As we saw in the previous posting on this subject (the subject being Fulton Sheen’s book, Freedom Under God), there is a difference between the natural and absolute right to be an owner (everyone absolutely has the right to be an owner), and the socially determined and limited rights of ownership (no owner can do whatever he or she likes, but must not harm others or the common good when exercising his or her rights).
|Fulton Sheen . . . Solid Gold|
Yes, everyone has a right to be an owner, even though he or she may not do whatever he or she wants with what is owned. There is, however, a problem that surfaces with respect to recognizing and protecting every human being’s right to be an owner, especially of labor-displacing capital (e.g., robots, intellectual technology), which increasingly creates the bulk of the world’s wealth. And it is a problem Fulton Sheen did not address.
Most of the world accepts without question the disproved assumption that the only way to finance new capital formation is to refrain from consuming all that you produce. In this way, savings can be accumulated for investment. In other words, you must presumably first produce something and refrain from consuming it before you can produce anything for consumption.
If we respect human law, this fallacy (or, at least, incomplete truth) of past savings as the only source of financing for new capital restricts all ownership to those who already own and who can afford to refrain from consuming all they produce. The alternative within this framework — humanly speaking — is to change the definition of private property, and put the State in the place of God, with the power to change the definitions of natural rights; “re-edit the dictionary,” as the past savings economist John Maynard Keynes put it. (John Maynard Keynes, A Treatise on Money, Volume I: The Pure Theory of Money. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1930, 4.)
|Pope Leo XIII|
Given the assumption of the absolute necessity of past savings to finance new capital, then, we are faced with two alternatives. Neither of these is either realistic or acceptable, but (depending on your orientation) is more or less plausible. We then have a third alternative that does not appear to be practicable.
The alternatives are capitalism, socialism (“Communism”), and what Sheen called “diffused possession” (“Catholicism”), and others “social Christianity.” Leo XIII, by the way, expressed a preference for the term “Christian Democracy” over “Social Christianity,” as the latter too easily becomes “Christian socialism.” (See Graves de Communi Re, §§ 4-5, 10; Cf. Quadragesimo Anno, § 120.)
We can, however, more accurately describe Sheen’s just “diffused possession” as “the Just Third Way.” Because justice is based on universal moral values promoted by all major religions, Sheen perhaps should have characterized it as catholic, rather than “Catholicism.” As Sheen explained,
There are three possible solutions of the problem of property. One is to put all the eggs into a few baskets, which is capitalism; the other is to make an omelet out of them so that nobody owns, which is Communism; the other is to distribute the eggs in as many baskets as possible, which is the solution of the Catholic Church. Or to characterize them differently: selfish possession (Capitalism); personal dispossession with collective selfishness (Communism); diffused possession (Catholicism). (Freedom Under God, 33.)#30#