Last week a member of our network sent us a number of quotes from Bishop Fulton Sheen. He's been doing this for a while, but the quotes are usually too long to include in a blog, but not long enough to post as stand-alone pieces. This time, however, he sent a selection that led a member of the CESJ "core group" to comment, "Beautiful quotations from Fulton Sheen. I particularly like his statement below. Capital Homesteading Now!"
"Our Western concept of liberty has its roots in two master ideas: one, the fact that man has a soul; and the other, that man has the right to own private property. Both these ideas are related one to the other. Man is free on the inside because he can call his soul his own; he is free on the outside because he can call property his own. Property is the economic guarantee of human freedom as the soul is its spiritual guarantee." (Fulton J. Sheen, "Communal Instinct," 1949."
This is a more profound quote than we might otherwise think. It goes directly contrary to the pervasive notion that only the State or a private sector elite can own capital. When the State owns or controls capital, we call it "socialism." When a private sector elite owns or controls capital, we call it "capitalism." When a private sector elite controls the State that controls capital, we call it "the Welfare State" or "the Servile State."
Why is private property in capital so important? As Heinrich Rommen, a German jurist who fled from Hitler and ended up teaching at Georgetown University, said in one of his books, "The institution of private property is like a dowry of the personality." (Heinrich Rommen, The State in Catholic Thought. St. Louis, Missouri: B. Herder Book Company, 1947, 188.)
As a lawyer, of course, Rommen fully realized that "personality" means that you have rights, that you are a person. In the case of human beings, this is by nature itself; human beings at any stage of development or condition of life are "natural persons." Foremost among these "natural rights" are life, liberty (freedom of association/contract) and property.
Life is clearly the most important natural right. Liberty is what makes life meaningful, at least in the sense that someone should be free to enter into social relationships — contracts — as a "political animal," as Aristotle put it. Private property in capital is the means by which persons exercise liberty and sustain life while living in society.
Being a "political animal" means that human beings have individual rights within the social environment of the pólis, the political unit. By exercising their natural rights, human beings carry out acts of virtue. This allows them to develop more fully as human beings.
Property is thus not only the economic guarantee of human freedom and the ability to sustain life, but the guarantee of political freedom as well.