Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halloween Horror Special IV: Night of the Living Fed

"There're coming to get you, Barbra!" Johnny tells his sister at the beginning of George Romero's horror classic, Night of the Living Dead (1968). Intended as a "joke," it turns into a prophecy when a mysterious stranger kills Johnny during a struggle, and Barbra ends up being pursued all night by hordes of flesh-eating zombies.

The Federal Reserve is out to get us, or so the "End the Fed" advocates would have us believe. According to standard urban legend-style mythology, the Federal Reserve System is an Evil Empire, established by the minions of Satan and Wall Street, determined to prevent forever the return of the Golden Age . . . I mean, the gold standard or the utopia of unbacked State-issued fiat money à la Georg Friedrich Knapp's chartalism (vide The State Theory of Money, 1924). Chartalism is a way of imposing socialism through State control of money and credit. Once the angry villagers have descended on the Federal Reserve with torches and guns and ended its threat forever (or, if you want to be strictly accurate and adhere to Haitian folklore, fed it salt so that it returns to its senses), the new system will spring spontaneously from the ashes of the old.

Or it will, as soon as we identify and punish the criminals guilty, guilty, guilty of participating in the secret Cabal that established the Federal Reserve (all of whom have presumably joined the ranks of the Living Fed and are sucking out our brains for elevenses), or those who have benefited from it in ways of which we disapprove (i.e., anyone whom we suspect of Crimes Against Humanity). Of course, the job will be made much easier if we don't have to worry about evidence, proof, actual guilt, or any of that annoying stuff. In today's flexible moral and legal climate, suspicion is sufficient — and we all know who and what is responsible for the mess the economy is in, anyway: those greedy SOBs on Wall Street and the Federal Reserve System. Cut the jive. Just get a shotgun and start blasting.

Or not. The problem is that, while the principles of society, the natural moral law, derive from God's Essence/Nature, self-evident in His Intellect, "reflected" in human nature and discernible by reason alone, the applications of those principles are human constructs. The principles are absolute, but the application of those principles is a matter of human judgment (prudence).

This confuses a lot of people. They assert that, since God is the Creator and ultimate Master of all, His Will — at least as they understand it — must be implemented at all times, whatever the cost. That sounds right, but there're a few problems. One, who is to say that your understanding of God's Will is any better than mine, or that mine is better than yours? Two, God not being present in a form that enables Him to enforce His Will directly, who gave you or me the authority to bend others to our . . . I mean, God's Will? Three, if I don't happen to believe in your God, or any god at all for that matter, why should your belief system be normative? Who gave you the right to force your beliefs on me? Who in heaven are you? Finally, particular human societies being human constructs, don't the people participating in the common good of that society have any say-so? Aren't they as fully human as you?

See what happens when you jettison the Intellect as the basis of the natural moral law and try to substitute your private understanding of God's Will? An orientation toward the Will has probably caused more atheism and agnosticism — as well as just plain trouble — than any other single factor. As Hugo Grotius pointed out in his Will-based analysis of the natural moral law, "What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to Him." (Hugo Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, Prolegomena, II.)

Well . . . if you don't need Him, why have Him? God, you're fired.

Reality check. In the Intellect-based conception of the natural moral law, God makes (or, more accurately, is) the rules, the basic principles of moral conduct. It's up to us to use our reason to discern those principles and apply them in an appropriate manner to meet human wants and needs. In social justice this is especially the case in the structuring of our institutional environment so that it assists us in acquiring and developing virtue, that is, in our "pursuit of happiness," or the process of becoming more fully human. Within that network of institutions — the common good — we are free to interpret God's Will in any blessed (or damned) way we please . . . as long as we confine our actions to what society has generally agreed is acceptable conduct.

The only thing that concerns us as members of society is whether someone is in compliance with human law. We cannot demand that sinners, no matter how rich, handsome, successful, talented or intelligent they might be, be punished if they have broken no human law. All we're doing in that case is enthroning the ugly vice of envy as a virtue. It surprises many people convinced that He needs their help, but God can take care of Himself. He doesn't need us to punish those who offend against His law. If someone has broken God's law, God will punish him, don't worry. "Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord, I will repay." (Romans 12:19) Plus, a Supreme Being might tend to take it a little amiss if you usurp His power and authority and start meting out your private judgment in place of His.

Further, violations of human law are the purview of the State, not individuals who take the law into their own hands. Even if the State passes a horrifyingly bad law, we can only legitimately disobey if the law forces us personally to act against our conscience. Even then, we must be prepared to accept the penalty for our disobedience. The bottom line? As long as someone has broken no human law — and you'd better have good proof if you're accusing somebody — that person is safe. Even slave owners could not be justly prosecuted for owning slaves prior to the passage of the 13th Amendment. What they did may have been an offense against God and man — but they broke no human law. End of story, as far as you're concerned.

Besides . . . what if you're mistaken? Are you omniscient? Yes, I know, God is all-knowing . . . but (as we've already hinted) you aren't God, nor are you His self-appointed deputy or authentic interpreter of those whom you may believe speak for Him.

The point of all this is that if you want to bring down the false idol of America's central bank, you had better be absolutely certain of several things. 1) The Federal Reserve really is the cause of the problem. 2) Destroying the Federal Reserve really would solve the problem, not just make a bad situation worse. 3) Those whom you would persecute . . . I mean prosecute . . . are guilty of breaking a human law, not just of taking advantage of the system or of exciting your wrath . . . and you have "standing" to bring a suit against them. Remember: you're not the law's deputy, any more than you are God's.

Most important: are you more concerned with punishing people whom you may or may not be able to prove are guilty — or in fixing the system so that they can't commit their crimes again? This is a "guns or butter" situation. You can either spend your limited time and other resources going after somebody whom you may or may not have the pleasure of seeing suffer for the crime of offending you . . . or you can fix the problem. It may seem a little strange and a surprising idea, but you don't fix a problem by ignoring it and going after the people who caused it. Somebody pokes a hole in the bottom of the lifeboat, you don't argue who's responsible, select somebody who looks guilty, throw him or her overboard, and then have a sense of a job well done as you sink slowly into oblivion. You fix the hole, and decide what to do about the malefactor once everybody is safe.

Besides . . . even if you're absolutely certain that the Federal Reserve and those behind it are the problem, do you recall how George Romero's Night of the Living Dead ended? Ben spends the whole night protecting others and fighting off the zombies who are killing people and eating their flesh. The next morning as the rescuers arrive, they see Ben at the window and, believing him to be a zombie, blast him to smithereens.

#30#

1 comment:

nail-in-the-wall said...

Now in Technocolor:

An Economic Halloween.
An Economic Halloween Part II
An Economic Halloween III; Tales from the Keynesian Crypt
An Economic Halloween Part IV:

And don't forget the "BRILLIANT ARCHITECT of the FUTURE" HERE

The Zombie Deficit and QE2 - SCARY!

Guy c.