William Morris on the power of mediæval guilds, in ‘A Summary of the Principles of Socialism’:
‘The trade guilds which in the first instance were thoroughly democratic in their constitution, protected the craftsmen against unregulated competition, or from the attempt to oppress them in any way. Moreover, as it was easy then for a labourer to obtain a patch of land, and to remove himself wholly or in part from the wage-earners, so a journeyman apprentice starting in life as a mere worker could and generally did attain to the dignity of a master craftsman in mature age. The amount of capital to be amassed ere a man could work for himself was so small that no serious barrier was placed between the journeyman and independence; besides, the arrangements of the guilds were such that wherever a craftsmen wandered he was received as a brother of his particular craft. Although also the rest of Europe was behind England in the settlement of the people on the soil, the craft-guilds were even more important in the Low Countries and part of Germany in the Middle Ages than in England. Thus it should appear that in the record of the feudal development the period reached in each country when the peasant was a free man working for himself upon the land, and the craftsman was likewise a free man master of his own means of production represents the time of greatest individual prosperity for the people.’
Many, following Thomas Jefferson, assert that all men are created æqual and therefore that all men must be treated the same; others assert with the like vehemence that men are not created æqual and therefore that no one is bound to care for other men except a certain class regarded as one’s own. But Lactantius says this, in Divine Institutes 5.14.15–20, on justice:
‘The second part of justice [after pietas] is fairness; I mean not simply the fairness involved in good judgments, which is itself a laudable thing in a just man, but the fairness of levelling oneself with everyone else, what Cicero calls “equality of status”. God who created human beings and gave them the breath of life wanted all to be on a level, that is, to be equal, and he established the same conditions of life for everyone, creating all to be wise and pledging them all immortality; no one is cut off from God’s celestial benevolence. Just as he divides his unique light equally between all, makes springs flow, supplies food and grants the sweet refreshment of sleep to all, so too he bestows fairness and virtue on all. No one is a slave with him, and no one is a master, for if “he is the same father to everyone” [Lucr. 2.992], so are we all his children with equal rights. No one is poor in God’s eyes except for lack of justice, and no one is rich without a full tally of the virtues; moreover, no one is illustrious except for goodness and innocence; no one is most notable except for lavish works of charity; no one is most perfect except for having completed every degree of virtue. That is why neither Romans nor Greeks could command justice, because they kept people distinct in different grades from poor to rich, from weak to strong, from lay power up to the sublime power of kings. Where people are not all equal, there is no fairness: the inequality excludes justice of itself. The whole force of justice lies in the fact that everyone who comes into this human estate on equal terms is made equal by it.’
John Williamson Nevin, in ‘Catholic Unity’:
‘Nor should it relieve the case at all to our feelings, that we may not be able to see how it is possible to bring this state of things to an end. An evil does not cease to be such, simply because it may seem to exclude all hope of correction. Those who seek to reconcile us to the system of sects in the Church, by insisting on the impossibility of reducing them to the same communion, presume greatly either upon our ignorance or our apathy as it regards the claims of the whole subject. If we know that the Church is called by her very constitution to be visibly, as well as invisibly one, we are not likely to believe that any difficulties which stand in the way of this are absolutely insuperable in their own nature. And if we have come to feel the weight of the interest itself, as exhibited in the last prayer of the Saviour, we are not likely to be soothed and quieted over the general surrender of it by a view which cuts off all hope of its ever being recovered.’
Emile Durkheim in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (The Free Press, 1995), 210: ‘Opinion, eminently a social thing, is one source of authority. Indeed, the question arises whether authority is not the daughter of opinion. Some will object that science is often the antagonist of opinion, the errors of which it combats and corrects. But science can succeed in this task only if it has sufficient authority, and it can gain such authority only from opinion itself. All the scientific demonstrations in the world would have no influence if a people had no faith in science. Even today, if it should happen that science resisted a very powerful current of public opinion, it would run the risk of seeing its credibility eroded.’
Karl Marx, in ‘Wages of Labour’, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, against the notion that a mere increase in wages is adequate or even ultimately useful to the worker:
‘The raising of wages excites in the worker the capitalist’s mania to get rich, which he, however, can only satisfy by the sacrifice of his mind and body. The raising of wages presupposes and entails the accumulation of capital, and thus sets the product of labour against the worker as something ever more alien to him. Similarly, the division of labour [which is increased by the accumulation of capital] renders him ever more one-sided and dependent, bringing with it the competition not only of men but also of machines. Since the worker has sunk to the level of a machine, he can be confronted by the machine as a competitor.’
Raising the worker’s wages has not given him greater power over his own work; instead, because of the other things a wage increase involves, it has only further alienated the worker from his work and its product. Thus, Marx says, Proudhon is wrong to regard æquality of wages as the goal of social revolution; instead, he goes on to say, the workers need to seize the means of production for themselves in order to take back their own work.
Statue of a plumber, Omsk, Russia
John W. Gardner in Excellence: Can We Be Equal and Excellent Too? (1961):
‘The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.’
In other news, I should watch Good Will Hunting.
John Bramhall, in His Lordship’s answer to M. de la Milletierre, on the value of our merits at the hour of our death:
‘It is an easy thing for a wrangling sophister to dispute of Merits in the schools, or for a vain orator to declaim of Merits out of the pulpit; but when we come to lie upon our death-beds, and present ourselves at the last hour before the tribunal of Christ, it is high time both for you and us to renounce our own merits, and to cast ourselves naked into the arms of our Saviour. That any works of ours (who are the best of us but “unprofitable servants”; which properly are not ours but God’s own gifts; and if they were ours, are a just debt due unto Him, setting aside God’s free promise and gracious acceptation) should condignly by their own intrinsical value deserve the joys of Heaven, to which they have no more proportion than they have to satisfy for the eternal torments of Hell; – this is that which we have renounced, and which we ought never to admit.’
Jeremy Taylor, in ‘Via Pacis: A short Method of Peace and Holiness’, on the subordinate place of knowledge:
‘What availeth knowledge without the fear of God? A humble ignorant man is better then a proud scholar, who studies natural things, and knows not himself. The more thou knowest, the more grievously thou shalt be judged: Many get no profit by their labour, because they contend for knowledge, rather then for holy life; and the time shall come, when it shall more avail thee to have subdu’d one lust, then to have known all mysteries.’
Abraham Kuyper in Pro Rege 2, on the abolition of slavery by the impulse of the gospel:
‘We owe the abolition of slavery exclusively to Christ’s dominion in the family. Neither Christ nor his apostles ever demanded that every converted slaveholder immediately release all his slaves. We find no command in Scripture by which the rights applying in those times were either attacked or overturned. The slavery that already existed was allowed to continue under the gospel. But the gospel did penetrate the master-servant relationship; from this position, it went on to sanctify this relationship spiritually and to elevate it by appealing to masters to honor their slaves not only as their fellow human beings but also as their brothers in Christ. With this, the gospel created a situation in which the slave-master relationship gradually came to an end, out of an impulse that the gospel carried within itself.’
Joseph Marie comte de Maistre in Against Rousseau: On the State of Nature and On the Sovereignty of the People (McGill-Queen’s Press, 1996), 87:
‘Nothing is so important to [man] as prejudices. Let us not take this word in a bad sense. It does not necessarily mean false ideas, but only, in the strict sense of the word, opinions adopted before any examination. Now these sorts of opinions are man’s greatest need, the true elements of his happiness, and the Palladium of empires. Without them, there can be neither worship, nor morality, nor government. There must be a state religion just as there is a state policy; or, rather, religious and political dogmas must be merged and mingled together to form a complete common or national reason strong enough to repress the aberrations of individual reason, which of its nature is the mortal enemy of any association whatever because it produces on divergent opinions.’
Julius Evola, in Revolt Against the Modern World (Inner Traditions International, 1995), 350:
‘America too, in the essential way it views life and the world, has created a “civilization” that represents an exact contradiction of the ancient European tradition. It has introduced the religion of praxis and productivity; it has put the quest for profit, great industrial production, and mechanical, visible, and quantitative achievements over any other interest. It has generated a soulless greatness of a purely technological and collective nature, lacking any background of transcendence, inner light, and true spirituality. America has [built a society] in which man becomes a mere instrument of production and material productivity within a conformist social conglomerate.’
Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political:
‘As German and other languages do not distinguish between the private and political enemy, many misconceptions and falsifications are possible. The often quoted “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27) reads “diligite inimicos vestros,” and not “diligite hostes vestros.” No mention is made of the political enemy. Never in the thousand-year struggle between Christians and Moslems did it occur to a Christian to surrender rather than defend Europe out of love toward the Saracens or Turks. The enemy in the political sense need not be hated personally, and in the private sphere only does it make sense to love one’s enemy, i.e., one’s adversary. The Bible quotation touches the political antithesis even less than it intends to dissolve, for example, the antithesis of good and evil or beautiful and ugly. It certainly does not mean that one should love and support the enemies of one’s own people.’
We have no presidential election until 2016, but it still is important to vote. Find your polling place below.
Of course, I tend to be pretty vote-happy. If I think sound procedures are being followed, but I have no one worth voting for, I still go to the polling place and enter an abstention. Perhaps you do not. In any case, have a good day.