The New Year is starting off with a lot of areas of news and interest to the Just Third Way. Not all of them are pleasant reading, but all are important, one way or another. Of course, virtually everything fits into the Just Third Way somehow or other. These are what have popped up as immediately relevant this past week:
|"I'm rich, rich! . . . on paper, anyway. Can I eat paper?"|
• The 25,000 Dow. Yes, yesterday the Dow Jones Industrial Average went over 25,000 for the first time in history. Where most people are still chanting that a rise in share values necessarily means economic growth, job creation, and the rest of the mantra, increasing numbers of people are beginning to feel very nervous about what is going on. The fact is that an increase in share values during periods of falling productivity is no more an indication of economic growth than a rise in food prices during a famine is a sign of abundance. Where the latter is caused by a scarcity of food, the former is caused by non-productive speculation pushing out productive investment for what is believed to be a limited savings pool to finance growth. Even though the latter is a fallacy, the fact remains that “investors” are choosing to speculate instead of financing new capital, which dries up financing for new capital.
|Fisher: Stock speculation creates wealth.|
• Speculation and Investment. Some investors (gamblers, really) have gotten so nervous about the astonishing rise in share values that they have put their money into other speculations and gambles. Some are now keeping their holdings in cash (the ultimate speculation under Keynesian MMT), while others are getting into cryptocurrencies . . . which are virtual commodities that don’t even have government debt behind them. At least they’re not making the same mistake as the economist Irving Fisher, who claimed even after the Crash of 1929 that the fall in share values was an illusion, and that the government only needed to start pouring money backed only with its own debt into the economy to “reflate” prices and bring back prosperity.
|Hjalmar Schacht saved the German economy.|
• Return to Barter. As reported in today’s Wall Street Journal (“In Difficulty, Venezuela Turns to Barter,” A16, 01/05/18) the Venezuelan currency is in such bad shape that many people have simply stopped using it, and are bartering instead. The problem is that prices are so high and production so low that the government can’t afford to print enough currency to meet the transactions demand for cash . . . or so the Journal reports: “the government is too broke to print enough currency.” This is, of course, one of the problems associated with trying to meet expenses or “stimulate growth” by increasing the amount of debt-backed money in the economy. It’s essentially pouring gasoline on a fire in an attempt to douse the flames, with the one doing so shocked, shocked to find he has only made the problem worse. A great deal could be done immediately by extending back credit for productive purposes (if there are any left), and rediscounting the asset-backed loans at the central bank, thereby beginning a shift to an asset-backed currency and providing sufficient circulating media for daily transactions. Hjalmar Schacht managed to save the post-World War I German economy that was in much worse shape by restoring asset backing to the Reichsmark in 1924.
|Auguste Comte: Father of Positivism|
• Authentic Pseudo Truth. For years we have described the Just Third Way as consistent with “authentic Catholic social teaching,” even though CESJ is an interfaith group. What we did not know was that over the past century, “authentic” has changed meaning from “ ; ; ; (in law)” or even the obsolete “authoritative.” After the socialist, modernist, and New Age “re-editing” of the dictionary that’s been going on since the advent of New Christianity/Neo-Catholicism/Positivism, “authentic” now means that people have been able to force a bad argument on others, or found a source that appears to have enough power or authority (or simply tells others what they want to hear loudly enough) to be able to get what they wanted all along, usually some version of socialism, modernism, or the New Age. “Authenticity” is therefore just another version of “fideism,” or doing whatever you like and thinking it is good if you believe it strongly enough.
|"Dear Dr. Grisez, you completely missed the boat." s/Aristotle|
• Reinventing Aristotle and Aquinas. This past week Deacon Joseph G., a member of CESJ’s Board of Counselors, sent us a link to an article from the 1960s by Germain Grisez. “The First Principle of Practical Reason: A Commentary on the Summa Theologiae, 1-2, Question 94, Article 2,” originally published in the Natural Law Forum 10, no. 1 (1965): 168–201. The point of the extremely lengthy article seemed to be that Aquinas has been grossly misinterpreted for 800 years by people who didn’t understand that the idea of “good” is not based on reason alone, and does not necessarily relate to any absolute standard, but to people’s “experiences” without reference to anything objective. Thus, “good” is not something discernible by reason, but only by faith in one’s own opinion about what is good. There is thus no absolute standard for good, which turns out to be whatever we want it to be. Now, we are not trained philosophers here, so we passed it on to one for comment. It does seem to us, however, that Dr. Grisez’s argument comes into contradiction with what Aristotle said in his Ethics about all things pursuing the good; if some people do evil, it’s because they have a wrong idea about good. Dr. Grisez seemed to be saying that there can be no wrong idea about good, and that if someone thinks something is good, it becomes good . . . which sounds like pure moral relativism, which is what Heinrich Rommen said results whenever you get away from a reason-based understanding of natural law and go with something “authentic” instead.
|Aquinas gotcher back, Jack . . . er, Aristotle.|
• Interest in the Just Third Way. Inquiries about the Just Third Way have been increasing over the last couple of weeks. A particular area of interest is finance, that is, the subjects of money and credit, banking, and how new capital formation is funded. We even had the trained philosopher noted above comment on how he would like to know more about “past savings and future savings” and how it fits into the Just Third Way and thus into the Aristotelian-Thomist philosophical framework. By the way, the philosopher, who teaches at a college, has agreed to do a foreword for Red Star Over Bethlehem, which we hope to publish soon.
• Ferree Compendium. A great deal of progress has been made in formatting the compendium of some of the key short writings of CESJ co-founder Father William Ferree. Work is expected to be completed soon on the section introductions.
• 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 50 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 Brazil. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were, “The American Chesterton, VII: Socialism and the New Religion,” “Islamic Banking,” “News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 52,” “What Pope Francis Didn’t Say,” and “The Fine Art of Missing the Point.”
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.