To answer that question briefly — and accurately — no, “we” don’t . . . if by “we” is meant G.K. Chesterton and G.B. Shaw. The reference is to their final, er, “debate (for want of a better word) in November of 1927.
As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, what Pope Pius XI added to the development of moral philosophy was the development of something at which Pope Leo XIII had only hinted. That was a genuine, natural law-based social ethics — that is, a theory of virtue that made it clear how the institutions of the common good can be accessed by every human person.
Previously, the theory was that the common good was not directly attainable, and people were limited to having an indirect effect on the common good through the practice of individual virtue. By implication, Pius XI’s social ethics made it clear that all human beings are as human, human in the same way as all other humans, and that as what Aristotle called “political animals” all have at least the capacity to act directly on the common good through organized action directed to that end.
The problem, of course, is that organizing, and even being a “person” requires power, and — as Daniel Webster observed — “Power naturally and necessarily follows property.” Ironically, when most social justice advocates demand “power to the people,” they rarely seem to get down to such specifics. As seen in the Great Reset and similar proposals, demands for power often end up meaning consumption power (income), rather than production power (ownership), or mere political power without the economic power to back it up.
Nowhere was this more evident than in the near-legendary final debate (for want of a better word) between G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw in November of 1927. Immoderately moderated by Hilaire Belloc, who clearly expected nothing substantive to come out of the evening’s festivities, the issue boiled down to which is more important, the power to produce to consume, or the power to consume alone.
Having already made it clear that he referred to the power to produce as well as to consume, Chesterton declared, “Mr. Bernard Shaw proposes to distribute wealth. We propose to distribute power.” To this, Shaw responded, “My main activity as an economist of late has been to try to concentrate the attention of my party on the fact not only that they must distribute income, but that there is nothing else to distribute.”
As was his habit, Shaw avoided the questions of the source of income, and what income is supposed to be used to purchase if nothing is first produced. This may be why at the end of the debate Belloc (as promised in his opening remarks) sneered, and concluded by saying,
I was told when I accepted this onerous office that I was to sum up. I shall do nothing of the sort. Neither of the two speakers pointed out that one of three things is going to happen. This industrial civilization will break down and therefore end from its monstrous wickedness, folly, ineptitude, leading to a restoration of sane, ordinary human affairs, complicated but based as a whole upon the freedom of the citizens. Or it will break down and lead to nothing but a desert. Or it will lead the mass of men to become contented slaves, with a few rich men controlling them. Take your choice.
The uniqueness of the personalist approach to economics as well as the whole of social life becomes evident when we look at exchanges like that between Chesterton and Shaw. It is obvious that Chesterton was thinking in personalist terms.
Whether or not he realized it, in his arguments Chesterton tacitly acknowledged Adam Smith’s first principle of economics and Say’s Law of Markets. As we’ve mentioned once or twice on this blog, these are, respectively, that “Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production,” and “Production equals income, therefore supply generates its own demand, and demand, its own supply.”
Shaw, on the other hand — not surprisingly for the chief spokesman of the Fabian Society — had a “one-track mind.” Material wellbeing is the only goal that matters.
|Henri de Saint-Simon
Shaw’s position and his attitude toward Christianity (especially Catholicism) are inherent in the first principle of the New Christianity as articulated by Henri de Saint-Simon, the early prophet of the Democratic Religion of socialism. In Saint-Simon’s philosophy, material wellbeing is not merely the most important thing, it is the only thing, the sole purpose to which everyone must devote his life.
To Shaw, Henry George, Fr. McGlynn, Msgr. Ryan, R.H. Tawney, and a host of others, then, everyone must accept and enthusiastically support (in Msgr. Knox’s sense) the New Christianity, i.e., socialism. It does not matter what you call it. It can be the New Christianity, the Democratic Religion, Neo-Catholicism, Associationism, Fourierism, Georgism, Fabianism or any of its offshoots such as guild socialism and social credit, the New Deal, the Great Society, democratic socialism, democratic, inclusive, or stakeholder capitalism, the gift economy, localism, or the Great Reset. Their name is Legion, but it’s always the same message of socialism.
|Guido “von” List
Take, for example, the case of the self-ennobled Austrian mystic and Theosophist-Armanist (Ariosphist) Guido “von” List. List imputed a quasi-mystical and socialist significance to the Medieval guild to bolster his case against the Catholic Church and traditional forms of civil society, as did Theodore Fritsch, a major figure of pre-World War I anti-Semitism. Fritsch’s influence on the organizations that eventually merged into the Nazi Party led to efforts to recruit Catholics to unite in a common struggle against the Jews, and the eventual creation of the myth of Pius XII as “Hitler’s Pope.” (See Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism. London, UK: Tauris Parke, 2004, 74-77, 82, 123-124, 126-127.)
Possibly in an effort to counter List’s fantasies, at least in part, Hilaire Belloc went to some pains to explain the true social and economic significance of the Medieval guilds, although not entirely successfully. (See Belloc, The Servile State, op. cit., 78-79, 80; The Restoration of Property, op. cit., 35, 88, 93, 136-138; The Crisis of Civilization. Rockford, Illinois: TAN Books and Publishers, 1992, 135, 185-190.)
Anyway, to the socialist and moral relativist, the bottom line is that anyone who tries to follow the social doctrine of the Old Christianity, or the natural law teachings of other faiths and philosophies, is obviously a hypocrite, a liar, a deluded fool, and a traitor to Christ — or to Moses, Muhammed, the Buddha, or the Divine Society of the Religion of Humanity. (It doesn’t matter which “Religion of Humanity” you pick. They’re pretty much all the same, socialism, New Age, and the group’s worship of itself as divine. Uh, huh.)
It does not matter who or what you condemn if there is some hook on which to hang the ungodly. Why are Catholics, Jews, Muslims, or anybody else bad people? Because they are not socialists, and vice versa. Why did Shaw condemn Chesterton? Because Chesterton refused to admit that distributism is really socialism. Chesterton stubbornly insisted that there is more to life than material wellbeing, and that even material wellbeing is more than simply seeing that everyone has enough goods and services and thinks the right thoughts.
And what is the meaning of life within the Just Third Way? That is what we will look at in the next posting on this subject.