THE CASE FOR REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH
A PAPER ON MORAL THEOLOGY
“As the great 20th-century economist Friedrich Hayek made clear, state oversight is often necessary to keep the marketplace free of corruption, price-fixing, crony capitalism and monopoly so that there actually is real competition in the marketplace, real freedom of individuals to engage in economic activity. But state oversight is different from heavy-handed, centralized economic planning.” (Benjamin Weiker, “The Church and Capitalism: What Subsidiarity Tells Us,” National Catholic Register, Sept. 23, 2012)
I wish to make it clear from the beginning that I in no way desire or support Socialism or its cousin, Communism, as viable economic policy for our country. As a Catholic and a lover of humanity, I cannot support a system which takes away free enterprise and the right to own property. These are fundamental rights of humanity which are recognized and promoted by the Church. However, there exists a strain of thought, even among religious people, that insists that what one does with one’s money is no one else’s business at all. I am here today to attempt to prove this wrong, and do so from distinctly Catholic writings on this subject.
“God has intended the earth and all that it contains for the use of all people and all peoples. Hence justice, accompanied by charity, must so regulate the distribution of created goods that they are actually available to all in an equitable measure. […] Therefore, in using them everyone should consider legitimate possessions not only as their own but also as common property, in the sense that they should be able to profit not only themselves but other people as well. Moreover, all have the right to possess a share of earthly goods sufficient for themselves and their families. This is what the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had in mind when teaching that people are obliged to come to the aid of the poor, and to do so not merely out of their superfluous goods.” (Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II, 1965)
“Private property does not constitute for anyone an absolute and unconditional right. No one is justified in keeping for one’s exclusive use what one does not need, when others lack necessities.” (Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 1967)
Despite the deeply held prejudices of the rich, shown by their barbaric ignoring of the plight of so many wretchedly poor throughout history (actions speak louder than words), the world was not made for them alone. It does not exist as their private playpen. Mankind is a family, and the earth and its goodness is given to us by God for the enjoyment of all.
Furthermore, our lives as individuals are not compartmentalized. Because we live as the community of mankind, as sons and daughters all of God, there is no area of our lives that does not affect other people in some way. Even those things we do in private have a profound effect upon the good of the whole. St. Paul stated this when he wrote: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12: 26) Scripture teaches that sin in the Body of Christ has a negative effect upon the whole body. Therefore, what you do in the privacy of your own home is not an issue between you and God alone. It is an issue which affects the entire Church, and ultimately, because the Church is in the world but not of it, the world around Her.
In listening to certain radio programs, there is no issue that seems to be more hotly discussed than that of the right of certain people to do whatever they wish with their money, free of any “meddling” from the government. To listen to these radio hosts speak, many of whom have large audiences that identify themselves as “Christian,” one would think that God Himself supports such an idea. They often speak of such things as “rugged individualism” and “the rights of the men to keep what they earn,” coupled with incendiary language against the poor and needy.
Is this the mind of God? Has the Church has always taught such an idea?
The concern of God for His poor is given to us early in scripture:
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather [every] grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I [am] the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19: 9 & 10.)
I find it interesting to reflect upon the fact that God had to make clear to His people that He expected them to care for the poor. This indicates that due to the corruption of our natures by sin, it is more normal to hoard the world’s goods and ignore the poor. A simple glance at history will find this assertion to be borne out over and over in the annals of mankind’s wretched treatment of his fellow man. And even with this direct command from God, inscribed in scripture, God’s people did not take to heart the care of the poor, for we find many centuries later the warning of Isaiah of the coming judgment of God upon Israel for their hardness of heart against the poor:
“The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor [is] in your houses. What mean ye [that] ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.” (Isaiah 3: 14 & 15)
Even with these warnings and the subsequent chastisement that fell upon Israel, we see centuries later that nothing had changed. Behold the words of our Lord to His people:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.” ( Matthew 23: 14)
In 1891,with the dawning in the West of the Industrial Revolution, the Church weighed in upon these issues, concerned especially with the abuses of the working man by the rich who employed them.
“To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”(James 5:4) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?” (Encyclical of Pope Leo XII, Rerum Novarum, Paragraph 20, Given at St. Peter’s in Rome, the fifteenth day of May, 1891.)
It was not without cause that our Holy Father was driven to write this encyclical. The sordid conditions of the working class in numerous factories in the United States, the cry of the families who could barely survive under the oppressive conditions of employment under which they labored, had come to his ears. A response was called for.
“Whose task is it to see that workers’ wages are sufficient? Is it the task of the government, through a central bureaucracy or minimum wage laws? Pope Leo does not entirely rule out such an approach, but his clear preference is for another method. And in doing so, he brings to the fore one of the most interesting, and at the same time both traditional and innovative, proposals in the entire corpus of Catholic social teaching. This is the notion of self-regulation by mutual agreement of workers and employers.
The necessary background to this proposal is found earlier in the encyclical, where Leo points out the following truth.
The great mistake that is made in the matter now under consideration, is to possess oneself of the idea that class is naturally hostile to class; that rich and poor are intended by nature to live at war with one another. So irrational and so false is this view, that the exact contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human body is the result of the disposition of the members of the body, so in a State it is ordained by nature that these two classes should exist in harmony and agreement, and should, as it were, fit into one another, so as to maintain the equilibrium of the body politic. Each requires the other; capital cannot do without labor nor labor with capital. Mutual agreement results in pleasantness and good order; perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and outrage (no. 15).” (Thomas Storck, From the Beginnings Through Leo XIII, The Distributist Review)
Unfortunately, in my opinion, this response from Pope Leo XIII has been all but ignored and lost to the dustbin of history. Catholic politicians and many of the Catholic rich have supported an ongoing system of crony Capitalism which defrauds the worker and continues the strife and misery we are witnessing in our country at this time. What then am I to do as a Catholic who takes God’s Word and His Church seriously and wishes to follow His commandments unto eternal life?
First of all, I must take care in my own personal life that I am sensitive to the needs of others. When it comes to a choice between a shiny new toy that some slick advertising campaign has told me I simply cannot live without, and Mrs. Jones in my parish getting medicine she needs – the medicine must be the choice every time. And I cannot listen to or employ sophistic arguments such as “Well, if everyone felt the way you do, the people making (insert your favorite adult toy here) would soon be out of work” in order to justify spoiling myself rotten by the acquisition of items that are not needs, but emotional wants. Humanity cries out for help, and God calls upon me to have keen and attuned ears to the needs around me. It is a choice I must constantly make to not be owned by the baubles of this world, but rather to appreciate them, to use them if I have them, but never to put them in front of the needs of my fellow sojourners in this human journey.
But more than that, if this position of self-sacrificial love for others is what God demands of us in the Gospel, then I must not only live this life before others as an authentic witness to its truth, I must be ready to promote and defend it in the marketplace as God’s truth for this world. In today’s society, this will no doubt mean taking a very unpopular stand in a world which has come to be dominated by what is known as the Protestant Work Ethic and the Capitalism that is its spouse. Together they have birthed the bastard child called “Consumerism.” It is this child, and not the Lord Jesus Christ, that is king of our Western culture.
Ideally, the attack upon this monster which has come to dominate our Western (and in particular, American) culture, should be done without the intervention of the federal government. Pope Leo XIII outlined his idea for men to achieve equity in the following manner:
“Having explained that workers and employers are not naturally hostile to each other, Leo then brings forth the notion of “societies or boards” (no. 34) which he suggests would do a better job of addressing the questions of wages, hours of work, and safety and health conditions in the workplace than a state bureaucracy would. What is Pope Leo talking about here? He is setting forth the idea of joint committees or societies of workmen and employers or owners, who will jointly address their common problems. Forty years later, Pope Pius XI will elaborate this idea in detail in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. But here Leo XIII only gives an outline of such a society’s workings and functions.
The Pontiff sees the need for organization and joint action on the part of workers, since individually they are helpless before the power of their employers. In this sense, labor unions would fall into this category. So also would mutual insurance societies for workingmen and their families. But, as I suggested above, Leo hoped that societies can be formed which will overcome the sharp employer/employee division, in the sense that hostility and confrontation will be replaced by good will and justice. If these groups are successful in improving working conditions and wages and lessening strife between owners and workers, then the need for direct state action would be removed. The Pope notes that many of the existing labor organizations of his time were socialistic in their principles and hostile to the Church. Naturally he wishes that Catholics be formed into Catholic organizations, where not only the economic, but also the more important spiritual needs of the workers could be met.” (Thomas Storck, From the Beginnings Through Leo XIII, The Distributist Review)
In 1904, Max Weber’s essay, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, presented the a concept stating that the accumulation of wealth was the means by which Protestant Calvinists, especially of the Puritan New England colonies, could assure themselves that the favor of God was upon them and thus they were of the “elect” and assured of eternal life. While few in the marketplace of Capitalism today would actually understand this correlation between money and the spiritual realm, they have nonetheless enthusiastically embraced the making of money and all the earthly pleasures that wealth can provide. Unfortunately, as history has shown, this drive for wealth has and continues to extract an inordinately steep price from the common working man. This is no doubt why our Lord gave warning against the inordinate love of money to all who would hear His words. He knew that in our fallen natures, it would be all to easy to replace the search for God and holiness – that purpose for which our lives really exist – with an unending quest to acquire things and riches.
Therefore, let me now get to the heart of my presentation – the insistence that it is proper for some structure of authority to limit the earnings of corporate CEO’s and moreover, to force the rich, if necessary, to give large portions of their income to the maintenance and care of the less fortunate.
I have no doubt that such a program would be met with loud howls of outrage. Yet I am pressed to wonder why. Do we not expect our government to act against individuals or companies who engage in actions that are injurious to the good of the human community? We consider certain actions such as pollution of natural resources, overpricing of goods, unsafe working conditions, and the sale of unsafe products to be crimes against the common good, and we expect action to be taken to right the unjust situation. It is expected that the appropriate authority will take the situation in hand, using whatever means necessary to bring about justice, compliance, and the safety of the community. No one protests when the government steps into such a situation and, by force if necessary, makes the offending company to do that which is just and right for the community, regardless of how it affects their bottom line. It is understood by all rational people that an appeal to profits does not override the good of the community and the individuals in it.
“It is no less a crime to take from him that has, than to refuse to succor the needy when you can and are well off.” (The Decretals (Dist. XLVII, cited in ST II-II, q.66, a.3, obj 2)
Wow. That’s pretty plain and to the point. Just as it is a crime to steal, it is equally a crime to withhold needed charity.
Let us then make application to one of many current economic issues of our day – obscenely large corporate pay for executives. The average salary of workers in this country is around $23K/year. Yet the average pay of corporate executives is two hundred thirty one times as much! How does this affect the community as a whole?
Firstly, the cost of employment is considered part of the cost of the finished product. Thus, if a CEO is paid 100 million dollars (Yes, Virginia, there are CEOs that make that much a year!) for his services, this affects the final price of the commodity which his corporation makes. In turn, the price of the commodity must be set in such a manner that its sales will generate enough profit to cover the CEO’s enormous salary. Such pricing adversely affects entire communities when it involves items that are staples such as food, toiletries, utilities, automobiles, and other necessities of life. For these reasons, to pay one or several individuals a sum of money which would keep ten families alive for a lifetime is an unmitigated evil. It has a negative effect upon the community as a whole by making needed goods and services unaffordable, especially to those in the lower economic classes.
Secondly, with the average pay of workers in this company at $23K/year, the salary and perks given to such executives could instead be used to create a more just and liveable wage for workers in the factory or business. If a man being paid $50 million a year would have his income slashed by 90%, half of that money could go into lowering the price of the commodity being produced and the other half could be used to give raises to employees. He would still be making $5 million a year, which would put him in the highest pay strata in the country. With greater earnings, these employees would either spend more money, thus quickening the economy, or would save or invest it wisely for future use, helping them to self-sufficiency in their old age. It would also allow for employees to work fewer hours and spend more time with their families, seeing that they would have to work fewer hours to make the money necessary for familial support, education, and vacations.
At the turn of the 20th century, the world witnessed the conflict that ensued between rapacious business owners, and employees whose lives were constantly on the brink of financial ruin, even though they were working 70 hours a week. This was not an isolated condition either, relegated to a certain area of industry. From coal mines, to automobile factories, to steel mills and many, many other industries, working conditions and pay were horrible, benefitting only those who owned the company at the expense of those who worked for them. To alleviate these conditions, men turned to the formation of unions and when their grievances were not answered, went out on strike. The response of multi-millionaire business owners, rather than to address their suffering fellow men and their conditions, was to call out armies of thugs and employ violence to break the unions and send the men back to work for the miserable pittances they were being paid. The irony of this all is that if the owners had released in funding to their workers the same amount they paid the strikebreakers, the violence most likely could have been avoided. If the owners had turned their wealth into charity instead of multi-million dollar houses, extravagantly fine clothing, and sumptuous meals, much suffering and violence could have been avoided. Their response once again showed the historically callous disregard of the rich towards humanity in their avarice.
If we expect those in authority to protect our community from toxins, why is it wrong to expect them to protect us from the ill effects of personal greed? No man has the right to say “This is my property and I will do whatever I damn well please with it.” and therefore no man has the right to say “I will take as much money as I want out of this company in salary and benefits and I don’t care how it affects the buying public or the people who work for me.” Yet we find certain conservative talk show hosts to be horrified that anyone would suggest limiting the income of corporate executives, despite the negative effect their earnings have, not only on the community, but on their souls as well.
Another great detriment to us as community has been the establishment of gigantic mega-corporations, with their box stores and prices slashed to bare minimums. Such stores have destroyed an untold number of small and medium family owned businesses. The right to personal property, such as the ownership of one’s own business, is essential for the good of communities. A man who owns his own property owns that which produces a living for his family. If a man’s property produces his family’s livelihood, then that man is free. His property produces life for him. Yet stores such as Wal-Mart have destroyed the ownership of personal property and reduced a vast number of men from property owners to servile wage seekers who put candy on display racks. To save ten cents on our dishwashing soap we have put our neighbors out of business and participated in the destruction of the American society. It is my opinion that a well ordered society, with economic thinkers who would have seen this coming, should have implored the government to disallow the creation of such a monster. In like manner, a well ordered government, with the concerns of the community and individual at heart, would have responded positively to these calls. No one is stating that Mr. Walton did not have the right to start his store and become successful – but not at the expense of vast numbers of families whom he cast into penury by his rapacious desire to rule the retail world. The damage done to my neighbor is the limit of my rights.
In order to deflect the accusation of being a Communist, let me now turn to the Early Fathers of the Church and record their opinions on the use of wealth. I believe I can prove that the Church is on my side in this matter.
Basil the Great was bishop of the church at Caesarea and archbishop of all Cappadocia. He personally ministered to lepers even after he became a bishop. Basil was probably the first in Christian history to found a hospital.
From a commentary on Luke 12:18:
“Whom do I injure,” [the rich person] says, “when I retain and conserve my own?” which things, tell me, are yours? Whence have you brought them into being? You are like one occupying a place in a theatre, who should prohibit others from entering, treating that as one’s own which was designed for the common use of all.
Such are the rich. Because they were first to occupy common goods, they take these goods as their own. If each one would take that which is sufficient for one’s needs, leaving what is in excess to those in distress, no one would be rich, no one poor.
Did you not come naked from the womb? Will you not return naked into the earth?(Job 1:21). Whence then did you have your present possessions? If you say, “ By chance,” you are godless, because you do not acknowledge the Creator, nor give thanks to the Giver. If you admit they are from God, tell us why you have received them.
Is God unjust to distribute the necessaries of life to us unequally? Why are you rich, why is that one poor? Is it not that you may receive the reward of beneficence and faithful distribution…?”
What a remarkable idea, and that which is at the heart of what I am proposing – the right of some qualified authority to see that no man hoards to himself more than that which is rightfully his in order that all might have the bare essentials of living!
Let me clearly state, however, because of the inherent greed and dishonesty of mankind due to the Fall, combined with the overriding general incompetence of centralized government, I am absolutely unwilling for that authority to be a centralized, monolithic government such as our federal government. It was reported years ago that for every dollar collected for welfare by the government, only twenty four cents of that dollar actually got to the need. Between graft, corruption, and outright waste, our government’s “charity” never reaches the intended target. It instead became an opportunity of sin for those who should have been administering the programs, but instead wound up helping themselves to the public poor box.
In any suggested program which remediates poverty, the Catholic principle of subsidiary must be foremost in the redistribution of excess wealth. That is, “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good” (Catechism, 1883).
The work of collection of excess funds from those blessed with abundant wealth above and beyond what they need should be the function of the lowest level possible – the local parish. Governmental structures should provide only the needed force of arms to enact the law, and that only as a desperate last resort when all other appeals to conscience have failed.
A parish should set up diaconate committees in which those in need could present their cause, be thoroughly screened as to the need, and receive 100% of the money which is allocated for that need, thus eliminating fraud and waste. Furthermore, giving heed to St. Paul’s admonition “if any man would not work, neither should he eat,” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 ) a local council would more easily be able to discern who is in true need and who is attempting to scam the system. This would eliminate much of the abuse we find in the welfare state today, wherein it has been discovered recently that welfare recipients were using their welfare debit cards to go on trips to Las Vegas and Hawaii.
He served for 23 years as Bishop of Milan, during which time Augustine was converted through his preaching. Orthodox in doctrine, a foe of Arianism, Ambrose was also known as a composer of hymns.
From De Nabuthe Jezraelite, his exposition of 1 Kings 21:
“The poor man seeks money and has it not; a man asks for bread, and your horse champs gold under his teeth. And precious ornaments delight you, although others do not have grain…. The people are starving, and you close your barns; the people weep bitterly, and you toy with jeweled ring…. The jewel in your ring could preserve the lives of the whole people….”
When I read this eloquence from Ambrose, I cannot help thinking of the current crop of politicians who infest Washington DC. While they eloquently plead the case of the poor, calling for ever increasing taxes upon corporations and the rich, they themselves lift not a finger of their own massive wealth to aid those in need. There is not a single elected representative in Washington who is not a millionaire. Many are multi-millionaires, and a few have reached the status of billionaire. Yet they greedily cling to their own wealth while attempting to enforce draconian laws upon the rest of the populace, and use the poor as the emotional wedge by which they seek to convince us that we are selfish if we do not accede to their tax and spend desires. This is why I do not want the government in charge of any program which seeks to distribute to the poor. A man who is rich, whose life is a continual search for more money, cannot let money pass by him without impulsively reaching out in an attempt to make some of it stick to his fingers, regardless of how it is earmarked and for what purpose it is set aside.
St. Augustine (354 – 430)
From a sermon to the rich:
“That bread which you keep, belongs to the hungry; that coat which you preserve in your wardrobe, to the naked; those shoes which are rotting in your possession, to the shoeless; that gold which you have hidden in the ground, to the needy. Wherefore, as often as you were able to help others, and refused, so often did you do them wrong.”
So far, we have not seen the Early Fathers encouraging large savings accounts, great houses, fancy clothing, and all the other things that men in modernity seem to think are both a necessity and a right. Augustine makes it clear that those who have multi-million dollar stock portfolios, savings accounts, IRAs, and other financial instruments worth millions, are sinning against the poor by not helping them out.
Now I ask you this question: if we see a man doing harm to another, do we not expect some authority to enter the fray and stop the action? If a man is using the credit card of another, does not the government have the right to step in, arrest the culprit, and restore to the rightful owner the credit card? Augustine states that the rich who hoard things to themselves do so as thieves, holding that which rightfully belongs to others. They are just like the man who fraudulently uses another’s credit. He is doing that which is wrong, he is wronging another person, and scripture states that it is the duty of government to apprehend such a one and restore a just order to society.
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
Paul states that God establishes authorities over us. He does so in order that they bring punishment upon the wrongdoer. And as we have seen, the Fathers of the Church consider hoarding money to be a great wrong, an evil which should be corrected – hopefully by the will and conscience of the one who has the money, but if not, by the force of an authority with the power to make them do what is right for the community of man. It is no less evil for a man to have an overabundance of wealth and ignore the cries of the poor and hungry than it is for him to poison the only well of drinking water in town. The result is the same.
In conclusion, allow me to state some operative principles by which this redistribution of wealth must take place:
1. It must be done only by the local parish Church as the community of lowest order. Monolithic government oversight is absolutely rife with corruption and ineptitude. The Catholic principle of subsidiary must be primary in caring for the needs of the poor. Since we also know that all men, even those in the Church, are subject to the effects of the Fall and the corrosive nature of great riches, as each parish handles diaconate funds, there must be oversight by a minimum of two other parishes. There must be no familial, personal, or business ties among the overseers. Once a year, the books must be scrutinized by a committee from the diocese to insure that all propriety has been maintained in the distribution of goods to the poor – especially money!
2. The poor must be properly identified. We would be utterly foolish to not realize that there are lazy, indolent, and wicked people who would be all too willing to take advantage of such a situation. Therefore, those who are not truly needy will be eliminated from consideration by the use of an intense screening program. This program will eliminate the following people automatically: drug addicts, prostitutes, the able-bodied who refuse to work, and all others who engage in evils and/or addictions to vices which have self-inflicted their state of misery upon them. In lieu of money, such people will be offered an opportunity for rehabilitation, training in job skills, and other helps to aid them into being productive members of a parish community. If they refuse, then as St. Paul said, they must be left to their own devices. The Gospel is loving. It is not blindly stupid in that love.
3. It must be stated that this is not Socialism nor does it imply that all men should or will have all things equally. Those who have worked hard, used their intellect, or been given other graces which produce goods and services valuable to the community must be allowed to have a reward of their labor and intelligence above and beyond the ordinary man. Thus, it is entirely appropriate that there be classes of wealth in our country. Such distinctions of wealth, which come with hard work, innovation, and invention, are not that to which I object. What I am objecting to is that a man have in reserve and held unto himself enough money to support himself in comfort for 10 lifetimes while the poor go uncared for. Certainly we can come up with a workable monetary formula which allows a man to keep a reasonable portion of the wealth he accrues from his labor, making it possible for him to enjoy the fruits of his labor in such things as a better standard of living, more vacations, early retirement if desired, or other enjoyments which he desires to pursue. Socialism has never worked because the incentive of prosperity and getting ahead in the world is taken away under a system which renders all men equal. To coin a phrase, the feeling under such a system is – “What’s the point?” – if it is all taken away by a centralized, monolithic bureaucracy? It is an anthropological fact that we strive for betterment of ourselves. In our striving, we desire to accomplish and reach goals, and our economic model must give both goals and rewards to those who would work harder than others or who have the ability to create. I stress again, however, that having more money than the economy of several small nation states is an obscene misuse of money in the face of the great needs of so many around us. Riches must be tempered by the common good of our brothers and sisters in humanity.
4. Our current system of welfare must be abolished. In this system, men and women are simply given money, ofttimes without proper cause. There is no encouragement for them to learn a trade or to become self-sufficient. One model I have considered regarding this would be to take the money that is issued each month and instead use it to buy a homestead and food. The recipient would then enter the process of building his own domicile, which would belong to him solely. During this time of building, he would be tested for work aptitude, trained in that which he likes, and ultimately find productive work in society .
It is my understanding of the Distributist economic model, that communities are established where each man owns that which supplies the needs of his family. Thus, one man might farm and produce not only enough crops to feed his family, but an abundance which he sells on the market to provide funds for other needs. Another may own his own business. Still another may own a business in equal partnership with nine other men, dividing the profits equally among them. The goal is private ownership of property which leads to financial freedom. Our current welfare system will never produce this kind of freedom. It is enslaving and demeaning.
I believe this approach could turn our current welfare system from one of a continuous non-productive distribution of money to people who will never arise from poverty, to a community of self-productive workers who each own their own house and the means by which they are self-sufficient.
I am basing this on my simple understanding of the English agrarian model of G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Beloc. One of the lamentable results of Capitalism in this country has been that corporations, in order to make money, have employed in their advertising brainwashing techniques which began with Edward Bernays in the early 20th century. These are done to make us think that the agrarian life is not as exciting nor rewarding as the “high life” of a city dweller who owns a fancy new car, multiple suits or dresses in the closet, and sleeps with a different sex partner every weekend. It is subtly implied to us that unless we own things, and lots of them, our lives are miserable failures. It is a devilish lie, but it makes money for corporations, and that is all that they are concerned with.
5. The rich will be part of this, whether they like it or not. They cannot appropriate every single dollar of our world’s economy to themselves while others lack even the basic necessities of life. It is hoped that upon understanding that they would still be in a different class than the poor, and that there would not be an economic equality among men (for this is impossible from many different angles) that they would see the benefit of helping their fellow man to improve his lot.
A formula must be devised that fairly allows the rich to maintain a goodly amount of their wealth for future contingencies and comfortable living, but at the same time, does not allow them to have such excesses that they could never in their lifetime exhaust all the money they are hoarding. In my envisioned society, there would be no such thing as a billionaire. The very idea of someone being worth that much is an obscenity when so many have so much need. In our current economic climate, it would be impossible to accrue that much money for one’s selfish desires.
6. Much of the riches of the world have come by the violation of God’s injunction against the use of usury. Any system in which a man is loaned money, and is then enslaved for the next 20 years to pay that amount off because of the compounded interest on the loan, is a wicked system and should be abolished. Loans should be made on a flat rate basis, that is, if I need to borrow $1,000, I pay you a fee of $50.00 for the loan and then proceed to pay it off in regular payments to you. Our current system enslaves and should be replaced with a humane system that follows the scriptural principles which God has set forth.
Furthermore, money has been treated as if it is in itself a commodity. Money is not a commodity. Money is supposed to represent a tangible object. The printing of fiat money, unsupported by real goods, is a lie and an evil. This must be stopped and a system of currency established in which there is only the amount of money in circulation that represents real and tangible goods.
“But what of banks that loan money? How will they do that if no money is printed?”
The money can only be printed to represent a real good with real value for which the loan is made. Thus, if I ask for a loan of $75,000 to buy a house, then the money has a value of $75,000 when it is loaned to me. A flat fee can be attached to the loan, but compounded interest on such a loan is forbidden.
This basis of solid currency will stop speculation and Wall Street bandits from making money with money, which is an oxymoron, since money has no intrinsic value other than the goods and services it is supposed to represent. Money cannot make money except through the violation of scriptural principles. To say that money has value in and of itself is a non-sequitur. Money is representative, not existential. Economies around the world are imploding because money has been treated as if it has value rather than representing value.
Finally, I will sadly say that while this presentation represents an ideal, I am fairly sure that it will never be implemented in this world until the coming of Christ. Mankind is broken by sin, and among the other destructions that sin does to disorder our passions, we are easily covetous and uncaring about the plight of others. Unless man’s heart is changed by an action of the Holy Spirit, such as was St. Francis, who stripped himself naked of his fine clothes and denounced the wealth left to him, choosing the life of voluntary poverty and service to others, men will simply continue in that selfishness of our fallen natures.
This said, the challenge I face as a deacon candidate, having written this utopian ideal as a personal understanding I believe God has given to me, is to implement it in my own life as much as possible. If God has shown me this, then I damn my own soul as a hypocrite if I do not seek to do that which He has shown me is His will for the poor. While not ignoring the teaching of the Church on matters of sexuality and doctrine, my moral theology will continue to be largely shaped by the Church’s preferential option for the poor. I can do no less. That is the heart of service and it should be the heart of the diaconate