Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bono and You, Too, IV: A Deeply Spiritual Materialism


As we saw in yesterday’s posting, one of the problems with organized relief for “the poor” is that it gives the people whose job it is to “help the poor” a vested interest in making certain that there are always “the poor” there to “help” — especially if it is a government program.  Nevertheless, as Pope Leo XIII pointed out,

“Man's needs do not die out, but forever recur; although satisfied today, they demand fresh supplies for tomorrow. Nature accordingly must have given to man a source that is stable and remaining always with him, from which he might look to draw continual supplies. And this stable condition of things he finds solely in the earth and its fruits. There is no need to bring in the State. Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body.” (Rerum Novarum, § 7.)

If that is the case, however, why are so many religiously oriented people, especially Catholics, adamant that the State must not only do more, it must do everything?  As one such enthusiast, who gets top billing as “the premier Catholic economist in America,” gushed, “The State is the sole intercessor available to the poor.”

Part of this is probably due to the rise of "spiritual materialism," in which the only thing that really matters is meeting people's material needs.  This is what the solidarist economist Dr. Franz Mueller called "meliorism."

Meliorism is rooted in a complete reversal of the natural law, away from the theory that rights are inherent in each human person, and replacing it with the belief that rights come from the State.  The common good is also redefined to mean not the vast network of institutions within which human beings as moral creatures acquire and develop virtue, thereby becoming more fully human, but as the sum of individual material goods, such as food, clothing, and shelter.  Every violation or abolition of a natural right is thereby excused if it permits us to meet the material needs of those we have decided to favor.

This, however, is directly contrary to both common sense and explicit teachings of the Catholic Church.  Blessed John Paul II reminded the bishops of the Americas of this on January 22, 1999 in a talk he gave at a Synod in Mexico City.  In what comes across as a remarkably harsh reminder that the bishops are not doing their jobs, the pope explained,

"As I have already noted, love for the poor must be preferential, but not exclusive. The Synod Fathers observed that it was in part because of an approach to the pastoral care of the poor marked by a certain exclusiveness that the pastoral care for the leading sectors of society has been neglected and many people have thus been estranged from the Church. The damage done by the spread of secularism in these sectors — political or economic, union-related, military, social or cultural — shows how urgent it is that they be evangelized, with the encouragement and guidance of the Church's Pastors, who are called by God to care for everyone. They will be able to count on the help of those who — fortunately still numerous — have remained faithful to Christian values. In this regard the Synod Fathers have recognized “the commitment of many leaders to building a just and fraternal society”. With their support, Pastors will face the not easy task of evangelizing these sectors of society. With renewed fervor and updated methods, they will announce Christ to leaders, men and women alike, insisting especially on the formation of consciences on the basis of the Church's social doctrine. This formation will act as the best antidote to the not infrequent cases of inconsistency and even corruption marking socio-political structures. Conversely, if this evangelization of the leadership sector is neglected, it should not come as a surprise that many who are a part of it will be guided by criteria alien to the Gospel and at times openly contrary to it." — Ecclesia in America, § 67.

Those who think they "help the poor" by hating and attacking the rich are therefore completely off-base.  All they are doing is driving the very people best able to help away, alienating them, and turning them into enemies.  This quickly expands to hating and attacking anyone who disagrees with them on any subject, but especially on the best means to "help the poor."  THEY have decided that the only way to "help the poor" is to redistribute existing wealth in one form or another, and anyone who does not accept "their way" is, obviously, a lost soul, fit only to be condemned and executed, and all the presumably ill-gotten gains distributed among the poor.

All of this is, of course, completely unnecessary, for it takes for granted that which has been proven to be false, time and again: that the only way to finance new capital formation is to cut consumption and accumulate money savings.  Capital Homesteading, an application of the principles of the Just Third Way developed by CESJ with the personal encouragement of Blessed John Paul II, is one specific proposal to free economic growth from the slavery of past savings by shifting to future savings as the source of financing, and breaking away from the pendulum swings between capitalism and socialism:

#30#

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