Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cardinal Müller and the Just Third Way, Part II


Yesterday we reported that His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted in his talk at St. Thomas More Cathedral in Arlington, Virginia, on Sunday, May 14, 2017, that restoring the Family, the basic unit of society, is a top priority.
His Eminence Gerhard Cardinal Müller
Restoring the Family is all well and good, of course, but it leaves a problem.  Cardinal Müller did not give any specifics as to how to restore marriage and family, only that it must be based on ultimate truth.
That is where the Just Third Way comes in.  Integrity of marriage and family as the basis of the good life has been an important part of Catholic social teaching, just as it is for any sane faith or philosophy.  Fundamental to the integrity of marriage and family, of course, is private property.  As Aristotle noted in the opening of the Politics,
SINCE it is now evident of what parts a city is composed, it will be necessary to treat first of family government, for every city is made up of families, and every family has again its separate parts of which it is composed. . . . Since then a subsistence is necessary in every family, the means of procuring it certainly makes up part of the management of a family, for without necessaries it is impossible to live, and to live well. As in all arts which are brought to perfection it is necessary that they should have their proper instruments if they would complete their works, so is it in the art of managing a family: . . . Thus property is as an instrument to living; an estate is a multitude of instruments.
His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII
Many people, especially in these days of the Welfare or Servile State, simply assume as a given that widespread capital ownership is a moot point or (at best) prudential matter.  They (erroneously) believe when, e.g., Pope Leo XIII wrote in Rerum Novarum that “[t]he law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners” (§ 46), he was just giving a suggestion, not making a serious and critical point.  If people don’t have enough income, employers must pay them more, and the State must take up the slack with welfare, family allowances, vouchers — whatever it takes for people to have a decent life.
That is clearly not what either Aristotle or the popes meant, however.  Despite the inroads of socialism (Christian or otherwise), a just or good society is characterized by widespread capital ownership, not how many people are wage slaves, welfare slaves, or government bureaucrats . . . which in the Roman Empire were legally “slaves of Caesar.”  As William Cobbett, “the Apostle of Distributism,” noted,
William Cobbett, the "Apostle of Distributism"

FREEDOM is not an empty sound; it is not an abstract idea; it is not a thing that nobody can feel. It means, and it means nothing else, the full and quiet enjoyment of your own property. If you have not this; if this be not well secured to you, you may call yourself what you will, but you are a slave. . . . You may twist the word freedom as long you please; but, at last, it comes to quiet enjoyment of your property, or it comes to nothing. . . .

POVERTY, however, is, after all, the great badge, the never-failing badge of slavery. Bare bones and rags are the true marks of the real slave. What is the object of government? To cause men to live happily. They cannot be happy without a sufficiency of food and of raiment. Good government means a state of things in which the main body are well fed and well clothed. It is the chief business of a government to take care, that one part of the people do not cause the other part to lead miserable lives. There can be no morality, no virtue, no sincerity, no honesty, amongst a people continually suffering from want; and, it is cruel, in the last degree, to punish such people for almost any sort of crime, which is, in fact, not crime of the heart, not crime of the perpetrator, but the crime of his all-controlling necessities.  (William Cobbett, A History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland, 1827, §§ 456, 457.)
In less inflammatory language, Cobbett did not mean that the State should take care of everyone.  Rather, private property being the only real security against poverty, the State should see to it that everybody has the opportunity and means to acquire and possess private property in capital . . . which is what Leo XIII repeated half a century later in Rerum Novarum, issued May 15, 1891.
Pope St. John Paul II and Norman G. Kurland
The problem, of course, is how to finance capital ownership.  Aristotle, Cobbett, and Leo, after all, were not talking about ownership of consumer goods, but of assets that produce goods and services for consumption: capital.
The solution?  The Just Third Way — and why we think that not only Cardinal Müller and Pope Francis, but everyone, Catholic, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, or whatever, needs to investigate it thoroughly and get behind a Capital Homestead Act or some other program whereby “as many as possible of the people [can] become owners” as quickly, efficiently, and as justly as possible.
A good start would be to read “Pope Francis and the Just Third Way.”  After that, pay a visit to the website of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, with special focus on the sections on Capital Homesteading.
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