40 Responses to God and State

  • Joe

    I think you will find much interesting in the videos or book by Terry Eagelton which I put up on VN. He deals with many of these issues, and I think he is often right about cultural Christianity just as he is about Ditchkins. It helps re-center the discussion.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    My attitude towards earthly authority is summed up rather neatly by Mr. Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    Tying in heavenly authority to earthly authority was an advantage to many a tyrant and, I believe, overall, a detriment to the Church. Not to mention that it was clearly contrary to many statements of Christ about his Kingdom not being of this world and rendering unto Caesar. A clear division of the heavenly from the secular was indicated from the start.

    As to the size of government, that is a matter for prudence. For me, prudence indicates as small a government as possible to carry out only essential functions, including providing aid to people who are physically or mentally unable to provide for themselves. Such a government is less burdensome to the taxpayers and less dangerous to individual liberty, which is among secular values the one most dear to me.

  • Blackadder says:

    Is it completely out of bounds for an outside observer (outsider to conservatism and libertarianism, that is) such as myself to question what precisely the difference is between a rejection of governmental authority and a rejection of heavenly authority?

    I would have thought the answer to this is obvious. The State isn’t God.

  • Phillip says:

    We are bound to obey each within its proper domain. Absolutely according to the spiritual domain and God. In what is proper to the state according to the temporal. Just laws are to be obeyed. Unjust laws overturned.

  • Flambeaux says:

    This is why I’m a Catholic monarchist whose economics come out of the Austrian school. Put me in the camp of von Hayek and von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

  • Blackadder says:

    Joe,

    Embedded in your post are two empirical assumptions or claims:

    1. Economic liberalism (as you call it) leads to economic inequality; and

    2. Economic inequality leads to political instability.

    Both of these claims sound plausible, but it’s always a good idea (where possible) to test such claims against the known facts. If you compare the rankings of countries on something like the Index of Economic Freedom to their Gini coefficient what you find is that there is an (admittedly weak) inverse correlation between economic freedom and economic inequality. Strange as it may sound, freer countries tend to be slightly more equal than unfree countries, and visa versa.

    Further, while there does seem to be a connection between high levels of inequality and political instability, the level of inequality at which this becomes a problem would seem to be much far above anything we have in the United States.

  • Blackadder says:

    Whoops. Forget the link for the Gini coefficient.

    Also, as I take another look at the Gini map, I have to partially retract my statement about inequality and political instability. Clearly there are countries that are quite unstable where economic inequality is no higher than in the U.S. I would say, however, that while having U.S. levels of inequality certainly isn’t incompatible with political instability, I don’t think it is the cause of instability. In the U.S., at least, people seem willing to tolerate very high levels of inequality so long as they think this is the result of merit and free competition (the country is significantly more equal now than it was a year ago, for instance, yet my sense is that what you might call class resentment is a lot higher now).

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Blackadder

    No, the state isn’t God – but if/when God and the state seem to command the same things, are they not “superimposed” in a way?

    Put differently, if the state is aligned with the will of God – in this case, for instance, that we give to the poor (not everything, but more than we do now, lets say) – then why is it wrong for the state to threaten disobedience with punishment while God threatens us with an eternal punishment?

    A lot of atheists see the parallel and run away from God and state. I see the parallel and – insofar as, and only when the state aligns with God – embrace both. So, it isn’t quite so obvious to some, including many anarchists, Objectivists, Satanists on one side, and social justice do-gooders like me on the other.

    Now, as for empirical claims, aside from the fact that you admit that the correlation is weak, I question the way terms and ideas are operationalized, especially with groups such as the Heritage Foundation, or on the other side, the Economic Policy Institute. I think it is fair to say the following:

    Not all inequality leads to social revolution, but, most social revolution is ultimately caused by inequality, or at least, many perceived inequalities which policies could still address.

    This is especially true from the French Revolution through the Russian, and it was still true when Pius XI wrote Quadragesimo Anno.

    Regarding the US, though, I think the potentially massive inequalities that could lead to social revolution have been held at bay by debt and government spending – by artificial means, in other words, those means which many would say are the “less free” elements of the American economy. Pull the plug on those, and I don’t think we are going to see a widespread romantic revival of the frontier, pioneer spirit.

    Put differently, I question “capitalism”s (if thats what we want to call what goes on today) organic, inherent ability to maintain social equality. We have a delicate balance maintained as a debt-fueled illusion.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “Also, as I take another look at the Gini map, I have to partially retract my statement about inequality and political instability.”

    Well yes, just look at Japan!

    But that also substantiates your further point – that culture plays an important role.

    My argument is that it can only go so far. Some cultures will snap sooner than others, some will bear much greater inequalities for a longer period of time, but eventually the body cannot go on.

    And besides, great inequalities are unjust in themselves, and, the inequalities between nations are almost as important as the inequalities within them. Hence America’s internal stability might not be as important as the instability caused by the inequality between America and Latin America. This too is an important point of Catholic social teaching.

  • I think one of the questions you’d also have to look at is whether the more common forms of libertarianism represent a rejection of authority, or a set of beliefs as to what areas the state should exert authority and where it shouldn’t.

    For instance, few libertarians will assert that the state should not punish murder, rape and theft or enforce legal contracts.

    Also, when it comes to inequality, I think one would have to do a bit of research, but it’s rather questionable to my mind whether a moderately capitalistic society such as the modern US has higher inequality than a medieval society — which was after all one in which nearly all land was owned by a very small percentage of the population, and peasants owed a fairly large percentage of their annual production to their feudal lords.

    While I’m very much a fan of the middle ages in many cultural and philosophic respects, I think its arguably that it was the inequalities of the renaissance and early modern era which in fact gave force to the liberal/modernist political movement towards political equality.

  • Blackadder says:

    I think the potentially massive inequalities that could lead to social revolution have been held at bay by debt and government spending – by artificial means, in other words, those means which many would say are the “less free” elements of the American economy.

    We’ll never know for sure, as I doubt either of these features of the American economy are going to change any time soon. I would note, however, that Singapore’s Gini coefficient is only slightly higher than the U.S.’s and government spending as a proportion of GDP is less than half of the U.S., the government runs budget surpluses, and the savings rate is high.

  • e. says:

    God (and, more precisely, Jesus Christ, the 2nd Person of the Blessed Trinity) taught ‘CHARITY’!

    The heaping monstrosity of the leviathan state that would seemingly appear to serve the common man in the form of the modern social welfare state is not, in actuality, a program aligned with the Teachings of the Gospels (FYI: Christ taught the freely giving of oneself as well as one’s possessions — in fact, he did not hold the proverbial gun on the rich man and forced him to surrender his goods on penalty of death) but, rather, a tyranny imposed on the commonwealth, which ultimately results — not in the promotion of any type of equality or even charity, for that matter — but, on the contrary — if history tells us anything, only further hardship for both the middle and lower classes still.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    “FYI: Christ taught the freely giving of oneself as well as one’s possessions — in fact, he did not hold the proverbial gun on the rich man and forced him to surrender his goods on penalty of death”

    Not physical death, no. But I ask you, what of Matt. 25? Of what he says to those on his left, who did not feed him, etc.?

    Isn’t the death of the soul even worse than the death of the body? Does it not still amount to what some call coercion?

    I mean, it isn’t for me, because I don’t have a problem doing it.

    Darwin,

    “but it’s rather questionable to my mind whether a moderately capitalistic society such as the modern US has higher inequality than a medieval society”

    Here’s the thing. I believe it does, but, it doesn’t seem so bad at times because even the lower classes in the US have access to nearly unlimited credit and cheap consumer goods produced by Asian semi-slaves to furnish essentially middle class lifestyles. Meanwhile the top 1% of income earners in the US own nearly 40% of its wealth. Since we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore, what excuse is there for such disparities?

    Before they existed out of practical necessity – if some men weren’t free from labor or able to subsist on profits, rents, and tithes, we would have no law, no Church, no culture.

    With today’s technology it is simply obscene that anyone insist that the condition of their contributing anything useful to society is an amount of wealth vastly disproportionate to the rest of society, especially when there still is a massive inequality gap on a GLOBAL scale.

    I do agree that political inequality was great – but I would say it is no different today. One person, one vote, sure, but everyone knows who funds the political campaigns, and who expects favors in return. We still have an oligarchy/aristocracy (depending on how you look at it), but it has a nice democratic gloss.

  • e. says:

    Joe,

    You seem to carry with you only good intentions insofar as advancing the kind of program seeking equality amongst the citizenry and resolving the notorious disparity of wealth that unfortunately plagues society at large.

    However, I think it falls short in actually carrying out the intended message of the Gospels when you consider the fact that although these programs themselves would seem to perform some good on the part of a certain of its unfortunate citizens (which success I’m highly skeptical about given past attempts in enacting such programs that ultimately resulted in a higher tax burden for the middle & lower classes, but for the sake of argument…) it ceases to become the kind of Charity that Christ had intended for us to practice and engage ourselves in.

    Charity is a free act of the will not something to be forced on another person, group or even an entire populace.

    When citizens decide freely out of their own volition to give a portion of their income to the poor and needy, that’s charity.

    If they should forcibly be compelled to do so (to the extent of civil punishment via penalties including but certainly not limited to criminal prosecution), those no longer become acts of charity but, in actuality, a disgraceful injustice — the forcing of one’s own will upon an entire people.

    I should think that Christ (and even St. Paul) makes that very clear in various passages in Scripture.

    If Christ wanted to force us with a heavy hand to do exactly what he wants of us, He wouldn’t have given us free will in the first place.

    I believe Christ wants us to give of ourselves freely to Him as well as to others — He never intended for us to be forced to peform such acts of ‘charitable’ giving since a giving of this kind ceases to be ‘charitable’ at all.

  • Blackadder says:

    Joe,

    First, I think we need to clearly distinguish between poverty and inequality. Whether global inequality has increased in recent years is a complicated question and you get different answers depending on which measure you use. World poverty, however, has fallen considerably, and it has done so precisely because of the process you dismiss as “cheap consumer goods produced by Asian semi-slaves to furnish essentially middle class lifestyles.” Further, to the extent that inequality has increased, it is because some nations have discovered ways to massively increase their productivity to the point where it is no longer necessary for the vast majority of people in a society to be mired in poverty. If we don’t want the wealth of the developed world to be restricted to those who already have achieved a middle class existence (and who would want this?) then the thing to do is not to junk the system that led to the developed world escape poverty, but rather to help the developing world join in that system.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Has it fallen considerably?

    What are the indicators you rely on for that claim? I realize that some people just look at GDP growth, and conclude that more growth = more wealth. I’m not saying that’s what you do, but it’s what I see a lot of people do who want to argue that “things are getting better” for the developing world.

    But if this is the most important standard, then we would also have to conclude that the planned economies of the USSR and China, or even the state-capitalist economies of post-war Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc. are also capable of producing great economic growth, not only with respect to productivity, but also major improvements in health, hygiene, education, literacy, etc.

    In both cases “progress” comes with a heavy price tag, and I do seriously question what seems to be the dogma that living a peasant life in the countryside is infinitely inferior to being herded into a crowded and polluted major city for factory work, often leaving behind family and friends.

    The bottom line is, economic development does not have to occur the way that it does, with the human and workers rights abuses of many countries simply ignore or whitewashed, or in some cases justified as necessary steps to a more prosperous economy. This logic was explicitly condemned by Pope Benedict in an article on markets and ethics.

    Again, I don’t presume to know what your exact views are, so please don’t misread this as a post against you. I’m just “throwin’ it out there”.

  • Blackadder says:

    Has it fallen considerably?

    Yes.

    What are the indicators you rely on for that claim?

    The primary indicator I had in mind was the percentage of the population living on less than a $1 a day. Other indicators would tell a similar story. Really, though, the claim that poverty has fallen in the world in recent years shouldn’t be controversial, any more than it should be controversial that there are more than a billion people in China. One need only be acquainted with the relevant facts.

    the planned economies of the USSR and China, or even the state-capitalist economies of post-war Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc. are also capable of producing great economic growth, not only with respect to productivity, but also major improvements in health, hygiene, education, literacy, etc.

    I don’t know about the USSR, but it’s true that each of the other countries you mention has experienced significant growth over the last half century, and this has in fact translated into a better material condition for the people of those countries, including improvements in health, hygiene, etc. And it’s true that none of these countries were run as libertarian utopias. So if I had argued that economic development could only occur if a country followed strict libertarian principles, then I would stand refuted. But I didn’t argue that. And while none of the countries you mentioned practiced laissez faire, all of them adopted a basically market oriented economy during the period of improvement, and all of them also relied on its comparative advantage in cheap labor during the early periods of their development.

    In both cases “progress” comes with a heavy price tag, and I do seriously question what seems to be the dogma that living a peasant life in the countryside is infinitely inferior to being herded into a crowded and polluted major city for factory work, often leaving behind family and friends.

    The people who actually have to make that decision seem to think that life in a crowded and polluted city is better than peasant life in the countryside. I have much more confidence in their ability to choose which option is preferable than I do the ability of you or I to decide for them.

  • Donna V. says:

    Well, Joe, I was born in America, not in the Third World, but my father was born at home on his parents’ farm and left his family to go to work in an urban factory. I was born in a city hospital – and if I had been born in the same circumstances my father had been, I also certainly would have died shortly after birth, since I weighed 2 pounds, 8 oz. and was 2 months early. As it was, it was touch and go for a while and my twin did die. But that knowledge has always prevented me from getting too misty-eyed over earlier, more bucolic eras, as much as I like history.

    Obviously, conditions in the Third World (both rural and urban) are much harder than they were here in the states 60 years ago. I would not want to work in an urban Chinese factory today – but I wouldn’t want to be a poor peasant in the Chinese countryside either. The medical care Chinese workers are able to get in the city might be very inferior by Western standards, but much better than anything they are able to get in the countryside. We are comparing First to Third World, but are the Third Worlders doing that? Or are they comparing the standard of living in the country to the standard of living in the city and opting for the city? Really, I don’t know.

    I have read a fair amount about the Industrial Revolution and am certainly aware of the abuses and hardship and social dislocation it caused. Yet, I’m not sure life was so much better for the masses when most people farmed. (My father, who worked his way up into middle management, didn’t enjoy his time on the assembly line. But he was very unsentimental about farming as well. He thought it the hardest work he had ever done.)

    The greatest problem bedeviling the Third World, it seems to me, is not capitalism or industrialism, it is that their governments are often corrupt and the rule of law is lax. You can send billions of dollars in charity to Africa and have the most laudable intentions, but if the money ends up lining the pockets of kleptomaniac warlords, your charity and good intentions are for naught.

    “Distribution is key” – well, except, who decides and enforces the distribution? Really, I’d like to know more about distributionism, because I can’t see how it would work in practice.

  • Blackadder says:

    In terms of GDP growth, certainly there are some examples of countries where just looking at GDP growth figures will be misleading because almost all the wealth is in the hands of a few people. If you look at measures of inequality, however, it is easy to see that this typically isn’t the case. Between 1960 and 2005 for example, real income per capita in Singapore increased ten fold, in South Korea it increased fifteen fold, in Hong Kong nine fold, and in Taiwan twelve fold. If this was just the rich getting richer, inequality in those countries would have gone through the roof. Yet the Gini coefficient for each nation is not significantly different from other developed nations.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Blackadder,

    I’m not “deciding for them”. And I think it is wrong to assume that they always decide for themselves, at least totally – as if they couldn’t wait for economic conditions to cause their family farms to fail so they could swarm into the cities.

    Dismiss this as “patronizing” if you must, but my only assumption is that this “choice” is often, not always, but often a lesser of evils, and far from the best that a modern, technologically advanced global economy could potentially provide – if it fully respected human and labor rights and didn’t focus obsessively on the rate of growth of the GDP.

    “So if I had argued that economic development could only occur if a country followed strict libertarian principles, then I would stand refuted.”

    I’m not trying to “refute” you – I hoped that my last paragraph would be taken at face value. I was referring to what others have argued because it is a common argument. Like I said, I was just throwing it out there, because that’s what I like to do. Do you get the sense that I want to fight with you? I really don’t.

    “And while none of the countries you mentioned practiced laissez faire, all of them adopted a basically market oriented economy during the period of improvement”

    Right – about as “market oriented” as what some see as the evil socialist Obama administration, and actually far less so.

    By the way, it is true about the USSR – central planning took them very far, very fast. Some apologists argue that had it not been for WWII, it would have eventually overtaken America economically. I don’t know if I buy that, but its food for thought.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Blackadder,

    Again, I’m not trying to pick a fight with you or get on your bad side in disagreeing with you. But with regard to Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea – we’re talking about a handful of countries that adopted some of those extreme statist measures to bring their economies out of the gutter.

    Can we say the same about the Latin American countries that had their arms twisted by the IMF to “liberalize” their economies? We can look to differences in culture, perhaps – we can look to a political situation where it was in the interests of the US to bolster East Asia as part of maintaining the balance of power during the Cold War, while it was simultaneously in its interests to retard development in Latin America.

    Ultimately it is hard to say, but we do see the rich getting richer as a global, international class. If we move beyond the confines of the nation state, we see that the rich are indeed getting richer. One study shows that

    “Currently, the richest 1% of people in the world receives as much as the bottom 57%.”

    http://ucatlas.ucsc.edu/income.php

    And as I suspected, with regards to East Asia,

    “While the rapid growth was impressive, it had little effect on global inequality due to the relatively small populations involved.”

  • Some apologists argue that had it not been for WWII, it would have eventually overtaken America economically. I don’t know if I buy that, but its food for thought.

    Well, that’s a mixed story at best. For instance, agricultural output at Stalin’s death in 1953 was still lower than it had been in 1914, even though the population was much higher.

    I’m not “deciding for them”. And I think it is wrong to assume that they always decide for themselves, at least totally – as if they couldn’t wait for economic conditions to cause their family farms to fail so they could swarm into the cities.

    At the same time, it’s important not to overlay our own depression era family mythologies onto the experience of very different countries. Chinese workers who head from agricultural areas into the big cities to work in construction and factories mostly aren’t Grapes of Wrath types who have lost “family farms”. First off, they don’t have family farms, they come from families of agricultural workers who mostly don’t own any land. Going into major cities they often make 3-5x what they would have made in their own villages, and send the money back to support parents and children.

    Here’s the thing. I believe it does, but, it doesn’t seem so bad at times because even the lower classes in the US have access to nearly unlimited credit and cheap consumer goods produced by Asian semi-slaves to furnish essentially middle class lifestyles. Meanwhile the top 1% of income earners in the US own nearly 40% of its wealth. Since we don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore, what excuse is there for such disparities?

    Well, a few things:

    1) I think it’s pretty much only possible to claim that inequality was less during the middle ages if one takes comfort in the fact that the number of “rich” was much smaller. If one likes a society in which the ratio of poor to middle class to rich is 1000:10:1, then the middle ages were pretty well. I one prefers today’s US distribution of 20:60:20, then not so much.

    2) It’s important to keep in mind that debt is hardly new. The form of debt has changed. We now procure consumer debt from credit card companies mortgage companies and car loan companies, but people used to buy nearly everything on credit from local merchants, and pay off when their crops came in or a business venture paid off. However the amount of debt that people carried relative to income was often at least as high as now. Indeed, falling too far into debt was one of the main ways that people found themselves as serfs rather than freedman. (And as serfdom was abolished, debt came back in again. For instance, when serfdom was abolished in Russia, each peasant was effectively given a mortgage on himself to his former master, which took decades to pay off.)

    And then at the wider level:

    - I think we need to ask ourselves if inequality itself is necessarily a bad thing. If we could achieve a society in which all people had the necessities for a humane existence, would it matter if some had far, far more than most?

    - You seem to take debt as a necessarily bad thing. Do we have a reason to believe this is the case?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Darwin,

    “At the same time, it’s important not to overlay our own depression era family mythologies onto the experience of very different countries.”

    It was a pretty crude example, I’ll admit, since different countries do agriculture much differently. Communist China can’t be compared to the American “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s. But everyone understands the language of hunger and economic necessity.

    “Going into major cities they often make 3-5x what they would have made in their own villages, and send the money back to support parents and children.”

    I understand the validity of the argument. What I have said to blackadder, I will say to you – I think the whole process of urbanization and industrialization is still proceeding quite recklessly, and without proper regard for human and workers rights, especially in China. It isn’t enough to say they make more in the city than they do in the village. To me the question is, should we be doing business with companies and governments that coerce young female workers into getting abortions? That threaten union organizers with prison and death? That have no health or safety regulations? Are there any economic benefits that justify turning a blind eye to these and other abuses that we would never tolerate in our own cities, for our own children?

    I am all for economic progress, but only on ethical grounds.

    “It’s important to keep in mind that debt is hardly new.”

    Well of course. What’s new is the central and ubiquitous role it plays in the modern global economy.

    “If we could achieve a society in which all people had the necessities for a humane existence, would it matter if some had far, far more than most?”

    Yes, because it would still be the basis of disproportionate political and social power.

    “You seem to take debt as a necessarily bad thing. Do we have a reason to believe this is the case?”

    Yes, because it is being used to patch up much deeper problems in the economy, such as declining profit rates. More on that another time.

  • John Henry says:

    Yes, because it would still be the basis of disproportionate political and social power.

    That’s more or less in line with CCC 1947: The equal dignity of human persons requires the effort to reduce excessive social and economic inequalities. It gives urgency to the elimination of sinful inequalities. As with most of CST, the Church sets forth the general principle; I suppose the definition of ‘excessive’ is where most of the disagreement might arise.

    Yes, because it is being used to patch up much deeper problems in the economy, such as declining profit rates. More on that another time.

    That sounds like a misconception of the role of debt in the economy, but, as you say, another time.

  • Blackadder says:

    I think it is wrong to assume that they always decide for themselves, at least totally – as if they couldn’t wait for economic conditions to cause their family farms to fail so they could swarm into the cities.

    I don’t assume this. Pointing out that people face no bad options doesn’t mean that one of their options isn’t better than the others.

    I was referring to what others have argued because it is a common argument. Like I said, I was just throwing it out there, because that’s what I like to do. Do you get the sense that I want to fight with you?

    I don’t want you to fight with me, but I do want you to respond to me, to what I’ve said, not what someone else has said or argued (the snarky Obama references, for example, would seem to be a bit of a non sequitur).

    By the way, it is true about the USSR – central planning took them very far, very fast. Some apologists argue that had it not been for WWII, it would have eventually overtaken America economically.

    I’m sorry, but this is just a ridiculous claim. It’s almost akin to saying that if only Mao had kept the Great Leap Forward going a little longer, everything would have been fine.

    with regard to Taiwan, Singapore, and South Korea – we’re talking about a handful of countries that adopted some of those extreme statist measures to bring their economies out of the gutter.

    It’s true that the Four Asian Tigers represent only a small fraction of global population. India and China, however, have a couple of billion people between them, and while they are much earlier along the development track than the others, real income per capita has increased four times in China since 1980, has doubled in India since 1980, and if you look at the chart I linked to earlier, you’ll see that the percentage of the population in East Asia living on less than a $1 a day fell from just under 60% to just over 15% in the period between 1981 and 2001 (given the small populations of the Four Asian Tigers as compared to the whole, this can’t be dismissed as a function of their growth).

    Can we say the same about the Latin American countries that had their arms twisted by the IMF to “liberalize” their economies?

    You should know that I’m not a terribly big fan of the IMF. I’m not sure that you can force free markets on countries any more than you can force democracy on them. It leads to half measures and backlash (on this point I would recommend Bill Easterly’s book White Man’s Burden, which I reviewed here). I would note though that Chile, which is by far the most economically free country in Latin America, has seen its per capita real income nearly triple since 1973, when it moved in a free market direction.

    we can look to a political situation where it was in the interests of the US to bolster East Asia as part of maintaining the balance of power during the Cold War, while it was simultaneously in its interests to retard development in Latin America.

    I’m scratching my head here. Why, in your view, is it in the interest of the US to retard development in Latin America? And wasn’t the Cold War kind of a big deal in Latin America, one of the main battlegrounds of the 1980s, in fact?

    Ultimately it is hard to say, but we do see the rich getting richer as a global, international class.

    The rich getting richer doesn’t bother me. I care about whether the poor are getting richer.

  • John Henry says:

    By the way, it is true about the USSR – central planning took them very far, very fast. Some apologists argue that had it not been for WWII, it would have eventually overtaken America economically.

    By ‘very far, very fast’ are you referring to the forced industrialization and relocation projects that resulted in the death of millions of people? And do these apologists have a good explanation for why the Soviet economy was almost entirely dependent on the sale of oil for revenue by the 1970′s, and was unable to generate sufficient food to feed its population, let alone develop economically?

  • Phillip says:

    I will just add this one thought, which is not mine, but from JP II in Centesimus annus:

    “Nevertheless, it cannot be forgotten that the manner in which the individual exercises his freedom is conditioned in innumerable ways. While these certainly have an influence on freedom, they do not determine it; they make the exercise of freedom more difficult or less difficult, but they cannot destroy it. Not only is it wrong from the ethical point of view to disregard human nature, which is made for freedom, but in practice it is impossible to do so. Where society is so organized as to reduce arbitrarily or even suppress the sphere in which freedom is legitimately exercised, the result is that the life of society becomes progressively disorganized and goes into decline.

    Moreover, man, who was created for freedom, bears within himself the wound of original sin, which constantly draws him towards evil and puts him in need of redemption. Not only is this doctrine an integral part of Christian revelation; it also has great hermeneutical value insofar as it helps one to understand human reality. Man tends towards good, but he is also capable of evil. He can transcend his immediate interest and still remain bound to it. The social order will be all the more stable, the more it takes this fact into account and does not place in opposition personal interest and the interests of society as a whole, but rather seeks ways to bring them into fruitful harmony. In fact, where self-interest is violently suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control which dries up the wellsprings of initiative and creativity. When people think they possess the secret of a perfect social organization which makes evil impossible, they also think that they can use any means, including violence and deceit, in order to bring that organization into being. Politics then becomes a “secular religion” which operates under the illusion of creating paradise in this world. But no political society — which possesses its own autonomy and laws55 — can ever be confused with the Kingdom of God. The Gospel parable of the weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-30; 36-43) teaches that it is for God alone to separate the subjects of the Kingdom from the subjects of the Evil One, and that this judgment will take place at the end of time. By presuming to anticipate judgment here and now, man puts himself in the place of God and sets himself against the patience of God.”

  • Phillip says:

    Just one other thought from Cenesimus annus:

    “34. It would appear that, on the level of individual nations and of international relations, the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. But this is true only for those needs which are “solvent”, insofar as they are endowed with purchasing power, and for those resources which are “marketable”, insofar as they are capable of obtaining a satisfactory price. But there are many human needs which find no place on the market. It is a strict duty of justice and truth not to allow fundamental human needs to remain unsatisfied, and not to allow those burdened by such needs to perish. It is also necessary to help these needy people to acquire expertise, to enter the circle of exchange, and to develop their skills in order to make the best use of their capacities and resources. Even prior to the logic of a fair exchange of goods and the forms of justice appropriate to it, there exists something which is due to man because he is man, by reason of his lofty dignity. Inseparable from that required “something” is the possibility to survive and, at the same time, to make an active contribution to the common good of humanity.”

  • e. says:

    The burgeoning volume of new permanent spending that will ultimately be nothing more than a burden on American society but, in particular, families with modest incomes is not the solution!

    Apparently, some of the citizenry (and actually even a governor, for that matter) have gone to the extent of submitting an incredibly radical proposal — Right out of the Journal this morning:

    Paying More than Your Fair Share of Taxes? / At Tax Day tea parties, Texas’s governor pushes a modest proposal: Secession.

    Link:

    Paying More than Your Fair Share of Taxes? / At Tax Day tea parties, Texas’s governor pushes a modest proposal: Secession.

    EXCERPT:

    Bottom line?

    New Jersey should secede. Right now, the Garden State is getting hosed. Citizens paid in, on average, about $3,200 more per head than they got back from Uncle Sam. That would make for one heck of a tax cut.

    Connecticut should ankle, too. Residents there paid in about $2,700 more than they got back. Likewise Nevada ($2,500), Minnesota ($1,900), Illinois ($1,500), California ($1,300), New York ($1,200) and Massachusetts ($1,100).

    The flinty folk of “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire famously like low taxes. According to Tax Foundation numbers, they might save about $1,800 each by going it alone. Perhaps most remarkably, these states have been paying in far more than they have been getting back even while the federal government has run a hefty deficit overall.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Blackadder,

    “Pointing out that people face no bad options doesn’t mean that one of their options isn’t better than the others.”

    But if it is still a “bad option”, as you seem willing to admit, why then assume that I or anyone else presumes to know what is better for them? All I did was point out that it was a bad option, perhaps one chosen only because their former way of life had become unsustainable. For this I was accused of “thinking for them”.

    “I don’t want you to fight with me, but I do want you to respond to me”

    Now that we’ve said more, I will! There wasn’t much more to go around last time and I wanted to keep the discussion going. Sorry, I won’t do it again.

    “I’m sorry, but this is just a ridiculous claim. It’s almost akin to saying that if only Mao had kept the Great Leap Forward going a little longer, everything would have been fine.”

    It isn’t that ridiculous if you are only looking at rates of growth, which is precisely my point. It doesn’t tell you everything. And, there was quite a difference between the GLF and industrialization in the USSR. For all his evils, Stalin never thought that the production of pig iron could be scattered throughout the backyards and lots of peasant families. In the post-Stalin era the Soviets were appalled at the economic methods of Mao.

    “You should know that I’m not a terribly big fan of the IMF.”

    It is good to know :)

    “I’m scratching my head here. Why, in your view, is it in the interest of the US to retard development in Latin America? And wasn’t the Cold War kind of a big deal in Latin America, one of the main battlegrounds of the 1980s, in fact?”

    I don’t know if it is now, but it was. It was a different application of the Cold War strategy. For instance I looked in detail at the case of Bolivia once – the US conditioned much needed food aid on the production and export of raw materials, in this case tin ore, to be processed in the US. The USSR offered to build Bolivia its own ore smelting plant. The US not only refused to build such a plant, but threatened to cut off all food aid if Bolivia accepted Soviet help.

    Other stories like this can be found – twisting the arms of Latin American countries to gear up their production for the benefit of America, whether it helped their own economies grow or not. The situation in East Asia was different – they already had an industrial infrastructure in Japan and in countries occupied by the Japanese. There they were miles away from the USSR, in Latin America, thousands of miles, at least until the Cuban Revolution.

    Finally, John Henry:

    “By ‘very far, very fast’ are you referring to the forced industrialization and relocation projects that resulted in the death of millions of people?”

    Forced industrialization took place in many other countries though – India, Japan, Korea, etc. It never achieved a fraction of what the USSR did. I’m not saying I approve of it, but facts are what they are. The millions of deaths did not come from industrialization, but from Stalin’s policy of starving out the Ukraine, and then, the political purges.

    “And do these apologists have a good explanation for why the Soviet economy was almost entirely dependent on the sale of oil for revenue by the 1970’s, and was unable to generate sufficient food to feed its population, let alone develop economically?”

    A good one? Not really. They just blame the lingering effects of the war. I would blame their isolation from the world market and their heavy-handed, clumsy approach to trade and development with the countries they did do business with.
    It’s just the carrot and the stick being used in different places.

  • Blackadder says:

    All I did was point out that it was a bad option, perhaps one chosen only because their former way of life had become unsustainable. For this I was accused of “thinking for them”.

    First, you really shouldn’t put in quotes words you are attributing to someone else unless it is an exact quote. I didn’t use the phrase “thinking for them.”

    Second, if you’ll recall, this particular discussion started when you said that you “seriously question what seems to be the dogma that living a peasant life in the countryside is infinitely inferior to being herded into a crowded and polluted major city for factory work, often leaving behind family and friends.” I responded by saying that they apparently thought it was better, to which you replied that while it might be better it was still awful. I hope you can see that this isn’t an apt response.

    The millions of deaths did not come from industrialization, but from Stalin’s policy of starving out the Ukraine, and then, the political purges.

    I think, actually, that what happened in the Ukraine was part of Stalin’s industrialization strategy, rather than something apart from it.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Blackadder,

    You also responded by saying,

    “I have much more confidence in their ability to choose which option is preferable than I do the ability of you or I to decide for them.”

    Deciding for them, thinking for them – we can split hairs if you like, and pretend there is vast difference between these, but I’d rather not. If you didn’t mean to say that I was either deciding or thinking for them, that’s fine. But it was that statement you made that I based my reply on.

    I still don’t want to fight with you. If I’ve really butchered a point you made, it isn’t intentional. I’m trying to “one up” you or misrepresent.

  • Blackadder says:

    Joe,

    You’re right. I jumped to the conclusion that you wanted to do something that would keep workers in the developing world from choosing to work in factories rather than remain as peasant farmers (say, by requiring that such factories abide by Western standards of health, safety, pay, etc.) If that is not your view, then I apologize.

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