ET COGNOSCETIS VERITATEM ET VERITAS LIBERABIT VOS
SLUH REVIEW Vol. 1 Issue 3
A journal of Faith, thought, and civics
Rich People By Luke Chellis, Senior Editor
November 5, 2009
right to own his own life, mind, and labor, thus deriving the concept of individual property. The paradox of government in such a system is that government’s purpose is to forbid coercive or physical force through the threat of retaliatory force, like fines and imprisonment. Under such a system, however, government has no other purpose, as any other use of force would merely inhibit humans from dealing with each other freely. Government under the social system of Capitalism seeks to procure only two goods: liberty and integrity. All other virtues are left to individuals to pursue, unhampered by physical threats, their own individual judgments, convictions, and interests. They can deal with one another only by means of discussion, persuasion, and contractual agreement—by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. No matter how rich, no member of a Capitalist society would have any sort of coercive power over anyone else. If you see injustice look not to the rich, but to the aggressors, those who implement physical coercion to loot and enslave. More often than not, you will find government at the root of these evils.
One question all governments and all societies face is what to do with those pesky rich people. Unfortunately, too often immorality and sloppy thinking lead societies to the wrong answer. It is Jesus Christ himself who has shown us the correct response to the wealthy. The first fundamental understanding to political economy is, simply, that government is force. Throughout all of history, the only common element across every kind of government, from the most primitive to the most advanced, from the most legitimate to the most despotic, from the most progressive to the most limited, is that government has a monopoly over physical force. When facing disagreement and noncompliance, government has no other means to accomplish its ends. I challenge you to produce a counterexample. Government is force. Bearing this in mind, what social system is appropriate to man? In other words, what social system is the most moral? A logical thinker if nothing else, the philosopher Ayn Rand defines a social system as “a set of moral, political, economical principles embodied in societies’ laws, institutions, and government which determine the relationships, the terms of association, between the men living in one geographical area.” 1 Do you believe that it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another?
It must be said that Capitalism does not exist anywhere on a national scale, not even in America. The U.S. economy is sometimes defined as a ‘mixed economy,’ but because there is no such thing as partially private property, either capitalism exists purely or not at all. If you agree that it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another or say that this issue is complex and depends upon the circumstances, then we disagree. You may be surprised to discover that you disagree with Jesus Christ and Christian morality, as well.
If you answer “no,” then you, like me, hold as a moral precept that I am my own property and you are your own property, and we can both agree that Capitalism provides man’s most moral terms of association. Why? Because Capitalism in its true sense is a social system where all relationships are voluntary and where coercive force is banned. Capitalism, by definition, recognizes each human’s
Christians do not believe unlimited liberty will solve everything. To do so would deny the existence of God and elevate humanity to divinity. However, the Church teaches: “(The Church) has -1-
likewise refused to accept, in the practice of ‘capitalism,’ individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor. Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for ‘there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.’”2 Does the Church here refer to the conventional definition of Capitalism, the same that would qualify the United States as a Capitalist nation? Or is the Church referring to the philosophical definition of pure Capitalism? The Church will agree—freedom is the only acceptable context for moral action.3 In a Capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. When I go to the store to buy a watermelon, I decide I would rather have a tasty treat than my three dollars and the grocer decides he would rather have my three dollars. Neither of us is forced to do anything we don’t want to. But also actions of love, generosity, sacrifice, and benevolence operate as all other actions—flowing freely from the conscience and the mind. Once I get home, I invite my neighbors over to my porch to share my watermelon. Capitalism does not promote the isolation normally correlated with individualism. Rather Capitalism says that rights can begin only with the individual, so formation of groups, communities, picnics, social interactions, associations and even churches must always be voluntary. Capitalism does not prevent the individual from joining the collective; Capitalism prevents the collective from forcing the individual to integrate.
and societal wealth, the answer would be capitalism, at least here on Earth.”4 It is true that there are needs which cannot be met by the marketplace, because wealth and personal liberty are not the only needs humans have. What does the Church mean by ‘the law of the marketplace’? The exclusion physical force from human relationships, what I would call the only law of the free marketplace, makes Capitalism the only system which recognizes individual rights. This same law makes Capitalism the only system that can adequately provide for social justice, the wellbeing of others. By providing the framework of voluntary exchange, Capitalism provides the justice that is a necessary precursor to social justice. The law of the marketplace does not mean that if you don’t have anything I want, then I don’t care about you. The law of the marketplace says that if I have something you want or need, we can trade value for value or I can give it freely to you out of generosity, but you can not take it. The law of the marketplace ensures that all human interactions are voluntary, upfront, and honest. I have wondered why the Missouri Conference of Catholic Bishops doesn’t send me mail asking for donations to Catholic Charities rather than asking me to vote for the latest tax increase. Perhaps it is because Catholic Charities receives large grants from the government, including a $100 million dollar grant for “aid relief.”5 Why do they not understand that giving to the poor is not generous unless it is giving of oneself? How is it generous or even moral to steal, using their votes and the coercive power of government, and give away what you do not own? When the rich man asked what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded that he must follow the commandments—voluntarily, as a man acting of his free will to serve the LORD.6 The rich man wanted to do more. Only then did Jesus tell him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. When the rich man walked away, Jesus did not order the disciples to take up arms and seize the rich man’s wealth. Likewise, Jesus did not petition Pontius Pilot to levy more taxes and give entitlements to the poor. Jesus let the rich man walk away. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s soul. Maybe you think this article has it wrong? Remember that the SR wants submissions from all perspectives.
When talking about sloppy thinking, Dr. Walter Williams, Professor of Economics at George Mason University, said, “A related lesson is dealing with terms such as better and best and worse. This lesson might be approached by my asking students which is the best system for resource allocation: capitalist, socialist or communist? After several fall for my bait, I tell them that the correct response is to tell me it’s a nonsense question. It is akin to asking their physics professor: Which is the best state: a liquid, gaseous, solid or plasma state? However, if the physics professor were asked: Which is the cheapest state to nail a nail into a board? He could answer the question and probably say that it is the solid state. Going back to the question about capitalism versus socialism and communism, asking which system maximizes personal liberty
attention to.”9 Isn’t it his job to follow things like that? If a massive organization like ACORN has been repeatedly accused of criminal activities, shouldn’t the president know about it? Later, the President was asked what he thought about Kanye’s latest escapades (taking away Taylor Swift’s microphone and saying that Beyonce should have won the VMA award), and the President gave an answer with less than savory language10. First of all, such language is intrinsically dishonorable for someone representing the people of the United States of America. But what is more important here is that the president was following Kanye West, but not ACORN. Either President Obama is lying or he is not doing his job.
A Deficit of Values By William Kohler, Writer “As to corruption, the case is not supposable. He must either have been very unfortunate in his intercourse with the world, or possess a heart very susceptible of such impressions, who can think it probable that the President and two thirds of the Senate will ever be capable of such unworthy conduct. The idea is too gross and too invidious to be entertained. But in such a case, if it should ever happen, the treaties so obtained from us would, like all other fraudulent contracts, be null and void by the law of nations. With respect to their responsibility, it is difficult to conceive how it could be increased. Every consideration that can influence the human mind, such as honor, oaths, reputation, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments, afford security for their fidelity. In short, as the Constitution has taken the utmost care that they shall be men of talents and integrity, we have reason to be persuaded that the treaties they make will be as advantageous as, all circumstances considered, could be made; and so far as the fear of punishment and disgrace can operate, that motive to good behavior is amply afforded by the article of the subject of impeachments.” 7
All elected officials are expected to follow their oaths. Are the Congressmen following their oaths? Here is the oath of a congressman: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”11 The Senators pledge to fulfill their duties. Are they doing so? The duties of a Senator are, quite simply, to pass legislation (as they are part of the legislative branch). Without reading the bills, can they truly be considered to be doing their jobs? Let us say that a man’s job is to create bullets for the military. If the man creates bullets but they consistently malfunction in the field of battle, has the man done his job properly? Likewise, if a law is passed and it has disastrous outcomes that could have been avoided if the senators had read the bill, have they done their job? If you believe that the bullet maker must create safe and proper bullets and should be fired if he does not, then you must certainly believe that Senators should read the bills and should be fired if they do not. But alas, the members of our Congress are passing laws without reading them.12 It is immoral and simply unacceptable.
These previous two paragraphs come from Federalist No. 64, The Powers of the Senate, by John Jay. The Federalist Papers were written in 1787 and 1788 to convince people to ratify the Constitution8. According to John Jay, 2/3 of the Senate will never be corrupted. But I believe that this has indeed happened. Perhaps they are not all corrupt, per se, but I believe that they possess mindsets that are harmful to the United States of America. I believe that there is a deficit of values. This deficit of values might be expressed by the lack of the key things that prevent corruption in the government, according to John Jay, “honor, oaths, reputation, conscience, the love of country, and family affections and attachments.” Honor, then, is the first value, and likely one of the greatest. For after all, how can you let someone lead you if they are dishonorable? When George Stephanopoulos asked President Obama in an interview what he thought about ACORN getting federal funding, the President said, “[it] is not the biggest issue facing the country. It's not something I'm paying a lot of
There exists a superb example of corruption. Chris Dodd received $21,000 in “campaign donations” from Countrywide Financial and he was later lobbying for a Countrywide Financial bailout 13 . Despite ongoing investigations, how can these
repeated campaign contributions not influence his voting? Marketing the coercive power of government is tyranny—a violation of honor, oaths, and good morals. Such activities should never be allowed. I believe that anyone who has any semblance of corruption or immoral activity should be removed from public office. The United States of America has a population of over 300,000,000 and we can’t come up with honest people for public office? Bologna!
Can a poor person give a rich person a job? No. Can a rich person (or corporation) give a poor person a job? Yes. Therefore, in order to create more jobs, the rich must be able to hire people, and not have their money simply redistributed to the poor. The latter is giving the poor a fish, while the former is giving them a fishing pole. Although it is true that some people cannot provide for themselves because of disabilities, they can be helped by private charity and family.
I will not touch upon the remaining values at the moment. I know that the reader would prefer for the humble writer to keep his articles short and not waste so much of the reader’s time. But it should start becoming clear now that there is a deficit of values in the government. There are four main reasons that this deficit of values exists: unconstitutional activities and a lack of vigilance on the part of the people; the belief that the government should act as an extension of society; a phenomenon that I call the Margin of Confidence, which is basically the belief in giving the government power that could be abused; and arrogant and indifferent elitism. These causes are often also effects, which makes the whole process a dangerous cycle. These four causes and effects will be explored further in my future articles.
Capitalism will also create the highest paying jobs. If there is a person in the work force, who is very good at the job he or she performs, companies will want him or her to work for them. The companies will compete for the employee by attempting to offer the most money for his or her work. All of the companies will, in a sense, bid on the person. Thus, the person is paid more than a pre-determined salary as in socialism. All companies want to have the highest quality labor on their work force. They will pay their employees more in order to attract the best and the brightest to work for them. Under capitalism, companies can produce goods cheaper than heavily regulated or government owned companies. There is more value in products, because they are of higher quality and lower price. This is caused by competition. Because there are normally multiple companies producing similar products, all of the companies will try to make the best product in the cheapest possible manner in order to make a profit and remain in business. Higher profits mean that there is more money to pay employees, resulting in a higher standard of living for all.
Capitalism By Dominic LaMantia, Writer Two issues ago in the SLUH Review, Logan Hayward dealt with the moral justification for capitalism. During this issue, I will look at the secular justification for it. First of all, what is capitalism? An ignorant person might tell you that it is the economic system in which greedy rich people exploit the poor. However, Capitalism is “an economic system in which property resources are privately owned and markets and prices are used to direct and coordinate resources.” 14 Capitalism improves the standard of living for all, including the poor.
There is one overlying reason why socialism fails— there is no incentive to work! In socialism, you get paid the same amount of money if you do a bad job or not. My point is illustrated through a simple example. If we all got an automatic 100% on our homework, whether we did it or not, how many of us would do it? How many of us would study for a test if we were all going to get an automatic 100%? It is the same with socialism. Why would workers work if they would be paid either way? Why should someone try to invent new technology when that person would not be able to keep the profits? It wouldn’t help the person in any way. In a capitalist economy, people will take calculated risks because the reward could be great, whereas there is no reward in socialism. This means that there would be more wealth available in capitalism than
The goal of any economic system is to provide more jobs and better paying jobs. As goes the clichéd but telling saying, if you gave someone a fish, you would feed them for a day, but if you give someone a fishing pole, he can feed himself forever. The Dutch have a proverb: “God gives every bird its proper food, but all must fly for it.”15 To make people provide for themselves, they first need jobs.
in socialism. Such extra wealth will, in turn, create even more wealth because additional calculated risks could then be taken. With more money available, companies could hire more employees or raise the pay of the existing employees.
John Jay, Federalist Number 64, March 7, 1788 http://www.foundingfathers.info/federalistpapers/ 9 http://blogs.abcnews.com/george/2009/09/obama-on-acornnot-something-ive-followed-closely.html 10 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32859148/ns/politicswhite_house/ 11 http://www.emailyoursenator.com/oath.html 12 http://www.cnsnews.com/Public/content/article.aspx?RsrcID =43478 13 http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=76 191 14 “Capitalism.” Glossary. Economic: Principles, Problems, and Policies. McConnell, Campbell R. and Stanley L. Brue, ed. (McGraw-Hill/Irwin, New York: 2008, p. G-3). 15 Diana Hacker. The Bedford Handbook. (Bedford/St. Martin’s, New York: 2009, p. 819). 16 http://www.winston-churchill-leadership.com/churchillquote-politics.html 8
That said, capitalism will not magically end all of our problems. There will always be a minority of people who will take an unfair advantage of the system. Winston Churchill once said, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”16 It is the same with capitalism. It is not perfect, but no system will ever be perfect. Interested in SLUH Review? Have intelligent opinions of your own? Write for the SR! We seek pieces that are thoughtful, well-written, and honestly pursue a Truth grounded in Faith and values. • The opinions expressed in SLUH Review are the opinions of the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of SLUH or the moderator. • All pieces must be submitted a week prior to the publishing date. Please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org. • •
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“What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 18 The Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2425. Hereafter, “Catechism.” 3 Catechism, 1738 4 http://economics.gmu.edu/wew/articles/08/TeachingEconomi cs.htm 5 http://catholicexchange.com/2009/08/10/121074/ 6 Mark 10: 17-31 2