Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nothing Succeeds Like Secess!

Secessionism, according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday (“Secessionism’s Dangerous Return,” 10/17/17, A15), is big, it’s bad, and it’s back.  The way things are going, it’s 1914 all over again, with the big powers and little people squaring off for a final showdown.  As the author, Walter Russell Mead, a fellow of the Hudson Institute and Professor of Foreign Affairs at Bard College, opines,

What’s worrying today is that the surge in secessionist movements and identity politics in the postcolonial world coincides with rising competition between the great powers. . . . Rising great-power competition intersecting with a world-wide surge in identity politics — the combination does not point toward a calm future.
What’s even more worrying, though, is the fact that nobody seems to be aware of what is at the root of both the “great-power competition” and the “surge in identity politics.”  It’s a combination of ordinary people with too little power, and the State, the corporation, or any other organization having too much.
"Only man is endowed with reason." — Pius XI
First, of course, the basic fact is that organizations, from the State on down to the smallest group, is made for people; people are not made for the organization.  Even the family was instituted for the benefit of the individuals making it up.  Once an institution becomes viewed as an end in itself, instead of as a means to an end, the game is over.
Every form of society, whether civil (the State), religious (the Church), or domestic (the Family) — and “State” includes all civil institutions, just as “Church” includes all forms of organized religion — is made for the human person, not the other way around.  Doubt that?  Even the Catholic Church has that as a core principle: “Only man, the human person, and not society in any form is endowed with reason and a morally free will.”  (Divini Redemptoris, § 29.)
Speaking from an Aristotelian perspective, “the meaning and purpose of life” is for everyone to acquire and develop virtue, thereby becoming more fully human.  The catch to that, of course, is that acquiring and developing virtue only results from exercising one’s natural rights, primarily life, liberty, and private property.
And the catch to that is that exercising rights requires power . . . and power only comes naturally from private property.  And when property, and thus power, is concentrated as it is with “the great powers”?  Corruption sets in at all levels of society . . . just as Mead noted.
Judge Grosscup: "People-ize the Corporation."
It comes as no surprise, then, that as ordinary people have become economically and politically disenfranchised, they have sought to regain power by violence, or by breaking away from those perceived as more powerful.  At the same time, those with power seek both to retain what they have, and increase it.
This was the situation Peter S. Grosscup, one of Theodore Roosevelt’s “trust busters,” addressed in a series of articles in the decade prior to the First World War.  Grosscup saw that as ordinary people lost capital ownership, their basic freedoms of life and liberty were endangered.
Grosscup’s solution?  “People-ize” the corporation.  First, institute a uniform law of corporations on the country, and enable ordinary people to purchase shares that carried the vote and paid dividends.
The problem was that Grosscup had no good plan that would enable everyone to purchase shares, or to optimize the chance that the shares would be sound.  What was needed was the proposal developed by Louis Kelso and refined by the Center for Economic and Social Justice: Capital Homesteading, a plan to enable ordinary people to buy shares on credit, and pay for them with the future dividends on the shares.


Arthur Powers said...

A bit overstated. We are, after all, members of the Body of Christ - the good of the individual is important, but as part of that greater body also. The Church is not just an institution for the benefit of individuals. Putting the individual in conflict with the Church is a false dichotemy. Private property may be one aspect of society, important in many respects, but hardly the foremost. Some of the happiest people I know have taken vows of poverty and own nothing.

Michael D. Greaney said...

Not overstated at all, in fact, not strong enough. This was the very serious problem addressed by Fulton Sheen in his first two books, by Chesterton in his major works after becoming a Catholic, and specifically by every pope since Gregory XVI, when he referred to "rerum novarum" — the "new things" — meaning "the democratic religion" of New Christianity and Neo-Catholicism that gave independent existence to the collective. It results in a view of existence as centered on collective man, an abstraction, instead of God, the ultimate reality.

The collective, an abstraction, does not even exist for God, as He is perfect and therefore does not abstract. He has practical, direct knowledge of everything except Himself, and even there His speculative knowledge is perfect and indistinguishable from practical knowledge. One of the great lessons of Easter is that it is NOT expedient that even a single human being be sacrificed merely to preserve an institution, with no reference to any essential good the institution provides for all; "Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends," NOT "for his institutions." Institutions and abstractions are things created by human beings. Human beings are images of God, created by God.

The Church is made for man, meaning every individual, and nothing else, not man for the Church; without people, the Church wouldn't even exist; no organization or institution can exist apart from actual, flesh and blood human beings that make it up. For God, ONLY the human person matters, not any institution, except as it directly serves human needs. Jesus did not become a church, He became a man. If an institution requires human sacrifice to exist, and for no other reason, it isn't worth having.

Arthur Powers said...

Michael - I don't think we really disagree. My point is that the Church is not an institution made by men, but the Body of Christ. We are members of that Body - see, e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Romans 12:4-5, Colossians 1:18. Members of the Body are living and vital when connected to the Body, but dead and useless when separated from it. Compare, e.g., John 15: 1-17 - the fruit withers if it is separated from the vine. Thus, while there is some justification for seeing a conflict between the individual and, e.g., the state, there is none in seeing a conflict between the individual and the Church - they are integrally connected (you are right in saying that you could not have the Church without individuals, but you cannot - in this world - have fully alive individuals without the Church). See, for example, Pius XII Mystici Corporis Christi:

15. But a body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.

16. Again, as in nature a body is not formed by any haphazard grouping of members but must be constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally untied parts, and that it has a variety of members reciprocally dependent. It is thus the Apostle describes the Church when he writes: "As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another."

Blessings to you and the great mission of looking at alternative economic models.

Michael D. Greaney said...

You cannot put an abstraction above either God or the human person, to do so displaces God. The demands of the group can NEVER violate the inherent dignity of either God or the human person for any reason whatsoever, particularly in regards to the natural rights of life, liberty, and private property. You can NEVER violate justice for the sake of charity, for then what results is neither justice nor charity.