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    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      St Thomas’s teaching on private property is suitably nuanced.

      ““Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one’s own: but because the division of possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement which belongs to positive law, as stated above (57, 2,3). Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.” [ST IIa IIae Q66, II,obj 1]

      This is obvious enough, when we consider that it is law that distinguishes mere possession (which is a physical fact) from ownership (which is a legal right). Thus, Mirabeau, too, was right, when he says, “Property is a social creation. The laws not only protect and maintain property; they bring it into being [elles la font naître]; they determine its scope and the extent that it occupies in the rights of the citizens.”

      That is why, for example, Pope Paul VI could write in Populorum Progressio, “If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.”

      • djpala

        Montini, his family & his appointees were all communist or pro-communist !

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    • NormChouinard

      Thank you Professor Esolen, Rerum Novarum is a masterful encyclical and one that I must revisit.

      Chesterton was right. The problem with laissez faire capitalism is that it produces too few capitalists, not too many. His Distributionist principles of subsidiarity and solidarity have been my guide on these matters.

    • JERD

      I am confused. Where is this going? Is Leo saying the State, so long as it exercises its power morally, can make a just society? Or, is he saying that the individual, freed from the power of the State, and through a person’s participation in mediating institutions like the family and guilds, can make a just society by living a life of virtue? Or both? If both, how can that be since it would appear the State and the individual would be in constant conflict?

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Leo XIII gave the answer to that in Immortale Dei: “They, therefore, who rule should rule with even-handed justice, not as masters, but rather as fathers, for the rule of God over man is most just, and is tempered always with a father’s kindness. Government should, moreover, be administered for the well-being of the citizens, because they who govern others possess authority solely for the welfare of the State. Furthermore, the civil power must not be subservient to the advantage of any one individual or of some few persons, inasmuch as it was established for the common good of all… Then, truly, will the majesty of the law meet with the dutiful and willing homage of the people, when they are convinced that their rulers hold authority from God, and feel that it is a matter of justice and duty to obey them, and to show them reverence and fealty, united to a love not unlike that which children show their parents”

    • Alecto

      I enjoy these articles very much, but I do not make the assumption that the industrial age produced a handful of rapacious millionaires (or billionaires) and reduced the rest of society to poverty; at least not here in the U.S. Socialism is predicated on Leo’s assumption of society being composed of fixed strata. From its inception, the U.S. envisioned society as fluid, with each person endowed by our Creator with the rights the European monarchs distributed at their discretion, and the ability to use our talents and potential to change our destiny if we would only work and act in morally responsible ways.

      The structure of our government (as founded, not currently) demands we behave in moral ways because our society collapses if we do not. That our politicians seek to rule us rather than represent us, is evidence not of fundamental weakness with the structure or function of government as conceived, but with the moral dissipation which infects individuals in our society. That is the moral sickness that Catholics can and must address. Good governance comes from good people doing good, seeking to realize their individual potential and gifts.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The fluid nature of the classes in the United States is largely a myth. When adjusted for inflation, the single largest factor in earning potential over a lifetime is the earning potential of one’s parents. Just because there are no laws formally defining the classes does not mean that they do not exist.

        • Paul Tran

          Sure, there are no laws defining classes but in a God-loving, God-fearing society there should be no classes. Class exists more evidently in a secular society.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Masonic philosophy is not God fearing. The secular laws and economic system of North America and Europe over the past three centuries has far more influence from the freemasons than anything resembling Christianity.

            • Alecto

              Where are you reading this nonsense? Go to Jamestown and tell me how many Freemasons landed there. Go to any of the early colonies and count the number of Freemasons. If anything, the early settlers and most of the later settlers in the colonies were seeking refuge from oppressive state religion or some kind of religious oppression. For God’s sake, man, have you ever heard of Charles Carroll? He was Catholic. He signed the Declaration of Independence!

              Masonic philosophy is opposed to Catholic teaching because it doesn’t recognize the primacy of any one religion, it is logically absurd because all religions cannot contain the truth. However, I respect masons good works, attempts to improve themselves and society.

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Chales Carroll, had he lived 120 years later, would have been condemned as an Americanist Heretic. Catholicism is the only religion that is necessary. The Majority who signed the Constitution were Masons, their philosophy of rebellion against God is found throuout American Law. The Declaration of Independence was invalidated by Doe Vs Bolton, and the current American government is illegitimate for the lack of defense of 54 million citizens who have been deprived of the right to life. The masonic experiment in democracy has failed.

        • Alecto

          Class may exist in all societies; it is normal for humans to order or categorize themselves, but the United States has traditionally been the home of few, if any barriers to such “class” changes. It isn’t a myth – it’s fact. It is a fact for millions of us. But rest easy – with Obama and the minions from hell at the helm, that has changed.

          I believe there are classes in heaven. There are classes of angels. There are people who are better than me – better than you – better than all of us. We call them saints. The important point is that we all have the ability and the call to improve our lives in tangible and intangible ways.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            In comparison to God, all classes of created beings are equal

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Karl Marx defined the two classes as the bourgeios and the proletariat, and recommended that all men become the proletariat, owning nothing. Pope Leo XIII, later GK Chesterton, and most recently Archbishop Reinhard Marx of Bavaria, all come to the conclusion that we should all be bourgeios. I like the later solution much better; guilds is the way to accomplish it.

      • crakpot

        I agree. The solution to owner-worker conflicts is that everyone owns his own business, not that we all become workers for the state, or “too big to fail” cronies which eventually get absorbed into the state. I think that’s where Romney fell down – he advocated for jobs, not self-employment. People took the government check instead.

      • Alecto

        Why should any one of us accept Marx’s theories about anything? I reject all of them. I do not and will not settle for crumbs from a bounder when Adam Smith, Frederic Bastiat, Milton Friedman and countless others have sound principles and far more interesting and hopeful ideas about society, economics and the nature of prosperity.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          So you are rejecting Karl Marx for a bunch of Libertarians who’s theories are based on Das Kapital, rejecting also Archbishop Reinhard Marx and even Pope Benedict XVI? No wonder you like the Americanists!

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    • Ford Oxaal

      Yes. Family, the strongest of human allegiances, pre-exists society. Society exists for the augmentation of the well-being of the family, not vice versa. The “social contract” is between families, not individuals.

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    • crakpot

      Good article.

      From my understanding, “usury” does not refer to investing your own money, nor even to depositing it in banks for them to loan out, giving you a portion of the interest, provided lending is not monopolized such that “usurious” interest rates could be charged due to the lack of competition. The Parable of the Talents seems to say investment is good, and that even depositing your money with the banks is better than not helping create new wealth at all, provided all is done in the service of God.

      Usury is what central banks, like the Fed, do. Using government monopoly on power, they make a cartel of the banks, such that interest rates can be arbitrarily set without real competition. Worse, they print fake receipts for money that’s not even there, and “loan” them to government to spend as it likes, inflating prices for everyone until the taxpayers can pay these “Federal Reserve Notes” back. It is complicated, and that’s on purpose.

      People can also “get used” by demanding lots of their foreign currency for monopolized local currency, and we know how Jesus felt about money changers.

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    • Marcus

      Socialism may be a failure, but it hasn’t given up.

      • djpala

        Correct, It resides in our White House !

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