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, March 21, 2019

The Three Principles of Economic Justice

In the previous posting on this subject we noted that, having defined the State’s role in the economy in rather broad terms, we still needed to come up with the principles that should guide all  participants in the market if we want to have a justly structured economic order.  One thing to keep in mind, of course, is that (as Daniel Webster said) “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.”  If we want common human dignity respected, we cannot vest controlling power — property — in the State or anywhere other than every child, woman, and man.

Webster: Power follows property.
Getting down to specifics, since we’re looking at economic matters and the proper role of the State, we look at what the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) has proposed to address this issue.  That is a “Capital Homestead Act” (that might be called an “Economic Empowerment” or “Economic Democracy” Act outside the U.S.).
The idea is that by making it possible for everyone (at least in theory) to become an owner of capital, “the rest of us” will be empowered, and there will no longer be any need for the State (socialism), a private sector élite (capitalism), or some weird combination of the two (the Servile State) to try and take care of people (for their own good, of course).
Kelso: universal capital ownership.
Expanded capital ownership would enable every person (even those who cannot work) to realize the ultimate vision of Louis Kelso of equal access to capital ownership and private property as a fundamental human right.  This is consistent with the natural law triad of life, liberty, and private property.
Key to the “expanded ownership revolution” are the three principles of economic justice.  Kelso and Aristotleian philosopher Mortimer J. Adler articulated these as interconnected systems principles in Chapter 5 of the book they co-authored, The Capitalist Manifesto.  CESJ later refined and integrated these principles into the social doctrine of Pius XI as analyzed by CESJ co-founder Father William Ferree.
Like the three legs of a tripod, the three principles of economic justice operate together, providing the framework for a just and stable economic order.  Like a tripod, if even one principle is missing or violated, the structure collapses.  As refined by CESJ, the three essential principles of economic justice are:
·      Participative Justice.  This principle defines how one makes input to the economic process in order to make a living. It requires equal opportunity in gaining access to private property (control over, and enjoyment of the income from productive assets) as well as equality of opportunity to engage in productive work.  Participative justice does not guarantee equal results, but requires that every person be guaranteed by society’s institutions the equal human right to make a productive contribution to the economy, both through one’s labor (as a worker) and through one’s productive capital (as an owner).  This principle rejects monopolies, special privileges, and other social barriers to economic self-reliance and personal freedom.
Aristotle: the classical form of justice.
·      Distributive Justice.  “The most classical form” of distributive justice (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, § 201.), the out-take principle, is based on the exchange or market value of one’s economic contributions.  This is the principle that all people have a right to receive a proportionate, market-determined share of the value of the marketable goods and services they produce with their labor contributions, their capital contributions, or both.  This respects human dignity by making every producer’s and consumer’s economic vote count.
·      Social Justice.  As the feedback and corrective principle, social justice governs participative and distributive justice, enabling both to operate properly.  Within an economic system, social justice restores balance between overall production and consumption.  It rebalances participative justice and distributive justice when the system violates either essential principle.  Social justice includes a concept of limitation that discourages personal greed and prevents monopolies and barriers to participation.
Pius XI: social justice, not socialism.
In general, social justice embodies the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity: every person has a moral responsibility to organize with others to correct organizations, institutions, laws, and the social order itself at every level whenever the principles of participative or distributive justice are violated or are not operating properly.  The application of social justice to the common good of specific economic institutions brings those institutions into conformity with the demands of the common good of all society.
Of course, knowing the principles is not the same as knowing how to apply them.  We still need to look at guidelines to apply these principles of economic justice, which is what we will do in the next posting on this subject.