Friday, August 18, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 33



We’ve been given to understand that the phenomenal increase in listeners to the CESJ weekly podcast featuring Dr. Norman G. Kurland, president of CESJ, is . . . well, phenomenal.  There has been a (try not to gasp too loudly) 33,741% increase in audience size over the past six weeks — and we haven’t even started podcasting to North America.  Tellingly, the ideas of the Just Third Way, while they are based on “traditional” American values, are finding more acceptance overseas than in the U.S.:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Show Me the Money!



Last Thursday we asked the eternal question, Where does the money come from so people can buy capital and supplement or replace what they produce with their labor?  As we promised, here is one possible answer.  But first, why is where the money comes from such a big deal?  Money is money . . . right?  Well . . . maybe.  Up to a point.  And the point is . . . ?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Democracy and Monetary Justice



Yesterday we raised the eternal question, if capital ownership is so good, why aren’t more people owners?  The answer is that the rich who control existing money and credit aren’t likely to let go of it, and most people who are not rich do not generally have access to new money creation that would enable them to purchase new capital that pays for itself out of its own future earnings, and thereafter provides income for the owner.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Money, Power, Justice, and Democracy



Yesterday we looked at the importance of economic democracy to political democracy and, of course, justice — and asking why U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson is having the Department of State draft new statements of purpose, mission, and ambition that drop the commitment of the United States to support democracy and justice.  The U.S. not support democracy and justice?  Isn’t the United States supposed to be the beacon to the world for democracy and justice?  What gives?  It’s right there in the Preamble to the United States Constitution, isn’t it? —

Monday, August 14, 2017

Democracy, Justice, and . . . Healthcare?



According to the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED), United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently announced that the Department of State is drafting new statements of purpose, mission, and ambition.  These will jettison the U.S.’s commitment to justice, democracy, and personal liberty.  As POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney said,

Friday, August 11, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 32



While we have some bad news this week, we thought we’d start out with a little — or a lot — of good news.  Somewhat to our surprise, the weekly talks given by Dr. Norman Kurland have proved phenomenally popular . . . everywhere except in the United States, where many of these ideas originated!  There are more than twice as many listeners tuning in from Russia than from the U.S.  As for the Philippines, roughly a third of the total listeners (numbering in the thousands now) come from that country:

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Few Essential Tweaks to Social Security



Yesterday we noted that to get Social Security out of the hole it’s in, if everyone (or at least most people) in an economy owned sufficient labor and capital to produce enough marketable goods and services to generate income sufficient to meet the needs of someone and his or her dependents, the economy would be in balance, and justice would have an easier time of it.  Okay, those weren’t our exact words, but they’re close enough to what we meant.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Social Security Tontine



One of the biggest problems with Social Security — with any of the social welfare programs in place in most countries in the world today — is the fact that they are being used to do something that they were never intended or designed to do: be the primary or even sole source of income for people no longer working or unable to work.  Social Security was intended as an economic safety net, a sort of systemic poorhouse to ensure that no one fell through the cracks.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

How Not to Save Social Security



We haven’t ranted about the problems in the Social Security system for a while, but an article struck our eye a couple of weeks ago.  As soon as we got back from the ophthalmologist, then, we decided to do a blog on the subject.  After all, none of us is getting any younger, and the government doesn’t have forever to fix the thing.

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Taxing Problem



We’ve been talking quite a bit about expanded ownership and the need for monetary reform, tax reform, and even reform reform, i.e., the need to reform how we reform institutions.  (For the record, “reform reform” is social justice: if our institutions prevent or inhibit people from fully participating in the common good, social justice fixes the institutions so that people can fully participate; it doesn’t try to force participation without changing institutions.)

Friday, August 4, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 31



What is particularly interesting over the past couple of weeks is the reception that the presentations by Norman Kurland have been getting around the world.  The audience has been increasing in quantum leaps by hundreds of percentage points each time.  Nor is that the only thing going on:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

How to Become an Owner



’Way back in Ancient Times, about 1922 or so, the irascible George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) and the genial Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) got into a . . . discussion.  Anybody else would have called it a knockdown, drag-out fight, but Shaw and Chesterton were old friends who managed to stay that way by not agreeing on anything except that they irritated each other.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

How to Be Productive



Yesterday we noted that the way for people to “make money” is to be productive.  This is because “money” is anything that can be used to settle a debt, and a debt is an obligation to deliver something of value.  There being only two ways to get something of value (make it yourself or get it from somebody else), we either have to produce whatever we want, or produce something that we can exchange to others to get what we want.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A (Very Short) Primer on Money



Aureus of the First Citizen
It somehow seems appropriate on the first day of August to have a posting about money.  August is named after Caesar Augustus.  In addition to stealing a day from February because 1) Julius Caesar added a day from February to his month, July, 2) a month named after a living god needs thirty-one days instead of a boring thirty, and 3) February got stuck because it was the last full month of the Roman calendar year — all really good reasons for messing things up — he also instituted a new coin, the “Aureus,” or “Gold Coin” that has maintained its weight and purity down to the present day, although not the same name.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Episode VII: The Return of Common Sense



In our last episode, we saw the distributist economist whom we have been calling “Tom Steele” (“Joe Wide” was, perhaps, sufficiently “broad” in his outlook to remain silent and be thought a fool rather than to open his mouth and remove all doubt) give us a piece or two of his mind.  Judging from the amount he shares, he has a great deal of mind to spare.  We hope. . . .

Friday, July 28, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 30



Ordinarily in the summer we experience something of a lull in activity.  That has not been the case this year.  A number of projects and initiatives are moving forward very well:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Episode VI: The Distributist Economist Strikes Back



Despite the extended analysis of the errors inherent in the position of “Tom Steele,” the distributist economist, and his associate, “Joe Wide” — pseudonyms we inserted to avoid making things personal — Wide seems to have remained silent.  Perhaps he was persuaded of the truth of our position.  Who knows?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Distributist Economist Erratum Four & Conclusion



So far in this discussion we have discovered that the distributist economist we’ve been calling “Tom Steele,” and his associate we’ve termed “Joe Wide,” have made three fundamental errors in their financial analysis.  These are, 1) the belief that future cash flows can be known with absolute certainty in the present, 2) that there is an ideal value or price of something that has no relation to the value that buyers and sellers assign to what is being exchanged, and 3) Return On Investment (ROI), the discount rate, and the interest rate are all the same.  We can now address what may be the most fundamental error of all: their understanding of money and credit.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Distributist Economist Erratum Three



Yesterday we looked at the notions of a distributist economist whom we’ve been calling “Tom Steele” and his associate, “Joe Wide,” regarding their assumption of absolute certainty of future events (future cash flows) and the existence of an ideal value of something that completely removes the opinion of the buyer and the seller as to the utility of what is exchanged in a transaction.  In short, Wide and Steele take a “Platonic” view of the universe that assumes that ideas have an existence independent of the human mind, when the real world is Aristotelian.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Distributist Economist Errata One & Two



Last week we began examining the claims made by a prominent “distributist economist,” whom we have been calling “Tom Steele,” as communicated through his associate, “Joe Wide.”  We discovered that a number of assertions advanced by Wide and Steele regarding Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) simply did not fit the facts.

Friday, July 21, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 29



There seems to be an increasing polarization between “left” and “right,” or between “liberals” and “conservatives.”  Very few people are aware of the fact that the Just Third Way has the potential to attain liberal goals without violating conservative principles:

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Correcting a Few Distributist Non-Facts



Yesterday we looked at the complaint of a “distributist economist” whom we are calling “Tom Steele,” who claims that workers purchasing a company on credit can never repay the loan principal because all earnings go to pay the interest.  There are a few things wrong with that claim (like everything), but Steele’s associate, whom we are calling “John Wide,” made a few statements about ESOPs that are not, strictly speaking, accurate.  We promised to look into those “alternative facts” today.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What’s the Problem, Distributist?



A couple of weeks ago, we got a request for help from a member of the CESJ “Board of Counselors,” the advisory board of the interfaith Center for Economic and Social Justice.  The Counselor, a Catholic “permanent deacon” (whom we shall call “Deacon John”), had gotten into a discussion with a former member of the CESJ Board of Counselors and an associate of the former Counselor.  The former Counselor had withdrawn from the organization after making a number of unsubstantiated claims concerning various individuals in general, and the Just Third Way in particular,.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

“The Kingdom of God on Earth”?



In The Quiet Man (1952)) — one of the greatest films of all time . . . except when Knute Rockne, All American (1940) is showing — one of the minor characters arguing with another (“Mister Maloney”) tries to clinch it by saying, “If you knew your country’s history as well as you claim to know it, you’d know that,” etc.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Orestes Brownson v. the Socialists



Some people in the nineteenth century considered Orestes Brownson a bit of a crank.  He kept insisting that he wanted to know what was true, not what was convenient, expedient, or popular.  That creates a bit of a problem when what you come to believe is true is inconvenient, not very expedient, or unpopular, especially when it annoys other people who don’t care to be reminded that truth is always true and prefer to go with opinions, preferably their own.

Friday, July 14, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 28



Bastille Day!  We’d say “Happy Bastille Day!” but some people in France still think the French Revolution might not have been the best way to go, but it was significant, and it is important, even if we can’t give it wholehearted and enthusiastic support.  Like anything, even (or especially) the American Revolution and U.S. Constitution, it could have been better, so let’s just celebrate it for what it was supposed to mean, not for any mistakes people might have made.  Besides, we can’t be down on revolutions per se since the Just Third Way is (in a peaceful way) more earthshaking than the American and French Revolutions combined:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Orestes Brownson, Socialist



Before his conversion to Catholicism in 1844, Orestes A. Brownson (1803-1876) was a supporter of the socialist ideas of Henri de Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, the Abbé Félicité de Lamennais, and many of their disciples.  These included Pierre Leroux, whose work Brownson during his socialist phase greatly admired. (Butler, In Search of the American Spirit, op. cit., 88-89.)  No one in the United States, therefore, was more alert to the dangers of all forms of socialism, or their seductive power over the minds of people, than he. (Ibid., 116-162.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Those Wacky Distributists and Friends


Last Friday’s “News from the Network” excited a bit of a controversy among Catholic socialists — evidently not an oxymoron, despite Pope Pius XI’s statement in § 120 of Quadragesimo Anno that, “Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Mad Monetary Muddle



Yesterday we looked at what many people in power (both politically and financially) think of as “tax reform.”  We discovered that there is a big problem when you’re trying to reform the labyrinthine tax code — it doesn’t matter which country, pretty near every one of them is a complete mess.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Leading the Reform



According to an article in last week’s Wall Street Journal, “America Once Led the World on Tax Reform” (07/06/17, A15), America once, er, led the world on tax reform.  This is actually kind of meaningless, because what the author of the piece talked about was the fiddling with the Internal Revenue Code under President Reagan, not the more fundamental issues addressed by the Continental Congress under President (of the Continental Congress) John Hancock.

Friday, July 7, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 27



Things are heating up around the world with respect to problems that could be solved by applying the principles of the Just Third Way.  Everywhere, from North Korea to England, we see the growth of State power and its intrusion into every aspect of life . . . and death.  College students are tortured to death for stealing a piece of paper, infants are sentenced to death because the State has determined their lives can’t be saved and wouldn’t be worth living even if they could, and millions more infants are killed simply because they are inconvenient or might become so.  It’s not a question of whether we need the Just Third Way, but how badly we need it:

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Buyback Bamboozle



According to Reuters news service, Nestlé, the chocolate maker, has announced a buyback of its outstanding shares of up to 20 billion Swiss francs (cir. $20.79 billion) over the next three years.  How much they actually buy back will depend on market conditions, share price, and so on.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Democracy (and Wages) in America



On Monday we looked at how the wage system operated in nineteenth century America prior to the Civil War.  We noted that when times were good and workers in demand, wages tended to rise.  When times were bad and workers had to take what they could get, wages tended to fall.  We concluded that trying to induce prosperity by raising wages puts the cart before the horse; high wages don’t bring prosperity, prosperity brings high wages.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Indepence Day!

We're taking the day off from blogging, but just in case you haven't taken the day off from blog reading —


Monday, July 3, 2017

Whigs, Wages, and Wonder



We had last Thursday’s posting on the minimum wage hike in Seattle in mind while doing some research into early nineteenth century socialism, especially the varieties promoted by Henri de Saint-Simon, Félicité de Lamennais, and Charles Fourier.  All three claimed their systems were either a new version of Christianity, or replaced Christianity, whatever best suited their purposes.

Friday, June 30, 2017

News from the Network, Vol. 10, No. 26



While world leaders seem to flail about with no idea what to do about world problems — or, worse, know exactly what to do to gather ever-increasing amounts of power into their own hands — we have been seeing signs that word of the Just Third Way is starting to spread.  Recently we had a number of people remark to us that were it not for CESJ and the Just Third Way, they would have given up hope.  And there are some good things not only to hope for, but to work for:

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Who’d Have Thought It?



Back in the eighteenth century the Good Doctor, Samuel Johnson, chastised his Boswell . . . who happened to be James Boswell . . . for ostentatiously giving a gratuity of one shilling (12 pence) for a service for which the customary remuneration was 6 pence.  If memory serves, it was the tip to a porter for helping hand down passengers’ baggage from a coach.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Taking Shortcuts



Are encyclicals getting too long?  And is anybody reading (or understanding) them?  Judging from all the acrimony over, say Amoris Laetitia (not technically an encyclical, but we’re making a point here), the answer is “no.”  The longer and wordier encyclicals get, the less impact they seem to have.  The message(s) tend(s) to get lost in all the explanations and qualifications.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Multi Verbi: “On the Length of Encyclicals”



A few days ago someone commented concerning Gregory XVI’s Singulari Nos, “On the Errors of Lamennais,” at a little over fifteen hundred words,Man, encyclicals used to be so short!”  Yet the same pope’s Mirari Vos, “On Liberalism and Religious Indifferentism” — arguably the first “social encyclical” — from two years earlier, clocks in at a little over four thousand words in the English version, leaving Singulari Nos in the dust.

Monday, June 26, 2017

De Lamennais Excommunicates the Pope


Today we present our “Man Bites Dog” feature: what happened when Pope Gregory XVI in the encyclical Mirari Vos corrected the hero of our story, the Abbé de Lamennais.  Some authorities consider de Lamennais the forerunner of liberal or social Catholicism (see, e.g., J.W. Burrow, The Crisis of Reason: European Thought, 1848-1914. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2000, 225-226).