THE BATTLEFIELD FOR EVERYBODY’S DREAMS AND EVERYBODY’S COVETOUSNESS

Illustration shows a gigantic boar wearing a crown with "$" and a shawl labeled "Plutocratic Greed" and holding the U.S. Capitol dome labeled "Special Privilege", inverted to form a bucket from which it is sowing seeds labeled "Abuse of Power, Arrogance, [and] Contempt of Law" onto a field sprouting "Socialist votes". It is stepping on an American flag and a Liberty cap. (from here)
Illustration shows a gigantic boar wearing a crown with “$” and a shawl labeled “Plutocratic Greed” and holding the U.S. Capitol dome labeled “Special Privilege”, inverted to form a bucket from which it is sowing seeds labeled “Abuse of Power, Arrogance, [and] Contempt of Law” onto a field sprouting “Socialist votes”. It is stepping on an American flag and a Liberty cap. (from here)
In his day (1801 – 1850) and with brilliant intellectual rigor and honesty, Frédéric Bastiat fiercely fought the Socialism that had become a national plague in France. Hence we have his Essays on Political Economy.

In our last visit to Bastiat’s work (WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO MAKE AMERICA AMERICA AGAIN?), we considered the meaning of the idea that made America America.  Here we will consider in more detail what makes Socialism organized injustice.

Socialism poses as a solution for many serious societal ills. Why doesn’t Socialism work?

You say, “There are men who have no money,” and you apply to the law. But the law is not a self-supplied fountain, whence every stream may obtain supplies independently of society. Nothing can enter the public treasury, in favour of one citizen or one class, but what other citizens and other classes have been forced to send to it. If every one draws from it only the equivalent of what he has contributed to it, your law, it is true, is no plunderer, but it does nothing for men who want money–it does not promote equality. It can only be an instrument of equalisation as far as it takes from one party to give to another, and then it is an instrument of plunder. Examine, in this light, the protection of tariffs, prizes for encouragement, right to profit, right to labour, right to assistance, right to instruction, progressive taxation, gratuitousness of credit, social workshops, and you will always find at the bottom legal plunder, organised injustice.

You say, “There are men who want knowledge,” and you apply to the law. But the law is not a torch which sheds light abroad which is peculiar to itself. It extends over a society where there are men who have knowledge, and others who have not; citizens who want to learn, and others who are disposed to teach. It can only do one of two things: either allow a free operation to this kind of transaction, i.e., let this kind of want satisfy itself freely; or else force the will of the people in the matter, and take from some of them sufficient to pay professors commissioned to instruct others gratuitously. But, in this second case, there cannot fail to be a violation of liberty and property,–legal plunder.

You say, “Here are men who are wanting in morality or religion,” and you apply to the law; but law is force, and need I say how far it is a violent and absurd enterprise to introduce force in these matters?

As the result of its systems and of its efforts, it would seem that socialism, notwithstanding all its self-complacency, can scarcely help perceiving the monster of legal plunder. But what does it do? It disguises it cleverly from others, and even from itself, under the seductive names of fraternity, solidarity, organisation, association. And because we do not ask so much at the hands of the law, because we only ask it for justice, it supposes that we reject fraternity, solidarity, organisation, and association; and they brand us with the name of individualists.

We can assure them that what we repudiate is, not natural organisation, but forced organisation.

It is not free association, but the forms of association which they would impose upon us.

It is not spontaneous fraternity, but legal fraternity.

It is not providential solidarity, but artificial solidarity, which is only an unjust displacement of responsibility. (from here)

Still, should we not have a social safety net, at least a little bit of Socialism that prevents the worst societal ills? No. As Bastiat observed: “I have no hesitation in answering, Law is common force organised to prevent injustice;–in short, Law is Justice.” That is, the Law exists solely to prevent us from infringing upon each others rights. How can we trust the people who administer the Law both to protect our rights and to step on our rights?

Nothing can be more clear and simple, more perfectly defined and bounded, or more visible to every eye; for justice is a given quantity, immutable and unchangeable, and which admits of neither increase or diminution.

Depart from this point, make the law religious, fraternal, equalising, industrial, literary, or artistic, and you will be lost in vagueness and uncertainty; you will be upon unknown ground, in a forced Utopia, or, which is worse, in the midst of a multitude of Utopias, striving to gain possession of the law, and to impose it upon you; for fraternity and philanthropy have no fixed limits, like justice. Where will you stop? Where is the law to stop? One person, as M. de Saint Cricq, will only extend his philanthropy to some of the industrial classes, and will require the law to dispose of the consumers in favour of the producers. Another, like M. Considerant, will take up the cause of the working classes, and claim for them by means of the law, at a fixed rate, clothing, lodging, food, and everything necessary for the support of life. A third, as, M. Louis Blanc, will say, and with reason, that this would be an incomplete fraternity, and that the law ought to provide them with instruments of labour and the means of instruction. A fourth will observe that such an arrangement still leaves room for inequality, and that the law ought to introduce into the most remote hamlets luxury, literature, and the arts. This is the high road to communism; in other words, legislation will be–what it now is–the battle-field for everybody’s dreams and everybody’s covetousness. (from here)

A battlefield? Does that not describe this year’s elections? A war of words verging on violence? As the cartoon above indicates, when we give the ruling classes more power than is needed just to protect our rights, they soon begin to abuse that power and demand more, often using their own failures as an excuse. It is just a matter of time before voting will not matter. What will matter is power, who controls the military and police forces.

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12 thoughts on “THE BATTLEFIELD FOR EVERYBODY’S DREAMS AND EVERYBODY’S COVETOUSNESS

  1. Pingback: IMPORTANT SCHOOL BOARD UPDATES FOR SEPTEMBER 21st MEETING – Citizen Tom

  2. Stephen

    “Law is common force organised to prevent injustice.” But then would be also a forced association. For if I graze my cattle on some land, and another man claims it, the law forces me into an association with that man i.e. that of debtor.

    As I have said before, Bastiat doesn’t understand Justice in its essence and uses it as a sort of protective circle to affect inaction. If this was the case, the Civil Rights movement was an severe forced association to allow blacks to go to the same schools as whites.

    Justice is a relational virtue, not an individualistic one. That means that it is necessarily directed outwards, not inwards like patience and fortitude. Now, justice concerns itself with rights, to be sure. But the demands of justice are categorical according to the hierarchy of laws i.e. the Divine first, the Natural second, and the positive or man-made third. So when Bastiat defends interest and capital, he is not defending any Natural right, but a positive right. Nothing in Nature can be construed as “money.” Cash is a wholly human concept to ease the process of exchange. In truth, it has no real value and cannot, in a Natural law sense, be called property. It is merely the sign and token of property, not property itself.

    To say, then, that man has a right or the state has a right to cash and its disbursement is to elevate it beyond what it naturally is. In the Natural law, man has his labor and the fruits thereof. In modern times, the laborer is not given the fruits of his labor but wages. Whereas in nature a man’s labor would yield him the fruits of the earth, in industry it yields him money. Now, this is not itself an unjust exchange provided that those wages are sufficient for his sustenance AND, if he is thrifty and careful, the acquisition of private property.

    The problem with poverty is not a lack of money, but a lack of private property. Money no more solves the situation of poverty than does injecting morphine into a dying man cure his terminal illness. It eases the passing but the result is death. Common property does nothing but contract a common disease by which more than just those suffering from poverty before are brought to death’s door.

    The goal of all societal action, be it public or private, should be for the acquisition and protection of private property for all. This does not mean leaving the fate of the poor to five year plans or invisible hands but rather to the affectation of Justice rightly understood: the giving to each according to his right. Every man, by virtue of his descent from Adam, was given equal dominion over the fruits of the earth.

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    1. @Stephen

      With your quote you claim the Pope as a great defender of private property (=> https://citizentom.com/2016/09/10/what-would-it-mean-to-make-america-america-again/#comment-70794). Well, maybe the Pope is, and maybe the Pope is not. Since your words say that you are not a defender of private property, quoting the Pope does not help you anyway. What you effectively advocate is Socialism, a system that has never work.

      Here, for example, you advocate Socialism.

      The goal of all societal action, be it public or private, should be for the acquisition and protection of private property for all.

      Look at the conflict of interest. How is the government suppose to acquire property for some people without taking away the property of other people? How can we trust a government to protect our property if it takes it away give it to someone else?

      You do not seem to have much understanding of money. Government did not invent money. When people started bartering, that had a problem. Without a convenient medium of exchange, they found it difficult to barter. Imagine an Indian who is an excellent hunter. He kills a deer, but all he needs is a portion of the meat. He has a neighbor who is a hunter, another who is a good fletcher, and another who is a tanner. Well, that Indian can divvy up the meat, the bones, and the hide among those guys, but what does the fletcher have that the tanner wants. To cloth himself in a barter society (without money), a specialist like the fletcher has to acquire something the tanner wants. That’s why people started using various things for money. It allowed them specialize, serve a relatively exclusive group of customers and still buy the goods they needed.

      Anyway, you don’t understand money. Nevertheless, you are trying to redesign our economic system. I don’t think you are qualified yet. Bastiat spent years studying economics, and his explanation of money is much better than mine. Please set aside your preconceptions and try to read his book without bias.

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      1. Stephen

        You must not have read Rerum Novarum.
        “First of all, there is the duty of safeguarding private property by legal enactment and protection….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. ” Ibid, 38, 45

        You may want to check out paragraph 51 on private societies. What I said stands.

        “Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth; which has in its grasp the whole of labor and trade; which manipulates for its own benefit and its own purposes all the sources of supply, and which is not without influence even in the administration of the commonwealth. On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude, sick and sore in spirit and ever ready for disturbance. If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another. A further consequence will result in the great abundance of the fruits of the earth. Men always work harder and more readily when they work on that which belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat, but an abundance of good things for themselves and those that are dear to them. That such a spirit of willing labor would add to the produce of the earth and to the wealth of the community is self-evident. And a third advantage would spring from this: men would cling to the country in which they were born, for no one would exchange his country for a foreign land if his own afforded him the means of living a decent and happy life. These three important benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair.” Ibid 47

        We believe, along with Leo, that unfettered liberal capitalism and socialist wage fixing do not equalize men. Property is the equalizer and the right and road to it should be free and open. The ideal is that no one go through life without property. From Dale Alquist:

        “Catholic Social Teaching tries to put a broken world back together. But the problem with the Church’s Social Teaching is that it deals with a subject that makes people very, very touchy. It is a subject that is even more personal, it seems, than sex. It is money. How we get money, how we spend it, and how we keep it or don’t keep it. Mammon, of course, is the one alternative to the true God. But even apart from the danger of worshipping money as a false god is the danger of making the economy a false king. Or a false science.

        Chesterton argues that the academic economic models simply do not work. They do not They do not consider moral consequences. The Social encyclicals have affirmed this point. In Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict made it clear that every economic decision has moral consequences, and that we have to act with principles other than pure profit. If Capitalism is mere acquisition and accumulation, it will always provoke Communism. Big Business and Big Government are dueling giants that are chained to each other.”

        Private ownership protects the individual from the whims of capitalists and socialists out to deprive him of his dignity. Upon his property, he can have support and sustenance. It provides him independence in reality rather in theory.

        Thus, law and private enterprise needs to focus on this goal. No man can be considered free if he is shackled to starving in labor or starving on the dole. He has freedom in property. If the state is to protect a man’s freedom, he must protect his right and access to private property.

        “How is the government suppose to acquire property for some people without taking away the property of other people?” Note that I said the acquisition AND protection. The state, as much as possible, should be left out of the aiding in acquisition and focus on the protection. But if a locality finds that they require some benefice from the state in order to realize their goals, then that is for them to decide, not us. For example, if Prince William County, though whatever medium they deem good though I would personally prefer a referendum, decides to increase their taxation to provide assistance to impoverished persons to purchase private property, so long as the state is not carrying the sole or majority of the burden and the private associations are fully integrated in the process, then I don’t see how it can be reproachful. Conversely, if they determined that they could, with their current infrastructure and tax levels, provide the aforementioned service by relying solely on private associations, I cannot see any reason for other government bodies above them dictating how they must do things. The point is that local control is better equipped to deal with local problems and should have the leeway to do so in the manner that the citizens deem is best. If the citizens of Loudoun vote to raise taxes on the top earners to provide assistance to the bottom earners so that the latter can attain private property, then perish the man who desires to come from outside and monkey around with their chosen methods.

        “Anyway, you don’t understand money.” This is hilarious since you basically just gave a scenario that supported the definition I gave i.e. money is the vehicle of exchange and therefore not property in the truest sense.

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        1. @Stephen

          I was raised as a Catholic. I accept the fact that Catholics are Christians. I don’t accept the authority of the Pope. And, no, I have not read Rerum Novarum. Neither have the vast majority of Catholics.

          Anyway, I am not going to be dragged into contest over which church doctrine is best or which religious doctrines our government should adopt. If you cannot see the futility of that…..

          You have every right to vote your religious beliefs, but others retain the same right. When you are in the minority, you are just asking for trouble when you insist government has powers the framers never wanted it to have.

          Money is not is the measure of the wealth of a people, and Bastiat explains that. True money, not fiat money, is, however, property. Gold, for example, is property. Gold, silver, and copper have serve well as vehicles of exchange. Nevertheless, government can corrupt anything. Monarchs, supposedly doing everyone a big favor, minted coins with their pictures on the coins. Then they borrowed money, using the coins they had minted to establish the amount borrowed and the rate of interest. Then those clever men adulterated the currency by minting coins with less gold, silver, and copper. That made it much easier to pay off their debts, and the lenders were stuck with the difference. What lender could or would refuse the king’s funny money.

          Don’t you wonder why what we call fiat money has any value? To pay our taxes, we must use fiat money.

          Our government taxes the stuffing out of us. How do we pay our taxes? With money the government prints. Our government prints money and then spends it. We collect fiat money from each other and pay our taxes with it.

          The amount of fiat money in circulation (supply) and the tax rate (demand) decides the value of the fiat money.

          Is the value of fiat money purely artificial? Have you tried not paying your taxes?

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        2. Stephen

          “And, no, I have not read Rerum Novarum. Neither have the vast majority of Catholics.” Well, I am one that has and it forms much of the basis for our party. That and Abraham Kuijper.

          “You have every right to vote your religious beliefs, but others retain the same right. When you are in the minority, you are just asking for trouble when you insist government has powers the framers never wanted it to have.” I seem to recall a certain address by our first president that detailed that morality cannot be divorced from government. Indeed, Franklin posisted in his autobiography that, without some sort of public virtue that had religious approval, the experiment would fail. Indeed, if our party is anything, it is the implementation of that ideal, of having morality and religious observance in the public sphere. Our principles are not so focussed that they cannot be accepted by non-Christians. I talk from the Catholic perspective because that is what I know. The Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and even atheists in our party agree with our principles even though they are derived from mainly religious philosophers.

          “Money is not is the measure of the wealth of a people, and Bastiat explains that. True money, not fiat money, is, however, property. Gold, for example, is property. Gold, silver, and copper have serve well as vehicles of exchange.” You could use beans as currancy and the same principle would apply. Gold, silver, and copper are only vehicles of exchange because we choose for them to be. In other cultures, they used iron or even other metals or rocks. Governments slowly became the guarantee of the validity of these vehicles. The minted coin had a determined value. In the end, all money is “fiat money” since it is perfectly possible to go to the bean standard or back it by whatever other vehicle of exchange you want.

          For example, when I was in basic training, we had very little access to cash. Hence, an exchange economy emerged for fire guard shifts, the lending of socks or tolietries, contraband, and so on. Cough drops, in our part of the barracks, became the vehicle of exchange. You could get a pair of spare socks for ten standard Halls mint flavored cough drops. In another part of the barracks, the vehicle was the creamer packets that come in MREs. Now, the rate of exchange was two creamer packets to one cough drop since the creamer packets came free every few days with the eating of MREs while cough drops were had through care packages and real purchases.

          Now, through my industry of taking numerous fire guard shifts and bath room cleaning details, I amassed quite a supply of cough drops and creamers to the point where I had enough to buy out the stock of every business from the playing cards makers to the candy suppliers. What did I have in the end? Was it “true money?” According to your definition, in the context of that economy, I did. But in truth, all I had were a bunch of cough drops. In truth, I had no property. I was poorer than the playing card makers because they at least had a product, something to sell. I had merely the vehicle of exchanging my labors for property, but not property itself. True, the cough drops had worth in another sense i.e. I could always use them. But in that sense, they were actually superior to gold, silver, and copper since these metals have, to the layman, no use except to exchange. So I dispersed the creamers to some impoverished fellow and freely lent the cough drops. Because what was truly at stake when all my needs were met? I had that independance since my need for property was laready fulfilled by the army. Thus, anything more was to my discretion to be generous.

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        3. @Stephen

          Morality has to come from the people. The way you are quoting the framers on that subject is absurd. The framers had no illusions that morality would come from the government. Nevertheless, what you insist upon doing is using the government to make the people behave morally. Doesn’t work well. Never has.

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        4. Stephen

          “Morality has to come from the people.” Morality comes from God. I know; you know it; the framers know it. If the government, as the framers intended, is the expression of the people’s will and morality comes from the people, then wouldn’t the people’s government be moral and enforce the morality of the people? If we divorce them, we end up with immorality.

          Now, why would you object to a political party that admits the necessity of morality in its people and makes it an active part of its platform on the grounds that government cannot enforce morality when the people are government?

          In other words, if the ASP fulfilled its principles of informing its policy with morality gleaned from religious instruction and then sought to enact laws based on those principles, would that not be the genesis of the morality be the people and the force be the government?

          You say that using the government to make people behave morally doesn’t work, but isn’t that precisely why we have prohibitions against murder? We as a people consider murder immoral. Therefore, we enact laws reflecting our moral censure of murder. We are merely being consistent. Should not the law prohibit every immorality? If not, aren’t you then setting yourself up for failure?

          Again, I see your issue is not so much that you disagree with me but that you ascribe to the false dichotomy of people and government. Under the ASP plan, more control over moral censure is placed back where it belongs: in the local community. By following the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity, we avoid imposition of odious, immoral laws and they are not imposed via fiat from some nameless bureaucrat. Instead of one man driving ten before him, you and your neighbors meet and discuss what is best for your community and you act upon it. I cannot conceive of something more in line with the framer’s intention than this.

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        5. @Stephen

          The framers did not want to use the government to enforce the values and the religious beliefs of any group of people. They understood America has four levels of government, not just three.

          Usually, when we think of government, we think of three levels: Federal, state, and local. However, in America, we also expect the People to govern themselves informally through custom. Custom is far more powerful, agile, and cuts finer than than the law. Custom works through our associations: our families, our churches, our businesses, our charities, our hobbies, and so forth. Every time we each make a business decision, buy a product, choose a friend, smile, grimace, laugh or cry we vote on the moral character of our People. Through our actions we shape each others consciences.

          If we want to shape a society — if we want to make a better world — then we each must pray God will begin with us. If our Lord so chooses and guides us, we may affect more people more positively than we will ever know.

          The Law, on the other hand, is a blunt instrument. When we exercise the power of the law, we restrict the choices of the people, often good as well as bad. Whenever the government makes a choice and says, “that is the way it will be”, it eliminates alternatives. And what is eliminated is often never ever known. When the law is used excessively, all we know for certain is the torment of busybodies.

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        6. Stephen

          What is the government to do when the common custom is to slaughter unborn children, what right does the government have then to say no? The reality is that the current culture is one of death. Government is, I will admit, one sphere. That is why I have never said that government is the sole answer. I have said what is required of government i.e. ensuring the demands of justice are fulfilled, but not that it will solve all problems.

          But returning to the duties of government, I will say that the government absolutely has the duty to stamp out those things that violate justice, even if they are “common custom.” It was common custom for the Aztecs to brutally sacrifice people, but the Spanish government was wise enough to know that such things were unacceptable.

          Now, in a representative government, we need people who understand justice in itself and not its accidents as Bastiat does and that the demands of true justice always override the demands of the demos. Were it otherwise, all manner of social ills could be justified and the nation would devolve into populism.

          Thus, the government must be guided by true custom, true tradition, steming from true conceptions of the natural law. This is necessarily opposed to Enlightenment liberalism which, according to such liberals, specifically rejects tradition, custom, and ancient mores as slave moralities, tutelage, tyranny, and other such nonsense that everyone from Locke to Hume, to Kant to Nietzsche believed were novel ideas when really they were just impractical regurgitation of pre-Socratic philosophy.

          The Law, therefore, must uphold justice even when the majority believes it should not. In order to best protect the rights of the people, the most intrusive laws should be legislated only locally where they can have the most impute and impact.

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        7. @Stephen

          If the people do not uphold Godly moral standards, they will not elect leaders who uphold Godly moral standards. Neither will they tolerate such leaders.

          If want the American People to uphold high moral standards, then we need to encourage our neighbors to read the Bible. The notion that our government is going to make us highly moral is just absurd.

          If the Law is Justice, then it is because the People fear God.

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