On the face of it, it appears to be a paradox: unemployment continues to spread, but “the economy” seems to be doing well . . .if by “the economy,” you mean the stock market, which has as much to do with the real, productive and consumption economy as a television situation comedy has to do with real life. One of the more bizarre concepts to come out of what seems to be a pervasive insulation from reality among business, political, and religious leaders is the notion of “stakeholder capitalism,” with which we lead off this week’s news items:
• Stakeholder Capitalism. There has been a strong turn recently toward “stakeholder capitalism,” in which the interests of shareholders — “owners” — are marginalized or repudiated in favor of “stakeholders,” e.g., customers, workers, society, the environment, etc., etc., etc. The idea is that businesses are more than organized ways of people joining together to produce marketable goods and services for consumption. No, businesses are something with an independent existence that has certain moral responsibilities separate from the people who ostensibly own them. To any Aristotelian-Thomist, of course, the concept of a human abstraction (such as a business) that has an independent existence apart from the human minds that created it is not to be considered. It is “Platonic” rather than “Aristotelian”; collectivist instead of individualist or personalist. The bottom line is that “stakeholder capitalism” is another word for socialism, albeit one that makes the paradoxical link between socialism and capitalism a little more apparent than otherwise. Of course, making everyone a capital owner, as described in the proposals of the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ) would obviate the need to change the meaning of ownership, but no one seems to be thinking along those lines, least of all any of the crop of politicians running for office this year.
• The New Servile State? No, just the same old Servile State that Hilaire Belloc described in his book with that title back in 1912. There are, of course, some superficial differences, e.g., where Belloc assumed that in the Servile State everyone (except those in charge, such as the capitalist or political élite . . . usually the same folks) would be forced to take a wage system job instead of being able to own enough capital to generate a living income, the modern Servile State is plagued with “creating” enough jobs so that people who have been stripped of all possibility of becoming capital owners can have income. Belloc noted that widespread capital ownership would solve the problem, but his lack of understanding of basic principles of corporate finance, and even of money and credit itself, precluded making his vision of “the Distributist State” a reality, as he failed to consider the possibility of purchasing self-liquidating capital collateralized with insurance instead of existing wealth owned by the borrower.
• Belloc on Machinery. Speaking of Hilaire Belloc, we located an article about his views on technology employed in the production of marketable goods and services. It turns out — as hinted in The Servile State (1912) that Belloc’s quarrel with Big Business was not so much a problem with the size of the enterprise itself, as his assumption that Big Business automatically meant Big Ownership. No, as Louis Kelso’s binary economics makes clear, a large enterprise can be owned by many small owners, just as G.K. Chesterton and Peter S. Grosscup claimed. It is only necessary that ordinary people without savings or the ability to save out of current income be given access to the technique of “future saving,” i.e., ownership of self-liquidating capital. As he explained in the article we located, “Machine versus Man,” The Living Age, June 1, 1932, pp. 345-349 (reprinted from The Listener, Weekly organ of the British Broadcasting Corporation), Belloc had no problem with modern productive machinery, but a great many problems with how it was owned. As noted, however, he was trapped by an inadequate understanding of money and credit.
|Peter S. Grosscup|
• The Rediscovered Grosscup. While following the lead that led to the Belloc article (above), we happened to come across three pieces by Peter S. Grosscup we didn’t have, of which we had only heard of one. The earliest is just a brief statement during the Spanish American War opposing American imperialism, specifically the unilateral annexation of Cuba. As Grosscup argued, America went to war to protect its interests, and it would be un-American to force Cubans to become Americans against their own interests. If, after Cuba has a stable government and economy and it is the free and uncoerced wish of the people of Cuba as equals, then entry into the Union should be considered, but not annexation. The second piece is a 1905 pamphlet published by The Shippers Forum titled A Simple and Sure Solution to the Transportation Problem. We haven’t read it yet, but we expect to see Grosscup’s usual level head and insightful analysis applied to whatever “the transportation problem” might be. Third is a piece we had a piece of before, “Abraham Lincoln,” an address delivered to the Knights of Columbus in Chicago on February 12, 1907. The address is printed in its entirely in the program for the evening. Grosscup was a Protestant, but thought highly of Catholic social teaching, at least the non-socialist and non-modernist understanding of it.
|They're telling the truth about me. Don't listen.|
• Sensus Fidelium Videos, Update. Speaking of a non-socialist and non-modernist understanding of Catholic social teaching, the videos we’ve been doing with “Sensus Fidelium” seem to be proving popular. They aren’t really “Just Third Way videos,” but they do incorporate a Just Third Way perspective. In order (if you want to see them; they are each about an hour long and you may want to mentally filter out the overtly “Catholic” religious material if that doesn’t appeal to you), they are, 1. The Groundwork, 2. The Road to Rerum Novarum, 3. Putting on the Socialist Spin, 4. Modernism Madness, 5. Catholic Doctrine v. the New Things, 6. Msgr. John Ryan and How to Change Doctrine and 7. The Crucifixion of Fulton Sheen. The point of the videos is to explain how socialism and socialist assumptions got such a stranglehold on the understanding of the role of the State and thus the interpretation of Catholic social teaching.
|" Say 'Limburger'!"|
• 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 31 different countries and 46 states and provinces in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and India. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “JTW Podcast: Communism, Part 4, Modernism Madness,” “News from the Network, Vol. 13, No. 33,” “Keynes and the Slavery of Savings,” “Savings and the Economic Dilemma,” and “How Keynesian Economics Violates Reason.”
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.