Monday, May 28, 2012

Building the World of Tomorrow - Make that Worlds

More posts about "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth)
"Caritas in Veritate"

Here's that "post about making the world better" I planned to write. (May 27, 2012) Don't expect a step-by-step description for building 'the world of tomorrow.'

I'm still working my way through "Caritas in Veritate" (2009), Pope Benedict XVI doesn't have a blueprint for the 'perfect society,' either.

What the encyclical letter does have is a detailed discussion of the principles we need to consider when planning for tomorrow: and deciding what gets started today.

Section 35 is another part of "Caritas in Veritate" that might look "purposefully vague," from some points of view. Like I've said before, I don't see it that way, but I've got a different perspective. (May 14, 2012)

Three Kinds of Justice

"In a climate of mutual trust, the market is the economic institution that permits encounter between persons, inasmuch as they are economic subjects who make use of contracts to regulate their relations as they exchange goods and services of equivalent value between them, in order to satisfy their needs and desires...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 35)
So far, that excerpt reads like rather wordy and technical-sounding praise for market economies. I suppose someone could assume that the rest of "Caritas in Veritate" is going to be an unequivocal affirmation of free trade, laissez-faire economics, and the American way.

Very 'conservative' stuff, right? Here's what comes next:
"...The market is subject to the principles of so-called commutative justice, which regulates the relations of giving and receiving between parties to a transaction. But the social doctrine of the Church has unceasingly highlighted the importance of distributive justice and social justice for the market economy, not only because it belongs within a broader social and political context...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 35)
Maybe my hypothetical - and now confused - reader isn't familiar with terms like "commutative justice" and "distributive justice," but "social justice" would very likely be familiar.

Justice, Assumptions, and Definitions

Depending on who you ask, when someone supports social justice, one of the 'obvious' assumptions is that the person is:
  • Dedicated to the liberation of oppressed classes
  • A bleeding-heart idiot liberal
I'm a practicing Catholic, so I can't make that sort of assumption. Here's a very brief look at what those sorts of justice mean, from my point of view:
"Contracts are subject to commutative justice which regulates exchanges between persons and between institutions in accordance with a strict respect for their rights. Commutative justice obliges strictly; it requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted. Without commutative justice, no other form of justice is possible.
"One distinguishes commutative justice from legal justice which concerns what the citizen owes in fairness to the community, and from distributive justice which regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2411) [emphasis mine]

"Society ensures social justice by providing the conditions that allow associations and individuals to obtain their due.

"Respect for the human person considers the other 'another self.' It presupposes respect for the fundamental rights that flow from the dignity intrinsic of the person."
(Catechism, 1943-1944) [emphasis mine]

Under Ideal Conditions - - -

Getting back to the market, people, and justice: if the market is supposed to let folks exchange goods and services in a mutually satisfactory way, how come things don't work like that?

The 'ideal' market described at the start of section 35 depends on mutual trust:
"...Without internal forms of solidarity and mutual trust, the market cannot completely fulfil its proper economic function. And today it is this trust which has ceased to exist, and the loss of trust is a grave loss."
("Caritas in Veritate," 35)
Benedict XVI mentions Paul VI's "Populorum Progressio," noting that an economy can exist with poor people can help an economy. Which isn't the same as saying that capitalistic oppressors steal bread from the bleeding lips of the proletariat.

No wonder that fellow thought Benedict XVI was being "purposefully vague."

"Vague," No: Catholic, Yes

I don't see it that way, but I'm a Catholic who understands his faith: and knows that rich people and poor people are - people:
"...The poor are not to be considered a 'burden'[91], but a resource, even from the purely economic point of view. It is nevertheless erroneous to hold that the market economy has an inbuilt need for a quota of poverty and underdevelopment in order to function at its best...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 35)
I think it's very easy to misunderstand what - and who - "poor people" are. I've yet to find something in Catholic teaching that says it's wrong to be rich: or poor. What seems to matter isn't how much we have, but what we do with it.

It also looks like we're not all alike: and that this is the way it's supposed to be. (May 2, 2012, August 26, 2010)

Getting back to wealth and poverty, I gather that owning private property is a right. (2403) On the other hand, there's the "original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind:" which means that we're supposed to help each other, and that the right to property isn't the top priority. (Catechism, 2402-2406)

Again, no wonder Catholic teachings can seem "vague."

"Wage Slaves," People Pleasers, and Me

I've been a "wage slave," along with quite a few other Americans. I didn't resent my boss making more money than I did: I've done management, and folks who do that job well earn the extra pay.

I'd much rather do technical work, and let someone else juggle schedules, deadlines, and more-or-less-willing employee roster.

I also wanted the owner of the company to be stinking rich. That wasn't altruism. I knew who signed my check, and didn't want that source of income to wither away.

Before getting back on-topic, I ran into an entertaining, if not entirely kindly, list of folks managers probably don't enjoy dealing with:
  • A hardcore bully
  • An ego-centered princess;
  • A passive-aggressive
  • A baby
  • Negative Ned or Nancy
  • A people pleaser
  • A non-player
    (Dr. Marilyn Manning )

"Burger Flippers," and Getting Started

This is my personal opinion, but I don't think it's wrong for some jobs to have pay that won't support a comfortable American-level lifestyle. Particularly here in America.

When I was getting started, I never literally 'flipped burgers,' but I've had my share of entry-level and sub-entry-level jobs. I hoped that I'd be doing something different, when I could. Which is what happened, at distressingly-frequent intervals.

Eventually, I worked my way up to a lower-middle-class income, and that's another topic:
Not everybody's like me, thank God. I learned how to be a fair to middling delivery guy, radio disk jockey, beet chopper, and so on. I also had family and friends who helped get by when the income I earned wasn't nearly enough to make ends meet. Again, not everybody's in that position.

My point is that without those 'menial,' 'degrading' jobs, I wouldn't have developed job skills that helped me get other jobs. Few of which were 'meaningful, rewarding careers:' but which added up to a means of supporting my family. Eventually.

Back to "Caritas in Veritate."

Looking Past the Market

This part of "Caritas in Veritate" ends on a familiar note. I think it's reasonable to summarize it by saying that the market is important, but it's a tool: the "moral energies," the goals and motives, must come from another source.
"...It is in the interests of the market to promote emancipation, but in order to do so effectively, it cannot rely only on itself, because it is not able to produce by itself something that lies outside its competence. It must draw its moral energies from other subjects that are capable of generating them."
("Caritas in Veritate," 35)
I've posted about the idea that ethical behavior 'pays off' before. (May 7, 2012)

Like I said at the start of this post, "Caritas in Veritate" discusses the principles we need to consider when making economic and political decisions. It doesn't tell Catholics to vote for for a particular party, or how to regulate interstate commerce.

I've discussed government, subsidiarity, and the exercise of power, before. Also the idea that there isn't one 'correct' form of government. (March 12, 2011)

Believing that there isn't a single 'one size fits all' political and economic system for all people, in all times, isn't being "vague," in my opinion. It's common sense. It's a big world, and where diversity isn't a problem: it's a blessing. (August 26, 2010)

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.