The 1951 film Duck and Cover (starring Bert the Turtle) was intended to present possible survival techniques in the event of a nuclear attack . . . unless, of course, one happened to be at "ground zero." The idea was that, upon seeing the flash of a nuclear explosion, you would immediately seek shelter from the radiation and the shock wave. If adequate shelter could not be found, rolling yourself into a ball would provide some protection and minimize the burn area.
Unfortunately, these days the light of truth seems to be as greatly feared as the flash of a nuclear bomb. When confronted with the verifiable facts and supported arguments of the Just Third Way, the standard reaction is to emulate Bert the Turtle and seek shelter immediately from the shock that you might have made one or two mistakes in your reasoning, thereby undermining your conclusion(s) — especially the one that the only way to finance new capital formation is to cut consumption and save.
Are there flaws in our arguments? Can our proofs be, well, disproved? It's always possible, and we try to be open to reasoned arguments and evidence that points in the other direction. We don't get too much of that, however — or any at all, for that matter. What we get is bare assertions that we're wrong, wrong, wrong, and that's all there is to it . . . usually from people who haven't read or (in many cases) understood what we've written.
As we said, nowhere is this more evident than when we come up against people who adhere to the belief that only existing accumulations of savings can be used to finance new capital formation as if it were religious revelation. As we saw in yesterday's posting, however, the slavery of past savings leads inevitably to the growth of the totalitarian State, which cannot tolerate any competing power, whether it be voluntary associations of citizens, or even the family or organized religion.
Within the past savings framework, the State necessarily takes over more and more of the business of living, intruding into and controlling every aspect of life. Interestingly, as the State takes over more and more of the business of living for everyone and imposes a condition of dependency — slavery to State-guaranteed wages and welfare (Belloc's "Servile State") — on as many people as possible, there is an observable decrease in the acquisition and development of virtue among people generally, even as the State works overtime to try and force people to be virtuous — on its terms, of course.
This makes sense. Confusing cause and effect, Aristotle defined a natural slave as a human-appearing being that completely lacks the capacity to acquire and develop virtue — "human-ness." This is, of course, backwards. It's not that someone is a slave because he or she cannot acquire and develop virtue. Rather, slavery renders someone generally incapable of acquiring and developing virtue. By taking away the exercise of our natural rights, the State renders us unfit for life as free citizens — and then claims that we are slaves by nature, and must be looked after by the State. Aristotle was wrong, but at least he wasn't a hypocrite.
The exercise of our natural rights, especially life, liberty and property, is the chief means by which we as political animals acquire and develop virtue. Being allegedly incapable of acquiring and developing virtue, a slave (as we might expect) has no rights — he doesn't need them. He has a master to take care of him, and provide for his every need. All those whips and chains and shackles (and the occasional salutary crucifixion for saying the wrong thing or looking funny), well, that's just the price you have to pay for the safe and secure life of a slave, and that week of vacation during the Saturnalia.
The problem is that nominally free people who own no capital — capital ownership, the chief support of life and liberty, being ordinarily the means by which people acquire and develop virtue — are, in effect, "masterless slaves." That being the case, they need someone to take care of them. The modern absolutist State is ready and willing (it's ability, especially in light of the current economic crisis, is questionable) to assume this role, and to guarantee everyone's individual good — at a price: ownership of everything, as the totalitarian philosopher Thomas Hobbes made clear in Leviathan.
As socialism is the abolition of private property — private property being the right to control and enjoy the fruits — socialism is the only answer. It is assumed in light of the myth of past savings that the fact that the popes have condemned socialism is either a mistake, or socialism is not really socialism, i.e., is something other than the abolition of private property. As Keynes declared, the State has the right to "re-edit the dictionary," so why not, if it can get you absolute power?
Capital ownership becomes something that would be nice to have if it could be done, say, by a willing redistribution of wealth by private owners, or a program by the State, but the important thing is to guarantee adequate wages, welfare, healthcare, and any other individual good or alleged good that some bureaucrat has decided is desirable, such as abortion on demand, or same sex "marriage."
All of this is in sharp contrast to the Just Third Way, which is based on the three principles of economic justice,
and embodied in the "Four Pillars of an Economically Just Society" . . . all of which, while fully consistent with the natural law, are impossible under the past savings assumption (thereby arguing that the past savings assumption is contrary to the natural law):
1. A limited economic role for the State (past savings requires increasing State control to keep a dying system on life support),
2. Free and open markets as the best means for determining just wages, just prices and just profits (past savings requires State control of wages, prices and profits to guarantee results),
3. Restoration of the rights of private property, especially in corporate equity and other forms of business organization (past savings requires that small and minority owners be deprived of the fruits of ownership — control and income — to ensure the accumulation of sufficient savings), and
4. Widespread direct ownership of capital (small and minority owners would use their income for consumption, not reinvestment as required by the past savings assumption).
The ineffectiveness of the Pro-Life movement is a graphic example of what happens when we are trapped by the slavery of past savings. Seeing no other way to end abortion on demand, they attempt to capture the State and use it to advance the Pro-Life cause, thereby turning the tables on the Culture of Death. This effort to use the weapons of the Culture of Death against them is (as we might expect) self-defeating.
The end, contrary to what Machiavelli claimed, does not justify the means. We cannot licitly use the coercive power of the State to force our views on others, however correct we believe those views to be. Our claim that we are using the power of the State for good instead of evil is the very claim made by the totalitarians . . . the other totalitarians, that is. By demanding "all or nothing" we become the very thing we are opposing.
There is also the problem that, even in a totalitarian system, an "all or nothing" demand generally results in the latter.