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The Right to Bare Necessities

Written by Louis Even on Sunday, 16 October 2016. Posted in In This Age of Plenty (book)

In this age of plenty - Chapter 11

The End of the Economic Body

Canada's war production is a testimony to what Canada can achieve once it has decided to set aside artificial obstacles, financial obstacles.

After having experienced our country's huge productive capacity, will we allow millions of Canadian families to be subjected to abject poverty until the country is once again drawn into total war?

Or will we instead insist upon having an economic and social system that will attain its end? A system which fulfills the conditions set forth in these words by the great Pope, Pius XI:

“For then only will the economic and social organism be soundly established and attain its end, when it secures for each and everyone those goods which the wealth and resources of nature, technical achievement, and the social organization of economic affairs can give.”[1]

For each and everyone

The economic system must ''secure'', says the Pope. It must secure goods, not only promise them; not only display them in shop windows.

Secure for whom? ''For everyone'' says the Pope. For everyone? Yes, and the Pope insists: for each and everyone. For each and everyone does not allow for any exception.

Secure which goods? Those goods, i.e. all the goods, which the wealth and resources of nature and technical achievement can secure. At the North Pole, nothing could be secured. But in the whole of Canada? In Canada, where production piles up in normal times faster than it can be disposed of, this difficulty does not arise.

All the goods. None to be placed under lock and key; no fruit to be burnt or milk thrown into sewers under the eyes of men, women, and children who suffer from hunger.

Those goods are to be secured for each and everyone, meaning that everyone must get his share. But what share? What amount of goods must the economic and social organism secure for each and everyone? The Pope adds:

"And these goods ought indeed to be enough both to meet the demands of necessity and decent comfort..."[2]

An honest subsistence

To satisfy the needs of an honest subsistence, for each and everyone. This is precisely what is called for by those who ask that the basic necessities be socially guaranteed for all citizens, from the cradle to the grave. Honest subsistence requires that everyone have enough food, enough clothing, proper housing, proper health protection, enough leisure time to rest one's body and to care for one's mind.

And for this subsistence to be honest, should freedom, the most excellent trait of the human person, be sacrificed? For this minimum to be guaranteed, must we first kill one another on battlefields? For nature's resources and for technical achievement to reach the families, must we have in peacetime a growing proportion of citizens employed by the State? For solar energy and machinery to be placed at the service of mankind, must man be thrown into the snares of State Socialism?

A subsistence subjected to such conditions would cease to be honest. An honest subsistence cannot be the subsistence of a slave who becomes his master's property, even if this master is called the State. An honest subsistence is an objective that must be reached by any soundly established economic and social organism, an objective laid out by the Popes.

A right inherent to life in society

But, even if the Holy Father had not defined this objective, would simple common sense not have pointed it out to us? Each time men enter into partnership, it is for the purpose of obtaining more easily, through their association, what each associate wants to obtain, but could not otherwise obtain alone except through greater difficulty. This is true of any enterprise and it is true of the larger association which is called society. This explains why, as soon as some members begin to feel frustration, as soon as more and more people cease to draw upon the benefits that must result from life in society, forces of dissociation appear and forces of anarchy take root.

A natural right

And who will be made to believe that aspirations common to all men, aspirations found in each individual, are contrary to the order of things? It is the Creator Himself who has given man his nature. If each person calls for a minimum of food, a minimum of protection from the elements by means of clothing and housing, it is because his nature is such that he cannot live without this minimum.

A birthright

Each person born into this world has a right to life. Whether a child is born into a king's palace or in the poorest abode of the poorest of Canadians, he has the right to live. We are not dealing here with the standard of living, but with the minimum needed to keep a person alive.

Before the right to life, before the bare necessities of life, all members of society, all human beings are equal.

The right to life, the right to the necessities of life, is a birthright. It is a right that must not infringe upon the rights of others; that should not lower the standard of living of others in a country that overflows with everything needed and where goods are wasted for want of buyers. Therefore, the coming of a newborn child into a family should not affect negatively the honest subsistence of its other members.

Bearing in mind the means of production and transportation now available, is every member of society guaranteed an honest subsistence? Where does one find, in our legal code, in the legal code of a Catholic Province such as Quebec, the statute that guarantees to all who are born into this Province, the minimum needed for an honest subsistence? You may find laws that prevent cruelty to animals, but there is not a single line to stop a handful of men from limiting the distribution of the abundant fruits of production. The papal objective of an honest subsistence for each and everyone is sadly ignored.

The right to an inheritance

Even if all the goods in the world were private property, this would not undo the right to life of each person, even that of the have-nots, and consequently the right of everyone to the bare necessities of life. Property, even private property, has a social function to fulfill. Ownership confers on the owner an obligation to manage his property for the common good.

But there are also a number of goods, a number of production factors that remain common property, of which all members of society are co-owners to the same extent.

Of these goods, some are visible and tangible, such as the Crown forests, the powerful waterfalls driven by the sun's pumping action and the configuration of mountains. To whom do these goods belong? Do they not constitute a real common heritage to the benefits of which all are entitled?

Then, there are the goods which are less visible, but no less real, no less productive, such as the developments of applied science through the centuries. We believe that applied science has become a major factor in today's abundant production. Who will maintain that science is a private good? We cannot ignore the personal efforts made by those who get an education; but even the education a person acquires imposes upon him an obligation towards society since schooling is due in part to the incremental effect of social organization.

Social organization is of itself a most important factor in the production of material goods. If each member of society had to live alone and insure his own subsistence, the production of each person and the sum of all individual productions would be immensely less than they are under a system of division of labour grafted onto the social organization. Thus, the existence of organized society increases considerably the productive capacity of the whole. Is organized society a private good or a common good from which all must benefit?

As heir of past generations, as co-owner of common good, of several common goods, each human being member of an organized society has, beyond his natural right to life, a right to a certain quantity of goods.

The national dividend

But how is a claim made on the goods offered by the productive system in this day and age? How is such a claim made, other than through bank notes or through the use of credit accounts, whereby money is transferred from the buyer to the seller? This method facilitates the choosing of products and improves the security of the parties involved in the transaction.

But in order for this method to function without depriving any member of society of his right to live, every individual must possess a minimum of these titles to production, a minimum amount of money, be it cash or bookkeeping money.

The Social Credit national dividend consists of this minimum of titles to the country's production which is guaranteed to each and every citizen. Being neither a wage nor a salary, both of which are the reward for personal work, the dividend is the right to an inheritance. It is the right of each citizen to obtain a revenue derived from a common capital. It is the right to existence that a well-organized society must guarantee to each of its members, from the day they are born.


[1] Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, paragraph 75.

[2] Ibid.


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