Wednesday, January 29, 2014

“Raw Judicial Power” V: A Pro-Life Economic Agenda

In yesterday’s posting we pointed out what we think are a few technical flaws in the legal opinion rendered in Roe v. Wade.  If we’re correct, the Court’s opinion may have been unconstitutional, that is to say, illegal.  Frankly, whether you’re Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, the reasoning behind the decision has got to make you a little queasy.

The law, after all, is not a tool to use to get you what you want (or what you think you want) or a club to compel others.  Manipulate the law to gain some end, and you end up with chaos, and from chaos you go to tyranny to restore order.  As the scene from A Man for All Seasons has it,

Sir Thomas More
MORE: I know what’s legal not what’s right. And I’ll stick to what’s legal.

ROPER: Then you set man’s law above God’s!

MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact — I’m not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can’t navigate. I’m no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh, there I’m a forester. I doubt if there’s a man alive who could follow me there, thank God . . .

(He says this last to himself)

ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after RICH) While you talk, he’s gone!

MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law!

ROPER: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on ROPER) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast-man’s laws, not God’s — and if you cut them down-and you’re just the man to do it — d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

The problem, of course, is what to do about it.  Until ordinary people have democratic access to the means of acquiring and possessing private property in capital, they will remain dependent on those who control those means (money and credit), and who thereby control the government and the courts.

Pius XI at Work
Pius XI made this point in Quadragesimo Anno in 1931, explaining why, in the forty years since Rerum Novarum, Leo XIII’s solution to the problems in society had not been implemented: widespread capital ownership.  As Leo XIII put it,

“We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.” (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)

Why were people not becoming owners?  According to Pius XI,

“In the first place, it is obvious that not only is wealth concentrated in our times but an immense power and despotic economic dictatorship is consolidated in the hands of a few, who often are not owners but only the trustees and managing directors of invested funds which they administer according to their own arbitrary will and pleasure.

“This dictatorship is being most forcibly exercised by those who, since they hold the money and completely control it, control credit also and rule the lending of money. Hence they regulate the flow, so to speak, of the life-blood whereby the entire economic system lives, and have so firmly in their grasp the soul, as it were, of economic life that no one can breathe against their will.” (Quadragesimo Anno, §§ 105-106.)

Daniel Webster
Why is private property in capital so important?  Because “Power,” as Daniel Webster pointed out in 1820, “naturally and necessarily follows property.”

Thus, if we want to end abortion, or slavery, or solve the income gap, or any number of other social problems, first get power to the people, which means vest ordinary children, women, and men with direct ownership of capital.  As the “Apostle of Distributism,” William Cobbett, put it,

“Freedom is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means,—and it means nothing else,—the full and quiet enjoyment of your own property. If you have not this, if this be not well secured to you, you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave.” (A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, 1827, §456.)

William Cobbett, the "Apostle of Distributism"
This is not redistribution of existing wealth, as Leo XIII made clear, but equal opportunity to acquire future wealth.  If you rely on redistribution, all you do is destroy property for some to restore it for others — which means you destroy it for everyone.

This is essentially the case we made in Supporting Life: The Case for a Pro-Life Economic Agenda (2010), giving the argument for adopting “Capital Homesteading” as the most just and efficient way of empowering people through broad-based capital ownership.

#30#

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