Whatever you call it, it is quite possibly the biggest problem in the world today. No, that’s not to denigrate or belittle poverty, racism, war, climate change or any of the other ills that plague humanity. It is, however, to denigrate most of the attempted solutions to poverty, racism, war, climate change, and many of the other ills that plague humanity. These have been increasing geometrically in magnitude, largely as a direct result of the modern world’s abandonment of common sense, that is, truth and reason.
It might seem obvious, but it is very difficult to solve a problem when you don’t know what’s causing the problem. There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes treating the symptoms can cure the disease, and other times, the quick, easy solution stops the problem for a while, although it always returns if you don’t manage to get at the problem behind the problem. As Horace said, you can chase Nature out with a pitchfork, but she always comes back.
Nowhere is this more evident than with social problems. You can’t solve the problem of poverty by redistributing wealth, but only by making the poor productive so they can gain their own subsistence by their own efforts. Yes, charity and welfare can put things on hold for a time, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of lack of individual productive capacity. Passing laws and enforcing them against treating groups of people differently can prevent specific instances of injustice, but it doesn’t remove the underlying cause of the “us versus them” mentality. Not killing people may stop a war, but it doesn’t prevent it.
The idea that you can force (other) people to be virtuous on your terms has been a problem from the very beginning. It is the belief that might makes right, that if your will is strong enough and your faith is true, you will overcome all obstacles . . . even if that obstacle is truth itself. It is the idea that faith can overcome anything, especially reason, if you just believe long enough and hard enough . . . and can convince or coerce enough people to go along with your idea. It just takes enough time and resources.
Unfortunately, time and resources may be running out. It doesn’t matter whether you call the might makes right mentality modernism (a bad term that has caused much confusion), fideism, enthusiasm, ultrasupernaturalism (Msgr. Ronald A. Knox’s terms), positivism, progressivism, the New Christianity, Neo-Catholicism, or a host of other terms. Whatever you call it, it always boils down to the idea, as Heinrich Rommen noted in his book on the natural law, that might makes right. If you believe something strongly enough, it is ipso facto true, regardless of what “man’s miserable intellect” (Knox) tells you. This justifies the conclusion that people who do not believe as you do are less human, sometimes non-human, and those whom you have decided are the ungodly have no rights, a point with which Knox began and ended Enthusiasm.
Although the whole of Catholic social teaching is absolutely opposed to this idea, it’s not really a religious thing, because opposition to might makes right is based on reason. Yes, the First Vatican Council, the Oath Against Modernism, the encyclical Humani Generis, all reinforce the fundamental doctrine that reason is the foundation of faith. Vatican II was intended to emphasize this, too, but the might makes right crowd took control, just as they did of Vatican I and Catholic social teaching, and the effort got sidetracked into some rather surreal sidelines.
Both Albert Venn Dicey and William Winslow Crosskey, two renowned experts in constitutional law, fought a rearguard action against the might makes right mindset, with varying degrees of success, but neither has had a lasting impact of the kind either intended. Crosskey’s two-volume work, Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States is almost forgotten, while Dicey’s books are almost inevitably reinterpreted.
The bottom line here is that, regardless how strongly you believe something, it cannot make it true if it contradicts reason. Faith goes beyond reason; it does not nullify or contradict it.
That is why it is so disastrous that Catholic social teaching and other fields based on natural law, such as political science and economics, have all gotten off track and onto to the fides solo trail. Even atheists have succumbed. If you want to see fervent faith, look at any militant atheist, who accepts on faith alone that God doesn’t exist. These days, any rational atheist necessarily becomes an agnostic.
That being said, an understanding of how the Just Third Way of Economic Personalism as presented in part in The Greater Reset might help wake people up. Many people are unaware, for example, that fideism and socialism are two sides of the same coin, and that Keynesian economics is completely faith-based, even though Keynes was an atheist. His Treatise on Money and General Theory make this clear. It also might not hurt if people understood that social justice is not a euphemism for socialism and a replacement for individual virtue, but a way to make individual virtue function within a properly structured social system.
These ideas need to get on television and radio shows and into the popular media. Still, time is running out. Keynes gave his system a century to start working, saying in 1930 that if we lie to ourselves long enough and hard enough, we can make it come true, and time is almost up . . . and it’s not working. It may be time to try something new, such as the Economic Democracy Act.