Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Conclusion to Three Keys to Common Sense: Where Do We Go From Here?


In Return to Chesterton (1952), the “follow-up” to her biography of G.K. Chesterton, Maisie Ward commented of her subject, “The hardest thing to live with as the years passed must have been the vision growing daily clearer of ultimate failure.” (Maisie Ward, Return to Chesterton.  New York: Sheed and Ward, 1952, 281.)  Evelyn Waugh wrote of Msgr. Ronald Knox’s approaching end, “At first glimpse death appeared neither as an awful summons to judgment nor as a recall from exile, but as the final disruption and frustration of plans.”  (Waugh, Ronald Knox, op. cit., 330.)  Throughout his autobiography, Treasure in Clay, Fulton Sheen made references to his sufferings.

Fulton Sheen: International acclaim.
This strikes the casual reader as rather odd.  Chesterton did pretty much as he wished his entire adult life.  Knox’s accomplishments would be enough for any three people.  Sheen won international acclaim.  All three died without abandoning either their personal faith or their principles.  These men were successful by any measure.  What right did they have to be frustrated, or oppressed with a sense of failure or suffering?

At the moment we can’t recall who said it (perhaps a number of people have made this observation), but what some people take as a false humility on the part of very good and holy people in all religions is actually a much deeper understanding of what goodness and holiness consist.  The more good and holy they become in comparison with their fellows, the more they realize just how far short they fall from the infinite goodness and holiness of God.

Ronald Knox: the work of three men.
Perhaps we can say something similar about Chesterton, Knox, and Sheen.  The better they understood the essential role of reason and of common sense as the basis for the natural life that provides the foundation of the supernatural life, the more they realized just how far short even their most devoted followers were in their understanding of basic common sense.  As the twentieth century wore on, the more they saw how seemingly trivial errors in reason, faith, and philosophy were growing into great errors that in the twenty-first are coming closer and closer to destroying civilization — and no one was paying any attention.

And nowhere is this more evident than with what their own followers have done with Chesterton, Knox, and Sheen.  Chesterton has been turned into an amusing and mystical (if occasionally insightful) buffoon, a “fool for God’s sake.”  He is an excuse for imitative (and often execrable) poetry and stories, excess in food and drink, and a champion of virtually everything he hated, especially theosophy and socialism — something of which he appears to have been fully aware.

Ronald Knox: comic book villain.
Knox has been relegated to the status of author of detective novels and a Biblical translation nobody reads.  That is, when people even remember who he was and don’t confuse him with a Japanese comic book villain.

Sheen is renowned for his spirituality and mysticism by people who reject his intellect as unimportant, even dangerous.  He is relegated to being “the first televangelist” with almost as many clever things to say as Chesterton, while references to his philosophical and social thought make his devotees go rigid with anger.

Mortimer Adler: reform of Academia
Clearly a reform is needed, and that reform must start where the problem originated: Academia.  Mortimer Adler made a number of attempts to restructure and reclaim Academia, such as his “Great Books” program, the “Paideia Proposal,” the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, and so on.  As schools have transformed themselves into training centers for jobs that do not exist, proposals for reform have been relegated to the dustbin along with common sense and reason.

Behind any reform, however, is the power to carry out reform, or (as Pius XI put it) "the restructuring of the social order" — and, as Daniel Webster noted nearly two centuries ago, "Power naturally and necessarily follows property."  That means that every child, woman, and man must have access to the means of acquiring and possessing productive capital, and that means money and credit, the chief means of becoming an owner in an advanced (or any) economy.  People must come to understand private property (which confers power) and money and credit (which is the means to obtain property) in order to understand principles of justice, as well as establish and maintain that economic democracy that is the foundation of political democracy.

That is why CESJ has developed the idea of “Justice University” or “Justice Classrooms” to promote the study of the premier natural virtue, as well as all the others, and to reform Academia to conform to the principles of reason and of common sense.

Louis Kelso: reform of economics.
Specifically, what is missing throughout the world are the specific principles of social justice as conceived by Pope Pius XI and Rev. William Ferree, and specific principles of economic justice as conceived by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler. As human beings are, in Aristotle’s terms, “political animals,” people necessarily exist as individuals within a social environment.

Yet, sound ideas of justice today are rarely if ever taught in terms of systems principles, or in terms of how individuals relate to their institutions that make up the social environment.  Because of this, the teaching of the virtue of justice, especially as it is understood and applied in our social and economic systems, is paramount if we seek, as R. Buckminster Fuller put it, “[T]o make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation [and] without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”

Our educational institutions, however, from grade school to the university level focus almost exclusively on teaching justice from the standpoint of “individual” morality or ethics (how individuals should relate to one another) — when they teach it at all.  Academia is virtually silent on these two advances in our understanding of justice as it relates to the social realm (how people relate to their institutions), and changes those institutions when necessary.

William Ferree: the act of social justice.
The goals of a “justice curriculum” would be different:

·      Educating people in the pursuit of “becoming more fully human,” i.e., acquiring and developing virtue according to their nature as unique individuals and members of growing nations and world society.

·      Teaching people how to transform exploitative and disempowering “wage-welfare systems” into participatory and liberating ownership systems.

·      Teaching the principles of economic justice that, when applied, have the potential to free every person from economic toil to be able to engage in what Aristotle called “leisure work” — the work of civilization and building a good society.

To provide a framework for understanding and applying justice in the social realm, the curriculum would initially emphasize what Father Ferree identified as the “Laws and Characteristics of Social Justice” as outlined in Introduction to Social Justice:

Pius XI: a completed social doctrine
The “Laws” of Social Justice

1.   That the common good be kept inviolate,

2.   Cooperation, not conflict,

3.   One’s first particular good is one’s place in the common good,

4.   Each is directly responsible,

5.   Higher institutions must never displace lower ones,

6.   Freedom of association,

7.   All vital interests should be organized.

The Characteristics of Social Justice

1.   Only by members of groups,

2.   It takes time,

3.   Socially speaking, nothing is impossible,

4.   Eternal vigilance,

5.   Effectiveness,

6.   You can’t “take it or leave it alone”

The principles of economic justice.
Economic justice is a subset of social justice, addressing the urgent and immediate material needs of human beings, as opposed to the “important” long-term needs of human development.  Justice University courses will focus on the three principles of economic justice, as defined by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler:

·      Participation. The input principle that all people have a right to live in a culture that offers them equality of dignity and opportunity to contribute their labor as well as their capital, to the production of marketable goods and services.

·      Distribution. The out-take principle — based on the exchange value of one’s economic contributions — that all people have a right to receive a proportionate, market-determined share of the value of the marketable goods and services they produce with their labor, their capital, or both,

·      Social Justice. The feedback principle that balances “participation” and “distribution” when either essential principle is violated by the system.  Kelso and Adler called this the principle of “Limitation,” focusing on the imbalances that greed and monopolies produce in any economic process.  By applying principles of social justice, people are guided to organize together to redesign unjust systems that are violating the principles of participation or distribution.

A free market is not laissez faire, but liberty with limits.
The principles of social and economic justice are practical guidelines for the structuring of an economically and politically just society.  Because, as Daniel Webster noted, “power naturally and necessarily follows property,” a just economic order is the necessary first step in establishing and maintaining a just political order.  The justice curriculum would examine how public policy and law can apply the principles of social and economic justice as embedded in the “Four Pillars of an Economically Just Society”:

·      Limited economic power of the State, and maximized economic power of all citizens,

·      Free and open markets with minimal institutional barriers to personal choice as the best means of determining just wages, just prices, and just profits,

·      Restoration of the rights of private property, especially in corporate equity and other forms of business organization, and

·      Universal access to direct personal ownership of capital.

The justice curriculum would initially concentrate on presenting online and interactive lectures, seminars, programs and events covering subjects from the Core Curriculum in venues or facilities provided or opened up by existing institutions. The emphasis would be on the teaching of justice from early childhood to the highest levels of formal education, with an initial focus on whatever educational institutions have been identified as having a philosophical orientation consistent with the Just Third Way. Community groups and organizations, as well as churches and clubs, should also be open to the program.

Returning Academia to the idea of a university.
Colleges and universities in particular should find great value in a justice curriculum to help raise the level of awareness of advanced concepts of justice in the surrounding community, and among alumni and friends, as well as students. Such programs would be an invaluable source of knowledge and experience for the local community, building relationships and integrating the institution more closely into the life of the community.

Specific courses would be presented as televised interactive lectures or seminars (individual or a series) recorded with high-quality equipment in appropriate settings, and taking advantage of the knowledge and expertise possessed by members of CESJ scholars and professionals. Ideally, all justice curriculum courses would be offered free of charge to students.

Sufficient material currently exists or could quickly be produced to supply texts and supplementary reading for specific courses. At present, suggested core materials for a justice curriculum are William Ferree’s pamphlet Introduction to Social Justice and Chapter 5 of The Capitalist Manifesto by Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler, and a host of materials available on the CESJ website, www.cesj.org.

In a related capacity, Justice Classrooms or Justice University would organize itself as a justice-oriented version of the Aspen Institute, bringing together world-class thinkers, faculty and students from different disciplines to identify and formulate just solutions to the most pressing global challenges.

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