Google-Quiddick

Sunday, July 19, AD 2009

google_quiddick

Hattip to Instapundit.  As he notes, Chappaquiddick is one anniversary Google was certain to ignore.

Here is Ted Kennedy’s non-mea culpa, notable for how little of the details of the incident he could recall, and an example of how to appear to take responsibility while not taking responsibility.

Any other American who failed to report a lethal accident such as this for such a lengthy period would probably have served some jail time, county or prison.  Any other politician would have had his career destroyed.  Something to keep in mind when Kennedy dies and he is referred to as “The Lion of the Senate”.

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7 Responses to Google-Quiddick

  • Mr. McClarey,

    What rationale do you give yourself for deciding to post such a thing on a Catholic blog?

  • Rationale, Mr. DeFrancisis? My reason for posting this is to commemorate a great injustice. Ted Kennedy and his allies utilized the Kennedy clan’s wealth and power in order to make certain that Kennedy came through this despicable affair incurring no criminal penalties and his career intact. Anyone with even an elementary sense of justice should be revolted by this episode.

  • Agreed Don.
    I recall the incident well – I was an avid subscriber to Newsweek at the time, and they gave it a pretty thorough coverage.
    It was pretty obvious that Kennedy was drunk and – shall we say – seeking some extra-curricular activity with Mary Jo. Failing to report the accident was shameful.
    The “Camelot” years were still alive and well in the American psyche of that time, and despite the Vietnam war and issues around that, it appears that the Kennedys could do no wrong.
    History is a wonderful teacher.

  • Even today some of the Kennedys act as if they too can do no wrong and are entitled to public office merely by the fact of their family ties (for example, JFK’s daughter Caroline, who sought Hillary Clinton’s seat in N.Y., and RFK’s son Christopher, who reportedly may seek Obama/Burris’ seat in Ill.)

    On a more serious note, the type of brain cancer Ted Kennedy has (a glioblastoma) is the same kind my father-in-law died from 10 years ago. The usual treatment process is, to say the least, not pretty, and most people who have it die within a year. My father-in-law was dead within 5 months after his diagnosis. I don’t know how Teddy has managed to survive this long… I hope he’s taken the time to get his spiritual house in order.

  • “I hope he’s taken the time to get his spiritual house in order.”

    Amen Elaine.

  • It’s sickening that so many put such a man on a pedestal who was demonstrated such a depraved indifference to human life. Evidence suggests that Mary Joe lived for as long as 45 minutes by breathing from a pocket of air trapped in the overturned vehicle. Even if Teddy was too drunk to free her himself from the very shallowly submerged vehicle, he could have simply called for rescue at one of the houses he walked past on his way back to his hotel room to begin the cover-up.

    Hero of the left. Disgusting.

"Taken" Some Life Lessons

Saturday, July 18, AD 2009

I saw the movie with Liam Neeson entitled “Taken”, the other night. It is the ultimate ‘Dads protecting daughters’ fantasy. It plays on a whole lot of primal emotions- particularly the temptation to give oneself over to extreme violence to protect the lives and sanctity of one’s children. Every father wants to imagine himself capable of defending his beloved children from any and all threats- and the father in “Taken” was that ultimate fatherly force. He represented more of a divine Angelic father who slays spiritually evil forces, than a realistic earthly dad- and as such I was able to excuse the incredible violence as something of a parable of ultimate accountability for those humans who perpetrate the evils of human trafficking and slavery.

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3 Responses to "Taken" Some Life Lessons

  • I think you make a key point here about how deeply pornography is connected with the breakdown of the family and the exploitation of women in our society.

  • Can you tell me what definition of “consumerism” you’re applying to the sex-slavery industry which is thousands of years old?

    It seems a stretch to me, but I’m interested to hear.

  • ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
    TO THE MEMBERS OF THE
    “CENTESIMUS ANNUS – PRO PONTIFICE” FOUNDATION

    Clementine Hall
    Saturday, 13 June 2009

    “Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
    Distinguished and Dear Friends,

    Thank you for your visit which fits into the context of your annual meeting. I greet you all with affection and am grateful to you for all that you do, with proven generosity, at the service of the Church. I greet and thank your President, Count Lorenzo Rossi di Montelera, who has expressed your sentiments with fine sensitivity, giving an overview of the Foundation’s work. I also thank those who, in various languages, have wished to express your common devotion. Our meeting today acquires special meaning and value in the light of the situation that humanity as a whole is experiencing at this time.

    Indeed, the financial and economic crisis which has hit the industrialized, the emerging and the developing countries, shows clearly that certain economic and financial paradigms which prevailed in recent years must be rethought. Therefore, at the international congress which took place yesterday your Foundation did well to address the topic of the search for, and identification of, the values and rules which the economic world should abide by in order to evolve a new model of development that is more attentive to the requirements of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity.

    I am pleased to learn that you examined in particular the interdependence between institutions, society and the market, in accordance with my venerable Predecessor John Paul II’s Encyclical, Centesimus annus. The Encyclical states that the market economy, understood as: “an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector” (n. 42), may be recognized as a path to economic and civil progress only if it is oriented to the common good (cf. n. 43). However, this vision must also be accompanied by another reflection which says that freedom in the economic sector must be circumscribed “by a strong juridical framework which places it at the service of human freedom in its totality”, a responsible freedom, “the core of which is ethical and religious” (n. 42). The above-mentioned Encyclical appropriately states: “just as the person fully realizes himself in the free gift of self, so too ownership morally justifies itself in the creation, at the proper time and in the proper way, of opportunities for work and human growth for all” (n. 43).

    I hope that by drawing inspiration from the eternal principles of the Gospel it will be possible, with the research inherent in your work, to elaborate a vision of the modern economy that is respectful of the needs and rights of the weak. My Encyclical dedicated to the vast topic of the economy and work is, as you know, due to be published shortly. It will highlight what for Christians are the objectives to pursue and the values to promote and to defend tirelessly, if we are to achieve a truly free and supportive human coexistence.”

    Consumerism, as I use it, is not the positive business economy that is supported by Catholic social doctrine, but the destructive misuse of business models that overemphasize the commerce angle at the expense of the human beings who are on the giving and receiving end of some business transaction. It is the inadequate juridical framework that allows for such things as pornography and adult entertainment businesses to flourish under a false idealism associated with “Free Speech” and corporations being legally defined as “persons” with rights we normally associate with actual human beings. These modern-day abuses of what true freedom is really all about, help foster the modern situation of sex-slavery/human trafficking. The legal pornography helps to fuel the destructive fires of lust in boys and men of all ages, the freedom of advertisers to use sexual appeals to the lowest common denominator in human- particularly male human nature- also makes the pursuit of sex seem to be an overriding concern in everyday life. The rise of female entrepreneurs in the adult video industry and prostitution lends to the notion that women are getting good money for lending their bodies to men for illicit sexual purposes- so there is no victim in the process, when in actuality everyone involved and women in general and humanity at-large is harmed by the social sins associated with the weakening of public morals, and the encouragement of promiscuity with all the physical and spiritual damage that that entails.

    One could say that “consumerism” is that approach to economics and business that tries to separate the Christian Humanism of which the Pope speaks, with the freedom of individuals to pursue many kinds of “businesses” which contribute to the market demand for young girls and boys to be available for sexual exploitation- which is what drives the sex-slavery “market”. I found this to be the case when I attended local city council meetings where the topic was responding to the demands of adult entertainment business owners to have certain areas of town zoned for adult entertainment lest they take the city to the higher courts, where the findings have been in favor of the adult businesses via the “free speech” rationalization. The small cities must come up with ample sites for adult entertainment or else they risk heavy legal fees to challenge something that right now favors the purveyors of porn in the higher courts. Even though the numbers of speakers from the community who were outraged and against such businesses was very substantial- the juridical framework isn’t developed to address the morality questions in these areas. If we have the human person as our primary consideration in determining how to regulate businesses and their affairs, then this would be something more or less easy to fix. But our system is not set up with the common good/natural law as the guiding light for legal renderings- which is what is lacking in the juridical frameworks so often called for by the Magisterium.

Culture Crash

Friday, July 17, AD 2009

That mainstream American culture is something of a train wreck is hardly news at this point, and that regard there’s a certain wisdom to the approach, “Let the dead bury their dead,” rather than having the brashness to be the one shouting, “Oh, hey, look! A body!” Still, occasionally one runs across things which are at the same time so sad and so indicative of our cultural ills one feels the need to comment. Such a case, to my mind at least, was this article from the most recent Atlantic Monthly suggesting that for the modern Homo suburbanicus middleclassus marriage is a failed idea which should be pretty much abandoned. Or as the cheery sub-headline succinctly put it: “The author is ending her marriage. Isn’t it time you did the same?”

The author is a 47 year old woman, a successful performance artist married to a musician, who after twenty years of marriage and two children find herself in the aftermath of an extramarital affair deciding that she really doesn’t feel like doing the work to rebuilt a relationship with her husband.

Which is not to say I’m against work. Indeed, what also came out that afternoon were the many tasks I—like so many other working/co-parenting/married mothers—have been doing for so many years and tearfully declared I would continue doing. I can pick up our girls from school every day; I can feed them dinner and kiss their noses and tell them stories; I can take them to their doctor and dentist appointments; I can earn my half—sometimes more—of the money; I can pay the bills; I can refinance the house at the best possible interest rate; I can drive my husband to the airport; in his absence, I can sort his mail; I can be home to let the plumber in on Thursday between nine and three, and I can wait for the cable guy; I can make dinner conversation with any family member; I can ask friendly questions about anybody’s day; I can administer hugs as needed to children, adults, dogs, cats; I can empty the litter box; I can stir wet food into dry.

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33 Responses to Culture Crash

  • I guess the first thing I’d say to any of these materialistic people is “No matter how bad you think your life sucks it can get a lot worse, trust me.” Not that that would dissuade them from any course of action.

  • Gee, I thought I heard “I Am Woman” by Helen Reddy in the background as I read this article. Time to dig out the platform shoes and glitter T-shirts.

    You would think the author invented the idea of “nuturing superdads” staying home to change diapers and cook dinner while the moms went off to work. She’s not a youngster, so I wonder where she was in the ’70’s, when Mr.Mom and the sensitive male were supposed to be the wave of the future. In fact, all the alternative lifestyles she breathlessly catalogs were exhaustively discussed – and practiced by some “enlightened” souls – 30 years ago.

    Since then, research has clearly shown that children do best in a two-parent household where the parents are married to each other. But then, it’s not really about what’s good for the kids, is it? It’s about – well, Tom Wolfe didn’t call it the Me Decade for nothing.

  • It’s one thing for a silly post-modern feminist to come out against traditional marriage. When a “Catholic marriage spokesman” does it, it’s a bit more outrageous:

    Who said this?

    “Statistically, children do best in a family where the adult relationship is steady, stable and loving. Note that I stress adult, not married, since there is no evidence that suggests that children do best with heterosexual couples.”

    Was it

    (a) The head of the Consortium of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Anti-Discrimination voluntary and Community Organisations

    (b) The chair of the Haringey and Islington Travellers, Roma and Refugees Education and Information Strategy Board

    (c) Terry Prendergast, chief executive of Marriage Care, the Catholic Church-linked marriage agency which is still paid for by churchgoers up and down the country?

    The answer, sadly, is (c). Well, at least he will say it today, in a speech due to be delivered today to gay and lesbian Catholics in Leicester.

    Prendergast is proof that the culture wars are well and truly over (and we lost). Surely there is some second-rate university sociology department that could put him on the public payroll, one would think, and yet so far gone is the fanatical loony Left infiltration of British public life that he ends up working for the Catholic bureaucracy.

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100003646/married-couples-no-better-as-parents-says-catholic-marriage-spokesman/

  • I wouldn’t blame the institution of marriage so much as I’d chalk it up to a bunch of insufferable boors trying to live together.

  • The hardness of their hearts.

  • I think my dear husband summed it up pretty well, if not very kindly:
    “It’s people being idiots. That’s always a problem. They probably can’t be happy, just like (family friend who also seems to enjoy being depressed and alone, although he’s mild.)”

  • Funny, but just today on another conservative blog, the blogger quoted an article soon to appear in “City Journal” which claims that marriage is alive and well among the middle and upper classes — it’s the poor who are experiencing and suffering most from the decline of marriage — and that the divorce rate for college educated women has actually DROPPED in the last 30 years. I’ll have to look up the author’s name.

    Another thought: perhaps if “Ellen” and others like had not wasted her “hot 20s” on a bunch of “bad boys” and had instead saved themselves for their spouses, it might have made their single lives duller, but their married lives more interesting! I believe other studies have actually shown that the couples who are overall happiest with their sex lives are — surprise, surprise — religiously observant, married Christians who abstained before marriage!

  • The article cited above is “Marriage and Caste in America” by Kay Hymowitz, in the July 3-5 weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal.

  • Performance artist? Isn’t that just a narcissistic mime in denial? And someone took her seriously?

  • Those stories reminded me of the childish, unhappy spouses in the film Little Children.

  • Good one, Rick!

  • I too was going to mention how marriage is very much an upper-class or middle-class thing. Of course, part of that phenomenon may be because divorce is impoverishing.

    Ross Douthat writes about looking around at his Harvard classmates and noticing they all came from intact families. Pieces like these can only be written by someone so secure that ordinary, necessary human institutions seem superfluous. She looks for example to tribal Africa, with customs not operative in the West since prehistoric times!

    In a previous era, these women would be leading decency crusades against pornography. Now they have careers and permissive attitudes that seem cool in your twenties, but are deadening later in life.

  • Kevin, another part of that phenomenon is that people who can barely support themselves, let alone anyone else, due to lack of education or employment opportunities tend not to marry, even if they already have one or more children. Thus a vicious cycle develops: when men in particular lack employment prospects, they do not marry, leaving women to raise children alone; the children, lacking father figures in their lives, drift into lifestyles that hamper their future employability (dropping out of school, drugs, crime, having children out of wedlock), so they do not marry, and the pattern continues into the next generation.

    I think Darwin has hit on an important point, in that husbands and wives tend to get along better when each has a distinct role that they fill — even if that role is not “traditional” — rather than scrupulously trying to divide everything 50-50. For a number of years when our daughter was young, my husband was the stay-at-home parent and I was the breadwinner, due to the fact that my job paid more and had much better health insurance benefits than the job he had before she was born.

  • Donna V. – I agree with you completely. Terry Prendergast should have lied rather than saying what the studies have found. What’s more important, some silly and obsolete prohibition on “bearing false witness”, or the Greater Good?

    You see, the problem is that while there’s ample evidence that two parents are better than one, and that a stable loving relationship benefits children, what evidence there is also says that it makes no difference if the parents are married or not, or even of different sexes or not.

    Several studies have been conducted on this to prove that a married relationship, and only a married relationship, provides these benefits: but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents. Even the children of gay or lesbian parents do just as well.

    It would be inhuman to persecute these children so they do badly – so our only course is to supress these dangerous studies, and manufacture from whole cloth data to replace them. Fortunately there are many groups such as NARTH who see the need for deceit here.

    While we all have moral qualms about deceit, it’s the only way open to us if we are to justify these beliefs. An alternate, minority view – one I subscribe to – is that a monogamous and faithful marriage is the best way of assuring that a relationship remains stable, and justifying it that way.

  • The problem with looking to studies, regardless of how great the data and process is, is that they still won’t matter. I don’t think for a minute that anyone who chooses to shack up rather than get married or enter into a gay relationship and adopt kids do so because they think kids will be better off in that sort of home. A study showing otherwise will fall on deaf ears. All the talk that attempts to turn common sense and the Natural Law on their head are merely an attempt to soothe the conscience or transform our society (for the worse, IMO).

  • The problem with looking to studies, regardless of how great the data and process is, is that they still won’t matter.

    Family law and public policy with regard to foster care, adoptions, and even school curricula and discipline can be properly informed by sociological inquiry, and if the politicians are receptive, these studies will matter.

  • Family law and public policy with regard to foster care, adoptions, and even school curricula and discipline can be properly informed by sociological inquiry, and if the politicians are receptive, these studies will matter.

    Very true, and that’s the way it should be. My point, or rather, my cynicism is based on seeing policy and laws derived from contemporary fads and PC mores rather than empirical evidence, common sense, any sense of morality. Those people are not likely to heed any empirical evidence that runs counter to their desires.

  • Folks are also very likely to canex any study that will get them labeled as haters, and thus fired.

    As much as that annoys me, I can understand it….

  • Whatever happened to giving your word and sticking to it? The quoted article is sickening in its childishness. “I want! I want!”.

  • Zoe Brain writes:

    “but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents. Even the children of gay or lesbian parents do just as well.”

    As I recall, children of such couples turn out to be more likely to be indifferent towards cohabitation and less inclined towards traditional marriage. That’s at least one sign they’re not doing just as well.

  • Zoe Brain: Can you provide a link? Ed West provides a link to one study which shows that children do best in a married two-parent family setting:

    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pubs/experiments.php

    It’s one thing for a silly, self-absorbed performance artist writing for a secular audience to bash marriage. It’s another thing for a man whose salary is paid by the Church and who works for an organization called “Marriage Care” to do it.

  • Oh, and noble truth teller Prendergast apparently missed this story, reported by the notoriously right-wing MSNBC:

    Children living in households with unrelated adults are nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents, according to a study of Missouri data published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005.

    Children living in stepfamilies or with single parents are at higher risk of physical or sexual assault than children living with two biological or adoptive parents, according to several studies co-authored by David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center.

    Girls whose parents divorce face significantly higher risk of sexual assault, whether they live with their mother or father, according to research by Robin Wilson, a family law professor at Washington and Lee University.

    “This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation,” said Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia sociologist. “Cohabitation has become quite common, and most people think, ‘What’s the harm?’ The harm is we’re increasing a pattern of relationships that’s not good for children.”

  • Here’s the link to the story I quoted above.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21838575

  • Donna, there was also an article (on the same study, I think) published here:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/camilla_cavendish/article6244593.ece

    I thought it sounded more like “I am Woman, Hear Me Whine”, myself.

  • Oops, nope–multiple studies, opposite sides of the pond. It appears the Brits are finding the same problems we are.

    Recently I noticed a study indicating that the children of gay couples were significantly more likely to experiment with homosexual behavior (indicating behavioral influence and not just biology.) Keep in mind that gay couples raising children together are a very small population with not much history. Though it’s one case, I think the recent arrest of a Duke prof who was attempting to prostitute his adopted son (whom he and his parter were also abusing) should make us all rethink our prevailing paradaigms.
    Link here:http://durham.mync.com/site/Durham/news/story/37372/duke-health-policy-official-arrested-charged-with-offering-his-adoptive-5-y/

  • cminor: That Duke story is disgusting – that child the Duke prof was pimping out is 5 years old. Now, before Zoe Brain rushes back here to accuse me of close-mindedness and bigotry, let me say I think there are certainly unmarried couples – even gay couples – with children who love their kids and strive to do their best by them. And certainly abuse and neglect occur in married two-parent homes.

    “Single moms” have always existed: women who have struggled to raise their children by themselves because their husbands died or deserted the family. Many of them did, and still do, a very difficult job well and their children turn out fine. But never until the late ’60’s and ’70’s did anybody pretend that being a single mom was an enviable state of affairs and a model for young women to emulate. Never until then did people like Zoe try to propagate the romantic myth that children will blossom just fine in any exotic configuration of adults that happens to call itself a family.

    Zoe wrote:

    Several studies have been conducted on this to prove that a married relationship, and only a married relationship, provides these benefits: but stubbornly, the children of stable, unmarried couples keep on doing just as well as the children of married parents.

    Not this study, surely?

    Rates of victimization of children vary significantly by family structure, and the evidence shows that the married intact family is by far the safest place for children.6 (See Chart 3.) Although the United States has yet to develop the capacity to measure child abuse by family structure, British data on child abuse are available. These data show that rates of serious abuse of children are lowest in the intact married family but six times higher in the step family, 14 times higher in the always-single-mother family, 20 times higher in cohabiting-biological parent families, and 33 times higher when the mother is cohabiting with a boyfriend who is not the father of her children.

    http://www.heritage.org/research/family/bg1732.cfm#pgfId-1075817

  • Thanks for giving original sources.

    The heritage foundation material is entirely from a book published in 1993, supposedly based on raw data which can be found on the Bureau of Justice Statistics site.

    Except the raw data does not support the conclusions.

    The analysis ignores divorce as a factor. It compares couples who are still married, with single parents who have been in non-marital relationships for less than 6 months.

    If you compare those who have been married (including those subsequently divorced) with those who have been in stable non-married relationships (including ones that have subsequently broken up), the figures are as near as I can tell, identical. I’m open to correction on this, teasing this data out from the masses of tables is not easy.

    We have to be very careful not to confuse cause and effect here – it is not unknown for marriages to breeak up because one partner abuses the children. Being married reduces the chance of abuse, but having been married per se is no protection. If we made divorce more difficult, the rate of child abuse in marriage would rise.

    From Medscape:

    Oct. 13, 2005 (Washington) — An analysis of multiple studies of 500 households shows that rearing children in a same-sex household does not affect the their self-esteem, gender identity, or emotional health, a Boston researcher reported.

    The researcher and colleagues looked at data from 15 studies evaluating possible stigma, teasing, social isolation, adjustment, sexual orientation, and strengths. The findings were presented here at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition.

    “The vast consensus of the studies is that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way,” Dr. Perrin said. “In some ways, children of same-sex parents actually may have advantages over other family structures.”

    It has been estimated that one to six million children are being reared by committed lesbian or gay couples in this country. Some children were born to a heterosexual couple and later raised by a same-sex couple; others were placed in foster homes, were adopted, or conceived through a surrogate mother through artificial insemination.

    Previous studies of same-sex parenting have been criticized for being biased, but Dr. Perrin said the research team was extremely careful to select only solid, evidence-based research for review.

    Based on nine studies from 1981 to 1994 of 260 children, aged three to 11 years, reared by either heterosexual mothers or same sex-mothers after divorce, the researchers found there was no difference in intelligence of the children, type or prevalence of psychiatric disorders, self-esteem, well-being, peer relationships, or parental stress. “The children all had a similar emotional experiences with divorce,” she said.

    What they did find was that after divorce children being reared by lesbian mothers had more contact with fathers than children reared by divorced heterosexual mothers, Dr. Perrin said. “There are interesting suggestions that these children are more tolerant of differences.”

    A separate longitudinal study of 37 children of 27 divorced lesbian mothers and an equal number of children with divorced heterosexual mothers found no differences in behavior, adjustment, gender identity, and peer relationships.

    “What is exciting about this study was that they followed the children 11 years later when they became adults,” Dr. Perrin said. “But they still found no difference in adjustment, self-esteem, psychiatric or psychological problems, family relationships, or in identifying sexual orientation.”

    Four other large studies of more than 100 couples that evaluated children either born or adopted into families found that same-sex parents were more likely to have contact with extended family for social support as well as a more equal division of labor in the home. However, children of same-sex parents did experience some stigmatization.

    “The researchers found no differences in the parents other than that lesbian couples share household and child care tasks more equitably,” said Dr. Perrin. “The children of lesbian couples also appeared to be less aggressive, more nurturing to peers, more tolerant of diversity, and more androgynous,” playing with toys for both boys and girls.

    A further analysis of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health used randomly selected representative data from 44 adolescents aged 12 to 18 years. The study compared children living with two women in a “marriage-like” relationship to teenagers living with two heterosexual parents.

    The study showed that the adolescents were similar in intrapersonal adjustments such as self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. They also were similar in school success, family relationships, and neighborhood integration, Dr. Perrin said.

    “What is striking is that there are very consistent findings in these studies,” she concluded. “But further study conducted in a long-term systematic manner in community samples needs to be conducted.”

    Personally, I think it very likely that the additional stability of marriage vows is very desirable in a relationship. The problem there is that this inescapably leads to an argument for gay marriage, or at least a legal recognition of a relationship which is an exact equivalent, looking at things purely from the view of child welfare.

    I’m more troubled by the serial polygamy practiced in the USA, with it being seen as quite normal and socially acceptable for people to have been divorced and re-married, often more than once.

  • Donna V.

    Never until then did people like Zoe try to propagate the romantic myth that children will blossom just fine in any exotic configuration of adults that happens to call itself a family.

    I think it is time I put in a disclaimer, as honesty compels me to say that my objectivity has to be severely questionable in such matters.

    I am in about as “exotic” a relationship as it is possible to be. One that has had canon lawyers and theologians scratching their heads and praying for guidance. The Magisterium remains silent, and I expect an answer long after I’m dead, if ever.

    There’s a condition called “Intersex”, meaning born with a body neither wholly male nor wholly female. There’s hundreds of different medical syndromes under this broad category – women with the 46xy chromosomes usually only found in men, men with the 46xx chromosomes usually only found in women, both men (Usually) and women (rarely) with 47xxy chromosomes, people with ambiguous bodies classifiable as neither, mosaics and chimerae with either male or female body parts – and male or female chromosomes in them – depending on which part of the body you look at, all sorts.

    True fertile hermaphrodites are nearly unknown, one in several million.

    More common, but still rare, are serial hermaphrodites, those born looking like one sex, but who change in a natural process to the other. Very rare in humans, though the norm in many other species.

    Usually the change is from female to male, and happens during a late puberty, due to either 5ARD or 17BHDD syndrome. Very few such people marry that early. Usually. Female-to-male changes can sometimes be complete, and the men able to father children, though usually they’re partial, and the men are sterile.

    About 1% of such changes go the other way, and about 8 out of 10 of those happen around age 45-50.
    Before the change, the women concerned are usually misdiagnosed as mildly intersexed men. It’s only when they have a female puberty in their late 40’s that the medics give them vast numbers of tests, and re-diagnose them as severely intersexed women. The change is never complete, and sterility results. But while they’re infertile before the change, they may not be sterile. They’re often married, with children, as they have the normal maternal instincts.

    So… I’m married. But to another woman. And we have a son. Our relationship is celebate (of course), as neither of us are lesbian.

    “Exotic relationship” is right. But our vows were “in sickness and in health”, no cavils or waivers for what medical conditions counted. We love each other just as much as we always did. And we love our son, who is our whole world, and who needs two parents.

    If the data had said that being raised by same-sex parents was bad for children, we would have separated and found new partners. It would certainly have been easier than lifelong celibacy, even though we love each other dearly. You do after nearly 30 years of marriage. So we did a lot of research on the subject.

    I admit though that my objectivity under the circumstances must be questionable at best. My son’s welfare depends on us successfully making this “Romantic Myth” a reality. We just don’t have the choice to do anything else.

  • Zoe, thanks for sharing your story, though it must have been difficult for you. I would like to add a few points here that I hope will be helpful to you although I am hardly an expert in sociology or canon law.

    What is true as a general rule is not necessarily true in every individual case. I’m sure all of us know people raised by single or divorced parents who turned out just fine and went on to have stable marriages. We also know people who were raised in intact families who turned out seriously messed up. It doesn’t change the fact that IN GENERAL, it’s better for children to be raised by a married mother and father.

    Also, there’s a big difference between a “broken” or “exotic” family situation that occurs as a result of circumstance, through no fault of the persons involved (e.g. being widowed with young children; a single aunt/uncle taking in an orphaned relative) and one that is entered into deliberately with little or no regard for the welfare of the children involved (a single mom choosing to cohabit with a guy she just met).

    If I understand your situation correctly, you and your wife did not choose to enter a same-sex relationship — it happened long after your marriage due to a medical condition that caused you to become biologically female. As a result you now live in celibacy, but remain faithful to your original marriage vows. It’s not the same as a same-sex union in which the persons involved clearly identify themselves as gay or lesbian, enter a relationship intended to be homosexual, and choose to bring children into that relationship by adoption or some form of surrogate biological parenthood.

    I don’t know how old your son is, or how aware he is of your condition. You can explain to him at an appropriate time, if you have not done so already, that his dad has an extremely rare medical condition which made him become female later in life. It doesn’t change the fact that you and your wife entered a traditional, valid marriage. No “romantic myth” involved there, just two people who take their marriage vows seriously even when life dealt them a hand they probably never imagined.

    Anyway, I just thought I’d present a more objective point of view in hopes that it would be helpful to you. Your family will be in my prayers.

  • Zoe, in an earlier post I wrote: ” let me say I think there are certainly unmarried couples – even gay couples – with children who love their kids and strive to do their best by them. ” You are not unmarried, nor are you and your wife exactly a typical gay couple. You did not opt for a sex change operation; what happened to you was beyond your control and both you and your spouse have made the best of a situation that is unimaginably difficult. I apologize for my earlier snarky tone and wish you and your family well.

    I’m with Elaine here. I think the reason I reacted so strongly to the article posted by DarwinCatholic and to Prendergast’s statement is that I am only a few years older than the woman who wrote that article. Over the years I have known many people who think like her. I also have seen what impact the sexual revolution has had on their lives (and on my life; I am very far from being free of sin in this area). I have also seen the impact on the lives of their children and so I bristle when people who are old enough to know better still pretend that it’s all been just one big jolly romp and accuse anyone who says otherwise of prudery and intolerance. That is simply willful blindness.

    My ex- brother in law left my sister, his wife of 20 years and his then-13 year old son for a 26 year old. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I answered the phone at 2 a.m. to listen to her sob while that was going on. The 26 year old got pregnant, but, contrary to the other woman’s expectations, he did not marry her after he divorced my sister. So now he’s a 60 year old man with 2 year old twins who spends a lot of time in court. My best friend’s husband left her and their 2 children for someone he met online. I could go on and on and on – and so could most of us, I suspect.

    I agree that a stable relationship, even one outside of marriage, is probably better for children than serial pologamy. The trouble is that it is very difficult for me to think of anybody I know who has one. A lot of my friends “shacked up” with guys back in their 20’s and 30’s – none of them are still with those men. One issue I have with gay marriage is that none of the gay men I was friends with back in my younger years exhibited much respect for the idea of monogamy, whether they were in a relationship or not. And these were not flaming queens, but respectable, very “straight-acting” men. They did not fill me in on the specifics of their sex lives, but I learned enough to know that casual sexual encounters are considered entirely acceptable by many gay men, even those in relationships. Men with SSA who are living chastely are the outliers. (Apparently, fooling around is less acceptable among lesbians – I can’t say because I’ve never known any lesbians well.) So, at a time when children are already suffering from the effects of selfish and irresponsible behavior on the part of straight people who have to scratch every itch, do we open the floodgates even wider and pretend that marriage and adoption of children by people in a subculture already famous for promiscious sex will do no harm?

    My problem with Prendergast is that a spokesman for a Catholic organization that supposedly promotes Christian marriage ought to be, er, promoting Christian marriage, not pretending that having a wedding ring on the finger or not makes no difference as long as the relationship is “stable.” Especially in the UK, where marriage rates are at an all-time low. It’s like having the Surgeon General tell a group of smokers that an occasional Marlboro really won’t hurt.

  • A friend working in a large urban hospital in a poor section of town reports on the large number of abused babies. It happens in “relationships” where the man is not the father of the baby. And when the baby cries [as babies tend to do] will beat the child.

  • At the risk of (temporarily) de-railing the thread – my thanks to everyone for your best wishes. A few clarifications. Yes, it hasn’t been easy – but the change was a release from a terrible situation I’d resigned myself to live in with what grace I could. I just hoped for an early and honourable death.

    In that regard, I was no different from any trans woman. I don’t see their situation as being any more of a choice than mine was. In fact, the only difference between them and myself is that I lacked their courage to act with honesty and integrity. I kept on living a lie until that became impossible.

    My son has just turned eight. He was three at the time the change started. I used to do (and still do) some simple stage magic, making coins vanish and re-appear to entertain children, that kind of thing. He viewed my changing into a woman as being just another magic trick.

    He understands more now. There are some children at his school with two mommies, but he’s the only one whose daddy turned into a girl before his very eyes. He doesn’t say that to other kids though, as they don’t believe him.

    It is… difficult… explaining to new after-school carers and teachers just exactly what the relationship between my boy and myself is. You just have to see the funny side.

    Women as terribly intersexed as I am are almost always unable to have children. Now I could not carry my child, and yes, my instincts feel a pang there, but he is my son, my own flesh and blood, and my heart goes out to all those women who were unable to conceive. I wasn’t either, but I cheated.

    I’d count my blessings – but I have far too many of them to count. Let’s see, a release from a hellish situation (you know about half in that situation suicide?), able to have a child despite unbelievable odds… Oh yes, I’ve been blessed all right. The only question I have is why me? Why not one of the many people I know who deserve it far more than I did?

    Now after that little digression, back to the issues at hand.

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Prayers for our Holy Father

Friday, July 17, AD 2009

The Holy Father is undergoing surgery after breaking his wrist in a fall.

AOSTA, Italy — A hospital spokesman says Pope Benedict XVI is undergoing surgery after breaking his right wrist in a fall during his vacation in the Italian Alps.

Tiziano Trevisan, a spokesman at the Umberto Parini Hospital in Aosta, says surgeons were operating Friday on the wrist to reduce the fracture, a procedure to realign the broken bone fragments.

He said they were giving 82-year-old Benedict “light sedation,” though heavier anesthesia may be given as the surgery progresses.

A Vatican statement says the pope fell in his room in a nearby chalet overnight and despite the accident, celebrated Mass and had breakfast before going to the hospital.

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9 Responses to Prayers for our Holy Father

  • Said Mass and then went to the hospital, God bless him.

  • Prayers on the way.

  • Prayers. I fractured my right wrist 2 years ago – luckily I am a southpaw -and can empathize with the Holy Father, who will have a harder time of it because of his age and because I assume he is right-handed. The experience made me very sympathetic to those who lose limbs.

    May his surgery go smoothly and his recovery be swift!

  • He also insisted on being treated like any other patient, waiting his turn for an x-ray. None of that american crybaby “why should I have to wait? I have money” crap.

  • He also insisted on being treated like any other patient, waiting his turn for an x-ray. None of that american crybaby “why should I have to wait? I have money” crap.

    From my understanding of American hospitals (my dad has worked most of his adult life in one) money doesn’t get you anywhere when it comes to emergency care.

  • None of that american crybaby “why should I have to wait? I have money” crap.

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think the pretentiousness of the rich is a particularly American vice.

  • *grin* The Pope is hard core.

    ((side note– amazing how the hobby horses can be dragged out on the slightest excuse, no?))

  • *considers making a rude joke about “and the hobby-horse you rode in on,” but figures it would not be appreciated*

    Maybe Sir Churchill had a point…..

  • I’ll suggest a trade: I’ll promise to delete any additional thread-jacking comments form Michael if others will promise to stop responding to him.

    UPDATE: Okay, I’ve cleaned up most of that and will clean up any more that occurs.

"Federal Budget on an Unsustainable Path"

Friday, July 17, AD 2009

Federal Debt Projections

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been sounding the tocsin regarding government spending since the Bailout Swindle of 2008.  Here is one of my posts in which I list other posts I have written on the subject.

Yesterday the Director of the Congressional Budget Office had a chilling post on his blog which you may view here.  He states in part:

“Under current law, the federal budget is on an unsustainable path, because federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run. Although great uncertainty surrounds long-term fiscal projections, rising costs for health care and the aging of the population will cause federal spending to increase rapidly under any plausible scenario for current law. Unless revenues increase just as rapidly, the rise in spending will produce growing budget deficits. Large budget deficits would reduce national saving, leading to more borrowing from abroad and less domestic investment, which in turn would depress economic growth in the United States. Over time, accumulating debt would cause substantial harm to the economy. The following chart shows our projection of federal debt relative to GDP under the two scenarios we modeled.” 

His chart is at the top of this post.

Keeping deficits and debt from reaching these levels would require increasing revenues significantly as a share of GDP, decreasing projected spending sharply, or some combination of the two.

He concludes on this somber note:

The current recession and policy responses have little effect on long-term projections of noninterest spending and revenues. But CBO estimates that in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, the federal government will record its largest budget deficits as a share of GDP since shortly after World War II. As a result of those deficits, federal debt held by the public will soar from 41 percent of GDP at the end of fiscal year 2008 to 60 percent at the end of fiscal year 2010. This higher debt results in permanently higher spending to pay interest on that debt. Federal interest payments already amount to more than 1 percent of GDP; unless current law changes, that share would rise to 2.5 percent by 2020.

This is fiscal madness.  We have the wealth and the ability to solve this problem by spending cuts, and minor tax increases if, and only if, combined with meaningful and deep spending cuts.  What we lack is the political will.  We are destroying the future prosperity of our kids because of current political cowardice, folly and inertia.

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17 Responses to "Federal Budget on an Unsustainable Path"

  • I read something about this last week. The CBO predicted that our national debt would equal 82% of our GDP by 2019 and insisted that the U.S. could not continue course as is with its fiscal policies.

    I think the solution to this problem is complex. But first is going to require a second glance at the way our government functions.

    I think our Congressman who work only 130-190 days out of the year max — currently making north of $170,000 — is pretty much ludicrous. I, say, lower their salaries to something more reasonable (since it is tax-payer funded) and in fact, every time, we run a budget deficit in a fiscal year, have an automatic 15% pay cut and let this happen continuously until they get things in order.

    I also don’t think Congress should be taking vacations and trips at the rate they are, on tax-payer expense. Allegedly, a U.S. Senator took his family on a vacation for four days that cost $22,000 roughly on the tax-payer’s tab. I see no reason as to why making a six-figure salary cannot pay for his own family vacation when it is expected that the ordinary American citizen making much less is expected to do the same.

    At the more obvious level, I think there should be constant renewal and evaluation of social programs. More than likely, many social programs need massive reform or need to be disbanded all together. Whereas others, I think, largely can be consolidated or passed off to state levels.

    The most obvious problem is our spending habits and our spending priorities. I think we’re funneling money to a number of things not worth the dollar.

    In terms of government revenue to deal with the problem that’s a debate over taxes and borrowing, of which, I’m sure we can all agree on the latter — don’t borrow so much money that we’ll never be able to pay it off for over a century. And, of course, the question of revenue is intimately tied up to the question of spending habits.

    We’re on a crash course…

  • Nothing like a little bit of history.
    After the Revolution in France, the country was running short of money. So the government kept printing it. So much so that the floor holding the currency collapsed.
    What we are doing is like the farmer whose up-to-date grandson persuaded him to take the gold out of his mattress and put in the bank, using checks to draw on the money.
    Came the day when the grandson told his grandfather he had run out of money. “You need money? I’ll write you a check”.
    The Chinese government does not have to invade the U.S. It has just to present the Treasury Bills.

  • This problem cuts across ideological lines. The CBO is mostly right. By now everyone should know the major culprits and the solutions, but no one wants to accept the political suicide they represent: cutting and/or delaying entitlement benefits while increasing payroll taxes, and cutting the defense budget. Other tax increases need to be on the table, although there is a ton of room for discussion about what form(s) they would take. There’s no other way around this one.

  • Donald still won’t answer the question – how much of the fiscal deterioration is due to economic factors and automatic stabilizers, to the effects of Bush-era discretionary policy (tax cuts and Iraq, both far bigger in magnitude than the stimulus), and to the Obama stimulus? If you actually run the numbers, you will see that the latter is small scale. Bottom line: the deficit a percent of GDP is highest in 60 years because the recession is the worst in 60 years. Which begs a question: are you proposing procyclical policies in the midst of a recession?

  • Why does it matter how much of the deficit is “Bush’s fault” versus how much is “Obama’s fault”? Are the effects of the deficit different depending on the party of the person responsible for them?

  • To MM it matters, apparently. Why stop at Bush? Why not go back to Reagan while you’re at it, MM? And then maybe you can go all the way back to FDR who took the greatest liberties with the Constitution and began the project of expanding the federal government into the Leviathan it is today. And maybe along the way back here you can stop at JFK and LBJ. Don’t just pretend that our fiscal situation is the sudden product of the last Republican president.

  • Actually, j.christian, it is first and foremost the result of the recession, and second that of the Bush administration. Taking 1999 as a starting point (you can go back to Reagan if you like, but that won’t do you any favors) and you get: economy 37 percent, Bush policies 33 percent, Bush policies that Obama kept 11 percent, and new Obama policies 10 percent.

    You can fault Obama with not doing anything to stop the fiscal deterioration, but not really for building it up. But is it wise to engage in procylical fiscal tightening during a recession? I can’t think of a reputable economist who would say so.

  • As I recall, there were a fair number of economists signing letters saying that blowing a trillion dollars or so on a random spending wish list and calling it “stimulus” was not a good idea. (Others, of course, thought it was swell — including you.) That significant portions of the deficit result from carried over Bush policies or from the economy does not indicate that Obama’s wild spending spree is therefore okay or responsible. Especially as he seems intend on digging further before he’s done.

    That there were no wonderful options for those serious about fiscal responsibility in the last few elections certainly does not change the fact that Obama has had an absolutely terrible first year in office from a fiscal perspective, and shows every sign of getting worse.

  • Tony, Obama has taken a budget on fire and dumped gasoline on it. Judging from his tanking numbers the entire country is beginning to understand this and to react to it. The days of blaming Bush for the budget are at an end as a political tactic with any utility for supporters of Obama. This situation needs to be addressed now and if the Democrats are perceived as not only not doing anything to solve this budget nightmare, but actively making the problem much worse, your party will be in the political wilderness for a generation. Tony, if I were you instead of spending time making futile “so’s your old man” defenses of Obama, I would be contacting anyone I knew with any heft in the Democrat party and telling them electoral disaster looms unless they act to address this budgetary meltdown now.

  • MM does not site a source for his pie chart. Just out of curiousity, does the refusal to implement debt-for-equity swaps to recapitalise Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the megabanks count as a Bush policy, an Obama policy, or a Bush policy retained by Obama? To which administration do you attribute Mr. Geithner’s handiwork, if that is what it can be called? (He is a discretionary terminable-at-will appointee of the Obama Administration; he was not before).

  • MM, that pie chart “analysis” is laughable. So Obama inherits policies and Bush doesn’t? Attribute everything new since 1999 to the *deficit* and none of it to the structural budget, eh? Because we didn’t need any of it, of course. And only a Republican would’ve, say, created a DHS in response to 9/11. Yeah, right.

    I think a better “analysis” would be to blame Teddy Roosevelt for the deficit. After all, the forerunner to the Commerce Dept. started under his administration, and I don’t think we need it, so let’s say 100% of its budget counts against the deficit.

    See how we can play that game endlessly?

  • get back to me when you guys learn some basic economics. start with the definition of automatic stabilizer. it’s crap like this that makes me question the very notion of democracy, and the universal franchise!

  • MM,

    I have a graduate degree in economics. How about you?

    I understand perfectly well what the cyclical component of the budget deficit is! And you’re not understanding that the very size of the federal budget is never questioned in your analysis.

  • Tony, I suspect your disenchantment with democracy and the universal franchise will only widen after 2010. You do not want to do anything about the budget meltdown because all of your most cherished political goals require a vast incease in federal spending and the size of the federal government, the impact on the economy be hanged. Most Americans, you know, those people whose company you avoid, disagree with you.

  • When all else fails, throw rocks!

  • A hint. Never admit to having studied economics. It is not the dismal science. It is not a science at all but a political program.

    Why is it that women are better at economics than men? Which is to say at running a household? Likewise at investments?

  • “What we lack is the political will. We are destroying the future prosperity of our kids because of current political cowardice, folly and inertia”.

    Sounds like our Catholic bishops. What was the reading yesterday from Jeremiah about neglectful shepherds?

What the Delete Button Was Made For

Friday, July 17, AD 2009

anti-troll

 

Some of you probably think it is pretty easy to write for a blog.  You probably think that all it involves is writing whatever comes into your fool head and then an occasional response in the comboxes.  Well, actually, that is about 98% of it for me.  However there are a few other duties. Perhaps the most time consuming is deleting “nut” comments.  These comments are usually so bizarre that I assume any effort to respond to them would be futile.  However, yesterday Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia received a prime example of the type of “”nut” comment I am writing about, and I thought our readership might like to see it.

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22 Responses to What the Delete Button Was Made For

  • Good Lord, it appears we’re responsible for the e coli outbreaks. And here all this time I was thinking it was the Jews. My feelings are hurt. Why isn’t anyone at the Vatican calling on the secret hotline and letting me in on the good Carolignian plots? I must not be putting enough in the collection plate.

    /Sarcasm, of course, although anyone who thinks like this guy will be unable to see it.

  • He didn’t even mention the corp of albino assassins at the beck and call of the Vatican! Since I am low on the totem pole of the Catholic Plot, the Vatican has only given me a squad of albino squirrel assassins, but the non-squirrel creatures in my back yard now fear the power of Rome! (Laughing evilly and wringing hands!)

  • So the albino squirrels have spread beyond Olney, Ill. now? This plot must be pretty serious then.

  • I like the made-up words based on the root “pope,” which have a long and rich tradition in anti-Catholicism.

    Anyone can talk about popery, but it takes a special kind of nut to coin phrases like “Ellis Island Popeholes.”

  • Why Carolingian? That’s my question. I guess (for inexplicable reasons), The Matrix took Merovingian, so that’s out, even though Clovis’s conversion to Catholicism might be seen as a Catholic conspiracy, although don’t the Holy Blood people think the Merovingians were descended from Jesus? That would be a deal-breaker, I guess. Hapsburgs might be a good one, since they’re still around and they were the leading Catholic monarchs at the time of the Reformation. When I come up with a grand anti-Catholic conspiracy, though, I think I will emphasize the Ottonians – really send the nut jobs to their history books.

  • What about the tendency of NUTJOBS to selectively type in ALL caps, Don McClarey? We’ve all see how as the RAGE and HATRED intensifies the frequency of the CAPS increases. Same with EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!

  • True Rick. Underlining is also a tell-tale sign, and some of the comments even have the more heated parts in red, just in case the reader was confused as to the important portions of the missive.

    What is truly hilarious is when I delete a nut comment and receive a follow-up comment a few days later demanding to know why the original comment wasn’t posted. Usually the sender helpfully repeats the original comment.

  • AND THEN THERE ARE THE POSTERS WHO INSIST ON WRITING EVERYTHING IN ALL CAPS!!! WITH LOTS OF SENTENCE FRAGMENTS. AND MISPELINGS. AND FREQUENT USE OF THE WORD LUDACRIS (also misspelled, it’s “ludicrous”).

  • See, this is really what gets my goat (she whines). Donald at least gets albino squirrel assassins, but me, nothing, zip, zilch. What am I, chopped liv- oops, scratch that. What I am, left-overs from Friday night fish fry? I am disregarded like last week’s church bulletin. Is a couple of albino squirrel assassins too much to hope for?
    /stamps feet, pouts.

  • Ah, Donna some special service to the Vatican needs to be rendered for such an honor to be bestowed. I would tell you what I did, but then I would have to send my albino squirrel assassins after you.

  • I guess I could safely mention that the service did involve Dan Brown, a troupe of mimes and a ton of squirrel droppings.

  • There is one thing that makes him stand out – he actually put a name (or at least pseudonym)to his comment. Usually some dude named anonymous is responsible for all the nutter commentary on these interwebs.

  • Donald,

    Why on earth is Holy Mother Church making use of squirrels, albino or otherwise?

    Everyone knows that all squirrels are unrepentant Jacobins and are, consequently, dedicated to the destruction of the Church.

    LOL!

  • Flambeaux,
    From the French name I could see how you might be confused. European red squirrels are Jacobins. American Grey (and Albino) squirrels are Jacobites, dedicated to restoring the Catholic Stuarts to the throne of England. Hence the British government’s efforts to wipe out the Grey Squirrel (see here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/tyne/7206813.stm). You’ll note the massacre (a “cull” here) took place in Northumberland, whence came many of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s English supporters in the ’45.

  • Now Don, don’t turn your nose up ( 😉 ) at your squirrel droppings. It is had, I have heard, on good authority that squirrel droppings greatly help in becomming smart.

    The story goes that a rather naive visitor to the US once asked a resident of that once proud nation ? what were those things on the ground that looked like squirrel s**t.
    The resident said,”Nah man, that’s not squirrel s**t, them things are smart pills.”
    Naive visitor proceeds to eat some of the smart pills and after nibbling a couple, spits and says to the resident, ” That aint smart pills, that’s squirrel shit.”
    Resident says,”Now man, you’re gitten smart.”

    Don’t mock the humble squirrel dropping.

  • I sit corrected Don!

  • Elaine, are you sure he wasn’t just a rap fan? Or maybe he was trying to blame us for rap music, too.

    Zak, I knew there had to be an anti-Catholic dimension to the squirrel cull! Can we ship them back our house sparrows and starlings in protest?

    Please don’t be too hard on people who type in all caps. Some, like my father-in-law, have just been computing so long they preceded (and never quite got acclimated to) the two-case keyboard.

  • I suppose some of these ALL CAPS commenters may also be rap fans.

    Speaking of Ludacris (the rapper), there is a very quirky website called “Strange Maps” that I visit occasionally, which includes a map of all the telephone area codes in which Ludacris claims to have “hoes” — not the gardening kind, of course.

    Strange Maps also includes maps showing which regions of the U.S. call soft drinks “pop”, “soda”, and “Coke”; every U.S. state matched with the flag of a country with the same population (Illinois = Zambia; California = Poland; Texas = N. Korea) or a country with approximately the same Gross Domestic Product (Illinois = Venezuela); and a bunch of grapes of varying sizes representing wine consumption in all the countries of Europe.

  • I must correct myself. On the GDP map, Illinois = Mexico; Iowa = Venezuela; California = France; Texas = Canada; New York = Brazil; Florida = S. Korea; and Maryland = Hong Kong.

    Oddly enough, on the flag/population map, Oregon = Palestine but on the GDP map Oregon = Israel.

    Hopefully this isn’t degenerating into an example of the kind of comments the delete button was made for 🙂

  • That does sound like a cool site.

    I may have described wrongly–keyboards may have had case back in the old days (otherwise certain symbols would not have been available), but the screen display did not. (It’s been a long time–lately we’ve been amazing our teens with tales of tape drives the size of wardrobes and disk drives you could hide a coworker’s surprise birthday cake in.) My FIL just sets the caps lock as he has since the days of teletype, and yells at us electronically.

  • Flambeaux and Zak, I gathered together my little albino assassins today and had a man to squirrel talk with them to see where their political loyalties lie. Apparently they are Ultra Montane Carlists, except for Ratatosk who described himself as a Truman Democrat.

Who Controls the Money?

Thursday, July 16, AD 2009

In trying to answer the big questions about the central banks and global economy- I think it is important to note these historical facts and ask what their relevance might be:

Paul Volcker was appointed by liberal Jimmy Carter to be the head of the Fed, and was re-appointed by conservative Ronald Reagan. Alan Greenspan was appointed to head the Federal Reserve by Reagan, and then was re-appointed by President Bush I, Clinton, and again Bush II. This begs the question of how such a powerful position in managing our nation’s monetary policies can remain so “above” all the political cat-fighting between so-called “liberal” politicians and so-called “conservative” politicians. Shouldn’t there be a real difference of opinion when it comes to who should hold such key positions of power in the overall economy? I will add that Paul Volcker was named by President Obama to be “First Chair of President’s Economy Recovery Advisory Board”- so the musical chairs continues- is this some kind of a game?

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11 Responses to Who Controls the Money?

  • Well, “bipartisan gentleman’s agreement” is a bit of a conspiracy theory, isn’t it?

    Your observation regarding the Fed chairman and other high level operatives playing musical chairs says to me that long ago the financial interests in the United States adopted a policy regarding politicians that would ensure their continuity. “Liberal” or “Conservative” means nothing to them as long as those they support for office protect their control over money.

    After all, how many times has it been noted that financiers often contribute to opposing campaigns? President Obama received support from GoldmanSachs did he not? And Goldman has had not a few of its employees and leaders end up in government.

    This is why it is so incredibly important to open the books at the Federal Reserve.

    How should these facts play out in our politics? It should bring about a debate as to whether or not our economy is really “free”. Just as many would argue that government has no right to command the economy, so too should it be true that corporations should not collude with the government in order to steer the economy according to their interests. Only moral hazard can result, yet thats precisely the system we live under with the Fed.

    The Fed right now is very frightened, as its claiming that any effort to force open their doors is an attack on their “independence”. Actually, given the powers they have thanks to Congress, “independence” really is code for “secret behind closed-door deals”. If they desire the independence of the free market, then they should relinquish the power to create money out of thin air.

  • If you were to have the monetary system you want, what would it be, and how much discomfort to the economy and those living in it would you be willing to inflict in the transition?

  • I’d take it to mean that at the expert level there’s been very little disagreement since the 1970s over what the monetary policy ought to be.

    To the extent that those kind of experts maintain membership in one party over the other, it’s because of issues other than monetary policy.

  • Yes- and that begs the question as to whether monetary policy is the 800 lb. gorilla in the room whom no one is really talking about- if in fact these monetary policies (Federal Reserve Board) and the foreign aid administration (IMF/World Bank) are really huge in their impact on the general economy, the conditions of life for the poor and vulnerable and so on.

  • Well, in terms of under-rated positions of influence, I tend to think Chairmen of the Federal Reserve pretty much tops the list. Setting monetary policy has a substantial impact on the economy; far more, in fact, than most of the policy tools available to a sitting President.

    As far as the direct impact on the poor and vulnerable, I think the poor are disproportionately impacted during periods of economic downturn and disruption, but I think there is incentive alignment here insofar as all of the parties concerned wish to minimize the effects of economic downturns and recessions. Congress has the authority to enact legislation to provide increased support for poor Americans, and Presidents can go along with or resist such legislation. But I don’t think there is anything specifically related to the poor or vulnerable that a Fed chair can do, other than what they are already inclined to do – try and use the tools at their disposal to maximize long-term prosperity.

  • I’d like to investigate the possibility of a commodity-backed competing currency within the U.S along side the dollar. It doesn’t have to be gold or silver, though those metals are constitutional and tend to be used. Considering that we are now hearing calls for a new global reserve currency, the American people must have an escape route to protect their political independence. While the dollar lasts, at least people can have a period of time in which to “transition”.

    I would also take a second look at the virtues of allowing local currencies. Lots of people freak at the thought, but I think in today’s age people would naturally gravitate to “major currencies” and there would not necessarily be the complications some fear as long as the money is “honest”.

    Granted, I’m not an economist by any means so maybe I’m crazy.

  • One need not engage in Conspiracy Theories to have a distaste for the DC-NYC power axis that wishes for as little sunlight onto their activities as possible. Ron Paul, who I only sorta like, is quite right about that.

    The concept of a “deep state” – which exists in solid form in Turkey as elsewhere – is useful.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state
    http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/06/deep-state.html

  • The World Bank/IMF have had a huge role in deciding the economies for the poorer nations- there is this misconception among some conservatives that aid from rich countries to poor ones is necessarily counter-productive- I would offer that the interests of the World Bank/IMF have not been primarily with the poor- they have been guilty of either extremely poor judgment or worse. Perhaps you have heard of the notorious IMF Conditionalities? In any case the World Bank would seem to be a very unsuitable place for men like McNamara and Wolfowitz who had shown zero compassion for the poor and vulnerable who would become the victims of their wars.

    Aid is not the enemy- it is the type of aid and the way it is administered and monitored that is the problem. A huge reform needs to take place, but we don’t wash our hands of the plight of the global poor- not when you are living in the singular global superpower anyway- try telling Jesus- “hey the best thing we rich nations could do for the poor is to let them alone- give them nothing” Huh? I think that we can do things that don’t encourage passive entitlement- we just haven’t done those things because we allow the World Bank et al to work behind the scenes dominating the aid programs. I know people who operate successful small-scale aid projects- if they had more money they could better more lives of more poor people- but these people aren’t getting the global funding from the big players- it isn’t the aid workers who have the most knowledge and life experience close to the people they serve who are getting the resources for the most part- and this is why I believe the Church continues to urge for more development assistance from rich countries to poor ones- while criticizing the way this aid has been implemented for the past few decades.

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  • Aid is not the enemy- it is the type of aid and the way it is administered and monitored that is the problem. A huge reform needs to take place, but we don’t wash our hands of the plight of the global poor- not when you are living in the singular global superpower anyway- try telling Jesus- “hey the best thing we rich nations could do for the poor is to let them alone- give them nothing” Huh?

    I’m not clear at all that conservatives or even libertarians are suggesting that those in rich countries should ignore the plight of poor countries. For example, the somewhat libertarian-leaning podcast EconTalk that I listen to each week, which has strongly criticized the “throw money at their leaders” approach to aid has also done several interviews with people working on funding networks for small scale projects.

    Similarly, Dambisa Moyo whose book Dead Aid has been getting a lot of attention on National Review and such doesn’t advocate abandoning Africa but rather stopping the flow of large checks to corrupt rulers. From the interviews with her that I’ve read, she is very much in favor of funding micro projects and funding infrastructure.

  • Good deal Darwin- and not because of your flattering close! Before we abandon the notion that aid is a bad thing inherently for the developing world- we need to re-direct the flow as you indicate- micro-loans, projects that make sense for the local communities according to the principle of subsidiarity, no more greasing the palms of the third world dictator/oligarichical class, if someone wants help for their country then the aid will come with lots of oversight, sunshine provisions, media scrutiny, great input by local populations and so forth- we need to be sure that we are in some cases giving the poor fishing poles, and teaching them to fish, and having succeeded there, leaving them in peace as we develop true friendships between peoples the same way we build true friendships between people. If I’m down and out, I like some help, but I don’t want to become totally dependent, and I don’t want to be someone’s lacky either.

Harry Potter and The Half-Witted Media

Thursday, July 16, AD 2009

My family and I are fans of the Harry Potter films, so we will definitely be joining quite a few other Muggles in trekking to a theater to do our bit to make J. K. Rowling wealthy enough to buy a few smallish nations.  I have never read any of the Harry Potter books, although one of my sons and my daughter have read all of them, as has my wife, who has read them in several languages other than English.  (Yes, I did marry above my intellectual station in life.)  I don’t read any great message into the Harry Potter phenomenon, other than that there will always be a market for escapist fiction with good guys, bad guys, and a definite beginning, middle and end, laden with action, humor and sentiment.

I did find it intriguing that L’Osservatore Romano gave an overall enthusiastic review to the latest film, or rather I found the reaction to the review intriguing.  Damian Thompson  celebrates this here as a Vatican about face on Harry Potter and takes a swipe at Americans and Italians while doing so, reminding us yet again why Brits are so beloved the world over.  Robust British ethnocentrism notwithstanding, I think Mr. Thompson and much of the media are wrong as playing this as some sort of reversal in Vatican policy.  (As if the Vatican has a Harry Potter policy!)  True, L’Osservatore Romano had previously published a negative piece on Harry Potter in January of 2008.  A translation of the article is here.  However, this piece ran with a positive assessment of Harry Potter in an article which may be read in English here.   A balanced look at the current review is here.

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14 Responses to Harry Potter and The Half-Witted Media

  • Donald,

    Cardinal Ratzinger DID NOT give a negative assessment; lifesite is out of it with its story, as has been exposed many times — by many people. Indeed, Potter, for the most part, has always had good reviews from the Vatican; and the one whom Ratzinger suggested was the one to review Potter gives it an enthusiastic approval.

    http://hogwartsprofessor.com/?p=26

  • Thank you for the additional information. As I indicated in my post the Cardinal was a busy man who probably wouldn’t know Hogwarts from a Hole in the Ground. If the Pope is even aware of the controversy, I assume he is bemused by it.

  • Donald, I think you’re being a bit unfair to Damian Thompson. He doesn’t take a swipe at Americans in general but at American fundamentalists who attacked the Harry Potter books for being Satanic. That does not constitute anti-Americanism, just as disliking the antics of British soccer hooligans does not make one anti-British. I have no knowledge of “Italian child culture,” but Thompson’s comment seems to puzzle (but not offend) an Italian commenter on his site. The “robust British enthocentricism” in DT’s post escapes me.

    I like “Holy Smoke.” If American Catholics sometimes feel outgunned by the prevailing secular culture, imagine how British Catholics must feel.

  • Donna, perhaps my reaction to Mr. Thompson’s post was remembrance of similar examples of his past bashing of non-Brits.

    For example, here, citing an unnamed authority on Irish affairs, he blames the abuse by some of the Irish Brothers on some of the kids in their charge to the fact that they were Irish:

    “He explained that Ireland has for centuries tolerated levels of domestic violence and alcoholism that are much higher than those in other Catholic cultures. There’s no single, neat explanation for this – but the brutality of English colonial oppression certainly rubbed off on society. Rural Ireland until the 1970s was basically a Third World country; it still had a peasantry (thanks in part to the English) that was, by definition, very badly educated. We’ll never know for sure how many fathers of families were violent drunks, but the proportion was high compared to most of Europe. And this is the culturally and intellectually impoverished class from which many of the Christian Brothers were recruited.”

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/9918669/The_latest_child_abuse_scandal_is_as_Irish_as_it_is_Catholic/

    In short, what else can one expect of a bunch of drunken Irish peasants?

  • The link Henry provides is a pretty good description of the O’Brien/Lifesite caper in regards to the pope and Harry Potter.

    Reading it, I’m pretty amused to find who a Lifesite staffer sees as the true butt of their little coup:

    But you should hear the neo-catholics screeching at us! Every time we go after Harry the Weigelites come after us with knives sharpened. They really REALLY hate to have their complacent little tea party with The World disturbed by difficult truths hey?

    Those Weigelites! Enemies of small groups of right thinking Catholics at all corners of the spectrum.

  • *giggles* Weigelites?
    Do folks ever read what they’re writing?

    What are they talking about? Googles for ‘”harry potter” lifesite weigel’ don’t turn up anything but spam sites.

  • Harry Potter is but an Avatar of Satan and the Weigelites are merely his minions bent on imposing a Neocon agenda upon the rest of America, if not, the whole world!

    All those who have the sheer gall and moral system so deplorably deficient that they would not only so desire but would actually go see the latest Harry Potter movie (and all or any of the previous) serve him that is Legion and, indeed, are part of the same satanic conspiracy that is Weigel.

  • Rural Ireland until the 1970s was basically a Third World country; it still had a peasantry (thanks in part to the English) that was, by definition, very badly educated.

    The ‘British’ are not a problem; it is their journalists and public intellectuals who are so repellant.

    Pace this fellow and Mr. Derbyshire, Ireland ca. 1975 had a per capita income about 40% that of the United States, which placed it on the boundary between what the World Bank conventionally refers to as ‘middle-income countries’ and ‘high-income countries’. It was more affluent than Argentina or Uruguay or Israel and only modestly less so than Spain. I cannot refer you to any academic studies but I can refer you to this work, part of a series of travelogues issued by Time-Life. There is a discussion of the Irish school system therein where it is praised for being abnormally effective in imparting literacy all up and down the social strata. You will note the publication date.

    Title: Ireland,
    Author(s): McCarthy, Joe, 1915-1980.
    Publication: Time-Life Books
    Edition: [Rev.].
    Year: 1964
    Description: 160 p. illus. (part col.)
    Language: English
    Series: Life world library;

  • Hilary is Hilary White, and she is definitely on the side of the angels, as it were. While she is more than capable of defending herself, I like her and am compelled to chime in lest it turn into a bash fest.

    Having read the books, I can’t say as I understand how people work themselves into firestorms about HP.

  • I am pleased to offer my full-throated endorsement of the Time-Life series cited by Art Deco. While you can’t use them as current guides, obviously, they are pretty solid sources of info (the Great Ages of Man volumes from the same time-frame are also magnificent).

    In fact, I’ve been uniformly delighted with the quality of the T-L series across the spectrum, from history to gardening, and wish they were still in the book publishing business.

  • The Time-Life series on the Civil War is also first rate.

  • Well, I think Damian Thompson is a sensible fellow most of the time, so we will have to agree to disagree.

    Interested in a few more ethnic sterotypes? The “wise Latina woman” is guestblogging at Iowahawk’s:

    Think of the Constitution as our base ingredient: a bland, tasteless broth of boiled white tripe. Doesn’t sound so tempting, does it? Now here’s where the fun comes in: all of the cooks gather in the cocina and bring their own special secret ingredients to the mix. Souter salts the pot and Roberts adds Wonder Bread and mayonnaise; Breyer the lox and cream cheese. Thomas drops in fried chicken, and Alito and Scalia spaghetti. Now here comes Kennedy with corned beef and potatoes. Stevens adds the Metamucil. Now we’re cooking! Finally, I stir in my special picante blend of Latina legal spices. What started as a boring simple broth is now a delicious crazy justice stew — that tastes different every time!

    And after the menudo is finished, we will go out into the hot evening air of the Supreme Court plaza for drinks. Sangria and Irish whiskey, 2% milk and Colt 45 Malt Liquor. The night breeze is intoxicating, no? Now it is time for the music of justice! The instruments will be taken out, like the Buena Vista Social Club. Carribean drums and mazurkas, the blues guitarra and the bagpipes, creating the caliente salsa beat of la ley! Bailando en la calle, everybody! What’s that Justicio Juan Roberto? You are too white and do not have the ritmo to do the dance? Let wise Latina Justicia Sonia show you the steps! Meringue, samba, macarena! ¡Andele! Yes, yes! Lose yourself in the rhythm, Perito Breyer! Together we make the beautiful Constitutional musica together!

  • Oops, I was so busy giggling at the mental image of the justices doing the samba on the Supreme Court steps I forgot to provide the link:

    http://iowahawk.typepad.com/

    The obit for California is also a hoot.

  • Thank you Donna. I’ve been a bit busy today and I hadn’t had an opportunity to read Iowahawk and that piece is well worth reading!

51 Responses to Economics and Morality

  • Excellent topic, Darwin.

    I’ve started to sense that while socialism tends towards forms of totalitarianism, libertarianism tends towards apathy and indifference. I tend towards the later political philosophy because it is at least grounded in empirical reality, leaving us free to take up our Christian (and I’d argue, most human) responsibilities.

    I sat through last weekend and read the whole thing… at some point I’d like to do a closer analysis.

  • Libertarianism has always led to totalitarianism, because the losers will not live with the consequences of libertarianism.

    I don’t see a difference between “Economic Moralists” and “Indifferentists” except for a happy speech the former tell themselves. You seem to share the problem of assigning a certitude among the classical economics that does not exist even with the economics community, let alone in relation to something like biology. Among the heaviest objectors to the new encyclical, their economic beliefs would not find themselves wildly mocked except at a half dozen institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

  • Now, it seems to me that much of the sound and the fury surrounding Catholic discussions of economics centers around Structuralists holding Economic-moralists to really be Indifferentists,

    Ahh, how prophetic.

    I don’t see a difference between “Economic Moralists” and “Indifferentists” except for a happy speech the former tell themselves.

  • Economics is a description of human behavior, rather than a description of the physical world. Economics describes human nature but also our interaction with the physical world. In other words, economics is about the allocation of limited resources. One can say that the strength of human nature’s interaction with each other and with those resources is so strong that the behavior is almost as inviolable as the laws of physics. Supply and demand is as unchangable as the law of gravity. Attempts to consciously choose some other system have always failed, in the long run, even in the face of totalitarian attempts to enforce the “new order.” Structuralism is a fantasy world, which believes that “us smart people” can determine how people should behave, will behave, if we just make things go our way instead.

    Having said that, there is a difference between Economic Moralists and Indifferentists, as I understand your concept. (Which concept, I think, holds a lot of insight.) An indifferentist thinks that whatever is happening is okay. At an individual level, however, we have a responsibility to do things based on love. That means that we do not do some things that others may choose to do even though they are sinful. My economic choices must be informed by a Catholic conscience.

    As a business owner, I can tell you that there are some businesses that are driven solely by greed, through the exploitation of their employees, their suppliers and even their customers. I believe that my company can survive and even thrive without dealing with those companies. I could go into more detail of how my conscience affects the economic choices we make, but, I think, you get the idea. Even as an individual, non-managerial employee, there are things that may be in your best economic interest that you can’t do without violating generally accepted standards of morality. (e.g. asking for and taking kickbacks from suppliers.)

    Some of these issues are addressed by the newer areas of economics, in which economists are investigating behavior (as opposed, say, to building econometric models), including seemingly “non-rational” decision making. There are also business management issues here, such as the conditions in which people work together, whether that’s all employees feel that they are part of making the company and themselves successful, or the company and people outside the company, perhaps including other companies, work together toward common goals. Think, for example, of a company where 99 people are working together, doing what needs to be done, but 1 person is stealing, i.e. allocating resources for their individual benefit, rather than that of the whole 100.

    Is that not similar to the question of who in the whole society gets resources? You can look at working as the way in which you serve others. Not too long ago, I heard a rabbi propound that concept. He then went on to suggest that retirement, then, might be seen as immoral (assuming that you were physically and mentally able to still work, in some form), because it meant that you were no longer serving the needs of others.

    The difficulties that many have with the resources allocation question include what resources/how many resources should be given to those who can’t serve the needs of others (i.e. who can’t work productively, such as children and the sick, as opposed to those who choose not to work), who should have to do things to serve those people (i.e. who pays) and what are the channels of transmission between the productive and the non-productive (e.g. church, state, individuals, voluntary organizations.)

  • It seems to me that whenever people hear a moral argument they don’t like, they call it “moralism”.

    What am I, on this list? First of all, I am a skeptic of economic science. I will not reject what is obviously true for the sake of morality – but I will question the extent to which a certain truth necessitates a certain policy, the extent to which it ought to negate the democratic will of the people (i.e. as in Pinochet’s Chile, which was established exactly on the notion that violent force had to be used to ensure the smooth operation of these ‘objective laws’ of the economy).

    From one point of view in political theory, from Aristotle to Marx, class conflict is what drives society forward. Certainly the struggle between classes is as much a “fact” subject to scientific analysis as the effects of minimum wages. It is also a fact that has a set of dynamics that can be drastically altered by economic policy.

    But do the neoliberals ever really take that into account in their “scientific models”? No, because they do not see classes, only individuals and their utilitarian preferences. Then “institutionalism” came along to redress some of these errors. But it never cut to the foundation.

    My problem with economic models is not that they are scientific – it is that they are usually abstract mathematical models that rarely, if ever, rely upon in historical evidence or political factors to shape and form them.

    All but a few truisms such as “people like more money than less money” or “people like lower prices than higher prices” cannot be applied universally to all times and places. Sometimes they can be very powerful truisms – Trotsky the Marxist revolutionary was saying, long before any free-market liberal economist was saying, that cheap goods from the West would be the undoing of the Soviet regime, some 60 years before it happened.

    But what about areas where legitimate economists disagree? What other reason besides moral values and personal preference does one have to accept the claims of the American Enterprise Institute over the Economic Policy Institute? Both can find various correlations between trend A and trend B. Both can point to the others correlations and point to some third factor C that renders it spurrious. And so on and so forth.

    All of that said, these “structuralists” you want to point out are a strawman. No one wants to ignore what is an obvious economic law for the sake of morality. The problem is that it is not always so obvious that what isn’t really happening is one group imposing its subjective will upon another in the name of some law.

    What I ultimately favor, to put it more crudely, is ‘power to the people’ – political, and economic. And if they make the wrong decisions, then they make the wrong decisions. It is better than being forced by a Pinochet to make the allegedly ‘right’ ones (another area where economists are still arguing).

  • MZ,

    I don’t see a difference between “Economic Moralists” and “Indifferentists” except for a happy speech the former tell themselves.

    Well, how about this concrete example. Six months ago I was filling a position on my team, and the best qualified person for the job was a guy desperate to get our of Michigan where the company he was working for was slowly going bankrupt. Knowing his situation, I could easily have hired him for 10-15k/year less than all the other people doing the same job were making, because his region had a much worse labor market and finding a job outside his region was hard. However, I set him up to be paid the same as everyone else because as an Economic-moralist I did not think it would be moral to take advantage of his situation to pay him less than the others. (However, I differ from a Structuralist, in that I would not support enacting laws requiring that all people doing similar work be paid exactly the same — since I think that restriction of the labor market would end up hurting people more than helping them.)

    In opposite example — seven years ago I was working for a guy who was basically an Indifferentist. I was promoted within the company, but given far less than other people doing the same work, and when I objected I was told very bluntly, “We already know you’ll work for X, why should we pay more?” Now luckily, markets are easily self correcting, so I did the logical thing and found another job within three months and quit.

    But I would say that the different between Indifferentists and Economic-moralists is actually pretty big when it comes to actual moral action.

    You seem to share the problem of assigning a certitude among the classical economics that does not exist even with the economics community, let alone in relation to something like biology. Among the heaviest objectors to the new encyclical, their economic beliefs would not find themselves wildly mocked except at a half dozen institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

    I’m not clear what exactly you’re taking to be the “classical economics” that I’m accused of being too certain on, so I don’t know how to respond. What I was thinking of here is very, very basic observable “economic laws” that one really doesn’t see exceptions to: law of supply and demand, etc. A lot of the basic applications of this are fairly uncontroversial among economists: Excessively high minimum wage laws reduce employment, trade restrictions slow economic growth, etc.

    What I’m discussing in regard to Structuralists is not just a difference over should we have a social program to do X or leave it to private charity, but rather a claim one can ignore very basic economic tendencies in setting policy.

  • Patrick,

    I think those are some very good examples of what I had in mind as regards to the difference between Indifferentism and Economic-moralism.

    (And I’m glad my analysis made basic sense to a business owner.)

    Joe,

    It seems to me that whenever people hear a moral argument they don’t like, they call it “moralism”.

    What am I, on this list?

    Well, I’d put myself down as an Economic-moralist, if that helps any.

  • Exceptions are the rule to the law of supply and demand. “Excessively high minimum wage” isn’t an observed phenomenon, at least not one that has reduced employment. Trade restrictions slow economic growth except in Korea, China, the US prior to the first World War, Britain, etc. The US has seen slower economic growth post free trade than it has pre-free trade, although to retain intellectual honesty I will note that the US had more room for advancement prior to free trade than it did post free trade.

  • But do the neoliberals ever really take that into account in their “scientific models”? No, because they do not see classes, only individuals and their utilitarian preferences. Then “institutionalism” came along to redress some of these errors. But it never cut to the foundation.

    My problem with economic models is not that they are scientific – it is that they are usually abstract mathematical models that rarely, if ever, rely upon in historical evidence or political factors to shape and form them.

    Actually, I do agree that an attempt to act as if people as simply mathematical profit maximizers who can be perfectly predicted by mathematical models invariably ends up running off the rails. People aren’t numbers, and if I were to declare allegiance to an economist it would be Hayak, who had a fair amount to say about the necessity of keeping in mind what actually motivates people rather than just spending all one’s time on statistics.

    However, where we might differ a bit on this is that I think some of the basics (people would rather pay less than more; people would rather have more money than less money; when demand outstrips supply, the price rises, while when supply outstrips demand, the prices falls) actually take one a pretty long way. For instance, I would agree that the entire Soviet experiment was pretty much doomed because it sought to ignore these tendencies, or at least apply them at a class rather than an individual level.

    Which perhaps loops back to another difference, which is that I think it often does work well to model (or just think through) situations as if all economic actors were individuals rather than members of a class — because when push comes to shove most people seem to end up acting that way most of the time.

    Now, that’s not to deny the existence of non monetary cost and rewards. And I think we should, as a culture, definitely seek to increase the non monetary social costs of “doing bad business” in order to encourage right behavior. But I think we might have different ideas of how real class solidarity is.

  • MZ,

    Well, I’m almost out of lunch break — but just real quick:

    Exceptions are the rule to the law of supply and demand.

    I price based on supply and demand every day — believe me, it works.

    “Excessively high minimum wage” isn’t an observed phenomenon, at least not one that has reduced employment.

    As I think BA has pointed linked to studies showing several times, there is very nearly universal agreement that a truly significant increase in the minimum wage would have an adverse affect on employment.

    Trade restrictions slow economic growth except in Korea, China, the US prior to the first World War, Britain, etc.

    Whose trade restrictions and whose economic growth? All of those countries achieved massive growth based upon export economies, though at the same time keeping some restrictions on imports. Is your theory that they were at some magic sweet spot where they would have had less growth if their export trade had been restricted by destination countries, and also less growth if they had allowed greater imports? Evidence shows that growth can be achieved despite some restrictions (especially if other countries decide to allow free trade with you while letting you get away with restricting imports from them) but that doesn’t mean that freeing trade does not in fact increase growth. Again, the agreement on this is near universal — as shown by the amusing display during the campaign of Obama threatening to unilaterally change trade agreements while his advisers ran around assuring all our trading partners that he was lying.

    The US has seen slower economic growth post free trade than it has pre-free trade, although to retain intellectual honesty I will note that the US had more room for advancement prior to free trade than it did post free trade.

    Depends what you’re defining as free trade. The periods when the US suddenly clamped down on trade always had seriously adverse affects. I think you’re right about the different point in the development and opportunity curve.

  • But what about areas where legitimate economists disagree? What other reason besides moral values and personal preference does one have to accept the claims of the American Enterprise Institute over the Economic Policy Institute?

    Thinking of the economics profession as consisting of the American Enterprise Institute and the Economic Policy Institute is probably not a good idea. In any event, it seems to me that one could choose between the claims of AEI and EPI not based simply on moral values or personal preference but based on the quality of the arguments presented and the evidence used to support the claims.

  • “Thinking of the economics profession as consisting of the American Enterprise Institute and the Economic Policy Institute is probably not a good idea.”

    Well, then, its a good thing I don’t, and was simply picking two examples at random to make a point.

    “In any event, it seems to me that one could choose between the claims of AEI and EPI not based simply on moral values or personal preference but based on the quality of the arguments presented and the evidence used to support the claims.”

    That’s just the problem – the quality of the arguments is always good. Different sides can make equally plausible cases for whatever it is they wish to justify.

    The problem is what is emphasized and what is not, what is considered relevant and what is not, what goals for society are considered worthy and which are not. These are ultimately subjective positions.

  • Darwin,

    “But I think we might have different ideas of how real class solidarity is.”

    It became real enough to force every government in the world and the Catholic Church to react to it. But not real enough, it would seem, for a good many economists to react to it. Which is why I have a very hard time taking most of them seriously. Any economic model that ignores or minimizes politics is worthless.

  • That’s just the problem – the quality of the arguments is always good. Different sides can make equally plausible cases for whatever it is they wish to justify.

    Except that this isn’t actually true (if all economic arguments appear of equal quality and plausibility to you, then I would suggest this might have other causes than the inherent deficiency of economics).

  • In support of DarwinCatholic’s comments about free trade or the lack thereof, let me point to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tarrif during the Depression. I haven’t seen any economist who hasn’t said that Smoot-Hawley deepened and lengthened the Depression, because it did cut off trade.

    Further, in my opinion, opposing free trade is an immoral position. A is making widgets for B. A and B happen to be living in the same country. Now C can make widgets for B just as well as A can, at less cost to B. Is it moral for A to change the law so that B can’t buy from C, esentially to use force to prevent B from buying from C? I would argue that it is not moral, for two reasons. First, it hurts B because he has to pay more for widgets, in effect paying a tax to A. Second, he is also hurting C and all of the people who would work for C making widgets, if B could buy from C. All that law does is allow B to be greedy. (I believe the economic term is monopoly rents.)

    Ah, but what if C is in another country than A and B? (Or did you already assume that? If so, go back and rethink it if they are in the same country.) Is it any more moral for A to keep C from selling to B if they are citizens of different countries? Those who would say yes usually talk in terms of “defending local jobs.” However, while those people usually work for A, those who would be working for C should not be deprived of employment. Protecting A, through artificial means, insures that the people who would work for C can not improve their economic lives. How is that moral?

  • It became real enough to force every government in the world and the Catholic Church to react to it. But not real enough, it would seem, for a good many economists to react to it. Which is why I have a very hard time taking most of them seriously. Any economic model that ignores or minimizes politics is worthless.

    I think it’s important to be clear on what it was that was real: the suffering caused in unskilled or low skilled workers during a rapid economic transformation of society. This provided large numbers of angry people with little to lose who were available to radical political movements.

    That doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that those individual people acted much like classes when they went out and decided what to buy — or to an extent who to work for.

    Also, economists (even very free market ones) don’t necessarily suggest one ignore those social pressures — their answers just aren’t the same as labor organizers or others with a specific class consciousness. For instance, Milton Freedman, as I recall, endorsed the idea of a negative income tax to assure that all people had a minimum standard of living.

    So the dispute isn’t so much over whether things should be done to relieve social pressures on the disadvantages as _how_ to do so.

  • “Except that this isn’t actually true (if all economic arguments appear of equal quality and plausibility to you, then I would suggest this might have other causes than the inherent deficiency of economics).”

    Ah, very funny. But thats not exactly what I said, and I will clarify so there is no misunderstanding – and hopefully, no call for such a snide remark.

    I believe there are different schools of economic thought that each have very able representatives capable of making quality arguments for different interpretations of economic reality and particular economic policies.

    It would be ‘deficient’, not to mention arrogant, to proclaim the triumph of one school or one paradigm over all others, as Fukuyama did when the USSR collapsed in 1991. It was been widely acknowledged that the “end of history” was prematurely proclaimed.

  • I haven’t seen any economist who hasn’t said that Smoot-Hawley deepened and lengthened the Depression, because it did cut off trade.

    It’s a tragedy that you haven’t seen that. Perhaps ideological blindness afflicts you.

  • Joe Hargrave argues that class solidarity trumps economics, and, therefore, economics is bunk.

    I think that the experiences of the 20th century demonstrate that class solidarity can not be the basis for a moral nation. Moral suasion and nuclear weapons were not sufficient to keep the Soviet Union afloat, either politically or economically. China’s survival has only occurred to the extent that Maoist class struggle has been replaced with the motto “It is glorious to get rich.” We can also look at any number of other countries where class struggle proved to be irrelevant to the average person. Class struggle has to be rejected based on our real world experience.

    Class struggle as a theory also represents a violation of God’s law of love. Whom are we struggling against? The plutocrats? The aristocracy? How can we struggle against them, seek their destruction, as Marx taught, but also love them, as Jesus taught? We should not confuse Catholicism with communism. A moral system can not be built on envy and jealousy as the entire foundation of the system.

    Only people in America and western Europe would think of the government as a potential provider of a moral economic system (if only the “right” people can get elected….”) In the rest of the world, people would scoff at the idea of using politics to improve people’s economic situation. In their world (and in ours, too, if you peek behind the curtain), those holding public office merely seek their own ends and that end is POWER! There is no salvation through politics.

  • I believe there are different schools of economic thought that each have very able representatives capable of making quality arguments for different interpretations of economic reality and particular economic policies.

    There are different schools of economic thought. Some (though not all) of them have able defenders capable of making quality arguments on behalf of their respective positions. It hardly follows that each school “can make equally plausible cases for whatever it is they wish to justify.”

  • “Joe Hargrave argues that class solidarity trumps economics, and, therefore, economics is bunk.”

    That is a gross oversimplification of my argument.

    What I actually argued is that an economic theory that does not take the reality of class conflict into account is not worth very much.

    Would it really have been so painful, so difficult, to address what I actually said instead of reducing it to a strawman that you could easily obliterate?

    Economics is not “bunk” – I don’t make that claim. What I think is “bunk” is a pretension to timelessness and universality made by some economists, which I think flies in the face of historical evidence, even if the pure mathematical models indicate something else.

    “Class struggle as a theory also represents a violation of God’s law of love. Whom are we struggling against?”

    This is a misstatement if I have ever seen one. There is a difference between acknowledging the actual existence of class conflict – as political philosophers since Aristotle and as the Church has done – and endorsing the political program of class struggle.

    Please tell me you understand that difference. Acknowledgment versus endorsement. One is not the other.

    “In the rest of the world, people would scoff at the idea of using politics to improve people’s economic situation.”

    What do you base this on?

  • MZ,
    I fail to see the tragedy. Are you seriously suggesting that there are any reputable economists who believe that Smoot-Hawley did not adverely affect the economy? Care to share?

  • “It hardly follows that each school “can make equally plausible cases for whatever it is they wish to justify.”

    I didn’t say that “it follows”. But I do think it happens to be true. What does plausible mean? It just means that the argument appears reasonable. Its the same as saying that each school makes a reasonable argument.

    Obviously I don’t think mutually exclusive arguments can both be true at the same time! Reasonableness is not truth. Plausibility is not truth. But two opposing arguments can both be reasonable at the same time if they are beginning from different assumptions and different perspectives on the available facts.

    I don’t see why anyone would wish to deny such a thing.

  • What does plausible mean?

    Seemingly or apparently valid, likely, or acceptable; credible.

    To say that the case for one position is equally plausible as that of any other is to say that all positions are or appear to be equally valid, likely, acceptable, credible, etc. That’s not the case.

  • I think that it might be important to distinguish between the fields of micro-economics and macro-economics. At least when I was in school (I was an economics major many moons ago), there was very little debate within the field of micro-economics. While models assumed rational behavior it was fully understood that the desires of consumers and producers involved values other than dollars. Indeed, some people who could be investment bankers choose instead to become priests. Macro-economics is trickier, and the efficacy of fiscal policy stimulus in a liquidity trap environment is certainly subject to debate, for instance. Also, there is plenty of room for debate in the context of the economic consequences of tax policy. For example, do higher tax rates induce less savings (because the reduced after-tax return from investments makes consumption more desirable) or more savings (because the reduced return requires taxpayers to save more in order to satisfy their savings goals. In truth, we probably don’t really know. But debate does not mean that economic principles do not apply; instead it signifies that understanding the disparate motivations of people is complex, even if one assumes that people are fully rational and have adequate information to make proper decisions in light of their particular objectives. The key is to apply economic principles more carefully and mindful of our limitations. But ignoring such principles as though they are fictions or less than real is really very naive and quite dangerous.

  • “To say that the case for one position is equally plausible as that of any other is to say that all positions are or appear to be equally valid, likely, acceptable, credible, etc. That’s not the case.”

    So plausibility is validity now?

    I also hoped that it would have been obvious that I was referring to debates among economists themselves (in fact, I think I said that) – and not necessarily just any old person. I’m assuming a methodological framework and minimum analytical competence here. So no, not “all” positions and arguments if “all” includes any argument that could possibly be made. But among professionals and well-educated laypersons, yes – I’d say opposing views can both be plausible at the same time.

  • “But ignoring such principles as though they are fictions or less than real is really very naive and quite dangerous.”

    Sure, I agree – and my point is that ignoring things that are not directly economic, such as political conflict, class conflict, or any number of potential issues when trying to make an economic analysis, is also really naive and really dangerous as well.

  • Author: Joe Hargrave
    Comment:
    “Joe Hargrave argues that class solidarity trumps economics, and, therefore, economics is bunk.”

    That is a gross oversimplification of my argument.

    What I actually argued is that an economic theory that does not take the reality of class conflict into account is not worth very much.

    Would it really have been so painful, so difficult, to address what I actually said instead of reducing it to a strawman that you could easily obliterate?

    Economics is not “bunk” – I don’t make that claim. What I think is “bunk” is a pretension to timelessness and universality made by some economists, which I think flies in the face of historical evidence, even if the pure mathematical models indicate something else.

    Patrick Duffy replies:
    I apologize for not repeating every word you used.
    I truly do not wish to be irritating, but we do fundamentally disagree.

    You apparently place a great deal of importance on class struggle. Class struggle, at least in my mind, is a term of art used in Marxist theory for what the true believers think will result in the ultimate triumph of the proletariat. Marxist theory can be rejected as having any value on moral, historical and practical grounds, as I attempted to outline earlier. The pages of 20th history have written fini to Marxist theory as the way to organize a country. If you believe that class struggle is a good way to analyze society, that’s your right, but it is not one shared by the common man, in my experience. Not one member of what you would call the proletariat (aside from middle class intellectuals who like to pose as part of the downtrodden masses) that I know, and I know hundreds, uses that term.

    “Class struggle as a theory also represents a violation of God’s law of love. Whom are we struggling against?”

    This is a misstatement if I have ever seen one. There is a difference between acknowledging the actual existence of class conflict – as political philosophers since Aristotle and as the Church has done – and endorsing the political program of class struggle.

    Please tell me you understand that difference. Acknowledgment versus endorsement. One is not the other.

    Patrick Duffy replies,
    Please excuse me for not going into every implication or assumption of everything I wrote.

    Do people of lesser means want to do better economically? Yes. I reserve the right to point out that “lesser means” is relative to the times and place in which they find themselves. The poor in America have more, economically, than most in many other countries and certainly more than even the wealthy in times past. (E.g. electricity, hot water, indoor plumbing, maybe even a television?)

    If you want to call that “struggle,” then so be it, but it is still not a term that resonates with the public. Can you substitute “making a living?” To limit it to people of a certain class is to write off the ambitions, hopes and dreams of anyone not in that class. I will point, in passing, to the line of thought among many (maybe not a majority, certainly not all, but definitely more than a small number) of the poor, the blue collar, the proletariat, who don’t think that others of their class should try to better themselves. “Getting above themselves” or “putting on airs” are the putdowns used for the ambitious. In short, members of the proletariat who choose not to “struggle.”
    The key, though, is how one tries to advance oneself economically, not whether they are successful, either in absolute terms or relative to others. One can give oneself up to greed, envy, jealousy, even violence in doing so. Politics, as practiced in the real world, is a means of trying to advance oneself by non-economic means. Guess what? Every human being is a sinner. Some sins are manifested in the economic sphere and definitely in the political sphere. Those who are successful in politics are able to draw a smokescreen across their personal interests and talk in terms of lofty ideals. Machiavelli was a realist about politics. At the same time, that’s not the way the game should be played, but power corrupts. My point, and I do have one, is that politics is not more important than economics, anymore than politics is not better than chemistry. Does chemistry have to take politics into account? I don’t think so. Economic theory can talk about what people will do, absent politics. Yes, politics can influence economic decisions (which, I think is what you want me to admit), but so does envy, jealousy, lust and a host of other things. So what? Does that mean that economic theory is not predictive? Yes, it is, in the long run, even if, in the short run, other factors may distort the results. I know I don’t have it quite complete, but Daymon Runyon wrote something like “The race isn’t always to the swiftest, but that’s the way to bet it.”

    “In the rest of the world, people would scoff at the idea of using politics to improve people’s economic situation.”

    What do you base this on?

    Patrick Duffy replies,
    Africa, the Middle East, south Asia, Russia, South America today. Before today, ancient Rome, Europe (before roughly 1800), Africa, China, Russia, the Middle East, south Asia. Perhaps I could have been more exact by saying that “ordinary people would scoff at the idea that politics will improve their lives, unless they are the ones in power, or their minds have been temporarily clouded by the promises of the snake oil salesman.” Politicians may promise that life will be better if they are elected but the sad experience of humanity is that taking money from one group of people to give it to another group is a short term improvement that is not sustainable. Sooner or later, the involuntary payors run out of money. (also cf. California.)

  • i wonder if surgeons have to endure these kinds of debates with people who don’t know anatomy? debates in the catholic blogosphere about economics always seem to have that quality.

  • “AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
    I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
    Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.

    We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
    That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
    But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
    So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

    We moved as the Spirit listed. They never altered their pace,
    Being neither cloud nor wind-borne like the Gods of the Market Place,
    But they always caught up with our progress, and presently word would come
    That a tribe had been wiped off its icefield, or the lights had gone out in Rome.

    With the Hopes that our World is built on they were utterly out of touch,
    They denied that the Moon was Stilton; they denied she was even Dutch;
    They denied that Wishes were Horses; they denied that a Pig had Wings;
    So we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.

    When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
    They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
    But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

    On the first Feminian Sandstones we were promised the Fuller Life
    (Which started by loving our neighbour and ended by loving his wife)
    Till our women had no more children and the men lost reason and faith,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “The Wages of Sin is Death.”

    In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
    But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “If you don’t work you die.”

    Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
    And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
    That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
    And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

    As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
    There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
    That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
    And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

    And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
    When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
    As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
    The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”

    -Rudyard Kipling

  • So plausibility is validity now?

    I didn’t come up with the definition. Blame the dictionary people.

    I also hoped that it would have been obvious that I was referring to debates among economists themselves (in fact, I think I said that) – and not necessarily just any old person. I’m assuming a methodological framework and minimum analytical competence here.

    Okay, but in that case there are going to be a fair number of issues on which economists agree. And even where you have minimally competent economists disagreeing with each other, it will still often be the case that one side’s arguments are more plausible than the other’s.

    Assume for a moment, though, that arguments on both sides of a question are equally plausible. You sometimes speak as if this means we can just ignore the arguments. But I don’t think that’s right. Take the minimum wage as an example. A lot of economists say that the minimum wage hurts the poor. Others say that it helps the poor. Suppose that the arguments of both sides seem equally plausible to you. What should you do? If you really aren’t sure whether the minimum wage helps the poor or hurts the poor, then advocating the minimum wage as a means of helping the poor does not seem sensible (in the same way that if you weren’t sure whether the liquid in a bucket was water or gasoline it wouldn’t be sensible to use the bucket to try and put out a fire).

  • PD,

    “I apologize for not repeating every word you used.”

    You don’t have to repeat every word I use to avoid making absurd strawmen out of my arguments.

    “I truly do not wish to be irritating, but we do fundamentally disagree.”

    I don’t really think we do. You’ve misunderstood me, that is for certain.

    “You apparently place a great deal of importance on class struggle. Class struggle, at least in my mind, is a term of art used in Marxist theory for what the true believers think will result in the ultimate triumph of the proletariat.”

    Ok, I see what is in your mind – how about now you try to see what is mine? “Class struggle”, regardless of what we think about it – I’d say class conflict, myself – is a reality. Just like the “laws of economics”, the conflict between classes might also be said to be a “law of history”, one related to economics.

    You do not have to support one class or another in order to acknowledge that they are in conflict. If you see two people in a fistfight on the street, saying, “hey, there’s a fight going on there” is not the same as saying, “hey, I want that guy to win”.

    This is a very, very simple point.

    “Marxist theory can be rejected as having any value on moral, historical and practical grounds, as I attempted to outline earlier.”

    Well, I disagree that it has no value. Love it or hate it, it presents an analysis that cannot be ignored. If the Church can address it, so can we.

    “If you believe that class struggle is a good way to analyze society, that’s your right”

    A good way to analyze society? In the sense that I acknowledge that it is a reality and incorporate it into any understanding of society that I have, then yes.

    But following the example of the Church, my goal is to minimize it, not to exploit it.

    “Please excuse me for not going into every implication or assumption of everything I wrote.”

    Should I forgive you for completely ignoring the main point? You are arguing with me as if I were arguing for a proletarian revolution. Do you really think that’s fair? Do you really think anything I said implies that that’s what I want to see happen?

    As for what “struggle” means, you are mixing up the struggle for individual existence with the struggle between groups for the wealth of society. The battle over wages between workers and employers is a struggle between classes.

    If you follow my postings, however, you know that I do not believe that arbitrarily imposing higher wages is a viable solution to this problem. I do believe workers have a right to organize and collectively bargain, but I believe a better long term solution is to eliminate the conflict between worker and owner by making more workers owners.

    And this solution comes right out of an extended passage in Rerum Novarum, the original document outlining the Church’s position on economic issues.

    “My point, and I do have one, is that politics is not more important than economics, anymore than politics is not better than chemistry. Does chemistry have to take politics into account? I don’t think so. Economic theory can talk about what people will do, absent politics.”

    Economics is not a physical science, it is a social science. It’s subject is never impersonal, inhuman atoms or molecules, but men with free will living in particular social and cultural conditions. That will always make it distinct from physics or chemistry.

    In all this I know it must seem as if I totally reject economic science, but I don’t. What I reject are the pretensions of neoliberals who do not give adequate space to non-economic factors when trying to come up with policy recommendations. No country has ever adopted a perfect, ideal market model, and no country has ever completely collapsed because of it.

    It is arguable that they have been much better off thanks to regulation, periods of economic protection, strong trade unions, social investment and redistribution of wealth.

    It is also evident that different cultures – such as, for instance, Japanese culture – can accommodate much more state involvement in the economy, and greater limits on the accumulation of personal wealth, and still manage to become the second most prosperous nation in the world. In this country we hear that only the promise of God-like wealth will induce anyone to want to do anything important, like start businesses and create jobs. This is often presented with the air of an economic law – in spite of the fact that other countries and cultures show that this is just not the case.

    All of that said, my preference is not necessarily for more state involvement but a new localism that gives people more control over their own economic fate. Honestly, the supply and demand stuff, I take no issue with – I don’t want a command economy. I want an end to economic oligarchy and autocracy, and I believe that is a political question.

  • MZ, can you give an example of libertarianism leading to totalitarianism? Before the Chinese takeover, Hong Kong probably came closer to Ayn Rand’s dreams than any other spot on earth – and the place seemed to be doing pretty well. Control was ceded to China because the British lease was up, not because the have-nots rebelled. America in the late 19th century was also a pretty free-wheeling place and, while the corruption and lack of social services and safeguards led to the reforms of the Progressive Era, we clearly didn’t end up living under totalitarianism.

    In fact, I’m very hard pressed to think of any countries, outside of the 2 examples I mentioned, that have come close to having libertarian economic systems, let alone ones which then became totalitarian.

    Czarist Russia was not economically libertarian. Neither was Weimar Germany. Bismarck had laid the foundations for the German welfare state back in the 19th century. The post-defeat malaise and moral decay of Weimar Germany is well-known and certainly contributed to the rise of the Nazis, but libertarianism does not mean “an abundance of libertines,” although when I read libertarian blogs, I see how someone could confuse the two:-)

  • “Suppose that the arguments of both sides seem equally plausible to you. What should you do?”

    This is funny because it is an issue where I actually agree with you and all the other economists. But I don’t go out there arguing against the minimum wage without offering an alternative that addresses the reason why people wanted the minimum wage to begin with.

    On the other hand there are people who have these “all good things will come in the fullness of time” arguments, the long historical view (also typical of socialists on the other side) – these arguments mean nothing to people who are struggling today.

    Ultimately, though, when there is such disagreement, what it means to me is this: certainty is not warranted. Grandiose proclamations that one and only one approach could possibly be acceptable are not warranted. Rigid applications are not warranted. There must always be room for revision and compromise over time. These are no idle concerns, because we have examples of regimes in history that have done these sorts of things in the name of science, even economic science – terrible, inhuman things.

  • According to the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, Hong Kong is still in the top spot:

    http://www.heritage.org/index/ranking.aspx

    Again, I’d like to know how libertarianism supposedly leads to totalitarianism. When I scan the dismal bottom half of that list, I don’t see many nations – heck, I don’t see any nations where libertarian economic principles once held sway.

  • There’s a lot being said, so I’m going to jump in blind and hope I don’t make a fool of myself…

    “Economics is not a physical science, it is a social science. It’s subject is never impersonal, inhuman atoms or molecules, but men with free will living in particular social and cultural conditions.”

    “What I reject are the pretensions of neoliberals who do not give adequate space to non-economic factors when trying to come up with policy recommendations.”

    Economics, as a science, deals with human choices with observable laws that are discoverable. The law of scarcity is not something that can be argued against – resources are always finite and therefore “scarce”. The division of labor is an observable phenomena characteristic of prosperous and developed economies. (Even biology in a sense follows the division of labor!)

    This does not mean that economics is mathematical. No equation is going to fully encapsulate human action. However, nor does it mean that economics is a field of study in which “models” and “isms” ought be created or selected at whim. The consequences of economic choices can be observed and foreseen.

    As we continue to discover the laws of economics, we have to reconcile those laws with our behavior. Our decisions in response to those laws are indeed moral in nature, or at least have moral consequences. Economics, while in and of itself a “valueless” science, involves HUMAN ACTIONS which have moral dimensions. It may sound like hair splitting, but I think its a crucial distinction to make in order to improve our understanding of the world and how we can improve our “lot”.

    No one is arguing that the story begins and ends with economic realities. No economic observation can offer salvation. What defenders of free-market economics argue is that state interventionist policies run completely contrary to reality. It makes perfect sense to want to further build and develop the world, but socialist/Marxist ideals do not accomplish this. Defying the law of gravity took building airplanes with an understanding of physics. It would not have helped aviators to just jump off cliffs over and over again hoping for a different result while whining about physicists’ warnings.

    “No country has ever adopted a perfect, ideal market model…”

    I’d argue that maybe there isn’t a “model” to adopt. There’s just reality next to various degrees of deviation.

    “It is arguable that they have been much better off thanks to regulation, periods of economic protection, strong trade unions, social investment and redistribution of wealth.”

    How so? It all comes at a price, and often the price here is a loss of jobs and a loss of stable growth. New laborers get priced out of the market, resources are sapped away from productive investment and benefits are dolled out not to who needs it most but rather to political constituencies. Protectionism only entrenches the political classes while simultaneously denying foreign infusions of needed capital. Never mind the fact that forced “redistribution of wealth” is just another word for outright theft. If we are so concerned about the morality of economics, how can we justify forcibly taking other people’s property?

    There is a such thing as a moral “redistribution”. Its called charity, and what makes it beautiful and meaningful is that when its done voluntarily and in concert with economic realities great things can be built.

    Perhaps the “models” we ought be looking for are not different economic or state models, but new kinds of businesses and forms of cooperation.

    “It is also evident that different cultures – such as, for instance, Japanese culture – can accommodate much more state involvement in the economy, and greater limits on the accumulation of personal wealth, and still manage to become the second most prosperous nation in the world.”

    But how was this possible? The Japanese people SAVED. That is why they could accommodate the insane policies of their government and central bank. What makes the U.S. situation so much worse is our lack of savings, thanks to the Fed’s long period of low interest rates which rewarded bad behavior. And yes, Japan is a large economy… but they could be doing so much better. I never hear about how great Japan is like I did in the 80’s, I just keep hearing about their “lost decade” now.

    “All of that said, my preference is not necessarily for more state involvement but a new localism that gives people more control over their own economic fate. Honestly, the supply and demand stuff, I take no issue with – I don’t want a command economy. I want an end to economic oligarchy and autocracy, and I believe that is a political question.”

    I think these kinds of things will happen and are happening as the correction continues. For me, the first major step is for the American people to return to honest money. I don’t believe any genuine recovery can be built if the very blood of the economy (money) is poisonous.

  • “Again, I’d like to know how libertarianism supposedly leads to totalitarianism. When I scan the dismal bottom half of that list, I don’t see many nations – heck, I don’t see any nations where libertarian economic principles once held sway.”

    If it was framed that libertarianism inspires a totalitarian reaction from those that resent the prosperity of others… I can buy that. But I don’t see how libertarianism naturally could slide into totalitarianism.

  • “If it was framed that libertarianism inspires a totalitarian reaction from those that resent the prosperity of others… I can buy that. But I don’t see how libertarianism naturally could slide into totalitarianism.”

    Historical examples? Neither Weimar Germany nor Czarist Russia were bastions of economic libertarianism. In both cases of course there were other factors that led to totalitarianism in each of those nations. In regard to both Weimar Germany and Czarist Russia for example anger at defeat in war were key factors, the existence of ruthless parties willing to use any means to seize and keep political power, an inability or unwillingness to take necessary measures to stop violence as a means of attaining political power, intellectuals prostituting themselves at the altar of totalitarian ideologies, etc. Economic distress, the norm throughout most of human history, rarely leads to revolution unless other more important factors are in play.

  • Two things.

    For those asking for examples of what MZ was talking about, I would say Chile is the prime example, though it wasn’t libertarianism “in action” leading to dictatorship, but rather a dictator using oppression to implement the policies of his choosing, which happened to be neoliberal (if you want to call that “libertarian”).

    Unless he was talking about something else entirely.

    Second thing: I’m going to make it a policy not to argue with more than two people at once, which probably means no more arguing about economics on this blog. I don’t know where Tim and Eric are or for that matter, Morning’s Minion or Michael Iafrate, all of whom I think might be more inclined to see my point of view more sympathetically and balance this out a bit. Five or six on one is a game I don’t wish to play.

  • I have a feeling that the conversation is becoming something like a squid fighting with itself, but I’d like to see if maybe we can gain some clarity on one thing (or perhaps this would more be a post request).

    Joe, you say:

    Ok, I see what is in your mind – how about now you try to see what is mine? “Class struggle”, regardless of what we think about it – I’d say class conflict, myself – is a reality. Just like the “laws of economics”, the conflict between classes might also be said to be a “law of history”, one related to economics.

    You do not have to support one class or another in order to acknowledge that they are in conflict. If you see two people in a fistfight on the street, saying, “hey, there’s a fight going on there” is not the same as saying, “hey, I want that guy to win”.

    This may seem dense of me, but I’m actually not sure what it is that we’re talking about here. Looking at history, I very seldom see a class conflict dynamic at work. And the example you give (class struggle between employers and workers) is again something that I just don’t see.

    Maybe this is partly just a matter of perspective. When I look at workers and employers (with some experience as each) I see that workers want to make as much money as they can while still having the time and peace of mind to enjoy their leisure (and wanting to avoid unpleasant work) and that employers want to find good workers who will help them achieve their business aims while remaining affordable. This leads leads to constant exchange and interplay, but I don’t really see a whole lot of struggle involved, and it strikes me as a complex interplay or direct relationships rather than some sort of society-wide struggle.

    I’m not sure if we mean different things by the terms or if we’re seeing different things or what. Would you consider expanding on the topic in a comment or post?

  • I’m going to make it a policy not to argue with more than two people at once, which probably means no more arguing about economics on this blog. I don’t know where Tim and Eric are or for that matter, Morning’s Minion or Michael Iafrate, all of whom I think might be more inclined to see my point of view more sympathetically and balance this out a bit. Five or six on one is a game I don’t wish to play.

    Incidentally — I think that’s a fairly sound approach. The other thing I sometimes do when I venture onto heavily progressive leaning venues is only bother to address the points that actively interest me and not try to take on the whole crowd.

    Picking battles seems essential to sanity on the internet — to the extent I can claim to maintain that.

  • Well said, Anthony, certainly better than I was able to state the argument.

    I’d like to return for a moment to the excessive increases in minimum wage as an employment killer argument. I will disagree with DarwinCatholic on this, at least to the extent that I would like to remove “excessive” from the statement. I believe that any minimum wage keeps people from working, which is immoral on the face of it.

    People are hired to do work because they can produce value for the employer, more value than the employer can produce on his or her own. That’s another way of saying that the employed person can successfully serve the needs of others. That “value” will fluctuate over time for a number of reasons. In the long run, however, people will work at the job that pays the most, in both monetary and non-monetary terms, because that’s how the economy allocates the resource that consists of their time. If a lot of people would pay money to watch me play soccer, why would I work in a warehouse for minimum wage? The enjoyment those spectators would receive clearly outstrips how much good I can do by pulling boxes off the shelves with a forklift.

    But if there is a minimum wage, society is saying that it is better that I have no job than one that pays less than X. In other words, if I can’t produce more value per hour than X (plus payroll taxes, benefits, etc.), then I won’t have a job, even if that job is the highest and best use of my talents. So is it more moral that I can not work, at least not at any legal job?

    That may seem to be very abstract, theoretical economic theory. I assure you that it is not.
    I serve on the board of directors of a Catholic charity that hires people with disabilities. We have a variety of jobs to fill. The top people make minimum wage, most do not. You do not have to be around them very long before you obtain a profound understanding of the meaning of the phrase “the dignity of work.” You discover that it isn’t some Labor Day politician boiler plate phrase. They love their job, they love feeling that they have worth because they are able to do things.

    Why do we pay less than minimum wage? Because that’s all the value they can produce. If we had to pay at least minimum wage, we would have to close the doors, because our employees would not be able to produce as much value as our competition (which does not hire people with disabilities.) [For the record, the minimum wage laws allow an exemption for those who hire people with disabilities, subject to certain requirements that we meet.] We wrote over 2,000 W-2’s last year to people with disabilities. Few of them would have a job if we had to pay minimum wage.

    At the same time, in our state, only 10% of people with certified disabilities have a job. I see the life of the other 90% as a terrible waste of the talents of good people, people who would love to have a job, people that “the system” says aren’t good enough to work, because their work, the value they can produce doesn’t come up to the minimum wage. How can you, in good conscience, say “It’s better that you stay home and watch TV all day, every day, than you go to a job that only pays $5 an hour?”

    Now lets take that a little farther. We, for the most part, deal with people with certified disabilities. A doctor has looked at them and said “Yes, you do have what we call Downs syndrome.” But there are quite a few people that are, frankly, marginal. They may not quite slide over into a government defined certifiable disability, but they’re close. Maybe their disability is that there has been so much trauma in their lives that they just can’t “keep it together.” Maybe they came to this country without ever having any schooling and their spoken language isn’t English. Is it better that these people can not work?

    Unfortunately, I hear too many people who think of jobs and pay as if all employers were some kind of charity, that can just dole out “living wage” jobs to people if their hearts were just in the right place. Without the ability to produce value, however, there won’t be jobs for anyone.

  • Actually Joe in regard to Allende I rather think this is an example of a would be totalitarian, Allende, Castro’s chum, helping to cause a reaction to relative economic freedom. I would note that the democratic governments that peacefully succeeded the Pinochet dictatorship have largely left his economic legacy intact.

  • Castro’s remembrance of his good friend on the centennial of his birth. Hope you have a fond reunion soon Fidel!
    http://www.lankamission.org/content/view/459/9/

  • “Would you consider expanding on the topic in a comment or post?”

    On class conflict? Sure. But I think I may as well say in advance that I’m just not going to reply to comments.

  • …or, better yet, do yourself some service and read Thomas Sowell.

    DarwinCatholic seems to me very much correct in his assessment:

    Looking at history, I very seldom see a class conflict dynamic at work. And the example you give (class struggle between employers and workers) is again something that I just don’t see.

  • Patrick,

    I get your point. (I have one of those “margin” people in the family — probably diagnosable, actually, but doesn’t want to be. And as a result, he’s never been able to hold a job though I try to find stuff he can do from time to time freelance.)

    At the overall level, it seems to me that the minimum wage we have doesn’t increase unemployment much since only a few percent of workers actually make minimum wage. But in that same sense, I don’t see that it helps at all either.

  • On class conflict? Sure. But I think I may as well say in advance that I’m just not going to reply to comments.

    Cool. I’d just like to understand what you’re seeing.

  • Darwin,

    Let me just say right now, for the night, that it sounds like you’re talking about a small or medium business in present-day America. I’m talking about a historical phenomenon that covers many more times and places than that. And it isn’t as if we haven’t seen strikes, unionization drives, protests, even a factory occupation, and other signs of class conflict in America, especially since the economic crisis.

    The American experience is indeed unique with regard to class conflict. But it would be a mistake to assume it isn’t there.

  • Well, in part I’m thinking of my own experience, which is in small (under thirty employees) and very large (Fortune 100) companies in the modern US. But I’m also trying to understand more widely what you’re talking about in terms of class conflict.

    Certainly, it seems uncontroversial that there is at times conflict between some people who are of one class and some people who are of another. However, it doesn’t seem to me that classes really exist as a fixed entity which one can say to be at war with another. Some people find it to their benefit to join some sort of movement or action, but others find it to their benefit to break ranks.

    For instance, in the grocery workers strike in Southern California back when I was leaving (2003) you had grocery workers on strike and grocery chains holding out — but you also had lots of people happy to cross the lines and take the open jobs at the available terms, and as I recall one of the grocery chains made a separate deal with the union.

    In ancient Rome, you had the Roman mob, which could often be bought off to behave as a group in demanding political action, but among the aristocrats you had the Optimates who supported the old institutions and the Populares who gained power by claiming to support the interests of the mob.

    Looking at various events in history, it seems to me that people act the most like a “class” when some group with power uses coercion to try to force them to be interchangeable and expendable, rather than allowing them to make their ways as best they can. For instance, one of the major root causes of Wat Tyler’s peasant rebellion in late medieval England was the Statute of Labourers, which sought to force peasants and craftsmen to work for the same hours and wages as before the black death — rolling back the gains which labourers had made in the wake of the labor supply dearth after the Black Death. This combined with a heavy flat per capita tax (which thus hit the poor much harder than the rich) caused peasants to band together and revolt, despite the likely eventuality of their massacre.

    However, outside of the most egregious abuses such as that, it seems to me that people end up acting as individuals much of the time rather than acting as if they belong to a monolithic class. Poorer workers happily snap up jobs that better off workers won’t take; employers bid each others employees away from each other, etc. There doesn’t seem to me to be a unified class dynamic at play much of the time, and when it is, it’s mainly because people have been forced into a “class” artificially. So for instance, I’d see there as being an actual class conflict between employers and workers only a small minority of the time.

    When you talk about class struggle, are you just observing the tendency to people to band together when collectively forced into a corner like that, or are you talking about some sort of more general dynamic?

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Democrats for Life of America Are Serious

Wednesday, July 15, AD 2009

pro-life democrats

Hattip to the ever alert Jay Anderson of Pro-Ecclesia.  Because Congressman Tim Ryan (D.Ohio) abandoned his pro-life position, Democrats for Life of America removed him from their national advisory board. This news story demonstrates Ryan’s transition to voting pro-abortion.  Interesting that Ryan abandoned the pro-life cause after the Democrats took control of the House in 2006.  I suspect that he is ambitious and decided that in a House run by pro-abort Democrats being a pro-lifer was not a career enhancer.  At any rate, as a pro-life Conservative Republican I salute the action of these pro-life Democrats.  It would have been better to boot him in 2008 after his changed voting record had become clear, but the main thing is that Democrats for Life have acted now.  Their action lends credence to the seriousness with which they view the issue of abortion.  Bravo!  (Two articles praising Democrats in two days by me?  I’m going soft!)

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  • Bravo to these men and women! Let us pray that they have the courage and integrity to remain steadfast in their convictions.

    Bur where is Jason Altmire, Blue Dog from Western PA?

  • Yes, this is good news. Two items of pro-life good news in one day!

    The other to which I refer is my home state of AZ banning partial birth abortion and finally establishing a 24 hour waiting period wherein all alternatives to abortion are presented to pregnant women.

    A good day indeed.

  • I did note this the day after it happened, having been alerted via Democrats for Life. I, too, commend these Representatives.

    Though…

    Last month, I was alerted to the news that a primary — perhaps not anymore since a new bill was introduced today — House health care bill (852 pages that I’m sure that has not been read by anyone) that is the project of Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) contains mandatory “family planning” funding that would ensure tax dollars for abortion providers, namely Planned Parenthood. To my knowledge, this has not been changed — which further underscores the necessity of pro-life Democrats to threaten to abandon the bill. By most DFLA estimates, there were about 30-35 pro-life Democrats in the House prior to the November election and now it is in the same range, or approximately, 40 at the most liberal estimate. I hope that last number, or any number over 35, is accurate because it would mean an almost sure defeat of the bill as even the Democratic majority could not withstand such a loss of its own members, pro-life or even pro-choice Democrats that would rather not “play politics” and override the Hyde Amendment by calling abortion “health care.”

    What is even more alarming, considering that such provisions have not been removed, is the primary Senate health care bill being led by Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MA), who is Catholic, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labors, and Pensions (HELP) Committee admitted that certain language in the bill that would force health insurance companies to contract with groups like Planned Parenthood.

    She was asked by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) would the bill be inclusive to abortion providers and stumbled in her reply.

    “It would include women’s health clinics that provide comprehensive services and under the definition of a woman’s health clinic, it would include, uh, it would include, uh, Planned, uh, Parenthood clinics. It would, um, it does not expand in any way expand a service. In other words, it does not expand, um, uh, or mandate abortion service.”

    She only said the bill “would provide for any service deemed medically necessary or medically appropriate.” Inevitably, if the HHS Secretary in the Obama administration declared abortions “medically necessary or appropriate” then it would be the case.

    Sen. Hatch then asked if Sen. Mikulski if she would include language in the bill that is abortion-neutral, in exhange for some Republican support of the bill.

    He asked this way: “Madam Chairman, would you be willing to put some language in [about] not including abortion services? Then I think you would have more support.”

    She responded, “No, I would not, uh, be willing to do that at this time.”

    The HELP committee, after this issue was brought up, brought the matter up to a vote between the 23 Senators. A provision to include abortion in the Senate health care bill passed by 12-11 with 10 Republicans and 1 Democrat, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) opposing it, whom has been voting more consistently pro-life since being admonished by his Bishop.

    So, we have a problem of two bills (unless the new House bill has gone in the other direction) that have language inclusive of abortion services, which I think, will ultimately kill the legislation all together — which, as an advocate, of health care reform I think is both childish and imprudent on the part of Democratic leadership.

  • Interesting information Eric. I think national health care is in trouble currently due to fluctuating cost estimates. I suspect that the Blue Dogs will hang tough on abortion, mostly, I trust, out of principle, but also because I think 2010 may be shaping up as a good year for Republicans, and Blue Dogs in Republican leaning districts can garner some protection in those areas with a strong pro-life record.

  • Didn’t Altmire pull a Casey and support some pro-abort bill?

    Anyway, I don’t see my pro-life Dem congressman, Dan Lipinski, anywhere on that list, either…and he’s got a 100% NRTL rating, too. John Bochierri of OH isn’t on the list, either. Hmm…well, as long as they come through and vote “no” on the legislation if it contains abortion funding, no complaints on my end.

  • Well, I’m going to make a good pro-life news trifecta… an Illinois court has FINALLY allowed the state’s parental notification law to be enforced, 14 years after it originally was passed and signed into law — it’s been held up in court ever since. Don’t know if this is absolutely the last word on the subject, though, but it’s good news nonetheless.

  • Speaking of Democrats for Life, they have booted an Ohio Congressman from their board of directors for his insufficiently pro-life voting record:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2009/07/democrats-for-life-give-boot-to-ohio.html

    Kudos to the DFLA for taking a principled stand.

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Totus a Target?

Tuesday, July 14, AD 2009

Near tragedy in DC yesterday when a screen of Totus (Teleprompter of the United States), crashed.   Rumors abounded yesterday that Totus was no more.  Had this, dare I say it, been an assassination attempt against Totus?  Was Vice-President Biden involved?  There is no love lost between Biden and Totus, but certainly Biden would not stoop to electronicide, would he?

Fortunately Totus announced here on its blog that it is OK.  Totus blames Felix its operator.  Hmmm, I wonder if there are recent sightings of Biden and Felix together?   Stay alert Totus, the screwdrivers, if not the knives, may be out against you!

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  • I’m surprised Biden hasn’t been chained to a VPTOTUS and ordered to say only what VPTOTUS tells him to say, with no ab libbing. Of course, if that happened the country would be deprived of a great comedy source and we need all the laughs we can get these days.

  • I would hate to see my favorite clown so restricted Donna, but I believe as the administration’s numbers tank, tighter restrictions will be put on Biden’s loose lips.

Ten Books

Monday, July 13, AD 2009

Weighty Subjects

Judging from our posts, I believe it is safe to say that we at The American Catholic are a bookish lot.  I think this applies also to most of our learned commenters.  I have always loved books, a trait I inherited from my sainted mother who had a deep passion for the printed page.  If I were not married to a fellow bibliophile, and a librarian of course !, I can imagine my love of books perhaps having been a sore point in my marriage.  “Another bookstore?”  “Can’t we go anyplace without you dragging me to a dull bookstore?”  “You paid what for that history of the Peninsular War!?!”  “The books are in the dumpster.  Say a word and you may end up there too!”   Instead, both I and my bride of 27 years view bookstores as homes away from home, to the vast amusement of our kids.

In this post I am going to list ten books I would recommend.  These ten books have all had some impact on my life.  I invite everyone who is interested to also give their book recommendations in the comments.

1.   The Bible-Since my parents gave me my first Bible, at my request, on Christmas Day 1970, I have attempted, and usually succeeded, in reading a chapter from the Old Testament and a chapter from the New each day.  The varied type of literature in the Bible I find endlessly fascinating:  novels, court chronicles, proverbs, otherworldly prophecies, military history, gospels, letters, an endless literary and intellectual feast.  Aside from the spiritual benefits of the Bible, which of course is the main reason for reading the Bible, no one in our civilization can be considered to be well-educated if they are bone ignorant of this book. 

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32 Responses to Ten Books

  • Only ten books? I will try. It’s difficult.

    1) The Pillar and Ground of the Truth by Pavel Florensky
    2) The Bride of the Lamb by Sergius Bulgakov
    3) Theo-Drama Volume V by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    4) Reflections of a Russian Statesman by Pobedonstsev
    5) Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
    6) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
    7) The Philokalia, Volume II
    8) On First Principles, Origen
    9) Poetic Diction by Owen Barfield
    10) Dune by Frank Herbert

  • 1. Theo-Drama, volume 4 by Hans Urs von Balthasar
    2. The Idiot by Dostoevsky
    3. Complete Poems, Gerald Manley Hopkins
    4. Phaedrus, Plato
    5. The Clown by Heinrich Bohl
    6. The Symbolism of Evil by Paul Ricoeur
    7. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
    8. Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle
    9. Catholicism by Henri de Lubac
    10.Showings, Julian of Norwich

  • 1. God at the Ritz – Lorenzo Albacete
    2. Lost in the Cosmos – Walker Percy
    3. A Matter of Interpretation – Antonin Scalia
    4. St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton
    5. Radicals for Capitalism – Brian Doherty
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. The Ethics – Aristotle
    8. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    9. 1984 – George Orwell
    10. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger

  • Mark,

    I almost put Confederacy of Dunces but eliminated it in favor of Lost in the Cosmos. Good book.

  • Wow, Don. You make me look lame…

    1. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
    2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkein
    3. The Everlasting Man – G.K. Chesterton
    4. Introduction to Christianity -Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
    5. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
    6. Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis
    7. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion – David Hume
    8. Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer
    9. Crossing the Threshold of Hope – Pope John Paul II
    10. The Revolution: A Manifesto – by Ron Paul (too recent, I know… but it did crystalize my political and economic disposition and refocused my preference for Jeffersonian principles)

    Here’s a few big-fat books that take far too much time to say that I’ve “read”, or that I’m really wanting to read.

    1. The Bible. A book that I don’t think you ever really “read”, you just revisit. I’ve never read it enough, of course… like most, sadly.

    2. Tragedy and Hope – Carroll Quigley. Probably the most sober and gut-punching rendition of history I’ve ever been in the process of reading. Here Quigley just doesn’t list events… he names names for 1300 pages.

    3. The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffen. A very readable history of the Federal Reserve and its shenanigans. This book will make you a cynic over what men will do for money and prestige.

    4. Man, Economy and State by Murray Rothbard – a book I’ve been desperate to fit in to my reading list a long with the works of Ludwig von Mises, Hayek and a host of other free-market economists.

  • I’m sorry to say I don’t read many books these days – most of what I read is online in the form of encyclicals and other documents from the Vatican archives.

    I’ll give it a try nonetheless. I wouldn’t say this is an ‘all time’ best list, but a ‘books I’ve really liked recently’ list.

    1. The New Testament
    2. Life in a Medieval Village – Frances & Joseph Gies
    3. A History of Britannia vol. 2 ‘The Wars of the British’ – Simon Schama
    4. Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments – Randy Alcorn
    5. Chance or Purpose – Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
    6. God is Near Us – Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger)
    7. Aristotle’s Children – Richard E. Rubenstein
    8. America Beyond Capitalism – Gar Alperovitz
    9. Economic Democracy – Robert Dahl
    10. The Outline of Sanity – Chesterton

  • Whatever happened to the notoriety of books that once comprised the Canon of Western Literature?

    Has the deplorably blatant nihilism of the modern age really made extinct the various remarkable works of the great and noble writers of the past?

    And don’t put down the libraries and the bookstores (as well as used bookshops); these happen to be distinguished hollowed grounds for certain autodidacts!

  • Interesting responses! Keep them coming!

  • Only 10?

  • I’m sure I’m leaving out something, but here are my ten, not necessarily in order.

    1. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Burke
    2. The Federalist Papers – Hamilton, Madison and Jay
    3. The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    4. That Hideous Strength – C.S. Lewis
    5. Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
    6. The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
    7. The Great Divorce – C.S. Lewis
    8. Brideshead Revisited – Waugh
    9. Time and Again – Jack Finney
    10. Misery – Stephen King

    Okay, the last one might need an explanation. I read it for the first time when I was 13 and it is the book that made me want to be a writer. Yes, the plot is about a writer named Paul who is then imprisoned by his “number one fan,” but that’s not why it made me want to write. So it has a special place in my heart.

  • “Only 10?”

    Yep!

  • Just at the moment concerning non-fiction….I would need a seperate list for fiction and non-fiction.

    .Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    .From Dawn to Decadance – Jacques Barzun
    .The Quest for Community – Robert Nisbet
    .Prejudices and The Social Philosophers (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things) – Robert Nisbet
    .The Roots of American Order and the Conservative Mind – Russell Kirk (essentially part 1 and 2 of the same things)
    .The Essential Russell Kirk
    .The Portable Conservative Reader
    .The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings
    .Postmodernism Rightly Understood – Peter Lawler
    .Rallying the Really Human Things – Vigen Guroian

  • Wouldn’t it have been better to have the Top 10 parcelled out in categories (e.g., philosophy, religion, literature, etc.)?

    That is, it would have been quite difficult for me to have one book (Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind/The Roots of American Order) of a certain defined category ranked higher above another (De Civitate Dei) when, in fact, within that book’s rightful category, it would have resided amongst the highest echelons.

    In other words, it (at least, to me) becomes a false ranking when not distinguished in their appropriate categories.

  • Crud — cross-posted; jonathanjones02 beat me to it.

  • This is books we recommend, as opposed to the traditional most influential, stuck on a desert island, best ever, etc?

    Okay…

    1) Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    2) The Iliad by Homer
    3) The Divine Comedy by Dante
    4) The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien
    5) Confessions by Augustine
    6) The Great Seige – Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford
    7) The Little World of Don Camillo by Giovanni Guareschi
    8 ) The Brothers Karamazov – Dostoyevsky
    9) Fields Without Dreams : Defending the Agrarian Ideal by Victor Davis Hanson
    10) No Exit by Sartre

    I chose to put these together imagining that someone had agreed to read up to ten books recommended by me in order to understand how I believe the world to be. Rank is not necessarily an indicator of quality so much as how indicative I consider the book.

    If I could squeeze one more thing in it would be:

    The Final Dialogues (Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo) by Plato

    I have no explanations as to why these (clearly more significant works than some I did include) didn’t make they list. It’s just that I would have guided someone to read the others first.

  • In addition to the fiction/non-fiction breakdown, there should also be a seperate category for religious works, which could cover both non-fiction and fiction. My list would begin with Guardini’s The Lord. If graphic novels were allowed, I’d recommend Alphonse: Untimely Ripp’d by Lickona and Gugliotti.

  • The queries about categories are reasonable, but one of the purposes of this post was to cause people to think carefully about their choices. It is difficult, at least I found it so, to be limited to 10 books, and the difficulty is deliberate in the intention behind the post of having people think hard about what their choices would be.

  • Of course, if one has real trouble picking, one can always post one’s whole library:

    http://www.librarything.com/catalog/brendanhodge

  • Whose Brendan Hodge?

    Anyway, that’s some impressive catalog — in spite of the fact that Tim Powers, Jane Austin and the fiercely anti-ecclesial Voltaire (although, somewhat understandable given his admittedly inestimable natural talent and biting wit, which even certain hierarchs themselves acknowledged) was included in the list.

  • If those authors trouble you, e, I can’t imagine what my bookshelf would do to you 🙂

  • Joe,

    How does that ole phrase go? De gustibus non est disputandum?

  • It’s my library. Or at least, our library. My wife and I combined when we got married, of course, and now our raising children has added other sections to the collection. Here’s a fun way to view it:

    http://www.librarything.com/authorcloud.php?view=brendanhodge

    I really can’t recommend LibraryThing enough. It’s free for the first couple hundred books in your catalog, and a lifetime membership of $25 gets you permanent use of a catalog as large as you need. With modern books, you just have to type in the ISBN and it will pull in the title, author, publication date, etc. Incredibly useful for keeping track of your library.

    Voltaire I only had because he was assigned in college. No great fondness. If you want to go after disreputable authors that I like I guess you could take aim at Camus, Sartre or Lucretius.

    Jane Austen and Tim Powers, however, I will make no apologies for, both are among my favorite authors. 🙂

  • Voltaire did some fairly good historical works on Louis XIV and Charles XII.

  • I’ve read a lot of books but can’t really come up with 10 that signficantly changed my life or my point of view on various issues. I can list some that did:

    1. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace. Not only did it make a fantastic movie, it shows in a compelling fashion how the Greek, Roman, and Jewish cultures all interacted in the time of Jesus.

    2. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Excellent portrayal of how small choices and habits become big ones.

    3. The Screwtape Letters, also by C.S. Lewis — no explanation necessary

    4. The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand. While I’m not a big fan of Rand or of Objectivism in general, this book which explains her ideas about art helped me finally figure out why classic art is so good and modern art so unappealing.

    5. Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel — wonderful portrait of the relationship between Galileo and one of his daughters who became a nun, as well as Galileo’s relationship with the Church

    6. The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day — compelling story of Day’s conversion and her founding of the Catholic Worker movement

    7. Called out of Darkness by Anne Rice — just read this recently; one of the best “reversion” stories I’ve read in a while

  • Oh, and I almost forgot to include “Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America” by Steve Kellmeyer (a book I actually proofread prior to publication). Now I don’t agree with EVERYTHING in this book (and most Catholics who read it probably won’t), but the author does make two points I find compelling:

    1. The Church ought to be concentrating more resources on ADULT education and formation, which is far more cost effective than trying to run parish schools or CCD programs;

    2. If adults are properly formed in the faith, the Catholic formation and education of their children will take care of itself.

  • I thought Candide was hilarious.

  • 1. Aspects of Alterity – Brian Treanor
    2. The Brothers Karamozov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
    3. History and Truth – Paul Ricoeur
    4. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    5. Mystery and Manners – Flannery O’Connor
    6. Politics of Prudence – Russell Kirk
    7. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene
    8. Radical Hermeneutics – John D. Caputo
    9. Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    10. A Soldier of the Great War – Mark Helprin

  • had The Brothers Karamazov and Reflections on the Revolution in France on my list too, but since Mr. McClarey has limited us to 10 (sob!), I decided to pick books nobody else has yet mentioned.

    1. Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts – Clive James (A very hard to characterize book. Cultural Amnesia is a book profiling seminal 20th century writers, artists, statesmen and tyrants. Hitler and Mao make an appearance; so does Louie Armstrong, and, of all people, Tony Curtis. So do a lot of intriguing lesser-known writers; James seems to have read just about everything of worth written in the last century. Read it and you’ll come away with at least a dozen authors you’ll want to become better acquainted with. James is not shy about offering his opinions and many of his profiles highlight the disgraceful record of 20th century writers who provided intellectual cover for Fascists and Communists – his take-down of Jean-Paul Sartre is masterful.)
    2. The Complete Stories – Franz Kafka
    3. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
    4. The Deptford Trilogy – Robertson Davies
    5. Animal Farm – George Orwell
    6. The Gormenghast Trilogy – M. Peake (don’t bother with the third book; the first two are superb)
    7. The Fatal Shore – Robert Hughes
    8. Citizens – Simon Schama
    9. Modern Times – Paul Johnson

    And, because we’ve all listed books that aren’t exactly beach reading, I’m going to end on a light note:

    10. Wodehouse’s Short Stories

  • I’m not trying to break the rules or anything, but I can even think of parts of books I can recommend. For me, James Joyce’s numerous sins (which include, in my opinion, “Finnegan’s Wake”)are erased by the sheer beauty of the last paragraph of “The Dead.” I first read it when I was 16 and I still believe that it is one of the loveliest, most evocative paragraphs ever written in English.

    “The snow was general all over Ireland,…,”

  • I’m late to this, but I want to contribute my top-10:

    1. Holy Bible, RSV-Catholic Edition
    2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis
    3. Triumph – The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, a 2000 Year History by H.W. Crocker, III
    4. A History of Christendom Vols. 1, 2, & 4 by Warren H. Carroll
    5. Witness To Hope, The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel
    6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    7. Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington
    8. Uncommon Faith by John F. Coverdale
    9. Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam by Pope Benedict XVI & Marcello Pera; Forward by George Weigel, Translated by Michael F. Moore
    10. God’s Choice by George Weigel

    Honorable Mentioned: The Foundation Trilogy would have been up there as in Donald’s, but I would definitely place it in my number one spot in a separate “Science Fiction” top-10, but strictly just books in general, it didn’t make it, maybe five years ago, but not today.

    Many books by George Weigel would be in the next ten of course.

    I want to read The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene some day.

    Also I do want to read The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day. Any good books written by Dorothy Day that anyone would recommend would help.

    I am also open to any good recommendations on the Spanish Civil War and the French Revolution. I’ve read Warren Carroll, which is by far the best I’ve read so far. I’d like similar recommendations. Is Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke one?

    Blackadder’s St. Thomas Aquinas – G.K. Chesterton, is the second time I’ve heard Chesterton mentioned in a reading on St. Thomas Aquinas. That’s enough for me to put it on my Amazon wish list and mark it as a Christmas gift to myself.

  • 1. The Cypresses Believe in God – Jose Maria Gironella
    2. One Million Dead – Jose Maria Gironella
    3. The Jesuits – Malachi Martin
    4. Rich Church, Poor Church – Malachi Martin
    5. Cider With Rosie – Laurie Lee
    6. The Cure of Ars Today – George Rutler
    7. Jesus of Nazareth (Vol. 1) – Pope Benedict XVI
    8. Salt of the Earth – Peter Seewald
    9. God and the World – Peter Seewald
    10. The Art of Eating – MFK Fisher

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