Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Death of Reason, XII: Civil v. Domestic Society

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The author of this blog series wishes to state for the record that it is purely coincidental that this blog series started out using Richard III as a hook.  The posting on January 16, 2013 was clearly written prior to the announcement this week that "they" (i.e., the people who were looking for it) found the grave of Richard III.

Anyway, the title of this particular posting is more than a little misleading, but at least it has the advantage of being short and to the point.  And what is the point?  That another way John Mueller’s book, Redeeming Economics, undermines the natural law is to misapply the principles governing domestic society (the Family), in which distributions are based on need, to civil society (the State), in which distributions are based on equality or proportionality of exchange.

Yesterday we looked at what we should have addressed in our response to Mueller’s defender.  Today we look at what we did address.  Nevertheless, even though today’s posting is an incomplete response, it must have satisfied the commentator, for he said he would be back “later today,” and that was quite a while ago, at least as the internet measures time, and — like Charlie on theMTA — he never returned.

We take as our starting point the phrase in the ISI description, “In trying to reduce human behavior to mere exchanges.”

Human relationships in civil society are governed by the natural rights of life, liberty (freedom of association/contract), property, and the “pursuit of happiness,” i.e., the acquisition and development of virtue primarily through the exercise of our natural rights.

By disparaging “exchanges” — contracts — in civil society as “mere,” Mueller (or his publicist — presumably at his direction) implicitly dismisses the important of freedom of association — the right to enter into contractual relationships freely.  This, as Pius XI insisted, is essential to the establishment and maintenance of a just social order.  Denigrating contract also renders private property — and charity itself — meaningless, for how can you be said to own something to which another has a claim, or give away something you don’t really own?

By subordinating participation in economic life on the basis of contract (proportional or direct equality of exchange) to participation on the basis of status (need/charity), Mueller forces a condition of dependency on most human beings . . . for their own good, of course.  As C. S. Lewis explained in God in the Dock, however,

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Forcing a condition of dependency on others makes the personality of those others conditional.  It undermines the natural law by asserting a change in essential human nature, considered by Catholics to be a reflection of God’s unchanging and unchangeable Nature (“Image and Likeness”).

A “person” is that which has rights. A “natural person” has rights by nature. Denying the importance of these natural rights of life, liberty (freedom of association/contract), property and pursuit of happiness, Mueller would create a society of masters and slaves — a slave is defined as a human being without rights, and thus without the capacity to acquire and develop virtue.

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