There have been a number of interesting developments this past week relating both to the development of the concept of social justice and to its application to address some current situations:
|Msgr. Taparelli, the social justice missing link.|
• Missing Link Discovered! For years we have speculated off and on over why Pope Pius XI used the term “social justice” for his breakthrough in moral philosophy. By 1922, when he was elected pope, social justice meant socialism. Pius XI was the first pope ever to use the term, and the first Catholic intellectual to use it since Msgr. Luigi Aloysius Taparelli d’Azeglio, S.J. in the late 1830s and early 1840s. While head of the Ambrosian Library in Milan from 1907 to 1914, the future pope became so well-versed in Taparelli’s thought that, evidently having found the 1845 version inadequate for his purposes, he translated Taparelli’s multi-volume work on natural law, Saggio Teoretico di Dritto Naturale (1840) — “The Theoretical Essay of Natural Law” — into German, Versuch Eines Auf Erfahrung Begrundeten Naturrechts. When he became pope, Pius XI immediately launched his campaign to restore the social order, with the chief means being the act of social justice, which he developed from the thought of Taparelli integrated with the political philosophy of Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.
• Walmart CEO and the Minimum Wage. Walmart CESO Doug McMillon, the Poster Boy for underpaying workers, has testified before Congress that he thinks the minimum wage is too low. The irony, of course, is twofold. One, as noted, Walmart — whether or not all of them are guilty, is notorious for underpaying workers, so the CEO calling for an increase in the minimum wage is the pot calling the kettle black. If he thinks wages are too low, why doesn’t he raise them? No one is going to stop them, and the free publicity might more than make up for the increased cost. Two, raising the wage rate raises the price level, often more than the raise in wages, and it raises it for everyone, not just those getting an increase in pay. All those who did not get an increase are worse off than before. Take, for instance, a worker making $16.00 per hour. The base wage goes from $7.50 (this is what we call an “example”) to $15.00. Everyone who was making less than $15 per hour now gets $15 per hour. And the guy making $16 per hour? He still gets $16 per hour. That’s not much help if, as could easily happen, the price level doubles. What was $16 before is now the same as $8; effective pay for the $16 an hour worker was effectively cut in half while others stayed pretty much the same. Everyone except for those in the $7.50 to $15 range is worse off, and they are only better off because of the redistribution of purchasing power. Of course, by sharing ownership and instituting profit sharing income would increase without raising prices, but that seems too logical.
• Proper Use of the Central Bank. In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (Thursday, June 6, 2019, A-17) in his article, “The Fed Can’t Bail Trump Out,” George Melloan makes a strong case to support his contention that the Federal Reserve has been egregiously misused in pursuit of political goals. Unfortunately, he does not make an equally strong case for proper use of a central bank, which is to provide a uniform stable and “elastic” asset-backed reserve currency so that the private sector can carry out industry, agriculture, and commerce. Melloan’s unstated assumption, common to virtually all schools of economics today, is that the amount of money in the economy determines economic activity; the trick is to try and determine how much money there should be in order to achieve the desired results (the Currency Principle). In binary economics, the assumption is exactly the opposite: that the level of economic activity determines the amount of money in the economy; the trick is how to make everybody productive so that they can become full participants in economic — and thus social — life (the Banking Principle). Which assumption you use determines who is in charge of the State, those who control money and credit, or those who produce marketable goods and services.
|Pope Leo XIII|
• Immigration. Over a century ago Pope Leo XIII gave the way to resolve the immigration dilemma: expanded capital ownership. As he said, “We have seen that this great labor [substitute “immigration”] 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. Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. . . . 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.” (Rerum Novarum, §§ 46-47.) The only question is how to achieve this happy state of affairs, to which we reply, “Capital Homesteading.”
• Tariffs. A tariff is a tax an importing country levies on goods brought into the country. It increases the price of a good to domestic consumers by adding to the cost. There is a legitimate use for tariffs when the goal is to protect new or struggling key industries in a country from foreign competition. The danger, of course, is that a tariff can stifle competitiveness and innovation by taking away the incentive to become more efficient. That’s the good part of a tariff. The bad part is that politicians will use tariffs as a way to punish other countries or gain an advantage over them. The only real solution to trade imbalances is for each citizen of a country to have the equal opportunity and means to become productive, whether by labor or capital, and to have a uniform, elastic, private sector asset-backed reserve currency. Given that, “unfair” trade practices such as dumping actually operate to the advantage of an importing country, for it means that the citizens of the exporting country are subsidizing consumption by citizens of the importing country. When that becomes obvious, unfair trade practices tend to fall of their own dead weight, or the governments or politicians that implemented them fall. One way to achieve a state of society in which everyone can become productive is “Capital Homesteading.”
|Joe "Piecrust" Biden|
• Biden Caves. Just when it looked as if Joe Biden might be acquiring a spine, he reversed himself on his stand against federal funding for abortions. True, as a practical measure the Hyde Amendment is utterly meaningless as any CPA should be able to tell you, but it is of immense symbolic value when it comes to acknowledging whether the State was made for human beings, or human beings were made for the State. If the former, the government’s job is to protect the opportunity and means whereby every citizen exercises his or her rights, and in extreme cases make provision for the necessities; rights are inherent in the human person. If the former, the government’s job is to ensure that every need is met, and everyone is taken care of in whatever the majority deem is an appropriate manner; rights are inherent in the State. In our opinion, the former respects essential human dignity, while the latter violates it.
• Sheen’s Fascinating Facts. Fulton J. Sheen was one of the few people to gain a personal audience with Pope Pius XI soon after the latter’s election to the papacy in 1922. During the audience, the pope asked Sheen about his university studies; Sheen had left the Catholic University of America due to its declining academic standards in theology, and Pius XI was concerned about the problem. Seemingly out of the blue Pius XI asked if Sheen had read Taparelli’s two-volume work on the natural law in which Taparelli presented his theory on the principle (as distinct from the virtue) of social justice. Embarrassed, Sheen admitted that he had not. Pius XI then gave Sheen a de facto order to purchase the work in Latin and read every word. Not surprisingly, Sheen’s doctoral thesis published three years later, God and Intelligence in Modern Philosophy (with a foreword by G.K. Chesterton, no less) addressed the same issues that Taparelli undertook to counter, the New Things (rerum novarum) of socialism, modernism, and New Age thought. Sheen, however, did not realize then or later that Pius XI had redefined social justice from a “mere” principle to a particular virtue with an act of its own. It would not be until the 1940s and the work of Father William Ferree, S.M., Ph.D. that a scholarly analysis of Pius XI’s breakthrough in moral philosophy was made and published in The Act of Social Justice (1942, © 1943), later summarized in Ferree’s pamphlet, Introduction to Social Justice (1948).
• Paper Wealth. According to the Wall Street Journal, Household net wealth in the United States rose 4.5% in the first quarter of calendar year 2019. As the Journal reports, this was due to a rise in share values on Wall Street. There is, of course, a problem with that, in that the rise in share values represents speculative gains, not increases in savings or productive capacity. Everyone has objectively exactly the same things he or she did before by this measure. All that is changed is how it is denominated subjectively.
• Beyond Food. This is not really a news item or a commentary, but a baffled statement. Beyond Meat, a company that processes vegetable protein to simulate the experience of eating animal flesh without actually doing so, is projecting significant growth. There seems to be something wrong in the concept, somewhere, but we can’t quite pin it down.
• Perth Herald Tribune. For non-U.S.-centric news that isn’t filtered through the news agencies (not that there’s anything wrong with them, but they have different ideas about what you might want to hear about), check out the online “Perth Herald Tribune.” An overview of the site reveals that the small monthly subscription fee might be well worth it — and the Mission Statement is derived in part from CESJ’s Core Values!
• 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 36 different countries and 52 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Canada, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “Rebranding Socialism as True Christianity,” “Religion Without God,” “News from the Network, Vol. as, No. 22,” “Power to the People, I: The Myth of Past Savings,” and “Interview With Joe Recinos, Part II (And I).”
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.