Monday, July 9, 2012

More Than "Just a Cog"

Like I've said before, what the Catholic Church teaches is basically simple: 'Love God, love your neighbor;' 'everybody's our neighbor.' (Matthew 5:43-44, 22:36-40; Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:25-2, 10:29-37; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822, 1825)

Understanding those principles is simple. Believing them may not be. Living as if they're true, and mean something, is often difficult.

For two thousand years, the Church has been explaining why doing what Jesus said is a good idea, while many folks folks have been trying to weasel out of those simple principles. (March 12, 2012)

Business, Government, Values: 'It's Complicated'

Thinking about economic affairs can be simple. You've got 'business' over here, and 'government' over there, right? That's a neat, simple, easy-to-remember way of looking at things.

But it's not accurate. Not today.

Here's part of what Benedict XVI says in "Caritas in Veritat:"
"In the context of this discussion, it is helpful to observe that business enterprise involves a wide range of values, becoming wider all the time. The continuing hegemony of the binary model of market-plus-State has accustomed us to think only in terms of the private business leader of a capitalistic bent on the one hand, and the State director on the other. In reality, business has to be understood in an articulated way. ..."
("Caritas in Veritate," 41)
In other words, 'it's complicated.'

There's more to business than a purely supply-and-demand market on one hand; and a purely 'tax, regulate, and subsidize' government on the other.


I'm reading the English translation of Benedict XVI's "Caritas in Veritate." Having documents translated into my native language is great, but it means that I have to make sure I know how words are used. (November 12, 2010)

Take "articulated," for example:
"...In reality, business has to be understood in an articulated way...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 41)
  • Articulated (verb)
    • Provide with a joint
    • Put into words or an expression
    • Speak, pronounce, or utter in a certain way
    • Unite by forming a joint or joints
    • Express or state clearly
  • Articulated (adjective)
    • Consisting of segments held together by joints
    (Princeton's WordNet)
My guess is that "articulated" in that sentence means "put into words or an expression," or maybe "unite by forming a joint or joints" or "consisting of segments held together with joints:" in which case it'd be a sort of metaphor.

People Matter

I've spent most of my life working 'for someone else.' Sometimes I've felt that I was getting something more than a paycheck out of helping get some task done: sometimes not so much. I never really expected what I did to earn a living to be a 'meaningful, rewarding, career:' I was just glad to be employed.

Still, it's nice to feel like something more than a piece of office equipment. I think that's what Benedict XVI is talking about here:
"...Business activity has a human significance, prior to its professional one[98]. It is present in all work, understood as a personal action, an 'actus personae'[99], which is why every worker should have the chance to make his contribution knowing that in some way 'he is working "for himself" '[100]. With good reason, Paul VI taught that 'everyone who works is a creator'[101]..."
("Caritas in Veritate," 41)

More Than Just a Paycheck

I checked out footnote [100]. The idea that workers can and should realize that we're doing something besides getting paid is valid, and was discussed by Pope John Paul II:
"...But here it must be emphasized, in general terms, that the person who works desires not only due remuneration for his work; he also wishes that, within the production process, provision be made for him to be able to know that in his work, even on something that is owned in common, he is working 'for himself'...."
("Laborem exercens," III. Conflict Between Labour and Capital in the Present Phase of History, 15. The "Personalist" Argument)
Thinking back, I don't remember a job where I didn't know that I was contributing something to the society I live in, and in that way was 'working for myself.' Even as a beet chopper, I was helping a company maintain quality control in its sugar refinery: which indirectly helped the multitude of folks who eventually used the refined sugar, and consumed it. Back to John Paul II's "Laborem exercens:"
"...This awareness is extinguished within him in a system of excessive bureaucratic centralization, which makes the worker feel that he is just a cog in a huge machine moved from above, that he is for more reasons than one a mere production instrument rather than a true subject of work with an initiative of his own...."
("Laborem exercens," III. Conflict Between Labour and Capital in the Present Phase of History, 15. The "Personalist" Argument)
I hadn't read "Laborem exercens" in my younger years: but wanting to be something other than "just a cog in a production instrument" is part of why I had no interest in a 'rewarding' career in some major corporation. Considering the sort of meltdowns we've seen in recent decades, my choice may have been more practical than it looked:

"Dignity of the Worker," and More

The rest of section 41's first half points out that today's global economy is anything but simple, mentioning:
  • Dignity of the worker
  • Needs of society
  • Different sorts of business enterprise
    • "Private"
    • "Public"
    • Other
Like I said, 'it's complicated.'

Making things more interesting, everything affects everything else. Or should.

Governments: Yes, We Still Need Those Things

I don't think the solution to all problems is another massive government program.

I do think that one of the best things a government can do for the governed is getting out of our way, and letting us do our jobs. A fancy word for that idea is subsidiarity, and that's almost another topic.

On the other hand, I'll admit - sometimes grudgingly - that we actually do need some sort of government. Looks like I can go on thinking that:
"...Political authority also involves a wide range of values, which must not be overlooked in the process of constructing a new order of economic productivity, socially responsible and human in scale. ... The integrated economy of the present day does not make the role of States redundant, but rather it commits governments to greater collaboration with one another. Both wisdom and prudence suggest not being too precipitous in declaring the demise of the State...."
("Caritas in Veritate," 41)
Here's a quick look at what the Church says about governments:
  • Government, some form of authority, is necessary
    (Catechism, 1901)
  • Governments must behave ethically
    • Or their authority breaks down
    (Catechism, 1902-1903)
There's quite a bit more in "Caritas in Veritate," 41: mostly about governments, "the state." I'll get back to that next week.
More posts about "Caritas in Veritate" (Charity in Truth)
"Caritas in Veritate"

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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.