Friday, May 5, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 18


This has been a pretty busy week for the Just Third Way.  A number of projects have made significant advances, news ones have come in over the transom as it were, and a few “non-producers” were given up.  In addition there have been some interesting meetings taking place, some of them rather surprising — after all, how often does Mark Zuckerberg drop in for dinner unexpectedly?
• Dr. Norman G. Kurland gave a talk on the Just Third Way to graduate students at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, enrolled in INTL 5400, a graduate course in international political economy, on Monday of this week.  Dr. Thomas Kleiner of Webster University arranged for Norm to speak.  The talk went exceptionally well.
"Say, Mark, while you're here, I'm having a problem with FB..."
• Daniel Moore, a member of the CESJ network in Newton Falls, Ohio, had a surprise guest for dinner late last week: Mark Zuckerberg, FaceBook founder and billionaire.  Dan reported that the evening went very well, and he managed to mention toward the end that he (Dan) knew about a new economic initiative (the Just Third Way) that might be consistent with Zuckerberg’s interest in education as a way of bringing out the best in everyone.  There may be some follow-up, as Dan says he plans to stay in touch with his unexpected visitor.
Pius XI: Addressed the decline in reason.
• Related to an interest in education is the continuing decline in religious practice in many parts of the world (See Matthew Hennessey, “A Catholic World Fades Over a Lifetime,” The Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2017, A13).  A fundamental principle of the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (Christian), Moses Maimonides (Jewish), and Ibn Khaldûn (Muslim) — along with most other people through history who follow the philosophy of Aristotle (Pagan), including Mortimer Adler, co-author with Louis Kelso of The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) and The New Capitalists (1961) — is that religious faith (and thus practice) should be solidly based on the natural law discerned by reason; that reason is the foundation of faith.  Unfortunately, the “new things” of the modern world, i.e., the new ways of believing based on opinion derived from faith (“the Will”) instead of knowledge derived from reason (“the Intellect”) — a concern of every modern pope — have convinced many people that religion is not relevant to a world that has largely jettisoned absolutes, especially moral absolutes.  This is why, for example, Pope Pius XI declared at the start of his pontificate, “There is a species of moral, legal, and social modernism which We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.”  (Ubi Arcano Dei Consilio, § 61.)  Restoring Academia to teach principles of justice could, therefore, go a long way toward restoring religious practice.  This is why CESJ would like to see an encyclical on the principles of economic justice as well as implement the “Justice University” concept.
Mexican Piece of Eight with Chinese Merchant "Chops."
• How art the mighty fallen.  The Mexican Piece of Eight and, later, the Peso was one of the most widespread currencies in the world during the nineteenth century, with vast amounts exported to the Orient.  It was recognized as a standard of value over almost half the world.  When the Japanese government instituted a Western-style coinage during Meiji, it was based on the Mexican Peso.  This continued well into the twentieth century, especially in China, where older, full value Pesos continued to circulate long after the official Mexican coinage was depreciated — films during the 1930s set in China sometimes show vendors hawking their products by shouting out the price to Western tourists and businessmen, e.g., “Five dollar Mex!”  Recently the Mexican Peso has been falling rapidly against the U.S. dollar (which wouldn’t happen if the currencies of the two countries were backed with private sector assets instead of government debt and had an actual standard applied), increasing the trade deficit as U.S. goods become correspondingly more expensive in Mexico.
Only a matter of time?
• In another example of modern monetary (and economic) madness, the Chinese stock market has been falling — 5% over the past several weeks — which is draining past savings out of the economy as speculative assets purchased with newly created money decline in value and debts are written off.  Companies in both the productive and the speculative sector are scrambling to lock in financing before the well runs dry . . . which would be completely unnecessary if new money was created only for new capital formation and to finance production, and expenditures for government, consumption, and speculation coming only out of existing savings.
• Speaking of the productive sector over the speculative sector, the Hudson Institute reports that, despite positive economic growth, the rate of productivity has been falling drastically for at least ten years.  (Marie-Josée Kravis, “The Great Productivity Slowdown,” The Wall Street Journal, May 5, 2017, A15.)  This is baffling until we realize that most of the “economic growth” over the past decade has resulted from considering the incredible rise in stock market prices as “growth,” whereas such speculative gains produce no marketable goods or services.
Belloc: animus against Jews no coincidence?
• Bizarre historical anecdote: During World War I Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), whose financial troubles were the stuff of legend, made “big money” for the only time in his life, enough to invest to generate an income to support himself and his children.  Despite his widely publicized views on government debt, public usury, and non-productive money lending, he considered where best to invest such a large sum.  Although he was warned by friends (such as banking family scion Maurice Baring) not to go against his own principles, and despite the disruption in Russia, Belloc decided in mid-1917 that Czarist government bonds were the safest investment he could make.  Why?  He figured that “the Jews” would never let the bonds become worthless and would bail out bondholders since  most people involved in international finance were presumed to be Jewish.  It may be no coincidence that Belloc's animus against Jews seemed to increase greatly after the war (he published his book, The Jews, in 1922), as did his anger against bankers, banks, and finance in general.  Ironically, shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the new Russian government redeemed the Czarist bonds . . . at a tiny fraction of their original value, given nearly a century of inflation and money manipulation.
"You didn't sign up for 'Smile' yet."
• 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 26 different countries and 42 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and India. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “Thomas Hobbes on Private Property,” “A Just, Third Way: Capital Homesteading, Part IV,” “News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 17,” “A Better Argument for a New Glass-Steagall,” and “Glass-Steagall and Internal Control.”
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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