Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What, Exactly, Is “Infallibility”?

Bear with us, if you don’t mind.  This really does have something to do with the Just Third Way and Capital Homesteading.  In addition to the three principles of economic justice (Participative Justice, Distributive Justice, and Social Justice), and binary economics, the Just Third Way depends a great deal on the natural law applications found in Catholic social teaching.

"My children (and junior popes), I never said half the things I said."
That’s why all the Fuss Over Francis has us concerned.  Many, maybe most of us, are not Catholic, but the world has so few moral leaders these days . . . okay, the world has so few leaders, period, these days . . . that we can’t just dismiss them out of hand.  Nor can we afford to put a personal interpretation on something we might not completely understand.
Take, for example, “papal infallibility.”  To be accurate, the pope is not infallible.  To try and avoid spreading the ultramontane idea that the pope is personally infallible (and didn’t succeed), the decree of the First Vatican Council was changed from De Romani Pontificis Infallibilitate, “On the Infallibility of the Roman Pontiff,” to De Romani Pontificis Infallibili Magisterio, “On the Infallible Teaching Office of the Roman Pontiff.”
"Aw, gee, Frank, ya took my line!"
And there are a few “traps” in that, too.  The pope is not infallible, only what the pope teaches under specified conditions.  Then, how the pope says something is not infallible, only what is said . . . and that really confuses a lot of people.
Finally (and this is the really fun part), your interpretation of infallible teachings is not infallible! (!!) (!!!) (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
That’s right, you can be wrong about something that is right!!
So what has this got to do with the Just Third Way?
Quite a bit, actually.  You see, one of the most startling things that Kelso did was to point out that the common notion of “savings” is a bit too limited.  Contrary to what John Maynard Keynes declared in his General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (1936), “saving” does not consist exclusively of the excess of income over consumption, at least, not the way Keynes meant it.  As he pontificated,
Amidst the welter of divergent usages of terms, it is agreeable to discover one fixed point.  So far as I know, everyone is agreed that saving means the excess of income over expenditures on consumption. (General Theory, II.6.ii.)
"What I said was not what I said except when it was."
Keynes further elaborated on this by explaining that savings equals investment.  (Ibid.)  Fine.  He then blew his whole argument by spending the subsequent sections explaining why all those people who did not agree (when everyone is agreed!) that it is essential to restrict consumption in order to have funds for investment did not know what they are talking about when it is painfully obvious that Keynes was utterly clueless about how commercial banks expand credit.  (II.7.iv-v.)  The so-called “Keynesian money multiplier” depends on counting the same money not just twice, but an infinite number of times.  It truly is “magical thinking.”
And if you really want to understand the fatal weakness in Keynes’s understanding of money, Moulton pointed out that Keynes made the same mistake as Irving Fisher in his analysis of the Quantity Theory of Money: both Keynes and Fisher failed to realize that as far as the seller or producer of capital goods is concerned, what is sold is “consumed.”  The producer/seller of a good doesn’t give any part of a rat’s anatomy whether the buyer is putting what is purchased into productive use, or consumption, it’s all the same to him, as long as the buyer pays his bill.
Now, what has this got to do with the pope?
"If you want to know what I wrote . . . try reading it!"
In the “social encyclicals” starting with Rerum Novarum (not the first, but certainly one of the most important), a constant theme is the necessity of widespread ownership of capital.  As Leo XIII said,
We have seen that this great labor question cannot be solved save by assuming as a principle that private ownership must be held sacred and inviolable. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.  (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)
Nor was Pius XI far behind:
Therefore, with all our strength and effort we must strive that at least in the future the abundant fruits of production will accrue equitably to those who are rich and will be distributed in ample sufficiency among the workers — not that these may become remiss in work, for man is born to labor as the bird to fly — but that they may increase their property by thrift, that they may bear, by wise management of this increase in property, the burdens of family life with greater ease and security, and that, emerging from the insecure lot in life in whose uncertainties non-owning workers are cast, they may be able not only to endure the vicissitudes of earthly existence but have also assurance that when their lives are ended they will provide in some measure for those they leave after them.  (Quadragesimo Anno, § 61.)
Unfortunately, they also said . . . .
If a workman's wages be sufficient to enable him comfortably to support himself, his wife, and his children, he will find it easy, if he be a sensible man, to practice thrift, and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a modest source of income.  (Rerum Novarum, § 46.)
And. . . .
As We have already indicated, following in the footsteps of Our Predecessor, it will be impossible to put these principles into practice unless the non-owning workers through industry and thrift advance to the state of possessing some little property. But except from pay for work, from what source can a man who has nothing else but work from which to obtain food and the necessaries of life set anything aside for himself through practicing frugality?  (Quadragesimo Anno, § 63.)
"I was supposed to go up THERE?"
Now, any common sense reading of the passages quoted above, especially in context, reveals that the main reason both Leo XIII and Pius XI said to pay workers more was so they could save money to purchase capital.  In this way, people have the means to exercise their natural right to be owners, which — since it pertains directly to the natural law — is an infallible teaching: that every person (and every human being is automatically a person) has the absolute right to be an owner, and thus an absolute right to the means of acquiring and possessing private property in capital.
IF you qualify, that is.  The natural right to be alive doesn’t mean you can kill others because you think they might do something that adversely affects your quality of life, any more than the natural right to marry means that two year olds can get married, or you can marry your dog or your sofa.  The right of access to money and credit to purchase capital does not apply if you are known to be a bad credit risk or a thief who misuses the funds borrowed to buy capital for a vacation to Las Vegas.
In other words, you have to take all the papal teachings in context, duh.  Pope Francis prefaced the recent writings that are causing all the fuss with the admonition that no one is to cause scandal.  So what are people doing?  Assuming that the pope is causing scandal, which they can only do by putting words and meanings into his mouth.
. . . which is the same way that so many people have avoided the mandate for expanded capital ownership in the encyclicals.  All you have to do is avoid differentiating between the principle and the application of the principle, and ignore the underlying qualifications and the natural law.
It’s easy.

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