Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The REAL Problem With Socialism, II: The Substance Trick


Yesterday, consistent with our claim that socialism is one thing under many names, we explained how, by constantly changing definitions, socialists change the outward form of socialism, but leave the substance — the abolition of private property — absolutely inviolate.  The problem is that by constantly changing definitions, we have a hard time pinning down the basic theory that makes socialism ultimately an in- or non-human system.

Leo XIII: the chief tenet of socialism: common ownership.
As both Karl Marx and Pope Leo XIII pointed out, socialism is best defined by its chief characteristic, the abolition of private property.  As we’ve seen, however, socialists are adept at slithering out of that definition simply by redefining basic terms.  That’s why we need to look at the substance of the problem, not the form, to discern the theory that makes socialism unpalatable.  And if you thought yesterday was bad, hang on.  This ride is going to be even rougher.

The fundamental error of socialism — the substance that trumps its many forms — is the fixed belief that the collective (by whatever name you choose to call it) has rights that individual human beings do not.  In atheistic socialism, rights that the collective have are either self-generated, or are created by the members of the collective as expedients.  In religious socialism, God grants rights to the collective.

We’ll deal with the atheists first.  Can anything or anyone self-generate anything?  No.  We realize that’s a bit short, but we’ve never seen any argument or proof advanced that anything created itself.  Even God is described as “uncreated” and thus not “self-created.”  Efforts of atheists to be witty by saying that man created God in man’s own image acknowledge the principle that nothing — not even God — can create itself.  Something can only be created, or be uncreated.  There is no middle ground.

What about the theory that the members of the collective joined together and created rights that they then vested in the collective?  The same problem exists.  Where did the members of the collective get the rights that they then vested in the collective?  They couldn’t self-generate or create them, for nothing can generate itself, not even God.

"Your argument is circular.  Stop it."
Thus, the atheist argument for socialism falls apart because it is a circular argument, a logical fallacy.  It violates the first principle of reason, that nothing can both “be” and “not be” at the same time under the same conditions.  Nothing can both be logical and illogical at the same time.

The deist socialist claim is a little (okay, a lot) more complex to refute, because it does acknowledge the fundamental truth that all things ultimately come from God.  This is true . . . ultimately.

To refute religious socialism, we start with the assumption that God is the Supreme Being, omnipotent and omniscient.  He knows everything.  Yes, everything.

Ponder that for a moment.  As the Creator, God.  Knows.  Everything.  He knows it in such minute detail that no human being could ever even approach God’s level of knowing.  He knows everything — except Himself — fully, completely, and objectively from direct observation.  He doesn’t have to say to Himself, “This is a chair.  It has these general characteristics.  Therefore I can include in the class of ‘chair’ all things that have these general characteristics.”  No, God doesn’t have to stop and figure out whether a thing is a thing.  He already knows with a certainty that no human being can ever approach.

There is only one thing of which God does not have full and objective knowledge: Himself.  Even there, however, His “speculative knowledge” (that which is attained by the use of reason) is absolutely perfect and full, and is indistinguishable from objective knowledge.  God is not like us.  He is perfect and cannot make mistakes in His reasoning (speculative knowledge) or anything else.

"Cheese whiz, guys, can't you get it? I made you, I know you!"
So, how do we human beings get along, not being able to know everything, or (in comparison with God) even the tiniest bit of the smallest part of the minutest piece of everything?  We are not perfect, and can make mistakes.  Also, we’re not omniscient, and cannot know everything by objective observation.

Not being infinitely perfect (but infinitely perfectible), we human beings need a crutch to grasp even a working knowledge of things that God knows without having to bother with reason.  This “crutch” is called “abstraction.”  We human beings observe, form ideas, experiment, correct those ideas, and finally create an “ideal,” an abstraction or generalization that allows us to function in a world that we can never fully understand or know.

Again, God does not do this.  He doesn’t have to.  He is a “necessary being,” and all that He does is, by definition, necessary.  He does nothing that is not necessary.  Since He does not need to abstract — keep in mind that even His speculative knowledge of Himself is absolutely perfect and indistinguishable from objective knowledge — God, of course, does not abstract.  Period.  End of story.

Are you ready for the obvious conclusion?  Religious socialists claim that God grants rights to the collective that He does not grant to individual human beings.

But the collective is an abstraction, a human creation!  It is not made by God.  It is made by man.  If God did not create the collective — which is an entirely unnecessary thing for Him to do — then He obviously cannot grant the collective any rights!

Pius XI: "[Socialism] is based...on a theory of human society ...irreconcilable with true Christianity."
Cutting to the chase, by claiming that God grants rights of any kind only to the collective, a human creation, socialists are ultimately denying that God is God.  If He can only act after human beings have abstracted and created the collective, then man, not God, is in charge, for God thereby relies on humanity doing something before He can act!  As Fulton Sheen pointed out, admitting a contradiction, however you gloss it over, puts man at the center, not God.

That is why Pope Pius XI declared,

If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity.  Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”  (Quadragesimo Anno, § 120.)

After all, if you’re going to declare that, to all intents and purposes, God is subordinate to man, don’t expect the head of a religion that teaches that God is the Supreme Being to give you any kind of endorsement.

#30#

5 comments:

peter maurin said...

After reading your writings about socialism it would be nice to see you explain how lots of oversight and regulation needs to be put in place under private property so that vast majority of people are not exploited... as they are presently... I would think that falls under moral responsibility.

peter maurin said...

... of course this preclude that you accept Pope John Paul 2 and his writing about freedom and responsibility ...that they go hand in hand.

Michael D. Greaney said...

"Peter Maurin," your "logic" is absolutely fascinating. You accuse me of rejecting the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II without presenting a shred of evidence or argument, then demand that I explain how, while the right to be an owner is inherent in every human being, the rights of property are necessarily limited by the needs and wants of other individuals and of the common good . . . this being something that has been stressed to the point of redundancy in this blog and elsewhere.

In short, "Peter," you consistently raise straw men, put words into my mouth, and engage in insinuation and innuendo. What you do borders on calumny, and hardly seems to be an example of the charity that presumably motivates you. You might find Msgr. Ronald Knox's "Enthusiasm" interesting and instructive reading, particularly Knox's definition of enthusiasm: an excess of charity that causes disunity . . . principally by denying that "the ungodly" (as defined by the self-proclaimed "godly") have no rights when they transgress the inspired position of the godly.

peter maurin said...

YOU pronoun, plural you.

2. anyone; people in general:
a tiny animal you can't even see.

Michael D. Greaney said...

"Peter," thou hast equivocated with half truths and misdirection. Shouldst thou wish to engage in rational discourse, thou mayest remain and welcome. Other, fain would I that thou shouldst commence thine own blog to the bafflement and obfuscation of thy readers.