All discussions of public affairs today are driven by the assumption that decisions are taken on the basis of strong economic theory. This is an assumption as widespread in secular culture as in the religious culture. It is a fundamental misconception. The truth is that economic theory is in a state of crisis and it has been so since 1776. What we have is not economic theory, but political economy.
Paul Krugman (2014), as is his want, put it quite well: “The economics profession has not, to say the least, covered itself in glory these past six years. Hardly any economists predicted the 2008 crisis — and the handful who did tended to be people who also predicted crises that didn’t happen. More significant, many and arguably most economists were claiming, right up to the moment of collapse, that nothing like this could even happen.” And he added: “Furthermore, once crisis struck economists seemed unable to agree on a response. They’d had 75 years since the Great Depression to figure out what to do if something similar happened again, but the profession was utterly divided when the moment of truth arrived.”
Alan Blinder (1999) has clarified some of the reasons for this state of the economics profession by emphasizing that "...too much of what young scholars write these days is 'theoretical drivel, mathematically elegant but not about anything real.'"
These two quotations confirm the validity of steady accusations of irrelevance launched at mainstream economic theory from within and from without the economics profession (cf. Gorga 2009). Indeed, these two quotations amply justify the widespread observation that economic theory has been in a state of crisis ever since the publication of the General Theory (1936). However, it needs to be emphasized that, although not as widely recognized, the crisis dates back to the publication of the Wealth of Nations (1776). What else do major upheavals that have occurred ever since in the history of economic theory signify? Why did we pass from classical economics to neo-classical economics to the marginalist revolution to the economics of Keynes to Keynesian economics to post-Keynesian economics to neo- neo-classical economics to monetarism to real business cycle theory to behaviorism—let alone Marxist economics or Austrian economics or Georgist economics or Kelsonian economics; indeed, let alone the splinter programs of research within each major school of economic thought? These efforts are not accretions to basic scientific knowledge; they are revolutionary attempts to start the economic discourse anew ever and again.
Philip Pilkington (2014) has nailed this complex issue down: “Mainstream economics moves forward not through logical development and integration, but through forgetting.” Thomas Piketty (2014) has forcefully confirmed: “There is no such thing as an economic science.”
There is no officially accepted economic theory on which we can base our decisions. If in doubt, for a demonstration that not one of the basic terms of modern economic theory respects fundamental principles of logic the reader may consult Gorga (2002 and 2010a, chs. 3-15). There, beyond the critical analysis, the reader will also find logical and mathematical tools to put economic theory on a solid basis, on the foundation of Concordian economics (Gorga 2009); but this new paradigm is still hidden to sight for most economists. Hence, our most important economic decisions are based on political ideology, and ideology is ruled by sentimentality.
Of course, the reality that today there is no accepted or acceptable economic theory has not prevented the techniques and the practices of solid economists, as Schiller (2014) has pointed out, from producing much useful work and good practical results. Indeed, the question then arises: If economists, laboring under heavy theoretical burdens, have produced so much, how many fruits will their tree of knowledge yield once they eventually formulate or discover an acceptable all-encompassing economic theory?
THE ROOTS OF SENTIMENTALITY
Indeed, the roots of economic sentimentality find their strongest expression in the New Testament. Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17).
Yet, neither early Christians nor later ones truly abided by this affirmation. Hence, without firm guidance from the truth of the economics of Moses and the economics of Jesus, which are also still hidden to sight to most economists (Gorga forthcoming), they fell into three positions that can be characterized as the sentimentality of the left, the right, and the center of the political spectrum. At the left, we find injunctions about land and money; at the right, injunctions about work; the center swings cyclically between the two opposite poles. This is in accordance with a profound observation by Pope Benedict XVI: “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality” (Charity in Truth #3). See Appendix 1 for some relationships between Charity in Truth and economics.
Sentimentality of the left. No sooner did Jesus leave this earth that the Apostles attempted to live a Christian life, as it is written in Acts (2:44), by putting “everything in common.” Thus they created the first ecclesiae—small communities that tried to live an integral Christian life as entities autonomous from the State; this approach ultimately lent credence to the Communist state. This is a typical expression of sentimentality of the left that in a great variety of ways has been reformulated innumerable times with mostly disastrous results. Neither Moses nor Jesus ever suggested any such action! As most men and women of the left, the Apostles seem to have been in a hurry. They did not hear the Holy Spirit finish his sentence: "Put things in common that are common," such as land and money, and, in a subsidiary way, the affairs of the corporation.
Sentimentality of the right. At the right we find this injunction: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).
Sentimentality of the center. As one would expect, the sentimentality of the center in the spectrum of political opinion is most subtle and widespread. Faced with the impossibility of taking personal care of “the” economic problem, the center washes its hands of the results: If millions of people perish, what can one single person do? We can only urge that panem et circenses be given to the multitudes. The roots of this position concerning the sentimentality of the center are also very ancient. They can be better understood if they are seen as springing from this letter by James: “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and no food for the day, and you say to them, ‘Good-bye and good luck! Keep warm and well fed,’ but do not meet their bodily needs, what good is that? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless” (2: 12-17). The center does not go to the root causes of the distress, which is lack of economic justice for all, but keeps on wanting to give personal alms and communal rights to the multitudes—an ever growing set of rights: the right to housing, the right to medical care, the right to milk and honey. Rights, yes. But is any thought given to corresponding responsibilities? Where are they? Is the dignity of the receiver ever taken into profound consideration?
It is important to notice that Luke, Paul, and James, the three writers quoted above, were speaking outside of the Gospels; it is almost as if they were expressing their personal opinions. Notice also that all three positions are rooted in charity: They are rooted in love, in the form of excessive love—respectively, excessive love for others (give them/us everything, even the “whole state” Socialism Communism); excessive love for self, namely Number One (give them nothing; give me everything individualism near Fascism near Nazism Capitalism); the center cannot decide what is more important, whether love for others or love for self, and cyclically oscillates between the two ( social justice). Given this tripartite polarization in our intellectual and emotional luggage, no wonder the hard time St. Thomas Aquinas, the Doctors of the Church, and all modern popes have in justifying private property.
Read now Jesus words: “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40). Are these words not suffused with straightforward love? They profess the love that Jesus has for “the least ones”; they request acts of love for the least ones; they imply love for Jesus; they express love of Jesus for the donors. No obligations; no promises of rewards.
We cannot follow in detail the mutual development and influence of these three positions all through history. We have to be much less ambitious than that; we will remain satisfied with a quick look at some major stepping stones. If the essential purpose of economic theory is, not to make the rich richer, but to create conditions whereby everyone can work and live in dignity, then the following characteristics were some of the essential conditions for a substantial inner balance at the core of daily existence from Aristotle to 1776.
This long stretch of history is better covered under the heading of economics of sweet sentimentality—to distinguish it from the harsh sentimentality controlling events from 1776 to the present.
ECONOMICS OF SWEET SENTIMENTALITY
While tolerating slavery, it was sentimentality, not economic justice for all, which controlled human relations in the economic sphere all through Greek and Roman culture. One might have expected that with its moral and intellectual revulsion against slavery, Christianity would have inaugurated the era of economic justice for all at an early stage of its development. But lack of political control at first prevented that from happening. Lately, ignorance of the past and ignorance of its true nature undoubtedly are factors preventing even an abstract discussion of the demands of economic justice for all. Sentimentality has ruled and rules the roost.
The reality of sweet sentimentality. With the Roman conquest of Palestine, everything changed in politics and economics from independence to dependence for the Israelites. They lost control of their land; they lost control of their money; their land was acquired by Roman senators and their friends. At Rome as elsewhere, Roman law gave birth to that peculiar institution that is still with us today: the latifundia. With the amount of wealth being finite at any particular moment, when the few have too much, the many have too little: The issue is balance. This is a political economy definition of hoarding, not hoarding in technical economic terms. With the latifundia and with the loss of the jubilee in money matters, i.e. with the corresponding creation of immense accumulation of land and money in a few hands, came poverty—as well as less economic growth than possible and more inflation than desirable. When some of the issues that result from accumulation of stocks of real as well as monetary wealth are linked together and their effects pursued over the long run, analysis makes it clear that a decision to hoard wealth causes only negative effects for everyone (Gorga 2002 and ¬, chs. 21-25).
Softness of sweet sentimentality. The harshness of this reality with which we are still living today was considerably softened by the gradual application of Aristotle’s doctrine of economic justice. The doctrine was fully endorsed by Saint Thomas Aquinas and all Doctors of the Church. It was composed of two planks: distributive justice and commutative justice. One plank dealt with the division of shares of wealth once it was created; the other dealt with exchanges of wealth. Both planks provided a reasonable amount of justice and much stability to all economic operators (Gorga 1999, 2010b, and 2012a).
Our ancient ancestors offered more than theoretical justice to the many. They created peculiar institutions of concrete economic sweetness. In varying degrees and at varying times, four legal institutions helped maintain a strong sense of morality in economics all through the many centuries that we are observing up until 1776. They were: preservation of the commons and the struggle against usury; sandwiched between these two, at the moment of highest need perhaps during the Dark Ages of the 4th-5th Century AD they added two more institutions, legal ownership of surplus wealth and the monasteries. Let us briefly see how did these institutions operate.
As a vague memory of the splendor of Moses’ Jubilee concerning land, the poor were left with free access to the commons, which preserved the dignity of the poor and set an automatic restraint onto the desire for unending accumulation of wealth by the few. In addition, for men and women of most of this age the surplus wealth of the rich legally belonged to the poor—and they of course left to the discretion of each individual conscience the identification of the surplus as well as the determination of one’s own and one’s family needs (Tierney 1959, pp. 22-44). Monasteries functioned much as not-for-profit institutions of today; the major difference was that their entire output was readily available to the poor: no questions asked, urged St. Chrysostom (Ibid, p. 55). It is interesting to note that the land tenure extended by monasteries to the tenant farmer involved long-term contracts and fixed shares in the division of the product that were a near equivalent of private land ownership. Both the commons and the monasteries were destroyed by Henry VIII and gradually by every other potentate in the Western world who, having overspent their resources and being under severe debt stress, made a run for an easy power grab; the Eastern world does not seem to have escaped such a fate either. The lands owned by monasteries were confiscated; and the commons were ever so gradually enclosed: Not so far apart from the destiny of the family farm, under the ideology of privatization, under our very eyes these days the last remaining commons, the oceans, are being enclosed for the benefit of the few to the detriment of the family fishing fleet. For some details on this condition see Appendix 2.
As a vague memory of the splendor of Moses’ Jubilee concerning money, there is the story of the struggle against usury. This is the story of the longest running unified policy in the history of the world (see, e.g., Wood 2002). No other field, notwithstanding outrageous retrenchments, has ever shown such unanimity of intent over such a long span of time. It was given up in the United States in 1971 (see, e.g., Zamagni 2012). Should the reader be reminded that the struggle against usury is still alive and well in the Muslim world? Should the reader be reminded of the vastness of the geographic area in which Muslim rules are practiced?
More than the practical results of the gradual disappearance of these institutions, which are briefly observed in Appendix 3, it might be more interesting to look at the cultural changes that ultimately determined their demise. The cultural glue that held society together in the ancient world was an ordered set of priorities among charity, economic morality—in the form of specific rights and responsibilities—and freedom. Freedom resulted from the exercise of morality. Over time, this social order was turned upside down and its power dissolved. Not morality, but freedom became the Holy Grail. From its remote beginnings, the era of individual freedom was heralded with fanfares of great expectations. Individual economic freedom was supposed to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth (see, esp. Nelson 1993), all the while we were enlightening ourselves in such a way as to become free creators of our own destiny (see, esp. Mirandola 1486). What an exhilarating project! In time, it was the Enlightenment that assumed the responsibility to carry this project to fruition under the banner of Liberty, Fraternity, Equality. All the social and political freedoms that we now enjoy are indeed the legacy of the Enlightenment. What has actually happened?
Unfettered freedom has unavoidably grotesquely been transformed into freedom for the few, a freedom that legally leads to inordinate accumulation of wealth in a few hands. The mechanisms of accumulation of wealth appear to be a mystery to economists today; but they can be easily discovered by following the dynamics of the factors of production (Gorga 2011). Thus the unity of freedom and morality was shattered, the doctrine of economic justice was lost in the fog of time, and charity became compulsory. In the name of compulsory charity, which is the official response to inordinate accumulation of wealth, the state practices legal extortion; and is aided and abetted by moral extortion of other people’s wealth extolled by “good” souls. No one seems to admit that you cannot, legally or morally, take away their toys once you have given them to the kids. This matter of policy, of course, has nothing to do with voluntary sacrifices many good souls make to help those in need. These acts must continue.
Strangely enough, the moment when all this actually happened—even though maturing over the centuries—can be dated precisely. It burst upon us in 1776.
ECONOMICS OF HARSH SENTIMENTALITY
Three portentous events occurred in 1776. They form the kernel from which many detailed developments spawned. First, as an unintended consequence, Jefferson, by literally erasing the Lockean formula of “Life, Liberty, and Property” from the Declaration of Independence and substituting “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” detached the world of politics from the culture of property and launched economic policy into the never-never land of entitlements in which the profit motive becomes a subject of suspicion and rights are separated from responsibilities. We all have rights; who has responsibilities?
Second, Adam Smith (1776, esp. Bk. V., ch. 1, par. 158), by inveighing against the morality “of the (drunken) monks”, decoupled economics from morality and substituted it with his own Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) in which morality was dictated by the conscience of the free individual human being, a conscience no longer guided by Tradition and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, but by an “impartial spectator.” And who might that spectator be? Lui-même, he himself, of course!
The third event is this. Adam Smith conflated two words, two irreconcilable economic phenomena—hoarding and investment (capital)—into one: accumulation (1776, esp. Bk. II, chs. 1 and 3 and Bk. V, ch. 3). And by equating saving with investment (Ibid, Bk. II., ch. 3, pars. 14-18), he made hoarding magically disappear from the economic discourse (Ibid, Bk. V., ch. 3, pars. 1, 2, 9). Gone were the Mosaic injunctions against hoarding. Gone was the power of the Parable of the Talents. The operation was so successful that mainstream economists have the hardest time in seeing hoarding any longer (see, e.g., Broski 2003); no matter how many times they encounter it in reality or read the word or even write the word in the daily newspaper or, worse, in loose economic treatises, they still cannot see hoarding. Formally, or mathematically, in their framework of analysis, everything that is not a consumer good must be a saving, and saving in that theory is equal to investment. Therefore, hoarding does not exist.
It is of particular importance to be aware of the technique that Adam Smith used to achieve his aim, namely to obliterate the existence of hoarding, morality, economic justice, and the importance of Tradition from economics textbooks of the future: He made hoarding a thing of the past (loc. cit.) and he never mentioned economic justice or Tradition once. In the same way he succeeded in erasing the memory of the work of Sir James Steuart. He was conscious of these efforts (Cf. Gorga 2002 and 2010a, ch. 16).
These three interlocked events converged to destroy the core of the doctrine of economic justice. What Jefferson, Adam Smith, and many members of the Enlightenment were unable to imagine is that in economics, as in all other fields, the separation of human beings from morality and the consequent separation of rights from responsibilities does not yield freedom but havoc. Human beings become separate automatons: The ideology and practice of Individualism is in the saddle; the only countervailing power invented so far to the excesses of Individualism is the ideology and practice of Collectivism. Let the reader decide between them and beware. For an alternative, see Gorga (2014).
The Brutal Harsh Sentimentality of the Modern World
As we all know, ever since the publication of the Wealth of Nations, the world has plunged into unprecedented upheavals. (Religious wars mostly involved thousands if not hundreds of mercenaries.) Let us just think of the French, the Russian, and the Maoist revolutions, let alone Fascism and Nazism—and the consequent counterrevolutions. Even in the United States of the last few decades, having the government abandoned monetary policy to the bankers (see, e.g., Paul 2008), what else but wild swings have occurred in fiscal policy? What else but “irrational exuberance” supports the trillions of dollars of debt we are leaving to our children? What else but absolute privilege for the few can explain the unprecedented current peaks of concentration of wealth at the pinnacle of the social ladder?
Clearly, ever since 1776 the sentimentality of the left has given rise to the horrors of Communism; and the sentimentality of the right has given rise to the excesses of Capitalism. The ideology of Communism, of course, justifies any action as a response to the needs of “labor”—even the Gulag. Since the ideology of Capitalism is dominated by the idea of freedom, labor is free to work as hard as it can and capital is free to accumulate as much wealth as it can. The reality is that both the communist state and the capitalist enterprise pay the worker as little as they can get away with. The dacha on the Black Sea is the economic equivalent of the McMansion on the Back Shore.
Caught in the vise between Communism and Capitalism, we tend to escape off the tangent and call for social justice. This term is an Italian and Catholic idealistic invention of the 19th century.
THE ESCAPE INTO SOCIAL JUSTICE
What are the precise practices of social justice? Enveloped by an utterly variable intellectual atmosphere, the outward shell of the social justice movement has never been static, and its inward economic content has ever bounced between two extreme poles: either the market or the government is supposed to take care of the economic needs of the people (Cf. Gorga 2012a). Since one extreme leads to a Dickensian world of poverty and the other extreme leads to the horrors of the Gulag, most of the time the world has been sensible enough to search for accommodations between the two extremes.
Accommodations form the core of social justice. The “mixed economy” is its perfect metaphor. In one of its best known formulations, the underlying structure of social justice was based on the promise that people would be taken care of “from the cradle to the grave.” The government was to assure conditions for “full employment”; corporations were supposed to provide jobs; and the unions were supposed to provide “countervailing power” to possible abuses by the corporations.
Now that we are witnessing the dissolution of this social contract, we can clearly see that even these bland requirements have proved to be temporary and partial phantasmagoric apparitions: The government has never been able to secure the conditions for full employment; corporations shirk responsibilities and lately have outsourced jobs; labor unions go the merry way of securing benefits for their members. Full speed ahead.
The Bare-knuckled Economic Reality under the Social Justice Movement
Underneath the rhetoric of the high ideals of social justice, which is much discussed, there is a bare-knuckled economic reality that has been constant from long ago to the present, and yet it still manages to remain mostly hidden from view. All the clauses in this economic reality were unilaterally written by the few for the benefit of the people of power. These people made the rules and the rules were enforced through the power of the state. The rules covered land, capital, and labor.
Land and Social Justice. Rule # 1: Latifundia are untouchable. Do not talk about land. As noted, with the Roman conquest of Palestine, the legal institution of stewardship of land (and money) disappeared from sight—it disappeared especially from the sight of scholars who studied economics. It was subsumed under the institution of private property. Land Policy does not exist in polite mainstream political and economic discourse.
Capital and Social Justice. Rule # 2: “Save money, invest it wisely, and you too can become a capitalist,” one has the effrontery to say to the worker. This is a Catch-22 of colossal proportions. Apart from those who inherit wealth, who can save, when wages are kept at subsistence levels? Surely, the clever and the martyrs do accumulate some savings; but the cost is so high, and the insecurity so rampant, that the practice invites retribution against the majority of the population: Sociopaths might be born out of that stress. This is the road that leads to such excesses as those observed in the last few years, when a few hedge fund managers obtained, yearly, billions—billions—of dollars in compensation for their labors and the majority of the people, if employed at all, had to have two or three jobs to eke out a living. The prosperous middle class that was contributing much stability and security to the nation is fast disappearing.
Ever since the end of the Civil War in the United States, the same pattern of absolute freedom that exists for the few in their accumulation of land and financial capital, combined with practical exclusion of the majority of the people from access to both factors of production, has been evolving concerning the accumulation of capital in its physical aspects. Not only stocks and bonds that represent the ownership of physical capital have been subjected to the tendency of being concentrated into a few hands, but even the ownership of individual physical plants and individual multi-plant firms have been allowed to be concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. To add insult to the intelligence of people, transactions in paper wealth are compensated at a much higher level than involvement in the creation of real wealth. (When the political left takes over, it concentrates the ownership of the entire financial and industrial structure of a nation into the hands of the government.) Under the cover of social justice, we hear much of capitalism in mainstream economics, but nigh not a whisper about Capital Policy or lately even Industrial Policy.
Thus, private property rights in capital are left rooted in privilege: power and might (Gorga 2010b). That is not a base on which to build a stable and just society.
Labor and Social Justice. Another hard hidden economic rule of the social justice movement can then be stated as follows. Rule # 3: Through the payment of wages, “labor” is bought and sold as any commodity. This is too harsh a reality, so it is euphemistically stated that what is bought and sold are the services of labor. The stronghold of the past was that human beings are stewards of land and money; hence, they were stewards, and practically owners, of their own labor—at least. In the era of social justice such a robust proposition has disappeared from sight. Cast away from the moorings of the culture of property, the social justice movement has nothing to say about land, is unable to distinguish the physical from the financial aspects of capital, and commonly assumes that to labor under the wage contract is the only conceivable legal condition for men and women.
Social Justice and Redistribution of Wealth
Social justice is often treated as a synonym for economic justice. The two have nothing in common. The confusion germinates from the use of a mixed metaphor: social justice. In this metaphor, justice has no role to play—except as remembrance of things past or hoped-for future.
Economic justice deals with issues of distribution of wealth and income while wealth is being created. Apart from the vague idealism of the term, which no one seems to be able to pinpoint, the core of the social justice program is related to the problem of redistribution of income and wealth. The problem of redistribution exists, is serious, but it is not soluble as presented because it enters the discussion at the end of the play, when the curtains are down. The remaining listeners are hot under the collar. But it is too late to raise the issue; the play is over. The play was about the distribution of wealth while it was being created: Income (and wealth) was distributed in accordance with well established rules. If one is not happy about the outcome, one has the duty to speak about the rules of distribution, not to go off topic and reach the never-never land of redistribution. The program of redistribution has never been successful and never will.
The central reason why the preachers of social justice are not listened to is that there are no just rules of redistribution; to redistribute wealth once it has been legally apportioned among participants in the economic process is a task for the gods, not for men. Here are some of the insoluble specifics: What type of wealth ought to be redistributed? From whom? To whom? How much? How often? In search for answers one encounters only sketchy assumptions, imbalances, and injustices.
That is not a way to construct a just society. And, in fact, when pressed to clarify its position the redistributionist movement admits that it does not appeal to the sense of justice. It appeals to another virtue, the highest of all virtues: charity, namely love. We shall soon see what is the ultimate effect of this appeal.
Some Shortcomings of the Social Justice Movement
The shortcomings of the faulty ideal of social justice would be better understood through a detailed observation of the interactions among the factors of production over time. Barring this opportunity, we will concentrate on two key moments of that dynamic: We will observe first the ultimate outcome of the social contract, then its central strategic mistake.
The Ultimate Outcome of Social Justice
The ultimate outcome of social justice is the existence of a fact that is utterly contrary to its inner ideology. The ideology of social justice is based on the strongest possible belief in the value of freedom. And yet, any dispassionate observer—if not today, then at some distant future—will have no trouble spotting that the ultimate consequence of the social justice movement is this. Prevailing economic policies have reduced nearly everyone, world-wide, to the condition of a beggar: The rich beg for lower taxes (and subsidies); the middle classes beg for jobs; and the poor beg for entitlements. Why have we gotten ourselves into such a sorry state?
There are many answers. One concern to which we shall limit ourselves is a fundamental strategic mistake committed by the ideology of the social justice.
A Fundamental Strategic Mistake
To redress social imbalances, the ideology of the social justice has relied on charity rather than justice. How to put it gently? This writer has never read Jesus saying: “Deny them their rights; take their dignity away; give them a warm soup in a cold winter night; and go to sleep in peace.” What to say about this abuse of “high” morality?
The standard applies: By the fruit you shall judge the tree. Not only has the call to charity become the line of first resort against poverty, rather than last resort; in the process of attempting to redistribute existing wealth, charity has become compulsory. Indeed, the task of charity has lately become so overwhelming as to become impossible of fulfillment; and through this impotence charity itself has lost its meaning. In the United States, you will go to jail if you do not oblige the requests of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), requests whose moral standing is mostly justified in the name of compulsory charity. When charity is made compulsory, charity itself is destroyed: love for the other is destroyed. We see this effect not only in the ever present, very human, attempt to shun the duties of charity; the worst of all possible worlds can be found in the assumption that one does not any longer have a duty of charity toward human beings who are in need, because the government is performing this duty for us.
The conclusion is clear. Sentimentality has never worked and never will. There are many reasons why we have to muster the courage to look straight in the eyes of those who tolerate the shortcomings of the social justice frame of mind. The struggle for social justice, whatever it means, brings only conceit, self-deceit, an unceasing succession of Pyrrhic victories, and instability to the nation.
Safety lies in abandoning the train of thought pursued during the last 150 years and picking up the economic discourse where it was left by the doctrine of economic justice, that was a 2,500 year tradition. We must work for economic justice for all.
This is the core of the paper; all nuances perhaps some day will follow. Better still, ideally the reader who has much more knowledge and wisdom than the present writer will get up and eloquently and convincingly expound on all necessary nuances.
Much better still. Words without action are empty. Will the reader step up to the plate and start the work of answering the call for economic justice? Will the reader undertake the work of asking for economic justice for all—and granting economic justice within one’s own sphere of power and jurisdiction?
We are making way too much out of our economic problems; thus we are confusing our leaders and disempowering ourselves. The long journey out of the many current nightmares starts with such simple determination as to love justice first, charity thereafter. There are no alternatives: How long should we persist in error? Why should we persist in error?
Appendix 1: Some relationships between Charity in Truth and economics
For the complex relationships between Charity in Truth and mainstream economics, see Scott (2014). Starting from the assumption that there is such a thing as “economic laws,” which are presumably explicated by mainstream economists, Pope Benedict goes to great lengths to connect Catholic Social Thought (CST) with modern culture. He has to create a new category of thought, the conflation of truth and love, in order to establish this social chain of causation: truth-filled love causes integral human development.
Quite properly, Pope Benedict stresses that “it is not the instrument [like the market] that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility” (Charity in Truth #36). Yet, Pope Benedict could not specify how can this be accomplished in the presence of prevailing cultural forces of atomism that reduce the person to an “individual” and leave him and her alone to struggle against social dreams of reason that, as Goya admonished, produce monsters.
Shocking as it sounds at first hearing, we must brace ourselves and bravely recognize that, apart from vague idealistic redistributionist aspirations, CST has no longer any understanding of how to achieve integral human development in society. Misled by the pixy dust of technical complexities spread by modern economics, we have abandoned our ways. We must summon our courage and assert: No, there is no economic theory today.
What is next? Concordian economics is this writer’s proposal for an enlargement of mainstream economics so to take many components of the economic process into account, including morality at its core (Gorga 2012b). He has faithfully worked on this proposal for the last fifty years or so—never alone, but generally assisted by some of the best minds of our age. Concordian economics (Gorga 2009) reinserts Hoarding in the economic discourse and thus—totally unawares at first—builds Concordian economic theory on the basis of the economics of Moses and the economics of Jesus of the Parable of the Talents.
Concordian economics reconnects Catholic Social Thought to the Aristotelian-Aquinian doctrine of economic justice (Gorga 1999). It recognizes justice as a virtue—just as love is recognized as a virtue. And concludes that only people who love people will ever grant and receive economic justice. Then the integral person, the civilized person (Gorga 2014) emerges through the process of creating a just and stable society.
Appendix 2: Some Details on Fisheries Today
Among other indignities, to go fishing today most fishermen have to buy an expensive share in organizations called “sectors” and then they have to fill out incredibly cumbersome federal application forms as well as keep up with onerous reporting duties (see, e.g., the reference cited below on permits and forms required by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency in charge of national fisheries policy). This tragedy occurs with blind guidance from economists who, confined by their knowledge of private goods and public goods, do not see common goods as a third category deserving, as explored by Elinor Ostrom, of its own set of rules and regulations. For various issues involved in the current wave of enclosures of the ocean commons, please search for this writer’s work in his city’s newspaper (Gloucester Times).
Appendix 3: Some Results of the Disappearance of the Institutions of Sweet Sentimentality
What has been the ultimate result of the quiet death of the legal construct that surplus wealth belonged to the poor, confiscation of monasteries’ lands, the enclosure of the commons, and the end of the struggle against usury in non-Islamic countries? The weakest members of society have suffered the brunt of the crude effects of these policies. Ever since these events have occurred and have been accepted by the intellectual and political powers-that-be, the world of the many has plunged into an abysmal poverty whose depths has never been experienced before. No matter the law, usury has always been with us. Ever since they were goaded toward overcrowded cities, the poor have been left prey to all sorts of shortages: money, food, water, municipal services, space, green, even air. The abysmal void has too often been filled with all sorts of vices and exploitation, often administered by the sharpies among the poor themselves. We have even created a term for them, the under-class.
Perhaps the argument followed in this paper will become clearer if I specify that, as pointed out in Gorga (2007), the need for “participation” in the economic process is acute and acutely stated by the Magisterium. Simply read Leo XIII (RN ## 34 and 46), Pius XI (QA # 65), or John Paul II (CA ## 33-35). For good measure, read Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the U.S. Economy by the United States Catholic Bishops (1986, esp. # 15 and ch. 1:1).
And we know how these calls have been received by the right of the political spectrum.
Is the call for economic justice, then, a fool’s errand? Well, first of all, this is an indispensible goal: As this very paper suggests, we either have economic justice in the land or we have chaos.
On behalf of the left, let me emphasize a couple of points. The call for the addition to the Aristotelian/Aquinian doctrine of economic justice, as specified in the New Introduction, November 2014, to “Toward the Definition of Economic Rights” was not made explicit either by Aristotle or Saint Thomas Aquinas, because it could not be made explicit. Of course, the question arises, how is one expected to understand the unexpressed?
Then, even if this plank is expressed as in the above quotations from modern popes and bishops, the call to participative justice is not introduced into mainstream economic theory nor is its implementation specifically spelled out even in the following economic rights and responsibilities:
Concordian economic practice presents the following integrated set of rights and responsibilities: the right of access to land and natural resources and the responsibility to pay taxes on that portion of land and natural resources that fall under our exclusive control; the right of access to national credit and the responsibility to repay loans acquired through national credit; the right to the fruits of one’s labor and the responsibility to contribute to the process of creation of wealth; the right to the enjoyment of one’s wealth and the responsibility to respect the wealth of others.
The reader is generally left alone to perform this work of integration. Lastly, let me touch upon complex issues of implementation. Rather than being afraid of the potential opposition to the introduction of economic rights and responsibilities in our economic system, let us become aware of the mote in our own eye: We are generally afraid to speak truth to power.
And the truth shall make us all free: Rights unite; privileges divide. “Privileges” is the regimen we have been living under ever since the down of “civilization.” If we endeavor to live in a regimen of rights, equal rights for all, rich, middle class as well as poor people, we are going to unfurl the Age of Justice and Charity at once, namely True Love; namely True Civilization, the Civilization of Love.
Acknowledgments: Unique thanks for the framework of analysis on which this paper draws are due to 27 years of exhaustive probing by Franco Modigliani and 23 years of assistance from Meyer L. Burstein. Mitchell S. Lurio and Norman G. Kurland have been great teachers of economic policy. This paper is particularly due to persistent guidance by Wilfred Wolfsma. The paper has also benefited from wise and penetrating comments on previous drafts by two anonymous referees, as well as suggestions by Damon Cummings, Joshua Brackett, Joseph M. Patchett, and Ralph Cole Waddey. My colleague Peter J. Bearse’s thorough review and incisive comments helped immeasurably to strengthen the final draft of this paper.
Blinder A. 1999. Quoted in "Students Seek Some Reality Amid the Math Of Economics," by Michael M. Weinstein, The New York Times, September 18.
Broski M. 2003. “The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture. Carmine Gorga.” Journal of Markets and Morality 6, no. 1: 297-98.
Gorga C. 1999. "Toward the Definition of Economic Rights,” The Journal of Markets and Morality, vol. II (1) 88-101.
_____ . 2002 and 2010a, The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture. Lanham, MD and Oxford: University Press of America.
_____ . 2007. “Economic Justice” in Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought, Social Science, and Social Policy. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 335-337.
_____ . 2009. “Concordian Economics: Tools to Return Relevance to Economics”, Forum for Social Economics, vol. 38 (1) 53-69.
______, 2010b. Roots of Property Laws: From the moral contract to the social contract. Is the legal contract next?, World Institute for Research and Publication (WIRP).
______. 2011. Comments on Peter Radford’s “Ethics in economics – Where is it?”, Real-World Economics Review Blog, 12 December 2011.
_____ . 2012a. “Reconciling Keynes and Hayek through Concordian Economics: A Revolution from the Center”, International Journal of Applied Economics and Econometrics, Part V of the Special Issue on J.M. Keynes, 20 (3), July-Sept.
______, 2012b, Ethics in Concordian Economics, Rio+20 Portal, 19 February 2012.
_____ . 2014. “Somism: Beyond Individualism and Collectivism Toward a World of Peace and Justice”, Mother Pelican Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability, November 2014.
______. 2015. “Economics of Morality: Economics of Moses, Economics of Jesus”, Mother Pelican Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability, April 2015.
Keynes J. M. 1936. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money. NY: Harcourt.
Krugman P. 2014. “Seven Bad Ideas,” The New York Times Book Review, September 24.
Mirandola P. 1486. Oration on the Dignity of Man, eBooks@Adelaide, University of Adelaide, 17 December 2014.
Greater Atlantic Region Federal Fisheries Initial Permit Application, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 5 March 2012.
Nelson R. H. 1993. Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Paul K. 2008. “Nobel Laureates on Fixing the Economy,” Newsweek, October 21.
Piketty T. 2014. "There Is No Economic Science", Video by Thomas Piketty, The New School, 9 October 2014.
Pilkington P. 2014. “Authoritative Arguments in Economics”, Econintersect Blog, 9 November 2014.
Scott G. J. 2014. “Is There a Moral School of Economics?: The Profundity and Practicality of Benedict XVI's Economic Logos,” Catholic Social Science Review, Vol. 19 (1) 169-193.
Shiller R. J. 2015. “What Good Are Economists”, Project Syndicate, 15 January 2015.
Smith A. 1759, Theory of Moral Sentiments. London: A. Miller.
_____. 1776. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. London: Methuen and Co., Ltd., ed. Edwin Cannan, 1904. Fifth edition.
Tierney B. 1959. Medieval Poor Law: A Sketch of Canonical Theory and Its Application in England. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Wood D. 2002, Medieval Economic Thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Zamagni S. 2012. “Globalization: guidance from Franciscan economic thought and ‘Caritas in Veritate’”, AICCON Cooperazione, Facoltà di Economia di Forli.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Carmine Gorga is a former Fulbright scholar and the recipient of a Council of Europe Scholarship for his dissertation on “The Political Thought of Louis D. Brandeis.” Dr. Gorga has transformed the linear world of economic theory into a relational discipline in which everything is related to everything else—internally as well as externally. He was assisted in this endeavor by many people, notably for twenty-seven years by Professor Franco Modigliani, a Nobel laureate in economics from MIT. The resulting work, The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture, was published in 2002. Dr. Gorga is president
of Polis-tics, Inc., a consulting firm in Gloucester, MA, and during the last few years has concentrated his attention on the requirements for the unification of economic theory and policy. He is currently working on a book entitled A New Monetary Order: Based on Rights, not Privilege. For details, see www.carmine-gorga.us.