One of the many paradoxes involved in the Great Reset and similar proposals has to do with human nature and the natural law. As we saw in the previous posting on this subject, despite centuries of failure adherents insist that the abolition of private property and redistribution will work if we just manage to change human nature, try harder, and commit sufficient resources to the effort.
At the same time, opponents of private property insist that, despite millennia of success, most (if not all) people are incapable of being owners and expanded ownership cannot work. Advocates such as William Cobbett, Abraham Lincoln, Pope Leo XIII, Pope Pius XI, G.K. Chesterton, Fulton Sheen, and Pope Pius XI did not really mean what they said, human nature has changed and private property is no longer a natural right, or Catholic teaching has changed, and it is no longer true.
One omission, and one omission only, has allowed these contradictions by the opponents of private property to stand. That is the lack of a feasible and just means by which non-owners can become owners without redistribution. That is why the work of Louis Kelso and Mortimer Adler is an important addition to the theory of personalism, and a key element in its integration in economic personalism.
|Louis O. Kelso|
In 1958, Kelso and Adler published The Capitalist Manifesto. They followed this up in 1961 with The New Capitalists, the subtitle of which says far more than the main title: “A Proposal to Free Economic Growth From the Slavery of Savings.”
Ironically, what Kelso and Adler advocated was not really capitalism, as that describes a system in which capital ownership is concentrated in the hands of a relatively tiny private sector elite. The titles were clever, though, and sound politics and marketing given that communism was still perceived as a serious threat.
Although the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is what Kelso is most noted for, his work — like the ESOP itself — is more than it first appears, and is much more significant, even profound. Considered by many practitioners to be an elaborate employee benefit and tax gimmick, the ESOP is an application of principles of justice and finance Kelso developed in response to what he saw as a serious problem in today’s technologically advanced economies. That is, how are people supposed to participate fully in economic life without access to the means to do so?
As a young man during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Kelso observed a paradox. In a country that had the demonstrated capacity to produce in superabundance, people were out of work, even starving. Every freight train seemed to carry a small army of men who had left home and family in desperate attempts to seek employment. He asked himself, Why is this happening? (Louis O. Kelso, “Labor’s Untapped Wealth,” The Kelso Institute, http://kelsoinstitute.org/louiskelso/kelso-paradigm/lectures/, accessed May 26, 2021).
There are, after all, two factors of production, the human factor, labor, and the non-human factor, capital. That is, in personalist terms, there are persons and things. Both produce marketable goods and services, and production means the same whether by labor or by capital.
Further, consistent with the binary nature of personalism — and Say’s Law of Markets — if you want to consume, you must produce. If you do not produce directly for your own needs, you must produce something to trade to someone else for what he produces that you want to consume. The medium through which these exchanges are made, and the measurement thereof is called “money.”
Also consistent with Say’s Law, as Kelso realized, if your labor is not sufficiently productive, you must acquire capital, and if your capital is not sufficiently productive you use labor — or, better, more advanced capital! This, in essence, was nothing more than the popes had been saying.
At some point it also occurred to Kelso to ask: If advancing technology makes such superabundance possible, why is it essential for people to have employers to pay them wages for labor that is not necessary for production? This led him finally to the key question: What keeps people from owning the technology that is carrying out the bulk of production, and deriving their income from ownership of capital instead of being limited to wages and welfare?
Not surprisingly, this is the same question addressed by the socialists and theological relativists, as well as Leo XIII, Chesterton and Belloc, and others. Their responses is what we will look at in the next posting on this subject.