Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Standards, I: Why Have Standards?

For years, CESJ’s chief volunteer was a Southern Lady (note the capitalization) who, on occasion, was wont to make a comment or two about persons who lacked what she called “standards.”  Generally this was in response to an enquiry about why she chose not to associate with certain individuals or groups.  Her almost inevitable reply was, “I have standards,” implying that they did not.

This had nothing to do with race, creed, color, or belief in the Great Pumpkin.  Her “standards” consisted of having a consistent code of behavior, some kind of predictability in what one considers right and wrong, true and false, or anything else, a way of determining which way something is going, whether up or down, according to some objective unit of measure.

She didn’t have to agree with you, but she could get along with you, even become very good friends, if she could figure out where you were coming from and where you were going.  She, whose grandfather was in the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, could be friends with someone whose great-great-grandfather was in the Army of the Potomac and died in a Confederate POW camp.  She knew where you stood.

This is perfectly rational.  You don’t have to agree with someone to get along with him or her.  You do, however, have to know what the standard is for relating to that person, letting your yes mean yes, and your no mean no.  That’s from Matthew 5:37, if you were wondering.

This is the same in everything.  Regardless what you are measuring, you have to have some standard of measure that everyone dealing with whatever is being measured agrees on.  If you’re buying yards of cloth, but someone is only selling ells, you probably won’t come to an agreement.  Or, if your yard has 36 inches, but the other fellow insists that his yard is 42, 27, 18, or even 12 inches, there won’t be a meeting of the minds, and thus no contract.  Let your yard mean yard, and your ell mean ell.  That’s not from Matthew 5:37, if you were wondering, but you get the point.

The bottom line here is that if you don’t know what the standard is, or what a word means from moment to moment, your relationship with whomever you’re trying to communicate or deal is going to fall apart.  Fast.

If a society has no standards, then what you have is chaos.  This could be as simple a thing as a unit of weight or measure, or as complex as the code of moral behavior.  Once fundamentals are thrown into question, then everything falls apart.  After all, if you don’t know what anything is, how do you know that it is?



nail-in-the-wall said...

"A spirit of license makes a man refuse to commit himself to any standards. The right time is the way he sets his watch. The yardstick has the number of inches that he wills it to have. Liberty becomes license, and unbounded license leads to unbounded tyranny. When society reaches this stage, and there is no standard of right and wrong outside of the individual himself, then the individual is defenseless against the onslaught of cruder and more violent men who proclaim their own subjective sense of values. Once my idea of morality is just as good as your idea of morality, then the morality that is going to prevail is the morality that is stronger."

~ Fulton J. Sheen, Originally published in On Being Human: Reflections, On Life and Living, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1982, pg 329.

John Crawford said...

Indeed, which is why a standard definition of what exactly is Capital Homesteading needs to be made and understood.

If it means the notion of Occupy banter between the 90% v. the 10%, and that is the standard, well, I can't agree with that and would have to bow out.

If, on the other hand, it means finding a solidarity between laborers and the business owners in order to find a mutual benefit in shared capital ownership, that's something I can agree with, and am happy to continue to participate in and advocate for.

Michael D. Greaney said...

As can be seen from the CESJ website,, Capital Homesteading is a specific proposal designed to open up democratic access to capital credit for people without savings to use to purchase full dividend payout shares, primarily where they are employed, but without prejudice to people without jobs, or who are employed in the public sector. The shares can be paid for with the dividends, after which the new owner enjoys the full stream of income for consumption purposes. As Leo XIII explained in § 47 of Rerum Novarum,

"Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man's means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair."

Daniel Kurland said...

A few questions naturally arise: what are the right standards? which standards are essential? by which process do standards become standard?

Ignorance is a tyrannical beast. It defies reason, logic, equanimity, common sense, superior knowledge, and justice. Who would dare oppose it?