It is one of the great tragedies of the production of the recent past that it has resulted in such excess that production feels or seems unnecessary. So “we” make all kinds of demands on producers when we can find and identify them. We hang weights around their necks in the form of restriction and regulation. We talk of “fair share” and “disparate impact”. We demand that they associate with non-producers. We determine how much of what they produce becomes a commons that is open to he who needs come what may.
Production is work and requires the use of energy. This is a cost to the rational animal. He will naturally do as little as he can get away with on-average. The combination of the natural tendency away from production and the weight of the coerced care for non-producers has put us in quite a position.
That I live in a culture where there is common talk of rights to produced goods independent of the relation to production gives me pause for a couple of reasons. First, there is risk in policy that separates production from producer at the macro level. Second, there is risk in me that I forget about the necessary relation between what is good (product) and production (activity).
So, a meditation on the necessity of production. What is necessary should be hugged not hidden from. I cannot change the macro conditions. But I can at least protect the conditions in here and seek to influence the conditions where my local impact can be felt.
First, an account of production. Second, an argument that production is necessary. Third, a distinction between types of goods that production can go in for.
First, an account. The intentional transformation of material into greater value. How is that for vague? Production is intentional. It is an action directed at material, and in material’s change, such that what is there later is better than what was there formerly.
Second, an argument that production is necessary. I start with the pervasive reality of change. I add that the direction of change is independent of human good. Change, naturally considered, is insensitive to human need and demand. Two cases of change worth noting. I am changing. Thus I have needs. I demand. The world around me is changing. So, what is available for the meeting of needs is not stable. Production is the harnessing of change and directing it toward what is good. Production is necessary since demand cannot be met without the harnessing of changing reality and redirecting it toward human satisfaction.
Third, a distinction in two categories of goods and why it is worth distinguishing. Without embracing any kind of substance dualism about man I offer the two different views of man. In reality the two are one. In thought the two are separable. Once separated in thought the two categories make even louder the voice that cries in the wilderness–“produce!” (“prepare the way”). The two categories under which man can be understood are the moral and the material. I will refer to moral goods as virtues and material goods simply as goods.
In the material, excess production can be shared. It can be stored. Slavery is such that what one man does another can profit from. Sharing innovations likewise enables excess production to spread rapidly like in the Industrial Revolution. The collection and storage of excess production is such that many things, some good some bad, may be the result. Men who have produced in excess may grow fat and lazy. They may grow greedy. They may attract the power hungry. The excess production itself may be the result of justice or injustice.
In the moral, excess production is not similarly possible. The notion of excess in moral production is not possible. It cannot be similarly shared even if it can be exemplified. But it cannot be transferred. Likewise, it cannot be produced with injustice. It cannot attract the greedy. It cannot be stolen.
How are the two, moral and material goods, similar? They both must be produced. In neither case, soul goods or material goods is man given goods ready at hand. He is given material. But it is interesting to me that one can be forced while the other can’t, that one can be stolen while the other can’t, that one without the other in either case leads to death, but in one case the death is sweet and in the other it is vile.
That we are forgetting the necessity of production is not going to bode well for our long term future. Next, what may be obvious, but I will state it because the important obvious cannot be repeated too often, and what is obvious to one is not always to another, and history is replete with at least the unwillingness to adhere to what we might say is obvious–that the moral goods called virtues are infinitely better than material goods and thus the production of the former is infinitely better than the production of the latter (I can hear my students now calling for coercive government institutions to put virtue training in the schools. The problem is–moral goods cannot be coerced! There production can only be the product of freedom. The tyrants will never be able to coerce the most important things. Bless their hearts that must be frustrating).