Thursday, April 8, 2010

"A Second Call to Battle" — Happy 500th

Shortly after co-founding the Center for Economic and Social Justice ("CESJ") in 1984 to develop practical applications of his analysis of the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI and the economic justice principles developed by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler, Reverend William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., "America's greatest social philosopher," began a massive revision of his 1941 doctoral thesis. This had been published in 1943 as The Act of Social Justice, and condensed in 1948 as Introduction to Social Justice. Having been left unfinished at Father Ferree's death in 1985, the manuscript still awaits completion, but the reason for the effort was embodied in the new title: Forty Years After . . . A Second Call to Battle. After his exposure to the Kelso ideas, Father Ferree seemed to catch fire and saw in the revolutionary concepts of binary economics a necessary complement to the equally revolutionary social doctrine of Pius XI. This fire still inspires CESJ and the wider world of the Just Third Way.

We therefore thought it might be appropriate to break between the two parts of our "Own the Fed" series, not just to give the reader a breather, but to pause a bit to celebrate our 500th posting on the blog. We realize that for the past six months or so the postings have been getting longer and, for a blog, pretty deep. This reflects both our basic "blog philosophy" as well as our concern for the world's political situation. Most especially, we are concerned for the economic situation that, for good or ill, largely determines the stability of the political system and the degree of freedom enjoyed by people within the system. We need to renew our commitment to the Just Third Way, and to reflect on the best way to heed a "second call to battle" in order to implement the vision of Kelso and Adler, and Pius XI at the earliest possible date and in the most effective and efficient manner.

This blog serves two purposes, 1) bring important events to the attention of the readership, and 2) help teach Just Third Way principles. Our basic blog philosophy is that blogs fill more or less the same role as newspapers in Jacksonian America. While these periodicals reported some news, they were, by and large, organs to publicize the personal opinion of the editor, who was often also the publisher, reporting staff, and printer, all in one. While there was doubtless a great deal of tripe published, there was also a significant measure of well-considered political commentary. The press was, in a sense, the literary equivalent of the social and political activism Alexis de Tocqueville noted as prevalent in the United States during this period in his monumental sociological study, Democracy in America.

As for our concern for the economic situation, both national and global, it should be obvious to anyone familiar with the "four pillars" of an economically just society that the powers-that-be are still unfamiliar with the basic principles of the Just Third Way. We are convinced that for the mere survival of any degree of civilization it is becoming increasingly critical that Just Third Way reforms be adopted as soon as possible. We only hope that the global financial meltdown that appears imminent holds off long enough to implement necessary reforms. The last economic disruption even remotely approaching the scale of what we anticipate should Just Third Way reforms not be adopted gave us the Second World War.

For that reason, it is becoming increasing critical that all our readers as well as all supporters of the Just Third Way heed the "call to battle" and work to the best of their abilities to open doors for the CESJ "core group" to deliver the message that something other than the remarkably confused and grim world situation is more than possible, it is entirely feasible and achievable within a remarkably short period of time. All it takes is you, and a personal commitment to action.

First, do not hold yourself back from a false or even genuine sense of modesty. As Father Ferree pointed out, each of us has an individual and personal responsibility for the common good. Opening doors so that the Just Third Way can get a fair hearing is, in a very real sense, your duty, both to yourself and to the rest of humanity.

Second, do not assume that you need to be able to "make the sale" yourself. You are not the best salesman for these ideas. (Neither am I, for that matter — as should be evident from the length and content of these blog postings. My job is to fill in the blanks and present the arguments for people who want to find out more about the Just Third Way, not to convince them that they should investigate our claims.) The best you can do is get a good grasp of the four pillars so that you can present a quick introduction, inspire some interest, and get a commitment to meet with a member of the CESJ core group. If pressed for more details, you can use the late Senator Russell Long's declaration when, after years of avoiding coming to grips with the Kelso ideas integrated into the Just Third Way, he stated emphatically, "One of my basic principles that I had from the time I first entered politics is that I don't care who's right, I care what's right. This is right." As for the four pillars,
One, a limited economic role for the State. For at least a century, and a good argument could be made that the process has been going on for at least half a millennium, the State has been assuming more and more control over people's lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. In light of the bumbling over the current economic crisis a good case can be made that the State, a very specialized and powerful tool, long ago passed the stage of functional overload and is now causing the very chaos, both economic and political, the State is established to prevent.

Two, free and open markets as the best means of determining just wages, just prices, and just profits. Leaving such matters to the State, no matter how beneficent, is simply to substitute the limited knowledge of one person or a small group for that of everyone. The collected mass of people may not be smarter than a single individual or a small group — but the individuals who make it up have the natural right to be free from unnecessary coercion. The State's role must be limited to maintaining the common good, policing abuses, and providing a "level playing field," that is to providing a strong juridical order that supports human freedom and the dignity of the human person in all its complexity.

Three, restoration of the rights of private property, particularly in corporate equity. The unique social invention of the corporation has been excoriated by self-appointed champions of human freedom. That is because the corporation, designed to allow participation by many people in a single productive enterprise, has, instead, been used to concentrate ownership instead of spreading it out. This is a direct result of the methods of finance used to form capital. Most people assume incorrectly that it is essential to cut consumption in order to save, then invest. On the contrary, using modern commercial and central banking, it is possible to invest first, then generate the production necessary to repay the financing. Most simply put, the old way assumes incorrectly that production is a derivative of money. On the contrary, money is a derivative of production. This is obvious if we stop to think about it.

Four, widespread direct ownership of the means of production. Most simply put, private property in the means of production links the human person to the means of sustaining and protecting his or her life in the most intimate manner possible, whether we are talking about the ownership each person has of his or her labor, or of the capital instruments that, increasingly, are replacing human labor as the predominant factor of production. As William Cobbett declared, "Freedom is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means, — and it means nothing else, — the full and quiet enjoyment of your own property. If you have not this, if this be not well secured to you, you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave."
That's it. There are only two steps to effective door opening. At this critical time, however, that is all that is needed. This is your "call to battle." It is up to you to respond.


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