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, September 24, 2020

A Philosophy of America

As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, we asserted the main reason one “side” is so opposed to “rum, Romanism, and rebellion,” is that there is a profoundly anti-personalist philosophy prevalent today about the human person and each person’s place in society — and this philosophy seems to permeate both sides of the debate.

Fulton Sheen: "Philosophies at War"


Ironically, even for those who don’t believe in God or a god or gods, all parties in the debate (for want of a better word) base their respective positions on faith, or at least a triumph of the will over the intellect, as the Medieval scholastics might have put it.  This does, at least, have the advantage of making it relatively clear that the issue is not, in fact, a religious question at all, in the sense of being religion vs. anti-religion.  As Fulton Sheen put it, it’s a case of “philosophies at war,” specifically, philosophies of justice.

That, however, was covered in the previous posting.  What we’re interested in today is the coincidence that Judge Barrett is currently sitting on the Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago . . . where Peter S. Grosscup once presided.

And who was Judge Grosscup, you ask?

Grosscup was one of Theodore Roosevelt’s “Trust Busters,” although they had a slight tiff over the Standard Oil Rebate Case.  It seems Grosscup overturned a lower court’s decision on legal grounds that we don’t understand, but which the head of the Yale law school said were sound.  Roosevelt, however, had it in for Standard Oil, and was sore wroth over Grosscup’s decision.  Grosscup also wanted Standard Oil broken up, but it was going to be done legally.

Judge Grosscup


Grossscup, in fact, had complained for years about flaws in the Sherman Antitrust Act, and was probably instrumental in finally getting some of the holes plugged with the Clayton Antitrust Act in 1914 a few years after he had retired from the bench.  Still, Grosscup was removed from the scene at a critical time in Roosevelt’s program, which meant that Grosscup’s special interest was not considered.  (They made up later, and Grosscup endorsed Roosevelt for president in 1912, but by then it was too late; Grosscup had retired, and Roosevelt wasn’t president.)

And what was that special interest?  Expanded capital ownership.  According to Grosscup, what America needed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a broad base of capital ownership.  This would both restore the economy still reeling from the Great Depression of 1893-1898, and — more important — spread out economic and political power among ordinary people.  In this way the people would control the corporations instead of simply relying on the federal government to keep them reined in.

Now, here’s the interesting part.  Grosscup wrote a number of important articles on the need for expanded capital ownership between 1903 and 1914.  These were published in magazines read throughout the English speaking world.  It is entirely possible that a fellow by the name of G.K. Chesterton came across the articles (he could hardly have avoided it), and they had some influence on his formulation of something Chesterton called “distributism,” a policy of widely distributed capital ownership.

Archbishop John Ireland


Grosscup was also acquainted with Archbishop John Ireland of St. Paul, Minnesota, considered a leading expert in Pope Leo XIII’s 1891 encyclical, Rerum Novarum (§ 46) which recommended that “as many as possible of the people prefer to own.”  Although he was a lifelong Protestant, Grosscup clearly thought very highly of Catholic natural law teachings and the social doctrine of the Church.  He spoke frequently before Catholic groups, visited Catholic schools, and had the dubious distinction of being attacked by nativists and anti-Catholics as a crypto-Catholic.

Since Judge Barrett is an “open” Catholic, and currently sits on the same bench from which Grosscup retired, it might be she would be open to championing what Grosscup saw as having the potential to save America, updated to allow for modern financing techniques, such as those developed by ESOP-inventor Louis Kelso.

Of course, a judge can’t (or, actually, shouldn’t) be involved in the legislative process, but there is nothing wrong in saying what you think needs to be done.  The voice of someone on the U.S. Supreme Court would carry a lot of weight and cause others at least to think about it.  Come to think of it, she could do the same thing as Grosscup did, and he never made it to the Supreme Court.

It’s something to think about.