The Very Imperfect Super Injunction
Under the headline "The Perfect Marriage" the Daily Mail gushed in prose so breathless anaerobic life forms sprouted spontaneously on the screen:
“Eleven years ago this month, Sir Elton John proposed to his partner, David Furnish, thus formalising a relationship that — as the whole world knows — has blossomed into one of the most blissfully happy of show business marriages. We know this, of course, because Sir Elton and David have been generous enough to share almost every detail of their relationship and family life through the pages of celebrity magazines, in high-profile TV interviews and on social media.”
Leaving aside the need to wipe one's screen & overdose on anti-nausea medication, there cannot now be a literate person in the British Isles who does not know that Elton John, and his husband David Furnish, are the couple at the centre of the long running “PJS” super-injunction. The journalist who typed that saccharine fogged horror knows, as everybody with access to the internet knows. The courts have become Canute's courtiers standing in a digital tide.
Furnish flew to the US for a tryst with a gay couple who subsequently (no honour amongst sluts) tried sell a kiss-and-tell to the Sun newspaper. The Sun, preparing the article, contacted lawyers for the couple. The Elton Johns were granted a ferocious super-injunction to protect their privacy largely argued on the grounds of protecting “their” children. Mr Furnish was not being unfaithful; Judge Jackson noted that “the spouse of PJS accepts that theirs is not a mutually exclusive sexual relationship”.
The internet is international, not bound by a London court and sites on servers in California, Canton and Cavan can be read by English men and women, making the court's action seem futile but with the great blunt mace of the super injunction the court may fiercely coerce silence. The English can read news on foreign sites but they will be punished for discussing it. This is late Tudor England with electric light. The court has infantilised the English in a desperate attempt to preserve a propaganda Potemkin village for the English establishment.
What does it matter if some guy flies to America for a night of sex with two other middle aged men? We are all adults, are we not and is not their private life their own? Who are we, mere humans, fallible and frail, to judge.
Who are we indeed.
The tawdry private life of the couple, the arrangements they make for their own amusement wouldnt matter if they had not spent some much effort convincing us that they do. A fictional version of their life together has been slathered in every media outlet that can print or say the home life of our own dear queen and this has been for brutal political purpose. The press is for propaganda and the commoners as a have a no right to know the truth or competing versions of the truth. The court, wittingly or unwittingly has made itself partner in a vicious hypocrisy, defending the illusion of the Elton John's family life against its sordid reality and worse, pretending to do it for the children so that the great and good may go on lying.
Little argument can be made for the saving children from the putative damage of the relationships public exposure when they are living with two selfish hedonists who obtained them by purchase. If the story behind the super injunction casts a cold light on the Elton John's understanding of marriage, it must cast an icy glaze on the horrid practice of surrogacy: a combination of eugenics, prostitution, kidnapping, slavery and child abuse regarded as a a thing of beauty by every fashionable clown.
Not buying the Sun for a few days in the Elton John household is a better option than coercive national censorship. If you make your relationship a lodestar of public policy, the public have every right to hear about that relationship's reality even if that makes you blush, sweat or squirm. Elton John regularly uses his relationship and those children to bolster arguments for issues as far reaching as transgender bathroom rights in North Carolina.( http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/civil-rights/279995-north-carolina-governors-ignorance-of-trans-identity) The super injunction is a wealthy elitist having his cake and eating it but being backed by the public courts in the act.
If public policy is to be argued and defended by reference to one's own family, it is a logical quid pro quo that one's family life is publically reportable. The Supreme Court, by re-instating the injunction thrown out by the Court of Appeals, has placed the lives of the rich, famous and who have children out of bounds. Because the Elton Johns are wealthy and have children, the rules that apply to media reporting their sexual escapades are markedly different to the reporting of childless Darren and Mandy from Dagenham. “Love rat Darren ate my hamster” is permissible but the exposure of celeb parents with the funds to persuade the state of the value of their privacy is anathema.
This creates a strange, unlegislated, new restriction on press freedom. Kiss-and-tell and Darren-broke-my-bed stories may be distasteful, boring, reassurance for the miserable that nobody is really any better, a way of keeping everybody in the mud, but they are the price of a free press. That price is worth paying many times over.
Giving the right to decide what can be reported or what is news to anybody other than those who buy papers or consume news, is toxically dangerous, undermining the ability of media to report the actions of the powerful and leaving the public less trusting with each omission, each breach of the trust that we will be told the story.
Tinfoil hats and conspiracies thrive in the half-light these super injunctions generate. They have no place in a net linked world or in a free country.
Il partito personale, la politica urlata, la radio liberista con i soldi pubblici, il pacifismo pro guerra in Irak, il ghandismo imperialista neomalthusiano, i propri amanti in carriera nel partito, la banalizzazione dei referendum , il favore dei media senza riscontro nelle urne, i finti digiuni. la paternità irresponsabile, l'individualismo nichilista dei diritti "civili", la sperimentazione sugli esseri umani, la necrofilia di Stato , Giacinto detto Marco meriterebbe un riconoscimento pubblico: la dedica di un cimitero per ricordare quanti innocenti aveva sulla coscienza.
Tendenza Pannella. Leggevo le cronache a metà tra la leggenda mitologica e il santino, questo rose&fiori e le deferenze post mortem che sono autentici pompini collettivi ad ingoio fatti un po' per nemesi e tanto per reticenza, e pensavo che se tanto mi dà tanto, voglio anch’io un partitino di fatto personale.
Un partitino finto-estremista in realtà sempre nel cuore del formaggio. Un partitino fintamente controcorrentista ma perfettamente conforme al potere che vuole l'uomo abbracciato a un'idea caricaturale di libertà disgiunta dall'adesione energica alla verità e dal bene, ridotti a istanze relative.
Un partitino che strilli contro la partitocrazia, un grillismo ante litteram, ma solo perché da essa è esclusa, e che tuttavia di partitocrazia ha retoricamente campato per anni, come l'antimafia campa di mafia.
Un partitino costosissimo, vedesi bilanci, in cui le perdite siano intestate al contribuente e il patrimonio immobiliare intestato a me.
Un partitino con idee facili, quindi capricciose se non addirittura semplicemente dementi, quindi persuasive se non addirittura performanti, che usa il metodo manicheo del referendum per banalizzare la complessità della realtà fino a semidistruggerla.
Un partitino che si finga vittima e agisca da ricattatore.
Un partitino che traffichi con la destra o con la sinistra a seconda della momentanea convenienza senza essere tratto come Razzi e Verdini.
Un partitino dove gli organi dirigenti esistano solo per ratificare le mie decisioni, senza essere etichettato come fascista come succede al M5s.
Un partitino dove per diventare segretari o parlamentari sia utile se non indispensabile piacermi fisicamente, venire in albergo con me e baciarmi sulla bocca durante le riunioni, senza soprassalti di voyeurismo pornopolitico come è accaduto a Berlusconi.
Un partitino come quello Radicale di Marco Pannella, sconfitto quasi sempre - l'unico "merito" su cui i Radicali possono davvero mettere il cappello è quello sull'aborto, sul resto o si sono accodati (divorzio) o son stati gabbati (finanziamento pubblico) o hanno perso (eutanasia e droga) - ma che ha catechizzato tutte le vecchie chiese, col Pd attuale buona sintesi contemporanea di come l'incontro tra la cultura comunista e quella cattolica sfoci nel radicalismo di massa.
Ergo: Pannella non è stato un reietto non capito, ma un leader morto da vincente. È stato l'unico leader di fatto vincente. Quindi culturalmente al potere anche senza un potere apparente da esercitare. Uno che è morto non stando semplicemente in maggioranza ma che ha ispirato la maggioranza. È stato l'ideologo delle attuali maggioranze. Infatti oggi il potere è da questa parte e andare controcorrente significa stare dall'altra parte, cercando come possibile di impiegare la maggior parte del tempo a organizzare un pensiero a metà strada tra il creativo, l'eversione e l'adesione alla verità intesa come rispetto totale della realtà, e il resto a tentare di difendersi da dileggio e derisioni per esser «fuori dal tempo».
I Photograph Breastfeeding Moms To Show That It Shouldn’t Be Taboo
In honour of Mother’s Day this year, I decided to put together a breastfeeding series focusing on one of the many ways that mothers nurture, soothe, and comfort across the globe.
Breastfeeding has always been a topic I hold close to my heart. I find the miraculous way our bodies can grow, birth and nourish babies simply fascinating.
After three babies of my own, I know first hand that breastfeeding is not always simple or easy. It presents a series of challenges that range from physical to emotional. It is not for every mother, or for every child. Sometimes it isn’t even a choice. I respect and support the difficult decisions all mamas make to provide what is best for their babies.
Join me in celebrating the love present in these moments and uplifting Mommies everywhere. Happy Mother’s Day!!
More info: Facebook
This project was inspired by an incident that occurred when I posted my first breastfeeding self-portrait on the internet
What absolutely baffled me is the negativity and blatant shaming that nursing mothers face daily, particularly when it stems from other women
I wear my own breastfeeding battle scars proudly
They prevented me from nursing my first baby the way I wanted, for as long as I wanted
The second time around was much easier
I was able to experience the incredible bond and euphoria through breastfeeding, that I had yearned to feel the first time
I took this self portrait when my younger daughter was starting to wean, so that I could have a tangible memory of those cherished moments
My self portrait encapsulates love and motherhood in all the little details I want to remember
It also stands for strength and perseverance in the name of challenges
It’s sometimes not even a choice and I respect and support the difficult decisions all mamas make to provide what is best for their babies
When I photograph mothers nursing their children I am overcome with a sense of peace that permeates my entire being
The connection and love present is powerful, organic, sometimes raw, but absolutely beautiful
I feel the need to celebrate and bring awareness to a topic that still remains as taboo as it is natural
Join me in celebrating the love present in these moments and uplifting Mommies everywhere
Happy Mother’s Day!
You can see more images here
Putnam and analytical Thomism, Part I
Hilary Putnam, who died a couple of months ago, had some interest in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition, even if in part it was a critical interest. One area where this interest manifested itself is the philosophy of mind; another is the philosophy of religion. I’ll address the former in this post and the latter in a later post. Let’s consider in particular an exchange between Putnam and the analytical Thomist philosopher John Haldane in the volume Hilary Putnam: Pragmatism and Realism, edited by James Conant and Urszula Zeglen.
Some background: In a series of books and articles, Putnam put forward penetrating criticisms of materialist attempts to explain the intentionality (or “directedness” or meaningfulness) of thought in causal terms. The basic idea of such theories -- greatly to oversimplify -- is that a brain process (say) will count as a thought with the content that the cat is on the mat if it is caused by the presence of the cat on the mat. As Putnam argued, a fatal problem with such theories is that they have no way of characterizing the causal relation in question without implicitly presupposingintentionality, when the whole point of such theories is to explain how intentionality enters the picture in the first place. More generally, the notion of causation which such materialist theories require is not one to which the theorists are entitled given their notion of what counts as “physical.”
I discussed Putnam’s critique in some detail in a post a few years ago, and also in my essay “Hayek, Popper, and the Causal Theory of the Mind” (reprinted in Neo-Scholastic Essays), wherein I noted that to some extent Putnam is recapitulating an argument presented in a more rudimentary way decades earlier by Karl Popper. (When I sent Putnam that essay he confirmed that he had “had no idea” that Popper had put forward such an argument. Great minds think alike.) As I also noted in these articles, Putnam argued that to salvage causal theories of the sort he criticizes would require returning to an essentially Aristotelian conception of nature of precisely the sort materialists suppose to have been supplanted by post-Newtonian science.
Now, while Putnam is sympathetic to the anti-reductionist bent of Aristotelianism, he too resists returning to an Aristotelian conception of nature. That brings us to his exchange with Haldane. Haldane’s essay has the memorable title “Realism with a metaphysical skull,” which is a play on the title of Putnam’s book Realism with a Human Face. Putnam wants to defend the reality of the everyday, commonsense world of human experience against reductionistic materialists who are willing to affirm the reality only of what can be described in the language of physical science. Haldane argues (correctly, in my view) that doing this successfully requires defending also some version of an Aristotelian conception of nature, which is what Putnam is unwilling to do. The “human face,” in Haldane’s view, requires an underlying “metaphysical skull” to hold it up.
One of the themes of Haldane’s article is that it is -- as Putnam himself emphasizes -- a mistake to try to explain the relationship between mind and world in terms of causal relations between inner mental representations (Lockean ideas, sentences in a “language of thought,” or what have you) and physical objects. One of the problems with this approach is that it opens up a gap between mind and world which can never be closed. Another is that it presupposes too narrow an understanding of causation. Modern representationalist-cum-causal theories of the mind confine themselves to what Aristotelians call efficientcausation (and a desiccated notion of efficient causation at that). The right way to understand the relationship between mind and world, Haldane argues, is in terms of formal causation.
One application of this idea is that the right way to understand the relationship between a thought and its object is in terms of formal identity. When you judge that such-and-such an object is a triangle, what happens is that the mind takes on the very same form that the matter of which the triangle is composed has taken on. Precisely because there is, on the side of the thought, nothing material that has taken on this form, the thought is not itselfa triangle (as any material thing that took on that form would be) but merely a thought about a triangle. But precisely because it has the very same form that the triangle has, the thought is a thought about a triangle rather than about something else. Again, thought and thing are formally identical, though not identical full stop. And because of this formal identity there is no gap between mind and world that needs to be bridged in the efficient-causal terms that causal theories of thought appeal to.
In his reply to this in the Conant and Zeglen volume, Putnam notes first that he is to some extent sympathetic with Haldane’s position. In particular, he notes that some analytic philosophers have tended to distinguish sharply between concepts(as constituents of thought) and properties(as entities entirely independent of thought). Putnam is sympathetic to the idea that this sharp distinction is mistaken and that talk of “concepts” and talk of “properties” are really just two ways of talking about the same things. To the extent that this is what the Aristotelian is saying, Putnam tells us, he is happy to go along with it.
But Putnam is not happy to go along with the whole metaphysical package associated with formal causation. As far as I can tell, he raises three objections in his reply to Haldane. The first is that Putnam thinks that talk about the mind taking on the form of a triangle when it thinks of a triangle (my example, not Putnam’s) “too much suggests” that the thinking is itself a triangle -- which is, of course, absurd, and not what the Aristotelian is saying -- but that Putnam doesn’t have “the foggiest notion of what [such talk] is supposed to mean” otherwise.
Now, it’s hard for me to know what to say about this objection other than that it seems to me that Putnam is just ignoring, without answering, the details of the Aristotelian hylemorphic analysis of physical objects -- including details Haldane summarizes in his paper. Because when those details are taken account of, it just isn’t mysterious what the Aristotelian is saying (whether or not one agrees with what he is saying). Hylemorphism, to a first approximation, distinguishes between the matter or stuff out of which a physical thing is made and the form or pattern that configures that matter or stuff into a physical thing of a certain specific type. It is only the two together that make up a physical object. Hence the form of a triangle -- that is to say, the form or pattern of being a closed plane figure with three straight sides -- is not itself a triangle or any other material object. It is only matter together with this form which is a triangle.
Now, in light of that, it is hardly fair to say that talk of the intellect taking on the form of a triangle absurdly “suggests” (“too much” or otherwise) that the thinking itself amounts to a triangle. It would suggest this only if it were suggested that the matter of a triangle as well as the form is taken on by the mind. But this is precisely what is being denied, since the claim is that the form of a triangle exists within the mind without the matter. Hence a thought about a triangle no more counts even prima facie as a triangle than the form of a triangle all by itself and without matter could count as a triangle. Hence for Putnam to claim that the Aristotelian position “too much suggests” that a thought about a triangle itself just is a triangle simply ignores the whole distinction between form and matter which is the heart of the theory.
Nor will it do for Putnam to say that it is mysterious what the Aristotelian is saying if the Aristotelian doesn’t mean that a thought about a triangle just is a triangle. For the Aristotelian is simply saying that the very same form or pattern -- that of being a closed plane figure with three straight sides -- is both what makes such-and-such a material object a triangle, specifically, and what gives such-and-such a thought its specific content. A certain material object has the form or pattern of being a closed plane figure with three straight sides; that’s what makes it a triangle specifically. You grasp the form or pattern of being a closed plane figure with three straight sides; that’s what makes your thought a thought about a triangle specifically. Because it is one and the same form in both cases, we have what Haldane calls formal identity. Because, in the case of the thought, it is the form of the triangle alone, and apart from the matter, that is present, the thought is not itself a triangle. Now, one can raise all sorts of questions and objections to this, but to suggest that we haven’t even the “foggiest notion” of what it means seems to me a real stretch.
Putnam’s second objection is that there is with at least some things no one pattern that could plausibly count as the “form” or essence of the thing. He gives the example of a dog, and he says that for a molecular biologist, the DNA of a dog would count as what is essential; for a population biologist, being part of a certain reproductive population would be what is essential; for a pet lover a wild dog might not count as a “dog,” while it might count as a dog from the point of view of a scientist; dingos might count as dogs from an Australian aboriginal point of view, but as members of a different species from an American point of view; and so forth.
The problem with this is that Putnam here runs together features and descriptions of very different types, which Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophers would carefully distinguish before trying to determine the essence of a thing. We need to distinguish, for example, between a thing’s essence and its “proper accidents,” which flow from its essence. (To take the stock example, the essence of a human being is to be a rational animal, and the capacity for amusement is one of the proper accidents that flows from this essence.) We also need to distinguish between these proper accidents (or “properties,” as that term is used in Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics) and merely contingent accidents. (For example, unlike the capacity for amusement, skin color is a merely contingent accident of a human being, not being something that flows from rational animality as such.) We need to distinguish what is “natural,” in the Aristotelian sense that it follows from an inherent or built-in tendency of a thing, from what is “artificial” in the sense that it is true of a thing only by virtue of some extrinsic or externally imposed pattern. (Spelling this out requires the distinctions between substantial form versus accidental form, and between immanent teleology versus extrinsic teleology.) And so on. The Aristotelian theory of formal cause can be properly understood only in light of all these distinctions.
Putnam essentially conflates all the different sorts of phenomena captured by these distinctions and lumps them together as equally good candidates for “the form” or “the essence” of a thing. And that simply gets the Aristotelian position badly wrong. An Aristotelian metaphysician looking for the essence of dogs would say, first of all, that cultural associations and linguistic practices of the sort that some of Putnam’s examples involve are simply not relevant to determining the essence of any natural substance like a dog. (Such assumptions and practices often mix together what are aspects of a thing deriving from its substantial form and those that involve merely accidental forms. Finding the essence is in part a matter of separating these out.) The Aristotelian would also note that reproductive capacities follow from deeper physiological facts about an animal, so that an animal’s status as a member of a reproductive population is less fundamental to what it is -- that is to say, to its essence -- than its DNA would be. But the Aristotelian would also caution against simply identifying the essence of a thing with some “hidden structure” like DNA. And so on. (All of these issues are dealt with in my book Scholastic Metaphysics, in David Oderberg’s Real Essentialism, and in writings by other Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophers.)
It is in any event no good for the critic of Aristotelianism simply to pull out of his hat some random example -- whether dogs or anything else -- note some complications or controversies in determining the essence of the thing, and declare that he’s identified some grave difficulty for Aristotelianism. This sort of objection is very common, but it is completely misguided. Not only does it typically ignore the sorts of distinctions just referred to, but it seems to assume that Aristotelians suppose that a thing’s essence can be determined fairly easily on the basis of a cursory examination.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Neither cursory inspection, nor even cursory inspection together with the complex theoretical apparatus I’ve alluded to (substantial versus accidental form, essence versus proper accidents, etc.), will typically suffice to tell us the essence of a thing. Detailed investigation of a physiological, chemical, or other scientific kind is often required in order to determine a thing’s essence, to determine what are really only proper accidents rather than part of the essence, and so forth. I know of no Aristotelian who denies this or supposes that these questions can be settled from the armchair. Nor does Aristotelian metaphysics as such ride on how such an investigation turns out -- as if the defensibility of the entire system of the four causes, the theory of actuality and potentiality, hylemorphism, etc. waits with bated breath on what the facts about dogs turn out to be! The most that would ride on the results of such an investigation is how we apply the system, not the soundness of the system itself. (For example, if it turned out even after detailed investigation that there simply was no plausible candidate for the essence of dogs, this might be interpreted as showing that “dog” is really a kind of accidental or artifactual category rather than reflective of a substantial form -- not that I think this is remotely likely.)
(Putnam also says that Haldane later suggested in response to the objection at hand that the essence of a dog might simply be the conjunctionof all of the candidates for the form of a dog cited by Putnam. But Putnam does not tell us where Haldane said this, and I find it hard to believe Haldane did or would say that, since it is just a bizarre thing for an Aristotelian to say. I think Putnam must have simply misunderstood whatever remark of Haldane’s he has in mind here.)
Putnam’s third objection against Haldane is that forms do no real explanatory work. For to say that the form or pattern being a triangle is what makes some particular triangle a triangle “sounds either tautological or nonsensical.” But the answer to this objection should be clear from what was said above. The form being a triangle -- or, as I put it above, being a closed plane figure with three straight sides -- does not suffice to make something a triangle, because both triangles and thoughts about triangles have that form, and the latter are not triangles. Being a triangle requires both the form in question and matter. Hence the claim that “the form of being a triangle is what makes some particular triangle a triangle” is not tautological or trivially true. It could be tautological or trivially true only if the presence of the form of being a triangle sufficed all by itself for the presence of a triangle, and it does not. It might also sound tautological if the words “being a triangle” were thought to capture the entirety of what it is to be a triangle, but of course that is not the case either.
The claim in question is really shorthand for something like “The form being a closed plane figure with three straight sides, when combined with matter, is what results in a triangle (as opposed to a circle, a square, a dog, etc.).” And that is not a tautological claim. (Certainly not when we go on to explicate form and matter in terms of the theory of actuality and potentiality, etc. For the hylemorphic analysis so developed, far from being trivially true, is one that critics of Aristotelianism claim to be false,and a claim can’t be both false and trivially true.) Nor is the claim in question nonsensical. As I noted above, it is clear what it means, whether or not one agrees with the Aristotelian analysis. (The rote objection that explanations in terms of substantial forms and causal powers are tautologies is one I address at greater length in Scholastic Metaphysics, at pp. 43-46.)
So, Putnam’s objections fail. In fairness, though, it must be said that Putnam does try to engage with the Aristotelian-Thomistic position in a fair-minded way, and he sees its strengths -- and the ways in which neo-Aristotelian assumptions are implicit even in some of what contemporary naturalist philosophers unwittingly say -- far more clearly than these naturalists themselves do. And needless to say, Putnam was in any event one of the great figures of contemporary philosophy, whose work always repays careful study. Again, in a future post I’ll consider how he engaged with Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy in the context of philosophy of religion.
Do You Know Where Your Money Is?
Some time ago, an avowedly pro-life presidential candidate was taken to task for owning stocks in corporations that supported embryonic stem cell research. He admitted it was true, but he pleaded ignorance: the money was in a blind trust and he didn’t know how it was being invested. He instructed his trustee to avoid such investments in the future. Why he didn’t issue such instructions previously is a question that was left unanswered.
Something quite similar happened in G.K. Chesterton’s time when a prominent politician was accused of owning stock in an armament firm. The politician made the excuse that he had put his money in a “combine” (the 1930’s equivalent of a mutual fund) and the combine had for a time covered an armament firm without his knowing it. As Chesterton prophetically observed:
In other words, as modern investments are made, almost anybody may have his money in some sense in an armament firm, or a business financing an armament firm, or a business financing an assassination firm, for all the individual investor generally knows about it. Now this sort of anonymity and anarchy, which the Communists extravagantly compliment by calling the Capitalist System, is obviously nothing more than one vast dishonourable muddle, into which no honest man should allow his own private affairs to slide, but into which all the private and public affairs of this great nation have been allowed to slide in the slimiest and most evasive fashion. That nobody really knows where his money is, or what it is doing, or whether even the total strangers who have taken charge of it have not handed over the charge to people even stranger, and sometimes very strange indeed – that is a state of things intrinsically and intellectually intolerable.1
The only way we can tolerate a state of things that is intellectually intolerable is not to think about it. And that is how millions of otherwise good and moral people support very bad and immoral things. They don’t think about it. Chesterton describes our buying and selling of stocks as a “mechanical routine.” We don’t know if we are financing assassination… or abortion. We don’t know what is being built with our hi-tech stocks or what is being ravished with our low-tech stocks. We don’t know if our investment, which may be promoting health and wealth nearby, is promoting poverty far away because of unethical and even oppressive business practices. We don’t know who is being hired and who is being fired with our money. And we have no control over the most obscene thing we finance: the gargantuan paychecks to CEOs which include multi-million dollar severance packages that these guys get… after they’ve run a corporation into the toilet. “Normal responsibility,” says Chesterton, “has been paralysed in the modern commercial world.”
This very pointed question of what our money is doing brings up the more general question of what is the proper perspective toward owning stocks. There are three different views on this subject:
- It is a financial risk that is no different than playing craps. Except that craps is more fun. In either case, you can get rich or go broke or possibly stay even. It’s your money and you can do whatever you want with it. (This is the view of most investors, though few would put it in quite those terms.)
- It is all a pyramid scheme—the epitome of capitalism, of everybody trying to get rich with everybody else’s money—and it will collapse. In fact, it has collapsed a number of times. No Distributist should put resources into such fragile, fleeting, and false hopes. (This is the view of what some would describe as idealists, but who in any case probably have no money to invest.)
- It is a way to support companies and causes that we feel will benefit society as a whole, that really do help build a better world and, in turn, a way for those companies to reward that support. To invest in something means to put faith in it. (This could certainly be described as a responsible view. But we don’t know if it has ever actually been tried.)
No matter what our view of stocks, we simply cannot defend investing in immoral activities. We have to pay attention. At a minimum that means working with investment firms or individual brokers who are accountable and trustworthy, and giving them clear instructions up front about what your money cannot be used for. Chestertonian Denny Hartford, a Pentecostal minister and pro-life activist from Omaha, Nebraska, urges:
Consider an investment policy that asserts the primacy of principle over principal … remember that purity is as important in your money matters as it is any other part of your life.
Or to paraphrase another observer about investment policies: where is the profit if you make a lot of money on the stock market but lose your soul?
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