We closed the last posting on this subject by asking, Where do ordinary people, who are ordinarily powerless, get the power to organize and act on the system? That is, we noted that the way to restructure the social order so as to provide the proper environment within which people can live “the good life” (in the Aristotelian sense) and live and grow in virtue.
|That old devil Dan'l Webster had the answer.|
Now, the way to restructure the social order to provide the proper environment for virtue is to organize and carry out acts of social justice. This is intended to reform institutions so that the institutions once again conform to natural law principles in a way that meets the needs of individuals and of society in the most optimal way.
. . . which begs the question: HOW are people supposed to organize when they lack power, “power” being defined as “ability for doing”?
Daniel Webster (1782-1852) gave the answer nearly two centuries ago. Not that he was the only one, but he did seem to be the most pithy . . . pithiest? Most succinct? Anyway, as he put it in the 1820 Massachusetts constitutional debates, “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.”
Thus, it makes sense that Leo XIII and Pius XI, who were very concerned with the restructuring of the social order —
|Pope Pius XI|
What We have thus far stated regarding an equitable distribution of property and regarding just wages concerns individual persons and only indirectly touches social order, to the restoration of which according to the principles of sound philosophy and to its perfection according to the sublime precepts of the law of the Gospel, Our Predecessor, Leo XIII, devoted all his thought and care. (Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, § 76.)
The income aspect of private property in capital is actually, in a sense, almost (but not quite) secondary to the power aspect. By focusing exclusively on income, yes, the wage system may be more secure (as long as there are wages to be paid, of course, and the worker is not displaced by a machine he or she doesn’t own), but the wage worker is entirely at the mercy of whoever has power, whether a rich élite as in capitalism, or a state bureaucracy, as in socialism. That is why, if only for their own protection and nothing else, workers must become owners. That is why Leo XIII said,
We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners. (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)
Nor did Leo XIII stop there. As he said,
|Pope Leo XIII|
Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. (Ibid., § 47.)