts of the Fast Food Nation, charging inflated “free market” prices made possible only by government assistance in the form of patent, trademark and copyright laws backed by lawsuits in federal courts, fines and even imprisonment in federal jails for violators of corporate rights.

But in the Cult of Murray Rothbard, whose headquarters is the Von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, the Fast Food Nation is hailed as one of the “free market’s” greatest achievements.  And Catholic cult members are singing the loudest hosannas.  One example is the Mises Institute’s Jeffrey Tucker, a sacred music enthusiast and member of the “reform of the reform” movement who defends “gay marriage” and adoption while calling himself a “traditionalist” Catholic.  Only in America!  Tucker is swept up in heavenly rapture over the wonders of McDonald’s.  McDonald’s, he writes, “is a prime example of how the market has overcome a fundamental human problem: getting enough to eat. This is a problem that vexed the whole of humanity from the beginning of time. Now it appears to be almost entirely solved, thanks to institutions such as McDonald’s...”

No, this is not a parody.  Like the Cult’s defense of Scrooge,  Tucker’s defense of McDonald’s is entirely serious. He really means to credit McDonald’s with rescuing the human race from famine. Big Macs, Happy Meals and plastic milk shakes are the manna of the Promised Land to which Ronald McDonald has led us. McDonald’s, Tucker exclaims, “is not just a beautiful model for serving up food but a beautiful model for social service in general.”

Such a beautiful thing, McDonald’s.  His soul doth magnify the Market. And his spirit hath rejoiced in his Saviour, whose dignity is wounded by the ingratitude of unbelievers: “The market blesses us every day, and society responds by, on the one hand, snobbishly cursing its productivity over cocktails, and, on the other hand, grabbing a value meal from the drive-through on the way home.”  A McDonald’s “value meal” is a blessing?  Tucker actually eats that crap?

Did I mention this is not a parody?

Article Continues Below...

The Church

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A Defense of Catholic Teaching

on Man, Economy and State


 by Christopher A. Ferrara




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Even Tucker is forced to admit, however, that “It’s true that McDonald’s is not entirely sustained by the market alone, and even overly scrupulous libertarians have jumped on the attack.” Aside from all the other government-conferred competitive advantages it receives, without which it could not sell its health-destroying trash food so cheaply, these “overly scrupulous libertarians” have noted that McDonald’s received government bailout loans from the TARP program after the “meltdown” of 2008—for which, of course, the “free market” bears no responsibility whatsoever.   (For my refutation of that Big Lie, see Chapter 13 of The Church and the Libertarian, which fellow cult leader Tom Woods is still attacking on his blogsite, more than a year after its publication. Cult member Tony Flood, a self-described “Christian anarchist”—nothing cultish there—has been conducting a ludicrous, line-by-line nitpick of my book that fails to address anything of substance. After several months of “commentary,” Flood has finally reached page 22 of 383. At this rate, he should be done sometime in 2014.)

So, it seems even some libertarians are not willing to go as far as the Cult in lauding multinationals like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart, a veritable partner with China’s communist oligarchs. Indeed, it seems there is an accelerating bandwagon of libertarian disillusionment over a “free-market” that, as I show in the book, is really a corporate-state cartel pretending to be free enterprise. The Cult is clearly concerned about this alarming trend: “There’s a growing moral scrupulosity going on in libertarian land,” Tucker frets, “to the point that every really existing business is closely examined for any hint of state involvement (sin!)... If you defend Wal-Mart—an amazing company that provides for the world—the scrupulous will cite how it thrives off public road access.”

Come, come now, Mr. Tucker.  We are talking about a lot more than public road access here. We are talking, first of all, about a vast taxpayer-subsidized and maintained public transportation network—state and interstate highways, railways and airports—without which Wal-Mart, with its vast central warehouses, would be out of business and small local competitors would no longer be at a fatal disadvantage. Even Rothbard admits that the railroads without which mass capitalism was impossible could not have been built unless federal, state and local governments had seized land under eminent domain and handed it over to the railroad tycoons.

Then there are all those government subsidies and tax breaks, zoning exemptions, and social welfare programs that Wal-Mart uses to externalize the cost of medical care for its employees.  And, most important, there are Wal-Mart’s vast legions of Third World wage slaves who will work for any wage offered under any conditions provided, and who are living under governments, including communist China, that not only do nothing to protect them, but actually facilitate their exploitation via “free trade zones,” “most favored nation” status, and other forms of government partnership with Mega-Business.

In sum, the mass-scale “efficiency” of actually existing capitalism would be impossible without the cooperation of governments that allow corporate giants to free-ride on the backs of taxpayers and exploited labor forces.           Tucker is particularly exercised by one “overly scrupulous” libertarian’s telling comment on the fast food industry: Citing all of the subsidies and government privileges from which the industry benefits, none of which are available to Mom and Pop eateries, this libertarian objects that “for all its efficiency—which indeed is quite impressive as a managerial feat—the fast food industry wouldn’t exist in its present form if it weren’t tied to government at the hip.” The same is true of all the industries now dominated by global corporate hegemons in league with government.

The Cult’s love affair with colossal corporations has justly earned it a brilliant put-down by Kevin Carson, another of those overly scrupulous libertarians: “vulgar libertarianism,”  he calls it, which is another theme of my book. Vulgar libertarians like Tucker and the Cult to which he belongs love McDonald’s and Wal-Mart precisely because their sheer bigness, sustained by the government teat, allows them to charge less for everything than any smaller competitor could.  Hence Tucker is delighted that “a latte at McDonald’s costs 40 percent less than the same at Starbucks” because it is made entirely by machine instead of those bothersome, overpaid baristas with their outrageous requirements of a decent wage and medical coverage. Even the Starbucks empire is too small and “inefficient” for these people. At McDonald’s the “law of marginal utility” has achieved its glorious fulfillment, even if the government has advantaged the bloated fast food colossus with public infrastructure, subsidies, and loans.

Clearly, the threat posed by overly scrupulous libertarians must be dealt with before they ruin everything.  For starters, we would have to pay 40 percent more for our lattes if all the employees who made them were paid well and provided with a medical plan. And our blue jeans would cost who knows how many more dollars per pair if they were no longer manufactured by Chinese wage slaves under the yoke of communist dictators who will not allow them to reproduce so as to be in need of a family wage. And the price of a bag of Cheetos?  Out of sight!

Since Tucker is the member of a cult, and the essence of a cult is the irrationality of its quasi-religious faith in something-or-other besides God—in this case, an illusory “free market” dominated by transnational, government-coddled mega-corporations—his reason has apparently never posed to him some perfectly obvious questions:

· Was there famine in America before the emergence of the fast food industry?

· Is there famine today in Western nations such as France, Italy and Spain, where fast food restaurants are widely loathed and family-owned cafes and restaurants continue to predominate?

· Which famines has the fast food industry alleviated or prevented in undeveloped regions of the world?

· Is it not the case that the Fast Food Nation is comparatively malnourished compared to America in the days when people cooked and ate their own food at home as a family activity?

· Is it not the case that fast food meals—if one can call them that—have only replaced all the meals people would have cooked for themselves or eaten at the local restaurants the fast food industry has driven out of business with government assistance?

·  If every fast food restaurant on the face of the earth disappeared tomorrow, and people were forced to return to preparing their own food at home or patronizing local restaurants, delicatessens and luncheonettes, wouldn’t the world immediately become a better place?

One could dismiss Tucker and his fellow cult members as, well, cult members, if not for the fact that this particular cult has been making converts among Catholics with its mantric incantation of one of the signal errors of the Enlightenment: that the common good is best served by the relentless pursuit of self-interest in a “market society.” Speaking of McDonald’s, Tucker writes: “The managers here might be the greatest humanitarians in history or they might be the greediest and most selfish people on earth. It really doesn’t matter. The market is the driving force and the profitability signals are the test of whether the company is or is not doing the right thing.”

This is the Cult’s message to Catholics: that in the “free market,” which “blesses” us in so many ways, good or evil motives don’t matter. What matters is the attentive response to “profitability signals.” It never occurs to people like Tucker that these same “profitability signals” are generated by corporations themselves, whose products—from fast food to pornography—are designed, tested and marketed to create demands for things people never needed in the first place and which only cheapen and even ruin their lives. The fast food industry in particular has spent countless billions of dollars on advertising and marketing campaigns by which it insinuates itself into the very being of the American child, habituating him to a lifetime of fast food consumption that begins with his clamoring for the toys that come with McDonald’s Happy Meals or Taco Bell’s Kids Meals or Burger King’s BK Kids Meals, including those must-have Transformers.

Our entire civilization has been corrupted, debased and brought to the brink of outright barbarity by vices the “free market” peddles and government protects from any restraint by Christian morals or even basic human decency.  In their worship of the market as a living thing that “blesses” us, the members of the Cult reject what even the renowned free-market advocate Wilhelm Röpke, in The Social Crisis of Our Times,  called “the necessary sociological limits and conditions circumscribing a free market.” It was Röpke who decried “the libertarian fanatic who, postulating absolute freedom, forgets that freedom without constraint will end in the worst kind of bondage…” He likewise condemned what “we can hardly call by any other name but liberal anarchism [whose] adherents seem to think that market competition and economic rationality provide a sufficient answer to the question of the ethical foundations of our economic system.”

But that is precisely the dogma of the Cult, which (to quote Röpke again) exhibits “that form of economic liberalism whose aberrations, too, cannot be better characterized than by reference to the infatuation with the Unconditional and Absolute.” By this he meant the 19th century economic rationalism the Cult promotes among Catholics today, according to which

a market economy based on competition represented a world of its own, an “order naturel,” which had only to be freed from all interference in order to stand on its own feet. As it is miraculously directed by the “invisible hand" mentioned by Adam Smith, which in reality is nothing but the “divine reason” of deistic philosophy, men have only a negative duty toward it, namely, to remove all obstacles from its path -- laissez-faire, lassez passer….

The Cult, madly infatuated by its own free-market theodicy, is blind to the reality that, as Röpke writes, “competition is a dispensation, by no means harmless from a moral and sociological point of view; it has to be kept in bounds and watched if it is not to poison the body politic.”  The physical and moral poisoning of the body politic in a marketplace run wild, aided by post-Christian nation-states that recognize no authority higher than themselves, is now reaching its terminal phase.  And the Cult applauds every advance of the fatal disease.

Yet these libertarian fanatics have the gall to belittle Catholic distributists as crackpots because they advocate the return to a way of life—not entirely gone by any means—in which commerce is conducted by neighbors, fellow human beings with souls, rather than soulless multinationals. A way of life in which McDonald’s would be no more welcome here than it is in the European cities and towns where commerce on a human scale still prevails. A way of life whose return is as simple as refusing to patronize companies like McDonald’s, whose very existence depends upon our accepting its offer of something for which we have absolutely no real need.

Imagine there’s no fast food.  It’s easy if you try.

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