Friday, February 19, 2016

News from the Network, Vol. 9, No. 07


We may not have very many news items this week, but they are on important issues . . . such as the basis of the Just Third Way, and how existing social structures might not be optimal for achieving an economically and socially just society.  Since there is a great deal to get through, we’ll cut straight to the chase . . . after a word or two to encourage you to donate to CESJ as painlessly as possible:

"Smile ... please, so I don't have to!"
Amazon Smile program.  To participate in the Amazon Smile program for CESJ, go to https://smile.amazon.com/.  Next, sign in to your account.  (If you don’t have an account with Amazon, you can create one by clicking on the tiny little link below the “Sign in using our secure server” button.)  Once you have signed into your account, you need to select CESJ as your charity — and you have to be careful to do it exactly this way: in the space provided for “Or select your own charitable organization” type “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington.”  If you type anything else, you will either get no results or more than you want to sift through.  Once you’ve typed (or copied and pasted) “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington” into the space provided, hit “Select” — and you will be taken to the Amazon shopping site, all ready to go.

In ancient times, this would have been brightly painted.
• The death of Justice Scalia has prompted a great deal of discussion.  Most of it revolves around whether Obama will be able to “pack the Court” à la FDR, or if whoever takes office next year will make any better choices.  That’s not to say that conspiracy theorists aren’t having a field day, of course, but none of this is getting to the real issue: the basic theory of government of the United States and the role of the Supreme Court (and, to a lesser extent, that of the president, at least in this context).  Scalia was a “conservative” (whatever that means), and generally presented himself as a “strict constructionist” . . . and thus in the classic liberal tradition.  That’s not being snarky, it just shows the massive confusion today over basic concepts and terms.  Was Scalia a strict constructionist advocating interpreting the Constitution per the original intent of the framers?  Well . . . yes . . . and no.  He does seem to have had an understanding that rights are inherent in the human person, and that the Constitution is a grant of rights from actual human persons to the State, not the other way around, as socialists and advocates of the living constitution theory claim.  He doesn’t seem to have taken this to its logical conclusion, however, especially in his opinion in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission (558 U.S. 310 (2010)), in which he concurred with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion that the First Amendment right of free speech applies to artificial persons (associations) because it is through such artificial persons that natural persons exercise their rights.  True, Scalia was a Catholic, and Catholic social teaching is based solidly on freedom of association; acts of social justice cannot be carried out unless people can come together in free association (Quadragesimo Anno, § 87).  This is a fundamental principle of the U.S. government.  The problem is that the First Amendment — actually the whole of the Constitution — applies only to natural persons, that is, human beings.  Not the abstraction of humanity, the collective, the community, the State, or anything other than actual, flesh and blood children, women, and men.  The Fourteenth Amendment was adopted to reinforce this point, as the notorious Dred Scott decision had effectively nullified the Constitution by shifting the source of rights from human beings to the State.  What the First Amendment protects is the right of people to come together in free association, NOT what they can do as members of a free association.  To prohibit an association, such as a corporation or a labor union, from making political contributions in no way abridges the freedom of speech or anything else of the natural persons who came together in free association.  If any one of them wants to give his or her entire fortune or rainy day savings to a political cause, there is absolutely nothing to stop him or her . . . as an individual, natural person.  To say anything else tacitly assumes that rights are not inherent in human beings and granted to the State, but are inherent in the State and granted to human beings.  Once you claim that an association effectively has the same rights as an actual human being, you are saying that a creature of law — the creation of an artificial person with the sanction of the State — is on the same basis as a creature of God, thereby putting God and the State on the same level, making the State, in the terminology of the totalitarian philosopher Thomas Hobbes, a “Mortall God.”

A grant of rights to the State, not to the People
• Speaking of the effort to strip human beings of rights and vest them in an abstraction, the recent blog series that covered the Strange Case of the Disappearing Common Sense (“Three Key Books on Common Sense,” “Enthusiasm,” and “The American Chesterton”) and the just-completed “Socialist Delusions, Capitalist Illusions” turned out to be surprisingly popular, especially for postings on what many people would consider somewhat academic and obtuse subjects.  The basic point of all the series, however, was simple: modern political and economic thought has shifted the basis of sovereignty from the human person to the State (the pólis), and put the State in the place of God.  “Rights” are construed as inherent in humanity, not in actual human beings, thereby shifting the source of rights from something God made, to something human beings made — “humanity” is an abstraction, a construct by human beings because no human being is omniscient, and therefore needs a “crutch” to be able to grasp the immensity of reality, even in a small way.  As the late Fulton Sheen put it, this reverses the roles of God and man, and is the fundamental error of socialism, a “concept of society . . . utterly foreign to Christian truth” (Quadragesimo Anno, § 117, cf. § 120) — or any other religion or sound philosophy.  Now, we have no way of knowing who actually reads the blog (although we know where they live. . . . Big Blogger isn’t watching you, but he knows you’re there), but we have seen an upswing in blog postings, articles, ’n such reasserting positions and principles at odds with the natural law principles of the Just Third Way, but without bothering to prove any of it or argue fairly.  Apparently some people are becoming extremely nervous about what they’re seeing, and are reacting in the only way they know how: denial and retreat, rather than facing the issues and resolving them in an honest and straightforward manner.

Going after a global communications network might not be the best tactics. . .
According to a “Lifenews.com” posting yesterday, “A federal appeals court has ruled that the Obama administration can force a television network run by a Catholic nun to obey the HHS mandate, which compels religious groups to pay for abortion-causing drugs for their employees.”  The network is the “Eternal Word Television Network,” or “EWTN.”  This raises some interesting issues regarding separation of Church and State (it goes both ways, you know), as well as the level of control a government should exercise over the lives of individual citizens and free associations.  In general, when a government goes after a group, the first thing it does is to take away the power to communicate.  Only then does it go after civil rights — you don't want to let others know anything other than the government's side of things.  That's why in Ireland during the nineteenth century, those agitating for Catholic Emancipation, repeal of the Acts of Union, and independence first formed associations, then established newspapers. The government would then arrest the leaders and chief communicators (thereby convincing those remaining that the government only paid attention to armed revolt) and shut down the newspapers.  According to the Wikipedia (not the best source, we’ll admit), EWTN reaches 250 million homes in 140 countries and territories. It's not a question of getting through to the media — EWTN is the media for as many as 500 million people (assuming two people per household — not all of them Catholic, either.  Lots of non-Catholics watch EWTN).  It will have no trouble at all broadcasting its side of the story throughout the world.  The Obama administration is looking at a huge PR embarrassment.  The media in other countries will be quick to pick up something like that, if only to embarrass the U.S.  Bad as things are in other countries, it is in the best interest of other governments to show that the U.S. is even more oppressive than they are (truth has no place in politics).  Of course, this could all be a ploy to go after “the” major Catholic media presence in the world in an effort to shut it down.  Arresting Catholic leaders for tax evasion or some such thing sounds a lot better than a roundup of political and religious dissidents.  Simply making grievances known, however, isn’t going to do anything other than alert people to the danger.  What’s needed is a program that will restore power to people and at the same time take it away from government something along the lines of Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen.

Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891)
• Speaking of Ireland, we received another batch of books to further our research into the roots of the 1916 Easter Rising, and located a significant number of contemporary newspaper and magazine articles, this time on the “Young Ireland” movement of the 1840s that grew out of the effort to repeal the Acts of Union by means of which Great Britain took over direct control of Ireland . . . assisted by £1.2 million in bribes.  The struggle throughout the nineteenth century in Ireland kept shifting back and forth between getting land ownership into the hands of ordinary people, and securing political liberty.  Charles Stewart Parnell, one of the founders of the National Land League, combined the two . . . but by that time industrial and commercial capital had outstripped landed capital as the predominant means of wealth creation.  Land reform eventually came to Ireland, but it was too little, too late, and the struggle shifted back to political independence (and to socialism), and the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War . . . leaving the economic question to wither and die on the vine.  Since, as many authorities have pointed out, political democracy must be grounded on a solid foundation of economic democracy, Ireland (to say nothing of the rest of the world) is still facing the same problems the country had in the preceding eight centuries — something the Just Third Way has the potential to resolve.

• As of this morning, we have had visitors from 58 different countries and 53 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past two months. Most visitors are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Kenya. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “The American Chesterton, XVII: Sheen v. Radical Catholicism,” “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “The Purpose of Production,” “Socialist Delusions, Capitalist Illusions, I: What is Socialism?”  “Socialist Delusions, Capitalist Illusions, VI: Where Does the Money Come From?”

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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