In the previous posting in this series — the one on the meaning and purpose of life v. swill stroganoff — we made the point that the point of life is to become more fully human, not simply to meet material needs. Reducing the meaning of life to working in order to have the money to buy food in order to have the strength to work is the road to madness, for it takes all meaning out of existence.
The only thing worse than reducing the meaning of life to meeting material needs is to insist that we reintroduce the “spiritual” or “religious” element by meeting the material needs of others. This, too, is madness, for it is simply another way of saying that the only thing that matters is meeting material needs, whether of ourselves out of justice, or others out of charity. The meaning and purpose of life is reduced to a bowl of swill stroganoff, whether obtained through your own efforts, or received as charity from another.
Asserting that “social justice” involves the State or a private elite taking care of everybody else is, therefore, to misunderstand social justice — and the natural law. To summarize, the meaning and purpose of life is to become more fully human. We become more fully human and fit ourselves for our proper “end” (in the philosophical sense) by acquiring and developing virtue — “human-ness.”
We acquire and develop virtue by exercising our natural rights, primarily life, liberty (freedom of association/contract), and property. Man being by nature “a political animal,” we exercise rights within a social setting, that is, an institutional environment. Just as individuals become more fully human by acquiring and developing habits of doing good, society becomes more fully social by implementing and maintaining institutions — “social habits” — within which human beings ordinarily exercise their natural rights, thereby acquiring and developing virtue.
Thus, any proposal or program that, instead of providing equality of opportunity for the exercise of rights so that they can meet their own needs through their own efforts, meets those needs directly, defeats the whole purpose of the natural law — of even having a society, for that matter. As C. S. Lewis has “Screwtape” instruct the Assistant Tormentor, “Wormwood,” after one of Wormwood’s “patients” goes over to “the Enemy” (God), and converts to Christianity,
“Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. . . . The Enemy takes this risk because He has a curious fantasy of making all these disgusting little human vermin into what He calls His ‘free’ lovers and servants — ‘sons’ is the word He uses, with His inveterate love of degrading the whole spiritual world by unnatural liaisons with the two-legged animals. Desiring their freedom, He therefore refuses to carry them, by their mere affects and habits, to any of the goals which He sets before them: He leaves them to ‘do it on their own.’ And there lies our opportunity. But also, remember, there lies our danger. If once they get through this initial dryness successfully, they become much less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.” (C. S. Lewis, “Letter II,” The Screwtape Letters. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1974, 13-14.)
Abandoning reason and giving in to emotion is therefore critical if “Our Father Below” is to keep mere human beings sufficiently confused to enable the hellish program to advance. The idea, of course, is to maintain as many people as possible in a condition of dependency via the wage and welfare system so that they cannot provide for themselves by exercising their natural rights, and thereby grow in virtue. That is, according to professional devil Screwtape, who as an Undersecretary of the Department of Temptation in the infernal lowerarchy, ought to know his business.
That is why we must revisit the comment made by our second commentator regarding our non-review of John Mueller’s book, Redeeming Economics. In response to our observation that Mueller’s approach undermines the natural law, the commentator declared that, “it would very much surprise me if the author misapplies the natural law.”
Observe the problem here. The commentator complained that we were unfair to Mueller in taking someone else’s word about what he wrote, and making our decision as to whether Mueller’s book was worth reading based on that. Rather than go to Mueller’s book and find a fact or an argument to correct our impression, however, the commentator went to a description of Mueller’s book by a third party, and declared — based on the description by a third party — that he simply didn’t believe that Mueller would do what another third party said he did!
This is what used to be called “the pot calling the kettle black.”
Demonstrating the success of the demonic program at which Screwtape hinted, it becomes questionable whether most people today even know what logic or reason are.