Presentation on theme: "Life and External Goods. Respect for Life Natural Law demands direct respect for the good which is life. We must avoid such direct offenses against this."— Presentation transcript:
Life and External Goods
Respect for Life Natural Law demands direct respect for the good which is life. We must avoid such direct offenses against this good such as murder, assault, suicide, torture. But we must also take into consideration the proper end and use of those goods which are themselves necessary for human life. -Those which are necessary for mere life, bare sustenance (food and water, protection from elements) -Also those kinds and quantities of goods which are necessary for a life befitting the dignity of man and his rational nature. In this regards private property, the purpose of the earths goods, justice in wages, etc. are connected to the good of life, for without the proper treatment of such inferior goods, many will be deprived of a fitting life, or even life simply speaking.
Universal Destination and Property It is to man's needs that the goods of the earth are ordered. "In the beginning God entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them, master them by labor, and enjoy their fruits. The goods of creation are destined for the whole human race. -Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2202 That the goods of the earth are destined for the good of all mankind is called the universal destination of goods. This universal destination of goods, though it must guide our use of external goods, is not opposed to the private ownership of goods. On the contrary, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. -Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum (RN) 6, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/leo_xiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_l- xiii_enc_15051891_rerum-novarum_en.html
Right and Necessity of Property Pope Leo As man possesses reason and can anticipate and lay plans for the future, he must possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession. -RN 6-7 As the fruits of the earth are procured by mans labor, man takes ownership of land, for instance, by applying that labor, as it were impressing his personality on it. -RN 9 St. Thomas Division of ownership is necessary because --Every man cares more diligently for that which is his own than for that which is owned communally. -There is less confusion when each possesses his own portion of the earth's goods to take care of -There is less contention when each has his own than when something is possessed in common Summa Theologica (ST) II II, 66, 2
No Natural Specific Division Although the right to property is natural and necessary, the actual division of ownership is not specified by Natural Law. Whereas Natural Law contains the general principle of the universal destination of goods, while permitting the division of ownership, such division is a matter left to the specification by man, through work, agreement and custom, and law. The fact that God has given the earth for the use and enjoyment of the whole human race can in no way be a bar to the owning of private property. For God has granted the earth to mankind in general, not in the sense that all without distinction can deal with it as they like, but rather that no part of it was assigned to any one in particular, and that the limits of private possession have been left to be fixed by man's own industry, and by the laws of individual races. -RN 8 Community of goods is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural 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. -ST II II, Q 66, a 2
Further Concerns In light of these principles we must consider the demands of the Natural Law concerning -The means by which man obtains the goods necessary for life. That is to say, labor and the rights of workers. -The proper use of such goods by those who possess them. That is to say, the duties of those who have possessions toward others in regards to what they possess.
Necessity of Labor Man procures the goods necessary for life primarily by means of labor. To labor is to exert oneself for the sake of procuring what is necessary for the various purposes of life, and chief of all for self preservation. -RN 44 Labor is a necessity for man, for it is only by labor that the goods of the earth are obtained and transformed for his benefit. He may do this either directly or, as it were, indirectly. -Directly, by laboring upon the very goods which he takes into possession. He may grow, hunt, or raise his own food, chop his own lumber, etc.- -Indirectly, by working for wages, by means of which he may then obtain real goods.
Just Wages Justice demands a certain level of wages. For a wage to be just it is not sufficient for a worker to freely agree to the amount. This is so because of the aforementioned necessity of labor. Since labor is that means by which the goods necessary for life are obtained, when that labor is indirect, as I have called, it must be compensated with a wage sufficient to satisfy these needs which would, otherwise, be more directly satisfied through labor. Were we to consider labor merely in so far as it is [a] personal [act], doubtless it would be within the workman's right to accept any rate of wages whatsoever; for in the same way as he is free to work or not, so is he free to accept a small wage or even none at all. But our conclusion must be very different if, together with the personal element in a man's work, we consider the fact that work is also necessary for him to live. -RN 44 I would add, again, that a person must make not only enough for him to merely remain alive, but to live in a manner befitting his dignity, and able to engage in activities proper to his rational nature. At least in this country, most workers do not face the desperate situation of past times. None the less, we ought to reevaluate our approach to wages and the actual wage situation.
A Case for Consideration Consider this: Thomas Storck argues The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. At 40 hours every week, this is $15,080 a year, or $1257 a month prior to taxes. "The U.S. Department of Agriculture monthly thrifty food budget (June 2011) for a family of two adults and two children varies from a low of $533 to a high of $612 depending on the age of the children, and the low-cost budget goes from $768 to $796...Where I live, in central Ohio, rent of a two-bedroom house is at least $600 a month. -Storck, Jobs and the Minimum Wage (http://distributistreview.com/mag/2011/09/jobs-and-the-minimum- wage) Do the math…does this reflect a just minimum wage?
Proper Use of Goods St. Thomas makes the distinction between the ownership of, or the power to procure and dispense, external goods, and the use of such goods (ST II II, Q 66, a 2). As we have seen, one has a right to the ownership of goods, and division of ownership is necessary, but man ought to possess external things, not as his own, but as common, so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need (Ibid.). As regards the use of such goods, the universal destination must be the guiding principle. The right to private property, acquired or received in a just way, does not do away with the original gift of the earth to the whole of mankind. The universal destination of goods remains primordial, even if the promotion of the common good requires respect for the right to private property. -CCC 2403 Now according to the natural order established by Divine Providence, inferior things are ordained for the purpose of succoring mans needs by their means. Wherefore the division and appropriation of things which are based on human law, do not preclude the fact that mans needs have to be remedied by means of these very things. -ST II II, Q 66, a 7
Duty to the Poor This lays upon those who have more than enough the natural obligation to provide for the needs of others. Whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor.natural law -ST II II, Q 66, a 7 The duty, however, does not imply an equal right on the part of those in need to take from those who have such possessions, except in the case of urgent need. If the need be so manifest and urgent, that it is evident that the present need must be remedied by whatever means be at hand (for instance when a person is in some imminent danger, and there is no other possible remedy), then it is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another's propertyperson -Ibid.
Disparity These principles come face to face with the disparity between the rich and the poor in our world. As many are without basic needs, let alone those befitting the dignity of man, others are blessed with a superabundance of wealth. The recent occupy movement, of course, has also drawn attention to the disparity (though not nearly as extreme as elsewhere) which exists in our own country.
Political Means There may be political means of remedying this situation to some extent. Politics concerns the common good. Furthermore, as we have seen, the actual division of property is something not specified by Natural Law. As such, positive law has some authority over this division, although it must act within due moderation, respecting the rights and needs of owners and the principle of subsidiarity. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether. The State would therefore be unjust and cruel if under the name of taxation it were to deprive the private owner of more than is fair [by excessive taxation, for instance]. -RN 47 Authority might, by various means, discourage large concentrations of wealth and promote a wide distribution of ownership, so that as many as possible might receive more directly the benefits of the earths goods. The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners. -RN 46
Benefits of Widespread Ownership Leo XIII points out several more benefits which would result from widespread ownership (RN 47) Property will certainly become more equitably divided If workers can look forward to ownership, division between classes will be decreased. great abundance of the fruits of the earth Men work harder on that which is their own, and this would produce a greater abundance. men would cling to the country in which they were born Men would less willingly leave their own country if they are able to support themselves on their native land.
Individual Action The search for political remedies to the condition of the poor and the disparity of wealth (so far as such remedies can be had) must not forget the duties of individuals towards their fellow human beings. It remains the case that the goods exist to provide to all men what is necessary for them to live, not only at an animal live, but in a fitting manner. The universal destination of goods must always guide our use of our possessions and move us to provide for the needs of the poor out of these possessions.