We now come to the fourth of the roadblocks to social justice: the effect of advancing technology.
Not to belabor the point, but as we stated in the previous posting on this subject, there are five situations that need to be addressed if we are to carry out a restructuring the social order. Again, there may be more, but these are the ones we think are key to carry out a just, effective, and sustainable restructuring of the social order:
· The Misunderstanding of social justice,
· The “slavery of past savings,”
· “Currency Principle” versus “Banking Principle,”
· The effect of advancing technology, and
· Belief that solutions can’t work as a system.
In the prior two postings on this subject we looked at the effects of what Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler called “the slavery of savings” and how using the wrong monetary theory leads to the domination of the economy by those who control money and credit. Money is important not because economic activity results from it (Currency Principle), but because money results from economic activity (Banking Principle).
|The essence of all money: exchange.|
That is, money is a tool by means of which economic activity becomes useful; it is the “medium of exchange” by means of which I exchange what I produce for what you produce. This allows each of us to specialize in what he or she does best, instead of everyone trying to do everything him- or herself. Everybody benefits from greater production of better quality goods and services . . . but only if everybody is both a producer and a consumer.
And that presents a problem. Human labor alone is not the most efficient means of producing marketable goods and services, even in the Stone Age. As long as human beings were limited to labor alone, they were effectively no different from other animals. The moment human beings began using technology as a matter of course as the normal way of being productive, things began to change rapidly (at least on a geological time scale).
|Of course, it helps to know what you're doing...|
Killing a rabbit with a rock or twisting it out of its burrow with a stick as a usual thing is substantively different from chasing it down or reaching into the hole with your hand. Other animals also use tools on occasion, but not as a usual thing. A chimp only peels a stick to get the termites out of a mound after it has already tried licking them out with its tongue. A human being would (assuming he or she wants a termite treat) bring a prepared stick to the termite mound.
Yes, technology gives a great boost to production, and can even take over the task completely. Further, technology has the immense advantage that while not everyone can employ his or her labor, everyone can own technology. You don’t have to be awake or conscious, or even a human being to own. As lawyer-economist and ESOP inventor Louis Kelso said, he could build ownership into anything. After all, even things can own, if human beings own the things — and as was stated as a principle of Roman law, the basis of all western legal codes, “Everything has its proper owner.”
The bottom line here is that with ownership of technology, anybody can be productive. The Nazi concept of “useless eater” or the ever-popular “the unfit” and “surplus population” can go back under the rock from which they never should have emerged in the first place.
So what’s the problem?
As we saw in the previous postings on this subject, of course, it’s not really money that’s the problem. It’s people’s perceptions and understanding of money. As a result of the false belief that only past savings can be used to finance economic growth, a serious problem crops up. As technology advances and becomes increasingly productive, it also becomes increasingly expensive.
Technology is so productive compared to human labor that the per unit cost of what human labor could produce only for dollars drops to cents or even fractions of a cent, but the technology itself — while financially feasible — has an objective cost far beyond what most people can afford out of their existing resources. As a result, technology displaces human labor, and human beings are unable to compete with technology with their labor alone. As Hilaire Belloc put it in The Servile State (1912),
Consider in what way the Industrial System developed upon Capitalist lines. Why were a few rich men put with such ease into possession of the new methods? Why was it normal and natural in their eyes and in that of contemporary society that those who produced the new wealth with the new machinery should be proletarian and dispossessed? Simply because the England upon which the new discoveries had come was already an England owned as to its soil and accumulations of wealth by a small minority: it was already an England in which perhaps half of the whole population was proletarian, and a medium for exploitation ready to hand.
When any one of the new industries was launched it had to be capitalised; that is, accumulated wealth from some source or other had to be found which would support labour in the process of production until that process should be complete. Someone must find the corn and the meat and the housing and the clothing by which should be supported, between the extraction of the raw material and the moment when the consumption of the finished article could begin, the human agents which dealt with that raw material and turned it into the finished product. Had property been well distributed, protected by cooperative guilds fenced round and supported by custom and by the autonomy of great artisan corporations, those accumulations of wealth, necessary for the launching of each new method of production and for each new perfection of it, would have been discovered in the mass of small owners. Their corporations, their little parcels of wealth combined would have furnished the capitalisation required for the new processes, and men already owners would, as one invention succeeded another, have increased the total wealth of the community without disturbing the balance of distribution. There is no conceivable link in reason or in experience which binds the capitalisation of a new process with the idea of a few employing owners and a mass of employed non owners working at a wage. Such great discoveries coming in a society like that of the thirteenth century would have blest and enriched mankind. Coming upon the diseased moral conditions of the eighteenth century in this country, they proved a curse. (Hilaire Belloc, The Servile State. Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1977, 100-101.)
Belloc’s monetary theory and his understanding of finance were more than a little wrong, but that does not change the point he was making: that technology when broadly owned is a great boon to society and to people individually. When ownership is concentrated in the hands of a few, as in capitalism, or private ownership is abolished, as in socialism, people are stripped of power and becomes de facto slaves of those who do own: the Servile State.
|Only against technology they didn't own.|
Faced with concentrated capital ownership, whether in capitalism, socialism, or the uneasy amalgam of the Servile State, many people see only two possible responses to the “greed” of private property. One, they think a return to the “simple life” — the New Age and Fabian socialist “small is beautiful” mythos with the Luddites (who were not opposed to technology, just technology they didn’t own) as patron saints — will create the Kingdom of God on Earth, a socialist fantasy as old as the human race in one form or another.
Two, what has become known as “the Universal Basic Income” or “the Great Reset” of “Stakeholder Capitalism.” This would also presumably immediately establish and maintain the Kingdom of God on Earth, still a socialist fantasy albeit relabeled “stakeholder capitalism” to make it more palatable.
|Lewis: Envy has been turned into a modern virtue.|
Obviously, both the “small is beautiful” approach and “the Great Reset” are manifestations of envy, considered the ugliest of the “Seven Deadly Sins.” As C.S. Lewis pointed out, however, envy can be turned into a virtue by the simple expedient of applying what Alexis de Tocqueville called a false notion of democracy: that “equality” doesn’t mean equality of opportunity and access to the means, but of condition, i.e., what de Tocqueville characterized as “American” type liberal democracy (of which he approved) versus “French” or “European” type liberal democracy (which he — diplomatically — condemned).
And the answer to the presumed greed of private property and the very evident envy of socialism?
Justice. And that is what we will look at in the second half of this posting.