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.