Friday, March 5, 2010

News from the Network, Vol. 3, No. 9

The unemployment figures for February came out this morning. At 9.7 they remain at the same level as in January. Since all the experts were expecting "much worse" — 9.8% — the financial markets and the politicians are jubilant. The idea that seems to have seized their imaginations is, "The economy — it's not so bad."

Of course, in response we are tempted to quote (more or less) the late, great Leslie Howard in his role as Sir Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel when advising the Prince Regent on a new coat or something. After Sir Percy gave the new whatever a cold glance through his quizzing glass, Prinnie was stung to comment, "It's not so bad," to which that worthless fribble Sir Percy replied, "My dear sir, in all the world there is nothing quite so bad as something that is 'not so bad'."

In any event, the stock market continues to soar, the recession is over again (for this week), and public sector workers in Greece are rioting. It's not entirely clear why, but the pundits seem to be using that last as a barometer to gauge the presumed effectiveness of Greece's announced "austerity measures" that have lured investors into purchasing the new bond issue, or (as we would put it), the new debt to retire the old debt used to buy time to figure out ways to float future debt. No doubt this is why macroeconomists' chatter is characterized as "Blah, blah, blah, etc." Of course, microeconomists who continue to insist that everybody needs consumer credit but that capital credit is a tool of the devil are much more coherent and believable.

Other bright spots in the economy are the announced tax credits for homeowners who put in additional insulation and such. This will obviously end not only the recession, but the crisis in home mortgages as well. After all, how could a homeowner in danger of foreclosure pass up a tax credit for which he or she lacks the money to qualify in the first place, to purchase insulation to improve a house he or she is about to lose, thereby making it more valuable to the next owner? That's a deal you couldn't beat with a stick. It makes in-depth analysis such as this seem almost trivial.
• A friend of CESJ recently sent us a note containing what he, an attorney and a Knight of the Holy Sepulcher, believed to be the pope's "endorsement" of the Just Third Way: "Vatican City, 1 Mar 2010 (VIS) — Pope Benedict's general prayer intention for March is: 'That the world economy may be managed according to the principles of justice and equity, taking account of the real needs of peoples, especially the poorest'." We believe that there is nothing in the pope's statement that would contradict anything in the Just Third Way. The problem — as always — is in bringing the natural law principles of the Just Third Way and the possibilities they present for solving the present economic crisis to the attention of His Holiness.

• Some people are starting to take Pope Benedict's pejorative mention of a "binary model" in Caritas in Veritate as a condemnation of binary economics. This is like saying that Adolphe Menjou was a monster because of what Adolph Hitler did. The pope is harshly critical of the "exclusively binary model of market-plus-State" because it is "corrosive of society." He prefers "economic forms based on solidarity, which find their natural home in civil society without being restricted to it" because this arrangement "build[s] up society." (Caritas in Veritate, § 39.) The "binary" in "binary economics" refers not to the unholy union of capitalism and socialism that Keynesian economics has dictated as the only presumably viable economic model to be followed and which requires intrusive State control of the economy and virtual worship of the State — the inevitable results of which are plainly evident in the present economic crisis — but to the solidaristic union of "labor" and "capital" for which Pope Leo XIII and subsequent popes called: "We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners." (Rerum Novarum, § 46.) Binary economics recognizes two factors of production, the human and the non-human. Every individual must have the opportunity to exercise his or her productive potential through his or her ownership of both labor and of capital. Society must join in solidarity with every individual in society, and provide the institutional environment — a "strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality" (Centesimus Annus, § 42.) — the guarantees as far as possible equal opportunity for every individual to participate in the economic order both as a producer and as a consumer, and as a producer as a provider of labor and of capital.

• Dr. Norman Kurland has been having a number of productive discussions with business leaders and politicians. As a result, a number of further meetings have been scheduled for the next couple of weeks with individuals who either have entry to prime movers, or may be prime movers themselves.

• None of the meetings in the above item came about quickly. All of them were the result of months, in some cases years of effort that is now starting to bear fruit. We encourage each of you to go through your lists of contacts and see who you know who knows somebody, and can arrange similar meetings at appropriately high levels.

• Work on the new CESJ website is moving ahead. We also have a number of publications that are scheduled for release as soon as we can finish the editing and formatting. Check out the list of CESJ's needs on the website and see if you have an interest in any of them. "Self starters" are encouraged. None of the items in this news report would have been there to report if someone hadn't taken the initiative and pushed a project through.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 45 different countries and 44 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, the UK, Canada, Brazil, and Ireland. People in Egypt, Barbados, Poland, the United States and India spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular postings are Guy Stevenson's "Expanded Capital Ownership Now," Part I of the Restoration of Property series, "Ride the Pig," Part XX of the Political Animal series and "Thomas Hobbes on Private Property" are the most popular postings.
Those are the happenings for this week, at least that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we'll see that it gets into the next "issue." If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you. All comments are moderated anyway, so we'll see it before it goes up.

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