Chapter 11 — The Rights of Each One
to the Bare Necessities of Life


Canadian war production has proven, without a doubt, what Canada can do once it decided to put aside the artificial obstacles, that is, the financial obstacles.

After having made use, to such an extent, of the country's production capacity, will it still be permissible for millions of Canadian families to be condemned to despicable privation, until the country is brought into a total war?

Or else, will we finally demand an economic and social system which serves its purpose? A system which carries out the conditions defined in this sentence of the great Pope Pius XI:

“For then only will the economic and social organism be soundly established and attain its end, when it secures for all and each those goods which the wealth and resources of nature, technical achievement, and the social organization of economic affairs can give.” (Encyclical Letter Quadragesimo Anno.)

For all and each

The economic system must secure, says the Pope. Secure, not only promise, not only display goods in shop windows.

Secure for whom? For everyone. For everyone? Yes, and the Pope stresses: for all and each. All and each does not allow any exception.

Secure what? All those goods which the wealth and resources of nature and technical achievement can secure. In the Arctic, near the North Pole, one could not secure anything. But in Canada? In Canada, where production piles up in normal times much faster than it can be disposed of, this difficulty does not exist.

All goods. This means not to put some under lock and key; not to burn fruit or throw milk into sewers under the eyes of men, women, and children who suffer from hunger.

All goods, for all and each. So each one must get his share. But what share? What amount of goods must the economic and social organism secure for all and each? The Pope states:

“These goods must be sufficient to supply all needs and an honest livelihood.”

An honest livelihood

To supply all needs and an honest livelihood, for all and each: this is exactly what is called for by those who demand the social guarantee of the bare necessities of life, from the cradle to the grave, to each citizen. An honest livelihood actually requires, at least:

Sufficient food, sufficient clothing, sufficient housing, sufficient health production, sufficient leisure time for the body to rest and to rejuvenate the mind.

And for this livelihood to be honest, should freedom — the most beautiful privilege of the human person — be sacrificed? For this minimum income which constitutes an honest livelihood to be guaranteed, must we first kill one another on battlefields? Or, for the wealth and resources of nature and technical achievement to reach the families in peacetime, must we first have a growing proportion of citizens employed by the State? Must we have, insofar as science places solar energy and machines at the service of man, man thrown into the net of State Socialism?

A livelihood subject to such conditions would cease to be honest. An honest livelihood cannot mean the livelihood of a slave who becomes the thing of his master, even if this master is called the State.

An honest livelihood is the papal drawn-up objective of any soundly established economic and social organism.

A right inherent in life in society

But, even if the Holy Father would never have defined this objective, does not mere common sense point it out to us? Each time men join together, is it not to get more easily, through their association, what each associate wants but cannot get alone without greater difficulty? This is true of any enterprise, and it is true of the big association which is called society. Also, in society, as soon as frustrations begin for some members, as soon as more and more people cease to get the benefits which must result from life in society, breakaway forces, the forces of anarchy, begin.

A natural right

Then, who will believe that aspirations common to all men, aspirations that one finds in each individual, can be contrary to order? It is the Creator Himself who has given man his nature. If each person lays claim to a minimum of food, a minimum of protection from the elements through clothing and housing, it is because his nature is such that he cannot live without this minimum.

A birthright

Each person born into this world has a right to life. Whether a newborn makes his entrance into this world in a monarch's palace or in the poorest hut of the poorest of Canadians, he has the right to live, just like anybody else. It is not a matter of the standard of living, but of the bare necessities to keep a person alive.

In front of the right to life, therefore in front of the bare necessities of life, every member of society, every individual of the human race, is equal.

The right to life, the right to the means of living, is a birthright. It is a right which must not infringe upon the rights of others, which must not lower the standard of living of others, in a country that overflows with everything that is needed and where goods are wasted for want of buyers. Therefore, the coming of a newborn child into a family should not result in a breach in the honest livelihood of the family's other members.

And yet, even with all the facilities of modern production and transportation, does our present society guarantee to each of its members the assurance of an honest livelihood? Where, in our civil law, is the statute which ensures to each person being born in our country the necessary minimum for an honest livelihood? One will find many laws to prevent people from ill-treating animals. But there is not one line to prevent a handful of men from holding back the distribution of the abundance. The papal objective of an honest livelihood for all and each is sadly ignored.

An inheritance right

Even if all the goods of this world were under the system of private property, it would not exclude the right of each person, even of the have-nots, to life, and consequently to the bare necessities of life. Property, even private, has a social function to fulfill. Ownership confers on the owner an obligation to manage his property for the common good.

But there are also many goods, many production factors, which remain common property, of which all members of society are co-owners in the same degree.

Of these goods, some are visible, concrete, as in our country, crown forests and the powerful waterfalls, fed free of charge by the pumping force of the sun and the configuration of mountains. To whom do these goods belong? Do they not constitute a real common heritage, to the benefits of which all are entitled?

Then, there are the goods which are less visible, though no less real nor less productive, such as the developments of science applied throughout the centuries. We even believe that applied science becomes a preponderant factor in today's abundant production. Therefore, who will maintain that science is a private good? It is not a matter of ignoring the personal efforts of those who are educated; but even the education acquired by a person imposes on him an obligation towards society, since, to get this education, this person has benefited from all the social organization which allowed it.

Then, there is also the social organization itself which, considered from the mere standpoint of its role in the production of material goods, is a very important factor. If each member of society had to live in isolation and to see to his own livelihood, all by himself, the production of each person, the total production of all, would be immensely less than what it is under the system of division of labour, grafted on the social organization. Therefore, the existence of an organized society increases considerably the production capacity of society as a whole. Is this existence of an organized society a private good, or is it a common good from which all should benefit?

Each human being, being a member of a constituted society, is entitled to a certain quantity of goods, because of the natural right to life, but also as a heir of past generations, and as a co-owner of a common good, of a great many common goods.

The national dividend

But how, nowadays, does a claim to the goods offered by the producing mechanism become valid? How, if not through the bank note or the credit account transmitted by the buyer to the seller, through money? This method has the advantage of making the choice of products more flexible, and of protecting the parties involved in the transaction.

But in order for this method to function without depriving any member of society of his right to live, it is necessary, in today's world, for all and each to possess a minimum of these claims on production, a minimum amount of money, be it cash or bookkeeping money.

It is this minimum of claims on their country's production, ensured to each and everyone of its citizens, that the Social Credit school calls the national dividend. A dividend, because it neither represents a wage nor a salary, which is the reward for personal work, but it represents the right of an heir, the citizen's right to the income from a common capital, the right to existence, that a well-organized society must guarantee to each of its members, just because they exist.

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