A number of people concerned with the HHS mandate and the intrusion of the State into religion are comparing today's situation with that of the English church during the reign of Henry VIII Tudor and Bluff King Hal's efforts to conform Christian belief to his personal wants and needs, particularly the pressure that Henry applied to Sir Thomas More, whom the Catholic Church honors as a martyr to freedom of conscience.
With all due respect to the heroism displayed by (as Jonathan Swift put it, before being unintentionally quoted into oblivion by Dr. Samuel Johnson) "the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced" ("Concerning that Universal Hatred, Which Prevails Against the Clergy," May 24, 1736, Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. 13. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1959, 123), they're using the wrong Henry — and the wrong Thomas.
The fact is that both the ostensible reason More was killed (high treason for denying the king's title as head of the Church in England) and the real reason (refusal to jump for joy and support Henry's divorce) were personal. Henry would have made himself the pope of England and taken as many wives as he wished regardless of More's support, opposition, or silence.
Perhaps, had More chosen to "go along to get along," as so many did, he might have been able to ameliorate some of the more bloodthirsty aspects of Henry's innovations . . . maybe, although hardly likely. It would not, however, have changed a single thing. This made More's execution even more baffling than otherwise to the modern mind, except as a heroic exemplar for personal virtue and selfhood — which is how Robert Bolt presented it in his deservedly renowned play, A Man for All Seasons.
Objection to the HHS mandate is substantially different. A successful resistance would result in a fundamental change in public policy, as well as secure a victory for both religious and civil liberties. Advocates of forcing people and organizations to act contrary to individual consciences and religious principles forget that religious liberty and freedom of conscience is at least as much a civil right as contraception and abortion — more so, in fact. The right to an abortion or to contraception is nowhere mentioned in the U.S. Constitution or the common law of England. Freedom of religion, however, is explicitly stated in the First Amendment, and the liberty of the Catholic Church (and by logical extension of the principle, all organized religion) was secured in the first clause of Magna Charta.
The Henry and the Thomas we — everyone — should be looking at, then (for atheists, agnostics, and members of non-Christian religions should be terrified at the implications of the HHS mandate), are Henry II Plantagenet and Thomas à Becket, the "Holy Blissful Martyr," murdered (albeit probably unintentionally) at the behest of Henry II, possibly one of the ablest men to rule England. Becket's opposition prevented Henry from gaining the same sort of control over the Church that other rulers in Europe were constantly asserting. This eventually led to the Reformation in the north, and the Thirty Years War and the Spanish Inquisition in the south as religion became one more tool in the hands of civil rulers seeking absolute power.
The lack of widespread ownership of capital, whether land, commerce, or industry, prevented ordinary people from mounting effective political resistance to the changes. It was only with the discovery of America that ordinary people had the opportunity to own capital in any appreciable amounts and be able to resist the intrusion of State power into their daily lives or the practice of their faith — or the choice not to practice at all.
As propertylessness has spread even in America, however, the power of the State has increased. This has been used to increase State control over almost every aspect of domestic and now religious society, even to redefining marriage, and dictating what constitutes acceptable religious practice. Obviously, whether you are Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, you should oppose the HHS mandate — and work to restore the capacity for everyone to make uncoerced and free choices by empowering them with direct ownership of capital through a Capital Homestead Act. To advance that goal, here's what's been happening this week:
• This past week we were put in touch with an economist at a local university. While the description of the economist's work on the internet sounded promising, it turns out, once again, to have been a case of unquestioning acceptance of what Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler called the slavery of past savings. The economist was unable to get past the fixed belief that the only way to finance new capital formation is to cut consumption and accumulate money savings. That means unless ordinary people can learn to "tighten their belts" and reduce consumption (which also reduces demand and thus the need for new capital formation!), they do not deserve to own capital. Obviously, contrary to traditional moral philosophy, this implicitly denies that private property is a natural right, for by making capital ownership contingent upon something other than mere humanity or a demonstrated individual incapacity for ownership, you have, in effect, abolished the natural law.
• Despite the current inability of academic economists and politicians to grasp the obvious, as explained in Harold G. Moulton's The Formation of Capital (1935) and Kelso and Adler's The New Capitalists (1961) — neither of which the academic economist in the item above had bothered to read — at some point and with someone the penny is going to drop, and the light will go on (to mix metaphors a bit). Until then, it is important to keep working to surface people who will listen — genuinely listen, that is — and that means going through an enormous number of potential prospects who (intellectually speaking) are deaf as posts. Do not give up on academics or even politicians, but keep trying.
• After much work (and even more patience), Monica W. in Cleveland has arranged a meeting in February with some key people in the local community with national outreach. Cleveland is an area ripe for the Homeowners Equity Corporation and the Citizens Land Bank, and could — assuming things work out — become a national exemplar.
• Regarding the "fiscal cliff," it's hard to understand whether or not "the experts" can agree that there is a problem. It appears to be a problem if the Democrats can blame the Republicans, but there isn't a problem if the Republicans are trying to blame the economists. As we see it, if there is a problem, we won't get out of it by doing the things that got us into it, and if there isn't a problem, why are we going around blaming people for a problem that allegedly doesn't exist? In any event (as we said on FaceBook earlier this week), give a credit card with no limit to a teenager with no sense of responsibility, and ask his parents if there's a problem.
• The Wikipedia and new CESJ website projects are making great advances. The first phase of the Wikipedia project is near completion, and the new website should be up and running by the end of the year.
• CESJ sent a "feeler" for a pilot fundraising proposal to a Catholic high school in the Midwest with which a member of the CESJ core group has ties. If the high school chooses to participate in the program, it could provide a template for future fundraising efforts and, since the fundraising items are CESJ publications, help spread the word about the Just Third Way. If the program proves feasible, it could be a very effective way to help both CESJ and a church, school, or other institution that you want to support.
• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 70 different countries and 54 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 United Kingdom, Canada, the Philippines and Australia. People in Spain, the United States, Estonia, the United Kingdom and Ireland spent the most average time on the blog. The most popular postings this past week were "Thomas Hobbes on Private Property," "Aristotle on Private Property," "News from the Network, Vol. 5, No. 4," "Romney's Speech," and "Let's Make a Deal, I: Recipe for Disaster."
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.