Friday, April 21, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 16

One of the things the news media have made clear this week — whether or not they meant to — was to underscore the fact that so many of what seem to be insoluble problems actually have some fairly simple solutions . . . if you bother to look for them:
April 24, 1916, Dublin, Éire
• The CESJ annual meeting was postponed from April 17 to April 24, and will take place on Monday. By coincidence, it was 101 years ago on April 24, 1916, that the Easter Rising began in Dublin (see the item below).
• A follow-up letter is being sent regarding the imprimatur for Easter Witness, CESJ’s proposal to revive the economy (and politics) of Ireland in a manner consistent with Catholic social teaching.
Leo XIII was very concerned with the problem of the Occult and the New Age.
• A number of biographies of Hilaire Belloc have been ordered.  We’ve discovered from reading biographies of Pope Leo XIII, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, G.K. Chesterton, Henry George, R.H. Tawney, Msgr. John A. Ryan, Father Edward McGlynn, and others, that the standard Party Line “ain’t necessarily so.”  Important facts are often omitted, things that might prove embarrassing to modern followers are downplayed or ignored, words and events twisted, and some things turn out to be complete inventions.  Correlating biographies by different people and comparing them with contemporary newspaper accounts and other verifiable sources sometimes results in a completely different picture than the one with which most people are familiar.  Did you know, for example, that Leo XIII was very worried about the Occult and the deleterious effect it was having on the understanding of Catholic doctrine, especially when combined with socialism, as it almost inevitably was?  The so-called New Age and modernism (“the synthesis of all heresies”) turn out to be very closely related, while much of today’s understanding of, e.g., “social justice” is rooted in Occult theories.  As Archbishop-Bishop of Perugia (explaining this unusual title would take too long) prior to his election to the papacy, Leo issued a pastoral on the Occult, while Pius IX issued a special encyclical on its dangers (we have a Vatican archivist trying to locate copies of both documents in English for us).  The Second Plenary Council of Baltimore also made special mention of the problem.  In 1989 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and again in 2003 the Pontifical Council for Culture with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, issued warnings about the “New Age,” of which most people seem completely unaware.
Our new Wall Street Executive?
• Given the image of the typical Wall Street Executive as greedy, heartless, and cruel, we find the controversy over the “Fearless Girl” statue facing the “Charging Bull” statue on Wall Street being taken as a protest that there are not enough female executives on Wall Street to be a trifle ironic.  Aren’t there already enough opportunities for women to be greedy, heartless, and cruel elsewhere?
"Job Creation"
• Not to fixate on Wall Street, but today’s Wall Street Journal had an interesting op-ed piece about the monthly jobs report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The author, a former head of the BLS, was concerned that the agency was not getting sufficient funding to ensure an accurate report.  We believe he missed the point.  With the declining market value of labor as advancing technology and cheaper labor in other countries gives producers more cost effective alternatives, it seems that a “Capital Ownership Report” combined with a “Consumer Demand Report” and “Capital Needs Report” would be much more useful, especially in an economy characterized by widespread capital ownership.  To focus on “jobs” is misleading, especially since the demand for new capital that “creates jobs” (sometimes) is derived from consumer demand, as Dr. Harold Moulton demonstrated in his 1935 counter to the Keynesian New Deal, The Formation of Capital.
The "Big Three": From left to right, wheat, corn, and soybeans.
• Another interesting item in today’s Wall Street Journal (when it rains, it pours, evidently) noted the decline in the global market share for three key U.S. agricultural commodities, corn, wheat, and soybeans, the percentage of which has declined drastically since 1985.  What the article did not mention directly is that exports of all three have increased in objective terms since 1985, despite lower acreage in the U.S. devoted to agriculture: exports of soybeans went from 20 million metric tons in 1985 to 54 million in 2016, corn increased from 31 million metric tons in 1985 to 57 million in 2016, while wheat (which displaced cotton in the nineteenth century just as the boll weevil came in) showed the lowest increase, from 25 million metric tons in 1985 to 27 million in 2016.  We have three observations to make.  One, this is actually a good thing, isn’t it?  Other countries are producing enough that the U.S. is no longer the world’s primary source for food.  Two, to make this advantageous to the U.S. — and U.S. farmers — all that need be done is to stabilize the dollar by fixing it to an objective standard and back it with actual assets instead of government debt, and have farmers participate as owners in integrated agri-businesses so that they share in the profits of processing, marketing, and distribution instead of only as suppliers of raw materials.  As U.S. goods become cheaper in terms of other currencies as U.S. prices start to decline as the dollar becomes more valuable (don’t confuse deflation with currency appreciation; this analysis is outside the current Keynesian framework of debt-backing and currency manipulation), other exports will take the place of agricultural products, less will be imported, and there will be a positive balance of trade to start paying down decades of deficits.  Three, with food production booming throughout the world, why is hunger a problem?  In four words, Say’s Law of Markets.  People who are hungry can’t buy even the cheapest and most plentiful food if they don’t produce anything themselves.  As Jean-Baptiste Say put it, the reason some goods are not sold is because other goods are not produced.  Some redistribution will always be necessary, of course, but the basic problem can be solved by turning unproductive people into productive people, and that can be done through an aggressive program of expanded capital ownership.
Corporations pay taxes. Should they vote?
• And yet one more comment about something in the Wall Street Journal: “Need Revenue? Slash Capital Gains Tax.”  No, get rid of all corporate taxes by making dividends tax deductible at the corporate level and taxed as regular income at the personal level, pegging capital gains to the rate of inflation, then rebuild the tax base by allowing a tax deferral at the individual level for any income used to purchase capital.
• Here’s the usual announcement about the Amazon Smile program, albeit moved to the bottom of the page so you don’t get tired of seeing it.  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.
• We have had visitors from 35 different countries and 41 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Spain. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “Socialism v. Social Justice,” “Three Acres and a Cow,” “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “Own or Be Owned,” and “News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 15.”
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.
#30#

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