Chapter 1 — A Few Principles



Man is a person

Man is a person. He is not a mere animal.

All people live in society. The more perfect people are, the more life in society is perfect. The society of angels is more perfect than human society. As for the three Divine Persons, They live in an infinitely intimate society, however, without merging into one.

Moreover, this Divine society is proposed to man as a model: “That they all may be one, as you, Father, in me, and I in you.” (John 17:21.)

Since men are human persons, they also live in society. Association responds to a need of man's nature.

Man is a social being

Life in society responds to man's nature for two reasons:

1. Because the human being is a universe, in God's image, and receives from the model, of whom he is the image, the tendency to give of himself, to communicate the wealth which he possesses;

2. Because he is also a universe of indigence, in the temporal as well as in the spiritual world. The human being needs other human beings to come out of his indigence. He needs others physically for his conception, birth, growth. He needs others intellectually, too: without an acquired education, what intellectual level would a being who is born ignorant achieve?

We will not speak here of his spiritual indigence, nor of the need he has for the society called the Church.

In our studies, we will restrict ourselves to the temporal order, without, however, losing sight of the subordination of the temporal order to the spiritual order, because both the temporal and the spiritual orders concern this same man, and because the final end of this man takes precedence over all intermediary ends.

The common good

Any association exists for a goal. The goal of an association is a certain common good, which varies with the type of association, but it is always the good of each and every one of the members in the association.

It is precisely because it is the good of each and every one that it is a common good. It is not the particular good of only one of its members, nor of a section, that is sought by the association, but the good of each and every one of its members.

Three people join together for an enterprise. Peter contributes his muscle power; John, his initiative and experience; Matthew, his money capital. The common good is the success of the enterprise. But this success of the enterprise is not sought only for the good of Peter, nor only for the good of John, nor only for the good of Matthew. If one of the three is excluded from the benefits of the enterprise, he will not join.

The three form an association to achieve, for all and each of the three, a result that each of the three wants, but that none of the three can really derive alone. The money by itself would not give very much to Matthew; the arms by themselves would bring very little to Peter; the mind by itself would not be sufficient for John. But when the three combine their resources, the enterprise succeeds, and each one benefits from it. All three do not necessarily benefit to the same degree, but each of the three derives more than if he were alone.

Any association that frustrates its associates, or a part of its associates, weakens its bond. The associates are inclined to dissociate. When, in a big society, the marks of discontent become more pronounced, it is precisely because greater and greater numbers of associates are deprived more and more of their share of the common good. At such a time, legislators, if they are wise, seek and take the means to make each and everyone of the members participants in the common good. Trying to checkmate discontent by inflicting punishments on its victims is a very inadequate way of making it disappear.

Besides, since human associations are made of men, thus of people, thus of free intelligent beings, the common good of these associations has certainly got to be in keeping with the spreading out of intelligence and freedom. Otherwise, it is no longer a common good; it is no longer the good, through the association, of each and every one of the free intelligent beingss who compose the association

Ends and means

One must distinguish between ends and means, and especially subordinate the means to the end, and not the end to the means.

The end is the goal aimed at, the objective pursued. The means is the processes, the methods, the acts used to achieve the end.

I want to manufacture a table. My end is the manufacturing of the table. I get planks, I measure, I saw, I plane, I adjust, I nail the wood: so many movements, actions, which are the means used to manufacture the table.

It is the end that I have in sight, the manufacturing of the table, which determines my movements, the use of tools, etc. The end controls the means. The end exists first in my mind, even if the means have to be set to work before achieving this end. The end exists before the means, but it is reached once the means are used.

This seems elementary. But it often happens, in the running of public affairs, that one mistakes the means for the end, and one is all amazed when chaos results. (Editor's note: This reminds us of what Pope John Paul II said before the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, on October 2, 1979: “I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, to excuse me for speaking of questions that are certainly self-evident for you. But it does not seem pointless to speak of them, since the most frequent pitfall for human activities is the possibility of losing sight, while performing them, of the clearest truths, the most elementary principles.”)

Another example of this subject, on which we will return, is employment. So many legislators regard labour as an end of production, and are, by this, driven to demolish or paralyze all labour-saving devices! If they considered labour as a means of producing, they would be satisfied with the amount of labour necessary to achieve the sum of production sought.

Likewise, is the Government not a means to facilitate, for the Provinces, and for the Nation, the pursuit of the common good: therefore to serve, according to the common good, the people who compose the provincial association, the nation? In practice though, does one believe that the Government exists for the people, or the people for the Government?

One could say the same thing about systems. The systems were invented and established to serve man, not man created to serve systems. Then if a system is harmful to the mass of men, do we have to let the multitude suffer for the system, or alter the system so that it will serve the multitude?

Another matter which will be the subject of a long study in this volume: since money was established to facilitate production and distribution, does one have to limit production and distribution to money, or relate money to production and distribution?

Therefore one sees that the error of taking the ends for the means, the means for the ends, or of subordinating the ends to the means, is a stupid, very widespread error, which causes much disorder.

Hierarchy of ends

The end is therefore the objective, the goal sought. But there are far-off ends and more immediate ends, final ends, and intermediate ends.

I am in Montreal. A car company that I work for sends me to China to tie up commercial relations. I begin by taking the train from Montreal to Vancouver. There, I will embark upon a transoceanic liner which will take me to Hong Kong, where I will have recourse to public transportation for the rest of the tour.

As I climb aboard the train in Montreal, it is to go to Vancouver. To go to Vancouver is not the ultimate end of my journey, but it is the end of my journey by railroad.

To reach Vancouver is therefore an intermediate end. It is only an arranged means to the ultimate end of my journey. But, if it is only a means to the far-distant end, it is, in any case, an end as far as the journey by railroad is concerned. And if this intermediate end is not carried out, the ultimate end — tying up commercial relations in China — will not be reached.

The intermediate ends have a determined field. I must not ask the railroad to take me to Hong Kong. Neither must I ask the transoceanic liner to carry me from Montreal to Vancouver.

Besides, I must focus all intermediate ends on the ultimate end. If I take the railroad to Quebec City, I will undoubtedly be able to carry out this special end to perfection: reach Quebec City. But this will certainly not take me to my ultimate end: to tie up commercial relations in China.

You will see shortly the reason for all these elementary distinctions. They seem very simple in the present case: the business trip to China. One is often unaware of them, and one falls into a mess when one comes to the ends of economics.


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