(The clergy quoted in this article are of the Church of England. While their remarks are of interest to all Christians, they should be of special import to non-Roman Catholics.
The Bishop of Barking, England, is reported as saying in Toronto, "... the world is in its present position because the Church has failed... We need a penetrating diagnosis of what is wrong with us. We do not need a rest cure; we need an operation."1
It is often said that one of the pillars or essentials of Christianity and democratic beliefs is the sanctity of the individual. What can sanctity of the individual mean if it does not involve freedom of the individual, all the freedom consistent with Natural Law (there is no other kind of freedom) and with a code of laws such as British Common Law? It is unbelievable that Christians who consider a true perspective essential will not face the question. If they face the question, the Church councils will be forced to take a stand upon it. It appears, to say the least, unlikely that any number of clergymen of the non-conformist churchs will begin to face the question for a long time. But the Church is more than the clergymen.
If freedom is an essential concomitant of Christianity, no Christian can support a collectivist order — the Welfare Socialist or Communist State. A collectivist order puts 'security' before freedom. The reason why benighted Christians hold out their arms to collectivism is as expressed by von Hildebrand, "The State is to take care of everything: that which is essentially a fruit of charity, generosity, and humility of the individual is to be enforced by the State — i.e., from without."2 Such a policy is entirely contrary to Christian.
What is the alternative to a collectivist order? There is no longer any such thing as a laissez-faire or a free-enterprise order. The true alternative may be stated in one way as the leisure state.
Leisure must be differentiated from idleness. Leisure is opportunity (freedom) to direct one's activities along the lines of one's interests. Idleness is close to simply pursuing amusement with a dearth of interests. Is use of leisure likely to obtain widely among human beings? Let sickness put an ordinary man in a position where he cannot go back to his employment for some months, but can move about and do things which are not strenuous — what do you think might be the answer? Regardless of whether some might choose idleness, the position is not changed.
The Bishop of Oxford, in his Diocesan Magazine, wrote: "Work for work's sake is not a Christian maxim." and therefore "freedom from unnecessary work is something to be welcomed... Perhaps the danger today is that so many people are thinking of life solely in terms of work and amusement."3 The Bishop's advocacy was for the constructive use of leisure in creative activity.
But it has been variously estimated that as high, or a higher, standard of living could be maintained in industrialized countries with only a few days' work per week.
"The world's economy, the economy of each in dividual country as at present organized, is only prevented from collapse by the multiplication of unnecessary tasks, by huge expenditure on bureaucracies, armies, armaments, capital expansion and export markets; and by a vast complexity of quite unnecessary and vicious legal and taxation enactments, which alone justify the otherwise superfluous existence of veritable armies of accountants, lawyers, and clerks... Remove these excrescences and it will be found immediately that the material requirements of industrialized countries, that is to say, the material requirements of the individual members of the populations of these countries can be met by a small fraction of the adult population working short hours in productive enterprise."4
In other words,'Full Employment' is a vicious, false, unrealistic and un-Christian policy. The alternative is freedom and leisure which is a Christian policy.
1.) The Church Times, England, as quoted in an article by the editor in VOICE, Sept. 24, 1955. To this article we make grateful acknowledgment.
2.) The New Tower of Babel: Dietrich von Hildebrand (London, Burns and Oates).
3.) As quoted in The Reading Standard in VOICE.
4.) VOICE, Sept. 24, 1955.