Social Justice in 1940

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The phrase “Social Justice” was used by Father Charles Coughlin (1891 – 1979) for his weekly newsletter (1936 – 1942). Distinctly right-wing, Father Coughlin wanted to keep the U.S.A. out of foreign wars. He also wanted to keep the Federal Government out of everyday life. I remember several professors at UCLA in the 1970s who knew of Coughlin and made a point of denouncing him. No one, particularly on the Left, knows of Coughlin nowadays. The irony runs rich.

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14 thoughts on “Social Justice in 1940

  1. A quote of him I found on wikipedia:

    “We maintain the principle that there can be no lasting prosperity if free competition exists in industry. Therefore, it is the business of government not only to legislate for a minimum annual wage and maximum working schedule to be observed by industry, but also so to curtail individualism that, if necessary, factories shall be licensed and their output shall be limited.”

    This idea of limiting the outpur of factories is right. You have factories running 24/7 where the conpany refuses to shut them down even for needed maintenance because they’ll lose money so they run them till something breaks. This could be something IT related causing them to lose data, or safety related causing an explosion and killing people or polluting the environment on a massive scale within days like the ITC fire in Deer Park Texas a few years ago becauae they didn’t upgrade their oil tanks for 20 years and ao toxic smoke blew all ovwe Houston and in disipated form out to San Antonio. They don’t care, because 30 minutes or an hour of downtime for maintenence apparently would cost them more than paying out whatever find the crappy govt would give them after something explodes or they can’t properly keep the books. Limiting the output, even shutting down factories for weekends so they can’t make people work 7 days a week, is something govt should do. Ben Shapiro would say “that’s socialism.” But its not; its just common sense.

    • “Individualism” has several meanings, some of them good from the viewpoint of the Right and some of them bad. Not that I’m a Father Coughlin scholar — but what I know of him makes him seem to me to have been all over the map and sometimes (maybe often) self-contradictory. What strikes me is that the contemporary Left is an unwitting plagiarist of the Old Right, borrowing their verbal idol from a Catholic Reactionary.

      • Regarding individualism, I think it was Dietrich von Hildebrand who introduced the concept of personalism versus individualism to me. Personalism is the value of the person in a hierarchy of values with God at the top, individualism was a more atomistic and egalitarian perversion of this. So, all the old anti-individualism talk from some Catholics means something wildly different than what it sounds like to our ears. I may be wrong but that’s my understanding.

    • Not sure I agree. We don’t need new laws we need old laws. Nearly every abuse of the old robber barons, was an old crime that would have been called manslaughter or wage fraud. If you can run it safely 24 hours a day, why not? If you can’t do it safely and know that, then you’re liable. The problem is less laws, and more that too few men will be honest enough to obey or enforce the law.

      • If I were Caesar…

        If I were Caesar, I would repeal every law passed by Congress, including the Constitutional amendments, going back to 1900. (This would disenfranchise women, which a number of my female friends think a good idea.) And I might outlaw fast food joints. I’d like to bring back the old-fashioned diner.

  2. My mother’s family lore included the note that her grandfather, John F. Ohmer, of Dayton, Ohio, lived the last several years of his life in order to listen to Father Coughlin on the radio and then write nasty letters to FDR.

  3. John Roy Carlson, in his “Under Cover: My Four Years in the Nazi Underworld of America,” went through at least 13 printings in 1943. He was a newspaperman who, in this book, wrote extensively on the German front’s use of the term, “Social Justice,” including references to the magazine, of which you adduced the cover. He was, from my reading of this book, Red-leaning, but constantly attack the “Right” in the service of “Democracy.”. And even in your post (I’m just pointing this out, not a criticism), you oppose Left with Right. This is, itself, the language of the Left, which separates humanity into dichotomous tribal groups: us and them. But nothing could be farther from the truth. But then, that is the state of the unreality in their minds.

    • Some situations are dichotomous. If you lived in a seaside town in the Mediterranean in the Fifteenth Century, say, and Muslim slave-raiders descended on you — “us or them” would be the right way to organize your defense.

      • Yes, I agree. What I mean to point out is that we have adopted the language of the Left and often don’t even know it, it has become second nature. That’s what I have eliminated in my own speech and writing, where I notice it crop up. Btw, may I please request an editing function for posts, after they have been submitted? Sometimes, I am in a rush and foolishly do not spend the additional minute reviewing what I’ve written, and POOF, grammatical and spelling error. My fault, of course, but wonder if you might consider that function for hasty typists such as me


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