• Pope Francis and the Dignity of Labor. Today, May 1, is celebrated by many Christians as the “Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker.” Saint Joseph is honored as the foster-father of Jesus, and husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In honor of Saint Joseph’s status as a worker, Pope Francis made a statement during mass calling for Catholics (and, presumably, all people of good will) to fight for “dignified work” for all. This, of course, raises the question as to what His Holiness means by “dignified work.” Ostensibly — and going by Francis’s comments — this means sufficient pay from employment, safe working conditions, respect for one’s person, and so on. Missing from the prescription, however (at least as far as we could see), is any mention of worker ownership. This begs the question, for Saint Joseph was not a wage earner. On the contrary, he was a worker-owner, with his own shop. In Saint Joseph’s day, free workers for hire were virtual non-entities; Aristotle referred to them as “masterless slaves.” One of the more startling things Jesus did during His ministry was to treat common laborers as if they were just as good as everyone else, even if they owned nothing. Ordinarily, non-owning laborers (“non-owning workers” — Rerum Novarum, § 3, Quadragesimo Anno, § 5) were considered lower than slaves. Slaves were owned, and as private property “shared” the dignity of their owners. An offense against a slave, even disrespect, was an offense against the slave’s owner. An offense against a non-owning worker who had no patron was nothing to be concerned about. That is why Catholic social teaching insists that capital ownership is essential both for individual human growth and development, and for a just social order. As Pope Leo XIII noted, and was reiterated by subsequent pontiffs, “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.” (Rerum Novarum, § 46.) Pope Francis needs to expand on his comments, perhaps by taking note of this article from Homiletic and Pastoral Review from a few years back. St. Joseph was a worker-owner, not an employee.
|"Ah views this development wif grave concern!"|
• DOW or Dowry?. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal (“Marriage Rate Plunges To Lowest Level on Record,” 04/30/20, A-3), the United States’ rate of marriage has fallen to an all-time low, “reflect[ing] how economic insecurity and changing norms are eroding the institution.” We contend that the decline in the marriage rate is a far more accurate economic indicator than the stock market, as well as a powerful social indicator gauging the overall health of a society. We also contend that the so-called “changing norms” as well as the economic insecurity could easily be reversed and countered simply by making it possible for every child, woman, and man to become a capital owner without redistribution or other coercive measures. By following the program presented in CESJ’s Capital Homesteading proposal, it should be possible to provide the basis for restoring a just social order within a relatively short time.
|Henry C. Adams (not Henry Adams)|
• Trump Threatens Tariffs . . . Again. As punishment (or just political blustering), President Trump has announced he is considering tariffs against China in retaliation for the Coronavirus. Ignoring for the sake of the argument that a tariff is a tax and only Congress has the right to levy taxes, there is the question of what good it would do. The problem is that economic retaliation invites retaliation and eventually war. The situation is not improved when one of the countries involved holds a mountain of the other country’s debt. As Henry C. Adams pointed out over a century ago, “[D]eficit financiering, carried so far as to result in an interchange of capital and credit between peoples of varying grades of political advancement, must endanger the autonomy of weaker states unable to meet their debt-payments. Provided only that the interests involved are of sufficient importance to make diplomatic interference worth the while, the claims allowed by international law will certainly be urged against the delinquent states, and the citizens of such states may regard themselves fortunate if they succeed in maintaining their political integrity.” (Henry C. Adams, Public Debts, An Essay in the Science of Finance. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1898, pp. 28-29.) Translation: China holds American debt. They can demand payment. If their demands are not met, they may endanger American sovereignty if they feel it worth their while.
|Pope Leo XIII|
• Why Not Capital Homesteading?. While President Trump considers retaliatory tariffs against China, in our opinion a better — and more profitable — response would be to implement the program outlined in CESJ’s recent paper, “Universalizing Capital Ownership.” Briefly, the idea is to stop backing money with government debt and shift to private sector hard assets. If done in a way that expands the capital ownership base throughout the American economy, consumption power will be restored, the wealth and income gap closed, the currency stabilized, and a host of other benefits, including restoration of the tax base, moving production back to the U.S., and massive “job creation” without government subsidies. Nor does this mean gaining at other countries’ expense, as they can achieve the same thing by adopting the program themselves. As Pope Leo XIII said well over a century ago, “Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. 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. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man's means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.” (Rerum Novarum, § 47.)
• 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 40 different countries and 44 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “ ‘A Euphemism for Muddle-Headedness’,” “News from the Network, Vol. 13, No. 17,” “How to Have UBO (Universal Basic Ownership),” “Social Justice, IV: The Characteristics of Social Justice,” and “Adam Smith’s ‘Invisible Hand’.”
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.