The year just past was full of newsworthy events, so this end of year news roundup is a bit longer than most. Fortunately, it is also full of substance, so it won't seem so very long:
A significant advance for the Just Third Way was initiating a podcast. Started by student intern Bryan Vosper, the job of host was ably assumed by Dave Hamill. He has taken a short hiatus for the holidays, but the production of new podcasts will resume almost immediately after the New Year. In the meantime, you can access all the podcasts to date by clicking on this link, and then on the tab “Related Tracks” (there is probably a way to get around this two-step process, but we haven’t figured it out yet). By the way, if you’re in to film history, the Neil Shulman interviewed on podcast Number 9 is the Emory University Medical School professor who wrote the screenplay for Doc Hollywood (1991), a movie starring Michael J. Fox, with a large number of “name” co-stars, including David Ogden Stiers, who played Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III on the M*A*S*H television series.
• Tenure Granted. Kudos to Dr. Stephen Chanderbhan, Ph.D., a supporter of CESJ, who received tenure. Steve is an Aristotelian-Thomist who has expressed interest in finding out more about the Just Third Way, which is framed within the Aristotelian-Thomist natural law tradition. By coincidence, we are meeting with him today to discuss CESJ’s upcoming Red Star Over Bethlehem.
|Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht|
• Treasurer of Australia. An advisor to the Treasurer of Australia expressed interest in learning more about the monetary and fiscal policies of the Just Third Way.
• Labour Party of Western Australia. The Labour Party of Western Australia considered forming a working group to study the Just Third Way.
• Just Lead Conference. Norman Kurland and Dawn Brohawn gave presentations at the April 8, 2017 “Just Lead” Mansfield Institute Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. The event went very well, with approximately 130 attendees. The group also visited the second largest magazine printing company in the United States, Publishers Press. The CEO expressed a great deal of interest in “Justice-Based Management,” the Just Third Way approach to establishing and maintaining economic justice in the workplace.
|"You toil and work and earn bread, and I'll eat it."|
|Carter Glass of Lynchburg, Virginia|
• Just Third Way Talk. Dr. Norman G. Kurland gave a talk in April on the Just Third Way to graduate students at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, enrolled in INTL 5400, a graduate course in international political economy. Dr. Thomas Kleiner of Webster University arranged for Norm to speak. The talk went exceptionally well.
• Dinner With Zuckerberg. 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.
• Falling Productivity. The Hudson Institute reported 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.
Mid South, headquartered in Springfield, Virginia, won awards for its efforts to communicate an ownership culture in four of the seven categories for which it was eligible, two “winners” and two “runner ups.” There being no third place or honorable mention, that means Mid South took home nearly a third of the awards given in their eligibility range. It won “Best Video” for an excellent short that displayed the Mid South worker-owner spirit. Many people had trouble believing an amateur, a fellow Mid South worker-owner, produced the short film. It also won for “Best Total Communications.” The company placed second in “Best Series of Special Events” and “Best Total Communications.” In his acceptance speech on behalf of the company, Drew Tavss, president of Mid South, made a special point of mentioning the debt the ESOP community owes to Louis O. Kelso, Senator Russell Long, and Norman G. Kurland.
• Senator Susan Collins. During the opening session Thursday morning, conference attendees were shown a video of Senator Susan Collins (R, Maine) praising the ESOP for being an excellent way of stimulating economic growth and creating jobs in ways that do not require government stimulus. Senator Collins also gave due credit to Kelso for inventing the ESOP.
One downside to the ESOP has always been the cost of installing a qualified Plan, with most of the complexity (and thus cost) coming from the fact that plans have always been customized to fit the wants and needs of each company adopting an ESOP. In contrast, there are only a few ways to have (for example) an Individual Retirement Account, which is a personal qualified plan. For a number of years, then, the IRS and the DOL have been looking into the possibility of having plan documents “pre-approved” which would cut costs (and the time required for approval) immensely. An IRS spokesman at the ESOP Conference noted that he had never heard of a plan document that had been submitted without at least one thing wrong with it. A pre-approved template with absolutely no changes permitted from a range of options would greatly streamline the process of getting a plan approved, taking hours instead of weeks or months to go through the process. Of course, anyone who wanted a custom-designed plan could have it, but would have to pay for custom work, as well as custom approval, relegating it to the category of a special request . . . which the IRS is willing to do for about $25,000, instead of a nominal fee for a pre-approved plan.
• CESJ Literature. CESJ participants at the conference were able to hand out some literature about the Capital Homestead Act, which is a way of extending the ESOP concept to everyone, not just those who work for corporations.
• Film on Louis Kelso. Joyce Hart, the award-winning film maker responsible for The Sisters of Selma documentary, is pursuing a film on the expanded ownership paradigm. She has made significant contacts throughout the expanded ownership community, and is thinking of broadening the subject to include a more comprehensive treatment of what CESJ calls the Just Third Way.
A law professor at the Catholic University of Argentina sent us a link to the message Pope Francis sent to the recent Plenary Session of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences held April 28 through May 2, 2017 that had the theme, “Towards a Participatory Society: New Roads to Social and Cultural Integration.” While the message makes no mention of widespread capital ownership as the best means of delivering justice and for most people to participate in society — something Aristotle, Leo XIII, Pius XI, and many, many others stressed almost to the point of redundancy — there is language that can be understood in a “Just Third Way way” as coming up to the brink, but not quite managing to make the final leap. That is, there is language that paves the way for acceptance of the three principles of economic justice, but does not mention the principal application of those principles, widespread private property in capital, which is absolutely essential to their successful implementation. Conclusion: Pope Francis has made an excellent start, now he needs to get down to brass tacks and give guidance on some specifics, e.g., Capital Homesteading.
• Global Outreach. Great efforts were made to introduce the concepts of the Just Third Way to leaders throughout the world. Materials were sent to leaders in Italy, France, Belgium, Guinea, Burundi, Germany, Great Britain, the Republic of Ireland, and a number of other places abroad, as well as a number of U.S. states and commonwealths. The idea is to reach out to leaders and open doors for a meeting at high levels, meaning a level high enough to do something other than shake hands and smile for the camera.
The Puerto Rican debt restructuring — tantamount to a Chapter II bankruptcy — could result in privatizing the port facilities, airports, and so on. The Just Third Way position on this is, anything that is owned by government can (and should) be owned by the citizens. All the citizens, though, not some ultra-rich plutocrats who will use what should be regarded as the public patrimony for personal benefit. With the “magic” of corporate organization and modern finance, it is entirely feasible for every citizen in a city, state, region, or even the entire world to be a direct owner of any and all infrastructure, and to receive dividend income generated by user fees and the profits from development. If Puerto Rico wants to divest itself of its infrastructure — and the Commonwealth is in a key position for world trade as the “Gateway to the Caribbean,” it can do so both profitably and for the public interest by doing so in a way that makes every Puerto Rican a capital owner.
The situation is a bit different in Illinois. The state’s economy is still relatively sound. Its revenues are ten times the annual service on its debt. So what is the problem? The legislature can’t seem to pass a budget. A possibly superficial analysis suggests that the state and the people of Illinois are being used as pawns in a political struggle. And even if it did, there are underlying problems having to do with unfunded pension liabilities and the hostility to non-government action. The solution? Why not take a page from the book of Illinois’s most famous son, Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln oversaw what many consider one of the greatest economic initiatives in history, the 1862 Homestead Act. Land, however, is limited, and by 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner could, with a great deal of justification, declare the closing of the land frontier. What is needed today is the opening of the effectively unlimited industrial and commercial frontier with a “Capital Homestead Act” — an initiative in which Illinois could lead the way.
• Monetary and Tax Reform. Before there can be a Capital Homestead Act, however (or as an integral part of the Act), there needs to be a complete reform of the monetary and tax system. The tax system should have a single rate for ALL income above a level needed to meet ordinary living costs, plus a deferral to accumulate capital up to a level of capital self-sufficiency. The tax system should not be used for “social engineering.” New money should be created in ways that help ordinary people become owners, and must be asset-backed, elastic, and uniform and, above all, stable. It is monetary and economic insanity to have a currency that fluctuates in value constantly. It makes as much sense as having a yardstick that changes length from day to day. The banking system should not be used to finance government; that is the job of the tax system.
National Cooperative Business Association. Joe Recinos will be attending an international convention on cooperatives sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association in Washington, DC the first week in October. He wants to talk about how the Just Third Way and cooperatives fit together. Joe has also been working on arranging a meeting for Norman Kurland with the NCBA’s new president.
• Fort Belvoir Talk. In July Norman Kurland and Dawn Brohawn gave a talk at Fort Belvoir in Northern Virginia on principles and applications of Justice-Based Management to the Management 5500 course on “Institutional Learning.” Following the final presentations by the graduate students, Norm gave a talk outlining the principles on the macro scale, and Dawn spoke on applying the principles on the micro scale in an institution. The talk went well.
• Leslie Dean Price. In August, CESJ was saddened to learn of the death of Leslie Dean Price of the CESJ Board of Counselors. Mr. Price was founder and Chairman of Equitech International, LLC, a Virginia-based systems integration firm whose mission is to meet the challenge of R. Buckminster Fuller: “How do we make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.” The firm, made up of accomplished architects, engineers, scientists, professional managers and a network of advanced technology companies, focuses on the integration and commercialization of advanced proven technology components to meet the world’s energy, water, waste disposal, telecommunications, human dwelling and other life support and community needs.
In October, Norman and Marie Kurland attended a reception hosted by the National Cooperative Business Association in Washington, DC. Joseph Recinos, who has been working with the NCBA, arranged for the invitation, and also made certain that Norm and Marie met with the president and other key people in the organization. People seemed very interested in what Norm had to say, especially about money and credit being key to expanded ownership and optimal participation in economic life. Tax reform is critical, of course, but without reform of the money and credit system, tax reform will go nowhere: it is a fact of life that you must first have something to tax before you can tax it; taxation doesn’t create money, any more than does government itself. It just shifts it around in increasingly complicated ways that desperately need to be simplified.
• Just Third Way and Paraguay. Also in October, the CESJ core group had an introductory telephone conference with a Fulbright scholar in Paraguay who is interested in setting up an exchange student program, possibly in January or July of 2018.
The CESJ core group had a skype meeting in November with three concerned citizens in Poland and Ukraine to discuss applying the “Citizens Land Cooperative” (also called “the Citizens Land Bank”) concept in Ukraine, where people are worried that the “economic warlords” will end up owning all the land and control economic growth. On top of everything else, the government is burdened by debt and cannot create more debt-backed money to finance economic growth, so we recommend that the banking system be reformed to phase out the current government debt-backed money, and substitute a money supply backed by private sector hard assets. By allowing the private sector to finance growth out of existing productive potential instead of the government’s swiftly disappearing ability to tax in the distant future, the economy could be put on a much sounder basis, and a foundation laid to protect the sovereignty of every child, woman, and man. To prevent people with money right now from buying up all the land, a Citizens Land Development Corporation or Cooperative could be the owner of all the land (with existing owners selling at a fair price to the Cooperative, and leasing it back with a non-transferable, 99-year lease with renewal option), and every citizen owning the land by owning the Cooperative.
• Garry Davis Film. In late November, the CESJ core group went to see a special showing in downtown Washington, DC of My Country is the World, a documentary about the World Citizen Movement” of Garry Davis. The film is not yet available for public showing in all venues (they still need to raise some funds — not very much, actually — to purchase some copyrighted material, e.g., film clips with historical figures talking about Davis and his vision. If you’re interested in advancing the project, feel free to get in touch with director/producer Arthur Kanegis via his website. Whether or not you agree with Davis’s position or activities, the film (and his life) raises some issues you might want to discuss.
Dr. Norman Kurland went to Atlanta, Georgia, to attend a conference, “Advancing Human Rights 2017,” presented by the Human Rights Network. Dave Hamill, who took over as host of the Just Third Way Hour podcast, also attended and recorded sessions for future episodes of the show. Norm took the opportunity to meet with key politicians and leaders in the community to help them see the advantages of rebuilding Atlanta — or any other city — in accordance with the Just Third Way program. CESJ friend Onaje Muid was instrumental in getting Norm invited and arranging for his participation on the panels.
• Truth Be Told Newsletter. The Truth Be Told, the free newsletter of the “Dominican Western Province” of the United States featured a great deal of Just Third Way material. Admittedly, most of the newsletter will probably not be of interest to people who aren’t Christian, but CESJ members might want to pass it on to friends who are.
CESJ’s Director of Research signed a contract for a book deal with a major Catholic publisher. Coming out in two weeks, the book, Ten Battles Every Catholic Should Know, is written from a Just Third Way perspective, but is not the book’s focus. Instead, the Just Third Way is a subsidiary theme, illustrating how lack of widespread capital ownership leads to political as well as economic instability. The publisher is TAN Books, an imprint of Saint Benedict Press. Ten Battles Every Catholic Should Know is currently available for pre-order, for delivery in mid-January. It’s available now for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble According to Amazon (and Barnes and Noble may have the same deal), if the price goes down before the official release, the savings will be passed on to the customer.
• Shop online and support CESJ’s work! Did you know that by making your purchases through the Amazon Smile program, Amazon will make a contribution to CESJ? Here’s how: First, go to https://smile.amazon.com/. Next, sign in to your Amazon 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.
• Blog Readership. We have had visitors from 37 different countries and 49 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Peru. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were, “No Room in the Inn,” “Mere Income,” “The American Chesterton, VI: The Logic of Christian Socialism,” “Whence Cometh This Demand?, I: Supply and Demand,” and “News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 51.”
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#