An interesting batch of news items this week, most of them coming out in this morning’s Wall Street Journal — and most of them having to do with efforts to solve problems using the same paradigm that caused the problems in the first place! Why not just take the easy way out and go with the Just Third Way? After all, it might actually solve a few problems instead of creating more:
• Hudson Institute Event. Yesterday, the Hudson Institute hosted an event, “Countering Emerging Economic Threats.” The speaker, Anthony Vinci, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, talked about the dangers represented by China, and proposed the formation of a new government agency, the National Economic Defense Center. While interesting, the presentation was clearly an example of the thinking that comes out of the existing economic paradigm. An increasing role for the State, money manipulation, reliance on past savings, and so on — the Just Third Way has a better answer, and a more effective one in Capital Homesteading.
• Brazilian Pension Deal. In a rather surprise move, Brazil is trying to solve some of its fiscal problems by reducing public pensions. (“Big Pension Deal Signals Power Shift in Brazil,” Wall Street Journal, 08/02/19, A-16) This is a step in the right direction, but only a step. To solve the immediate problem, it is not simply enough to cut costs. There must be a program to replace the lost income — and something along the lines of a Capital Homestead Act would supplement or replace the income from a pension, and at the same time encourage people to be productive in a way that also builds consumption power. Both widespread productive power and widespread consumption power are essential for a sound economy.
• The Increase of Debt Slavery. Although the burden of consumer debt is nothing new, the bill is starting to come due at a time when wage income levels are remaining static or actually falling in real terms. (“Record Debt Swamps Middle-Class Families,” Wall Street Journal, 08/02/19, A-1, A-9.) The idea that static or declining wage income can be supplemented or replaced by ownership income simply doesn’t seem to occur to the powers-that-be, despite the fact that Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler published their two books outlining an alternative more than half a century ago, The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) and The New Capitalists (1961).
• More on the Debt Crisis. In ancient Rome, it was illegal to sell yourself into slavery for debt or to be sold to satisfy a debt. That was all well and good, but it didn’t address the underlying problem of inadequate income. That is why the move to restrict consumers’ ability to tap into their home equity for cash is another move in the right direction, but it does nothing to solve the problem of inadequate income. (“Tapping Homes for Cash Gets New FHA Limitations,” Wall Street Journal, 08/02/19, A-9.) Not to keep playing the same tune, but a Capital Homestead Act would help . . . as would something along the lines of a Homeowners Equity Corporation, one of the features of which would allow shareholders/homeowners to cash out some of their shares without risking losing their homes.
• Gold Standard. Talk about a return to the gold standard (properly understood as the money measured in terms of gold, not the way it’s usually proposed, with the total money supply backed by or consisting exclusively of gold) is one of those, “yes, but” suggestions that cause a certain antonymous angst. Yes, returning to an objective, fixed standard for the currency would be of immense benefit . . . but can’t you think of anything better than gold? And don’t you realize that what backs the money does not have to be the standard? For example, if a farmer in Ceylon before the British came in mortgaged his farm that was worth three elephants, did he receive three elephants, or certificates or banknotes backed by three elephants? After all, in Ceylon values were measured in terms of elephants, which were a valuable draft animal. No, he received coins or banknotes to the value of three elephants, but that were backed by his land. Not elephants. Not gold. Similarly, mortgage securities drawn on inventories are not backed by whatever is used to measure the dollar (the whim of politicians, evidently), but by the inventories. That fact that government keeps changing the value of the dollar just cheats people who entered into contracts at one dollar value, and the completed the contract at another. Something like the price of a kilowatt hour of electricity would make a better standard than gold . . . although you might not want to hold it or carry it around in your mouth like the ancient Greeks did small change.
• Power With Justice. The first draft of Power With Justice: An Introduction to Economic Personalism has been completed and it goes into editing review on Monday. Written at special request to inform members of the Catholic clergy and hierarchy of an alternative to the usual understanding of “economic justice” — although everyone interested in social justice should find it fascinating — the brief (less than 45,000 words) summary gives an overview of how the principles of Thomist personalism correlate with the Just Third Way . . . which is much more interesting than it sounds, even though it oversets a great many assumptions people have concerning the human person, the role of the State, and even fundamental concepts of good and happiness. Frankly, if you read this book and are not outraged, you might want to have your pulse checked to see if you have one. Socialists, capitalists, libertarians, liberals, conservatives, and more will all find something in this book to upset them or at the very least start to question their worldview.
• 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 21 different countries and 37 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Spain, India, Philippines and Australia. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “Gene Gordon on Deck!” “Subsidiarity and Personalism,” “News from the Network, Vol. 12, No. 30,” “Restructuring the Social Order,” and “The Ultimate Social Power.”
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.” Due to imprudent language on the part of some commentators, we removed temptation and disabled comments.#30#