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, January 11, 2018

Ways and Means

To continue our discussion on Pope Francis’s recent “Urbi et Orbi” Christmas message, we want to address his advocacy of the “two state” solution for Palestine.  We disagree — which should not shock even “ultramontane” Catholics, since anyone can disagree with the application of a principle, as long as there is no change in the principle.

"Take a letter. . . ."
For example, suppose Pope Francis tells someone at the Vatican, “I want you to hand-deliver this envelope to the Archbishop of Milan.  Take the train.  Traffic is terrible.”  The functionary takes the envelope, and goes to his cousin Luigi who is flying his private airplane to Milan and back that day and lets the functionary ride for free as a favor to the pope.  Has the functionary disobeyed the pope?
Nobody but a lunatic or a completely rigid thinker would think the functionary did anything wrong.  The job got done more efficiently and at less cost, and even the pope’s concern about traffic was taken into consideration.
Let’s take another, better example.  A number of the popes have stressed the importance of widespread capital ownership, for a number of reasons we’ve gone into at great length elsewhere — and that’s not the point.  The point is that, e.g., both Leo XIII and Pius XI specified paying higher wages to enable workers to save so they could purchase capital.
Pope Leo XIII
As Leo XIII said in § 46 of Rerum Novarum:
If a workman's wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income. Nature itself would urge him to this. We have seen that this great labor 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.
And as Pius XI said in § 63 of Quadragesimo Anno:
As We have already indicated, following in the footsteps of Our Predecessor, it will be impossible to put these principles into practice unless the non-owning workers through industry and thrift advance to the state of possessing some little property. But except from pay for work, from what source can a man who has nothing else but work from which to obtain food and the necessaries of life set anything aside for himself through practicing frugality? Let us, therefore, explaining and developing wherever necessary Leo XIII’s teachings and precepts, take up this question of wages and salaries which he called one “of very great importance.”
Now — if someone comes up with a more efficient or less expensive way for workers (or anyone else) to become owners of capital, does that mean he or she is dissenting from papal teachings or disobeying the pope?  If the new way to attain the goal of worker ownership is consistent with basic principles of morality as well as human law (that is supposed to be based on the natural law, i.e., the universal code of human behavior), is there a problem?
Of course not — although a number of commentators insist that must be the case . . . except when it does not suit their purposes to do so.  Thus, any means by which workers can become owners without violating anyone else’s rights or harming the common good is legitimate.  Strictly speaking, in regard to the means of acquiring and possessing capital (the special value of labor as intrinsic to the human person is a different issue), there is nothing particularly sacred or even special about wages.
There is, in fact, an unjust limitation imposed if savings from wages are the sole source of financing for new capital formation.  It prevents anyone who does not work for wages from becoming an owner.  Thus, better than wages would be some means by which not only workers, but every child, woman, and man can become owners without depriving anyone of their wealth or violating their rights.
One proposal that might be adequate is Capital Homesteading — which we’ll cover in the next posting on this subject, in which we will discuss a possible alternative to a two-state solution that might be just for everyone.