Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Basis for Equality Among Men

Stained glass window in the Franciscan church of Szombathely, Hungary depicts Kolbe as a Nazi concentration camp prisoner

I struggled all during the presidential campaign to explain to family members and coworkers why I am convinced that the Democratic Party is on the wrong track when it comes to economic progress for America and her citizens.

This remarkable little essay from Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish Conventual Franciscan priest who was martyred at Auschwitz, really hit me in the eye at the tail end of this year’s presidential campaign. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a prisoner with a family in a group of Auschwitz inmates chosen to starve to death after a fellow prisoner disappeared from their barracks; after leading the dying men in prayer and meditation, he was finally killed by the Nazis with an injection of carbolic acid.

This compact and direct refutation of President Elect Barak Obama’s “redistribute the wealth” approach to economics was published as part of The Kolbe Reader: The Writings of Saint Maximilian M. Kolbe (Libertyville, IL: Franciscan Marytown Press, 1987).

When he sees the luxurious residence or the charming country house of a wealthy person, a poor workingman often asks himself: Why is there such inequality in the world?”

How many volumes have been written about equality among men! How much blood has been spilled for this idea! And yet, in spite of it all, we still have the rich and the poor…

Let us imagine that one day all the inhabitants of the work world would assemble to put into effect this sharing of all goods; and that in fact each person, granting that the world is very big, received an exactly equal portion of the wealth existing on earth.

The what? That very evening, one man might say, “Today I worked hard: now I am going to take rest.” Another might state, “I understand this sharing of goods well; so let’s drink and celebrate such an extraordinary happening.” On the other hands, another might say, “Now I am going to get to work with a will so as to reap the greatest benefit I can from what I have received.” And so, starting the next day, the first man would have only the amount given him; the second would have less, and the third would have increased his.

Then what do we do? Start redistributing the wealth all over again?

Even if everybody began to work right away with all his might and at the same time, the results would not be identical for all. There are, in fact, different kinds of work which are unequally productive; nor do workers enjoy the same identical capacities. This leads to a diversity of results achieved, and consequently to differences in people’s profits.

What would have to be imposed so that, once the division of goods was accomplished, people could continue to live on a basis of equality in this sense? All workers would have to perform the same tasks, all possess equal intelligence and ability, have similar professional training, the same degree of health and strength, and especially the same desire to put forth the necessary efforts. All of this is quite utopian.

To continue the argument, even if there were only two persons in the world, they would not succeed in maintaining absolute equality; for in the whole universe there are no two things completely identical in every respect…

In spite of this, the human mind still desires to bring about certain equality among men. Is there any possibility that this can happen? Yes, no doubt. Every man, whoever he is, whatever he possesses and whatever he is capable of doing, owes all this to God the Creator of the universe. Of himself man is nothing. From this point of view all of us are absolutely equal.

Furthermore we all possess free will, which makes us masters of all our actions. This too constitutes the basic equality of all men on earth. But the use made of our free will is not the same in all cases; it depends in fact on each man’s own determination, on the extent to which he makes use of this precious gift; for not all do so in the same degree. It follows that not even after death will perfect equality be achieved; it will not in fact exist, because every man will receive a just reward or punishment according to his deeds, good or evil.

No comments: