In the previous posting on this subject, we realized that, while Pope Leo XIII and other heads of the Catholic Church pretty much laid it down as the law that as many people as possible should become owners of capital, they did not really give a good or practicable means of being able to do so. Does that mean that Fulton Sheen made a mistake in his book, Freedom Under God, when he backed the papal stance on widespread capital ownership to the hilt?
|Was Leo XIII being impractical?|
After all, if only a few rich capitalists can own if we respect private property, and socialism is condemned, what exactly are we supposed to do? Pretend we’re owners when we’re not, or that we all own when the State owns or controls everything? If we rely on past savings, that’s what we’re stuck with.
Fortunately there is a way out of the slavery of past savings, and one that we think Sheen would immediately have appreciated. We believe that the problem is, in large measure, the result of the evolution of a social, monetary, tax, and financial system that operates for the benefit of a few, and to the detriment of the many. This flawed system creates barriers to economic opportunity (primarily ownership of capital) out of outdated methods of finance and money creation as well as a failure or refusal to understand the results of advancing technology.
|Expanded ownership is the most practical thing in finance.|
To be precise, the principal reason for the rapid growth of moral relativism in the world today, and the cause of the shift from social Christianity to Christian socialism, is that the system as it developed failed to include the essential triad of principles of economic justice. Louis O. Kelso, inventor of the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and the Aristotelian philosopher Mortimer J. Adler first articulated the basis of three interdependent principles that, like the legs of a tripod, combine to form a mutually supportive, interconnected and logical system for sustaining a just, balanced, and free economic system. Kelso and Adler described these principles in Chapter 5 of their best-selling collaboration, The Capitalist Manifesto. As we describe and explain them,
1. Participative Justice. This is how one makes “input” to the economic process in order to make a living. It requires equal opportunity in gaining access to private property in productive assets as well as equality of opportunity to engage in productive work. Participative justice does not guarantee equal results, but requires that every person be guaranteed by society’s institutions the equal human right to make a productive contribution to the economy, both through one’s labor (as a worker) and through one’s productive capital (as an owner). Thus, this principle rejects monopolies, special privileges, and other exclusionary social barriers to economic self-reliance and personal freedom.
|Sheen was right, too.|
2. Distributive Justice. This is the out-take principle described in legal terms as the form of justice “which should govern the distribution of rewards and punishments. It assigns to each person the rewards which his or her personal merit or services deserve, or the proper punishment for his crimes.” (“Justice,” Black’s Law Dictionary. St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Company, 1951.)
Distributive justice is based on the exchange or market value of one’s economic contributions — that all people have a right to receive a proportionate, market-deter-mined share of the value of the marketable goods and services they produce with their labor contributions, their capital contributions, or both. In contrast to a controlled or command economy, this respects human dignity by making each economic “vote” count.
This understanding of distributive justice based on inputs must be clearly differentiated from definitions that base distribution on need. Sheen makes this clear when critiquing the Marxist dictum, “From each according to his capacity, to each according to his needs.” (Freedom Under God, 65. This is more usually rendered, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” as Marx expressed it in his Critique of the Gotha Program (1875).) Distribution on need is a valid principle for charity, a moral responsibility, but not for justice, which (of course) is also a moral responsibility.
|"I didn't say much, but it was important!"|
Charity does have its proper role, however. As Pope John Paul I stated in his General Audience, Wednesday, September 6, 1978, during his brief pontificate, “Charity is the soul of justice.” Nevertheless, as Augustine of Hippo observed, “Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.” Charity should never be regarded as a substitute for justice, but as the fulfillment of justice. As Moses Maimonides explained,
The greatest level [of charity], above which there is no greater, is to support [your fellow man] by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others. (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Charity, 10:7-14.)
3. Social Justice. This is the feedback principle that rebalances participative justice and distributive justice when the system violates either essential principle. Social justice includes a concept of limitation that discourages personal greed and prevents social monopolies. Social justice holds that every person has a personal responsibility to organize with others to correct their organizations, institutions, laws and the social order itself at every level whenever the principles of participative justice or distributive justice are violated or not operating properly. (See the foreword to the CESJ edition of Father William J. Ferree’s pamphlet, Introduction to Social Justice, 1948).