Friday, September 25, 2015

News from the Network, Vol. 8, No. 39


The news items for this week are mostly of a report on CESJ’s participation in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.  The CESJ team, consisting of CESJ president Norman G. Kurland, Marie T. Kurland, and Michael D. Greaney, Director of Research was there from Monday through Thursday.  The team had to miss Friday, September 25, due to a conflict with previously scheduled meetings.

• Arriving Monday afternoon, Norman Kurland and Michael Greaney visited the booth (Number 242), and dropped off some boxes of materials.  We also noted that the six boxes of printed materials from Harrisburg for two of the other three organizations “in” on the booth — the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and Evangelization Enterprises, Inc. — as well as for CESJ, had been delivered.  We opened and inspected the material, which consisted of copies of a brochure for Evangelization Enterprises, Inc., two brochures for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, two brochures for CESJ, and copies of “Pope Francis and the Just Third Way.”  The “banner” (which turned out to be a rigid sign) was not there, but was delivered before 10:00 am Tuesday morning, the official opening of the exhibit hall.  An order of 1,000 bookmarks with the Just Third Way Edition of Fulton Sheen’s Freedom Under God on one side and Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen on the other had not arrived before the team left Washington, DC, but Rowland Brohawn, CESJ’s graphic artist, was able to provide a small number of bookmarks as well as table signs for each of the four organizations.  We also included a last-minute batch of CESJ publications flyers with bulk ordering information for Freedom Under God on the one side, and a list of selected CESJ publications on the other.

• Due to various logistical difficulties and last-minute emergencies on a number of fronts, members of the other organizations were unable to attend.  This made Norm and Marie’s last minute decision to go and support Michael Greaney key to the success of CESJ’s effort.  As the CESJ team was not fully briefed on the “message” each of the other organizations wanted to deliver (the fourth was Catholic Action for Faith and Family), we were unable to do more than refer people to the brochures and the respective websites in response to enquiries, but were very successful at getting a number of passers-by interested — a few more people to “hook” people and others to answer questions would have made the effort even more effective: there were times when we couldn’t get to everyone, and “lost customers” due to having too few people there (and we were unable to visit the other booths, not having enough people to rotate).  It would also have been good to have had one or two people to circulate through the exhibit hall, dropping off brochures at the other booths or handing out bookmarks, which proved to be much easier to distribute than larger pieces, and had the advantage of Fulton Sheen’s photo on one side, and Abraham Lincoln’s on the other.

• Fulton Sheen’s photo on the cover of the Just Third Way Edition of Freedom Under God was a major draw — especially since CESJ received special permission from the photographer to use that particular photograph (credited on the inside cover, with thanks from CESJ).  We noticed that even before the end of the event, the ranking on Amazon started to go up for the book.  This is very encouraging if CESJ accepts a proposal to republish Just Third Way editions of other books by Fulton Sheen that are in the public domain and consequently not being reprinted by those who own the copyrights to those of Sheen's works still under copyright protection.

• As we refined our approach, we would “hook” people with the question, “Would you like to hear the shortest presentation in the world?” (or words to that effect).  By not asking people who obviously had their hands full or indicated disinterest in some fashion, the response rate was very high, with many people looking surprised, then saying, “Sure, why not?”  We would then hand them the brochure describing CESJ and say, “Here is who we are.”  The next piece was the Capital Homesteading flyer with “And here is what we’re trying to do.”  We would finish by handing them a copy of “Pope Francis and the Just Third Way” and say, “And here’s how it ties in with Catholic social teaching.”  The photos of the three popes (Leo XIII, Pius XI, and Francis) invariably evoked a positive response.  Approximately two-thirds of the people said they would take the material home and read it there, whereupon we would mention that the CESJ website URL and contact information is in the CESJ brochure.  The other third wanted to hear more about the idea.  These we would direct to the banner behind the booth, “ECONOMIC JUSTICE FOR THE FAMILY/EVERY CITIZEN AN OWNER” and say that the banner summed it up.  We would then open another copy of the brochure and point out the photo of Norman Kurland and Pope St. John Paul II, saying that even though CESJ is an interfaith organization, His Holiness gave his personal encouragement to our work.  We would then point out that making every child, woman, and man an owner of capital would restore the family as the basic unit of society, and greatly decrease the role of the State in individual and family life.  For those who wanted to discuss the ideas in greater depth, it was at this point that they would be introduced to Norman Kurland, who is (as CESJ members and friends are aware), adept at tailoring an explanation of the Just Third Way to an individual’s special area of focus and concern.  A number of people engaged Norm in dialog each of the three days, with some of the more interesting described below.  Three bishops accepted the basic package, and did appear genuinely interested in a practical solution to the problems they are facing.

• A number of people asked if the Just Third Way is related to the distributism of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.  The answer we gave was, “Yes . . . and no.”  From the perspective of “classical distributism” (i.e., the program Chesterton and Belloc espoused, without the later accretions), there are three key differences.  The goal is the same (widespread capital ownership), but distributism 1) takes the past savings model of financing capital for granted, thereby limiting resources for growth to past decreases from consumption, instead of future increases in production.  2) Asserts a preference for small enterprise over large enterprise as a guiding principle instead of letting the free market decide the optimal size.  3) Does not recognize the act of social justice as the principal means of bringing about social change, relying on State fiat and coercive laws to impose the desired conditions, e.g., Belloc’s proposal to burden “large” men (i.e., rich) with disabilities to bring them down to the level of “small” men when financing new capital formation, rather than removing the disabilities that now encumber “small” men to bring them up to the level of the “large” men to establish and maintain a level playing field (see An Essay on the Restoration of Property, 1936 — see CESJ's alternate take on this in The Restoration of Property, 2012).  These differences lock classical distributism into the past savings model of finance, and forces an economy into capitalism, socialism, or the Welfare or Servile State as the only alternatives.  Many of today’s distributists have attempted to circumvent this “slavery of past savings” without emancipating humanity from its curse by redefining ownership, advocating effective redistribution (usually through some form of what Belloc and C.S. Lewis pejoratively described as “the Douglas scheme,” i.e., “social credit” — State manipulation and control of the money supply), or adopting various forms of Fabian socialism, often relying heavily on such authorities as Arthur Penty, E.F. Schumacher, and others influenced by the agrarian socialism of Henry George and the theosophy of Madame Blavatsky.  Most neo-distributists also seem to take Chesterton and Belloc’s preference for small, family owned enterprise and turn it into an absolute mandate.

• An important contribution to the success of the event from CESJ’s perspective was the fact that, purely by the luck of the draw, our booth was right next to “Priests for Life.”  We got into a very profound discussion with Father Denis G. Wilde, O.S.A., Ph.D., Associate Director of the organization, and spoke with him frequently over the course of three days.  Father Wilde invited us to his organization’s headquarters on Staten Island (in between the traveling involved in his heavy schedule, of course).  We also spoke briefly with Father Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life (who was much shorter than the twelve feet tall we imagined), and he and Norm had a twenty-minute meeting (originally scheduled as ten minutes) Thursday morning.

• Norm also had a very long meeting with the people at Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., a not-for profit Catholic media company in Huntington, Indiana.  Norm was particularly impressed with Mr. Terry Poplava, Executive Director of Marketing and Sales, who also happens to have been in the Notre Dame Glee Club (now celebrating its centennial) with CESJ’s Director of Research, Michael D. Greaney.  Our Sunday Visitor’s publications offer news, commentary, and publications from a “Catholic perspective,” but in a way that non-Catholics might find more useful and friendly than some other sources, and certainly more accurate than what makes its way into the popular media.  Parishes, schools, and parents involved in home schooling might find OSV’s educational materials a valuable resource.

"He who does not produce, neither shall he consume."
• Norm spoke at length with Dr. Michael New, a visiting professor of economics at Ave Maria University.  Dr. New mentioned the difficulties involved in integrating the principles of economics with those of Catholic social teaching.  The Just Third Way, we believe, resolves this difficulty by basing its economics on Say’s Law of Markets (which, from a religious perspective, might be called “St. Paul’s Law of Markets”: “[I]f any man will not work [i.e., produce], neither let him eat [i.e., consume],” 2 Thess 3:10), and integrating the three principles of economic justice and the four pillars of an economically just society.

• Norm had an interesting discussion with Father Simeon Spitz, O.S.B., Vice President for Mission and Identity of St. Gregory’s University, the only Catholic university in Oklahoma, founded in 1875 (as well as the only Catholic university in Oklahoma founded in 1875. . . if someone else comes along, all they have to do is cover up a comma).  Father Spitz is concerned with the disconnect between much of modern education, geared toward “getting a job,” and the reality of the natural law based on what can be discerned from human nature by reason and, of course, matters of faith that are also secured on a foundation of reason.  This is the sort of thing that CESJ’s “Justice University” concept would deal with, developing reason-based curriculum consistent with the faith-based tenets of the major religions of the world.

St. Matthew, Jesus's CPA
• Michael D. Greaney, a CPA, spoke with some parents and high school students considering a career in accounting consistent with the Just Third Way (the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants had a booth in exhibit hall, and were giving away pink piggy banks).  Greaney noted that an accounting student today has to make a special personal and individual effort to learn and understand the fundamental principles of accounting underpinning the accounting equation that are consistent with the natural law-based Say’s Law of Markets, or the student will simply accept without question the sort of “glorified bookkeeping” that passes for accounting in today’s job-centered economy.  By the way, of the three "professional" careers represented by the Apostles and Evangelists, i.e., physician, attorney, and accountant, the first was an accountant, St. Matthew the Evangelist, Jesus's own CPA.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 49 different countries and 50 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, India, and the Philippines. The most popular postings this past week were “Halloween Horror Special XIII: Mean Green Mother from Outer Space,” “The Purpose of Production,” “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “World Meeting of Families, I: First Day Report,” and “Aristotle on Private Property.”

Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about.  If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.”  If you have a short (250-400 word) comment on a specific posting, please enter your comments in the blog — do not send them to us to post for you.  All comments are moderated, so we’ll see it before it goes up.

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