Economics

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

In this age of plenty - Chapter 2

When the word economy is used, many may think of savings. Have we not often been told: Save your money, save your energies? On such occasions, we were being told: Save, do not spend.

Nevertheless, at times, we hear people say: Here is an economy which is not economical! This only goes to prove that, without being trained to the subtleties of the dictionary, people already grant a broader meaning to the word economy.

Are not children taught Home Economics in grade school? Going from domestic economy to political economy is only a matter of extension.

The word is derived from two Greek roots: Oikia, house; nomos, rule. Economics is thus concerned with the good administration of a home, with the orderly management of its household resources.

We may define domestic economy as the good management of domestic affairs, and political economy as the good management of the affairs pertaining to the larger communal home, the nation.

But why “good management”? When can the management of the affairs of the small or large home, the family or the nation, be called good? When it reaches its end.

A thing is good when it gives the results for which it was instituted.

The end of economics

Man indulges in different activities and pursues different ends, in different orders, in different domains.

There are, for example, man’s moral activities, which concern his progress towards his final end.

Cultural activities influence the development of his intellect, the ornamentation of his mind, the formation of his character.

When man engages in social activities he partakes in the general good of society.

Economic activities deal with temporal wealth. In his economic activities, man seeks to satisfy his temporal needs.

The goal, the end of economic activities, is therefore the use of earthly resources to satisfy man’s temporal needs. And economics reaches its end when it places earthly resources at the service of human needs.

Man's temporal needs are those which accompany him from the cradle to the grave. Some of which are essential, others not as vital.

Hunger, thirst, bad weather, weariness, illness, ignorance, create for man the need to eat, to drink, to clothe himself, to find shelter so as to warm or cool himself, to rest, to take care of his health and to educate himself.

All of the above are needs.

Food, drink, clothing, shelter, wood, coal, water, a bed, medications, a teacher's lessons, books: Each of these is a good to satisfy a particular need.

To allow the goods to meet the needs — this is the goal, the end of economic life.

If it does this, economic life reaches its end. If it does not do this or if it does it poorly or only partially, economic life fails to reach its end or reaches it only imperfectly.

The goods must meet the needs. Meeting, in this context, is not only to place the goods and the needs in front of each other – that will not suffice.

In everyday language, it could be said that economics reaches its end when it is sufficiently well regulated to allow for food to enter the hungry stomach, for clothes to cover the body, for shoes to cover naked feet, for a good fire to warm the home in the winter, for the sick to receive the doctor's visit, for students and teachers to meet.

This is the true domain of economics. A domain truly temporal. Economics has its very own end, which is to satisfy men’s needs. That man may eat when he is hungry, is not man's final end. No, it is but a means in his quest for eternal life, his final end.

But if economics is only a means towards our final end, if it is only an intermediate end in the general order of things, it is nevertheless, for economics, an end in itself.

And when economics reaches this very end, when it allows goods to meet needs, all is well. Let us not ask more from it. But let us ask it to do what it is meant to do. For this is the true end of economics.

Morality and Economics

We cannot expect economics to pursue a moral end, nor morality to pursue an economic end. This would be as disorderly as to attempt to go from Montreal to Vancouver by transoceanic liner, or from New York to Le Havre, France, by railroad.

A starving man will not appease his hunger by reciting his Rosary, but by eating food. This is in order. It is the Creator who has willed it this way, and He deviates from this only by departing from the established order through a miracle. He alone has the right to change this order. To satisfy man’s hunger, economics must therefore intervene, not morality.

Similarly, a man who has a sullied conscience cannot purify it by eating a good meal, or by consuming copious libations. What he needs is confession. In this case, it is religion’s place to intervene; it is a matter of moral activity, not one of economic activity.

Morals must no doubt accompany all of man’s actions, even in economic matters. But not for the purpose of replacing economics. It helps in the choosing of objectives, and it oversees the legitimacy of the means employed, but it does not carry out what economics is meant to carry out.

So, when economics does not reach its end, when products remain in the stores or non-existent while needs in the homes remain unsatisfied, let us look for a cause in the economic order.

Let us blame those who upset the economic order, or those who, having the mission to govern it, abandon it to anarchy. They, by not fulfilling their duties, fail in their moral duty and fall under moral sanction.

Even though both matters are quite distinct, it so happens that they both concern the same individual, and that if one matter is sacrificed, the other must suffer. Man has the moral duty to make sure that the economic order, that is the socio-temporal order, achieves its proper end.

This explains why, though economics is responsible for the sole satisfaction of man’s temporal needs, the importance of sound economic practices has been emphasized, time and time again, by those in charge of souls. A minimum of temporal goods are normally required to foster the practice of virtue.

Benedict XV wrote that “It is in the economic domain that the salvation of souls is at risk.”

And Pius XI: “It may be said with all truth that nowadays the conditions of social and economic life are such that vast multitudes of men can only with great difficulty pay attention to that one thing necessary, namely their eternal salvation.” (Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno, May 15, 1931.)

There must be order everywhere. Order in the hierarchy of the ends, order in the subordination of the means.

It is the same Pope who says in the same encyclical:

“This is the perfect order which the Church preaches, with intense earnestness, and which right reason demands: which places God as the first and supreme end of all created activity, and regards all created goods as mere instruments under God, to be used only in so far as they help towards the attainment of our supreme end.”

And immediately after, the Holy Father adds:

“Nor is it to be imagined that remunerative occupations are thereby belittled or deemed less consonant with human dignity. On the contrary, we are taught to recognize and reverence in them the manifest will of God the Creator, Who placed man upon earth to work it and use it in various ways in order to supply his needs.”

Man is put on earth by his Creator, and it is from the earth that he has the duty to wrest the products required to satisfy the needs that are imposed by his nature. He does not have the right to shorten his life by doing without the goods that his Creator has put on earth for his use.

To make the earth and its natural goods serve all of mankind's temporal necessities, this is precisely the very end of man's economic activities: the adapting of goods to needs.

Features of a Human Economy

Since it is in man's nature to live in society, an economy that is truly human must also be social. It must be at the service of all of society's members.

An economic organization that would allow earthly goods to answer the needs of only a few people, leaving the others deprived of everything, would certainly not be social, therefore not human.

If some members of society are all but banished from the economic benefits of society, being allowed only to receive grudgingly the bare minimum so as to prevent them from rebelling, being treated like enemies to be pacified rather than entitled members, then, the economic system is not human but monstrous. This is an economy fit for wolves.

In the jungle, there is a struggle for life, the strong wins and the weak disappears. Such a law cannot apply to men for they are intelligent and social beings. A struggle for life among humans can be understood only as a collective struggle against common enemies, against wild animals, against ignorance, against adverse elements. A truly human economy must be founded upon co-operation in support of life.

Besides being social, human beings are also free. And if a human economy must ensure that the basic needs of all men will be satisfied, it must do so without hindering the free development of individuals.

Economy must not get in the way of sociability or genuine freedom. A human society is not a herd. An economy which insists that enlisting in it be the prerequisite for the right to live, is not human; it goes against man's nature.

In choosing the means to right a disordered economy, we will need to choose those that best respect man's freedom.

Hierarchy

The end of economics is temporal and it is also a social end, to be reached socially. If it must satisfy man's temporal needs, it must also satisfy the temporal needs of ALL men.

And this applies to all levels of the social hierarchy, according to their respective jurisdictions.

Where the family is concerned, the domestic economy must seek to satisfy the needs of all the family members.

As for the provincial economy, it must seek to satisfy, within the jurisdiction of the province, the temporal needs of all of the province's inhabitants. It is likewise, for the federal economy, with matters of federal jurisdiction.

The same applies to the world economy. An organism of liaison ought to exist between nations, an organism that is respectful of its constituent parts, to direct the economy of the world towards the satisfaction of the temporal needs of ALL men. Earth was created for all mankind.

But a sound organization of society will see to the satisfaction of the temporal needs of ALL men to the greatest possible extent, and as much as possible by lower level organisms that are in close contact with the individuals.

So, instead of substituting itself to the family, in helping the poor, the State would be well advised to legislate and organize the economic order in such a way that the family itself might satisfy, to the largest extent possible, the needs of all its members.

So, instead of substituting itself to the Province, under the pretext that the provincial treasury is empty and incapable of providing for immediate needs, the Federal Government would be well advised to organize the financial system in such a way that the provinces could have finances in keeping with their real wealth.

This is in line with Social Credit philosophy. It is also in line with true democracy.

Social Credit decentralizes the financial system. Centralization, State control, are the negation of democracy.

The social and truly human end of the economic order is summed up in this sentence from Quadragesimo Anno:

''For then only will the social economy be rightly established and attain its purposes when all and each are supplied with all the goods that the wealth and resources of nature, technical achievement, and the social organization of economic life can furnish.'' (Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, Par. 75, May 15, 1931.)

For ALL and EACH, THOSE goods that nature and industry can provide.

The end of economics is therefore the satisfaction of the needs of ALL consumers. The end is consumption; production is only a means.

To limit economics to production is to cripple it.

To ask of it the satisfaction of only a part of society, when warehouses are overflowing with goods, is unreasonable and inhuman.

To abandon economics to chance, to conflicting forces at play, is to capitulate shamefully and to hand over the world to the appetite of the strongest.

 


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