The considerations of my recent post Authority Must Flow Down From On High have important implications for the subsidiaritan feudal stack of sovereign corporations. They go instantly to matters of legal form.
Ownership of any sort is authoritative control over some reals. It is, in other words, sovereignty.
In any sovereign domain, ownership of real property and of business enterprises is registered by the sovereign. We like to pretend that this means only that the sovereign is keeping track of that ownership, so that everyone is clear on who owns what. And indeed, he is doing at least that. But really, his registration of property rights in an asset means that the sovereign is *granting* those rights; he is conferring them from within his own store of rights. If the sovereign does not recognize ownership, the ownership has no legal existence, and does not therefore come into effect.
The sovereign’s grant of ownership rights is his devolution of sovereignty over assets that, in the absence of any other owner, would belong directly to him. Assets that once belonged to private persons but which have for whatever reason been abandoned escheat to the state – they become again the property of the sovereign.
So it is that the private ownership of property comes into formal, legal – which is to say, public – existence only in virtue of the sovereign’s recognition of that existence. Ownership of property within a sovereign domain is not therefore just *registered* by the sovereign for administrative and judicial purposes, but is furthermore and first *licensed.* The registration attests to the prior license. This is why the piece of paper that the municipal registrar hands to a businessman as documentation that his business has been recognized by the city is called a “business license.” The sovereign *licenses* the businessman to do business in his domains, in exchange for a fee, or toll, or tonlieu. The business license is not just a document. It is evidence of a sovereign grant of authoritative power over the assets of the business.
Without the sovereign’s business license, the only alternative open to a businessman is the black market. But this is no escape, really; for, the black market has sovereigns, too. And those who recur to the black market put the assets under their putative control at risk of seizure by their rightful sovereign.
Excursus: Nature abhors a vacuum; so, there is always a sovereign, whose license must be bought, or importuned.
Excursus: Ditto then also for the marriage license, the driver’s license, the visa, the passport, the license to kill …
That sovereignty is devolved subsidiarily – which is to say, properly, rightly, duly – does not mean that it is ever held by subsidiaries in their own right, and by their own power alone (except in the sole case of usurpation, rebellion, mutiny). Ownership – which is to say, devolved sovereignty – is always commensal. The whole polis must recognize it in and by the acts of the sovereign authority, or that ownership simply does not exist. In like manner, the whole polis, in the persons of the sovereign’s aristocratic lieutenants, must recognize the sovereign authority, or it does not exist.
In devolving his sovereignty to subjects, the sovereign then is acting in persona populi. Thence the ancient doctrine that the king’s body is the whole people.
Excursus: the doctrine of the king’s two bodies has obvious implications both for Christology and for ecclesiology.
The king’s devolution of his sovereignty to his barons nowise vitiates his sovereignty, but on the contrary, rather, constitutes that sovereignty. Authority is concretely implemented in history by means of its subsidiaritan devolution.
What has all this to do concretely with the feudal stack of sovereign corporations?
First, it is a stack, a hierarchy of authorities. Each derives its authority, not from below, but from above; and each is actually authoritative only insofar as it devolves its own authority downward to its subsidiary organs in the hierarchy.
Second, recall that the entities that populate each layer of the stack – the sovereign corporations – are business enterprises. As such, they each need legal license for their authority from some supersidiary authority. The village corporation is licensed by the county, and thereby has its legal existence; the county likewise by the state or duchy; the state or duchy by the nation or kingdom; the nation or kingdom by the empire or high kingdom.
Wherever in this hierarchy the political authority tops out, it must be granted by and devolve from the authority of the heavenly hierarchy. So the Church gets involved from the very start in ratifying and consecrating secular authority. This is why the hierarchy is so called. It is why sessions of parliament open with prayer.
A state that rejects ecclesial authority throws off the mantle of the Mandate of Heaven and forthrightly proclaims its utter profanity; it thereby guts its own secular authority. It effectually declares that its rule is grounded *only* in coercive power, and is otherwise meaningless – ergo, tyrannical (no matter how high sounding its stated intentions). So it ruins patriotism, vitiates patrimonial tradition, and stokes resentment and rebellion.
The materialist conviction that society is struggle is therefore tenable only in purely secular states.