Friday, May 14, 2010

News from the Network, Vol. 3, No. 19

For the first time in quite a while we have an "issue" of News from the Network that has news items that sound like news items. No, that's not sarcasm. Most of what the Just Third Way Network has been doing up to now is laying the groundwork for the actions that we must now undertake, or very soon be potential clients for the undertaker (speaking metaphorically).

As St. Jerome declared after Rome was sacked in 410, "today we must translate the precepts of the Scriptures into deeds; instead of speaking saintly words, we must act them." Not that we're putting ourselves on the level of St. Jerome, or claiming that the Just Third Way or Capital Homesteading as equal to the scriptures of any religion. The point is that the time for talk is past. The time for action is upon us.

If that seems just a little bit intimidating . . . good. It shows you're thinking. In any event, "America's greatest social philosopher," William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., one of CESJ's co-founders, helps us understand that nothing is impossible in social justice. As he reminded us in Introduction to Social Justice (see below), "Another characteristic of Social Justice . . . is that in Social Justice there is never any such thing as helplessness. No problem is ever too big or too complex, no field is ever too vast, for the methods of this Social Justice. Problems that were agonizing in the past and were simply dodged, even by serious and virtuous people, can now be solved with ease by any school child."

Well . . . maybe not any school child. Just those who have been through a sound educational program based solidly on the precepts of the natural moral law, the Kelso-Adler principles of economic justice, and the social doctrine of Pope Pius XI. So, what are doing to advance the reform of academia so that children (and the child in each of us) can not only learn the basic precepts of common sense, a.k.a., the natural moral law, but also learn to learn? The following items are a good indication. Tolle lege:
• On Monday of this week, Dr. Max Weismann sent us a press release distributed by Ignatius Press, the publisher of Catholic and natural law-related books and other media in San Francisco founded by Father Joseph Fessio, S.J. Max, whom we've met a number of times already on this blog, is president of the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas (of which, with Mortimer Adler, he is a co-founder) and Chairman of the Great Books Academy. After that buildup it ought to be good, and it sounds as if it is. Ignatius Press has joined with the Angelicum, the Catholic division of the Great Books Academy, to launch the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program. Father Fessio, with his long experience in academia and expertise in the natural moral law, will serve as Chancellor of the program. In addition to the work of restoring the natural moral law as the foundation of the social order, the Liberal Studies Program — along with the Great Books Academy — addresses another serious problem afflicting academia: the high (and rising) cost of getting a quality education. Today, even a first-rate university is frequently not only just a glorified and extremely expensive employment agency (and these days often does that about as well as it delivers a real education), at over $100,000 in many cases is increasingly out of reach of ordinary people without some form of charitable or State assistance, the former using funds badly needed elsewhere, the latter imposing a burden of debt and condition of dependency inconsistent with the demands of human dignity and personal sovereignty. Check the websites for details.

• We are pleased to announce that Mid South Building Supply, Inc. of Springfield, Virginia, won the Annual Award for Communications Excellence (AACE) for "Total Communications Program, 101-500 Employees." The award was presented at the ESOP Association's 19th Annual Awards Banquet, held at the Renaissance Washington Hotel in Washington, DC on Tuesday, May 11, 2010. Mid South President Drew Tavss accepted the award on behalf of all the worker-owners of Mid South, a number of whom were able to attend the banquet — and who accompanied Drew to the podium to accept the award. Steve Earle of Mid South gave a brief acceptance speech, highlighting the contribution made not only by the worker owners in general and Mid South's ESOP Employee Owners Committee, but also the consultants, such as Lynn Dubois of San Francisco who handles ESOP legal matters, Barry Goodman, who handles the annual valuation, and Equity Expansion International, Inc., that handles the annual ESOP administration. We should point out that Mid South is, from the perspective of the financial reforms advocated under the Just Third Way and Capital Homesteading, one of the most important ESOPs in the world. Designed by Norman Kurland, Managing Director of Equity Expansion International, Inc., and president of CESJ, Mid South was the world's first 100% bank leveraged ESOP. No worker put up a cent of savings — the entire acquisition was financed out of "future" savings, that is, the profits generated by the company after the worker buyout. This shows the power of "good" credit for sound, financially feasible capital investment, over "bad" credit extended for speculative or unsound "investment," government spending, or even consumption.

• Speaking of "good" v. "bad" credit and investment, a good syllabus for the Just Third Way "School of Action" might be Lydia Fisher's, Cinderella of Wall Street, then William J. Ferree's Introduction to Social Justice, the introduction and Chapter 5 of The Capitalist Manifesto, and, finally, Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen. The order is important. Lydia's book provides a much-needed diagnostic of the problem from an insider's perspective and, as such, is invaluable. Stopping with Lydia's book, however, would be worse than useless. Other than the obvious point that people should be virtuous in both their personal lives and business careers, she does not give a specific solution. Of course people should be virtuous — and the system, when flawed, must be structured to make the acquisition and development of virtue the optimal choice. Lydia does highlight the idiocy of repealing the Banking Act of 1933 — "Glass-Steagall" — thus giving due importance to the necessity of restoring internal control, but more is needed. Ferree's pamphlet shows us how to organize, target flawed institutions, and be effective in introducing and maintaining necessary structural reforms. Kelso and Adler explain the basic principles of economic justice that we must implement — pay very close attention to Chapter 5 of The Capitalist Manifesto. For its part, Capital Homesteading combines economic and social justice, and outlines an overall proposal to implement the three principles of economic justice in a consistent, Just Third Way program. Most of the "course materials" for a Just Third Way approach to the current economic crisis can be downloaded for free from the CESJ website.

• On Wednesday, Anna Barron of the National Initiative for Democracy interviewed Norman Kurland and Bob Crane for a documentary about "direct democracy." The idea of direct democracy is that citizens should vote on all major issues instead of leaving it to elected representatives. The documentary is an effort to present this idea to the grassroots. Norm and Bob's point was that, regardless of the specific form political democracy takes, it must be supported on a solid basis of economic democracy, or all the voting in the world is ultimately meaningless. As William Cobbett pointed out (and as we have quoted a number of times on this blog), "You may twist the word freedom as long as you please, but at last it comes to quiet enjoyment of your own property, or it comes to nothing. Why do men want any of those things that are called political rights and privileges? Why do they, for instance, want to vote at elections for members of parliament? Oh! because they shall then have an influence over the conduct of those members. And of what use is that? Oh! then they will prevent the members from doing wrong. What wrong? Why, imposing taxes that ought not to be paid. That is all; that is the use, and the only use, of any right or privilege that men in general can have." (William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland (1827), § 456.)

• Today, Friday, May 14, 2010, members of CESJ (Norman Kurland, Dawn Brohawn, Rev. Robert Brantley, and Michael D. Greaney) met with Allison Kapner of the Johns Hopkins Global MBA Internship Program. The meeting explored how CESJ and Johns Hopkins might work together to present ideas of Justice-Based Management and the Just Third Way to top students from around the world. The idea is to restore a financially sound and ethical approach to business, especially in the wake of the current global financial crisis. This is a particularly important topic in that world leaders seem at a complete loss on how to handle the matter, and only keep implementing "solutions" that failed decades ago. The meeting went very well, and Ms. Kapner had heard of Lydia's book (above). We were able to provide copies of scarce Just Third Way books and materials for the library of the new Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins. Additional meetings are planned as soon as Ms. Kapner has had a chance to read and absorb the large mass of data with which she was provided.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 40 different countries and 45 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, the UK, India, and Brazil. People in Norway, Pakistan, Venezuela, Maldives, and Romania spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular posting continues to be "Kemp Harshman, Soldier of Justice," followed by "News from the Network," "Thomas Hobbes on Private Property," "Expanded Capital Ownership Now," and "The Great Society" in the "Own the Fed" series.
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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