A merry dance of Catholic social doctrine, permaculture, distributism, and other odd answers to pressing questions

Vol. I, No. 1

Changing the Structure

2007 Dec 12, 08:00 Fri tags:

Life is made of pennies. We think in terms of dollars: thousands of dollars, millions, billions, trillions. You might not even pick a penny off the ground. But the most gigantic corporation would wither and die without pennies. And for many a man, woman, and child, a few hundred pennies is the work of a day.

We don't control great fortunes, but we do control our pennies. We don't control our years, but we do control this moment. Billionare or beggar, we live one instant at a time.

Now.

IN THIS ISSUE:

  • From the Editor
  • Feature Article: Changing the Structure
  • Distributist News
  • Action: Read!
  • Resource: Good Jobs First!
  • Distributism Defined
  • Backmatter

And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny.

Mark 12:42

FROM THE EDITOR:

Welcome to Penny Justice! I'm excited to bring you this new ezine, and in our first feature article, you'll find out our strategy for learning and living justice in your real life, not some alternate universe where you transmogrify into Mother Teresa. Thanks for joining us!

Bill Powell, Editor
editor@pennyjustice.com

[T]he economic prosperity of a nation is not so much its total assets in terms of wealth and property, as the equitable division and distribution of this wealth.

John XIII, Mater et Magistra, 74. (1961)

FEATURE ARTICLE

Changing the Structure

by Bill Powell

Hunger. Pollution. Sweatshops. Corruption. War. Being a human being, rather than a cosmic force, it's easy to think:

a) I'm too insignificant to do anything. Why bother?
b) If I'm kind to those around me, I'm doing my part.
c) Or if I send money to active charities.
d) Especially because I'm insanely busy.

Now the premise of this ezine is not that we are called upon to fix the whole Earth. After a few millennia of heroes, not to mention a Divine visit, this recalcitrant Earth remains unfixed. But we are called to do well with one amazing gift: our own self. If humanity is a 66 million dollar fortune, you may control only one penny, but it is your penny. The awakening to this fantastic freedom lies at the root of every great artist, every hero, every martyr, and indeed every full and good life.

This freedom, of course, is far from absolute. By the time you can sit here reading this on an expensive computer, it's quite likely that your life, seen from one angle, is one great web of remorseless obligations: bills, family, work. The average life is already full to the brim, and any plan that requires hours and months of additional time is doomed to failure.

So I propose to change the structure.

If we want to "make a better world," it's actually very simple. First we look at what we already have to do. For instance, we have to buy food. We have to clothe ourselves. We have to live in some kind of house. To get all these nice things, we have to do some sort of work and get paid.

That's a lot. That's probably 75% of your waking week right there, in one little paragraph: acquiring, working for, and maintaining all that. This is what we're all doing most of the time.

So the second step is: how do I do all this with justice?

I may never get around to joining Habitat for Humanity. But I'm certainly going to eat this week, which means I'm probably going to buy some food, which means I'm going to keep some particular food business in operation. Can I work it out so this mere act of buying food is at least not hurting me, or the workers and the world that grew it? Can I even manage to make this purchase support a way of life I respect?

If so, I'll be working for justice by the very things I have to do anyway. Every week. Penny by penny. For the rest of my life.

Simple? Yes. Easy? Ha!

Which is why Penny Justice has several goals:

  • To serve Catholic social doctrine, in digestible portions
  • To present a just economic paradigm: Distributism
  • To understand and critique our present system
  • To explore concrete solutions that are working today
  • To provide a forum for you to join this discussion

All of which we'll cover in our next issue. That's what you can look forward to in Penny Justice. Thank you for joining me in this new ezine. We're going to do great things.

Bill Powell December 12, 2007 Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas

DISRIBUTIST NEWS

The Pope and the Environment?

A few months back, you probably heard that Pope Benedict was speaking about the environment, but did you get a chance to hear what he actually said? "Before it is too late, it is necessary to make courageous decisions that reflect knowing how to re-create a strong alliance between man and the earth. A decisive 'yes' to the protection of creation is necessary and a firm commitment to reverse those tendencies that run the risk of bringing about situations of unstoppable degradation." -- Benedict XVI. Read more at: http://www.zenit.org/article-20394?l=english

Save Internet Radio

Internet radio allows anyone with an Internet connection to run his own radio station and broadcast whatever he likes. Internet radio allows independent artists to get their music heard without having to attain the status of megastar. But Congress is considering new retroactive license fees that could shut down thousands of independent voices forever.
http://www.savenetradio.org/

Would the Goverment Pay Google $1.2 Million for a Job?

The state of North Carolina wants to give Google a subsidy package in exchange for a 200-employee server farm. The problem is, the final total could come to $242 million. For 200 jobs, that's $1.2 million a pop. Scroll down to "Google's N. C. Subsidies Challenged in Court". http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/news/article.cfm?id=156
(For more on subsidies, see RESOURCE below.)

ACTION: Read!

Is reading an action?

Reading demands time, concentration, and commitment. Reading is a tense dance of fidelity and flirtation; no author should seduce us from the truth we know, and yet every author hopes to woo us from our personal hoard of precious mistakes. Reading can change your life. If it doesn't, it's a waste of time.

We'll be covering many concrete steps in this ezine, and reading is a perfect place to begin. In fact, as you take the time to read this, right now, you're giving your time to the pursuit of justice.

Why? Because reading is often a necessary prerequisite to further action. Think about justice. There are so many buzz phrases; which issues do you wish you understood? Consumer debt? Third World debt? Sweatshops? Immigration? Big Business? Big Government? International finance? Distributism? It's fatally easy to hear such words so often that we think we have a well-formed opinion, long before we've won that precious commodity.

We'll be offering selections from important works in every issue to get you started, starting with "Distributism Defined," below. It's a fascinating world out there. We can't act before we understand.

RESOURCE

Good Jobs First: Corporations on welfare

http://goodjobsfirst.org

Welfare is when the government gives free tax money to an individual who doesn't have much money. A subsidy is when the government gives free tax money to an individual who's running a business.

There are legitimate recipients for subsidies, but at Good Jobs First, you're invited to wonder whether these needy folk ought to include the likes of Dell, Nordstrom, and Wal-Mart. These researchers have documented over ONE BILLION (not million) tax dollars granted to Wal-Mart alone; and that's just what's publicly disclosed.

Wal-Mart: http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate_subsidy/walmart.cfm
Overview: http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate_subsidy/overview.cfm
Eye on Subsidies. Actual figures for billions given away in recent months (see DISTRIBUTIST NEWS above): http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/news/article.cfm?id=156

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    Penny Justice is a free bimonthly ezine featuring thoughts, news, resources, and concrete ideas on how to live justice right now, one penny and one moment at a time.

  • Pennies

    Life is made of pennies. We think in terms of dollars: thousands of dollars, millions, billions, trillions. You might not even pick a penny off the ground. But the most gigantic corporation would wither and die without pennies. And for many a man, woman, and child, a few hundred pennies is the work of a day.

    We don't control great fortunes, but we do control our pennies. We don't control our years, but we do control this moment. Billionare or beggar, we live one instant at a time.

    Now.