Quotes Suitable for Framing: William Graham Sumner

 

 

The type and formula of most schemes of philanthropy or humanitarianism is this: A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D.  The radical vice of all these schemes, from a sociological point of view, is that C is not allowed a voice in the matter,  and his position, character, and interests, as well as the ultimate effects on society through C’s interests, are entirely overlooked.  I call C the Forgotten Man.  For once let us look him up and consider his case, for the characteristic of all social doctors is, that they fix their minds on some man or group of men whose case appeals to the sympathies and the imagination, and they plan remedies addressed to the particular trouble; they do not understand that all the parts of society hold together, and that forces which are set in action act and react throughout the whole organism, until an equilibrium is produced by a re-adjustment of all interests and rights.  They therefore ignore entirely the source from which they must draw all the energy which they employ in their remedies, and they ignore all the effects on other members of society than the ones they have in view.  They are always under the dominion of the superstition of government, and, forgetting that a government produces nothing at all, they leave out of sight the first fact to be remembered in all social discussion – that the State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it.  This latter is the Forgotten Man.

William Graham Sumner, The Forgotten Man

10 Responses to Quotes Suitable for Framing: William Graham Sumner

  • Practical example (inspired by Evangelii Gaudium):
    A = Catholic Church
    B= Gov’t of some country (Bangledesh, example)
    C = Major clothing retailer
    D = garmet workers who work for C in the country of B.
    So, let us say that C is making substantial profits on clothing produced by D. The working conditions of D are wretched and lack even the basic safety equipment for a clothing factory of its size: No water sprinkling system to activate in the event of a fire. Only one exit by which dozens and dozens of workers would need to escape in the event of a fire. No management of combustible materials in the vicinity of hot surfaces, etc.
    “A and B put their heads together to decide what C shall be made to do for D.”
    Who better than B is suited for the job of forcing C – against his will – to spend some of his profits to improve the fire safety working conditions of D? The alternative C has is to leave the jurisdiction of B (which we can explore later). The required improvements are easily affordable from what D is producing there.
    Who better than the leader of A to point out to the faithful their obligation to speak up on behalf of D? And if B won’t listen to A, why not refuse to purchase from C until they make improvements of their own? And if C moves out of the jurisdiction of B, are they beyond the reach of A?
    Evangelii Gaudium says A should take advantage of every opportunity to proclaim the Good News to B, C and D, including via financial and economic interactions.

  • “Who better than B is suited for the job of forcing C – against his will – to spend some of his profits to improve the fire safety working conditions of D?”

    Actually D would be by going on strike. They could then determine what they want: more pay or better working conditions, or a combination of both. Usually there is a trade off in such negotiations between labor and management, with many workers prizing more money above better working conditions. Often what the government wants is not what a majority of workers want when dealing with management directly, rather than government imposing a solution.

    Your analysis of course also overlooks the advantages to B by a growth in the size of government with additional bureaucrats to enforce the Bangladesh Fire Sprinklers’ Act of 2013. Caesar rarely acts out of purely eleemosynary goodness. It also overlooks the members of D who would be unemployed as a result of C paying for the new safety equipment, not to mention the bribes to members of B that are part and parcel of safety regulations as most people who have owned businesses in major cities in this country could attest. Left out from the Equation also are E, potential competitors to C, who will now be priced out of starting up businesses, employing more of D, due to increased costs because of the new safety regulations. Feel good legislation always comes at a price, but A and B in your example could care less, because they will not be paying it.

  • So D’s choices are to organize a union and strike; or quit; or keep working in dangerous conditions that could easily be solved with profits made by C. I am doubtful that D is aware of the danger they are in. No one expects them to be experts in fire safety (or air quality, etc). They just sew garmets.
    And you are saying A has no business telling B or C that their workforce is more precious than the garments they produce and more than a line item on an expense sheet? Benedict XVI (among others) says we should speak up: “Among those who sometimes fail to respect the human rights of workers are large multinational companies as well as local producers.” Caritas in Veritate (22)
    If D opts for more pay in lieu of better conditions, only to die horribly in a fire for that choice, can we as Christians do more than just mourn for a minute and hope that the next batch of workers chooses better?

  • D’s choices are to look out for their interests Spambot and not rely upon government to do it for them. That is almost always a bad option.

    “And you are saying A has no business telling B or C that their workforce is more precious than the garments they produce and more than a line item on an expense sheet?”

    Shorn of your histrionics Spambot, the Church has the perfect right to use moral suasion on anyone. What it normally is an error to do is for the Church to attempt to call upon Caesar to correct social inequities since there are normally a host of unintended consequences when that is done. Consider ObamaCare. Without the desire of Obama to have abortion paid for and to compel employers to pay for contraceptives, I doubt not that most Catholic clergy would have thought ObamaCare was a grand idea. They of course would have been clueless as to all the problems that would ensue. Too often when clerics meddle in these types of matters good intentions are supposed to compensate for calling into play governmental action with evil consequences that the clergy are either unable to predict or simply indifferent to.

    “If D opts for more pay in lieu of better conditions, only to die horribly in a fire for that choice, can we as Christians do more than just mourn for a minute and hope that the next batch of workers chooses better?”

    I rather suspect Spambot that Christians, if they use the brains that God gave them, might come up with much better solutions than depending upon government coercion, and what a weak reed that is to rely upon, to solve problems. For example they could protest the business of D, impose a boycott, patronize his competitors, etc. See, that wasn’t so hard was it? Depending upon Caesar tends to make Christians forget that many evils in this world can be dealt with without yet another government program. Unfortunately the Church in recent times has gotten too used to calling upon Caesar in these matters, which considering the history of relations between the Church and Caesar is remarkably short sighted.

  • and E who will want to be A and B with the power to push C and D around. Involuntary charity is extortion. The virtue of charity is a voluntary practice of the individual person. The bishops may encourage people to charity but to submit the people to the extortion of the state is not good even for the poor, the recipients of the involuntary charity. To impose freedom upon a person without his free will consent is still tyranny. It is still totalitarianism, the state owning the people.
    “if they use the brains that God gave them” to enter into free enterprise and their common sense to govern themselves…they will secure the Blessings of Liberty…”

  • William Graham Sumner seems to gloss over a man’s needs to live and the man’s wishes for what he wants.To give the poor the means to live is Justice. The vineyard owner gave the last hired the same pay, a day’s pay necessary to keep him alive until tomorrow, as the first hired; Justice for the worker and the practice of Justice for the vineyard owner. The last hired wanted to work, intended to work. Giving the man his wishes, no matter how noble, is not required for Justice, only the man’s needs and wants to sustain life are, and that of any and all persons.

  • “The vineyard owner gave the last hired the same pay, a day’s pay necessary to keep him alive until tomorrow, as the first hired;”

    Yep, and he did it all by himself with no input from Caesar. Today the Vineyard Owner, meant to be God in the parable, would find himself up before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices.

  • In Evangelii Gaudium, in the much discussed paragraph 54 Pope Francis disputes the notion that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” That is not all the exhortation has to say on the matter.
    In paragraph 199, the pope says we have a bond with the poor: “The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’ [quoting St. Thomas Aquinas], and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. … Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’.”
    At 205, he quotes Benedict XVI to effect that relationships with the poor form in everyday ways such as within small close-knit groups, but also among large groups who have indirect interactions with each other. I understand these indirect interactions (“macro-relationships”) to include a relationship between the consumer of a particular product and the people who create, sell and distribute the product.
    At 187 comes our responsibility to all those we interact with: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” That exhortation does not reduce to ‘give the poor money’. It includes promotion of the cause of the poor when they are helpless to act on their own behalf.
    Again at 191: “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.”
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    [None of this requires the big hand of government. I’m getting to that.]
    |
    At 203, the pope has praise for employers and entrepreneurs, calling it a “noble vocation”, especially when they promote the common good. I presume that the common good includes creation of good jobs, which is a form of economic growth and fulfills his plea for ‘liberation and promotion of the poor’.
    In fact at 192, he explains: “We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity’.” [quoting Pope John XXIII]
    At 204, we are reminded that “growth in justice requires more than economic growth.”
    At 182 and 183, Christians must intervene, as necessary, to promote the common good, this growth in justice. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. … For the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.”
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    If we purchase a product and if we have knowledge that people were exploited unjustly in the process of bringing that product to market, but we go through with that transaction anyway, then we have failed in a significant obligation. That is my read of Evangelii Gadium. If we can act without government getting bigger or more powerful, that would be great, but we still have an obligation.

  • “In Evangelii Gaudium, in the much discussed paragraph 54 Pope Francis disputes the notion that “economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will by itself succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” That is not all the exhortation has to say on the matter.”

    Actually the Pope says it never brings it about. He is factually incorrect on that. Increasing prosperity as a result of free markets have routinely improved the material conditions of people, something the Pope just does not want to acknowledge at all. In his explanation of 54 in the La Stampa interview he said, “Instead what happens when it is full to the brim, the glass magically grows, and thus nothing comes forth for the poor.” The Pope simply does not know what he is talking about in this area.

    “In paragraph 199, the pope says we have a bond with the poor: “The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’ [quoting St. Thomas Aquinas], and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation. … Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel, which is itself the prime form of charity, risks being misunderstood or submerged by the ocean of words which daily engulfs us in today’s society of mass communications’.”

    The best way of loving most of the poor is to hire them at a job by which they can ultimately gain financial independence. Free markets are the best way to accomplish this.

    “At 205, he quotes Benedict XVI to effect that relationships with the poor form in everyday ways such as within small close-knit groups, but also among large groups who have indirect interactions with each other. I understand these indirect interactions (“macro-relationships”) to include a relationship between the consumer of a particular product and the people who create, sell and distribute the product.”

    Yeah, the check should not bounce by the purchaser so that people get paid their wages, that is the best connection between consumers and those who produce the goods that they are purchasing.

    “At 187 comes our responsibility to all those we interact with: “Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid.” That exhortation does not reduce to ‘give the poor money’. It includes promotion of the cause of the poor when they are helpless to act on their own behalf.”

    The best way to reduce poverty is to support free markets and economic growth. Really, this should not be a controversial proposition.

    “Again at 191: “In all places and circumstances, Christians, with the help of their pastors, are called to hear the cry of the poor.””

    I agree. Christians should demand an end to government policies that restrict economic growth and prevent the flourishing of free trade. That is the only way to cure poverty.
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    “[None of this requires the big hand of government. I’m getting to that.]”

    Funny, but when clerics preach on the economy, somehow big government programs usually seem to be their preferred solution. Evangelii Gaudium has several statements that mandate government control of economies.
    |
    “At 203, the pope has praise for employers and entrepreneurs, calling it a “noble vocation”, especially when they promote the common good. I presume that the common good includes creation of good jobs, which is a form of economic growth and fulfills his plea for ‘liberation and promotion of the poor’.”

    Employers could do immensely more of this without the dead hand of the State continually frustrating their efforts. Minimum wage laws alone prevent hordes of start up enterprises coming on line.

    “In fact at 192, he explains: “We are not simply talking about ensuring nourishment or a ‘dignified sustenance’ for all people, but also their ‘general temporal welfare and prosperity’.” [quoting Pope John XXIII]”

    We know how to do that, but the Pope does not like the solution of free markets.

    “At 204, we are reminded that “growth in justice requires more than economic growth.””

    If one is concerned about reducing poverty economic growth is absolutely essential.

    “At 182 and 183, Christians must intervene, as necessary, to promote the common good, this growth in justice. “No one can demand that religion should be relegated to the inner sanctum of personal life, without influence on societal and national life, without concern for the soundness of civil institutions, without a right to offer an opinion on events affecting society. … For the Church’s social thought is primarily positive: it offers proposals, it works for change and in this sense it constantly points to the hope born of the loving heart of Jesus Christ.””

    The bigger the government the less the Church is allowed to play that role, as we are currently finding out in this country.
    |
    “If we purchase a product and if we have knowledge that people were exploited unjustly in the process of bringing that product to market, but we go through with that transaction anyway, then we have failed in a significant obligation. That is my read of Evangelii Gadium. If we can act without government getting bigger or more powerful, that would be great, but we still have an obligation.”

    People who are forced to work at gunpoint I agree with you. It is shameful that the products of Chinese labor camps are ever allowed to be sold in the West. No trade should be conducted at all with slave states like Cuba or North Korea. Otherwise, I believe that the best way to improve the lot of the poor around the globe is through free markets and trade.

  • “Yep, and he did it all by himself with no input from Caesar. Today the Vineyard Owner, meant to be God in the parable, would find himself up before the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices.”
    Isn’t this precisely why God has been removed from the public square, to give Caesar a free hand at subjecting the people to its power, without Justice, without common sense?

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