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, August 24, 2021

The Problem of the Human Person

If you want to develop a solution to what’s going on in the world today, you have to start with the human person.  If something — such as a “Great Reset” — does not tend to the good of a human being as a human being, then it cannot be said to be good.


Many acts are morally neutral in and of themselves.  Whether they tend to good or evil depends on the circumstances.  In that case, it depends on the intent of the actor whether an act is good or evil.  Mere intent, however, cannot turn evil into good or justify a great evil to obtain a small good.

For example, a painful surgical operation is good if intended to remove a diseased organ, but evil if unnecessary — that is why ethical medicine forbids mutilation.  There are also objectively evil acts that can never be justified, such as calumny or the killing of an innocent person, regardless of the anticipated benefits.

Unfortunately, the Great Reset and similar proposals seem to have a different concept of the human person, possibly a more abstract or collectivist “image of humanity.” This results in sometimes glossing over or dismissing the wants and needs of individual human persons in favor of the presumed good of the whole of humanity.



Nevertheless, as Aristotle said in the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics, all things — especially human persons — seek the good. (Ethics, 1094a) If someone seeks evil, it is because he either has the wrong idea of what is good, is seeking his own good at others’ expense, or is trying to avoid a greater evil.  The first two are the result of a badly formed conscience and must be corrected through education and example.

The last involves “the principle of double effect” and follows stringent rules.  Chief among these rules is that you cannot use the excuse that you are avoiding a greater evil to justify a lesser evil (or vice versa!), nor can the unintended evil you do be “objectively evil,” that is, evil in and of itself.  Putting the good of the abstract whole over that of the actual individual is wrong to if it means violating the rights (and thus the means of achieving the good) of even a single person.

"Shoulda read that 'DETOUR' sign . . ."


This is important because many of the solutions proposed by various individuals and groups for today’s global crisis are clearly well-intentioned, at least from the perspective and orientation of those doing the proposing.  They obviously have the good of humanity at heart.  Elements of these solutions, however, may be contrary to what is good for everyone or even good at all, and the goals may not be consistent with the demands of individual human dignity or with sound economic or financial principles.

Notable among the recent solutions proposed are the Great Reset or Stakeholder Capitalism, and the Universal Basic Income.

"Ah, a more excellent reset. . . ."


Admittedly, many of the specific measures proposed in the Great Reset may be essential, if short-term, expedients to meet the most urgent human needs of survival and security.  Temporary expedients, however, are not solutions, although some may produce fewer negative side-effects than others.

Redistribution, however, such as proposed under the Great Reset and the Universal Basic Income, is not financially or economically sound.  Financing, defined as “providing funding,” involves putting resources to work to generate income.  By right of private property, whoever owns the resources that are put to work, owns the income — “enjoyment of the fruits.”  Redistribution deprives owners of the fruits of ownership, taking way the incentive to engage in productive activity.

Great...unless your first name is "Sheriff"...


Similarly, redistribution throws an economy out of balance.  When an economy is in balance, everyone produces what he consumes, and consumes what he produces, either directly or by exchanging what one person produces with his labor or capital for what others produce.

Even when capital ownership is concentrated, redistribution does not correct that imbalance.  Instead, taking from producers for the benefit of non-producers only distorts matters further and takes away the incentive to produce.

In essence, redistribution shifts sovereignty away from human persons and vests it in some abstraction, such as the capitalist elite or socialist collective.  It thereby imposes a condition of permanent dependency on human persons.

A condition of permanent dependency — infancy, incompetence, or slavery — is inconsistent with the demands of human dignity.  It can only be imposed for just cause after due process has been observed on a case-by-case basis.  At no time does the end justify the means.

Sorta defeats the whole purpose. . .


Dependent status may be necessary at times, e.g., for children and convicted criminals during the period of rearing and rehabilitation, respectively, or for those deemed temporarily or permanently incompetent.  The whole meaning and purpose of life, however, is to become more fully human (virtuous) to fit one’s self for one’s proper end, however that is understood in a particular natural faith or philosophy.

Ordinarily, human beings become virtuous by exercising their natural rights of life, liberty, and private property.  Natural rights are inherent in each human being and are, in fact, what define human beings as human persons.

What confuses matters these days is that few people seem to understand some basic concepts about what it means to be a person.  For example, many people are unaware that “person” means something has rights and therefore is a member of society.

And that, as we will see in the next posting on this subject, can cause a few problems.