It’s still too early to talk about financing the rebuilding of Ukraine (although plenty of other places in the world need it as well, albeit to a somewhat lesser degree . . . such as all of it), but it’s probably a good idea to get a place at the table before the usual thing starts to get discussed and then implemented. With that in mind, here are this week’s news items:
• Hiding in Plain Sight. A short time ago, Elon Musk declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin was richer than he was . . . although Musk didn’t add (although he could have) that theft on a giant scale is evidently more profitable than actually doing something productive. Shortly before that, Fortune magazine stated that — as far as they knew — Putin’s wealth was somewhere between $40-$200 billion, at a time when Musk’s personal fortune was valued at more than $220 billion and change. Why the vast discrepancy? Is it so hard to count whether someone has $40 billion or $200 billion? Well . . . yes. You can set up all kinds of screens in the form of shell corporations, trusts, banks, holding companies, etc., etc., etc., as we note in our new book, The Greater Reset, that make it virtually impossible to say what someone may be hiding in the form of personal, directly owned wealth. The question of wealth to which someone doesn’t have title, but that he or she controls is another matter. As this article strongly suggests, much of Putin’s stash may actually be held in the name of the Russian government . . . which he controls, and (as anyone who has studied even a little bit of law knows), control and ownership are the same thing. Fortune magazine was trying to count assets in Putin’s name and didn’t include anything “owned” by the Russian government that Putin clearly treats as a personal possession.
|"I used to be a contender."|
That doesn’t make it any easier, however, as in Putin’s mind he clearly thinks of himself as owning everything that is, was, or ever will be Russia or Russian as a personal possession — Hobbesian political theory carried to its logical conclusion. What can be done about this? For a criminal like Putin, first bring him to trial, convict him, then turn the accountants loose. Elliott Ness, who brought down Capone, was an accountant, and nailed Big Al on income tax evasion. In that sense, Putin is a much easier target, for convicting him if he can be brought to trial should be a slam dunk. It will just be a question of tracking Putin’s wealth down and using it to compensate his victims, not determining whether it was obtained illegally. What about Musk and the other über-rich? What do we do about them? Nothing. Unless you can prove they got their wealth illegally, they have as much right to what they have as anyone else. (“Nobody’s labor is worth that much” is not proof, any more than “Nobody can get that much money honestly.” The burden of proof is on the accuser. The answer to huge disparities in wealth is the Economic Democracy Act, not trying to build a case without evidence.
|Russia's Gift to the Children of Ukraine|
• Not Genocide? For weeks now, Putin supporters on the internet have been insisting that Putin has legitimate interests in Ukraine, it’s not an invasion, Russia is not the aggressor, the only war crimes are committed by Biden and Zelenskyy, atrocities are staged by the Ukrainians, and Putin is protecting the Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the eastern part of the country from genocide. Then came the retreat in the north, the discovery of what had gone on in Bucha (and Borodyanka appears to be much worse than Bucha), while the body count from the missile strike in Kramatorsk is still coming in . . . but they located the missile fuselage with “FOR THE CHILDREN” written on it in Russian, along with intercepted tweets from the Russian soldiers joking about it. As for genocide, officially sanctioned articles published in Russia are clearly calling for the elimination of virtually every Ukrainian, meeting the legal definition of genocide.
|Russian conscripted cannon fodder.|
• Putin’s Cannon Fodder. With even the Kremlin acknowledging that Russian losses have been “significant,” and the evident lack of enthusiasm of the Russian troops, where does Putin expect to get the soon-to-be-cold bodies to continue his campaign to conquer Ukraine? According to one of Putin’s former friends, Putin has been using mostly conscripts from rural areas as it’s easier to shut the mouths of families with dead sons with threats and hush money. Now, however, Putin may be forced to start using conscripts from urban areas, where word spreads faster and evidently people are not quite as susceptible to bribes and threats (although that’s been pretty effective so far).
• The Money Question. In what appears to be the greatest understatement of her career, Janet Yellen has announced that there will be “enormous [financial and economic] repercussions” as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of course, this is colored by her fundamentally Keynesian approach to money, credit, banking, and finance. She assumes everything comes out of past savings, which is the fundamental principle of Keynesian economic theory. That means that Keynesian economics is primarily concerned with developing the best methods of redistributing existing wealth, and manipulating the system to attain the contradictory goals of sufficient consumption power and enough investment capital . . . setting up what Harold Moulton called the economic dilemma: if you have sufficient consumption power to justify new investment, you don't have the funding for new capital, but if you have the funding for new capital, you don't have the consumer demand to justify it. This is easily solved by using past savings for consumption and future savings for investment, and having widespread capital ownership, buyt that is not the way the experts are thinking.
|Belloc's socialist-capitalism or capitalist-socialism|
• Socialist Capitalism. An interesting article appeared recently opining that what would really bring Putin down was the sudden cutting off the Russian people from the benefits of imported “free market capitalism.” Of course, we define “capitalism” as “concentrated private ownership of capital” and “free market” as one in which (among the other things) everyone has access to the opportunity and means to be both a consumer as well as a producer with both labor and capital — which “capitalism” precludes, making it anything but a free market. Anyway, after filtering out the confusion between free markets and capitalism, the article does have a valid point that the Russian economy has never really transitioned from the Soviet economy. It’s still a top-down model, so that the current efforts to replace western companies with native enterprises might be doomed to fail from the start. What is needed in Russia as well as other places is the Economic Democracy Act.
|There is no truth beyond reality.|
• The Puzzling Joseph Pearce. Last week we mentioned that a couple of important Catholic commentators, Mr. Joseph Pearce and Mr. Dale Ahlquist — authors of “Putting Putin in Perspective” and “War and Rumor of War” respectively, had been remarkably silent as the brutality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine became increasingly evident. This became even more puzzling when the massacre at Bucha became known. Mr. Ahlquist appears to be taking Mark Twain’s advice and is (as far as we know) remaining silent. Mr. Pierce, however, has not, at least if we understand a recently published (March 31st) article in The Imaginative Conservative, “Who’s On the Right Side of History?” Admittedly, Mr. Pearce probably wrote his article before the horrors of Bucha were known, but it was published afterwards, when it might have been more prudent to withhold it. Mr. Pearce also may not have had justifying his earlier Putin Pronouncements in mind at all . . . but if not, then his article is even more puzzling than it appears at first glance. If we read Mr. Pearce’s article correctly, he seems to be saying that there is a higher truth than mere reality, and he is not concerned with being on the “right side of history,” but in conformity with his higher truth. He has made similar pronouncements in the past that there is a “truth beyond reality” (e.g., videos titled “Truth Beyond Reality,” lectures delivered at the Institute of Catholic Culture). The problem here, however, is that truth means conformity with reality. You cannot have a truth beyond reality if you want to lay claim to sanity.
• The Greater Reset. CESJ’s new book by members of CESJ’s core group, The Greater Reset: Reclaiming Personal Sovereignty Under Natural Law is, of course, available from the publisher, TAN Books, an imprint of Saint Benedict Press, and has already gotten a top review on that website. It can also be obtained from Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon, or by special order from your local “bricks and mortar” bookstore. The Greater Reset is the only book of which we’re aware on “the Great Reset” that presents an alternative instead of simply warning of the dangers inherent in a proposal that is contrary to natural law. It describes reality, rather than a Keynesian fantasy world. Please note that The Greater Reset is NOT a CESJ publication as such, and enquiries about quantity discounts and wholesale orders for resale must be sent to the publisher, Saint Benedict Press, NOT to CESJ.
• Help Joe Walk Again for Economic Justice. Just a reminder, if you haven’t already done so, to visit the GoFundMe campaign and consider making a contribution and spreading word out among your social media networks. It’s off to a good start, but it’s still just a start.
• Hortense and Her Whos. In case you’ve been wondering how you might advance the Just Third Way by introducing it to legislators at any and all levels of government, we’ve made it easy for you, with the “Hortense Hears Three Whos“ initiative. Visit the explanatory website, and consider downloading the postcard to send to people in government. Don’t worry if you think they won’t be open to it, as the postcard is intended to get them to open their eyes.
• Economic Personalism Landing Page. A landing page for CESJ’s latest publication, Economic Personalism: Property, Power and Justice for Every Person, has been created and can be accessed by clicking on this link. Everyone is encouraged to visit the page and send the link out to their networks.
• Economic Personalism. When you purchase a copy of Economic Personalism: Property, Power and Justice for Every Person, be sure you post a review after you’ve read it. It is available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble at the cover price of $10 per copy. You can also download the free copy in .pdf available from the CESJ website. If you’d like to order in bulk (i.e., ten or more copies) at the wholesale price, send an email to email@example.com for details. CESJ members get a $2 rebate per copy on submission of proof of purchase. Wholesale case lots of 52 copies are available at $350, plus shipping (whole case lots ONLY). Prices are in U.S. dollars.
• Sensus Fidelium Videos, Update. CESJ’s series of videos for Sensus Fidelium are doing very well, with over 155,000 total views. The latest Sensus Fidelium video is “The Five Levers of Change.” The video is part of the series on the book, Economic Personalism. The latest completed series on “the Great Reset” can be found on the “Playlist” for the series. The previous series of sixteen videos on socialism is available by clicking on the link: “Socialism, Modernism, and the New Age,” along with some book reviews and other selected topics. For “interfaith” presentations to a Catholic audience they’ve proved to be popular, edging up to 150,000 views to date. They aren’t really “Just Third Way videos,” but they do incorporate a Just Third Way perspective. You can access the playlist for the entire series The point of the videos is to explain how socialism and socialist assumptions got such a stranglehold on the understanding of the role of the State and thus the interpretation of Catholic social teaching, and even the way non-Catholics and even non-Christians understand the roles of Church, State, and Family, and the human person’s place in society.
• Shop online and support CESJ’s work! Did you know that by making your purchases through the Amazon Smile program, Amazon will make a contribution to CESJ? Here’s how: First, go to https://smile.amazon.com/. Next, sign in to your Amazon account. (If you don’t have an account with Amazon, you can create one by clicking on the tiny little link below the “Sign in using our secure server” button.) Once you have signed into your account, you need to select CESJ as your charity — and you have to be careful to do it exactly this way: in the space provided for “Or select your own charitable organization” type “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington.” If you type anything else, you will either get no results or more than you want to sift through. Once you’ve typed (or copied and pasted) “Center for Economic and Social Justice Arlington” into the space provided, hit “Select” — and you will be taken to the Amazon shopping site, all ready to go.
• Blog Readership. We have had visitors from 26 different countries and 35 states, provinces, and territories in the United States and Canada to this blog over the past week. Most visitors are from the United States, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland. The most popular postings this past week in descending order were “Focusing on Ukraine,” “Social Justice, IV: The Characteristics of Social Justice,” “A Suggestion for Zelenskyy,” “News from the Network, Vol. 15, No. 11,” and “Robert P. Woodman, 1923-2010.”
Those are the happenings for this week, at least those that we know about. If you have an accomplishment that you think should be listed, send us a note about it at mgreaney [at] cesj [dot] org, and we’ll see that it gets into the next “issue.” Due to imprudent language on the part of some commentators, we removed temptation and disabled comments.#30#