Douglas, the founder of the Social Credit School, was one day asked exactly what he expected the propagation of his doctrine to achieve. The great man answered as follows:
“I will tell you in a broad way what we are aiming at. We are striving to bring to birth a new civilization, something which extends far beyond the bounds of a change in the financial system. We are hoping, by various means, chiefly financial, to enable the human community to step out of one type of civilization into another, and the first requirement, as we see it, is that of absolute economic security.”
What will this new civilization be like? How will men in their conduct, in their relationships with one another, be better off than they are today? What will be the special marks of this new civilization in which, according to Douglas, men will be able to build through Social Credit?
No one can give exact and definite answers to such questions. Social Credit has never pretended to blueprint a particular way of life for anyone. It would emancipate man, but it has no wish to dictate to him.
Or, as another Social Credit writer put it, Social Credit is not a panacea, but rather a liberation.
A panacea is a universal cure for all diseases, physical or moral. Obviously panaceas have no reality; they are wishful thinking. And Social Credit is certainly not a panacea.
Under a Social Credit system, it will still be necessary to maintain production; there will still be difficulties to surmount, diseases to be cured, sorrows to bear, studies to be pursued, evils to be fought, and virtues to be acquired. Overweening ambition will have to be restrained, injustices will have to be righted, and charity practiced.
Why then do we speak of a new civilization? Because the men who will build this new civilization and live in it will be men free from the perpetual anxiety about tomorrow's bread, just as long as mother nature brings forth enough wheat to supply bread to everyone; and so too for the other material necessities of life.
Today, grain elevators are full to the point of cracking open; farmers lament the ever-increasing surpluses of wheat. Yet for all this, there are many who go hungry. Under a Social Credit system, such a situation would be impossible. The supply of bread would be determined by the supply of wheat, and not by money. There would be money equivalent to the supply of wheat necessary to make bread; that is to say, there would be both wheat to make bread and money with which to buy bread. And the same would be true for all the other goods and services available to meet necessities and wants.
Our present civilization certainly abounds in material and cultural riches. And religion offers its spiritual wealth in abundance.
Yet our civilization is a civilization of men in bonds, of men subjected to conditions which more often than not make it difficult or impossible for them to share in these material and cultural treasures. Even the pursuit of the spiritual is hampered because a man absorbed in the battle for material necessities does not live in a climate favourable to the contemplation and acquisition of virtue.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great theologian, pointed out the necessity of a certain amount of material goods for the practice of virtue. Which is not to say that the mere possession of wealth in itself renders a man virtuous. He must still work at the practice of virtue. However, the lack of this prerequisite, the want of the necessary material conditions, creates an obstacle, and it is the duty of the economic and social order to remove this obstacle.
The same holds true for culture. Earning a livelihood should not so occupy a man that he has no time for other human activities which are more important. But this invariably happens when a man is hemmed in by anxiety for tomorrow's food.
We admit, then, that Douglas is right when he says that, in his mind, the first condition necessary for the foundation of a new and better civilization is “absolute economic security”.
“Absolute” — that is, without conditions. In other words, the guarantee of one's daily bread by the mere fact of one having been born into a world capable of furnishing, quite easily, daily bread to all.
Relatively few people enjoy such absolute security today. Even among those who possess the means of making a living for their families, the majority are never sure that they will have these means tomorrow or in ten or twenty years time.
Yet, if our socio-economic system were well ordered, if the acquisition of the goods and products of nature depended only upon the existence in sufficient quantities of such goods, then everyone in Canada, as well as in many other countries, would be able to enjoy absolute economic security.
But when getting hold of goods depends upon financial conditions which are not in accord with the fact of the existence of these goods on the one hand, and of the existence of needs on the other, then absolute economic security is impossible. Security then depends upon fluctuating conditions over which the individual has no control; and any security then degenerates into insecurity.
In physical reality, we have a basis for security; but our financial system is the root of insecurity. And since finance is given priority over reality, it follows that insecurity prevails over security.
Hence the statement of Douglas, that the emergence of a new civilization presupposes the application of certain measures, especially in the field of finance. And this is the specific aim of Social Credit's financial propositions which Douglas himself formulated.
— But what effects would this absolute economic security have upon individuals?
— What effects would it have upon you personally?
Let us suppose that a sum of money, capital, were invested in your name. Let it be that you cannot withdraw the capital thus invested, but that it brings you an annual revenue to the end of your days, sufficient to permit you to live decently and comfortably. This would be for you absolute economic security. Now, in what way would it affect your life?
One thing is sure: you would immediately lose any uncertainty about being able to provide for your needs. Would you continue to work for a salary? You might, if you liked the work and if the extra revenue permitted you to live a larger and fuller life. Perhaps you would choose to leave this occupation in search for another which, though less lucrative, would be more to your taste (for you now no longer live in the shadow of want). Perhaps you might choose to work for yourself, profitably or otherwise, making your own free choice of your occupation.
You yourself would choose what you wanted to do since you are now, financially, a free man. Your neighbour too would enjoy this privilege, were he to benefit from absolute economic security. And so too would all citizens when, according to Social Credit principles, all were endowed with this same absolute economic security.
It also becomes apparent at once that certain inevitable changes would take place spontaneously.
Since purchasing power would lie, for the most part, in the pockets of the consumers, it would be they who would dictate to production what to produce. The economy would become an economy of the consumer and, in so doing, would regain its true function and end.
Again, the relations between employer and employee would automatically take on a new aspect. There would no longer be any question of unions of workers and syndicates of employers to fight one another. Men, once assured of their daily bread, would no longer have to submit to the imposition of conditions disagreeable or intolerable. The various groupings of those engaged in production would almost surely take new forms with the “hired help” assuming the role of true associates in production.
When men are set free by this economic security, the many pompous dictators will no longer have the power to make them kneel and grovel. Which is perhaps why those who aspire to lord over others are so violently opposed to Social Credit.
— But will there not be those who will abuse this new liberty?
Would you yourself abuse it? If you had the chance to acquire this liberty, would you prefer to have it withdrawn for fear you might abuse it?
But let us admit for argument's sake that some might misuse it. Is this a good reason for holding on to an economy of slavery, an economy whose theme is anxiety for the future, when economic security is possible for all?
Pope Pius XI noted that a certain degree of ease and culture does not hinder but rather facilitates the exercise of virtue, providing one makes wise use of such material benefits. He knows very well that some will misuse them. But nevertheless, he claims them for each and everyone as conditions of an economic and social system well and truly constituted. (Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno.)
We stated above that, even under a system of absolute economic security, there would still be problems to be resolved. But they will no longer be problems of finance, but only such as relate to the functions of man other than economic. There will be educational, civic, medical, moral, and religious problems — as there are today. But are we afraid of them? Does anyone pretend that the influence of our existing financial system can replace or even aid to any degree the educator, the priest, or help morality and religion?
Why is it that a man should not be able to learn mastery of himself by some other means than that of the continual fear of not having enough to eat? And why should it be necessary for this spirit of fear for tomorrow to be perpetuated through the conniving of the money and credit masters, when our granaries are full to the point of bursting?
The present system is nothing but economic heresy — want in the presence of abundance. Social Credit would substitute for it a true orthodox economy, an economy of security for everyone justified by the evidence of concrete, physical facts.