Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A dialogue, sort of, about gay marriage… 

2 comment(s)
Some background:

I'm very new to Tweeter. I "took it up" (ahem) a couple weeks ago, partially because I got a new "smart" mobile phone recently, and partially because I've heard Twitter is the more "professional" social medium. (I think LinkedIn really is the professional social medium to use, but I've found Twitter to be much less consuming, and much more focused, than Facebook.) I suspect it's not a coincidence that the core of the word "twitter" is "witty". In fact, I might say I've found my " twiche ". Probably my favorite aspect of Twitter is that it forces me to be concise. I can write more by outlinking to TwitLonger, but I like the challenge of trying to make my point in 140 characters. As Goethe said, "Der Meister zeigt sich in der Beschränkungen."

So, the following dialogue is a revised reconstruction of an actual dialogue I've been having on Twitter the past week or two.

Full disclosure: my interlocutor's moniker is nothing less inflammatory than "ifollowHATE". He or she chose to follow me because I have either retweeted comments against "gay marriage", or voiced my own objections to it.

Codgitator: [Upon discovering that I was being followed by "ifollowHATE"] So if you hate hate, do you follow yourself? Or hate yourself? Or just hate others for differing from you?

Some Tweeter: No, I hate the lies that people tell to harm others. That is hate. It is sinful.

C: You mean lies about the Catholic Church's authentic teachings? I assume you follow me because I oppose "gay marriage".

S: We are talking about civil laws, not the Catholic teachings. The organizations that you follow advocate for laws that harm others.

C: By tarring nonconformity "hate" I feel you cheapen the language and derail dialogue -- the prerogative of demagogues.

S: By supporting banning gays from marriage, I feel you cause harm to them and derail their rights.

C: I get your angle. The question is whether marriage is a right in service of individuals or in service of the common good. Law forbids consanguinous, underage, and bigamous marriage. Law is for a common future, not for special interests.

S: Not special interests. The same right that everyone else enjoys. The right to marry the one person that you love.

C: Why limit marriage to 1+1? Awful prejudice. Why not 1+1+1? 1+1+/-1? 1+x+y? Is the point of law only point to protect "love feelings"? Defending gay marriage as a civil right begs the question. What is the point of marriage? To what do gays want access by winning "marriage"?

S: What important government purpose is accomplished by banning gay couples from Civil Marriage? Do you have a reason for limiting marriage to all those people, or is it just prejudice against them?

C: Any definition of marriage imposes limits, as I've shown in your monogamy bias. A definition… by definition… is limiting. The key is to legislate to the long-term good of marriage.

S: What important governmental purpose is furthered by banning gay couples from marriage? Just one.

C: If legal limitations are implicitly unjust, what's the point of any government marriage laws? What is the purpose of marriage? What does "gay" add to it? Indeed, why can't siblings marry, if they're as deeply as in love as any gay or straight couple? Making that kind of bond "marriage" undermines the common benefit of marriage over generations.

S: What good does it do to ban gay people from marriage, then? Give your reason for the line that you have drawn.

C: First, marriage is no more a right than hunting or driving or bartending is, hence we need licenses for them. It's not in the interest of the law to widen the licensing gate for marriage [or should I say, lower the bar?], and thus lower the long-term stability of marriage as a pillar of society. Gay marriage adds nothing to the long-term security of marriage (to put it mildly), and bars gays from no more than enjoying the feeling of having Sneetch-belly-stars of their own. No bloodlines can be formed in gay marriage, so it's not marriage. Marriage is the social analogue of biological continuity.

Second, asking why government can "ban" gays from marriage is not only inflammatory but also begs the question. It has never been the case that a loophole was open for gays to marriage, until one day some conservative cabal decided to "ban" the trickle of gays who were finally taking advantage of their "right" to the loophole. What has happened is that one group has stormed the courts to jam a loophole into marriage law for their own special interests. No-fault divorce advocates did the same decades ago, to the grave detriment of marriage. Why add insult to injury with another judicial revamping of nature? Gay people aren't being banned from loving and living and dying with whomever they wish. They are being denied a license on the grounds that their lifestyle would adds nothing to the actual, long-term practice of marriage as a biological and social reality. Not giving a motor license to a blind man is radically different from banning him from traveling at all, by other means, such as private or public transit. As pro-queer journalist Victoria Brownworth has stated, "[A]llowing same‐sex couples to marry will weaken the institution of marriage."

S: Prove it.

C: The point of the quotation is precisely that Brownworth is pro-gay-marriage.

S: I know who she is. I also know the entire quote. As I said. Prove it. It should be easy.

C: Here's my basic problem: you deny that marriage has any essential features–– you deny there is any real nature of marriage beyond how we speak of it–– yet you want gays to enjoy this chimerical "marriage". But what is marriage? If marriage is just a social convention, a purely legal custom, then what is it gays could possibly gain by "marriage"? Any essential features you propose for marriage–– gay, straight, or otherwise–– must be based in something above the law. The problem is that, for whichever features you propose as maritally non-negotiable, there is a special interest group which would brand those features as narrowly prejudiced and as merely legal customs. (If you were lucky, you'd even get a boob from their camp to follow you via a popular social medium.) Failing that, if you admit marriage is just a word, just a social game, then why should thee be any marriage law at all? There cannot be laws about pure fictions. You can't have it both ways. Either marriage really is of an unalterable nature, which must be explained and obeyed by all, or it is just a wax nose, and law is irrelevant to the satisfaction of gay intimacy.

Fourth, I'm not sure I should bother giving you reasoned answers, since your moniker implies the only reason I could have for opposing gay (as well as bigamous, underage, incestuous, fraudulent, necrophiliac, etc.) marriage, is because I "HATE". Yes. That's it. How insightful of you. Here's to an America where the only choices are doe-eyed social conformity or blind "hate". If you honestly think having principled objections to a radical, partisan innovation just is "hatred", you are a boob and really ought to follow yourself.

S: So… owning a gun isn't a right, because it requires a license?
C: Even American toddlers lack a right to guns without a license. Call it inflammatory or not, you put the cart before the horse.

S: In all that, you still didn't answer the question. What is the important governmental purpose accomplished by banning gay marriage? "We will be more American on the day after we permit gay marriage than we were on the day before". That's one of your guys [Blankenhorn in Propostition 8 corss-examination].

C: I have said why it's not in the interest of the state to reinvent the wheel on marriage. Gay marriage is no more banned than unicorn chariot rides are: both are fictions. Government policy should aim to promote longterm good for the whole polity. Gay marriage (GM) merits no more government aid than bigamy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Microcogditations from the front…

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This humidity must be part of my penance the priest slipped in when I wasn't listening. Despite everything, Marcus Aurelius never had to deal with this weather!
#TropicalKickToTheHead #Stoicism

""Both [Paganism & Stoicism] were consistent, philosophical, and exalted... [but] the first leads logically to murder and the second to suicide. ... It is only the Mystic, the man who accepts the contradictions [of life], who can laugh and walk easily through the world." - GKC

Passing an ad for plastic surgery, asked wife if she wants that. Bugged eyes: "No. I'm beautiful."

The nail in the coffin for FTL Neutrinos: LINK.

I stand sideways in conversations so people realize I want to go, but doing so only seems to drag it out.
#YouDoItToYourself #Fail

I'm leery of writing his O'ness' name in conjunction with the HHS struggle, since doing so not only misses the point (i.e. it's bigger than him, if not bigger than his ego), but also risks making opposition to HHS qua "O____care" a political campaign, at which point religious opponents of HHS have overstepped the very bounds they're trying to protect.

@eckharttolle "Real love doesn't make you suffer. How could it?" By making you sacrifice, how about? Saying "I love you" even when you don't 'feel' it is just what validates your love: the difference between loving and being "in love".
#SacredHeart #Crucifixion

George Clooney arrested in Washington, D.C. "for protesting Sudan’s attacks on its Nuba people."
"How many more bodies until the Nuba mountains become the next Darfur?"

My friend wanted to let me be happy in my "new baby" bubble, filter bad news, but I kneel to a crucified peasant everyday: my bubble is… congenitally open.
#SacredHeart #Crucifixion

The duality of human fecundity (maker/medium, male/female, thought/act) finds unity in the absolute simplicity of God as all-wise Creator. Mary's virgin motherhood is but a portrait of the deeper mystery of God's virgin fatherhood. God as Spirit thus transcends and grounds sex. Atheism is ontological solipsism.

It must never be forgotten that economy originally meant family budget.

Scientismatics want a final theory, a theory which would in principle be universally valid, and thus physically deductive, yet they reject religion i.a. because theistic claims are "not in principle" falsifiable. Huh?
#scientism #CultofGnu

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The culture of separation...

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According to traditional western metaphysics, death is the separation of a person's body and soul. According to Cartesian dualism, by contrast, a person's life consists in precisely the radical existential cleft between body and soul. In so far as our culture is still pervaded by Cartesian conditioning, our culture is rightly labelled a culture of death. The ideology of death, aka nihilism, is driven by the underlying principle that plurality means discord, that difference entails disunity. Hence, divorce is a tendril of separationist nihilism, because it severs the bond between free commitment and eternal transcendence. Abortion is likewise a tendril of dichotomous nihilism, as it severs the bond between a woman's good and her child's. Contraception similarly forces a wedge between the distinct yet inseparable goods of sex and procreation.

By the same token, any movement which promotes homosexual intimacy as an equally valid form of human family life, is implicitly trying to reduce the awkward plurality of the male-female unity into a more manageable system of genderized uniformity, and as such is just as much a tendril of separationist nihilism as the others I have mentioned. It is precisely the distinction between an axe and wood which gives them a unity that finds its purpose quite literally in the family hearth. With an axe man may chop lumber and build a home, in which he can, in turn, make a family. With an axe he likewise may chop wood to make a fire, over which, in turn, a meal may be made to feed his family. What will not suit the man is an axe only or wood only. He can only make his home by unifying the difference between an axe and wood in the service of a higher end.

What the same-sex movement strives for, alas, is effectively endorsing axes to chop axes and wood to split wood, out of which I believe can only be made a heap of scrap parts, or, ultimately, tinder for an everlasting fire fueled by the inquenchable flame of self-love, which is the apotheosis of same-love. If a man cannot find himself (which is to say, lose himself) in a woman, it won't do him much good to seek himself in a man, on the assumption that men can love each other as well as if not better than men can love women, since, you see, the former bond is free of the complexity and political phoniness of the "male-female" dichotomy. If a man funds utter easier to love someone who is more like him, he may as well go the whole way and admit he loves the person more like him than anyone else, namely, himself. That he is more attracted to men than women is one thing; that his attraction can legitimize a whole alternative way of the human family is something else completely. An axe may fit better on the shelf with another axe, but thus does not mean heaping axes together is a valid alternative to using axes to chop wood for the good of homemaking.

That, of course, is the fundamental difference which must be acknowledged, and the basis for every person's fundamental choice between worldviews. The world is either a place for making homes ur for making heaps. At the heart of the Christian worldview is an icon of unity in plurality, of harmony based on difference, of a family of unique persons. The regnant worldview of our mass culture, by contrast, enshrines the supremacy of unity based on uniformity (the collective heaping of axes) or, if uniformity cannot be satisfactorily commodified or imposed, sacrifices harmony for the unqualified blind good of plurality for its own sake (the nominalistic scrapping of all).

Monday, March 12, 2012

A study in ecclesiastical motive...

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The therapeutic stance towards sin is among the greatest aids for sinning yet more. An examination of the clerical abuse scandal in Denmark bears this out. The milieu for that scandal was one in which sexual liberty, indeed, sexual rambunctiousness, was encouraged in mainstream elementary pedagogical texts, based, of course, on the regnant psychological theories of the time. Such theories regarded repression and moralistic guilt as infinitely worse sins than masturbation, fornication, pornography, and the like.

The same theories pervade Family Planning materials, in which children are explicitly encouraged and instructed how to explore their own bodies and the sexual capacities of others. It is not a question of accepting a child's sexuality but one of actively stimulating it. If it happens that one of the best guides a child has for activating his sexuality is a minister, coach, or priest, then we must allow the exploration to advance , since both parties are willing co-explorers. Above all we mustn't judge or condemn in a dogmatic, moralistic spirit.

I am certain a similar broadminded lassitude was present in the American abuse scandal. It is no mere coincidence that the crooked handling of offending priests went in parallel with the sexualization of psychiatry, a trend which came to a head in the nineties, when pedophilia was clinically chicAn offending priest would be given a change of environment, not a swift and dogmatic censure, since he is not to blame, indeed, none of us is to blame, for we are but the product of our environment. The abuse festered not because it is a particularly Catholic thing—indeed, rates of abuse are at least as high if not higher among non-Catholic and secular contexts which allow for abuses of intimacy, trust, and authority—but because the motives of clerical administrators was skewed by a therapeutic bias. The aim was not to do the right thing, for such a course necessarily implies one can do or has done a wrong thing, has committed a sin, plain and simple, and that the right thing to do is to dispense and suffer punishment. Punishment is however an outdated shibboleth of dogmatic moralism. As such, the only right thing to do, the only socially commendable motive, was not to do right, but to do right by a psychologically maladjusted subject, the hope being that an adjustment in the subject's surroundings would yield an adjustment (not to use so high-handed a term as rectification) of the subject's behavior. Redeem the efferent phenomena by tweaking the afferent noumena, as it were.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

'No constitutional rights', full stop…

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WH: Signatures to Rescind HHS Contraceptive Mandate Exceed Those on Petition in Favor of Policy 5 to 1
By Edwin Mora
February 6, 2012

That petition, which was created on Jan. 28, notes that HHS “is mandating that all employer healthcare insurance plans provide coverage for procedures which violate the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and Catholic institutions.” …

HHS will begin enforcing the policy in August and has given religious organizations an extra year to implement the mandate.

Despite concerns by the Catholic community including over 100 bishops and leaders of other denominations, the White House last week said that there is: ‘no constitutional rights issues’ surrounding the mandate.

Freshman Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a Catholic, has introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which will overturn the HHS mandate.

Stop the Birth Control Mandate…

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Stop the Birth Control Mandate - A Petition Sponsored by St. Gianna Physician's Guild

I wholeheartedly express my solidarity with the Stop The Birth Control Mandate petition promoted by St. Gianna Physician's Guild protesting the recent decree by the Department of Health and Human Services of our federal government. I encourage Catholics to sign the petition and thus unite their support of Holy Mother Church by protesting the most grievous violation of the right to religious liberty for Catholics in the United States.
Raymond Cardinal Burke

–– Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura

As Mark Shea would say, "Episcopal Spine Alert!"

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Updated: *168* Bishops (More Than 90% of Dioceses) Have Spoken Out Against Obama/HHS Mandate

SPECIAL MENTION: “The Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in North America just issued a formal statement of protest against the HHS mandate in which the Assembly, representing all 53 Orthodox bishops in North America, references their complete agreement with the statements of the USCCB.”…

NOTE: If you would like a statement by an Eastern Rite bishop to be included please send [Tom Peters] the link/document or post it in the comments! Thank you. I’m trying to provide documentation for all the bishops listed and Eastern Rite bishops have been harder for me to track down. Thank you for understanding!

UPDATE: Of the 183 dioceses (by my count) in the U.S. who have a bishop currently serving as its head, 167 of them have issued statements. So more than 90% of bishops who head dioceses have spoken out against the Obama/HHS mandate.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The big antlers serve the good of the species by enhancing reproductive success...

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The core of Frank's thesis is that unmitigated self-interest does not, according to Darwinian awareness, produce the larger, collective, common good.

Money is only forty years old, and having a mid-life crisis....

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A spledind lecture, a solid historical precis. I found 16:00 onwards for a little while most intriguing, since, yes, "distributed" commerce is mentioned.

For some, the lecturer's accent may make the lecture...

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For others, less aesthetically gifted, the content will have to stand on its own.

The upshot is that, unless ethics suffuse economics, the idol of economic efficiency will effectively censor (and reconstruct) people by giving them over to their own insular, most efficiently satisfied impulses.

Note the parallels he draws between education and industrialization...

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Friday, February 3, 2012

A conversation I recently had at work…

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There I was, minding my own business, finishing yet another reading of the epistle of James, waiting for the students to arrive, when suddenly my co-worker blurted out, "The Bible?"

"Yes," I said, "that old thing."

"Have you read the whole thing?"


Unlike you, I'd wager.

"Why are you reading it? Just to… re-fresh… your… or…?"

"Yes, I'm one of those. I'm a Catholic."

"Still? Oh."

"I wasn't always Catholic. I was raised Presbyterian, but about five years ago, I entered the Church. I take it you are… interested in the Bible?"

By interested, of course, I mean titillated by your own sophomoric disdain for anything older or bigger than you.

"You mean the official Bible, or the ones that were repressed?"

"Ah, yes, I'm familiar with what you mean, but no, I'm reading the orthodox Bible, not the Gospel or Judas or Thomas or anything like that. Do you study religious history?"

As in, do you imbibe as much of the Huffington Post and Youtube clips as your leisure affords?

"Well, I was into history and soash at uni, so… yeah."


"So, you like religious history?"

"I like… facts. I mean, not that there are any."

Well, that's a relief. Here I thought you were challenging my faith based on damning facts about the Bible. Good thing there are no facts with which I must contend, aside, I suppose, from the fact of your visceral loathing for Christian tradition and the very idea of truth.

"Ahh. Okay. Right."

"I'm interested in how society… how social ideas can… influence or shape people's actions. Like Scientology, wow! I saw this amazing documentary on BBC last night about Scientology."

Sweet lamb, if only you realized how the "social determinist" argument cuts both ways. If you turn your read, just so, in just the right light, I can only faintly detect the thread of silver running from Dawkins' blog to the ring in your nose.

"Oh, BBC, they're pretty good."

"Yeah, but, well, everybody's got a bias."

Fortunately, everyone but you, right?

"What are you gonna do?"

"I try not to think about it all. I just want to be happy."


Books I've read in the last six months or so…

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As you may know, I keep a running tab on my "mental diet" (books and movies), but decided to share my latest explorations. Has anyone here read any of these books and have any opinions to offer?

If you visit my log, you'll notice I'm still (still!) reading a few other books, which means I've been reading about two books a week lately, so, roughly (in theory), I read 300 books last year. Here's to another 300 this year! The interesting thing is, that's more than twice as much as I used to read in high school and college per annum. If only I could get back to writing as much as I used to then, as well.

Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (2002) by Christopher Janaway
An Introduction to Philosophical Logic (1982; 1st ed.) by A. C. Grayling
Self, Logic, and Figurative Thinking (2009) by Harwood Fisher
The Development of Logic (1962) by William Kneale & Martha Kneale
Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings (1998) (ed.) Ralph McInerny
• God Is a Bullet by Boston Teran
The Blue Hour by T. Jefferson Parker
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Duma Key by Stephen King
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
The Terror by Dan Simmons
The Talisman by Stephen King & Peter Straub
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
The Nature of the Mind by Peter Carruthers
Personal Identity by Harold Noonan
Theory and Truth by Lawrence Sklar
Philosophical Logic by John P. Burgess
Philosophy of Logic by W.V.O. Quine
From a Logical Point of View by W.V.O. Quine
Everywhere and Everywhen by Nick Huggett
Thinking about Physics by Roger G. Newton
Real Essentialism by David Oderberg
Why Marx Was Right (2011) by Terry Eagleton
Logic (1985) by Juan Jose Sanguineti
Nominalism and Realism – Volume 1 of Universals and Scientific Realism (1980) by D. M. Armstrong
A Theory of Universals – Volume 2 of Universals and Scientific Realism (1980) by D. M. Armstrong
Couplehood by Paul Reiser
What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth by Wendell Berry
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism by Robert P. Murphy, Ph.D.
Toward a Truly Free Market: A Distributist Perspective on the Role of Government, Taxes, Health Care, Deficits, and More (2010) by John M. Médaille
Leibniz's Mill: A Challenge to Materialism (2011) by Charles Landesman
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism by Kevin D. Williamson
In Defence of Global Capitalism (2001) by Johan Norberg
The "Poisoned Spring" of Economic Libertarianism –– Menger, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard: A Critique from Catholic Social Teaching of the 'Austrian School' of Economics (2011) by Angus Sibley
Micro (2012) by Michael Crichton w/ Richard Preston
The Case for Working with Your Hands, Or Why Office Work Is Bad for Us and Fixing Things Feels Good (2010) by Stephen Crawford
The Conscience of a Liberal (2009) by Paul Krugman
Free Lunch: Easily Digestible Economics, Served on a Plate (2003) by David Smith
The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2000) by Hernando de Soto
Why Most Things Fail: Evolution, Extinction & Economics (2005) by Paul Ormerod
What's Wrong with the World (1910) by G.K. Chesterton
The Servile State (1912) by Hilaire Belloc
The Sun of Justice: An Essay on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church (1938) by Harold Robbins
The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War ([1981] 2010 2nd ed.) by Arno J. Mayer

Thursday, February 2, 2012

We can't strike out on this one…

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Conscience Protection

Bishops Vow to Fight Coercive HHS Mandate

Watch his video
take action today!

Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at: 202-224-3121, or call your Members’ local offices.

Send an e-mail through NCHLA’s Grassroots Action Center at: HERE.

Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, sharply criticized the decision by the Obama administration in which it "ordered almost every employer and insurer in the country to provide sterilization and contraceptives, including some abortion-inducing drugs, in their health plans.... Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn't happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights."

The language of liberty…

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Consistory Hall
Thursday, 19 January 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,

… One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

… To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of [Christian] truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. …

[T]he Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. … The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. …

The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

… [I]t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. … Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. …

… The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

[R]espect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Freedom, schmeedom…

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U.S. Bishops Vow to Fight HHS Edict

January 20, 2012

The Catholic bishops of the United States called “literally unconscionable” a decision by the Obama Administration to continue to demand that sterilization, abortifacients and contraception be included in virtually all health plans. Today's announcement means that this mandate and its very narrow exemption will not change at all; instead there will only be a delay in enforcement against some employers.

“In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences,” said Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The cardinal-designate continued, “To force American citizens to choose between violating their consciences and forgoing their healthcare is literally unconscionable. It is as much an attack on access to health care as on religious freedom. Historically this represents a challenge and a compromise of our religious liberty. … The government should not force Americans to act as if pregnancy is a disease to be prevented at all costs….”

“This is nothing less than a direct attack on religion and First Amendment rights,” said Franciscan Sister Jane Marie Klein, chairperson of the board at Franciscan Alliance, Inc., a system of 13 Catholic hospitals. …

Daughter of Charity Sister Carol Keehan, president and chief executive officer of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, voiced disappointment with the decision[:] … “This was a missed opportunity to be clear on appropriate conscience protection….”

Pay up…

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Get ready to pay. …

Secretary of Health and Human Services and pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius [has] announced that the proposed mandate requiring all insurance plans to pay for contraception, sterilization and some abortion drugs is official -- and Catholics cannot escape….

Cardinal-designate Timothy M. Dolan responded…: “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

Beginning August 1, 2012…, the insurance premiums we pay, including the insurance premiums paid by Catholics for employees of churches and schools … will be used to cover drugs and procedures that are in direct conflict with the teachings of our Church. … Our government will now force us to pay for insurance coverage for birth control, sterilization and even some abortion drugs. …

Make no mistake, this decision is a direct attack on you, our Church, and the religious liberty of all Americans.

… Pope Benedict XVI addressed the bishops from the United States who were completing their "Ad Limina" visit in Rome. The Holy Father specifically cited the "grave threats" to the freedom of the Church in America, and urged the Catholic community to respond, especially with "an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity." …

[In twelve] months, America will welcome a new president, or usher in four more years of Barack Obama and his assault on our liberties. This irony is not lost on us. … The Catholic vote must rise up like never before.


Brian Burch, President

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A quiz for reader(s)…

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"_______________ is a politico-economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and in which the powers of the state are limited to the protection of the individual's rights against the initiation of physical force. … Under _______________, the state consists essentially just of a police force, law courts, and a national defense establishment, which deter and combat those who initiate the use of physical force."

The answer to the above blank is…

A. Capitalism

B. Laissez-faire capitalism

C. Socialism / Keynseanism

D. Distributism

Enterprise, so called…

2 comment(s)
"Hardly anybody…dares to defend the family. The world around us has accepted a social system which denies the family. It will sometimes help the child in spite of the family; the mother in spite of the family; the grandfather in spite of the family. It will not help the family. … We live in an age of journalese, in which everything done inside a house is called ‘drudgery’ while anything done inside an office is called ‘enterprise.’"

-- G.K. Chesterton, Dec 1931

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Maximum initiative…

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"All who believe that ownership in the means of livelihood is normal to man, and necessary to liberty, and all who dislike and distrust the concentration of control advocated by Socialists and practiced by Monopolists, should join the [Distributist] League … [The League] stands for the Liberty of the Individual and the Family against interference by busybodies, monopolies, or the State … [and for] … the better Distribution of Property (i.e. ownership of land, houses, workshops, gardens, means of production, etc.). … [As such, the League] fights for small Shops and Shopkeepers against multiple shops and trusts…[, for] Individual Craftmanship and Cooperation in industrial enterprises… [, and for the] Small Holder and the Yeoman Farmer against monopolists of large inadequately farmed estates … [In a word, the League stands for] the Maximum, instead of the minimum initiative on the part of the citizen."

-- G.K.'s Weekly, March 29, 1929

The division of mind… 

0 comment(s)
"The division of labour has become the division of mind… and means in a new and sinister sense that the right hand does not know what the left hand doeth. In the age of universal education, nobody knows where anything comes from. The process of production has become so indirect, so multitudinous and so anonymous, that to trace anything to its origin is to enter upon a sort of detective story, or the exploration of a concealed crime."

-- G.K. Chesterton, Jun 1932

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A dialogue between a "real capitalist" and a "distributist dreamer"…

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"Distributism does not blend or 'balance' Capitalism and Socialism. Both of these systems result in the concentration of ownership. Socialism does not 'redistribute' wealth, it denies the private ownership of it altogether…. We have been trained to believe that any significant state involvement means Socialism. This is a lie. State managed redistribution of privately owned wealth from the rich to the needy is not Socialism because the the wealth remains privately owned. … Both Capitalism and Socialism require the big state. This is true despite the Libertarian desire to minimize state involvement."

-- David Cooney, 10 Jan. 2011

A: Cooney's point about "redistribution" seems arguably correct. But where does he get his assertion about Capitalism? (Or is he ignoring the laissez-faire brand? For it never needs a "Big" government.)

B: I think the idea here is: "Wal-Mart without federal highways––oh really, now?"

A: I'm not following. And federal highways are one of the very few functions a SMALL government is actually allowed to govern.

B: Let me quote from a private and slightly revised correspondence:

"[We musnt confuse] 'prices' with 'costs.' [For] this ignores the role of externalities and subsidies. Prices can be lowered by externalizing costs. For example, WalMart could not survive if the costs of transportation were not subsidized. If there were weight and distance tolls on roads, the long range distribution system would be shown to be inefficient for low cost goods and would be confined to high-quality, rare, and high cost goods. If pollution were paid for by the producers, instead of by the gov't or simply by decreased public health, it is absurd to speak of 'low-prices.' …

"The WalMart distribution model looks this (I am using WM as an example because their operations are well-known and documented): They open a distribution center in a new area, and then saturate that area with stores along the major highways. It is obvious that the region cannot support that number of stores, but sales are not, initially, the object. As the local commerce (and competition) drys up, Walmart closes most of the stores to leave an 'optimal number,' which leaves the area at the mercy of Walmart, and stores that are remote from many people. At that point, even the pretense of low prices is lost. And this analysis ignores the cases of stores whose entire profit margin consists of the sales tax rebate."

In any event, small govt may be able to govern highways… but how did they get built?

A: Small government can = federal government, as long as it is existing within its Constitutional authority. And that's what I thought you might mean re: Wal-Mart, but Wal-Mart is no archetype of Capitalism, only of our current Socialist-laden Capitalism. A great capitalism could still exist even if Wal-Mart could not.

B: What would you say is the best actual, sustained case of laissez-faire capitalism in history (i.e. devoid of government crutches and monopolies)?

A: Several hundreds or thousands of (micro-)times in American history, most of which were in its earlier times. I'm not much of a historian, and so remember dates, etc., but I have read about them in books on history and economics. The PIGs to the Constitution and Capitalism are my better resources. (Which are, admittedly, not academic.)

But this question (which I've heard often) misses some of the point: for a single application of a single policy amidst an incredibly controlling, subsidy-laden socialist capitalism, if it frees the market in some small way, is enough of an example of laissez-faire capitalism. And I have found this to work at near 100%.

B: I'd call the "micro-times" of true capitalism just family's lives, i.e. time scales in which capitalism is effectively distributism. I am troubled by the apparent symmetry between the following claims: "Capitalism has never really been tried" and "Communism has never really been tried". It could just as easily be said that regulating monopolies under a socialist aegis frees the market for a greater number of producers, and therefore socialism is vindicated. The problem is that both capitalism and socialism seem to treat economic conditions and dynamics as a kind of trans-historical, absolute sphere of deterministic principles, as if "society" and/or "the market" were something over and above the particular people who interact. Speaking of freedom presupposes we know what freedom means, and I deny that freedom is simply the ability to do whatever. Freedom is the power to do the good, and nothing about capitalism in its theoretical purity seems to speak to "the good" (but only to "goods"). Therefore, it seems a truly-free market (i.e. a sustainable system of free people interacting towards the common good) can only be brought about by aiming market laws at the common good, which is the purpose of governance.

In any case, the point is precisely that 'real' laissez-faire capitalism (LFC) seems only to enjoy micro-spatiotemporally sustainable success, not longterm, widespread success (absent government crutches). Any theory can be made to work for a time. Look at Sweden as "proof" of socialism (never mind that it's liberalizing now that the socialist generation is growing oppressive). If LFC is practically unworkable in the real world of historical change, then it is just that: practically unworkable.

Here's a little syllogism (modus tollens): If the market M just is human behavior B, and if B is consistently and reliably rational Rr, then the market is Rr; but B is not Rr (~Rr), therefore M is ~Rr. If however M is irrational, then, either "the invisible hand" is just as 'good' a guide as "The Great Spirit of Natural Selection" or pure-market economics is ~Rr and LFC seems in dire straits.

It's an interesting conundrum: if LFC has never really, fully, truly been tried (á la Ron Paul), then it's not really been shown to be false. My query is why, if LFC is the natural order of human flourishing, it can't seem to get off the ground (i.e. it can't get really tried).

Nonetheless, let it be granted that distributism is all for smaller government, so small, in fact, that it would not amount to more than needed to protect the smallest and best government, namely, the family. That's a key point, in any event: there is a close connection between small government and small economy , on the one hand, and big economy and big government, on the other.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Or rather a second… 

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"Communism is that form of Capitalism in which all workers have an equal wage. Capitalism is that form of Communism in which the organising officials have a very large salary. … Both presuppose property not personal, but Worked from a centre and distributed as wages. There is a third ideal; or rather a second. It is that individuals should own and be free. … The right and essential thing [is] that as many people as possible should have the natural, original forms of sustenance as their own property.

The division of labour has become the division of mind; and means in a new and sinister sense that the right hand does not know what the left hand doeth. In the age of universal education, nobody knows where anything comes from. The process of production has become so indirect, so multitudinous and so anonymous, that to trace anything to its origin is to enter upon a sort of detective story, or the exploration of a concealed crime."

-- G.K. Chesterton, Apr-Sep-Jun 1932

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Actually operating… 

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"Capitalism, as practiced in the real world, goes far beyond the private ownership of productive capital. Capitalism as it actually exists includes different forms of corporate ownership, … investment and financing schemes, interest, the acceptance of greed as an objective good, usury, using capital for profit … [and] to prevent competitors from making profit, monopoly, free trade, involvement of the highest levels of government, and a utilitarian view of the worker. … [T]he economic system actually operating under the name Capitalism is very different than the basic definition of the word [i.e. private ownership of production]…. Since both Distributism and Capitalism operate on the basis of private ownership of productive capital, we need to look beyond this one common root and realize that neither of these economic systems is wholly defined by it."

–– David Cooney, "Is Distributism a Form of Capitalism?"

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Capitalism has no conscience besides what we put into it…

1 comment(s)
John Medaille of the Univ. of Dallas Discusses Economics. His book, “Toward a Truly Free Market” is Available at
December 20th, 2011

John Medaille of the Univ. of Dallas answered questions such as the following:
1) The economy is not doing well. What caused the problem?
2) When the gov’t needs money, why not just create it and forget selling bonds and paying interest? This way there would be no national debt.
3) How important are Christian principles to the proper functioning of a free market system?
4) Is it harmful to the economy if too much annual income goes to too few?
5) Should Soc Sec be privatized? Should we keep the minimum wage and The Federal Reserve?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The heart of the social order…

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"The rural family needs to regain its rightful place at the heart of the social order. The moral principles and values which govern it belong to the heritage of humanity, and must take priority over legislation. They are concerned with individual conduct, relations between husband and wife and between generations, and the sense of family solidarity. Investment in the agricultural sector has to allow the family to assume its proper place and function, avoiding the damaging consequences of hedonism and materialism that can place marriage and family life at risk."

-- Benedict XVI, 16 Oct 2006


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Neither balance nor blend… 

0 comment(s)
"Distributism does not blend or 'balance' Capitalism and Socialism. Both of these systems result in the concentration of ownership. Socialism does not 'redistribute' wealth, it denies the private ownership of it altogether…. We have been trained to believe that any significant state involvement means Socialism. This is a lie. State managed redistribution of privately owned wealth from the rich to the needy is not Socialism because the the wealth remains privately owned. … Both Capitalism and Socialism require the big state. This is true despite the Libertarian desire to minimize state involvement."

-- David Cooney, 10 Jan. 2011

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First and second concern…

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"I know that my first care is that of my immortal soul and that, since my soul is for all present practical purposes inseparable from my body, my second care is that of my body.... Hence my decision to purchase a smallholding, work it for myself, and live like a king in my own country."

–– G.C. Heseltine, G.K.'s Weekly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

By reference to moral values…

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"Capitalism is not a philosophy. It is simply a method of allocating resources based on voluntary exchange instead of coercion. While some say that such a method promotes greed, history indicates that greed is no less present in any other system of allocating resources. Distributism is completely compatible with capitalism to the extent it is a voluntary expression of the desire to make such market exchanges by reference to appropriate moral values and not just profit. Distributism is most difficult to apply in the context of enterprises that need large amounts of capital to compete successfully. Such businesses tend to organize as public companies whose ownership is distinct from management. Such companies have a very difficult time voluntarily expressing values that are inimical to profit maximization. It is not impossible, since corporations can be organized expressing other goals which would be disclosed to investors, but thus far such efforts have not proven all that successful. Instead, non-pecuniary values are imposed via government regulation, which plainly can be blunt and political instruments. It is also important to realize that non-investor corporate constituencies, especially consumers, do alter behavior by imposing their values thereby affecting corporate profits. Imperfect information and imperfect consumers limit the efficacy of such forces, but truly there is nothing about a free market system that renders it inherently incompatible with Catholic values."
-- a guy named Mike Petrik, on a blog

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why are people always burying distributism?

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"The very fact that people are always burying distributism is evidence of the fact that it is not dead as a solution. …

"[Chesterton argued] that were Dickens living today, he would not be harking back to the past, but dealing with things just as he found them. … [The] particularly Dickensian [consists in a man's] enjoying his surroundings as they were, and beginning from there.

"It is the same with Distributism. It needs to be constantly rewritten, re-assessed, restated, with the wisdom and clear-sightedness of a Chesterton who … who can help us today to make a synthesis of Cult, Culture and Cultivation.

"In spite of the nuclear age we are living in, we can plant our gardens even if they are only window boxes, we can awaken ourselves to God’s good earth and in little ways start going out on pilgrimage, to the suburbs, to the country, and when we get the grace, we may so put off the old man, and put on Christ, that we will begin to do without all that the City of man offers us, and build up the farming commune, the Village, the 'city' of God, wherein justice dwelleth."
–– Catholic Worker Movement - DorothyDay -

Economic empowerment…

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Look, Ma, it ain't just Chesterbelloc and the Catholics going on about distributism, them humanists are going on about it, too.

"[W]hile I argue [pace Marx] it is false to claim that surplus value is unjustly appropriated by … employers, landlords and middlemen who are contributing to the value of a good or service, it is undoubtedly true that those who work for them, rent from them or sell to them would be financially better off if they could keep the financial benefit of this transaction - the surplus value - for themselves.

"This in a nutshell is what distributism is all about.

"Distributism is not trying to make the poor rich by making the rich poor, but empowering the poor and the not-so-rich to accumulate more of the demand-based value of their labour, more of the demand-based value of their produce, more of the demand-based value of their accommodation. …

"The key work to understanding early 20th century distributism is Belloc's seminal work, _The Servile State_. A savage denunciation of laissez-faire capitalism, which Belloc argued was re-establishing feudal servility on economic lines, _The Servile State_ is no less savage towards state socialism, which (ironically presaging the later words of free market economist Friedrich Hayek) Belloc called no less a road to serfdom. …

"The laurel for outstanding success in implementing distributist aims must rest with the Spanish, where following the Spanish Civil war, Don Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta founded the Mondragon Co-operative in the Basque region. From a handful of unemployed oil lamp makers, Mondragon has grown to become the ninth largest corporation in Spain. … The lot of the poor is improved not through welfare but through economic empowerment. Capital is seen not as the enemy but as an instrument for social progress. …

"[I]f capitalism is simply about maximizing profits and standing back even if that leads to monopoly ownership, then Mondragon isn't capitalism. And if socialism is about collective ownership rather than private profit, Mondragon isn't socialism either, because Mondragon is all about making individuals and their families wealthier."
-- Distributism as an equalitarian economic policy -

Natural capital…

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"The twin pillars of the capitalist system – private ownership and free markets – are undergoing a significant shift as a result of the financial meltdown. The days of companies "privatizing the profits" and governments "socializing the losses" are gone forever. … Capitalism is dooming itself because it is polluting and depleting its resource base – natural capital – in its frenetic pursuit of profits and growth. The tragedy of modern capitalism lies in its denial that there is a biophysical limit to exponential consumption and growth. … [We must revise] statistical accounting systems, such as Gross Domestic Product, so that they reflect externalities like pollution and public health. … Capitalism cannot be reformed until we reform our own consumption behaviour: until we learn to live with less, until we reduce our bloated ecological footprints and until we lower our material expectations."
-- Hugh Robertson, "Capitalism and Sustainability" -

Friday, January 6, 2012

Too much capitalism means too few capitalists…

3 comment(s)
"The modern rulers, who are simply the rich men, are really quite consistent in their attitude to the poor man. … That which wishes, in the words of the comic song, to break up the happy home, is primarily anxious not to break up the much more unhappy factory. Capitalism … is at war with the family, for the same reason which has led to its being at war with the Trade Union. This indeed is the only sense in which it is true that capitalism is connected with individualism. Capitalism believes in collectivism for itself and individualism for its enemies. It desires its victims to be individuals, or (in other words) to be atoms. For the word atom, in its clearest meaning (which is none too clear) might be translated as 'individual.' If there be any bond, if there be any brotherhood, if there be any class loyalty or domestic discipline, by which the poor can help the poor, these emancipators will certainly strive to loosen that bond or lift that discipline in the most liberal fashion. If there be such a brotherhood, these individualists will redistribute it in the form of individuals; or in other words smash it to atoms."
-- G.K. Chesterton, The Superstition of Divorce, II.2

A more, rather than less, radical critique…

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Does Catholic Social Teaching approve of capitalism?

"If by 'capitalism' is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a 'business economy', 'market economy' or simply 'free economy'. But if by 'capitalism' is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality, and which sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.' …

"The theology that makes CST 'a category of its own,' makes it a more, rather than less, radical critique of Capitalism, because it subordinates economics to other, higher, dimensions of society…. [Médaille] painstakingly builds the case for introducing ethics and justice into economics and business, starting with the most basic issues. … Médaille confronts [the problem of relativism] directly, and carefully reconstructs the process of moral reasoning, taking the reader all the way from the Bible and the Greeks to the Enlightenment, and the separation of reason from faith—the source of our modern (or post-modern) predicament, where relativism rules."
-- Angelo Matera, Book Review: The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace by John Medaille -

Thursday, January 5, 2012

That isn't just bullshit…

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Me: "The point of distributism is that capitalism must regulate-itself-or-be-regulated in a way that protects and promotes the very conditions which make capitalism possible. Labor is taken as a given in neoclassical economics, but labor is nothing more than laborers, who are nothing more than the sons and daughters of families. Therefore, the market must first respect families –– the market must not use families, it must consist in families."

My coworker: "Hm. That's the first thing I've heard that… takes away from capitalism… that isn't just bullshit."

I now understand the reason for my doubts…

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"Until very recently, … I had grave doubts that what has come to be called 'capitalism' could establish the kind of economic democracy which political democracy required as its counterpart. I now understand the reasons for my doubts. They were based on an understanding of 'capitalism' which was colored by the sound criticisms that had been leveled against its injustices and inequities, not only by Marx and Engels, and by socialists generally, but also by Popes Leo XIII and Pius XI, and by social philosophers or reformers as diverse as Alexis de Tocqueville, Horace Mann, Henry George, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Hilaire Belloc, Jacques Maritain, Amintore Fanfani, and Karl Polanyi."
-- Mortimer Adler, Preface to The Capitalist Manifesto (1958) by Louis Kelso, p. 5.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Expropriation in Taiwan…

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"Elderly farmers... said the proposed amendments to the Act of Eminent Domain are still tilted toward corporations. Tsai Pei-hui, a professor of Social Transformation Studies at Shih Hsin University who joined the protest, said a dozen of the controversial land expropriation cases in special agricultural zones are related to major government construction projects. The draft amendment... allows the government to acquire private lands in agricultural zones, which means farmers' properties can be expropriated at will.... One of the main points of the amendment bill is that land expropriation must be in the 'public interest....'" However, the draft bill, which was scheduled for a second reading Tuesday, did not take into consideration the public's opinions on what constitutes 'public interest,' [Tsai] said."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Avarice is directly a sin against neighbor…

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"External goods [i.e. commodities] have the character of means useful for an end. Hence man's good in them must consist in a certain measure of them; that is, a man must seek to have external riches only in a certain measure, insofar as they are necessary for him in his state of life. In any excess of the measure there will be sin; it is evil if he should wish to get or keep them beyond a right measure. This would be avarice, which is defined as 'the immoderate love of having.' ...

Avarice can be immoderate in external goods in two ways. First, directly in the getting or keeping of these goods, by getting of keeping them more than he should. This is directly a sin against our neighbor, because external goods cannot be simultaneously possessed by many, and therefore, if one man has more than he ought, others have less than they ought.

Secondly, avarice can imply an immoderateness in the internal affection we have for riches, namely, by immoderately loving, desiring, or delighting in them.... Consequently, it is a sin against God."
-- St. Thomas Aquinas ST IIa IIae, q. 88, Art. 4, resp. 1.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The necessary role of justice in political economy…

1 comment(s)
"Medaille suggests that economics—better labeled as political economy—lost its way under the influence of David Hume and Bernard de Mandeville. ... As his antidote, the author returns to the political economy of Aristotle and to the necessary place of justice in proper theory. ... Aristotle also argued that '[t]he family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants.' Medaille elaborates: 'It is the family, and not the individual, that is the starting point ... because only the family is [fundamentally] self-sufficient; an individual in isolation can neither reproduce nor provide for himself.' Accordingly, all economics is necessarily social, or communitarian. This return to Aristotle also points to measures of justice. ...

"The author also resurrects the key insights of early 20th Century Distributists[: namely,] 'Markets are not natural phenomenon, but are socially created'; '…exchange does not create wealth; that happens in the production process'[;] …if the worker is to reap the full value of his labor, then he must own an interest in the land he works; — “Property must be seen as an aid to productive work, and not as a substitute for it'; and —-“This accumulation of property into the hands of those who do not use it is the sole cause of the vast inequalities that bedevil civil society and economic order” [referencing here Adam Smith—one of the author’s heroes-- “Wherever there is great property there is great inequality…[and] the indigence of the many”]. In each case, Medaille provides provocative elaborations of these basic premises behind the Call for a Property State."
-- "Commentary on John Medaille’s Toward a Truly Free Market" | Front Porch Republic -

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A fantasy world of moral and fiscal unreality...

0 comment(s)

Debt, Finance, and Catholics

Samuel Gregg
Debt and deficits seem to be on everyone’s minds these days. ... Unfortunately, modern Catholic social encyclicals have relatively little to say about financial questions. Even the 2004 Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine confines itself to very broad statements about finance and foreign debt, and it never really addresses the moral dimension of private and public debt.This absence of sustained contemporary Catholic reflection on financial questions is puzzling. ... Indeed, for many centuries, Catholic bishops and theologians invested considerable energy in understanding the world of money because of the usury question. Catholic thinkers were consequently among the first to identify money’s primary functions, illustrate how money in the conditions of economic freedom could assume the form of capital, demonstrate the moral legitimacy of charging interest on money-as-capital, and assess the moral status of different debts in different contexts. 
... [E]arly-modern Catholic theologians assailed governments who tried to escape their debts by measures such as inflating the currency or borrowing more money to pay for interest payments on existing public debt, or who spent large portions of the taxes they raised on servicing debt or on activities that were either morally evil or simply did not fall within the core functions of constitutionally limited governments. 
... Today one looks in vain for Catholic thinkers studying our debt and deficit problems from standpoints equally well-informed by economics and sound Catholic moral reflection. ... Instead, one finds broad admonitions such as “put the interests of the poor first” in an age of budget-cutting. The desire to watch out for the poor’s well being in an environment of fiscal restraint is laudable. But that’s not a reason to remain silent about the often morally-questionable choices and policies that helped create our personal and public debt dilemmas in the first place.  
One Catholic who has proved willing to engage these issues is none other than Pope Benedict XVI. In his 2010 interview book Light of the World, Benedict pointed to a deeper moral disorder associated with the running-up of high levels of private and public debt. ...  
In other words, someone has to pay for all this debt. And clearly many Western Europeans and Americans seem quite happy for their children to pick up the bill. That’s a rather flagrant violation of intergenerational solidarity.  
... This willingness on the part of governments, communities, and individuals to live off debt means that people are “living in untruth.” ...  
In fact, it’s possible to go further and argue such attitudes reflect a mindset of practical atheism: living and acting as if God does not exist, as if the only life is this life, as if the future does not matter. Only people who have no hope — no hope in God, no hope in redemption, no hope for the future — will think and act this way. ... 
For if we choose to live our lives according to a perspective dominated by immediate gratification or pursue economic policies forever focused on the short term (which is, more or less, Keynesianism’s Achilles’ heel), then living off debt is entirely rational. But what does that say about our priorities and conception of human flourishing?  
Taking on debt is not in itself intrinsically evil. In many circumstances, it’s an entirely reasonable decision. Nevertheless, a situation of inexorably increasing debt and a failure to confront its moral and economic causes can slowly corrode our personal sense of responsibility for our freely undertaken obligations and severely tempt us to live in a fantasy world of moral and fiscal unreality. ...