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Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies - And Why They Disappeared (Culture of Enterprise) Hardcover – October 15, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From the Author

Interview with Allan C. Carlson
author of Third Ways

Briefly tell us what you mean by a “Third Way”?

The term represents the search for an economic system that was neither communist nor freewheeling capitalist. Third Way systems were committed to the ideals of democracy—including economic democracy—and pluralism. Unlike liberal capitalism, these systems refused to treat human relationships and labor as commodities like any other. Unlike communism, these systems defended private property in land and basic goods and underscored the dignity and rights of individuals and families. Unlike both liberal capitalists and Communists, they treasured rural culture, family-scale farming, gender complementary, and the vital household economy.

Were “Third Way” economic systems frivolous thought experiments? Or were they ever actually tried? What were the results?

These were real experiments. In the young democracies of post World War I Eastern Europe, for example, agrarian or peasant parties came to power. Their common program affirmed that farm land should belong to those who work it, meaning land redistribution from the old nobility to peasant families. More surprisingly, they also favored targetted industrialization, free trade, cooperatives, constitutionalism, equitable tax reform, republicanism, decentralized governance, pacifism, educational reform, and public service by youth. Alas, despite promising beginnings, most of these regimes succumbed to ruthless militarist, fascist, and communist coups. Meanwhile, in the United States and Sweden, maternalist movements successfully built “family wage” regimes premised on the breadwinner/ homemaker/child-rich family model. They thrived for decades, only to fall before new feminist challenges in the 1960’s.

You write about the “First Green International” and link it to conservative, pro-family values. What was this Green International?

The “Green International” took form in 1923. Formally called the International Agrarian Bureau, it was based in Prague. The organization promoted the cooperation of agrarian parties across international boundaries. One specific project aimed at creating a Danubian free trade zone in Central and Eastern Europe.

A recurring phrase in your book appears to be “the family wage.” What is a “family wage”? Did it ever really exist?

A “family wage” regime rests on a restructuring of the labor market to restrict female labor and favor the payment of a family-sustaining wage to fathers. Recognizing the complementary nature of men and women and celebrating fulltime motherhood, this system intentionally used both custom and law to reserve the better paying jobs for men. It treated women’s market labor as secondary in nature. Family wage regimes also favored publicly-provided widow’s pensions and the training of girls in the domestic arts. This book describes the blossoming of family wage regimes in both the United States and Sweden between 1900 and 1970.

One of your chapters might be called the story of “Desperate Swedish Socialist Housewives.” Where did they come from? Why were they desperate?

The “desperate” housewives of Sweden were democratic socialists who favored their own version of a family-wage system. During the first two-thirds of the 20th Century, they pushed through policies favoring the full-time mother and homemaker, including: tax policies passed on income splitting; universal state child allowances; the mandatory training of school girls in housekeeping and child care; and the payment of a family-sustaining wage to fathers and husbands. They grew desperate during the 1930’s—and again in the late 1960’s—when “equity” feminists led by Alva Myrdal challenged their influence in the Social Democratic Party.

You describe at length “Distributism,” the economic ideas of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. What were its key principles? What relevance does Distributism have to today?

The key principle of Distributism was that private property was so important, that every family should have some. Chesterton and Belloc argued that both capitalism and socialism favored the consolidation of property, among a small number of financiers in the former case and with state control in the latter. The Distributists opposed all monopolies. They favored taxation and regulatory policies that would deliver home ownership, small family farms, independent retail shops, cooperatives, and a share of ownership for workers in necessarily large industries. In a globalizing era, their call for attention to the fate of small property has gained new relevance.

Your book examines the effort by Christian Democrats to build an economic system on the ideal of “homo religiosus.” What does this term mean? How would this system differ from a market economy?

The Christian Democratic economist Wilhelm Ropke rejected the libertarian concept of “economic man,” labeling both “the cult of productivity” and the worship of an abstract “standard of living” as disorders of “spiritual perception.” In their place, he offered “religious man” as the proper framework for economic theory. While staunchly defending private property and free markets, Ropke insisted that a successful market economy required a strong moral and ethical framework. This could only be the product of “family, church, genuine communities, and tradition.” Like the English Distributists, Ropke favored regulatory measures to prevent the formation of monopolies and to encourage home ownership, small-shops, and family farms. He also favored creation of a limited family-centered welfare state, including widow’s benefits, health insurance, and public pensions.

Your book describes the Russian economist, Alexander Chayanov, and his theory of “the natural family economy.” What did he mean by that term? How important was his work?

Chayanov argued that family-scale or peasant agricultural systems operate on their own set of rules, which are radically different from those found in capitalist or communist regimes. He showed how both marriage and the presence of children were the driving forces behind the “natural family economy” of the peasant farm. Chaynov constructed an alternative micro-economy for this unit, premised on biological determinism, subsistence rather than accumulation, the “self-exploitation” of the peasant family, and the powerful influence of the consumer/worker ratio within each home. While Joseph Stalin destroyed his work (and claimed his life in 1939), Chayanov’s distinctive micro-economics has found new relevance in the era of post-Communist globalization.

Why have“Third Way” economic systems tended to disappear?

Part of the reason lay in the relative decency of Third Way advocates in an age dominated by violence and moral monsters. Chayanov, for example, offered a non-Marxist alternative for post-1917 Russia that was premised on democracy and social justice for the peasant majority. He failed to anticipate the rise and brutality of Stalin. The agrarian democracies of Eastern Europe also placed their faith in constitutionalism and democracy. Alas, their enemies—Communists, fascists, militarists, hyper-nationalists, anti-Semites, royalists, and monopolists—were more ruthless, ready to destroy democracy and murder the elected peasant leaders who stood in their way. Meanwhile, the innate decency of the Swedish socialist housewives as child- and home-centered women allowed them to fall victim to the radical social-engineering schemes of a hard left regime.

A curious phrase keeps recurring in your book: The Servile State. Where does this term come from? Is it still relevant to our time?

Belloc crafted the term, explaining that “the effect of socialist doctrine upon capitalist society is to produce a third thing different from either of its two begetters—to wit, the Servile State.” Making the same point, Chesterton used an alternate label: the Business Government, which would “combine everything that is bad in all the plans for a better world….There will be nothing but a loathsome thing called Social Service.” My book argues that the modern welfare states of Europe and the United States have enhanced the servile status of many workers, linking state benefits to a minimum wage. Coerced work has also become a reality for many young mothers, as the Business Government—in league with equity feminists—seeks to eliminate the full-time homemaker. Other signs of the contemporary spread of the Servile State range from the erosion of property rights in the U.S. to the triumph of the oligarchs in post-Communist Russia, where an oil-funded welfare system combines with state-favored monopolies to deliver another version of the Servile State.

Your conclusion says that building a “Family Wage” economy may be a better goal for the 21st Century? Why this change in terminology? What would a Family Way economy look like?

With the fall of Communism in the old Soviet Empire and its eclipse even in China, the old terminology no longer works. In face of the resurgent Servile State, a new model is needed. I propose a “Family Way.” Such an economy would treat the family grounded in marriage, not the individual, as its fundamental unit. Real property would be so treasured that every household would have some. Where outside employment was necessary, it would favor the payment of a “family wage” to the head-of-household so that the other parent—normally the mother—might devote herself to children and home production. It would give strong legal and financial protections to family-held businesses. This economy would favor small farms and independent shops. It would favor home offices for doctors, lawyers, accountants and other professionals. It would encourage families to create home businesses, to garden, to engage in modest animal husbandry and to homeschool their children. And it would frown on advertising that relied on the vices of lust, sloth, greed, gluttony, envy and pride.

About the Author

Allan C. Carlson is president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society and international secretary of the World Congress of Families. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the National Commission on Children, on which he served until 1993. Over the last ten years he has advised various congressional leaders and presidential candidates on how to craft family-friendly policies and legislation.

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Product Details

  • Series: Culture of Enterprise
  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute (October 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933859407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933859408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #981,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By New Age of Barbarism on September 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
_Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies - And Why They Disappeared_, published in 2007 in the Culture of Enterprise Series by ISI Books, by leading family scholar Allan C. Carlson is a fascinating examination of some of the early attempts to promote a sort of "third way" economic system that differed and was opposed to both liberal capitalism and communism and that was centered on the family. The third way was frequently aligned with agrarian interests, advocated widespread ownership of private property, and in particular placed a strong emphasis on the family, frequently calling for the creation of a "family wage". The third way also differed from fascism and Nazism in its commitment to democratic institutions and pluralism. The third way emphasized "natural" communities of family, village, neighborhood, and parish and was frequently linked to religious interests. In particular, following the papal encyclical of Leo XIII, _Rerum Novarum_, both G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc developed an economic system they referred to as Distributism to oppose what they perceived as the excesses of both capitalism and socialism and the dread mergence of the two in the "Servile State" as envisioned by Belloc. This book offers a fascinating examination of some of these economic developments with their emphasis on private property, small-scale ownership, agrarianism, and in particular the role of the family and the household economy.

The book begins with a "Preface" in which the author explains the developments of the twentieth century in which Communism emerged as a significant force to compete with economic liberal capitalism.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. J. Taylor on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most exciting books I have read in a long time. British and American readers are seriously under-educated about the religious history and politics of Continental Europe, and here the clash between the democratic policies of physically and family-grounded thinkers and the monarchic ambitions of conservative ideologues of whatever temperament (liberal, socialist or tyranical) is set out with the recurring tension of an adventure story. Yet it is not just an adventure story. The deluge of ideas and personalities one is not familiar with but perhaps vaguely aware of makes it also extremely thought-provoking - and very importantly so in the present period of economic crisis and looming ecological catastrophe.

The writer is an American, and on certain important issues I think he is missing the mark (though putting forward points of view well worthy of consideration). Most important of these (understandable given America's revolt against Britain) is his accepting the opinion of a Dutch Protestant that the French Revolution of 1789 marked "the birth [and catastrophe] of modern life". He has not looked back far enough, i.e. for the economic causes of that revolution: to the successful banking fraud which financed Britain's "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 and subsequent era of "stately home" building - inspired by its nouveau riche enjoying the European "Grand Tour". This was the system John Law in 1716 took to a France struggling with the costs of its war with Spain, and which (eventually taken over by state) had continued to impoverish French peasants as enclosure impoverished British laborers. Napoleonic wars impoverished both.
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By Joseph Graves on January 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Third Ways has some fascinating ideas for keeping the wicked human heart from wielding too much power by giving family the opportunity to raise their own food and children by owning a small farm. It illustrated a "third way," not government control of production but also not the opportunity to accumulate great wealth. Interesting read.
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3 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on April 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Third Ways" by Allan C. Carlson is something of a disappointment. There is very little analysis and background, and the whole book feels like a compilation of quotations from other sources. It doesn't feel like a scholarly work. Rather, the author comes across as a librarian or archivist. Perhaps he *is* a librarian? The dustjucket doesn't list any particular scholarly merits.

The chapter on peasant populism in East Europe is particularly weak. The various peasant parties did *not* have a similar political orientation, and Carlson's attempts to claim Bulgarian peasant leader Stamboliski (essentially a socialist) as one of the Distributist crowd, is particularly weak.

For a better introduction to peasant parties in interwar Eastern Europe, see "Peasants in power" by John D. Bell and "Comintern and Peasant in Eastern Europe 1919-1930" by George D. Jackson.

But yes, the fact that Carlson is a Chesterton look-alike is quite funny.

Beer, anyone?
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