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, July 29, 2021

Binary Economic Personalism

It may have a somewhat lengthy name — the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism — but it is much more straightforward and logical than people living in a world soaked in Keynesian Kraziness might suppose.  In the previous posting on this subject, we noted how many (although not all) aspects of life are “binary” and tend either to be in balance or try to move toward a balance to function properly.  This, naturally enough, led us to economic personalism, which is based on an application of binary economics.


As we might — and should — expect, the binary nature of personalism itself is inherent in economic personalism.  Economic personalism is an economic system centered on the dignity and economic empowerment of each person.  It recognizes that life, dignity, and liberty require that each person should have the power and independent means to support and sustain one’s own life, dignity, and liberty — i.e., through one’s natural absolute right to be an owner and the limited and socially determined bundle of rights that define how an owner may use what is owned.  Economic personalism aims to diffuse economic power structurally by democratizing access to capital ownership for each and every human person. (Michael D. Greaney and Dawn K. Brohawn, Economic Personalism: Property, Power and Justice for Every Person.  Arlington, Virginia: Justice University Press, 2020, iv.)

Louis O. Kelso


In other words, economic personalism is that aspect of the Just Third Way concerned with the production, distribution, and consumption of marketable goods and services in a way that respects the dignity of every human person as well as the demands of the common good.  It requires that all persons participate as far as possible — if so desired — in all aspects of economic as well as social life to optimize the acquisition and development of virtue and become more fully human.

We qualify what we say by adding “if so desired,” because no one should be forced to become more fully human or virtuous if he does not want to be.  If a free adult simply refuses to do more than the bare minimum necessary to survive and meet his material needs and refrains from harming others, no one else has anything to say about it.

Alexis de Tocqueville


Anyone can be prohibited or prevented from harming others or the common good.  Why someone does as he ought, however, should be a matter of complete indifference to others.  As Alexis de Tocqueville noted with respect to the true understanding of the separation of Church and State,

The sects which exist in the United States are innumerable.  They all differ in respect to the worship which is due from man to his Creator, but they all agree in respect to the duties which are due from man to man.  Each sect adores the Deity in its own peculiar manner, but all the sects preach the same moral law in the name of God.  If it be of the highest importance to man, as an individual, that his religion should be true, the case of society is not the same.  Society has no future life to hope for or to fear; and provided the citizens profess a religion, the peculiar tenets of that religion are of very little importance to its interests.  Moreover, almost all the sects of the United States are comprised within the great unity of Christianity, and Christian morality is everywhere the same. (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, I.xvii.)

Updating what we think is de Tocqueville’s meaning, the “moral law” to which he referred is not exclusive to Christianity, nor even to the Abrahamic faiths, i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  As the natural law written in the heart of every human being, it is common to all faiths and philosophies in some form or another, and is therefore valid for everyone, not just Christians.

Jean-Baptiste Say


The point remains the same.  You cannot force anyone to become more fully human according to your lights, however much you may compel him to act within the constraints of the natural law and human positive law.  By the same token, however, neither can you prevent or inhibit anyone from participating in any institution of the common good — including (or especially) the economic common good — for which he is qualified and has the means.  You do not permit a four-year-old child to drive a race car even if he knows how, but neither do you prevent a forty-year-old woman from purchasing a house in an exclusive neighborhood if she has the means, or from eating at a lunch counter if she is hungry and can pay.

We therefore conclude that participation of every person in production as well as in consumption is not only an economic necessity per Say’s Law of Markets, it is a moral necessity for the development of human personality — another binary relationship.  In binary terms, every natural right not only exists, but also has its exercise.  The rights to life, liberty and private property are, in fact, meaningless without the rights of life, liberty and private property.  Similarly, the principles of personalism must be applied in economic personalism; both are necessarily two sides of the same equation.


Karol Wojtyła (John Paul II)

Again, we see this binary aspect of personalism inherent in Smith’s first principle of economics as well as in Say’s Law of Markets.  In philosophy, strict, that is, commutative justice, the most fundamental type of justice, takes this into account and provides the basis for all other forms of justice.

Even in the mundane world of business the “accounting equation” — Assets = Liabilities + Owners Equity — describes a binary relationship for every business enterprise.  On the left side of the equation you have what is owned (assets), and on the right side you have who owns it (creditors and stockholders).  This implies and thereby reaffirms the common sense, validity and applicability of private property as a natural right.

We can therefore state as a fundamental principle of economic personalism that every human being is a person, and as such should be both a producer or creator and a consumer. (Wojtyła, “Thomistic Personalism,” Person and Community, op. cit., 171-172.) While the right to consume is obvious, as a producer, each person should have access to the means of employing both labor and capital to be productive.

Every person should therefore be both an owner of labor and an owner of capital.  By proposing to redistribute what some produce for the benefit of others who do not produce as a solution instead of as a temporary expedient, the Great Reset and similar proposals would throw the system out of balance and offend against essential human dignity at the same time and by the same operation.