THE Global Justice Movement Website

THE Global Justice Movement Website
This is the "Global Justice Movement" (dot org) we refer to in the title of this blog.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

On Usury and Other Dishonest Profit, Part XXIII

To say that people need to get organized and carry out acts of social justice is all very well, but the question then becomes, "organized to do what?" We've seen that programs based on Keynesian economics are contrary to human nature, that is, to reality. That being the case, they are necessarily doomed to fail. On the other hand, the analyses of Jean-Baptiste Say and Harold Moulton are true as far as they go, but seem to leave something out. If a non-usurious economic system is consistent with human nature, it should be possible to put human ingenuity to work. We should be able to design a system that not only makes good economic and financial sense, but is fully consistent with human nature.

We have already hinted at the essential elements of such a system, but let's recap them briefly:
1. Respect for human dignity. This sounds like a throwaway line, or something tossed in for the "touchy-feelie" crowd. On the contrary, this is the most important aspect of any institution or system devised by humanity for humanity. "Dignity" means recognition and protection of the full spectrum of natural rights of every individual, among which are life, liberty (freedom of association), access to the means of acquiring and possessing private property in the means of production, and the acquisition and development of virtue ("pursuit of happiness"). Human dignity extends to the "secondary" or "derived" rights, those which are not explicitly natural rights, but which necessarily accompany the natural rights and optimize the enjoyment and exercise of each individual's natural rights within the common good. The existence of rights implies the functioning of justice, the highest temporal virtue. Justice must be tempered with charity, but we must never define the exercise of charity or justice in any way that confuses the two, or in a way that negates one or the other. Charity is not truly charity if justice has not been observed as perfectly as possible, while justice that is not tempered with charity tends to reduce or even eliminate the "human factor." Thus we may never, for example, violate one individual's natural rights for the benefit of another, regardless of the need. All elements of every human institution must be derived from and be directed toward respect for the human dignity of everyone.

2. Money and credit. Until we understand that this thing we call "money" is derived solely from production of marketable (exchangeable) goods and services, that is, from the ability to deliver on the promise to convey or transfer things of value, we will continue to be baffled by the mavens of Wall Street and government pundits who blindly follow the false assumptions of Lord Keynes and other economists who fail to grasp the nature of employment, interest, and money. "Money" is anything that can be used in settlement of a debt. "Credit" is the act of creating money by making a promise to deliver something of value. We can create money legitimately by making a promise to deliver anything of value in which we have ownership. We can create money illegitimately by making a promise for someone else to deliver something of value in which they have ownership. The ability to create money is a natural right under "freedom of association." Because money and credit have such a profound effect on the common good, the creation of money and the extension of credit must be strictly regulated and policed by the State when passing through the channels of commerce. (Private transactions affecting only two parties can be much less formal, and may or may not be properly regulated by the State, depending on the type of transaction and the materiality, i.e., its relative importance.) We must, however, never confuse the State's regulatory role with the creative function. Money and credit are "derivatives" of production (whether existing goods and services or the present value of to-be-produced goods and services), and the State by its nature produces nothing.

3. The principles of economic justice. The principles of economic justice are applications of respect for human dignity. Economic justice thus encompasses the moral principles that guide people in creating, maintaining, and perfecting economic institutions. These institutions determine how each person produces an independent material foundation for economic subsistence. The ultimate purpose of economic justice is to free each person economically to develop to the full extent of his or her potential, enabling that person to engage in the unlimited work beyond economics, that of acquiring and developing virtue, and so fitting one's self to mankind's proper end. The triad of interdependent principles of economic justice are the principles of 1) Participation (or Participative Justice), 2) Distribution (or Distributive Justice), and 3) Harmony (Social Justice). Participative justice refers to the right that everyone has to participate fully in all institutions of the common good, especially the right of equal personal access to the means, or "social tools," to participate fully as a producer to meet one's needs as a consumer. In economic justice, this refers to the right each person has to participate in the economic process as a supplier of labor, an owner of capital, or both. Distributive justice is often misunderstood as distribution on the basis of need, the principle directing charity. As defined by Aristotle (Ethics, V), however, distributive justice is based on a proportionality of value given and received. This virtue deals with a distribution or division of something among various people interacting cooperatively with one another, in shares proportionate to the value of each one's relative contribution to the outcome. The third principle of economic justice operates as the "feedback principle" for ensuring that participative and distributive justice are in balance and working properly. This principle of limitation prevents such concentrations of capital ownership as are injurious to the economic rights of others, i.e., their right of effective participation in production and to earn thereby a viable income in the form of the distributive share to which they are justly entitled by the value of their contribution.
These essentials of a non-usurious economic system guide us in discerning the four pillars of a just market economy, an application of our natural right to freedom of association. We will examine the four pillars in the next posting in this series.