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.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Short Treatise on Sovereignty

As we noted in the previous posting on this subject, the political doctrine that all government revenue should come only from taxation is based on the fundamental principle of the sovereignty of the human person.  Whoever pays the costs of government controls government, unless politicians can figure out a way to hide the fact of who is really paying, as is the case when the government can create money.


 As we have seen in this series, however, if the good of actual human persons is not ultimately the goal of any proposal, act, law, institution, system or anything else, then it may not be as good as claimed, or good at all.  It may actually be anti-human and contrary to nature, even as adherents cite nature, the environment, Mother Earth, and humanity itself in justification.

This is why, for example, both individualism, which exalts the human being above everything else, and collectivism, which glorifies the abstraction of humanity, are not consistent with human nature.  Individualism ignores human beings’ social nature, while collectivism ignores individuality, both of which are essential parts of human personality.

It is the human person with an individual and social nature as a member of society who is sovereign, not just extraordinary individuals alone or humanity as a whole, and the whole of society exists for the good of every person.  If this is not understood, protected, maintained and integrated into daily life and all institutions, then the common good is both individually and socially unjust, and human dignity is offended.

Knowing the words doesn't necessarily mean knowing what it is.


A society that is individually and socially just — that is oriented to the good of each human person and is therefore structured virtuously — is one that respects the dignity of everyone, and does so by adhering or conforming to certain principles.  These are the principles of participation, distribution, and feedback or correction.

That is, every system must be structured virtuously for every human person.  Social structures are not, of course, themselves virtuous or vicious.  They are structures of virtue (or vice).  They can — and do — encourage or discourage people from becoming and remaining virtuous. 

To be structured virtuously, a system as well as the common good as a whole must give equal access to the opportunity and means to participate in social life.  There must be distribution of rewards and punishments according to each one’s inputs or contribution to specific endeavors, institutions, or society as a whole.


Finally, there must be some means of correcting a system when it does not function in a just manner.  These principles apply to all institutions and systems within the common good, and are themselves the virtues of participative justice, distributive justice, and social justice.

At this point, however, what we want to look at is the natural and thus inherent sovereignty of the human person.  As a necessary starting point, especially in the modern age, we must carefully and clearly distinguish the natural sovereignty of each and every human person, from the assumed (or usurped) or delegated sovereignty of some particular individual, group,  or even humanity as a whole.

The fact that every human person is sovereign by nature tells us certain things.  First and foremost, personal sovereignty cannot be taken away or denied without implying that those from whom it was taken are not human.

Aquinas on Being and Essence


An assumption of natural personal sovereignty is built into the orthodox sects of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as well as pagan Aristotelian philosophy.  It is an integral part of what Aquinas called “the analogy of being.”

“Analogy of being” is a complicated way of saying that all human beings are as human, and are human in the same way, as all other humans.  It means that every human being has the “same”* capacity to become virtuous or vicious through the exercise of natural rights.

* The correct term is “analogously complete.”  For our purposes, however, we will say “same,” with the caution that it does not mean “identical,” which would tend to collectivism and the belief that human beings are interchangeable copies of one another.

Every human being therefore has equal natural rights to life, liberty and private property.  This necessarily implies that every human being also has the related — and equally natural — rights to:

·      Participate in the institutions of society,

·      Receive rewards or punishments according to his inputs, and

·      Organize and correct institutions when they are flawed or not functioning properly or within acceptable parameters.

Human dignity and thus sovereignty is the basis of liberal democracy, which raises a difficulty today: what do we mean by that?  Not surprisingly, we find that what anyone means by “liberal democracy” depends on how he understands human dignity and sovereignty.


To the collectivist, liberal democracy means that humanity as a whole, an abstraction or idea created by human beings, is sovereign.  Consequently, whoever speaks for the collective (or has the power to assert the claim) is sovereign on behalf of the People.  Individual human beings are only persons with rights if those in charge of the collective permit it.

To the individualist, liberal democracy means that certain individuals are more human, or fully human, and thus have effective rights.  Most individualists will agree that all human beings have rights, but only an élite, also an abstraction created by human beings, has the capacity or ability to exercise them.  Some extreme forms of individualism claim that the élite are the only ones with rights.

To the personalist, liberal democracy means that every individual human being is sovereign with the natural rights of life, liberty and private property, and their related natural rights of participation, distribution and feedback or correction.

Every human being is sovereign and thus a person.


As can be seen, collectivism and individualism both put sovereignty into an abstraction, that is, an idea created by human beings for human beings, not by God.  God creates human beings, not ideas that have no existence apart from the human mind.

There is a long and complicated philosophical argument Aquinas used to explain why God by His very Nature only deals in concrete actualities, not abstractions.  For our purposes, however, we only need to know God only deals with the individual human person, not society in any form.  Human creations are only of concern to God when human beings use them for good or evil.  Their creation, structuring and use are human concerns.

That is, God made man to live in society, but did not dictate any particulars.  The natural law, the general code of human behavior, gives general norms only.  It is up to us to apply them to create and maintain structures of virtue to assist people in becoming more fully human.

And that is the problem of human sovereignty.  How do we structure our institutions and laws to allow maximum freedom to pursue virtue without interfering with others’ pursuit of virtue?

Given human nature, some form of personalist liberal democracy that respects the dignity of each and every human being would appear to be optimal — which raises another question.  If personalism is so obviously consistent with human nature and thus the natural law, while collectivism and individualism are not, how did the Great Reset and similar proposals ever develop, much less become so popular?