Why Have Democracy?

Saturday, February 28, AD 2009

I was somewhat fascinated the other day, when participating in a discussion of school vouchers on another blog, to hear someone make the assertion that public schools are “more democratic” than vouchers because everyone must use the curriculum which is decided via “the democratic process” in public schools, whereas with vouchers someone might attend a religious (or otherwise flaky school) teaching things you do not believe to be true.

This strikes me as interesting because it suggests to me a view of democracy rather different from my own. Thinking on it further, I think there are basically three reasons why one would consider deciding things democratically (defining that broadly here as “by majority vote, either directly or via elected officials”) to be a good thing:

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3 Responses to Why Have Democracy?

  • Whether public schools are more democratic or not is certainly a question. When a small group of despots (judges, the head of the NEA, etc) control the curriculum of practically every student in the country, that’s not really democratic.

    In any event, being more or less democratic is not the key principle, a leaderless rabble is democratic isn’t it, but I prefer an organized authoritarian style army myself.

    The point is that when it comes to educating children the natural law principle is not what is most democratic, it is what the parents want their children to be taught. It is not for the state to infringe on this right in any case without good reason. The good reasons may not be general, but only in specific instances where the parents have seriously neglected their obligations. School choice very precisely follows this natural law requirement, and I don’t see how a Catholic could stand against it.

    Even aside from the Catholic sensibility, there is an American principle of self-determination which may be exercised not solely at the collective level, when we vote, but in individual freedoms, such as the right to educate your children as you see fit.

  • “then it seems to me that our respect for individual determination naturally should stretch to enabling people to make decisions themselves wherever possible rather than being served by centralized institutions.”

    Especially when one considers the track record of big government bureaucracies. The fact that so many people still have faith in government to solve problems across a broad spectrum of human activity is the triumph of hope over experience.

  • Vouchers.

    Just like the old Soviet Union where everybody had a “say” in their local village communist party committee, just as long as they agreed on the party line.

    It’s a joke to think that the public school system is the better form of a democracy than a voucher.

    ‘Nuff sed.

The Hot Asphalt

Saturday, February 28, AD 2009

Something for the weekend.  For a wonder I am posting an Irish song about something other than rebellion against the British!  The incomparable Wolfe Tones singing The Hot Asphalt.  I trust this song will be appreciated by all who have ever worked on a road crew or who have ever had a family member who worked on a road crew.  It is tough work, necessary work, and, until this song, unsung work.  Here is another set of lyrics for the song.

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Obama Finds His 9/11

Friday, February 27, AD 2009

Critics of the Bush Administration often complained (especially during his first term) that Bush used 9/11 as a justification for nearly everything he did. Given that the country was widely supportive of the administration in the years right after the attack, this was (the complaint went) a way for Bush to do things he’d wanted to do anyway under the guise of responding to an emergency. While I think this complaint was overstated, there is an element of truth to it. For instance, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question that many within the administration (rightly or wrongly) wanted to get rid of the Baathist regime in Iraq even prior to taking office.

In this respect, Obama seems to have found his 9/11, his excuse for doing all the things he and his party want to do while assuring everyone it would be a Very Bad Idea it not Downright Unpatriotic for them to disagree. Obama’s 9/11 is the recession, or as the media seems to have named it “The Worst Economic Downturn Since the Great Depression”. (This is, to my mind, a rather unwieldy name. Perhaps we could just call it the “Big Recession” or the “Little Depression”?)

Thus, in his presentation of a new budget which is heavy on partisan measures (big tax increases on “the rich” and preparation for major changes in social service structure and spending) and racks up the largest deficit (as percentage of GDP) since 1942, Obama assured people that this was necessary in order to restore the economy:

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20 Responses to Obama Finds His 9/11

  • Interesting. Bush used 9/11 to spread imperialism; lead a series of unjust military actions that resulted in 100s of 1000s of unnecessary deaths; torture, suspend habeas corpus etc,

    So far, Obama has used the recession to extend healthcare for children, invest in our infrastructure and attempt to put a modicum of order to the shambles of an economy that Bush and his Republican majority bestowed on us.

  • Bush used 9/11 to spread imperialism;

    Really? It’s certainly one of the more interesting imperialistic regimes of all times, one in which the supposed imperial power has not exactly displayed a penchant for flexing its will on the supposed colonial powers.

    lead a series of unjust military actions that resulted in 100s of 1000s of unnecessary deaths;

    A series? There have been exactly two military actions taken, the first of which was largely supported. So we have exactly one supposedly unjust military action that resulted in the creation of the only Arabic democracy in the world.

    suspend habeas corpus

    This allegation would be true were it the United States circa 1861, but last I check habeas corpus remained well in tact unless you were a non-citizen who was considered a terrorist.

    Obama has used the recession to extend healthcare for children, invest in our infrastructure and attempt to put a modicum of order to the shambles of an economy that Bush and his Republican majority bestowed on us.

    Yeah, keep drinking that kool-aid Mark. So far Obama has used the “crisis” to drastically increase the size and reach of the federal government. The “infrastructure” developments largely extend to helping union construction workers here in DC in order to make the federal government buildings look prettier. But hey, billions of dollars for ACORN and trains between Disney and Las Vegas will surely restore the economy.

    BTW, you do realize that the Democrats have been in the majority for well over two years?

  • Paul

    It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    When localized governments,human service organizations, and the private sector fail to deliver what the common good demands, CST allows– even calls for– actions by government on the higher-level.

    Stop reading your Rand, Acton, or Limbaugh propaganda.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    That claim doesn’t pass the sniff test. If we were going there to take their oil, isn’t it odd that we haven’t taken it?

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    And yet you wish so very much that the Iraqi people were still being crushed under the Baathist’s boots, rather than running their own country democratically? I’m afraid I don’t despise them so much.

    However, I do think that the attempt to use 9/11 as a shortcut to gain support for the Iraq War (a worthy cause in its own right) has resulted in a great deal of trouble in the long run. The Iraq War should have been sold on its own merits.

    And I strongly suspect that as people wake up to realize that Obama is mortgaging (if not destroying) the US economy in order to achieve his dream of a euro-style technocratic state, they will similarly turn on him for having sold them a bill of goods under false pretenses.

    When localized governments,human service organizations, and the private sector fail to deliver what the common good demands, CST allows– even calls for– actions by government on the higher-level.

    Which is exactly why Obama should not be frittering away money on silly pet projects and political games in the middle of a recession.

  • Darwin,

    Nice post. There’s nothing like a crisis to justify a power grab by politicians.

    And to Obama’s claim that this is not a normal turn of the business cycle, I’d suggest checking out some of the nice charts that the Minnesota Fed has put out comparing this recession to previous postwar recessions. It’s not obvious that this is the worst (or even the 3rd or 4th worst) in the past half century or so.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    If it is well documented, then you can easily provide the documentation. I await with baited breath.

    I am sorry I do not minimize the deaths of Middle Easterners in the manner that you apparently do.

    What Darwin said in response is basically what I would have said.

    Stop reading your Rand, Acton, or Limbaugh propaganda.

    Never read Rand or Acton, but some people named Madison, Adams, and Hamilton who all predicted that this would come to pass if we destroyed the breaks on plebiscatary democracy.

  • that this would come to pass if we destroyed the breaks on plebiscatary democracy”

    O O O O…
    It’s so elegant,
    So intellligent.

    And try Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Maratain.

  • O O O O…
    It’s so elegant,
    So intellligent.

    And try Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas and Maratain.

    Mark, seriously, if you have something intelligent to contribute, do so.

    For instance, you speak of Plato. Clearly you know nothing of Plato if you believe that he was a proponent of mass democracy. In The Politics he described the degeneration of regimes from timocracy, to oligarchy, to democracy, to tyranny. The democratic form of government is actually castigated by Plato. Aristotle also lists democracy among the bad forms of government – “polity” was the good form of rule by the masses, one in which the people governed indirectly.

    The Framers established a Republic, one which was designed to limit the harm done by mass democracy. The Framers feared that demagogues could use crises to devise hasty legislation that would be designed to do good, but instead would do more harm. As Madison said in Federalist 63:

    “As the cool and deliberate sense of the community ought, in all governments, and actually will, in all free governments, ultimately prevail over the views of its rulers; so there are particular moments in public affairs when the people, stimulated by some irregular passion, or some illicit advantage, or misled by the artful misrepresentations of interested men, may call for measures which they themselves will afterwards be the most ready to lament and condemn. In these critical moments, how salutary will be the interference of some temperate and respectable body of citizens, in order to check the misguided career, and to suspend the blow meditated by the people against themselves, until reason, justice, and truth can regain their authority over the public mind? What bitter anguish would not the people of Athens have often escaped if their government had contained so provident a safeguard against the tyranny of their own passions? Popular liberty might then have escaped the indelible reproach of decreeing to the same citizens the hemlock on one day and statues on the next.”

    Seems like he was on to something.

  • It is well documented, even by Paul Wolfowitz himself, that our primary reason for going into Iraq was oil.

    It depends on what you mean. Here are some options:

    1) The Middle East wouldn’t play such an important role in international politics if it did not have oil, and that this was a sine qua non of U.S. military involvement in the region in both of the Gulf Wars. In other words, the strategic importance of the region’s resources creates the necessary background conditions for military involvement.

    2) The U.S. went into Iraq because they wanted to take Iraqi oil.

    If you mean the former I agree; if you mean the latter, I expect next you’ll confess you have some suspicions about the ‘official story’ for 9/11. I’m kidding…mostly, but I think both are fevered conspiracy theories.

  • Paul,

    Plato wrote the Republic. Aristotle wrote the Politics. Plato said what you summarize in the Republic.

  • Paul

    And read, say, Maratain’s beautiful Universal Declaration on Human Rights, written for the U.N.

    BTW, in the words of some rock persona whose name I cannot seem to remember, “I am a lover, not a fighter.” So I advise that you save your spiritedness for your Rush fix on Monday. But I pray for your co-workers and relatives who think differently than you and may happen to be in your proximity. 😉

  • Sorry for the typo. But do you care to actually argue about what was said? And while you’re at it, you still have not shown any documentation that the Iraq war was about oil – something easy to do since it is so well documented.

  • And I much prefer another French philosopher, linked to today by Zach at Civics Geek. Again, it fits the occasion:

  • John Henry,

    not to mention it’s unlikely that Hussein could have remained in power without oil revenues, nor could he have been as great a threat to US interests without it.

  • Very nice link, Paul. I particularly liked this passage:

    “[The despotism that arises from a democracy] does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd. .??.??.”


  • Hit the nail right on it’s head.

    A fine post.

    Obama and the liberal Democrats will seize as much power as possible to push their Marxist agenda.

    Can’t wait for the congressional elections in two years.

  • It is amazing that these Obama nuts still do not seem to realize that they voted for a total idiot that has no idea what he is doing. He is without a doubt a socialist, but this one cannot add, does not know history, and certainly hates the USA.

  • Gramps,

    Just a friendly reminder to address the issues and not to demean people.


  • I certainly agree with many (though not all) of the President’s goals, but his statist impulses vary in no way from the standard Democrat line for the last sixties, and as numerous scholars have argued, such an approach only furthers the atomization of our culture and the withering away of intermediary associations, tending toward a future in which the State is involved in every aspect of our life and the exclusion of other entities… in other words, totalitarianism.

  • “in other words, totalitarianism.”


    You surprised me here. I take you as much more intellectually temperate.

National Bankruptcy

Friday, February 27, AD 2009

I have referred to the “Stimulus” bill as the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009 here, here, here, here, here, and here.  Now we have Senator Judd Gregg (R., N.H.), the man who Obama wanted to be Commerce Secretary, confirm what should be obvious to everyone:  we are on the road to national bankruptcy.  Heaven knows this problem didn’t start with President Obama.  However, his misguided policy of multi-trillion dollar annual deficits will push us over the brink into national insolvency.  We are in for very tough economic times for a very long period.

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21 Responses to National Bankruptcy

  • He is just bound and determined to see it through. Not aware that he was simply doing the bidding of Capitol Hill Democratic leaders. Who no doubt have been discussing this prospect since the 1994 GOP upset. Possibly since 1965, the Great Society Year. Maybe a recurring conversations in cloakrooms since 1933. In many ways, the future of the Death Party has been stuffed into the oversized sausage that is Porkapalooza. The ultimate expression of reward for friends, punishment for enemies, development of projects to raise mosquitos or other such bosh. So we watch as city after city sponsors tea parties- in reaction to last week’s rant by CNBC’s Rick Santelli. Who received a less than charitable response by White House Head Spinmeister Robert Gibbs. Which has clearly made him fearful for his safety. No matter. Funny how invocations to patriotism resemble that for the future of the Church. Something about the tree of liberty watered with Type O- good and bad guys alike. Much weirdness to come. Watch and pray that you may not enter into total meltdown.

  • “Much weirdness to come.”

    Gerard, unfortunately I think that is an accurate prediction. We are in for very turbulent times.

  • Fortunately I pulled most of my money out of the market in August. Have now put a stop on contributions to mutual fund, etc pending the outcome of the next couple of months. Looking at investing in a 12 gauge as eyes not so good anymore.

  • It bears repeating that, because one can’t argue the counterfactual, Obama is most likely going to emerge from this recession smelling like a rose. If the stimulus works (doubtful), he takes credit. If it doesn’t, then we simply have a longer and deeper recession, and he takes credit for it “not being as bad as it could’ve been.” Business cycle downturns have a way of correcting themselves even when governments bungle policy badly, and output is likely to trend upward on his watch in any event. I don’t have the link, but Megan McArdle has argued this point before (contrasting the Argentine and Japanese experiences).

    If the issue here is that the nation will be insolvent because of the unsustainability of entitlement spending, then that’s another matter that’s been on the table for some time — wholly apart from the stimulus package. Everyone sees that train wreck coming, but it’s hard to pin that on any political party because neither one wants to be the one to incur the wrath of AARP.

  • Judd Gregg seems to have had some seriously shady business dealings, which were the real reason behind his removal of himself from the confirmation process.

  • Now, now, Mark. It’s true that many of Obama’s high profile appointments have turned out to be tax cheats or to have had shady backgrounds, but we can’t judge everyone Obama appoints that way. Sen. Gregg may be a perfectly honest fellow even though he did have the misfortune to be nominated by Obama.

  • And with Katrina Jindal and Mr. Steele heading up the GOP, how long can Obama hope to remain president?

    Well…maybe with enemies like them, Obama will need no friends.

  • I think this is what Mr. DeFrancisis is referring to:http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2009/02/judd_greggs_dealings_not_why_h.html

    Politicians fattening their private wealth this way is appalling. Imagine how many will have immense opportunities to do just this through the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009 and all the other debt bombs that Congress will pass this year. It also says nothing good about Obama’s staff work that this factoid, presumably, was not known to them. Interesting that the AP unleashed this story after Gregg dropped out of consideration for Commere Secretary and began to attack Obama’s economic policies. Of course none of this detracts from Gregg’s correct observation that the nation is headed toward bankruptcy.

  • Thank you Mr. McClarey.

    I am still waiting for more of your “Compare and Contrast” musical pieces, btw. It is a great series.

  • And with Katrina Jindal and Mr. Steele heading up the GOP, how long can Obama hope to remain president?

    If the operative word is “hope” I would assume the answer is “eight years”.

    I’d agree with Donald that Sen. Gregg’s dealings here are greedy and unethical — though he’d hardly have stood out from Obama’s other nominations in that regard.

    How exactly you consider Gov. Jindal to have been responsible for the Katrina debacle, however, escapes me. It was disgust with how the Democratic governor handled Katrina that brought Jindal into office.

  • News hit today that he fabricated the Katrina story in his minority response to Obama’s speech.

    That was my reference.

  • Mark:

    Seriously, where do you get your news? Do you just read left-wing blogs in order to form your opinion? The report that Jindall “fabricated” the story has been exposed as a lie, and here it is 24 hours later and you’re still repeating.

    Get out of your little cocoon and join the rest of us here in the real world.

  • Paul.

    Pot. Kettle. Black

  • Just out from the Times-Picayune …

    Louisiana’s transportation department plans to request federal dollars for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail service from the same pot of railroad money in the president’s economic stimulus package that Gov. Bobby Jindal criticized as unnecessary pork on national television Tuesday night.

  • Mark:

    I know you are but what am I is just about the level of comment I have come to expect from you. It really is pointless in engaging in debate with someone who can’t rise above the level of soundbite.

  • Paul,

    You engage Rush in your own typical analysis. A sea of such words deserves nothing more.

  • I was going to write something serious and analytical in reply but…

    This last exchange just reminded me why I probably should give up blogging for Lent right now. Even reading Catholic blogs gets me worked up, depressed, confused, and obsessed with showing off my infinite wisdom and compassion to those poor benighted souls of the blogosphere.

    “Lord, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men (or women), crooked, grasping, adulterous, spendthrift Obamaniac liberal Democrats (or heartless, right wing, sore loser Republicans, depending on your point of view)…”

  • The stimulus needed: In his Ash Wednesday homily, Pope Benedict concluded his homily by asking that Lent, “marked by more frequent contact with the Word of God, by more intense prayer, and by a severe and penitential lifestyle, be a stimulus to convert and to love our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and needy.”

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4 Responses to Chickenheart

  • …what could be more American than that?

    What – the chicken, or the Australian?

    Actually, the Aussies have available a lot of roast chicken in the State of Victoria – and wombat, and kangaroo, and beef etc etc.
    Our closest neighbours have suffered the worst bushfires in their history – thousands of homes destroyed, 230 odd people burnt to death. The fires started on Sat. 14th. Feb, and are still burning, despite being brought under control. But there is still a 1000 km. front of partially controlled fires, and their weather this weekend is going to be hot – up to 42 deg C – with hot dry nrtherly winds which could reignite the fires.

    They are in need of our prayers. My cousin who moved from Victoria recently to New South Wales, has lost several friends to the fires.

  • They have my prayers Don. I have read about the fires and they are horrifying.

  • Salvidor Dali lives!

    And yes, the weather down there is … frightening.

  • Don the Kiwi,

    Your friends have my prayers as well.

Some Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Thursday, February 26, AD 2009

A decrease in solidarity means people have fewer resources to turn to in time of crisis.

With a decrease in solidarity, a man either makes it on his own or fails on his own.

If a man is struggling to make it on his own, a child becomes an unwelcome hindrance.  A child is an economic drain, and if a man has no other resources, a child might destroy his chances of success.

Thus it should come as no surprise that programs to provide economic aid to poor soon-to-be-parents would decrease abortion rates to some extent.

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6 Responses to Some Pseudo-Random Thoughts

  • Ryan,

    excellent! Not so sure it’s random.

  • I know of one anti-abortion program in the spirit of solidarity: Maggie’s Place in Phoenix. (www.maggiesplace.org).

  • Matt,

    Thus the “pseudo”. I thought about saying “with exponential-time security”, but I don’t think anyone would have understood the reference. Mainly, it was a comment about how fragmented the ideas were, since I couldn’t really find a good way to express everything.

  • Zena,

    How ironic that you mentioned that!

    The girl I was courting back then was one of the original founders of that program, Maggies’ Place. I helped rustle up many beds and other items for the start up. Even did a little cleaning.

  • Abortion- the ultimate reaction to a Let The Good Times Roll Culture. Keep in mind it’s your pal G.E. who sees a major national backlash to it some time in the next 18 to 24 months. Speeded up by the economic plunge followed by Porkapalooza. No matter how much taxpayers’ scratch is funneled into the abomination that is Planned Parenthood. Just as the fall of the House of Madoff began a chain reaction of other Ponzi schemes’ collapses. Although I have pity for one such hustler- the Hon. R. Alan Stanford. Reports last week indicated his company may have been laundering cash for a major Mexican drug cartel. We hope he prays novenas of thanksgiving that the Feds snagged him in Virginia last week. Not found on a West Texas road, sections of him scattered hither and yon.

  • Don’t forget, Madame Pelosi tipped her hand to us a couple of weeks ago. The democrat party of death believes that preventing births is a valid response to the economic crisis, as it saves money for education, health and food. If they get their way we will contracept and abort the next generation into oblivion… who will pay for the baby boomers retirement then???

Archbishop Chaput on Caesar

Thursday, February 26, AD 2009


Archbishop Chaput gave a remarkable address in Toronto on Monday.  Here is the address with comments by me interspersed:

I want to do three things with my time tonight. First, Father Rosica asked me to talk about some of the themes from my book, “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life.” I’m happy to do that. Second, I want to talk about some of the lessons we can draw from the recent U.S. election. And third, I want to talk about the meaning of hope.

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19 Responses to Archbishop Chaput on Caesar

The Great NYU Kimmel Food Court Occupation comes to a bloodless end. (Or "how NOT to spend your college tuition")

Thursday, February 26, AD 2009
[I’m aware we have just entered into the Lenten season and should be reflecting on more serious matters, but this was too good to pass up — bear with me.]

Last week a group of “student-empowering, social-justice-minded” students and assorted ragamuffins and rabblerousers from neighboring colleges (many affiliated with TakeBackNYU) had the stunningly-brilliant idea of barricading themselves in a food court in New York University’s Kimmell Center, “in a historic effort to bring pressure on NYU for its administrative and ethical failings regarding transparency, democracy and protection of human rights.”

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7 Responses to The Great NYU Kimmel Food Court Occupation comes to a bloodless end. (Or "how NOT to spend your college tuition")

  • One expects some idiotic behavior from college students. Heaven knows that I engaged in some during my time at the University of Illinois. However these mopes were abusing the privilege.

  • Oh blessed be the Lord of Hosts. My new fave RC blog includes mention of my co-favorite story of the previous week- ranked with the unfortunate demise of Mr. Travis T. (for The) Chimp. Loads of fun to watch these spoiled underedjumacted brats perform a community theater version of 1969 Student Takeover. With modern props- cell phones, laptops, sleeping bags. Loaded with their fourth rate Marxist rhetoric. Their solidarity with the Palestinians- which I assume does not work well with the university’s loyal Jewish donors. Yet I see this pointless exercise as a valuable expose. As Mummy and Daddy are paying 48 large per year so little Johnny or Susie can stage their hissyfit in the cafeteria- We Demand Vegan Meals, of course. The whole exercise serves as a horrible failure of the university’s mission. Badly planned, horrifically executed, ended with whimper and nothing resembling bang. If their esteemed professors are experts in the art and science of thinking, their charges have been badly trained, or sleeping off last night’s buzz in 8:30 class, or lack the wherewithal to adjust to these academic requirements. Regardless- NYU exposes itself as a bigtime scam. Start to bad comedic end of demonstration.

  • Meh, you can send your kids to UF and pull a “don’t taze me, bro!” for much less $ and get a lot more airtime out of it..

  • They live in the age of Olbermann rants, Starbucks overloads, and liberal claptrap.

    I can just see how Vatican III would look like with guitar strumming-non-clerical wearing priests and nuns staging a protest in Mother Teresa’s mess hall inside the Vatican. Bring in the Swiss guard telling them that they need to leave in order for the homeless and destitute can be served.


  • High-larious.

    I’m glad that we have brave minds like this willing to facilitate when conformity oppresses.

  • Pretty funny and a sad commentary on what the scions of the elite classes seem to believe exercising their ‘rights’ and being ‘socially responsible’ mean.

    Don’t taze me bro

Lessons of the Financial Crisis

Wednesday, February 25, AD 2009

While I’m on the topic of narratives, Matthew Boudway at dotCommonweal has a post up entitled “They Cannot Fathom Their Failure”.* The post is based on a George Packer column, which basically makes the argument that conservatives “cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy” after the recent financial crisis, and that to deny they have been discredited is a form of self-delusion. This is a charge, I suppose, to be approached with trepidation; false consciousness is notoriously difficult to disprove. That said, it may be worthwhile to offer some thoughts in response. Here is an excerpt from the post:

…“[T]hey cannot fathom the failure of their philosophy.” Not “they will not fathom” it. They cannot. Sure, the response of many conservatives to the bailout and the stimulus package has been opportunistic and cynical. Many of them, though, simply cannot imagine what it would mean — what it now does mean — for the premises of their policy agenda, and indeed of their entire political philosophy, to have failed.  Not even the most spectacular failure can force anyone to learn a lesson he desperately wishes not to learn. Historical events are always complicated and contingent enough to admit of more than one interpretation, and the most plausible interpretation is often not the most attractive.

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7 Responses to Lessons of the Financial Crisis

  • 100% spot on, John Henry. Well said.

  • I have a feeling I will be repeating that Megal McArdle line until everyone is very tired of it, but it’s something always worth keeping in mind.

  • If the financial crisis somehow disproved conservative economic policies, then how does one explain the fact that the crisis is even worse in Europe and Japan than it is here?

  • Ah, but that’s only because the evil American conservatives victimized all the foreigners, right?


  • Well, one could reply that the financial crisis spread from the U.S., but as the links BA provided show, the leading economic indicators in other countries fell off prior to the U.S. crisis. And proponents of regulation and intervention in my view need to offer a compelling reason to believe that the political process is more effective at regulation than the financial markets. Granted, the track record of the latter has been less than stellar recently, but countries with higher levels of regulation generally have much lower economic growth and slower recoveries from economic downturns.

    At a minimum, if one is going to make the strong claim that a political or economic philosophy has been completely discredited, then one should provide evidence for the position.

  • Sarbanes-Oxley has had a chilling effect on risk-taking and investment, resulted in less firms going public

    Having done contract work for the past three years and doing work for the same company from time to time, I have seen two companies revert back to a private firm and a new one never going public. Sarbanes-Oxley was a major variable in their decisions to revert or remain private.

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10 Responses to The Return of Jindal

2 Responses to Should We Just Have "Assistance"?

  • 1. Being in the social service game a long time, sorry to say that most of D-C’s rhetoric is a song that’s been sung many times before. Since about 1933 in fact. Most states struggling with budgets were those along FDR’s whistle stop tour- PA, NY, Cali, etc. They’re the ones who have been ramping up services steadily since that point. Now perhaps a breaking point.
    2. What is justice? What is fairness? Most of the world’s population exists on $2 a day. By their standards, even our poorest are living large. Plasma teevee for me, but not for thee? We can argue this stuff into eternity.
    3. Also remember- all those job training requirement programs enforced by the Feds, installed between 1987 and 1996, have been wiped out by the Porkapalooza Bill. Now, technically, there is no reason for these folks to turn off Judge Hatchett, get off the couch, and search for a job.
    4. Which means the Dems never liked those ideas in the first place. Coming from places like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Slick Willie was forced to sign off on many of these reforms in 1996 because the GOP had the upper hand on Capitol Hill. Now the Pubs are back on their heels. Thus our Apostle of Hope and Change wiped them out with one stroke of the crayon.
    5. Because it is useful to our political ruling class- mostly Dems but some GOPers too- to keep a certain segment of the population sedated and out of the mainstream productivity game. Means lockstep votes. Oh- kinda like what happened on November 5.
    6. But I am keeping my wandering eye on this Chicago Tea Party movement. Created in a mid-day rant by CNBC’s Phil Santelli on the plan to bail out people who can’t pay for their mortgages. As in are the honest folks who make the minimum every month just a bunch of suckers. Numerous protesters in that spirit have greeted our Apostle in his clumsy visits to shore up the masses. Most of whom are already bought off by state and federal payments, the choir for whom he is preaching.
    7. In my more paranoid moments, I have wondered if the current reality was exactly what FDR and LBJ had in mind in creating and expanding these welfare programs.

Sermon 39

Wednesday, February 25, AD 2009


Pope Saint Leo the Great on Lent:

I.  The Benefits of Abstinence Shown by the Example of the Hebrews.

II.  Use Lent to Vanquish the Enemy, and Be Thus Preparing for Eastertide.

III.  Fights are Necessary to Prove Our Faith.

IV.  The Christian’s Armour is Both for Defence and for Attack.

V.  Abstinence Not Only from Food But from Other Evil Desires, Especially from Wrath, is Required in Lent.

VI.  The Right Use of Lent Will Lead to a Happy Participation in Easter.

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7 Responses to Bishop Jenky and the Looters

  • I also agree with the Bishop. I moved from Peoria 11 years ago and have always appreciated the Bishops of Peoria. I now live in Greenbay WI and I hope and pray that our Bishop has the spine and strength to stand up like this great Bishop.

  • Greenbay, huh? That would Bishop David Ricken, correct? He was the Bishop of The Diocese of Wyoming until being reassigned to Wisconsin, and he did an amazing job with our state. He started the Wyoming Catholic College, cleaned up a lot of parishes, implement a slew of useful programs. He’s a great man. I think he has the spine and the strength.

  • Bravo to Don’s shepherd. Hit all the right notes. Won’t be rattled by the equivalent of Race Hustlers who want a few more bucks out of diocesan coffers- like lawyers, right Don hint hint? Going thru a trauma as this in our own parish. Assistant Pastor suspended because of accusation of abuse going back to mid 90s. When he passed police background check with flying colors. Will only watch and wait for events to proceed and not pass judgment. But seems like our Melchizadeks should exchange Roman collars for bullseyes in standard clothing. Oh Don don’t get too comfortable about your fine bishop. Might be musical chairs underway with selection of Archbishop Dolan of Milwaukee to preside over the see of New York. Maybe your guy as replacement in Brew Town? Hmm.

  • Wouldn’t be at all surprised Gerard. The problem with having a good bishop is that often times they are sent on to bigger things.

  • So I know New York, Wyoming and Wisconsin, so where’s Peoria?

    Just a dumb question from an equally dumb Kiwi 😉

  • Don, my knowledge of New Zealand geography would not stand up to much close inspection. Peoria is about 131 miles southwest of Chicago. Here is a link to a map.


    A familiar expression in this country is “Will it play in Peoria?” In vaudeville days entertainers would often try out acts in small locales like Peoria before moving on to the big cities. Now the expression means: will something that is popular in urban centers be accepted in the rest of the country.

  • Wow. He really said it all there without being one-sided. He admitted the Church has had a problem but really nailed it when he said the scandal was being abused by those who seek to hurt the Church. Thanks.

2 Responses to Shutting Down the Slumdog to Save Him

  • This is the classic sweatshop dilemma: people wouldn’t take these jobs unless they were better than the alternative, but they are awful jobs nonetheless. My first inclination is to say: ‘regulate them out of existence!’ But, as you note, taking away people’s only opportunity for employment is an odd way to go about helping them.

    At the same time, I think it’s morally unacceptable to turn a blind eye and say ‘the market will sort it out…eventually’. I think the best answer, as Blackadder would say, is ‘first, do no harm’. It’s not enough to want to make people’s lives better if in fact they are harmed by our actions. But, as the post suggests, there are a lot of prudential questions raised by these type of situations that don’t lend themselves to easy answers. I favor a via media between job-destroying regulation and a dogmatic trust in markets, but in the end this is a very fact-specific inquiry in any individual case, with plenty of room for honest disagreement.

  • The rationalist side of my mind would say, “Regulate the jobs away, and make assistance available if necessary. After all, a little money goes so far with these people.” But I think there’s a human cost to taking away someone’s livelihood which goes beyond the amount of money involved.

    In many ways, we’re very lucky in the US that there wasn’t some much richer country to come in and look at us as we struggled with these kinds of conditions 100+ years ago. It left our dignity intact, and that’s worth a lot. Sometimes more than a life.

    I suppose my ideal situation would be getting hold of the money to put real factories with real safety regimes into the slums _right now_ doing the same work, so that those people could have better jobs doing the same work. But it’s not that simple because that kind of systematization would create more efficiency, which would mean not as many people would get a piece of the pie. Though I suppose with more efficiency would come the money to buy more goods and services.

    Which circles back to: It’s complex and I’m glad there was no one watching as we went through these stages.

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Monday, February 23, AD 2009

One of the great principles that tends to be ignored in our debates about economics, social justice, and governmental involvement in the lives of the people is solidarity.  We argue about how involved the government should be in our lives, what kinds of safety nets it should provide, and to what extent it should mandate and appropriate in order to provide for the most needy of society.  We argue about how well certain economic theories–capitalism, Keynesian economics, socialism, etc.–work in providing justice, or even providing just shelter and food.  We argue about subsidiarity, and how it should be practiced, and while that touches on solidarity, it doesn’t fully overlap.

One of the arguments about governmental involvement is how the aid provided is cold and distant.  By the time  the welfare check is spat out of the massive, convulsing, bureaucratic mess that is the government, any principle of charity has been rendered flat.  The recipient is a name on the list, judged worthy to receive a handout based upon an entry in a database.  At first this seems like an argument of aesthetics.  If a man receives a welfare check from the government rather than from friends in the community or local charities, he still receives the money he needs to survive.  Yet there is a deeper problem here than merely looking at from whom the money comes, or how much charity exists in the entity delivering assistance.  The continual reliance on the federal government to solve our problems aids in the breakdown of solidarity.

Is it any wonder that we have become so polarized, so factious, so estranged?

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5 Responses to Am I My Brother's Keeper?

  • Great post and I agree with much of it.

    Let me offer this thought though. Often because of the political emotion of the topics there is perhaps a tenedency to think things were better in the good ole days before the big ole Federal Govt came on the scene.

    This is of course is not exactly true. There are still a few people in my state that are alive that were kids in the days of Huey and Earl Long. I am at times floored by the real poverty and devastation so many people were facing. Were there good times ?yes but there are reasons while Huey and Earl were so loved with their massive govt assistance to the poor. For that matter there is a reason in the deep South and the nation FDR was viewed as a patron Saint by many common people for decades.

    So there were real serious flaws

    That being said I think you are on to something. THis country just economic wise is different than it was in 1800. However for many of the problems we face a heatlhy dose of Federalism can still be applied.

    THe communial bonds that you talk about must be reestablished. However you are right it is no easy task. Especially in a world where big families are looked at with scorn

  • Well, I’m not try to assert that the past times were the good ol’ days. Rather, I wanted to paint a picture of how we got to the current dilemma, which I think wasn’t much of a problem (or at least not as much of a problem) in the earlier decades of the 20th century (though I think the 1880’s to the turn of the century some some similar problems). Indeed, past days carried their own problems, their own great struggles. I believe that problems with solidarity have risen and fallen over the centuries, and that currently we’re seeing a drastic collapse of solidarity in our nation.

  • I completely agree. I have seen so many people refuse necessary help because of pride. I try to make people understand that it’s ok to need help sometimes and it’s necessary that we be willing to give that help. Best wishes.

    – Schev

  • I sense a strong impulse toward solidarity in much of the current valuation of non-judgmentalism and inclusivitiy above all else. This is the Freshman Dorm Mentality: Let’s erase our points of difference in the hope that we can all get along. Maybe we end up “getting along” just fine, but ultimately these are superficial bonds — we have many acquaintances but few lifelong friends. Though we still long for it, what we have isn’t solidarity or community, but something much weaker. Erase enough of our differences and all that we have in common is our DNA.

    Even as we try to erase our differences, more behaviors seem to rise to the level of moral categorical imperative. If I have a barbecue in my backyard, will my vegan neighbor ostracize me? I have to worry at every turn not only that I’m being impractical, but that I’m being *immoral.* How can we have solidarity when so few of us share a common view of the summum bonum?

    Maybe that’s the rub: we have a staggering lack of imagination when it comes to our ideas about the common good and what human flourishing means. There is no sense of shared telos that we can all turn to and demonstrate how this action flows to that good. This state of affairs probably follows from many of the historical/social trends that Ryan described. We’ve become atomistic individuals, making choices that are unassailable simply because they’re our own. It’s true that there was no “golden age” or good ol’ days when everyone agreed on everything; but at a minimum there wasn’t a sanctification of all paths no matter how outlandish. It seems for real solidarity and community to exist, there have to be at least a few axioms about ultimate reality and the ends of human striving shared among all persons.

  • I completely agree, Ryan 🙂

3 Responses to American History Sign Off

Pope Leo XIII On America and George Washington

Sunday, February 22, AD 2009

 pope-leo-xiiigeorge-washingonHattip to commenter Blackadder who brought this to my attention in a post on Vox Nova last year.  On the 277th birthday of George Washington, it is appropriate to recall these words of Pope Leo in regard to the Father of our Country:

“Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.”

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