We had a discussion the week before last about how to understand what the pope is saying. The problem is that it seems everyone from President Obama on up (cf. the inverted pyramid structure for JBM and JBL; the real leader is on the bottom, not the top) hears precisely whatever he or she wants desperately to hear, whether for good or for ill.
Monday, December 30, 2013
Friday, December 27, 2013
This week is a little week — three business days — as well as a little weak for news. Major holidays tend to do that. One thing that seems to be coming to the fore as the year draws to a close is that people are starting to get a clue that, perhaps, the State might not be the best way of meeting everybody’s material and spiritual needs. Much of this is due to the confusion over the Affordable Care Act, and wondering whether it will survive its implementation.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
The Just Third Way does not guarantee ownership by anyone. The goal is equality of opportunity, not equality of results. The idea that society should be arranged in such a way as to guarantee results is one of the deadliest traps of modern civilization. It leads to worship of the State as the only body that can (allegedly) guarantee results just by ordering people around.
Monday, December 23, 2013
Friday, December 20, 2013
One of the things we’re finding out as we go through old newspaper files of the 1880s and 1890s is that “opinion journalism” is nothing new. It’s probably older than the clay tablets passed around by the ancient Sumerians, letting people know you can’t trust old Mekiajgacer, Son of Uta, because he disagreed with Zamug, Son of Barsalnuna over whether the bills of exchange drawn by Balih, Son of Etana, were better than the promissory notes issued by Ur-Nungal, Son of Gilgamec.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
We have a suspicion (meaning something we’d like to believe, but can’t prove and probably isn’t so, anyway) that William A. Galston of the Wall Street Journal has been reading this blog, or (at least) the CESJ website. Maybe all those letters to the editor (of which we’ve lost count) are starting to sink in by osmosis.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Monday’s Wall Street Journal had an interesting opinion piece on “The Hidden Danger in Public Pension Funds” (12/16/13, A13). The point was that, especially in light of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the decision of the court that public pensions are not sacrosanct, states and municipalities have to rethink the whole pension system.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
In yesterday’s Washington Post, the main article on page 1 was “Companies Pour Cash Into Buybacks of Their Own Stock: A Boon for Shareholders, Executives.” Not unexpectedly, the article did not exactly conform to the principles of the Just Third Way. What was surprising, however (at least from the Just Third Way perspective), was the rather blithe assumption that allowing shareholders to make a one-time profit on selling their shares to the company they (formerly) owned is somehow a good thing.
Monday, December 16, 2013
This past Thursday we were asked a question regarding the “voluntary tax” proposal of Luis Razo of California. Fortunately, the questioner included a link to a presentation Mr. Razo gave on the proposal, for we had never heard of it before. Specifically, the question was whether the plan was capitalist or socialist; the questioner couldn’t figure it out.
Friday, December 13, 2013
The Federal Reserve just announced that Americans are wealthier than ever before! We’re so relieved. We thought the fact that our income keeps buying less and less, and our liquid assets seem to be evaporating like we wish the snow outside would (must be selective global warming that affects only assets, and not ice sets) meant that people as a whole are getting poorer, not richer.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, the editorial, “How to Keep Workers Unemployed,” the editors pointed out that reducing purchasing power for one set of persons for the benefit of another set of persons does nothing to “create jobs.”
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
The position of Charles Stewart Parnell and William O’Brien of the Irish National Land League was very close to that of William Thomas Thornton (1813-1880). Thornton suggested as much in 1874 in his revision of his most important work, A Plea for Peasant Proprietors (1848).
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The merging of the missions of Church and State, and the subsequent absorption of one into the other is, not surprisingly, something that Alexis de Tocqueville identified as one of the chief dangers to democracy in America — or anywhere else, for that matter. After describing the proper function of organized religion with respect to the State, i.e., to teach moral behavior and act as a guide to the acquisition and development of virtue, de Tocqueville presciently observed in Democracy in America,
Monday, December 9, 2013
We are now in a position to address the specific influence of Henry George on the thought of Monsignor Ryan. This is not difficult, despite the fact that the first part of Ryan’s Distributive Justice focuses on allegedly refuting George’s theories of the natural right to property, particularly the legitimacy of title to land.
Friday, December 6, 2013
Obviously the big news this week is Nelson Mandela. The media, of course, are full of comments by people who met with him, talked with him, saw him on TV, saw a move about him, or some such thing. Everyone is saying what a great man he was, but no one seems to grasp the essence of his greatness: he was a man of principle.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, “modernism” is a form of religious positivism that developed in tandem with the legal positivism that infected American civil society in the latter half of the 19th century. Modernism and positivism are rooted in a rejection of the traditional understanding of the natural law based on human nature and discerned by reason.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
In 1907, the year after Monsignor John A. Ryan published his doctoral thesis, A Living Wage, Pope Pius X, whom the Catholic Church recognizes as a “saint,” issued Pascendi Dominici Gregis: “On the Doctrines of the Modernists.” This was a follow-up to the issuance of Lamentabili Sane, the “Syllabus Condemning the Errors of the Modernists” published a few months previously.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
In the previous posting in this series, we looked at how social justice differs from other types of justice: where commutative and distributive justice look directly to individual goods, and indirectly to the common good, social justice looks directly to the common good, and indirectly to individual goods.
Monday, December 2, 2013
As we noted in the previous posting in this series, social justice — often cited by today’s Chestertonians to justify the very redistribution to meet individual needs that Chesterton opposed — is not, in reality, directed to individual goods at all. Rather, social justice is directed to the common good, a specifically social thing.
Friday, November 29, 2013
The “Big News” this week is the release of Pope Francis’s “Apostolic Exhortation,” Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel.” Right off the bat we’ve seen four problems with the document. Before you go ballistic and start gathering cordwood to stack around the stake you’re preparing, however, read the problems:
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, Msgr. John A. Ryan seemed to have some significant problems with the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, in whose name he was presumably speaking. This inserts a degree of ambiguity, possibly even psychosis or schizophrenia into Ryan’s analysis of Catholic social teaching, even the natural law on which Catholic social teaching claims to be based.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
We come at last to where we can understand specifically how the common sense thought of G. K. Chesterton fell victim to the uncommon nonsense of socialism. We have seen how socialism began creeping into Catholic social thought through the popularity of the proposals of the agrarian socialist Henry George, and how in Rerum Novarum Leo XIII carefully refuted not only George’s theories, but the whole of socialism.
Monday, November 25, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, by the late 1880s it had become critical that the Catholic Church respond to the rapid spread of socialism in general, and georgism in particular, especially in the United States. Civilization itself seemed to be in danger of falling into the trap prepared by the change in understanding of the natural law that was undermining the foundation of the social order.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Yes, the stock market is soaring. No, we don’t know why. What we do know, however, is that there have been a number of developments over this past week that bode well for the Just Third Way. These range from the unexpected popularity of some “Just Third Way fiction,” to the even more unexpected discovery of some “long lost” papers relating to the complementarity of solidarism and the Just Third Way:
Thursday, November 21, 2013
What today’s Aristotelian-Thomist finds astounding in the modern interpretation of Catholic social teaching — quite apart from what seems to be the virtual complete abandonment of, even full-blown attack on reason deprecated by G. K. Chesterton, of course — is a claim that I have come across a number of times. This is that Leo XIII (contrary to the claims of the Catholic Church that it has never changed a substantial teaching) inserted a “new” understanding of private property into Rerum Novarum.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Investigating how so many Catholics today became convinced that the Catholic Church has somehow changed its position on the natural law in general, and the natural right of private property in particular — and thus that G. K. Chesterton meant the exact opposite of virtually everything he said — I’m tempted to exclaim with the late, great Anna Russell, “I’m not making this up, you know!” The facts are clear and speak for themselves.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
In 1886, agrarian socialist Henry George, author of Progress and Poverty (1879), ran for mayor of New York City on the socialist United Labor Party ticket. Father Edward McGlynn, a priest of the New York Archdiocese, strongly supported George’s candidacy.
Monday, November 18, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, following the Civil War the supply of funds available for the “small” man — homesteaders and small businessmen — shrank dramatically. This was the result of an at first official, and later unofficial policy of deflating the paper Greenback currency backed with government debt to restore parity with the gold reserve currency.
Friday, November 15, 2013
We’re not going to get into issues like why the stock market is soaring at a time when the economy is so bad, or the ins and outs of the reform of healthcare reform, or how increasing the minimum wage is supposed to create jobs and put people back to work. We’d rather stick with easy subjects like the meaning of life and trying to figure out why so many people prefer the contradictions of Keynesian economics over the common sense of binary economics.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
We have been examining what both G. K. Chesterton and Fulton J. Sheen characterized as the great conflict of the modern age: the abandonment of sound reason, and its replacement with false faith. As Chesterton said in his introduction to Sheen’s first book, God and Intelligence,
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
In what is generally considered one of his best books, Communism and the Conscience of the West (1948), Fulton J. Sheen noted that the greatest danger to America — to civilization itself — is the loss of reason. Reason has been “liquidated” and replaced either with a false faith in material progress, or no faith at all. (Fulton J. Sheen, Communism and the Conscience of the West. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1948, 18.) As Sheen stated,
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
One of the many ways in which the late Fulton J. Sheen upset and irritated a great many people was to claim that only the Catholic Church could save America. When mentioned at all, this opinion (and it was opinion, not knowledge), is used to illustrate what a number of people have decided are Sheen’s unfortunate lapses into arrogance and vanity.
Monday, November 11, 2013
In the previous posting in this series we asked how things could have gotten so confused with respect to how the Chestertonian Establishment of today understands essential principles of the natural law. After all, Chesterton spent so much time and effort promoting common sense that it defies logic how the Professional Chestertonians and neo-distributists could have gotten things so wrong as to be promoting so much that defies common sense and that is the opposite of much of what Chesterton advocated.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Believe it or not, the Euro, the poster child of Keynesian “managed” currencies, is “suddenly” taking criticism for being “the world’s worst currency.” Why? Because “investors” (i.e., currency speculators) are having a hard time making enough money fast enough when the European Central Bank refuses to take their wants and needs into consideration.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
In the previous posting in this series we (very briefly) traced the recent development of reason-based social thought since Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, a development that took place within the Aristotelian-Thomist philosophical framework. It is clear that G. K. Chesterton, along with Fulton Sheen, the popes, and others, based his social thought solidly on the natural law based on God’s Nature self-realized in His Intellect, that is, reason (lex ratio), not the Will, that is, faith (lex voluntas).
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
In his analysis of the rise of the philosophy that ultimately led to the Nazi tyranny, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy (1936, German; 1947, English), the solidarist political scientist and jurist Dr. Heinrich Rommen traced the foundation of the modern totalitarian State and socialism to the abandonment of reason (intellect) as the basis of the natural law (lex ratio), and acceptance of the will (lex voluntas).
Tuesday, November 5, 2013
“No thesis in the philosophy of St. Thomas is clearer than that which asserts that all knowledge rests upon a single first principle. To it all other principles of thought may be reduced. Upon it all depend for their validity. Without it there can be no certitude, but only opinion.(1) Whether we choose to express this absolute, first principle in the form of an affirmation — the principle of identity — or in the form of a negation — the principle of contradiction — it matters not. The point is, that unless our knowledge hangs upon this basic principle, it is devoid of certainty. Wherefore, causality — efficient, formal, material or final — must attach itself in some manner to the principle of identity. In the Thomistic view, the connection is immediate. Its very immediateness gives to the notion of causality the absolute necessity and complete universality of the ultimate principle.
Monday, November 4, 2013
In the previous posting in this series we saw that, in orthodox Christian belief, the “grant” of the natural rights of life, liberty, and property is not, and could never be separated from the act of creation or existence itself. To argue otherwise is to claim that natural rights are not, in fact, part of nature at all — a contradiction in terms. They would be, rather, a later “add-on” that is not, strictly speaking, essential for human beings to be able to conform themselves to their own human nature.
Friday, November 1, 2013
Every day it becomes more and more obvious that only the Just Third Way holds the promise of a solution for the unabated stream (call it a river) of crises afflicting the world that never seems to end.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
In the previous posting in this series we saw that the so-called “logic of gift” that seems to have achieved currency in many circles actually reverses the roles of God and man. By implicitly imposing the duty of giving on God so that we can comply with His command to give to others, we put man in charge; man (in a sense) creates God.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, many people have the idea that human rights come from God or the State as a grant or gift. That is, they believe as an article of faith that first humanity exists, and then is endowed with rights from some source. This accounts (at least in part) for the current movement to replace “exchange” (based on the natural right of justice) with “gift” (based on the infused virtue of charity) as the basis of economic activity, a demand based not on reason, but on faith.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
In The “Dumb Ox” (1933), G. K. Chesterton commented that the great conflict between Aquinas and Siger of Brabant concerned a dispute over “a theory which most modern newspaper readers would instantly have declared to be the same as the theory of St. Thomas [Aquinas].” (G. K. Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox”. New York: Image Books, 1956, 92.)
Monday, October 28, 2013
Given that one of the reasons the Catholic Church canonizes people is as an example for members of the “Church Militant” (as people in the Church living on earth are called), it matters a great deal what sort of example people set who are venerated as “saints.” After that, a great deal depends on how people apply the example set.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Here's a letter we sent to the Wall Street Journal this past Monday:
If, as Jonathan Wright is quoted in Brenda Cronin’s and Ben Casselman’s “Sharper Focus, Tools Fortify Economists” (The Outlook, 10/21/13, A-3), “economics is in about the same state as medicine in about the 18th century,” it is because mainstream schools of economics — Keynesian, Monetarist/Chicago, and Austrian — are based on a theory of money and credit as outdated and fallacious as that of Galen’s theory of the four humors, and that has degenerated into economic remedies as insane as bloodletting as cure-all.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
As we saw in the previous posting in this series, when the Catholic Church “canonizes” somebody, it has good reasons for doing so. Similarly, when the Catholic Church doesn’t canonize somebody, it has equally good reasons for not taking action. In the case of Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, the Catholic Church delayed canonizing him for over three centuries — and all because a great many people simply couldn’t get a rather simple theory correct. They were trapped in one paradigm relating to the natural law when Bellarmine was operating from within another.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
In the previous posting in this series we learned that, while a specific candidate for canonization may be absolutely orthodox (at least according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church), the interpretation or understanding that other people put on the candidate’s thought or writings may not be quite so orthodox or consistent with Catholic belief. It may, in fact, be 180 degrees from what the candidate actually meant — and from the understanding of the Catholic Church.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
In the previous posting in this series I hinted that, despite the enthusiasm shown by the Chestertonian Establishment, especially the neo-distributists and Professional Chestertonians, at the prospect, we probably won’t be seeing G. K. Chesterton canonized any time soon — assuming that things continue to go as they are now in the Chestertonian Community.
Monday, October 21, 2013
In the first posting in this series I began a discussion regarding the canonization of G. K. Chesterton. After someone brought the matter up, I investigated. It turned out to have been something of an enthusiastic “over-sell.” The world does not (yet) have a “Saint Gilbert Keith Chesterton of Beaconsfield” or anywhere else. Further, from the evidence, a canonization will probably be after a very long wait, if it happens at all.
Friday, October 18, 2013
Interest in the new Just Third Way Edition of Fulton J. Sheen’s 1940 classic Freedom Under God remains strong, and now that the latest government crisis is “settled” we can expect more people to begin searching for real solutions instead of stopgap actions that ultimately only make things worse. Naturally we recommend that people begin investigating the claims of the Just Third Way:
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Not long ago as of this writing, somebody asked me what I thought about the canonization of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), the English essayist and journalist, revered by many as one of the founders of the “distributist” school of social thought, and characterized by his followers as the “Apostle of Common Sense.”
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
The worse things get in American society, the more frequently you hear comparisons with ancient Rome. Evidently unaware that (assuming you accept the traditional date for the founding of the city) “Rome” lasted from 753 BC to AD 1918, albeit much transformed (still a pretty good record), people today — as they have for thousands of years — claim that these are the worst times that the world has ever experienced, and there is absolutely no hope of recovery. The world is doomed.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
A number of people have complained that the U.S. Catholic bishops have pretty much rolled over and played dead for “Obamacare.” A few commentators have gone so far as to claim that the bishops are traitors and hypocrites for either soft-peddling the dangers or talking tough but doing nothing. Are they really, however, as black as they’re painted?
Monday, October 14, 2013
There have been one or two comments about our (presumed) failure to post the annual series of “Halloween Horror Specials” on the blog this year. While we hate to break tradition, do we really want more horror than we already have in the world today? Still . . . tradition is tradition. As the Irish say, “Neither make nor break a tradition.” Consider this an attempt to keep the tradition alive.
Friday, October 11, 2013
With all the political and economic lunacy floating around this week (and the week before, and the week before that, and the week before that, ad nauseam) it should be a great relief to find that the people in the Just Third Way keep plugging along and moving forward:
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Recently someone posted a rather insightful comment on Facebook to the effect that society will only change (for the better) when people are motivated by good will, and that the best way to build this good will is prayer, fasting, and love. Those are all very good things — properly understood and implemented. The problem is that they are not, in and of themselves, sufficient to get the job done.