Mexico, Mass Migration and the Example of Moses Part IV: Rome and the Enormous Lies of Exsul Familia

Have you ever stopped to think about your property?  Specifically, have you ever considered the question, By what right do  I own anything? 

Since this is a blog post, you're probably reading these words on some sort of electronic device.  Maybe you're using a smart phone or a tablet or a desktop or laptop computer.  So let me ask my original question to you in a little different way, By what right do you claim ownership of the electronic device you're using to read this post?

Suppose you're reading this post on your tablet.  Perhaps you'd say to me, "I own this table, because I went to the store and bought it." 

Okay, but let's take that back another step and ask this question, By what right did the store sell you the tablet?  You may say to me, "Well, the store bought it from an electronic wholesaler."

But then that raises a further question, Where did the wholesaler get the right to sell the tablet to the store where you bought it.  "From the manufacturer or course," you may reply. 

Alright, so how did the manufacturer rightfully get the parts to assemble the tablet?  "The manufacturer bought them from a supplier," you may retort.

This is really becoming tiresome, I know.  But still, I can't help asking, Just where did the parts supplier get the materials, the silicon for example, to manufacture the integrated circuits that are essential to making your table work?

"Well, quite obviously, the parts manufacturer bought the silicon from a silicon supplier," you would answer.

"Very well," I'd reply, "but let me ask you this, Since the base materials for silicon metal used to make your device's integrated circuits are gravel and items such as coke, coal and wood chips, where did the supplier of silicon get the right to use these items?" 

"They bought them from gravel and coal miners and from suppliers of wood products," would likely be you answer.

Alright already.  So where did the gravel miners, the coal miners and the suppliers of wood products get the right to use the land from which they took the raw materials? 

"Naturally, they bought the land from Old MacDonald, who figured he could do better by selling his land to the coal miners than spending the rest of his life raising chickens and cows and pigs."

Okay, okay, okay.  Lest this become overly wearisome for the both of us, let me ask just one last question.  Where did Old MacDonald get the title to his farm in the first place?

"Well, I guess he bought it from the previous owner, maybe it was the bank or some other farmer."

But, BUT, BUT!...No, I'm not going to go there.  I promised that would be the last question, and I'll keep my word.

I hope, though, that this somewhat annoying line of questioning has raised your curiosity about the issue of ownership.  Just how is it that we can claim the right to own something?  Is it even possible to rightly claim ownership, that is, the exclusive right to use and dispose of a particular good or service, or should we all be collectivists holding all things in common? 

Now you may be thinking at this point, "Steve that's all very interesting, but just what on earth does any of this have to do with your main point of refuting Exsul Familia, Rome's position paper on immigration, migration, and refugee resettlement? 

The short answer is, quite a lot.  Let's take a look at it.


Secular/Philosophic Theories of Property

As you may already suspect, there are a number of competing theories that attempt to explain the institution of private property.  This is an important question.  John Robbins called private property, "the central economic institution of civilized societies," (Ecclesiastical Megalomania, 30) and the present author agrees with this assessment. 

Although it's beyond the scope of the series of posts to analyze all the various non-Christian theories of property out there, it may be helpful to review a few of them, paying special attention to Rome's unbiblical theory of property and showing how it manifests itself in Exsul Familia and undergirds Rome's onerous and false assertion that Western nations not only have a duty to accept all immigrants migrants and refugees who wish to come to them regardless of their reason for coming, but also that Western citizens have an obligation to pay the expenses of said immigrants, migrants and refugees through social services, the money for which comes from taxes levied upon the citizens.

In his journal article "Theories of Property," George B. Newcomb asserted that the Romans had a very individualistic view of property, but that this view was, "due, in part at least, to the influence of the time when the claim to private property was especially founded in the personal prowess of the warrior."  Apparently in Rome the right of ownership rested, to some degree, on the ability to beat someone up and take his stuff.

John Locke, on the other hand, took a more peaceful approach to acquisition of private property.  In his Second Treatise on Civil Government, Locke wrote, "God gave the World to Adam and his Posterity in common" (Laslett ed., 286).  In other words, Locke believed in original communism. 

But how did it come about that individual men claimed to own land, which was given in common to all by God?  Lock explained, "Though the Earth, and all inferior Creatures be common to all Men, yet every Man has a Property in his own Person. This no Body has any Right to but himself.  The Labour of his Body, and the Work of his Hands, we may say, are properly his.  Whatsoever then he removes out of the State that Nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his Labour with, and joyned to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his Property" (Laslett ed., 287, 288). 

In short, if you, for example, clear a field which is not, as far as you know, claimed by anyone in particular and begin farming, you've mixed your labor with the field and it rightfully belongs to you. 

But, one could ask Locke, by what right does someone mix his labor with the commons?  That's a good question.

Perhaps a more recent writer can help us understand and defend the institution of private property.  Ludwig Von Mises, widely considered the greatest of the Austrian economists, seems like a promising place to turn.  What says Von Mises?

Writing in Chapter 24 of Human Action, he explains private property this way,

Private property is a human device. It is not sacred. It came into existence in early ages of history, when people with their own power and by their own authority appropriated to themselves what had previously not been anybody's property. Again and again, proprietors were robbed of their property by expropriation. The history of private property can be traced back to a point at which it originated out of acts that were certainly not legal. Virtually every owner is the direct or indirect legal successor of people who acquired ownership either by arbitrary appropriation of ownerless things or by violent spoliation of their predecessor.

To Von Mises way of thinking, private property, "originated out of acts that were certainly not legal."  In essence, he argues that all of us are guilty of receiving stolen property. 

This doesn't seem like a very promising defense of private property.      


Rome's Theory of Property

Rome derives its theory of property from the work of Thomas Aquinas, which theory is masterfully explained by John Robbins in his book Ecclesiastical Megalomania.  Rome rejects the Bible's view of private property, substituting in its place a doctrine called the Universal Destination of Goods.  To understand Rome's doctrine of the Universal Destination of Goods, Robbins tells us we first must first understand Thomas' view of the law.

According to Thomas, there are four kinds of law.  First, there is eternal law, which is God's plan for the universe and all its inhabitants.  Thus it is part of the eternal law that rocks, for example, fall to the ground when dropped; and plants, for example, grow toward the light.  Second, there is natural law, which is the participant of rational creatures in the eternal law.  Thus man is by nature a social animal.  When men speak to each other and live in societies, they are doing what is natural to them, just as rocks and plants do.  Third, there is positive law, which is customs, laws, and regulations made by rulers attempting to apply the natural law to individuals and societies.  Finally, there is divine law, such as the Ten Commandments. 

Private property, according to Thomas, is neither part of the natural law nor an absolute right, but an invention of human reason.  It is a creation of and regulated by positive law.  Rather than private property being part of the natural law, the possession of all things in common is the natural law [note that John Locke, supposedly a defender of limited government and private property, also believed in original communism as can be seen from the quote above].  Thomas wrote: "... 'the possession of all things in common and universal freedom' are said to be of the natural law because, to wit, the distinction of possessions and slavery were not brought in by nature, but devised by human reason for the benefit of human life." The institution of private property, like slavery, is a positive, not a natural, institution, and  therefore rightfully subject to human regulation.  The "community of goods," wrote Thomas,

is ascribed to the natural law, not that the natural law dictates that all things should be possessed in common and that nothing should be possessed as one's own, but because the division of the possessions is not according to the natural law, but rather arose from human agreement, which belongs to positive law...Hence the ownership of possessions is not contrary to the natural law, but an addition thereto devised by human reason.

It is important to keep in mind that according to Roman Catholic economic thought, here represented by its greatest and only official philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, that communism (with a small "c") - what Thomas called the community of goods - is part of the natural law; and that private property is part of the positive law.  Private property is an "addition to" the natural law.  Though private property is not contrary to the natural law, it is not itself natural, and it does not enjoy the same metaphysical or ethical status as the community of good.  While men cannot change the natural law - rather, they are required to conform to it, according to Roman Church-State thought - they can change positive law,  and they may do so in whatever manner is expedient and moral.

Now several things might make such a community of goods expedient, but one makes the community of goods morally imperative:  need.  Thomas wrote:

Things which are of human right cannot derogate [stray from] natural rights or divine right...The division and appropriation of things which are based on human law do not preclude t he fact that man's needs have to be remedied by mans of these very things.  Hence, whatever certain people have in superabundance is due, by natural law, to the purpose of succoring the poor.

Because the goods of some are due to others by the natural law, there is no sin if the poor take the goods of their neighbors...[A]ccording to Thomas: is lawful for a man to succor his own need by means of another's property by taking it either openly or secretly; nor is this, properly speaking, theft and robbery.... It is not theft, properly speaking, to take secretly and use another's property in a case of extreme need; because that which he takes for the support of his life becomes his own property by reason of that need.... In a case of a like need a man may also take secretly another's property in order to succor his neighbor in need.

In Thomas' philosophy, need is the moral criterion for the rightful and lawful possession of property:  Whoever needs property ought to possess it.  Need makes another's goods one's own.  Need is the ultimate and only moral title to property.  Neither possession, nor creation, nor production, nor gift, nor inheritance, nor divine commandment (with the exception of Roman Church-State property) grants title to property that is immune to the prior claim of need...

The Thomistic notion of original communism - the denial that private property is part of the natural law, but that common property is both natural and divine - is foundational to all the Roman Catholic arguments for various forms of collectivism, from medieval feudalism and guild socialism to twentieth century fascism and liberation theology.  The popes refer to this original communism as the "universal destination of all goods" (Robbins, 30-32, 38).

To sum up, Rome supports private property up to a point.   When things are going well, it's all well and good for you to own your house or your farm or your car.  But when push comes to shove, when things get serious, need overrides your title to your property.  It, therefore, is right, proper and moral for those in need to take what is yours.  The assertion that need is the ultimate and only moral title to property is based on Rome's mistaken assertion of original communism, the idea that God gave the world to all men in common.  This original communism, what Thomas called the community of goods, is referred to by the popes as the Universal Destination of Goods.      

Earlier I quoted Robbins saying that private property is the central economic institution of civilized societies.  But that's not all Robbins had to say.  The quote continues, "and it is the Roman Church-State's rejection of private property that contributed to the establishment of several varieties of destructive anti-capitalism throughout the world.

One of the manifestations of Rome's anti-capitalism is its teaching on immigration, migration and refugee resettlement.  The next section will demonstrate this from the text of Exsul Familia

(To be continued...)