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A Few Principles

on Saturday, 15 October 2016. Posted in In This Age of Plenty (book)

In this age of plenty - Chapter 1

Man is a person

Man is a person. He is not a mere animal.

People live in society. The more perfect people are, the more life in society is perfect. The society of angels is more perfect than human society. As for the three Divine Persons, They live in an infinitely intimate society without however merging into one.

Moreover, this Divine society is offered to man as a model: “That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.” (John 17:21.)

Thus, men, human beings, live also in society. Association answers a natural need in man.

Man is a social being

Life in society suits man's nature in two ways:

Because the human being is a universe created in God's image, and because he receives, from the model of whom he is the image, the tendency to give of himself, to communicate the wealth he possesses.

Because man is also a universe of indigence, in the temporal as well as in the spiritual realms, the human being needs other human beings to escape his indigence. He needs others physically for his conception, for his birth, for his growth. He also needs others intellectually: Were it not for the education they receive, what intellectual level could individuals, who are born ignorant, possibly attain?

This is not to mention his spiritual indigence and the need he has for a society called the Church.

In our studies, we will restrict ourselves to the temporal order without, however, losing sight of the subordination of the temporal order to the spiritual order, because it is the same man who is concerned in both the temporal and the spiritual orders, and because the final end of man takes precedence over all intermediary ends.

The common good

All associations exist for a goal. The goal of any association is a common good of sorts, which varies with the type of association. But it is always implies the good of each and every member of the association.

It is precisely because it is the good of each and every one that it is a common good. It is not the individual good of only one, or of a section, that is sought by the association, but the good of each and every one of its members.

Three people go into partnership. Peter contributes his muscles; John, his initiative and experience; Matthew, his money. The common good is the success of the enterprise. But the enterprise's success is not sought for the good of Peter only, or for the good of John only, or for the good of Matthew only. If one of the three is excluded from the benefits of the undertaking, he will not go into partnership.

The three go into partnership so as to obtain, for each and everyone, a result the three of them want, but that neither one can achieve on his own. Money by itself would not give much in return to Matthew; arms alone would give Peter little in return; mind alone would be of little use to John. But when the three unite, business thrives and everyone draws benefits. Not necessarily all three to the same degree; but each of the three derives more profit than if he were alone.

Any association that frustrates its associates, or part of its associates, weakens its bond. Then, the associates tend to dissociate themselves. When, in the larger society, the signs of discontent increase, it is precisely because an ever greater number of associates are further deprived of their share of the common good. When this happens, legislators, if they are wise, seek and take the means to make every member partake more fully in the common good. Adding punishments, in an effort to quash the discontent, is a very inadequate way to make it disappear.

Besides, since human associations are made of men, of human beings, of free and intelligent beings, their common good must be in keeping with the development of their intelligence and freedom. Otherwise, it is no longer a common good; it is no longer the good, through association, of each and every of the free and intelligent beings who make up the association.

Ends and means

One must make a distinction between ends and means. Furthermore, means are to be subordinated to ends and not the opposite.

The end is the goal aimed for, the objective pursued.

I want to manufacture a table. My end is the manufacturing of the table. I fetch the wood, I measure, I cut, I plane, I adjust, I assemble: all of which are means used in the manufacturing of the table.

It is the end that I am aiming for, the making of a table, which allows me to choose the actions, the use of appropriate tools and so on. The end governs the means. The end first exists in my mind even though the means will have to be put in motion before I can reach the end. The end exists before the means but it is reached only after the means have been set in motion.

This might seem elementary. But in the running of public affairs, means are often mistaken for the end and we are then amazed by the resulting chaos.

There is no better example of the above than the subject upon which we will return: work. Countless legislators consider labour to be the end of production. This leads them to destroy or to paralyze all labour-saving devices! Should they consider labour as a means towards production, they would satisfy themselves with the amount of labour needed to obtain the amount of products desired.

Likewise, isn't the Government a means to facilitate the pursuit of the common good at the level of the province and of the country; therefore does it not exist to serve, with the common good as its objective, the people who make up the provincial association, the nation? In practice though, does the Government exist for the people, or the people for the Government?

The same can be said of systems. Systems were invented and established to serve man, not man created to serve systems. Then, if a system harms the multitudes, must we let the multitudes suffer at the hands of the system, or change the system so that it will serve the multitudes?

Another question, which will be the topic of a lengthy study in this book, will be that taken for granted money was created to facilitate production and distribution, must we limit production and distribution to the quantity of money available, or adjust the quantity of money available to production and distribution?

From whence we see that the mistaking of the end for the means, the means for the end, or of subordinating the ends to the means, is a crude and widespread mistake, which causes much disorder.

The ordering of means

The end is therefore the objective, the goal sought. But there are distant ends and more immediate ends. There are final ends and intermediate ends.

I am in Montreal. An automobile dealer I work for sends me to China to build commercial ties. I begin by taking the train from Montreal to Vancouver. There, I will board a transoceanic liner, which will take me to Hong Kong, where I will use public transportation for the remainder of the trip.

When I board the train in Montreal, it is to go to Vancouver. Going to Vancouver is not the ultimate end of my journey, but it is the end of my railroad trip.

To reach Vancouver is therefore an intermediate end. It is only a means to attain the ultimate end of my journey. But, if it is only a means towards a distant end, it is nonetheless an end as far as my journey by railroad is concerned. And if this intermediate end is not carried out, the ultimate end — building commercial ties in China — will not be reached.

Each intermediate end covers a definite domain. I must not ask the railroad to take me to Hong Kong. Nor must I ask the transoceanic liner to carry me from Montreal to Vancouver.

Besides, I must organize all the intermediate ends with respect to the ultimate end. If I take a train to Quebec City, I can surely fulfill this particular end to perfection, i.e. reaching Quebec City. But this will certainly not lead me to my ultimate end: building commercial ties in China.

You will see shortly why we make these elementary distinctions. They seem very simple in this case: a business trip to China. They are often ignored when dealing with the ends of economics and we then find ourselves in a mess.


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