5 Responses to Whistling Dog Open Thread

Jimmy Carter, anti-Catholic Bigot

Saturday, December 12, AD 2009

I’ve never had much use for Jimmy Carter.  I view him as in the running with James Buchanan for the title of worst President of the United States, and he has always struck me as a mean and spiteful little man.  Now he adds the title of bigot to his list of dishonors.  In an address to the World Parliament of Religions (You know that has to give God a good laugh!)  the Solon of Plains is reported to have unloaded on both Southern Baptists and Catholics.

In opposition to the vast majority of authentic scholars and historians, Carter asserted: “It’s clear that during the early Christian era women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets.”  He added: “It wasn’t until the 4th century or the 3rd at the earliest that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant position within the religious hierarchy.”

Contrary to the theorizing of Carter, Pope John Paul II taught, “The Lord Jesus chose men to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.”  He added: “the Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself.  For this reason the ordination of women is not possible.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church; 1577)

Carter singled out the Southern Baptist Convention and Roman Catholic Church, claiming that they “view that the Almighty considers women to be inferior to men.”  However, both Christian faiths hold to the Scriptural truth that God created men and women equal.

Carter suggests that only in permitting women to become priests and pastors could male religious leaders choose to interpret teachings to exalt rather than subjugate women.  “They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter, subjugation,” he said.

“Their continuing choice provides a foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world,” said Carter. Carter goes on to list horrific violations against women such as rape, genital mutilation, abortion of female embryos and spousal battery.

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37 Responses to Jimmy Carter, anti-Catholic Bigot

  • It is an embarassment to this country that this ignorant bigot ever sat in the oval office.

    As an American I don’t feel quite as embarrassed about that relatively unknown and empty suit[case] of a man having been elected president as those who lend him an ear should.

    And what’s up with this?

    Carter goes on to list horrific violations against women such as rape, genital mutilation, abortion of female embryos and spousal battery.

    I didn’t know the Catholic Church supported such things. But worse is the inclusion of “abortion of female embryos”. I know he wants to mask the reality of what abortion is, and he thinks using the incorrect term of embryo makes a point as much as he intends to conceal, but it’s not indicative of the clearest of thinking, not to mention the inconsistency of his sense of morality. Any abortion is a grave act of injustice for whatever “reason”, but why does Jimmeh only have qualms about the aborting “female embryos”?

  • Age sure isn’t making Mr. Peanut any wiser. Well, Carter doesn’t have much use for Jews either:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/09/jimmy_carter_the_jewhater_who.html

    Personally, I am honored to be part of a group loathed by such a foolish and bitter old man. Back in 1976, Americans fell for the John Boy Walton, “Shucks, Ahm jes’ a humble, sweater-wearin’ peanut farmer” hokeum. Who realized then what a vindictive and bigoted and confused character he was and is?

    Ironically, Carter decries Southern Baptists, while retaining the two of the less savory aspects of traditional southern fundamentalism – prejudice(especially anti-Catholic prejudice) and sanctimony. But since he backed Obama, he can kid himself that he’s an “enlightened” southerner.

  • So is this a sign that Carter is preparing to announce he is leaving the Southern Baptists for the 3rd time while doing no such thing?

    Jimmy C is past ready for a padded cell, how about 1 next to Algore so they can exchange delusions?

  • A man who never was of any significance. His bitterness has never ceased since he was considered to be one of our worse choices and just perhaps the one he endorsed will also be in that same ilk.

  • Jimmy Carter is misinformed, and is of an age where it is difficult to look beyond one’s comfortable, accustomed sources of information to locate truth.

    He’s increasingly like that cranky relative who goes on tirades at family gatherings, to which everybody listens, nodding vaguely, only to huddle up when he leaves the room and ask one another, wide-eyed, “Hey, what the heck are we gonna do about Uncle Jim? Is anybody checking up on him? Is he still taking his meds? Do we need to put him in a home? What?”

    A Little Information About Baptists

    By the way, Jimmy Carter is a Baptist and from the southern United States. But he is not a Southern Baptist (referring to the denominational convention) nor has he been one since 2000. (And prior to that, though his church had been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Carter was what Catholics might call a “loud dissenter” from the 1980’s onward.)

    The “New Baptist Covenant” group Carter helped start up along with Bill Clinton and Mercer University president Bill Underwood is in fact intended as a counterweight against the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention.

    To contrast them: The SBC defines social justice in terms of equal protection under law and strong advocacy of charitable assistance for the needy at the individual and church level (some local churches dedicate over half their operating budgets to charitable giving in the community, the nation, and overseas, and conservative Baptists tend to be among the most reliable tithers in the whole Christian sphere).

    Carter’s alternative group, the NBC, adds to this a rejection of traditional gender roles, including a belief in ordination of women for all clergy roles. Local churches which ordain active homosexuals or conduct gay commitment ceremonies can participate in the NBC. The SBC is too theologically and practically traditional to allow for this.

    So, oddly, while Catholics might think SBC Baptists sounded uncomfortably fundamentalist (and therefore liable to harbor those anti-Catholic myths of Mary-worship and salvation-by-works so common among American fundamentalists), they’d find rather more agreement with the SBC on matters of faith and practice than with the kinder-and-gentler-sounding NBC.

    Put another way: SBC are the EWTN Catholics of Baptists, and NBC are the Episcopals of Baptists.

    Finally, please keep in mind that Baptists are Congregationalists; each local congregation is independently governed, owns all its properties, and selects its own leaders. Local churches, if they opt to participate in a larger organization, decide which Conventions, Associations, and Fellowships they wish to participate in on the basis of being doctrinally simpatico. Their membership dues go into cooperative programs for needs ranging from organized support of overseas missionaries to printing of Sunday School lesson booklets.

    My point is that it’s not like the SBC could excommunicate Jimmy Carter or replace the leaders of his local church. Authority among Baptists is bottom-up.

  • Like RC, I think your headline here is bilious and inaccurate. Not every critic of the Catholic Church is anti-. As for the lack of quality of his presidency, I think he has a fair way to go to beat the previous occupant of the White House, who showed a grave lack of concern about terrorism, and after the homeland was supposedly prepared for calamity, revealed himself and his government to be as ill-prepared as ever.

    Mr Carter shows no depth of knowledge of Catholicism, but to refer to him as an “anti-Catholic bigot” seems to reveal more about the author than the target.

  • Todd, it comes as absolutely no surprise to me that you would rise in defense of both an anti-Catholic bigot and someone in the running for being the worst President to ever curse these United States. However, Carter can take comfort in this fact. The pro-abort you voted for last year for President may well save him from the title of worst President by the time he is done.

  • Donald, how charming to lock horns with you on a Sunday morning.

    It is part of the blindness of conservatives such as yourself that you misinterpret as “defense” a mere disagreement with the headline on this thread. I don’t think Mr Carter was the strongest of American presidents, but he certainly isn’t accurately identified as an “anti-Catholic bigot.”

    It isn’t, however, enough to agree than the man is wrong about Catholicism. In your eyes, one must also call names. Probably stick out one’s tongue and go “nyah, nyah, nyah” in the direction of Georgia, too.

    Your objection is noted, counsellor, and overruled.

  • Todd, I didn’t call names. I accurately described Carter, and you reflexively came to his defense, which is only to be expected.

  • A man who is blaming the Church’s position on female ordination for violence against women around the world, or even seeking to relate them in some way, is an anti-Catholic bigot as far as I am concerned.

  • Donald, what is to be expected is that I will tweak the errors and oversights on AC. As Joe profoundly demonstrates, this post is more about a cheerleading session, “Jimmy, bigot, rah, rah rah!” than any serious commentary on how non-Catholics mischaracterize Catholicism.

    Bishop Sheen had more the measure of situations like this than you.

  • I will offer that some of the above is de trop.

    I think Mr. Carter had a mixed record in office, bedeviled by his own misunderstandings of his social world, by the misunderstandings within the subculture that was the elite of the Democratic Party, and by the crooked and refractory character of the Democratic Congressional Caucus. For all his policy failures, his quality was above the median in the matrix in which he was operating.

    Still, you can see a good many of the man’s vices on display.

    1. He is one of the more abrasively sanctimonious characters to have abided in American public life; Anthony Lewis and Ramsey Clark are among the few who have him beat.

    2. He is at best ambivalent when confronted with the choice between the intuitions and arguments of historic protestant confessions and the kultursmog around him.

    3. His conception of the sources of collective behavior is gratuitous and bizarre. It does show who some of his favorite bogeys are. It is sort of surprising that he did not figure out a way to blame female genital mutilation on the Government of Israel, though. I figure that’s coming up.

  • Todd you know as little about Joe as you obviously do about Carter. Joe Hargrave is no man’s cheerleader.

  • Todd,

    I have lost all respect for you as a ‘Catholic’.

    I had no idea you voted for the most pro-abortionist president in the history of the United States of America.

    Pretty sad.

  • bigot: (n) a prejudiced person who is intolerant of any opinions differing from his own

    I think this describes Carter well

  • Todd writes Sunday, December 13, 2009 A.D. at 9:25 am
    “As for the lack of quality of his presidency, I think he has a fair way to go to beat the previous occupant of the White House…”.

    Is there in rhetoric [debating] a term for the use of pointless comparisons? That X was better [or worse] than Y tells us nothing much about X. It is the kind of thing used in high school debates.

  • I have lost all respect for you as a ‘Catholic’.

    Keeping in mind that equal respect is the abolition of respect, we might at least maintain a quantum in reserve. No need to send it all down the drain.

  • Is there in rhetoric [debating] a term for the use of pointless comparisons? That X was better [or worse] than Y tells us nothing much about X. It is the kind of thing used in high school debates.

    Too true. Also, trying to do a generic comparison between different chief executives is difficult because the contexts and challenges can be quite dissimilar, and call for different talents and virtues.

  • AD,

    I respect him as a human being and as a child of Christ.

    Does that count?

  • I would say so, but you shoudn’t pay too much attention to a hoodlum like me.

  • Pingback: Defenders of the Catholic Faith : Hosted by Stephen K. Ray » Jimmy Carter as “Church Historian” (giggle)
  • Really? My short little post was a “profound” demonstration?

  • Art you are never a hoodlum. At worst sometimes a grouchy smart penguin. 🙂

  • Hey – it’s Jimmy Carter. Nothing more need be said

  • Carter was the first president I ever voted for… in an 8th grade mock election that is, though I can’t remember why exactly.

    The one good thing I think Carter did in his presidency was facilitate peace between Egypt and Israel at Camp David. I don’t give him total credit for it, because it was Anwar Sadat’s and Menachem Begin’s idea to begin with, but Carter did at least help their talks along when they bogged down. In some ways I think THAT was the main reason God permitted someone like Jimmy Carter, who was otherwise mediocre if not incompetent, to be elected.

    I also admire Carter for his commitment to Habitat for Humanity; the publicity he gave the organization helped put it on the map.

    Unfortunately, ever since he left office, he has been “coasting” on the reputation for negotiating skills and charitable commitment he seems to have gained from those two things (Camp David and Habitat). As a result he gets a pass on many of his more outrageous claims and statements such as this one.

    As bad as Carter was I still don’t know that I’d place him on the all-time worst list below James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, or Warren Harding. I suspect, however, that Obama may yet claim the title of worst president in my lifetime.

  • Carter was the first president I voted against Elaine in 1976 at age 19. I had little enthusiasm for Ford, but I suspected that Carter was going to be bad news for the nation. As to the Camp David Accords, that was a solid achievement, and Carter deserves his share of the credit.

  • It seems to me that an important issue is going very much unmentioned. When politicians with some level of influence over public thought begin to discuss matters that are of theological question (such as suggesting the need for the ordination of women), they are overstepping their bounds as politicians. As Catholics, we ought to be doing something to clarify how this is different than a question of social justice, because to those outside the Church this is obviously very misunderstood. It probably stems from an unfortunate cultural belief that equal dignity of men and women necessitates equal opportunities, roles, abilities and so forth to the point of a culture losing the notion of “man and woman He created them.”

    I think a worthwhile question in response to unfortunate public statements such as this must be: How can we as Catholics witness to the world that women are most respected according to their own unique vocation, and that the male nature of the priesthood is and will always be a theological matter?

  • If Carter was truly interested in decrying religious maltreatment of women, he ought to have mentioned honor killings. No one gets killed in upholding the all-male priesthood in Roman Catholicism.

    Oh, wait….that’s Islam. Never mind.

  • The best thing about Carter that I can recall is the SNL skit where he tried to fix Three Mile Island.

  • Michael Medved refers to Carter simply as “T.W.O.” meaning “The Worthless One”. The current occupant of the White House seems to be working toward a similiar title.

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  • I really love Jimmy Carter. He isn’t anti-Catholic he just has a different perspective. This article is what makes Catholics look bad.

  • I despise Carter but nonetheless agree with Bill on both counts. That said, Carter’s “perspective” is grounded in comfortable self-righteous ignorance.

  • Carter’s perspective is that the teaching of the Catholic Church that only males may be priests is misogynistic clap trap dreamed up by power hungry prelates. My perspective is that Carter is an anti-Catholic bigot as well as a fool.

  • Donald, I think we will have to agreeably disagree! Merry Christmas!

  • I’m with Donald.

    Mr. Carter is an anti-Catholic bigot.

  • “Donald, I think we will have to agreeably disagree! Merry Christmas!”

    Mike, any minor disagreements between us will always be agreeable! The Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years for you and your family!

The Economic Gospels

Saturday, December 12, AD 2009

Since the topic of the economic message of the parables was recently raised, I couldn’t help remembering this little snippet which for some years hung on my cube wall. Perhaps the Conservative Bible Project can include this among their free market parables? I’ll freely make it available to them, so long as they don’t embarrass me by citing my name.

One of the lesser known apocryphal gospels was that of St. Josephus Managerius whose “Gospel According to Management” was left out of the New Testament by reason of sheer irrelevance. Managerius was a Roman management consultant and inspirational speaker who became one of Christ’s lesser known followers. In his own gospel account, he gave the following address to a management seminar the day after Christ’s delivery of the parable in today’s gospel.

“Well, folks, I think we were all pretty impressed by the Master’s parable yesterday about the Pearl of Great Price, and the importance to following major spiritual upscaling opportunities. But being a trained management consultant, I’d just like to emphasize a couple of the points the Master brought up.

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4 Responses to The Economic Gospels

  • Hah! It reminds me of this one that has been going around the internet forever:

    To: Jesus, son of Joseph

    From: Palestinian Management Consultants Ltd.

    Thank you for submitting the resumés of the 12 men you have handpicked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests and we have not only run the results through our computer but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologists and vocational aptitude consultants.

    The profiles of all tests are included and you will want to study them carefully. As part of our service we will make some general comments. These are given as a result of staff consultations and come without additional fee.

    It is the opinion of the staff that most of your nominees are lacking in background, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you have in mind. They do not have the team concept. We recommend that you continue with your search.

    Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The brothers James and John place personal interest above group loyalty. Thomas has a skeptical attitude that would tend to undermine morale. It is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James and Jude, the sons of Alpheus, have radical leanings and show a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

    Only one shows potential ability, resourcefulness, a brilliant business mind, socializes well, has great ambitions and is highly motivated.

    We recommend that you consider Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

    (Sgd.) Caiaphas, CEO

    Palestinian Management Consultants Ltd., Jerusalem

  • Aside from the fact that I was mocking spiritual business self help stuff like Jesus, CEO, and that piece was mocking one of John Paul II’s major social encyclicals…

Palin vs. Shatner

Saturday, December 12, AD 2009

Shatner has been giving dramatic readings of some of Palin’s twitter tweats, so Palin was returning the favor.  Alas, Shatner has reached the stage in life when being mocked at by a beautiful woman is about all the former Romeo of Star Fleet can hope for.  It was a funny bit and demonstrates yet again that the old political campaign rule book has been tossed out the window by her.  And rest assured this is a campaign. Polls this week showed a single point separating her and Obama as to favorability, with Obama falling and Palin rising.  I think Palin is rewriting the old Klingon proverb of revenge is a dish best served cold.  I suspect she believes it is a dish best served laughing.

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14 Responses to Palin vs. Shatner

  • Well, I’m not sure if having an approval rating similar to President Obama’s says much at the moment.

    It is interesting to note that RealClearPolitics has hypothetical 2012 match ups and if there were an election happening today, Sarah Palin would not succeed against President Obama. Could things change? Sure.

    I think there is a difference in liking her as a national personality (which I don’t) and a difference in wanting her to hold elected office, particularly the presidency (which I don’t).

  • Eric, the direction is all important in politics. Obama has fallen considerably this year, as Palin has risen quicly in the past 30 days. He has a long way to go until 2012. He could bounce back, or he could make Jimmy Carter look like a master political strategist. Also, don’t underestimate likability. That is a key asset in politics, as Obama is finding out now as he finds his diminishing like sand through his fingers.

  • If Palin wants to run in 2012 (and we don’t know that she does), there are 2 big hurdles she needs to overcome. One is the trashing she received at the hands of the MSM during the campaign. The other is the perception that she simply doesn’t know enough or has thought deeply enough about the issues facing the country both domestically and globally to hold the office of president.

    Her appearances on the Tonight Show and Oprah are helping immensely with her “image problem.” She’s coming across as a warm, good-humored woman who is utterly unlike the Tina Fey caricature. Like Reagan, she is a “Happy Warrior.” Likability is very important in politics. So is toughness. A woman who was treated very brutally last year dusted herself off and came back with a smile and a quip.

    And if it’s hard policy you are looking for, her Hong Kong speech, her recent WaPo article on AGW, her Facebook criticisms of Copenhagen, healthcare reform and other matters are excellent starts.

    Let’s see what she does in 2010. I suspect those numbers will continue to shift in Palin’s favor.

  • Ramesh Ponnuru made a good point about not getting *too* excited about the polls, in that they compare Palin’s likeability to Obama’s job approval, two very different metrics… I didn’t see the numbers, but Ramesh indicated that Obama’s likeability rating is considerably higher than Sarah’s.

    Frankly, I hope she *doesn’t* go for Pres in ’12… I’d rather see her attempt to make a more indirect impact, perhaps analogous to what Oprah has done (Sarah’s impact being for the better, of course). Focus on the culture, Sarah!

  • I recommend Palin as Energy Czar, with Jindal as President and Ron Paul as Veep.

    Sadly I don’t think Palin can be an effective President because the has an entire branch of government opposed to her personally.

    Our five branches are: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary, K Street, and Media. It is the fifth branch (column?) which is personally opposed to Palin. This fifth branch is set up to represent a powerful check on the Executive, and a partial check on the Legislative. (It exercises no day-to-day check on the Judiciary, but it does represent a check on the Executive’s ability to populate the Judiciary with jurists of a conservative stripe.)

    With such a powerful branch of government against her, I’m not sure Palin would be able to do anything effectively unless there were another, and more long-lasting, Republican takeover of Congress as well. (Not, I think, very likely.)

    Honestly what’s needed is someone who’ll govern like Palin but speechify like Obama: A mix of movement conservatism and libertarianism and traditionalism in actual policy, but camouflaged in a smokescreen of just enough mealy-mouthed liberalism and apologizing for America and Christian-bashing to make the Mainstream Media think he/she is “one of them.”

    Not sure how likely that is.

  • I’ll admit it up front. I like Sarah Palin.

    It is only partially because I think she has true moral and ethical values (as much as any politician around nowdays).

    Maybe it is more because I can’t stand all the liberal swipes at her for no good reason other than the fact that she is a conservative woman. The fact is if the mainstream press is for something it is probably wrong and if they attack someone it means that person has personal values and threatens liberal principles – and they are once again wrong.

    Sarah Palin is really endorsed for me by the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, Katie Couric and other “liberati” who don’t have the intellectual credentials to carry Ms. Palin’s bags.

    Would she be a good president? I would say yes as she is a lot smarter that people think and even if she is not a member of Mensa it does not take a genius IQ to run a good team. Just the ability to pick good people. In fact, some of the presidents considered to be the smartest were not good at all for the country. Take Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (who actually gave us this recession) and now Obama versus Ronald Reagan who was vastly underestimated.

    As to the question of whether she can be elected? Right now I would say no based on the fact that she would be running against other candidates, the mainstream press and Hollywood. On the other hand, I will never underestimate the ability of this current President and Congress to screw up and push the American voters over the edge between now and 2012.

  • RC: When push comes to shove, the media will always side with the pols with D’s after their names, as John McCain discovered in ’08. The trouble with a conservative candidate hiding behind a “smokescreen” of mealy-mouthed liberalism is this: how can us ordinary folks know if it’s a smokescreen and not simply a squishy pol discarding conservativism for the liberal conventional wisdom? When conservatives became libs, the media say they’ve “grown in office.”

    Besides, your suggested approach signifies that there is fundamentally something wrong with being a conservative, and a conservative pol needs to dissemble and misrepresent in order to get elected. (In fact, that is truer for liberals than it is for conservatives. Both Obama and Clinton had to present themselves as moderates during their campaigns. One of the reasons Obama’s poll numbers are dropping is because independents in particular are realizing he isn’t a moderate.)

    What we need is someone who can stand up for conservative principles and eloquently explain why they are sound. Reagan did that – I don’t think anybody who voted for him was under the impression that he was secretly liberal in many ways. Palin has been far from eloquent in the past, but then, this is a woman who was abruptly dropped on the national stage a little over a year ago and then mismanaged by the McCain campaign. I think she’s been doing a wonderful job of finding her own voice lately.

    As far as the mainstream press – well, they’re having their own problems these days, aren’t they? After the election last year, I would have agreed that the damage done to Palin was fatal on the national level. I am coming to believe though, that their role in selling Obama might very well have been their last hurrah. Fox is far ahead of its’ competitors. Daily papers, including the NY Times, are experiencing serious financial problems. Maureen Dowd sneered at Palin, but it’s Dowd who might exit the national stage long before Palin does. The MSM doesn’t have the power it had even a year ago. And Hollywood? If voters really listened to Tinsel Town moguls and actors, we would have become a one-party country 40 years ago. Gay marriage would have passed in 31 states rather than being voted down in 31. I think even the celebrity-striken among us realize that movie stars live in a lala land bubble, and their pronouncements and decrees have nothing to do with the real world.

  • Polls this week showed a single point separating her and Obama as to favorability, with Obama falling and Palin rising.

    This is incorrect. Palin’s favorability rating is 46%, compared to 55% for President Obama.

    As Chris notes above, the ‘almost tied’ meme comes from comparing Palin’s favorability rating to Obama’s job approval rating (which is lower than his favorability rating).

  • As far as the mainstream press – well, they’re having their own problems these days, aren’t they?

    I think the worst case scenario for them (that their economic position resembles that of vaudeville houses ca. 1930) has a passable chance of coming to pass. From 1948 to the present, you have had three national newsmagazines of consequence: Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report. U.S. News has adopted a monthly format and emphasizes subject matter that has been derisively referred to in other contexts as SMERSH* and Newsweek has reconstituted itself as an opinion magazine (thereby making explicit what a complacent crew had been writing for and editing the publication, not to mention clarifying (by way of contrast) the talents the sort of journalists who have been producing opinion magazines for decades). The word is that Newsweek‘s ad revenue (like that of many other publications) is in a free fall. Another report has it that the New York Times has laid off 30% of its staff. Editor & Publisher is ceasing publication after 125 years. Our ol’ buddy Rod Dreher is departing the newspaper business for a position on the staff of the Templeton Foundation. I am going to miss newspapers and magazines (even though their product was often mediocre) and it is difficult to see what sort of trades their staff can enter with their extant skill sets. There cannot be that many jobs in PR and advertising.

    *Science, medicine, education, religion, and all that sh**

  • Art Deco: I think many of them would be well qualified for positions in Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.

  • A good point BA, although I imagine Obama finds his personal approval rating fairly cold comfort today when Rasmussen has him at 46% job approval, with 42% of respondents strongly disapproving as opposed to 23% who strongly approve.

    http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/13/rasmussen-obama-passion-index-hits-new-low/

  • I imagine Obama finds his personal approval rating fairly cold comfort today when Rasmussen has him at 46% job approval

    True. But if favorability ratings tend to be higher than job approval ratings, that suggests that were Palin president right now her job approval numbers would be even lower.

  • Would depend upon what she did over the time since she took office BA. Any president finds it tough to remain popular during rough economic times. The problem for Obama is that virtually all of his policies have a negative impact on a robust recovery, certainly one that will make much of a dent in unemployment figures.

  • This was really funny, and everyone involved was surprisingly gracious to Palin considering all the flak she’s been getting of late. As I’ve said before, I’m not quite ready to bet on her (or vote for her) for president, but she certainly has a future as a public “face” of the conservative movement, provided she just decides to be herself and let the chips fall where they may.

2 Responses to Team America Meets Avatar: Special Guest Appearance By Matt Damon

  • Too Funny. I won’t see the movie and hate movies that put our military in bad light. I mean come one they are going to get this precious cargo for the knd and gental natives. I can see that is how hollywood sees our involvement in Iraq.

  • Absolutely agree Robert.

    Even Cameron isn’t disguising the fact that this movie is an indictment on our military.

    There is so much hate for our great country, it’s disturbing to see itself manifest in movies now.

    Hopefully it will bomb like every other anti-American film that has been released since 9/11.

Thomas The Right Wing Tank Engine

Saturday, December 12, AD 2009

Hattip to the ever vigilant Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal.  My kids loved Thomas the Tank Engine videos when they were little back in the nineties.  Memories of those times still brings a smile to my face when I see some Thomas the Tank Engine trinket for sale in a store.  Now I learn that I was not only entertaining them, I was also indoctrinating them in my political views.

A Canadian academic, surprise!, Shauna Wilson, has disclosed the political subtext underlying the Tank Engine stories:

The show’s right-wing politics shows the colourful steam engines punished if they show initiative or oppose change, the researcher found.

She also highlighted the class divide which sees the downtrodden workers in the form of Thomas and his friends at the bottom of the social ladder and the wealthy Fat Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, at the top.

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12 Responses to Thomas The Right Wing Tank Engine

  • Thomas the Tank Engine is right winged. I am a big fan & this would explain how I went from a cradle Democrat to a radical right winged pro-life Catholic who upholds Church teaching.

    PS Speaking of the military-industrial-cartoon complex, don’t forget the 3rd narrator, Alec Baldwin, who was in even better standing than Ringo or George Carlin.

  • PS: Thomas wasn’t a cartoon, it was made using 3D models.

  • Way back in the 60s some academic type wrote an extensive analysis of how “The Wizard of Oz” was really an allegory of the 1890s Populist movement in the U.S.

    Cecil Adams, author of the Straight Dope colums and books, wrote this in response to a reader who thought it was a satire of the French Revolution (!):

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/362/is-em-the-wizard-of-oz-em-a-satire-of-the-french-revolution

    And here is a later fisking of the “populist parable” theory:

    http://www.halcyon.com/piglet/Populism.htm

    “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”

  • The show’s right-wing politics shows the colourful steam engines punished if they show initiative or oppose change, the researcher found.

    I’ve read this sentence half a dozen times now, and I just can’t make it make sense. Is there something particularly conservative about punishing people for opposing change?

  • Ha! Actually, Barbie is the toy which strikes me as being clearly materialist and capitalist, with generations of little girls longing for more Barbie outfits, houses, cars, etc.

    Attitudes toward Barbie also clearly demonstrate sex differences, since most of the little boys of my acquaintance were heartless when it came to Barbies. They delighted in hurling their sisters’ Barbies from bedroom windows. Barbies were also loaded in slingshots and sent flying across the yard. I remember a very funny episode of the Bernie Mac show. Bernie very quickly grew tired of “playing Barbies” with the little girl (he said in an aside “This has to be the most boring game ever!”) He caused distress when he suggested that throwing the Barbies across the room would be more entertaining than changing their clothes for the upteenth time.

  • I didn’t know there was another person in the world besides Iafrate quite as monomaniacal about pushing insane politicizations of perfectly harmless things.

  • Actually I’ve always thought that the emphasis on ‘usefulness’ in that show was softening up the next generation to accept euthanasia.

  • LOL brettsalkeld! Good one!

  • I was charmed by episodes of Thomas and Friends during my grandson’s toddler years, even though somewhat bored. Had I known that he was being brainwashed by a right-wing political conspiracy, I would have paid more appreciative attention. Now that he has advanced in age and dexterity, LEGOs have become his much-loved and most-wanted toy. I’ve recently become aware that in addition to the cool sets of pirate ships, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Space Police, LEGOs is contemplating offering new products, such as windmills, electric cars, and ECO-themed houses, all made of recycled products. I’m annoyed and feel that this Denmark-based firm is attempting to instill its political position on our children and at the same time undercutting a parent’s particular ideology. Next thing you know, they’ll be including the spotted owl and three-toed maned sloth figures with environmentally-friendly sets.

  • My kids (the oldest now in their 20’s) used to watch Thomas; it’s funny but I still remember having the “Thomas the Tank Engine as a representation of English society” discussion with a friend whose youngsters also watched he show: “We engines may have our differences, but we never speak of them in front of the cars.”

    Since then, I’ve tended to think of the show as a sort of “Upstairs, Downstairs” with toy trains.

  • Priceless cminor! I always enjoyed the “veddy” English ambiance of the show, at least before England became overrun with soccer and non-soccer drunken hooligans.

89 Responses to The Conservative Bible

  • Now you’ve done it, you intolerant fascist!

    ::braces for the anarch-attack::

    This was funny 🙂

  • Hilarious! I’d pay to see Jon Voigt in a spoof of the Da Vinci Code!

  • I find no condemnation in what Conservapedia is doing:

    http://conservapedia.com/Conservative_Bible_Project

    If you don’t like their Bible translation, then don’t read it.

    BTW, the NRSV is decidedly liberal with its inclusive language. Why does no one make fun of their translators?

  • This Colbert interview with Andy Schafly, who is in charge of the ‘Conservative Bible,’ is amazing. An actual quote: “Most of the parables of Jesus are free market parables.”

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/113891/the-colbert-report-andy-schlafly

  • The Red State guys’ riff on the Conservative vs. Liberal Jesus was a hoot. Which got me to thinking about Conservative vs Liberal Mary…

    I guess Our Lady of Fatima would be the “conservative” Mary because of her anti-Communism while Our Lady of Guadalupe would be the “liberal” Mary because of her association with all those illegal aliens…

  • Or maybe Our Lady of Lourdes would have to be the Liberal Mary because her devotion to healing the sick proves she’s in favor of universal health care!

  • I find no condemnation in what Conservapedia is doing

    Then you aren’t very perceptive. They aren’t simply doing a translation. Look at their principles one more time. They are deleting parts of the Bible. Even the supposed “liberal” Bible translations do not do that.

  • Free market parables? That’s unbelievably ridiculous.

  • Paul, just to elaborate, here is #8 of their principles:

    8. Exclude Later-Inserted Inauthentic Passages: excluding the interpolated passages that liberals commonly put their own spin on, such as the adulteress story

    You see no problem with this? Seriously?

  • Our Lady of Guadalupe would be the “liberal” Mary because of her association with all those illegal aliens…

    Yeah, but the Spanish were there to stay.

  • Something like the “Conservative Bible Project” can most certainly use a good mocking.

  • Something like the “Conservative Bible Project” can most certainly use a good mocking.

    We agree on something.

    So the question is this: if we all agree that although Jesus’ parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic, but that they are not “free market” messages, why the unwavering defense of the free market in your circles? Clearly the economic dimensions of the scriptures are more in line with the ideas of socialism. What is it that makes you all free market types, defenders of capitalism, etc. then?

  • Jesus’ parables didn’t touch on matters of civil government at all.

  • I don’t agree that Jesus’s parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic. I find that kind of reductionism repulsive, actually.

    As to individual property v. state-controlled property, I think there are fruitful tensions running throughout the New Testament, and, not surprisingly, Caritas in Veritate and the other papal encyclicals on the subject.

  • S.B. – What I said was economics, but your claim is false as well.

    I find that kind of reductionism repulsive, actually.

    Well, it order to call talk of “free market parables” “reductionistic,” there would have to be at least a little talk of the “free market” in the parables. Or else you could not “reduce” their meaning to promotion of the free market at all. There is NOTHING about the “free market” in the parables at all. That would be anarchronistic.

    As to individual property v. state-controlled property, I think there are fruitful tensions running throughout the New Testament, and, not surprisingly, Caritas in Veritate and the other papal encyclicals on the subject.

    Again, anarchronistic. Especially the notion of “individual property” which is an Enlightenment idea. It’s not present in the scriptures. Modern papal encyclicals, certainly, but we are talking about scripture.

  • I think that the idea of the “conservative bible” is mockable for roughly the same reason that I think that extreme left leaning re-interpretations of the Bible (say, the Book-of-Ruth-as-inspiring-Lesbian-incest-parable reading) should be mocked: because trying to shove your own interests and agendas into God’s Word rather than actually reading God’s Word to see what it tells you rather than what you want to tell it is something which should be rejected, and if necessary mocked.

    I don’t agree that Jesus’ parables and ultimate message are primarily (or even much) about economics, free market or otherwise. And I don’t think that the economic dimensions of the scriptures are even remotely in line with the ideas of socialism. (Indeed, socialism was explicitly rejected by the popes in their social encyclicals.)

  • Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning: The parable of the talents, the treasure in the, the pearl of great price. However, if you took those as being primarily about how to succeed in business (or, indeed, at all about how to succeed in business, except to the extent that Jesus was drawing on the everyday economic instincts of his listeners to make a point through analogy), you’d clearly be missing the boat.

    As for whether or not the concept of individual property existed at the time of Christ — there may not have been a formal theory of individual property as was developed in the Enlightenment by Locke and others, but that doesn’t mean that the concept was not in use in an everyday form. Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables. That doesn’t mean that the parables are about individual property, but it would be mistaken to suggest that those before the Enlightenment didn’t have any concept of individual property (or the communal obligations which over-rule one’s ability to decide how to dispose of one’s property.)

  • Individual property was an Enlightenment idea?

    I beg to differ. Aristotle had quite a bit to say about private property, as well as common property.

    Many of the thinkers of the Enlightenment, though certainly not all, based at least some of their ideas on the thinkers of antiquity.

  • As for the parables, I’ve heard that the parable of the talents is supposed to be a “free market parable”, which is nonsense – it is an analogy, not an endorsement of any economic system. We may as well conclude that the parable of the vineyard was an endorsement of total equalization of wages regardless of the amount of work done by the individual laborers.

    That isn’t to say that I think Jesus had nothing at all to say about economics – but I don’t believe any of it is to be found in his parables, which are meant to illustrate much different things.

  • Private property has been around since Cronk chased away the fellow who got too close to his club.

  • There’s an awful lot packed into the seventh commandment about private property. I can’t even believe it’s become a talking point.

    The conservative bible is worthy of profound contempt, but as others have pointed out, so are other ideological attempts at conforming God’s word to their pet ideologies.

  • if we all agree that although Jesus’ parables and ultimate message were thoroughly economic

    Why would we all agree on one of the dumbest ideas ever?

    Check out Exodus 20:17 “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s.”

    You think that came from the Enlightenment?

  • And I don’t think that the economic dimensions of the scriptures are even remotely in line with the ideas of socialism. (Indeed, socialism was explicitly rejected by the popes in their social encyclicals.)

    Not even remotely? Are you kidding? You have read the Bible, right? Not the Book of Mormon, but the Bible?

    And what does the fact that many popes rejected various forms of socialism have to do with what the Bible says?

    Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables.

    Oh, you mean the parables about absentee landlords and landless day laborers? What was that you said about reading your own politics into the scriptures?

    Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning.

    The so-called “surface meaning” would certainly not be in conflict with the imposed “spiritualized” meaning, right?

    For all the Enlightened pro-capitalist liberals on this site, I’m kind of surprised that you think “private property” as described by capitalists is in the Bible. That’s simply anarchronistic. Actually I’m not surprised. The confusion of the definition of “private property” is precisely what free market types do to keep less intelligent people supporting capitalism: “You mean those socialists want to take away my flat screen TV?!? I’d have to share my DVDs with the neighborhood?!?”

  • Uh, Michael, check out S.B.’s post above. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, wife, etc.” In other words, keep your mitts off other people’s property. It’s a rather irksome Commandment for socialists, I would say. If capitalists must be wary of greed, the besetting sin of socialism is envy.

  • Donna – Sounds like you’re one of the people I referred to in my previous comment. Socialists like myself have no problem with that commandment.

  • Socialists like myself…

    Not that I think being a socialist is a good thing, but at least you’ve landed on a term that aligns with your ideology. The whole anarchism can mean supporting an all powerful state which owns and controls all capital was never really convincing.

  • Rick – Perhaps you are not aware that anarchism is a subset of socialism?

  • State ownership of the means of production is “a subset of socialism”? Ha ha. Just try to stay clear on the concept of anarchism while rolling the phrase “state ownership” around in your mind. Doublethink nirvana, that’s what you’ll have.

  • I don’t think the parables are about economics. However, if you were to treat them as if they were about economics, a number of them would take on a distinctly free market flair.

  • Btw, if my word were law, I’d probably banish the words ‘socialism’ ‘capitalism’ and ‘anarchism’ from political discourse. All three terms have so many confusing connotations associated with them that it can be quite difficult to reach understanding when they are invoked. Michael, for example, uses all three terms with a meaning that is different than what I suspect is the meaning associated with the terms by most people here (Michael’s not wrong, it’s just not the popular understanding). If people understood what he was saying, I suspect they would find it less objectionable, though I think they still would not be close to agreeing with him (admittedly, it is hard to disentangle how much of the difference is due to differences in the speaker’s values or perceptions of fact, and how much is just a matter of language).

  • Not even remotely? Are you kidding? You have read the Bible, right? Not the Book of Mormon, but the Bible?

    Sigh… Yes. I’ve read the Bible. All of it at least once, parts like the Gospels dozens of times. (Actually, I never read more than the first two chapters of the Book of Mormon — but don’t tell those nice Mormon missionaries who come to the door that.)

    Rhetorical questions work better when they’re not unlikely and sarcastic.

    And what does the fact that many popes rejected various forms of socialism have to do with what the Bible says?

    Well, perhaps if Christ had preached socialism then the popes would not have condemned it as incompatible with Christianity…?

    “Clearly, the fact that people are at least practically in control of their property is implicit in the everyday interactions which Jesus uses in the telling of several of the parables.”

    Oh, you mean the parables about absentee landlords and landless day laborers? What was that you said about reading your own politics into the scriptures?

    Um, well, yes, at a strictly historical/sociological level, it would certainly seem that the parables involving land owners and laborers and parables such as that of the Talents (which involves a master demanding to see return on his investments) would suggest that Jesus’s audience assumed that capital was usually controlled by private ownership, not collective ownership.

    Now, I certainly wouldn’t say that this means that Jesus was telling people that capital/means of production should be privately owned (or, indeed, that they shouldn’t) it’s just that in seeking to tell stories that illustrate a point, Jesus talks about situations which would have been familiar to his audience, and those situations clearly imply that private ownership of capital was common enough as to be assumed by his audience. Now does Jesus condemn this, rather he condemns the failure of those with food, shelter, clothing, etc. to share it with those who do not have it.

    So now that you bring it up, you have me curious: Obviously, the parable of the bad tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) is primarily about the relationship between God and Israel, but if you think it says or implies anything about Christ’s message on economics, what do you think it tells us?

    “Well, clearly there are some parables you could “reduce” to an economic message if you looked only at their surface meaning.”

    The so-called “surface meaning” would certainly not be in conflict with the imposed “spiritualized” meaning, right?

    I must admit, I’m a little confused by this reply. Let me take a very specific example, the parable of the treasure in the field. I would describe the “surface meaning” (which, yes, I’m aware is not a technical term in exegesis) or perhaps more precisely, the surface story as being one of sharp dealing. A man finds out that there’s a treasure buried in a field which the owner doesn’t know about. In what Adam Smith’s charming 18th century prose would describe as “sharp dealing” he sells everything that he has and buys the field, so that he can then claim ownership to the treasure, which we will then assumedly dig up and turn a massive profit on his deal since he bought field and treasure for the price of just the field.

    Now, is the idea that one should stake all one’s wealth to turn a huge profit based on inside information the point of the parable? Absolutely not! Christ is making an analogy between something everyone in his audience understands (the desire to turn a big profit on a sharp deal) and what they should really be willing to stake all that they have on: achieving the eternal kingdom.

    This is not a “free market parable” because Christ is not urging his listeners to stake all their possessions on a sharp business deal — rather it’s a parable which draws on the existing business sense in the audience to point out to them that the returns they are pursuing in this world are inconsequential in eternity, and that rather than staking everything to get rich, they should stake everything to achieve salvation.

    For all the Enlightened pro-capitalist liberals on this site, I’m kind of surprised that you think “private property” as described by capitalists is in the Bible. That’s simply anarchronistic. Actually I’m not surprised. The confusion of the definition of “private property” is precisely what free market types do to keep less intelligent people supporting capitalism: “You mean those socialists want to take away my flat screen TV?!? I’d have to share my DVDs with the neighborhood?!?”

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    Different attempts at socialism and communism have drawn up different rules as far as how far one’s ability to have “private property” goes, but it’s always an essentially arbitrary distinction and at root a selfish and materialist one: you can own “personal” property which you use strictly for your own purposes within set limits, but you can’t actually own a business or other productive asset which you work to provide value both to your customers, your employees, and your dependents.

    And, indeed, it’s the attempt to ignore human nature and demand that people work only for the betterment of the abstract “society” rather than directly to provide for their family and loved ones which has caused socialist experiments to fail again and again.

  • Darwin,

    I have to say that I don’t find your logic sound.

    “Well, perhaps if Christ had preached socialism then the popes would not have condemned it as incompatible with Christianity…?”

    The Popes condemnations of socialism are not based on any parables of Christ, or any sort of direct condemnation of any sort of even quasi-socialistic idea. It’s just not in the Gospels.

    While I don’t think Jesus preached, or would have preached, any sort of state socialism or collectivism (if we’re going to speculate), I have a hard time imagining him preaching the gospel of economic growth too.

    If we look at some of the economic practices of the Old Testament, for instance – the jubilee year of debt forgiveness, the restoration of property (see, there’s private property in the Torah too, clearly), the ban on usury, on financial parasitism, on God’s commands throughout the entire Bible to be mindful of the orphan and the widow – we see an economic philosophy that is mindful of private property but absolutely insistent upon a social obligation as well.

    I don’t see any reason to believe that God, as Jesus, would depart from the economic structure He set up in the Torah or Pentateuch. It looks like the early Christians tried to preserve it to some extent as well.

  • I don’t see any reason to believe that God, as Jesus, would depart from the economic structure He set up in the Torah or Pentateuch.

    I don’t think we can take the economic regulations found in the Torah or Pentateuch to represent any sort of ideal. Several of the prominent regulations (e.g. debt forgiveness and usury) turned out to have some significant negative unintended consequences, which is why both Christian and Jewish law ultimately found ways to render them a nullity.

  • Negative from what standpoint?

    Our first consideration is the state of our souls, not the level of ‘economic growth.’

    At no point did God say, “stop doing that debt forgiveness and open up a debtor’s prison instead.”

    It was once every seven years, a way to wipe the slate clean as an act of goodness. What economy ever collapsed because of debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury? On the other hand an excess of usury is arguably why this economy has collapsed. Greed is not good. It is a sin for a reason.

    Of course the economic regulations in the Torah are an ideal – they correspond to ideal moral behavior, they correspond to an ideal disposition which regards moral goodness and purity as the top priority. That being said, I see no reason to believe that they destroy economies either.

  • I will add that I think the Catholic Encyclopedia has a good overview of the subject. There seems to be room for interpretation on usury, though the exploitation of the poor through it (or through any other means) is explicitly and severely condemned. And I think this was the spirit of the original law – usury is evil when it is used to take advantage of a person’s misfortune.

    Unfortunately, in our society, people who excel at just that are hailed as “smart” and “inventive.”

  • Joe,

    …George Soros comes to mind as someone as “smart” and “inventive” when he took advantage of the poor.

  • Joe,

    The seven year debt forgiveness was modified not because it impeded ‘economic growth’ but because it was found to be harming the poor, i.e. the people the law was (presumably) intended to help. The problem with negating all debts every seven years is that creditors know that it is going to happen, and so won’t lend unless the loan will be repaid before the next debt forgiveness. That means, for example, that if you are in the latter part of the sixth year, it is going to be impossible to find anyone who will lend you money.

    It was this sort of problem that led rabbis such as Hillel to create the prosbul, which allowed loans to avoid the seven year cancellation.

  • So basically what you’re saying is, God instituted a bad law that human wisdom had to make better. God is an incompetent economic bungler.

    The law didn’t hurt the poor – people who sought to circumvent the law hurt the poor. Human greed hurt and continues to hurt the poor – not the economic precepts of the Bible or the Church.

  • Joe,

    Obviously the law wasn’t intended to hurt the poor. At the same time, the poor were made worse off by the existence of the law than they would have been otherwise. You can say this is because of the dastardly actions of lenders. Fine. Still, the fact that lenders will respond to the law in a dastardly way means that the law is a bad idea. I don’t think that makes God an “incompetent economic bungler” anymore than the various laws about cleansing make God a medical and scientific illiterate. What it does mean, however, is that we can’t take the Old Testament law as being some sort of ideal legal code, rather than something that served a purpose only in a particular time and place.

  • “Still, the fact that lenders will respond to the law in a dastardly way means that the law is a bad idea.”

    I don’t see at all how one follows from the other. People respond to all sorts of laws in “dastardly” ways; that is not an adequate justification for their abrogation!

    I’m not convinced that this law meant that the “poor were worse off.” It can be argued, but I doubt it could be proven.

    As for the comparison to laws about cleansing, they have no relevance. There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago. The same could not be said of medical advances. I’ll grant that some OT laws must be updated given our technological advancements – but I will maintain that the Biblical economic laws do not fall into that category. This is not about adapting to a new situation which did not previous exist, but rather circumventing a law that one finds inconvenient.

  • And on further thought, I have to point out that you are arguing that the law was faulty from the beginning – so I’m not sure what historical context has to do with it. If people “reacted badly” to it as soon as it was instituted, then it was bad then as it is bad now, in your view at least.

    How does this not make God, in your view, an incompetent bungler?

    Better to say that is we who fail to live up to the “ideal”, in reality, the law, that God established.

  • There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago.

    One is occurring in the context of regular year-to-year improvements in real income drawn from technological applications and more deft division of labor. The extension of credit can commonly be a capital investment. The opportunity for that is fairly uncertain and constrained in an economic context where secular improvements in living standards are at a very low rate and often succeeded by periods of secular decline in living standards.

    With regard to lending for purposes of consumption, if I am not mistaken there are differences in practical effects seen when this is done in agricultural economies where specie is comparatively scarce. It has been so long I have forgotten the analysis, though.

    I am not sure why it is ‘dastardly’ to limit your extension of credit to contracts of a limited term of years.

    And I think this was the spirit of the original law – usury is evil when it is used to take advantage of a person’s misfortune.

    That sounds like a critique of loan sharks or payday lenders or (perhaps) pawn brokers. Auto finance companies? Not so sure.

  • Joe,

    I think I might have been less than clear, or perhaps we mis-understood each other a bit: I certainly don’t think that the Church has set down a ruling on the sort of economic system endorsed by the parables of Christ — I don’t think that any economic system is endorsed by them. My point was more that if Christ clearly endorsed a socialist economic system in his parables (which is what I thought Michael had suggested — rather to my surprise) that the Church would not have turned around and condemned socialism when it became a political issue. Given the fact that the Church _has_ condemned socialism, I would assume that (unless the Church is false) socialism is not a system which Christ peached.

    Indeed, I would agree exactly with your point that to the extent that we see any economic philosophy in Christ’s teaching (and I don’t think that economics, as I would use the term, was at all a major facet of his message to humanity) it is one which in which private property is implicit, yet our obligations to our brothers and sisters are emphasized most of all.

    My only point about private property and “free market” surface values in the parables is that it seems to me that several of the parables are clearly addressed to an audience which is indeed with capital and the means of production being privately owned. I don’t think Christ says anything particularly for or against that, it just seems to be the way that people assumed things often worked in first century Palestine.

  • People respond to all sorts of laws in “dastardly” ways; that is not an adequate justification for their abrogation!

    It depends on whether such dastardly behavior defeats the purpose of the law. If the purpose of a law is to help the poor, and people react to the law in a way that leaves the poor worse off, then yes, that justifies getting rid of the law.

    I’m not convinced that this law meant that the “poor were worse off.”

    What is the source of your skepticism here? Is it that you don’t think lenders would refuse to lend money that wasn’t to be repaid before the jubilee? Or is it that you do think they would do this, but you aren’t sure poor people being denied loans would make them worse off?

    There isn’t that much of a difference between lending money today, and lending money 3000 years ago.

    Did the ancient Israelites have credit cards? Adjustable rate mortgages (or any kind of mortgage, for that matter)? Venture capital? Was there a bond market? Was there even a banking system?

    Even aside from technical advances, the difference between a largely poor, agriculture based society like ancient Israel and today’s society is going to be enormous just based on the amount of lending involved. The Ancient Israelites didn’t have a whole lot of surplus capital, so there wasn’t going to be a huge amount of lending (particularly long term lending) in any event. So the rule may not have actually had much of an effect at the time, and served a mainly symbolic purpose, which is what you would have to say about some of the cleansing rituals as well (sprinkling a man with dove’s blood is not just a less effective method of treating a man with leprosy than what we can do with modern medicine; it’s not an effective treatment at all).

  • First of all, I’m not convinced that the law was established merely to help the poor. People at all levels of society lend and borrow money. The purpose, if I am going to make an educated guess, was to encourage solidarity and forgiveness among the people, as well as to demonstrate that there things of much greater importance than money. In addition I believe the purpose was God’s benevolence towards His people.

    Secondly, the argument still doesn’t hold up. People argue that the illegality of prostitution or narcotics makes things more dangerous for all parties involved – in Europe they have “sex workers unions”, in some places, legalized prostitution. The theory is that “people will do it anyway, so let’s make it safe.” This extends to sex education, where children are given condoms because they’re supposedly incapable of doing what is right.

    The logic is the same here – people are going to be tight-fisted with their money, so let’s make it easier for them to do so rather than, as a society, make a clear statement about our values by declaring this behavior illegal.

    Whatever ills befall us because of obedience to an inherently good law must certainly be more bearable, from the standpoint of our salvation, than whatever temporary benefit we derive from an inherently bad one.

    That being said, I’m willing to accept that the tradition of the Church has allowed for moderate usury in certain historical circumstances. What I am not willing to accept is that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on exploitative usury are so bad that we must essentially declare God incompetent and do things however we see fit. It is our behavior that must be modified, and our attitudes – not God’s law.

    The source of my skepticism, to answer your second point, is that I am not aware of any historical evidence that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury caused either the Israelites, the early Christians, or Christian society throughout the Middle Ages any serious social catastrophes. I’m open to the possibility that it may exist, but I haven’t seen it.

    Finally, I think my last point is misunderstood. We may have different financial devices, but the essence of the matter is the same – to, or to not, forgive debts and charge onerous rates of interest for profit.

    You admit that you don’t really know what effect the rule had at the time, nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases. I wouldn’t argue that a businesses’ debt fell into the same category as a family that took out a loan for something essential. I think the application can be selective, provided that it fulfills the purpose God originally intended, on which I speculated earlier in this reply.

  • State ownership of the means of production is “a subset of socialism”? Ha ha.

    State ownership of the means of production is one type of socialism. But socialism does not need to be statist. More generally, socialism involves communal ownership of the means of production. It includes non-statist forms such as indigenous socialisms and various forms of anarchism. Even in Marxism, the goal is a stateless, classless society, not state ownership of the means of production. Hope this clears things up for you.

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    No, it’s an important distinction if the central issue is who owns the means of production, which is precisely the issue.

    …it’s always an essentially arbitrary distinction and at root a selfish and materialist one: you can own “personal” property which you use strictly for your own purposes within set limits, but you can’t actually own a business or other productive asset which you work to provide value both to your customers, your employees, and your dependents.

    Interesting use of the word “selfish,” that.

    And, indeed, it’s the attempt to ignore human nature and demand that people work only for the betterment of the abstract “society” rather than directly to provide for their family and loved ones which has caused socialist experiments to fail again and again.

    This makes no sense.

    Given the fact that the Church _has_ condemned socialism, I would assume that (unless the Church is false) socialism is not a system which Christ peached.

    Socialism is NOT a “system” at all but a tendency. There is no one form of socialism. The Church has NOT condemned “socialism.” For example, countless indigenous societies are organized according to indigenous forms of socialism. The Church obviously has not condemned these forms of socialism. The Church has not condemned the socialism of monasticism. The Church has not condemned democratic socialism. Please stop parroting the lie that the Church has “condemned socialism.” It hasn’t.

  • Correct me if I’m wrong here, but in Old Testament times, I believe the only means many “ordinary” folk had for repaying large debts was either to sell their ancestral lands (what we might call the “family farm”) or sell themselves and/or their children into slavery. The jubilee year provisions for debt forgiveness, freeing of slaves, and return of land to its original owners was a way to give affected families a fresh start, and prevent them from turning into a permanent “underclass.”

  • Did the Mosaic practice of forgiving debts every seven years persist among Christians, Joe? And even into the Middle Ages?

    I’d be curious to read about that if you have a citation on it.

    I must admit, the only context I’d heard about it in was in a talk I heard by an economist who was Jewish, who used the example of how Rabbinical teaching modified the original law (because of its bad effects on poor people wanting to borrow money) as an example of how attempts to regulate debt don’t always work as intended. I had never heard the practice was carried on into Christian times — though obviously various practices for forgiving debt of those unable to pay were supported by the Church in various times and places.

    I’m not sure that saying the seven year debt forgiveness law wouldn’t work well would necessarily suggest incompetence on God’s part. There’s a _lot_ of Old Testament Jewish law, and clearly Christ considered some of it to be sub-optimal. (Divorce, being the key example.)

    That said, clearly charity, justice, and social stability all suggest the need for some kind of debt forgiveness for those who can’t pay. Morally, I’d say we’re calling not to profit unreasonably from the need of others, and that can at times mean personally forgiving debts owed one. At a secular level, that’s what bankruptcy is for. And indeed, in that regard, the US is particularly generous, having bankruptcy laws far more favorable to debtors than one finds in Europe. (Some have observed this probably has a lot to do with the historical fact of so many people having emigrated to the US to escape their debts in Europe.)

  • I’m not convinced that the law was established merely to help the poor. People at all levels of society lend and borrow money.

    Well, it *seems* to be intended to help debtors, who will, on average, tend to be poorer than creditors (hence the need to borrow money).

    Secondly, the argument still doesn’t hold up. People argue that the illegality of prostitution or narcotics makes things more dangerous for all parties involved

    I favor the legalization of drugs and prostitution for precisely this reason. So your reductio has no effect on me.

    Let me counter with one of my own. Suppose I propose that once every seven years we let everyone out of jail, and offer a general pardon for all crimes committed. You might object to this law on the grounds that some of the murders, rapists, and thieves released will go on to murder, rape, and rob once they are released, and that as you get close to the forgiveness date people will be more likely to commit crimes, since they know the punishment will be brief at best. Is it a valid response to this objection to say that if people respond to the clemency by murdering, raping, and robbing they are to blame, not the clemency? I think not. Law has to take account of ordinary human wickedness and frailty. If it does not that is a deficiency in the law.

    I am not aware of any historical evidence that debt forgiveness or prohibitions on usury caused either the Israelites, the early Christians, or Christian society throughout the Middle Ages any serious social catastrophes.

    I don’t think the Christians used the seven year debt forgiveness idea in any substantial way, and the prosbul was created under Jewish law in the first century BC, so it’s not like these ideas were tried out in a variety of historical settings. In addition, if a modern society were to adopt a prohibition on interest taking or a seven year debt forgiveness and were to then be reduced to the economic condition of the Israelites, the early Christians, or the Middle Ages, this would count as a serious catastrophe. So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.

    nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases.

    You don’t know what would happen if we made it mandatory today for debts to be cancelled every seven years? Seriously?

  • nor do I think we can say that we know for certain what effect the rule would have today if it were applied in certain cases.

    Let me put it this way. Remember the housing crisis last year? That happened because the rate of people not paying back their mortgages went from around 1% to around 2%. What do you think would happen if the rate were to go to 100%?

  • You don’t know what would happen if we made it mandatory today for debts to be cancelled every seven years? Seriously?

    Capitalists would lose what is rightfully “theirs” and society would obviously collapse.

  • Well, if you’re going to define socialism so broadly as to include monasteries and indigenous societies, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation. (Heck, at that point, many small businesses are probably socialist, in that many of them are owned in equal parts by several partners, who make up the sole workers at the company.)

    I do want to touch on one exchange, though, as it ties in to issues that strike me as moderately important and general:

    This is an arbitrary distinction. There is no clear difference between saying, “you’re still in charge of the flat screen TV that you bought” and “you’re still in charge of the business that you bought” or “you’re still in charge of the production of the farm you bought”.

    No, it’s an important distinction if the central issue is who owns the means of production, which is precisely the issue.

    Okay, so example: I own two large propane burners and several large pots suitable for brewing beer, as well as various fermentors, etc. These are my “private property” in the sense that I take it you’re saying socialism would have no problem with. I use them to brew up 5-10 gallon batches of beer which I bottle and then consume privately or give away to friends and family. Now, based on what you’ve said, this is fine under socialism so long as the brewing equipment is strictly for private use. However, say that times are tough and my neighbors are thirsty, so I start brewing every week and selling cases of beer to others. This goes well, and I want help, so I offer to pay my neighbor an hour to help me with brewing, sanitizing bottles, bottling, and delivery. If I offer to pay him a wage (which is a fair or even very generous wage for the work he’s doing) but want to keep the rest of the profits beyond his wages for myself, on the theory that we’re using my equipment, brewing at my house, and selling through the customer base that I built up — we now immediately have a problem where socialism is concerned. It’s not considered legitimate for me to own my equipment and my premises and be in charge of the operation. And yet, so long as I simply guzzled all the beer myself (or gave it to people I happened to like) rather than selling it to people who wanted it, and so long as I used the equipment myself rather than offering a fair wage to someone to help me out, I was fine.

    So yeah, I’d say that’s pretty arbitrary. Why should it be perfectly legitimate for me to own the same thing and do the same activity so long as I do it for strictly selfish reasons, but if I provide a service to a larger number of people in return for a fair price, and employ someone for a fair wage, now I’m not allowed to own these same items?

  • Capitalists would lose what is rightfully “theirs” and society would obviously collapse.

    Well, for example, everyone but the very richest would be stuck renting their homes, because no one would be willing to give you a loan which would last more than the length of time till the next forgiveness year. Few people can afford to pay for a house in seven years, must less two or three.

    Though, of course, that would also serve to decrease the value of land, and cause wild gyrations in property values. Land would sell for more the year after a jubilee, since potential buyers could get a six year loan, and it would be almost impossible to sell land the year before a jubilee, since any buyer would have to pay cash.

    Or perhaps something that Michael will sympathize with more: Only the very rich could go to college, since no one would be willing to issue long term loans for tuition.

  • I had no idea you favored the legalization of prostitution and drugs. Do you really find that position to be at all compatible with Church teaching?

    I don’t find your comparison to letting all the criminals out of jail very compelling. I wouldn’t object to it on the grounds you suggest, but on the grounds that the debt a criminal owes to society is of a different order than that which a borrower owns the lender. The criminal has done objective wrong to someone and must pay in full. The borrower has not wronged anyone.

    For you and Darwin both, I threw everything together for the sake convenience; I didn’t mean to say that debt forgiveness every seven years extended into the Middle Ages, but prohibitions on usury did. The point being that at no point did these practices bring ruin to any society.

    Obviously I am not proposing anything remotely close to lowering standards of living to the level of Israelites or the Middle Ages, though I don’t think we would all die if we chose to gradually live like, say, the Amish, who seem to do alright with a minimal amount of modern technology.

    But that is a separate story anyway. In our society, for reasons Elaine pointed out, we may not do it every seven years on the dot. The idea would be to capture the spirit of the law, if not the letter, and to forgive debts in those cases where it would clearly bring a person or a family or even entire third world nations out of debt bondage. And it would be a good idea to do this every so often, as a sign of good will.

    “So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.”

    So where is the evidence that it is, again?

    As for the final sarcastic questions, I already made it clear that the law can be selectively applied. I don’t know if you just chose to ignore that, or if you honestly just didn’t get it. Who knows?

    The housing crisis was caused by, among other things, rampant, malignant, predatory lending. But since the government seems determined to just keep printing more money to solve every financial crisis, why not bail everyone out? Why should Wall Street get hundreds of billions of dollars when that same amount of money disbursed throughout the whole economy would probably have a much better effect? The modern equivalent of the jubilee year could be a bail out for the people instead of the parasitic, blood-sucking, unholy vampires that caused this catastrophe to begin with.

  • “society would obviously collapse.”

    He’s got that right, even if completely unwittingly.

  • I’ll add that as opposed to even trying to adhere to the spirit of that law, we’ve simply forgotten about it.

    That’s quite a big roll of the dice, if you ask me, to just assume that God doesn’t care anymore about the forgiveness of debt, and that we have no obligation to find ways in which we can do so. And if we’ve created a society that is structured such that it can only exist through permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, perhaps the foundations of that society itself are rotten.

  • And I’ll add one more thing, while I’m at it: I think adhering to the spirit of the law would not require the forgiveness of debt for commercial enterprises or conspicuous consumption or mega-mansions or anything of the sort.

    It would apply to necessities, such as medicine, transportation, etc. I don’t think anyone in ancient Israel borrowed to finance a new speedboat, and I think it would be a mockery of God to assume that such “lifestyle upgrade” purchases would be included in the deal.

    And I will repeat, so I am not twisted out of context again, though I probably will be anyway, that I still believe it can be selectively applied even if we get down to necessities. The necessity of the moment would count for more than the necessity at the time the money was first borrowed.

  • Bankruptcy is basically institutionalized debt forgiveness for those who have reached a point where debt is putting them into a state of bondage. Does that count at all?

    Clearly, it’s different from the idea of simply wiping debt at intervals, but it does seem to achieve the basic aim of allowing people who are totally unable to pay off their debts to exit their obligations — leaving the creditors, generally, to eat the loss.

  • Well, if you’re going to define socialism so broadly as to include monasteries and indigenous societies, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation.

    Baloney. You define socialism in a narrow way that socialists do not recognize. And you do so in order to exclude obviously life-giving forms of social organization from consideration in order to prolong the myth that capitalism is the best set of economic arrangements. All socialists would recognize monasticism and indigenous forms of economics as socialism. Only capitalists do not.

    “society would obviously collapse.”

    He’s got that right, even if completely unwittingly.

    If the “society” that you want to hang onto depends upon debt for its existence, then your preferred society is evil.

  • That is a point worth considering, Darwin, though is it not also true that a bankruptcy can still ruin a person’s life in other ways?

    In other news, how can one read these references to usury in the Bible in a positive light?

    http://www.drbo.org/cgi-bin/s?t=1&q=usury&b=drb

  • Well, I’ll be, MI and I sort of agree for once.

    We have to question whether or not we have built a society that God would be pleased with. If we aren’t doing that, then why do we bother with this religion? If were going to legalize prostitution and turn the entire economy into a casino, why do we bother with the Bible, the tradition of the Church or the social teaching?

    It would be easier to just invent a new religion, or have none at all.

  • This has been a very no debt evening, as I’m sitting here refreshing the thread in one tab, while reading through Megan McArdle’s profile of Dave Ramsey’s cash-only approach to personal finance in another:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200912/mcardle-ramsey-debt

    And listening to the EconTalk podcast also discussing his no debt/pay in case approach.

  • Baloney. You define socialism in a narrow way that socialists do not recognize. And you do so in order to exclude obviously life-giving forms of social organization from consideration in order to prolong the myth that capitalism is the best set of economic arrangements. All socialists would recognize monasticism and indigenous forms of economics as socialism. Only capitalists do not.

    Well, I’ll make you a deal, Michael. I’ll agree to fully support the existence of voluntary or otherwise non-statist forms of socialism if these are forms that “all socialists” support. And you can support me in opposing any attempt to use the power of the state to impose social ownership of the means of production by force. I’m absolutely supportive of your desire to live in a voluntary, socialist collective — so long as you’re not intent on forcing other people to follow suit. And if you every change your mind, I’ll equally support you in leaving.

    Is it a deal?

    (Though I would be curious, since you say I have no understanding of socialism, how you’d react to my question about the brewing. Is it just fine to run a brewing business of the sort I described under socialism, rather than being forced to socialize my means of production as soon as I use them to provide a service to others rather than simply for my own benefit?)

  • That is a point worth considering, Darwin, though is it not also true that a bankruptcy can still ruin a person’s life in other ways?

    Well, bankruptcy involves forgiving some of your debts in many cases, while with others it renegotiates your debt in ways that you agree that you’re able to pay. In cases where you don’t have the ability to make any kind of payments in the long term, it can mean giving up leveraged assets (say, the house and/or car that you have loans on) which you can’t arrange to pay for even on extended payment schedules and renegotiated terms. Unsecured debts are often pretty much canceled. (And the government, predictably, watches out for itself. Tax debt and subsidized student loans can’t be forgiven in a bankruptcy.)

    It also leaves you unable to borrow money for several years — which in such a case is perhaps not a good idea anyway.

    Certainly, it’s not painless, though it’s much less painful here than in most other countries.

    I guess my point in mentioning it is: I fully agree that it would be a problem if there were no means for clearing people of unpayable debt burdens. And I think, actually, that basically all “capitalist” economists would agree with that. One of the major justifications for allowing a creditor to collect interest is that he bears the risk that he may not be repayed.

    I also agree that offering people loans under certain predatory terms is immoral (usury), though I don’t know that I’d agree that all debt is usury. However, I think some of the more arbitrary approaches to clearing debt would be pretty destructive. And I don’t think that the use of debt to allow people to own assets (homes, cars, educations, etc.) and to start and run businesses makes society “evil”, by any stretch. Properly used, debt is simply a means of getting an asset while paying for it rather than only after paying for it, and as such it can allow money to move through society more quickly and is especially helpful to those who currently don’t have money but are trying to better their condition.

  • Well, I’ll make you a deal, Michael. I’ll agree to fully support the existence of voluntary or otherwise non-statist forms of socialism if these are forms that “all socialists” support.

    You still have trouble reading, eh? I never said that all socialists support non-statist forms of socialism. I said that all socialists would recognize them as forms of socialism.

    And you can support me in opposing any attempt to use the power of the state to impose social ownership of the means of production by force.

    I am opposed to both the state and to the state’s use of force.

  • Well Darwin, I was pretty specifically referring to permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, and I don’t see how one can argue that our society not only condones but has developed a dependency upon these things.

    I don’t think there is anything arbitrary about the kind of debt forgiveness I am talking about.

  • You still have trouble reading, eh? I never said that all socialists support non-statist forms of socialism. I said that all socialists would recognize them as forms of socialism.

    Hmm. I guess socialism is something it’s easy to be confused by. So all socialists would recognize non-statist forms of socialism as socialism, but some (most?) of socialists not support those non statist forms and instead seek to impose statist socialism? It almost sounds to me like they wouldn’t recognize these non-statist forms as socialism, if they’d seem to replace them with statist socialism instead.

    I am opposed to both the state and to the state’s use of force.

    Interesting. So would you oppose, on principle, the state using its power to enforce some policy even if you considered the policy itself desireable (say, a guaranteed living wage, or the socialization — in the statist case nationalization — of the means of production)?

    Or is it more that you don’t prefer the state and its use of force, but you’ll take it if that’s the easiest way to get what you want?

    Okay, I realized now I’m just arguing to argue, and I apologize to everyone for that.

    Michael, if you do have any thoughts on a proper socialist understanding of my brewing example, I would honestly be curious. Otherwise, good evening.

  • Well Darwin, I was pretty specifically referring to permanent indebtedness and excessive usury, and I don’t see how one can argue that our society not only condones but has developed a dependency upon these things.

    I don’t think there is anything arbitrary about the kind of debt forgiveness I am talking about.

    Well, I guess it strikes me it would be arbitrary to cancel all debts every seven years regardless of whether one is capable of making them or not (though I recognize you aren’t suggesting instituting that practice). For instance, I don’t see why it would be just to cancel my mortgage, when I’m perfectly capable of paying it and it’s quite a reasonable set of terms.

    I do, however, see a point in forgiving insurmountable debt.

    As for whether our society is built on excessive usury and permanent indebtedness — that’s probably a much longer discussion…

    It sounds to me like we may well agree on the moral point, but have differences in regards to matters of fact.

  • If I remember my Bible study classes of years ago correctly, there is a difference between the “sabbatical” years which took place every 7 years, and the “jubilee” years which occurred after seven sabbatical year cycles (7 times 7 years) were completed.

    The sabbatical years were intended to be years of “rest” for the land, during which no crops were planted, comparable to the Sabbath days observed by the people. This was obviously intended to prevent exhaustion of the soil; the same effect is achieved today through crop rotation and conservation subsidies to farmers. Also persons who had sold themselves into certain forms of slavery or indentured servitude were supposed to be freed in the sabbatical years, though they could choose NOT to be freed in certain circumstances.

    Debt forgiveness and return of land to the original owner was actually more a feature of the 50-year jubilee cycle. Forgiving debts every 50 years would make more sense than doing it every 7 years; it would be long enough of a term to allow for long term investment in things like mortgages, etc. but would also provide a periodic “reset” to the economy so that, as I explained above, debts did not rise to unsustainable levels and people who had fallen into debt or slavery did not become permanently mired in poverty.

    If all debts were forgiven every 50 years, it would create problems for people trying to borrow money or buy homes in the last few years before a jubilee year, of course. But it would give most people a chance to experience one economic “do over” in their lifetimes, maybe two depending on their age.

  • Also, on a 50-year debt forgiveness cycle, the economy would probably contract or even go into recession the closer it got to the jubilee year, but would quickly rebound once it passed. How’s that for an economic “stimulus” plan 🙂

  • I had no idea you favored the legalization of prostitution and drugs. Do you really find that position to be at all compatible with Church teaching?

    Sure. My position on prostitution, for example, is the same as that held by St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.

    “So the fact that a ban on usury existed in these societies is not strong evidence that it isn’t harmful.”

    So where is the evidence that it is, again?

    Try this, for a start.

    I will repeat, so I am not twisted out of context again, though I probably will be anyway, that I still believe it can be selectively applied even if we get down to necessities.

    I’m all for debt forgiveness where it will do more good than harm. If that’s all you meant, then we don’t disagree.

    I don’t think we would all die if we chose to gradually live like, say, the Amish, who seem to do alright with a minimal amount of modern technology.

    The population that the earth would support if we were all living at the level of the Amish is in the millions, rather than the billions. So you’re right that we wouldn’t *all* die, but most people would.

    The housing crisis was caused by, among other things, rampant, malignant, predatory lending.

    This may have been a more ultimate cause, but the proximate cause was the lack of payment due to an increase in foreclosures. If you had an increase in the lack of payments due to government imposed fiat, this would have the same effect.

  • The population that the earth would support if we were all living at the level of the Amish is in the millions, rather than the billions. So you’re right that we wouldn’t *all* die, but most people would.

    LOL!

  • All three terms have so many confusing connotations associated with them that it can be quite difficult to reach understanding when they are invoked. Michael, for example, uses all three terms with a meaning that is different than what I suspect is the meaning associated with the terms by most people here (Michael’s not wrong, it’s just not the popular understanding).

    It is interesting that the only people who contest my understandings of these terms are conservatives and/or republicans. I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    I’m also not sure why it would surprise folks here that my understanding of these terms, as someone sympathetic to them as a sort of “insider” is different from those here at The American Catholic who are decidedly NOT insiders and are hostile to such ideas. If you all were to ask an atheist to define Roman Catholicism would you expect to get an adequate answer? Probably not. It is uncontroversial to claim that many folks here have an inadequate, narrow, and even distorted understanding of terms like “socialism.”

    Blackadder rightly distinguishes between my understanding of these terms and the “popular” understanding of the terms, which is correct. And it should be pointed out that the context in which the “popular” understandings developed is one that has historically been hostile to these ideas, often violently so in the case of fanatical american anti-communism, and that the popular definitions have been shaped by this hostile context. The definition of “socialism” has been intentionally distorted by those hostile to various socialist ideas. It is important for folks here to break out of americanist understandings of these terms and consider how they are used by people throughout the world.

  • I think a gradual reduction of our dependence upon technology to live simpler lives is not inherently wrong, provided it is voluntary. Nor do I think the technologies that support food production or other vital things that people need have to be reduced, but I fail to see how six billion people depend directly on the proliferation of technical gadgets that most of them don’t have to begin with. The third world is well below the level of the Amish, who can and do gradually implement new technologies because they have ready access to them. It isn’t about hating technology for its own sake, but avoiding those things that destroy the social fabric.

  • Oh, and, how about debt forgiveness when it IS good? When it is simply a good thing to do in itself, even if nothing good from a pragmatic economic standpoint will occur? Is that alright with you?

  • I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    The old “no enemies on the left” phenomenon.

  • I must also state that the position of the Church, today, right now, is that prostitution should be illegal, that it is an intrinsically evil act.

  • S.B.,

    Huh? The left is nothing but enemies. They squabble far more than people on the right. The history of the broader socialist movement in this country alone would make your head spin with all of the party formations, splits, reformations, and splits again, and so on, and so forth. The far left, radical, revolutionary left, is comprised of a thousand self-proclaimed, would-be messiahs and their devoted cult followings.

  • That cliche arose from the fact that a lot of liberals had only muted criticisms (at most) of socialism/communism, because they felt somewhat guilty for not being willing to be more radical themselves. I’m sure that once you get out among the real weirdos, everyone hates each other.

  • I will say, however, that I think a gradual reduction of our dependence upon technology to live simpler lives is not inherently wrong, provided it is voluntary.

    Agreed.

    Nor do I think the technologies that support food production or other vital things that people need have to be reduced, but I fail to see how six billion people depend directly on the proliferation of technical gadgets that most of them don’t have to begin with. The third world is well below the level of the Amish, who can and do gradually implement new technologies because they have ready access to them.

    Around a third of the population of Africa is malnourished, and if it wasn’t for food aid starvation and malnutrition would be even more rampant. The agricultural productivity of the Amish just isn’t large enough to support a multibillion level population. Frankly, if it wasn’t for the fact that there were non-Amish who buy Amish made furniture, produce, etc., I’m not sure that even they could live as well as they currently do.

    Oh, and, how about debt forgiveness when it IS good? When it is simply a good thing to do in itself, even if nothing good from a pragmatic economic standpoint will occur? Is that alright with you?

    Sure.

  • I must also state that the position of the Church, today, right now, is that prostitution should be illegal, that it is an intrinsically evil act.

    The Church has always taught that prostitution is an intrinsically evil act. Aquinas and Augustine both believed it was intrinsically evil. It doesn’t follow that it should be illegal. There are plenty of things that are intrinsically evil but not criminal (lying, for example, or masturbation).

  • That cliche arose from the fact that a lot of liberals had only muted criticisms (at most) of socialism/communism, because they felt somewhat guilty for not being willing to be more radical themselves.

    Kind of like the muted criticism that right wing Christians in Europe and North America gave to the fascists and Nazis.

  • Darwin – You? Arguing just to argue? Perish the thought. I always thought you were constantly and consistently working in pursuit of truth? Guess not.

  • It is interesting that the only people who contest my understandings of these terms are conservatives and/or republicans. I’ve never once had my understandings of these terms questioned by other anarchists, socialists, marxists… not even liberals.

    Well, for what it’s worth, it’s always liberals (such as several of your co-bloggers) who go around insisting that American conservative thought is not “truly conservative”, or claiming that modern conservative and free market ideas never existed prior to the Enlightenment. I’ve never had conservatives or libertarians (in all their many stripes) make such an objection to me.

    That said, clearly thought in the far left cannot be fully in agreement and monolithic, since as I recall, the last time we had a long comment thread on the nature of anarchism you ended up telling us that a great number of the things said about anarchism on one of the high traffic anarchist FAQs were not actually the case. You may all acknowledge each other as being some form of roughly the same movement, but you clearly do have quite a bit of disagreement and factionalism going on.

    Probably part of the source disagreement is that we don’t see how some of your claims about anarchist/socialist thought could possibly be self consistent. For instance, you say on the one hand that you oppose the use of coercion, and yet you also support the socialization of the means of production. To a free market conservative, it’s very difficult to imagine how you could enforce socialization of the means of production without using force to do it. (And indeed, this is how it has always worked in actual socialist states.) Clearly, there are similar blind spots that you find when attempting to understand a conservative worldview.

    One thing that might help to bridge this gap, if you have a strong interest in helping people understand your worldview, even if they don’t already agree with it, would be if you made a frequent effort in posts and comments to explain how an anarchist/socialist worldview would be applied in clear and everyday situations.

    Which is a sneaky way of coming around one last time to sayind I am honestly curious as to what a proper socialist answer to my brewing equipment question would be. 🙂

  • Darwin,

    In Laborem Exercens, JP II argues that state ownership of the means of production is not its “socialization”, but rather, worker ownership (or at least participation) is how property becomes truly “socialized.”

    Socialization of the means of production can and does take place voluntarily, in everything from democratic workers cooperatives to profit-sharing companies.

  • Well, for what it’s worth, it’s always liberals (such as several of your co-bloggers) who go around insisting that American conservative thought is not “truly conservative”, or claiming that modern conservative and free market ideas never existed prior to the Enlightenment. I’ve never had conservatives or libertarians (in all their many stripes) make such an objection to me.

    I’m not sure what this has to do with me. And I’m not really intending to get into a defense of any of them in this context, but I’m not sure about which co-bloggers you mean. The ones who make claims about what is “truly conservative” are often the bloggers who are indeed attracted to various forms of conservatism and are painted as “liberals” by people who object to their voting Democrat from time to time. That doesn’t make one a “liberal.” Some of them who are called “liberals” by TAC folks/types look awfully conservative to me.

    That said, clearly thought in the far left cannot be fully in agreement and monolithic, since as I recall, the last time we had a long comment thread on the nature of anarchism you ended up telling us that a great number of the things said about anarchism on one of the high traffic anarchist FAQs were not actually the case. You may all acknowledge each other as being some form of roughly the same movement, but you clearly do have quite a bit of disagreement and factionalism going on.

    Of course it’s not monolithic. That is a fact that I have been arguing all along. It is the point I am trying to make here in this thread. “Socialism” is huge and diverse.

    Probably part of the source disagreement is that we don’t see how some of your claims about anarchist/socialist thought could possibly be self consistent. For instance, you say on the one hand that you oppose the use of coercion, and yet you also support the socialization of the means of production. To a free market conservative, it’s very difficult to imagine how you could enforce socialization of the means of production without using force to do it. (And indeed, this is how it has always worked in actual socialist states.) Clearly, there are similar blind spots that you find when attempting to understand a conservative worldview.

    The fact that you, as a conservative, find it “difficult to imagine” how a socialist society would come about except through force does not make my views inconsistent. I am in favor of the culture shifting to such a degree that non-statist socialism becomes “common sense” instead of capitalism and social and economic structures change accordingly. Just as you extended a “deal” to me, that we agree that I should be able to live in a “socialist commune” if I want so long as I do not impose my ideas on the supposed capitalist majority (which makes no sense, because that “deal” does not need to be made – that is, in fact reality right now), should society shift the other way, because of my non-coercive commitments, you would be free to set up a little selfish capitalist commune experiment if you want to. A few of you can all sit around in your compound extracting wealth from the majority. A little utopia, heaven on earth! 😉

    One thing that might help to bridge this gap, if you have a strong interest in helping people understand your worldview, even if they don’t already agree with it, would be if you made a frequent effort in posts and comments to explain how an anarchist/socialist worldview would be applied in clear and everyday situations.

    Obviously I can’t do that every time. In fact, it would be seen as “derailing” conversations I’m sure. Should you wish to have that conversation, start it. But I can’t be asked to explain in detail what I mean by certain words and statements in these kinds of conversations, just as you can’t constantly define “conservative” or “republican” or “AK-47” every time you use those words.

    Which is a sneaky way of coming around one last time to sayind I am honestly curious as to what a proper socialist answer to my brewing equipment question would be. 🙂

    I didn’t read that comment of yours and I don’t have the patience to back track and find it.

    And Darwin, Joe is right about L.E. on socialization of production.

  • Pingback: The Bible ain’t nothin’ but liberal propaganda « Divine Life – A Blog by Eric Sammons

Fiscal Health Care Reform: The Publics Option

Friday, December 11, AD 2009

Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama continue to spend, spend, spend away money we don’t have.  With the public option now firmly established in the current Senate version of the health care bill, Election 2010 comes to mind.

Kick the bums out.

I love democracy.

(Biretta Tip: Glenn Foden of NewsBusters)

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13 Responses to Fiscal Health Care Reform: The Publics Option

  • Give me an alternative to Republicans, and I’ll happily comply. Let’s not forget that the borrow-and-spend mantra was begun by Mr Reagan, and continued by both Bushes, especially the last one.

    Lucky thing for the GOP that in our political system, you might be in last place, but you’re never more than one election from ascendancy.

  • Borrow and spend began with Reagan Todd only if Reagan’s name is spelled Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Roosevelt’s Depression deficits, not including World War II, peaked at 5.4% of gdp. Obama’s deficit this year was 7.2% gdp. During Reagan and the first Bush the deficits averaged 4.3% gdp. Both parties have done a lousy job since the onset of the Great Depression of balancing tax receipts and spending, with the exception of Eisenhower and for a few of the Clinton years due to the dot.com bubble, and we are all going to be paying a high price for this for a very, very long time.

  • Running a deficit during a war of national mobilization, a banking crisis, or an economic depression is not unreasonable. During nearly all of Mr. Roosevelt’s tenure, the country was either producing below capacity (and had latent unemployment of such a level that public expenditure might actually be ‘stimulating’) or engaged in a war global in scope. Please note, the Roosevelt Administration did make a serious attempt to balance the federal budget in 1937.

    What has been troublesome has been the inability (since 1960) of the political class to balance the federal budget over the course of any one of the seven business cycles which have run their course since that time. We have had a few balanced budgets near business cycle peaks.

    It is not that difficult to manage. You have to fix your expenditure stream at where your revenue stream would be if the economy were producing at mean capacity. They do not do it because they just don’t feel like it.

  • Let’s not forget that the borrow-and-spend mantra was begun by Mr Reagan, and continued by both Bushes, especially the last one.

    Todd, you are of an age to recall that during a period of economic expansion lasting ten years and featuring improvements in real domestic product a mean of 4% per annum, the administration and Congress balanced the budget just once. Name the political party which had majorities in the upper and lower chamber of Congress during that entire period, and held the presidency for eight of those ten years.

  • When was the last time anyone heard of Congress raising our debt limit to aproximately 2 Trillion dollars. With our debt cost apprroaching 50% of our national income, and the new health bill
    and more stimulus spending to come..some thoughs..the
    government takes money from someone, it has none of its own, and giving money to others has to come from those who work for a living. When those who work for a living realize that if they didn’t and then the government would care for them, then what is their incentive to work and that is the begining of any nation to fail..the fact is that you can not mutiple wealth by spending it and dividing it.

  • I should have added that Medicare’s chief actuary states that Medicare under the proposed bill would spend 35.8 Trillion from 2010 to 2019. Wonder where the money is going to come from?

  • “Name the political party …”

    I would love to see national politics turned on its head, and some degree of sanity restored to foreign and economic policies.

    That either major party will effect that change is a vain hope. Given an alternative to an incompetent, lawless GOP, I’d prefer to hold my nose and take my chances with the current status quo. If nothing else, seeing the Republicans whine in defeat is more entertaining than the alternative.

    Seriously, I do think 2010 and 2012 will be an outlet for much anger if the job market doesn’t perk up. The feds borrowing money isn’t news; it’s been SOP for the last three decades. But unemployment is a crusher right now. The federal deficit? That’s just a useful tool for partisans. As of right now, it still means nothing, and either party is as much to blame as the other.

    Now let’s get back to Obama’s one-child policy.

  • I do not think it will be all that amusing if the U.S. Treasury suffers a failed bond sale. When the ratio of public debt to domestic product comes to exceed 0.9, the willingness of participants in the bond market to buy your scraps of paper diminishes considerably. And that won’t mean ‘nothing’.

    Quite a number of us have had occasion to assess what causes you to hold your nose.

    http://amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook/2005/11/settlement_in_s.html

  • Excellent research, Art. With the change in topic to Catholics behaving badly, I’ll accept your concession on my point that major party politics are bad news for economic good sense. I’m really curious about one point. Stocks are up forty-some percent and the Christmas bonuses for bankers are rolling through the economy. Just what is it that the GOP would have done differently? Mr Bush and the Fed starting the bailout to the tune of a third of a trillion last Fall. Would Mr McCain have ended all that?

    Now can we please get back to the secret Muslim/socialist takeover?

  • Stocks are up forty-some percent and the Christmas bonuses for bankers are rolling through the economy. Just what is it that the GOP would have done differently?

    I am not making any concessions, Todd.

    Counter-factual speculation is usually idle.

    Barney Frank was one of the obstacles to implementing debt-for-equity swaps to recapitalize the bulge bracket banks and in general casino bankers like Robert Rubin have more intimate relations with the elites of the Democratic Party; however, it is true that debt-for-equity swaps for these institutions and for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also rejected for obscure reasons by Mr. Paulson and his camarilla.

    I have a suspicion a Republican Congress and Administration would have told the United Auto Workers to pound sand. They’d have had to accept a pre-packaged legislated re-organization or the corporations would have had to trudge through the standard proceedings of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, not to mention the ministrations of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It would have been a good deal less sweet for General Motors’ legatees.

    As for the stimulus, by what accounts have appeared in the newspapers, it appears to have been an omnibus of programs Democratic members of Congress have had on their wish lists for some years. A Republican Congress and Administration would likely have preferred a legislated tax cut.

    There is quite a bit of dispute between economists as to the actual value of the multipliers associated with public expenditure in these circumstances, which is to say a dispute about the degree to which public spending crowds out private spending (one macroeconomist who has written on the subject has said recently that crowding out vitiates the effect of public spending so long as unemployment rates are below 12%). A suspension of payroll tax collections could have been implemented rapidly and would have dispensed a disproportionate share of its largesse to the segment of the population with the highest propensity to consumption, thus having the most impact toward the goal of maintaining aggregate demand. There was the anxiety that the demand for real balances was so intense last year that such would simply be added to people’s stock of cash reserves. The results of monetary policy innovation since then indicate that that concern was misplaced. I do not think the Republican caucus would have favored a payroll tax cut over an income tax cut.

    I think the Republicans, given a free hand, might have put the kibosh on scheduled increases in the minimum wage. The labor market would be in less parlous condition for a’ that.

    The Republicans likely would not have pissed away valuable time on a tar baby like Mr. Obama’s medical insurance proposal.

    I have no clue about what sort of mortgage modification plan might have been drawn up by a Republican Administration.

    So, we did not get debt-for-equity swaps, we got fleeced by the United Auto Workers, the Democratic Party got to do $787 bn in favors for their friends, we priced a good many low wage workers out of the market, we were saddled with a means-tested mortgage modification program that encouraged people to restrict their earnings, and we have had no action as yet on a revised architecture for the banking system or a general plan for working out underwater mortgages because Congress has wasted so much time debating a non-acute problem. It is possible that a Republican Congress and Administration could have done a worse job. It is also possible that I am Marie of Roumania.

  • “It is possible that a Republican Congress and Administration could have done a worse job. It is also possible that I am Marie of Roumania.”

    Ouch! Give it up Todd! You are batting way out of your league with Art. (When it comes to economics, so would I if I tangled with Art!)

  • No, president is can solve these problems. There is more going on behind the scene that we can’t see. Why don’t movie stars like Oprah and Jolie and many other people in the US try to help but stand and watch our country go down and stand before the camera with six kids from all around the world. Im sorry Oprah im black and I may just have to mail her. Why do people from out of the country get free education but not homeless vets? Or just homeless people?. And Obama is making it worse sending troops because he just gonna piss off those people and that’s the last thing we need here in America along with a race war. America is fake, why would anyone believe any presedent. Denmark, France are happy countries with healthcare but they pay a lot in taxes, not many people want to do that in America. America is not use to change. Change is easier for an eastern countries philosophy speaking.

  • “I am not making any concessions, Todd.”

    Then on the next thread we find ourselves conversing, I suggest you stick to your expertise, as Donald terms it, and set aside the desperate historical research.

The Catholicism Project

Friday, December 11, AD 2009

Word On Fire Catholic Minstries is currently working on The Catholicism Project and is in the final stages of being completed.  It is a groundbreaking documentary series presenting the true story of Christianity and the Catholic faith, which comes in an especially timely moment in human history.

The following is a short trailer professionally done with Father Robert Barron showing snippets from footage that is being targeted for release by Christmas 2010 A.D.

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One Response to The Catholicism Project

  • Simply awesome! Father Barron appeared on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock” last night and discussed his ministry and this series. It’s apparently 10 hours (48 min./each, plus commercials) that will be released on DVD for certain, although they are trying to sell it to either network or PBS affiliates as a possible mini-series.

    Fr. Barron via Word on Fire is doing excellent work and could very well be the kind of joyful and charismatic priest that can break through modern secular mindsets and reach people where they are. Could we hope for another Bishop Sheen for the 21st century? Perhaps… and in any case, his work is very worthy of Catholic support!

Advent and John the Baptist

Friday, December 11, AD 2009

In Advent my thoughts frequently turn to John the Baptist, the last, and the greatest, of the prophets who foretold the coming of Christ.  The Jews lived in expectation for many centuries for the coming of the Anointed One, the Christ.  It was left for the Baptist to be His final herald.  His cries for repentance in preparing the way for the Lord are a useful reminder to us as to the proper spirit to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Of the film portrayals of John the Baptist, my favorite is that of Charlton Heston in the movie The Greatest Story Ever Told, who conveys well the sheer force of the Baptist’s message and the courage with which he conveyed it.  John came to testify to the Truth and nothing would stop him from doing it, not even death as the last 2000 years can attest.

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Global One Child Per Family Policy

Thursday, December 10, AD 2009

Diane Francis, a columnist with the Financial Post, a Canadian newspaper, has a column here calling for a global one child policy.

A planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.

The world’s other species, vegetation, resources, oceans, arable land, water supplies and atmosphere are being destroyed and pushed out of existence as a result of humanity’s soaring reproduction rate.

Ironically, China, despite its dirty coal plants, is the world’s leader in terms of fashioning policy to combat environmental degradation, thanks to its one-child-only edict.

The intelligence behind this is the following:

-If only one child per female was born as of now, the world’s population would drop from its current 6.5 billion to 5.5 billion by 2050, according to a study done for scientific academy Vienna Institute of Demography.

-By 2075, there would be 3.43 billion humans on the planet. This would have immediate positive effects on the world’s forests, other species, the oceans, atmospheric quality and living standards.

-Doing nothing, by contrast, will result in an unsustainable population of nine billion by 2050.

Although I think this proposal of Ms. Francis is both evil and insane, I do give her props for saying out loud what many environmental hysterics only hint at:  Man is the problem.  Eliminate as many humans as possible and the environment can by saved to be enjoyed by the anointed few like Ms. Francis.

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49 Responses to Global One Child Per Family Policy

  • Oh dear, where to start?

    Perhaps with the good news? I already have two kids and I’m hoping for more. In other words, my descendants will have more influence than those of Francis and the like-minded.

    Now the insanity.

    Why even allow one child? Some poster told me that two wasn’t an arbitrary number in a combox at the end of this post, because two is necessary for population replacement:
    http://vox-nova.com/2009/08/07/preliminary-ramblings-on-population-and-the-environment/
    But of course two is arbitrary, unless the goal is perfect replication of today’s population, and I’m not sure on who is pushing for that.
    Further to the point, allowing one child is also arbitrary. If you really want to stop human influence on the environment, allowing one child is non-sense.

    Another option make much more sense if Francis is really serious:
    The vast majority of people should have no children and select families should have several. There is nothing more inefficient, ecologically, than raising a single child. Families with several children use far less resources per child.

    You know what, that wouldn’t be fair. How about this? No one can have babies and raise them. The government can calculate how many people we’re going to need to keep this thing running (we’re going to need organ transplants you know, and nurses to care for us in our old age), clone them and raise them in huge, efficient, camps. Problem solved.

  • In the worldview of these maniacs, human beings are a virus, a disease, and need to be reduced or eliminated so that Mother Earth can heal.

    This is why the global warming issue is really starting to bother me. Regardless of whether or not it is a serious problem, it is clear that some of the same forces that support this population reduction ideology are also behind terrorizing us all into accepting that we must completely reorder the world economy to reduce CO2 emissions.

    I’ve already seen articles about how babies are bad for the environment from the stand point of “carbon foot prints” – every child makes global warming worse, apparently.

  • I take a small amount of comfort in the fact that even the commenters there think she’s loony.

  • Joe, not being a scientist it is difficult for me to have a truly informed view on global warming. That said, being human I’m prone to bias and I admit I’m biased toward skepticism precisely because the folks who are the most passionate alarmists seem almost uniformly to hold some variant of comical view you describe. They see the earth as a god-like living organism that is infected with the virus known as humanity, which virus would be largely benign but for capitalism and religion, which render it deadly and malignant. The treatment requires (i) marginalizing organized religion, (ii) reducing the virus count, and (iii) replacing free markets with government planning and control. And if we don’t start treatment immediately, we’re all gonna die.

    Somehow I just don’t think so.

  • But today’s lunacy is tomorrow’s policy, at least at the rate we are going.

    Our descendants may have more influence, but who is influencing our descendants? With academia and the media (both journalistic and entertainment, to the extent there is a differrence) overwhelmingly tilted towards Mz. Francis and her ilk, the odds do not look good.

  • I have a more simple solution: if everyone who was truly alarmed about AGW would just personally stop emitting CO2 for about thirty minutes, think how much progress we would make! I think Al Gore should lead by example here.

  • One child per family will end up being a statistical result only. See, if carbon credits are a good idea, why not kiddie credits. Families who have dough can buy kiddie credits from families who need dough. This will help insure that kiddies end up in wealthier families that can afford to give them the high standard of living they deserve. Some kooks have already thought of this — count on it — but are waiting until society is “enlightened” enough to be receptive to it.

  • Not well thought out, to say the least.

    The idea of human beings as a plague or infestation is not unknown in science fiction. But the notion that nine billion people on the planet is unsustainable is also fiction.

    Which isn’t to say that politics doesn’t muck up the distribution of food and other resources. That’s plenty hard stuff to work on right there.

  • Thank God me and the husband are breeding like Catholic rabbits!! Have one 13-month old and twins on the way at the end of January. Guess we’d better keep going before the Earth Worshippers have their way!!!

  • P.S. what kills me is that these anti-human dirtbags will be whining and moaning when they grow old and grey and realize there aren’t enough tax-payers to support them in their old age! Then they’ll probably think twice about, “There are too many people!”

  • Congrats Coffee Catholic! As the father of twins, there is nothing like them to add zest to a house!

  • I’d be inclined to take her seriously if I were into gaia worship. But alas I’m not, so… meh.

  • if carbon credits are a good idea, why not kiddie credits. Families who have dough can buy kiddie credits from families who need dough.

    They thought of that already.

  • To be clear: I would never morally condone what I am about to say. Yet what strikes me as odd is that the people who call for mass population reduction because of “overpopulation” don’t…I don’t know…sacrifice themselves. There’s this group called the Voluntary Human Extinction movement and conveniently its originators have yet to voluntarily remove themselves while advocating others to do so.

  • Well, to be fair, I think you’re supposed to get yourself sterilized before signing up as a member of the voluntary extinction group. Apparently, wiping out humanity is important enough one should not have children (with the comfortable side effect that one can spend all one’s time and money on oneself and not have to support any dependants) but not actually urgent enough that one should hurry things along by actually hurting yourself.

  • I’m curious at the justification of these iniatives b/c it would avoid wars over scarce resources. Aren’t wars, from a perspective that doesn’t really value human life, just as if not a more effective means of population control? The bloodier the war, the more the population is in check.

    I just wish these kinds of proponents would be consistent with their logic, so that they could see for themselves how irrational it truly is.

  • Eric, they don’t off themselves because they’re the wise and enlightened ones. Gaia needs them to inform other people that they’re unnecessary wastes of space.

    “There’s just enough of me and way too much of you.”

  • As was basically said by another commenter, “Today’s insanity is tomorrow’s public policy.”

    China will increasingly be seen as setting the standard for all to follow. Soon every nation will be encouraged to fall in line and push for population control.

    Think it can’t happen here? Take a gander at the emissions goals to be reached in this country by 2050. They’re nothing but hogwash UNLESS efforts to “go green” are coupled with formal population control policies.

    Those policies won’t be limited to abortion. Citing “quality of life” issues we can expect a fevered push for euthanasia of the less than desirable in our society.

    It’ll be almost inevitable unless a complete turnaround is effected in the present cultural mindset.

  • This author is a day late and more than a few dollars short when it comes to the Chinese policy. I believe China has of late decided to ease up on the one-child policy in certain areas of the country because of the disastrous social problems it has caused, including but not limited to:

    1. An extreme gender imbalance (men greatly outnumber women);
    2. The disappearance of extended families (if everyone is an only child, that eliminates not only siblings but aunts, uncles, and cousins, and forces one young or middle-aged adult to be responsible for the care of both parents and all four grandparents);
    3. The “little emperor” syndrome of spoiled children and teens who grow up never having to share anything;
    4. The social instability that is likely to result from large numbers of young men being unable to marry and spending their lives as “lone wolves”.

    Other points overlooked by the global population control pushers:

    1. The main reason world population doubled in the last 50 years was NOT because birth rates went up, but because death rates went down due to sanitation, vaccinations, and improved medical care. As demographer Steven Mosher puts it, “People didn’t start breeding like rabbits — they STOPPED dying like flies.”

    2. The so-called “replacement level” fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is merely a statistical average for developed countries in which the vast majority of children can expect to live to adulthood. In less developed countries where infant and child mortality is higher, a “replacement level” birth rate would have to be higher. A couple in Haiti or Bangladesh, for example, might have to have 5 or 6 children in order to insure that at least 2 of them survive to adulthood.

    3. To maintain a replacement level of 2.1 or 2.0 children per woman, some couples will have to have larger families in order to compensate for those who have only one child or none at all (often through no choice or fault of their own).

    4. One does NOT raise the standard of living in a less developed country by forcibly lowering the birth rate. Rather, the birth rate will drop “naturally” as standards of living rise and education and employment opportunities open up for women, which prompts them to postpone marriage and childbearing. To try to bring the birth rate down first is a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

    5. Many countries, most notably Japan, Russia, and most of Western Europe, are facing an imminent UNDER population problem because their birthrates have been well below replacement level for decades. Some governments have tried, with varying degrees of success, to encourage childbearing through “baby bonuses”.

    6. Many experts such as Mosher believe world population will peak at 8 to 9 million later this century and then begin to decline on its own, purely from the demographic “momentum” of birth rates that are currently in decline over most of the world. Mosher states categorically that world population will NEVER double again since birth rates are dropping and life expectancies are not increasing nearly as fast as they were earlier this century (in some areas such as Russia and sub-Saharan Africa, life expectancy is actually dropping due to AIDS and other factors).

  • Oops, I meant to say that world population would peak at 8 to 9 BILLION.

  • Bravo Elaine, informative and succinct, always a potent combination!

  • “Thank God me and the husband are breeding like Catholic rabbits!!”

    Don’t forget adoption. Over 120,000 kids available today. You don’t need to give birth to expand your family, and adopted kids benefit from having a ready family!

  • Well said, Elaine. This brings to mind something I found on here at one point before. I’m sure the Doomslayer is twitching out there…

  • Nice touch Elaine,
    One addition to the disappearance of the extended family: not only do some kids grow up as ‘little emperors,’ but most kids grow up never having seen parenting in action. Most of us learned something about parenting from watching our parents with our youngest siblings, or our oldest siblings with our nieces and nephews, or our aunts and uncles with our younger cousins. All of that is eliminated when extended families disappear. To learn everything you know about parenting by observing only how your parents worked with you can be a serious disadvantage.

  • When so-called “science” comes with a set of talking points and a ready-made statist political agenda, one would be an irrational fool NOT to be skeptical of the so-called “science”.

  • Ah, let’s pick the most extreme views on how to deal with human induced climate change in order to generate more suspicion of the reasonable efforts to reduce our impact on the environment.

    Here’s the real question: Can 9 billion people sustain the level of consumption of resources currently enjoyed in the U.S.?

  • Brian,

    To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t know who I should trust or why I ought to trust them. Credentials just don’t seem to cut it for me anymore, since people with letters after their names can be found on both sides.

    Who do you trust and why?

  • “Ah, let’s pick the most extreme views on how to deal with human induced climate change in order to generate more suspicion of the reasonable efforts to reduce our impact on the environment.”

    This is my post Brian and I posted it as an extreme example of an all too common anti-human mindset among extreme environmentalists.

    I’ll ask you a question: Which is more important, restoring the environment or economic development to lift more of humanity out of poverty? Personally I think we can do both, and without losing our humanity in the process.

  • The notion of an imminent and disastrous worldwide population explosion requiring strict limitations on childbearing is — literally — as outdated as leisure suits, disco, and the notion of an imminent and disastrous new Ice Age (which was all the rage among climate scientists in the 70s). Birthrates have been falling rapidly all over the world — in less developed countries as well — for the past 20 to 30 years.

    The “unsustainable” 9 billion population Ms. Francis says will occur by 2050 if we “do nothing” is, according to Steven Mosher and many others, EXACTLY the point at which global population will peak and then begin to drop if we “do nothing” to change current birth rates.

  • From what I’m aware of the earth can easily sustain 9 billion and even 18 billion people without batting an eye.

    We are nowhere near reaching capacity on this blue planet, so any, ANY environmentalist or eugenicist that wants to control population control is battier than the climate change crowd.

  • World population is expected to rise until 2050 and then level off. It has fallen in India as living standards rise. The real problem we are facing is not the prospect of 9 billion people who all live like Americans, but that all Western countries (with the exception of the US) are reproducing at below replacement levels. Europe as a whole is at 1.38, Canada is at 1.48, Russia and Spain are in the demographic “death spiral” – 1.1, or half replacement rate. And,…,the same people who are most concerned about “overpopulation” tend to be the same people who like cradle to grave social programs. How, exactly, will that work when you have far more graves than cradles?

    What about the Third World, you ask? Well, as was discovered with crop yields 40 years ago, our technological capacity outstrips our growth rate by a significant margin. But, gee, once again, the greenies fret about “frankenfood” – which has done a lot more to feed Africans than Bob Geldof has.

  • “I’ll ask you a question: Which is more important, restoring the environment or economic development to lift more of humanity out of poverty? Personally I think we can do both, and without losing our humanity in the process.”

    It seems that we can do both because it is not a question of either/ or. Restoring the environment helps humanity, because humanity is part of, and depends on, the environment. Surely there is nothing extreme or “new agey” about that. Even those who highlight species and ecosystem loss tend to do so from the perspective that this would be a bad thing for humanity.

    What may seem to be beneficial for the development of humanity might indeed have unintended side effects that actually increase poverty and depersonalization. Remember that the Church was wary of industrial progress in the 19th century, not because it was anti- human, but because it had a broader view of what constituted progress.

  • Certain church leaders were wary of industrialization and they were wrong. Broader prosperity and increased life expectancy were great goods. The past in certain eras has many advantages over the present, but for the great mass of humanity life truly was, in Hobbes’ phrase, “nasty, brutish and short” compared to ours, until the great transformation wrought by the Industrial Revolution.

  • Don,

    I want to respectfully disagree with your assessment here. I do not believe the Papacy was wrong to be wary of the Industrial Revolution – there were often terrible abuses of workers and their rights, and the whole revolution was only made possible after a few centuries of political revolution against the Church, the confiscation of her property and the ruination of her ability to care for the poor.

    The Church did not and does not totally reject industrialization. All of the Popes recognized the potential benefits, but they insisted that the system of industrial capitalism be reformed and modified to respect the rights and dignity of the workers. They were not wrong to note it as a problem, and they were not wrong to demand that society address it.

    As Pius XI wrote, industrialization could have taken a better path that did not involve usurping the Church, displacing the peasantry, and abusing the workers. Thanks to the intervention of the Church, among other groups, many of the worst excesses have been remedied – but I think it is wrong to assume that they would have been without that intervention.

  • I will not deny the terrible abuses Joe, but I think industrialization was an absolutely crucial process for the well being of the great mass of the population. I think industrialization had very little to do with attacks on the Church and everything to do with human inventiveness combined with economic and political freedom. It was a process that was building for centuries and I only regret that the process wasn’t quicker. I would have died at 5 without penicillin. My father would never have walked but for advances in surgery a few decades before his birth. My mother would have been denied 12 years of her life but for the cancer treatments available in 1972. My wife and my twins would have died but for safe c-sections. We take for granted advances that our ancestors would have viewed as miracles and I am very grateful for them.

  • “To be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know because I don’t know who I should trust or why I ought to trust them. Credentials just don’t seem to cut it for me anymore, since people with letters after their names can be found on both sides.

    Who do you trust and why?”

    Trust? I tend to avoid reading with a hermeneutic of suspicion, unless I have a very good reason to do so. I just don’t have enough evidence that there is some massive conspiracy in the scientific world to over exaggerate the science on the large impact we have on the environment. In much of the scientific literature that I read, even from writers who have different politics than myself, I find very little “hard” science that cannot be interpreted in a Catholic light. To give a broad example, I see a confirmation of the Church’s critique of the modern industrial world in our recent discoveries concerning human induced climate change.

  • Another factor overlooked by population controllers: one of the most effective methods of spacing births practiced throughout human history has been the “ecological” breastfeeding of infants and toddlers for the first 2-3 years of their lives, a practice which is difficult for many modern women to adopt for various reasons.

    Historic studies of birth records going back to the Renaissance, and of certain ethnic and cultural groups such as the Amish and Hutterites, show that on average, a woman who married in her early 20s, breastfed all her children on demand as long as necessary, and practiced no other form of birth control would give birth to about 6 to 8 children in her lifetime, with the last birth occurring around age 40. Now, back when average life expectancy was in the mid-40s and nearly every family lost several children to disease, famine, etc. this was pretty close to a “replacement level” of fertility.

    When bottlefeeding became the preferred “scientific” and “sanitary” method of infant nourishment in the early to mid 20th century — and was heavily promoted in Third World countries — the result was that many women began getting pregnant every year, instead of every 2 to 3 years, and birth rates did begin to exceed replacement levels. In ancient and medieval times, women who gave birth to extremely large families of 15, 20 or more children, spaced only a year apart (sometimes less), tended to be noble or wealthy women with the means to hire wet nurses.

    The decline of breastfeeding and the resultant closer spacing of births probably fed a popular belief that without effective artificial contraception, women would be “doomed” to constant pregnancies and childbirths with little or no time to recover between them. Meanwhile, the discoveries that made natural family planning possible (e.g. the timing and signs of ovulation) didn’t occur until the late 1920s and it took several decades for doctors, etc. to get with the program (and some still haven’t).

  • “I will not deny the terrible abuses Joe, but I think industrialization was an absolutely crucial process for the well being of the great mass of the population.”

    But here’s the thing: most environmentalists, in my estimation, are not Luddites. Just as the Popes were critical of the narrow and exploitative way industrialization was carried out, and not of industrialization itself, so are most environmentalists critical of where certain industries are at today, considering what we know about climate change.

  • Brian,

    I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy. It isn’t “either trust what scientists say completely” or “scientists are involved in a massive conspiracy” – though I do believe the leaked e-mails are evidence of corruption on the part of some scientists, evidence that they are doing exactly that – exaggerating.

    What I mean is, what is it that causes you to trust what some scientists say and disregard what others say? Is it really as simple as the majority overrules the minority? Is it not true that in the history of science a minority that has gone against the prevailing wisdom has turned out to be correct in the long run? How are you so certain that isn’t the case now?

    I don’t believe the consensus really exists. The more digging I do, the more scientists, including real bona fide climate scientists, who say Co2 is not a deadly pollutant, but is actually good for the atmosphere, that temperatures are rising but at the same rate since before industrialization – a planetary recovery from the mini Ice age.

    We have two camps of scientists, both consisting of professionals with letters after their names, saying very different things. We also have a pretty deep political agenda accompanying the AGW scientists, though of course everyone accuses the skeptics of being hired by “big oil” – conspiracy theory for conspiracy theory.

    There IS evidence of collusion to hide unfavorable evidence, the destruction of data, even concerns that information might be accessed through the Freedom of Information Act. To me that sounds like evidence. Regardless, I believe that what is happening is that a correlation is being presented to us as a cause in order to push an agenda that would otherwise be extremely unpopular.

    Don,

    I don’t disagree that those are all wonderful things. My only concern is for an uncritical approach to industrialization that accepts all of its negative and sometimes evil consequences as collateral damage. I’ll say again that I do not believe the Church opposed industrialization, but she was highly critical of it and sought to put it on the right path. I think that was the right thing to do.

  • Let me just say that I am open to persuasion, but I am deeply concerned that what ought to be a scientific debate has turned so ridiculously ugly.

    People who believe global warming is a serious crisis are so fanatically intolerant of skeptics that no serious public debate has been allowed to take place. A theory that is secure, is sound, is supported by evidence, HAS NO NEED TO FEAR DEBATE. The excuse that the problem is too urgent for discussion is the rational of tyrants and oppressors.

    Because the vast majority of us are not scientists, it is all the more reason we ought to have access to both camps, to the “alarmists” and the “skeptics” or “deniers”. I want to hear a climatologist who accepts the mainstream narrative debunk the skeptics case point by point in a way I can understand. And if they say that they are above this, that they don’t have to do it, that we should trust them even without debate, well, how can a reasonable person accept that?

    What I see happening is very ugly, very troubling. I don’t care if the world is going to blow up in a year, before we agree to massive carbon taxes and a reordering of whole economies, to major political and cultural changes, we need to have a much more open debate than we have had thus far. The smearing of the skeptics is what makes me more skeptical than anything else. Copenhagen should have been a debate, the UN should allow debate, these scientists should be debating before the entire world for a week, a month, for at least as much time as we spend on murder trials and kidnapping fiascos and the Tiger Woods scandal.

    It all reinforces the sense that an agenda is being pushed on us. I don’t like it, and I will remain skeptical.

  • Joe,

    I don’t think consensus means majority, or that climate science is somehow split between camps of skeptics and proponents of human induced climate change. There are a wide range of ideas that attempt to explain data. There are many open questions, and of course everything is open to question. The peer review process, or, to put it differently, the scrutiny all theories face over time by other scientists, is how I would distinguish between good science and bad science. By good science, I wouldn’t say completely reliable, just more reliable than ideas that haven’t withstood or faced the same process. And while our understanding of climate change is always developing, and there are alot of differences over the particulars, there do seem to be some basic ideas that have withstood the test of time, namely, that rising CO2 in the atmosphere has contributed to global warming and that the reduction of CO2 emissions will have an effect on future temperature rises.

    Keep in mind that the stolen emails are, in fact, private emails that have been selected out of their original context. I’m not sure its appropriate to judge the content given how they were unethically and selectively required.

    With that said, I think there is something to the call for more open peer- reviewed journal process, which had already begun in certain quarters, although it also had its drawbacks.

    As to the “hockey stick” controversy, let me just say that there is a big difference between the controversy and what skeptics have made of the controversy, which reveals the difference between science and ideology. Check independent temp. data from boreholes, stalagmites, glaciers that together confirm an unprecedented rise in in recent decades.

  • “Let me just say that I am open to persuasion, but I am deeply concerned that what ought to be a scientific debate has turned so ridiculously ugly.”

    I would say that if anything is ugly, it is the politics or ideology creeping into the science. A good example is the dispute between Michael Mann and Stephen McIntyre over the now infamous “hockey stick graph”. The dispute was over technical aspects of methodology, not over the credibility of any theories of climate change. But since it was made into a dispute over climate change, it has become politicized.

  • Joe,

    You want to have a public “debate”, and that’s exactly what I’d like to avoid – although I guess it’s too late for that. You see we didn’t have a debate before we signed the Montreal Protocol. Most people didn’t know it happened. Nations just went ahead and took the recommendation of sound science and regulated the heck out of CFCs. Most current research has shown that if nations hadn’t acted a decisively back then, we’d be in trouble today. It was a non- partisan issue back then and it should be that way today.

  • “I want to hear a climatologist who accepts the mainstream narrative debunk the skeptics case point by point in a way I can understand.”

    That’s like reading an introduction to Catholicism that starts with areas of disagreement with Protestants. Better, in my view, to read a good book that gives a comprehensive overview of how climate science has developed. Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers is a good start. Then hold up the arguments of the skeptics and see if they “debunk” human induced global warming.

  • Brian,

    I respectfully disagree. What the UN and major governments are proposing are drastic changes to our society, and these are not to be undertaken lightly. A debate is wholly appropriate on such major matters in a democratic society.

    As for the rest, I am not convinced that Co2 being a dangerous, toxic pollutant as recently declared by the EPA has or will “stand the test of time.” I am not convinced that the skeptic’s argument about the rate of change remaining constant before and after the Industrial Revolution has been sufficiently engaged or debunked. If they are right, we are about to make a major mistake.

  • I wonder why no one has brought up the fact that Diane Francis has TWO CHILDREN!

  • Well thank you Rocky for bringing it up. What she proposes is obviously meant for people not as enlightened as she is, rather like Gore preaching about carbon foot prints as he jets around the world and maintains a huge mansion. Now there is a word for that type of behavior and it begins with an H. The word of course is hilarious!

  • For more information about the death of the Hockey stick graph, consult Steve McIntyre’s blog(climate audit). This graph has been thoroughly discredited and, anyway, most IPCC scientist agree that the purported AGW theory does not rise or fall on it.

2 Responses to Just in case you wondered …

The Economy Must Be Really Rotten

Thursday, December 10, AD 2009

From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  The Onion may be on shaky ground here.  I constantly get packages at home and at the office that could qualify as suspicious following the loving ministrations of the Post Office.  We recently sent a package to someone, and he told us that the package had tread marks on it, courtesy of having been run over by the USPS.

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7 Responses to Poll: Which is scarier?

Genuine Urban Renewal As Envisioned By Pope Benedict

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

Hat tip to Amy Welborn

Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday took advantage of a traditional homage paid to Our Lady by residents of Rome on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to deliver this timely reflection on urban life.

Some of you may remember the TV series “Naked City”, which closed with the famous line “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This… has been one of them.”  Then as now, of course, the media focused mainly on the stories of corruption, violence, and depravity; however, Pope Benedict reminds us that there are many, many other stories of grace which go untold and unnoticed.

I find this address particularly pertinent in light of the fact that many cities have come to be identified so closely with their most notorious residents or elements (e.g. gambling and prostitution in Las Vegas; decadent entertainment and lifestyles in L.A./Hollywood; political corruption in Chicago; financial greed on Wall Street/NYC) that it’s easy to forget the good that many of their residents do quietly and faithfully every day.

Here is his address in its entirety:
Dear brothers and sisters!
In the heart of Christian cities, Mary constitutes a sweet and reassuring presence. In her self-effacing style, she gives everyone peace and hope during the happy and sad moments of life. In churches, chapels or the walls of buildings, a painting, mosaic or a statue stand as a remainder of the Mother’s presence, constantly watching over her children. Here too in Piazza di Spagna, Mary stands high, on guard over Rome.
What does Mary tell the city? What does her presence remind us? It reminds us that “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more (Rom., 5:20), as the Apostle Paul wrote. She is the Immaculate Mother who tells people of our time: Do not be afraid, Jesus defeated evil, uprooted it, freeing us from his rule.
When do we need such good deeds? Every day, in the newspapers, television and radio, evil is told to us, said again, amplified, so that we get used to the most horrible things, and become desensitised. In a certain way, it poisons us, because the negative is never fully cleansed out of our system but accumulates day after day. The heart hardens and thoughts become gloomy. For this reason, the city needs Mary, whose presence speaks of God, reminds us of Grace’s victory over sin and makes us hope even in the humanly most difficult situations.
Those who invisible live or rather survive in the city. They make it to the front page of newspapers or the top of TV newscast—they are exploited until the end, for as long as the news and the images are newsworthy. Few can resist such a perverse mechanism. The city first, hides then exposes them to public scrutiny, without pity or with false pity. Everyone would like to be accepted as a person and considered as something sacred, because each human story is a sacred story that deserves the utmost of respect.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are the city! Each one of us contributes with our lives to its moral climate for better or worse. The border between good and evil runs across everyone’s heart and none of us should feel entitled to judge others. Instead, each one of us must feel duty-bound to improve ourselves. Mass media make us feel like “spectators” as if evil only touched others and that certain things could not happen to us. Instead, we are all “actors” for better or worse, and our behaviour influences others.
We often complain about air pollution, that in some parts of the city the air is unbreathable. That is true. Everyone must do his or her part to make the city a cleaner place. However, there is another kind of pollution, which the senses cannot easily perceive, but which is equally dangerous. It is the pollution of the spirit, which makes us smile less, makes us gloomier, less likely to greet one another or look into each other face . . .
The city has many faces, but sadly, collective factors lead us to forget what is behind them. All we see is the surface. People become bodies, and these bodies lose their soul, become faceless objects that can be exchanged and consumed.
Mary Immaculate helps us rediscover and defend what is inside people, because in her there is perfect transparency of soul and body. She is purity in person in the sense that the spirit, soul and body are fully coherent in her and with God’s will. Our Lady teaches us to open up to God’s action and to look at others as he does, starting with the heart, to look upon them with mercy, love, infinite tenderness, especially those who are lonely, scorned or exploited. “[W]here sins increased, grace overflows all the more.”
I want to pay tribute publicly to all those who in silence, in deeds not in words, strive to practice the Evangelical law of love which drivers the world forward. There are so many of them even here in Rome. They do not make the headlines. They are men and women of all ages, who realise that it is not worth condemning, complaining or recriminating; that it is better to respond to evil doing good; to changes things; or better, to changes people, hence improve society.
Dear Roman friends and all of you who live in this city! Whilst we are busy in everyday tasks, let us listen to Mary’s voice. Let us hear her silent but pressing appeal. She tells each one of us that wherever sin increases, may grace overflow all the more, first in our hearts, and then in our lives! Thus, the city shall be more beautiful, more Christian and more humane.
Thank you, Holy Mother, for this message of hope. Thank you for your silent but eloquent presence in the heart of our city. Immaculate Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, pray for us!
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A Perfect Post

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

Occasionally one runs across a post that’s particularly nicely done. I think Matthew Boudway’s recent reflections on a column by Clifford Longley on the new atheists comes dangerously close to perfect. It’s brief, highlights an interesting article, and adds a thoughtful perspective that provides more depth to the article it cites. Here’s a snippet:

[In response to Richard Dawkins’s claim that it is wrong to “indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them,”]

“There is no such thing as value-free parenting,” Longley writes…Longley proposes this as an argument about parenting, but it is hard to see why it wouldn’t also apply to education. If the argument doesn’t apply to education, why doesn’t it? If it does — and if it is a good argument — then people of faith have a compelling reason not to send their children to schools where the subject of religion qua religion is carefully avoided. One could, I suppose, argue that the tacit message of such schools is that religion is too important to get mixed up with the tedious but necessary stuff of primary education, but of course public schools approach important matters all the time, and cannot avoid doing so.

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Bishops Disappointed by Senate Vote to Kill Pro-Life Amendment

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Pro-Life Secretariat just released a statement denouncing the defeat of the Pro-Life Nelson Amendment.  In addition the USCCB will not support any health care bills that diminishes the Stupak Amendment that was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Here is their released statement in its entirety:

December 9, 2009

Bishops Call Vote a Grave Mistake and Serious Blow to Genuine Reform

Say the Senate Should Not Support Bill in its Current Form

Hope That House Provisions on Abortion Funding Prevail

BISHOPS DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED BY SENATE VOTE

TO TABLE NELSON-HATCH-CASEY AMENDMENT

WASHINGTON—“The Senate vote to table the Nelson-Hatch-Casey amendment is a grave mistake and a serious blow to genuine health care reform,” said Cardinal Francis George, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Senate is ignoring the promise made by President Obama and the will of the American people in failing to incorporate longstanding prohibitions on federal funding for abortion and plans that include abortion.”

Bishop William Murphy, Chair of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said: “Congress needs to retain existing abortion funding restrictions and safeguard conscience protections because the nation urgently needs health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. We will continue to work with Senators, Representatives and the Administration to achieve reform which meets these criteria. We hope the Senate will address the legislation’s fundamental flaw on abortion and remedy its serious problems related to conscience rights, affordability and treatment of immigrants.”

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67 Responses to Bishops Disappointed by Senate Vote to Kill Pro-Life Amendment

  • Personally, I think it is dangerous for the Bishops to weigh in on most prudential matters. Of course, they should oppose any legislation that would advance abortion, just as they should weigh in on all matters of grave morality. But while appropriate access to health care may have a moral component, whether a particular approach would be effective or most effective is well outside the charism of bishops. I’m far more interested in what health care economists say, as well as insurance companies, doctors, hospitals, and medical organizations. Big and small pharma too. And big city hospitals that serve the poor. All are stakeholders and have knowledge. But the Bishops and their staff don’t know any more than you or me. They just have impulsive policy preferences based on political bias just like you and me.

  • I think the bishops are fully invested in the process since they seem to be wedded to “universal coverage” in health care. Though I disagree on their method of implementing God’s Kingdom here on earth, at least they found “a” voice somewhere.

    Hopefully they’ll be more unified in the next election cycle when it comes to protecting the unborn among us.

  • Amazing that this ammendment was defeated on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Maybe the Bishops could take note of that also.

  • Phillip,

    Good catch.

    It may be an omen that the bill will be defeated in order to protect the most vulnerable among us.

    Or it could mean something else.

  • Tito – I thought you didn’t recognize the authority of the USCCB. Only when they agree with you I guess?

  • Michael I.,

    The bishops conference is not an authority of Catholic teaching.

    So I choose what I like from the USCCB.

    I only adhere to Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, and Sacred Tradition.

    Unlike you that adheres to Noam Chomsky, Karl Marx, and Bono.

  • The bishops conference is not an authority of Catholic teaching.

    This is not true, Tito, for the millionth time.

    And I’m not a fan of Bono.

  • I dunno … some of Bono’s earlier music is ok.

  • How exactly is the USCCB an authority of Catholic teaching?

  • Notice that Michael I. didn’t deny his adherence to Karl Marx.

  • Tito, I noticed and wasn’t at all surprised. No big scandal in my mind, since I have several misguided Marxist friends. We avoid politics and economics and just drink. I don’t see how Marxism can be squared with Catholicism though. But perhaps the USCCB has an authoritative teaching on how to do that. 😉

  • Although I would not call myself a Marxist, I’ve learned from Marx. As has the Roman Catholic Church and the rest of the human race.

    Mike – Um, because the USCCB are nothing but the bishops (you know, the successors of the Apostles!) in the united states.

  • Perhaps you and Tito would like to have a conversation about Marx, and about which of his ideas I agree with and don’t agree with, and whether or not the ideas I agree with are in opposition to Church teaching or whether the Church herself acknowledges said ideas?

    Or maybe you both can throw around the name “Marx” and the term “Marxism” without actually getting specific?

    Or maybe Tito will simply delete my comments when I ask him to actually get specific and show us how much he actually knows about Karl Marx?

    What about Chomsky, Tito? Can you explain to me what elements of Chomsky’s work are in opposition to Church teaching? Perhaps u.s. foreign policy is sacred and unable to be criticized?

  • The magisterial authority of a Bishops Conference is about that of an individual bishop. I think the document Apostolos Suos addresses this question. See here:

    http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/motu_proprio/documents/hf_jp-ii_motu-proprio_22071998_apostolos-suos_en.html

  • Michael I.,

    With the answer you provided so vague, vacuous, and open-ended, I’m surprised you haven’t found common cause with Mein Kampf or that writer.

  • It seems Michael is trolling.

  • Phillip – If you actually read Apostolos Suos and the relevant ecclesial documents, you will find that the issue is much more complex than your claim that “[t]he magisterial authority of a Bishops Conference is about that of an individual bishop.”

    Tito – You’re not making any sense. Could you rephrase for me? What was that about Hitler?

  • Michael I.,

    Garbage in, garbage out.

  • Of course its much more complicated than that. But of course, when one reads Apostolos Suos, one sees that a single dissenting vote by a bishop on a doctrinal matter ends the authority of the Conference and the matter must be referred to Rome. An individual bishop has that degree of authority in that he can stop the entire conference.

  • It is important to read the relevant ecclesial documents as well, including theological discussion on these matters. AS makes some interesting (non-infallible) claims about the authority of bishops conferences which are indeed in tension with, say, significant portions of Vatican II (which carry more weight than AS). AS strikes me as awfully mathematical, as if one rogue wacko bishop could threaten the authority of the teaching of the rest. Does not strike me as a very Catholic approach to authority.

    So yes, AS is important, but other documents are important too. And it’s important to read AS in its entirety and in context.

  • Of course AS can be read as a development of doctrine (non-infallible perhaps) though with greater magisterial teaching than theologians. As the theologian Cardianl Dulles noted, AS is the effort of the Church (read magisterial authority) to place the authority of conferences in its proper context (a limited one) which is only a reflection of individual bishops authority. This is the proper context.

  • Of course that would presuppose that much of what the USCCB does is pronouce on doctrinal matter. Actually most, such as its support of current health care legislation with three provisions, is doctrinal. It is of course not. It is prudential. Thus laymen can licitly disagree with their position in regards to the legislation in general.
    What is doctrinal is the USCCB’s defense of traditional Catholic teaching that abortion is an intrinsic evil. Thus Tito is on good ground in his position.

  • Funny, the way folks use the word “doctrinal” to draw artificial lines around certain ethical issues.

  • Only if one does not understand the distinction between intrinsic evils and prudential application of moral principles where licit differences apply.

  • Guys. Marx was generally good about diagnosing a lot of the problems of capitalism-particularly its tendency towards self-destruction due to the need for expansive greed.

    Now, his other ideas about history and individualism and God and pretty much everything else he wrote? utter garbage. But those that disagree with us often have a kernel of truth in them.

    Oh, and bishops are important, You should generally listen to them. (Darn it, I just agreed mostly with Michael I. I may get banned from this blog if I keep this up!)

  • Michael R. Denton,

    But those that disagree with us often have a kernel of truth in them.

    Karl Marx was born human.

    Michael I. was born human.

    I guess I found the kernel of truth in both of them.

  • I agree Michael D, though I can’t say Marx’s ideas about history were totally wrong – certain classes do gravitate to certain ideas. The casual relationship might be out of tune, but the correlation is there.

    The irony is that so much revolutionary nonsense, especially when it railed the hardest against Christianity, is really born out of a sort of childlike disappointment that humanity did not live up to the true standards of Christianity.

    I see much of revolutionary socialism stemming from what Moses Hess said to Marx – that the whole point was to “bring heaven down to Earth.”

    If we lived as Christians ought to live, consistently, fully, these people would disappear. In a sense I see the revolutionary scourge as, if not a punishment, an inevitable symptom of a society that has fallen off the right track. That is how Leo XIII and especially Pius XI saw it.

  • Michael,

    Yes, the bishops are important in matters of faith and morals. In matters of application of faith and morals to the political domain, that’s the role of the laity. The bishops may chime in with their prudential judgment. And I will assess their prudential judgment and use mine as is proper to the vocation of the Catholic layman.

  • Only if one does not understand the distinction between intrinsic evils and prudential application of moral principles where licit differences apply.

    I understand the distinction well, but that distinction is not a matter of doctrine vs. not-doctrine.

  • Ah yes. But one can never commit an intrinsic evil (abortion). One can disagree quite substantially on the way to provide health care to the population in general.

  • But one can never commit an intrinsic evil (abortion).

    Obviously.

    One can disagree quite substantially on the way to provide health care to the population in general.

    True. But Catholic teaching demands that health care actually be provided to the population in general. Most folks who “respectfully disagree” with the bishops on the health care issue have no desire to see health care extended to those who have no coverage, preferring free-market “you gotta earn yer health care” approaches. Basically what Catholic teaching allows is substantial disagreement on how universal health care is to be provided.

  • Tito – Do you not want to have a discussion about Marxism anymore?

  • Of course your present a false picture Michael. And what universal health care includes is not defined by the church. In my experience, America does in fact provide universal health care for children through S-CHIP. For the elderly with Medicare and with almost all poor with Medicare/Medicaid. Your point again is limited to a very false impression of what the government already does with health care in America.

  • Phillip – Show me where I am false, don’t simply claim what I have said is false.

    Millions of people are not covered in the united states. Millions of lives are ruined by this health care system. You cannot say with any seriousness that the u.s. provides universal health care.

    Another contradiction of the right: claiming on the one hand that the u.s. DOES provide universal health care, and then on the other hand in another argumentative context insisting that the u.s. should NOT provide universal health care.

  • Show that Obama’s plan will make it better.

  • Why? I’m not in favor of Obama’s plan. I’m in favor of the single-payer option.

  • Having said that, yes in fact S-CHIP and Medicare/Medicaid will cover almost everyone (S-CHIP will cover all children.) To claim otherwise is to not be based in the facts.

  • Nothing in Catholic Social teaching says there must be a single payer. Also nothing that says that such coverage must be equal across the board. These are licit areas of disagreement.

  • Having said that, yes in fact S-CHIP and Medicare/Medicaid will cover almost everyone (S-CHIP will cover all children.)

    All children = almost everyone? What?

    Nothing in Catholic Social teaching says there must be a single payer.

    I never said CST requires single payer. I said I am in favor of it. But CST requires that every person receive health care regardless of their ability to pay, i.e. universal health care.

    Also nothing that says that such coverage must be equal across the board. These are licit areas of disagreement.

    What exactly are you looking to get out of? Which persons do not deserve what? Please be specific since you seem to have something in mind.

  • S-Chip will cover all children. That takes care of that segment of the population. Medicaid and Medicare covers most others. That leaves a small number of people who do not have coverage. A basic plan that does not necessarily cover everything that a plan that others have would be consistent with CST. Basic health screenings, basic medications, basic procedures and emergency care – yes. Coronary bypass, more sophisticated medical care, more cutting edge medications – no.

  • Medicaid and Medicare covers most others.

    Most?

    That leaves a small number of people who do not have coverage.

    A “small number” is awfully imprecise. Are you saying that statistics reported and used by the USCCB are false? Is 40 million or whatever the statistic is a “small number”?

    A basic plan that does not necessarily cover everything that a plan that others have would be consistent with CST.

    The way you have phrased this indicates a “what can we get away with” approach to ethics

    Basic health screenings, basic medications, basic procedures and emergency care – yes. Coronary bypass, more sophisticated medical care, more cutting edge medications – no.

    Why should poor people NOT be able to have coronoary bypass surgeries? Why should they be denied “cutting edge medications”? Why are you intending to set up a class structure?

  • Actually the 40 million includes a large number of 18-39 year old who choose not to buy health insurance. A calculated risk but for most it is a wise economic choice. 11 million who qualify for Medicaid/S-CHIP are not enrolled. That would cover most of that 40 million number.
    CST does not require equality of outcome. A right in CST is that that would allow basic human flourishing. Vaccines and basic medications will. More elaborate plans are not required by CST. That’s been the teaching since Rerum Novarum

  • If you need bypass surgery or else you will die, then bypass surgery is basic to human flourishing.

  • Everyone will die. Even the rich will run out of options. Even with ordinary policies there is denial of care (transplants, experimental procedures.) The question is how much health care is a right.

  • I’m sure if Michael I. needed emergency surgery he would be crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. because he knows full well that the socialized health care in Canada would put him on a waiting list.

  • Not only that, but when he is older, deny a fair bit of care that he would get with ordinary, private policies in the U.S.

  • Everyone will die.

    Ah, here is your position. Crystal clear.

    I’m sure if Michael I. needed emergency surgery he would be crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. because he knows full well that the socialized health care in Canada would put him on a waiting list.

    1) I don’t live in Canada anymore. 2) I never had provincial health insurance while living in Canada because I am not Canadian. International students, until very recently, had to purchase private insurance. It was very inexpensive compared to the u.s. 3) In three years in Canada I did not meet a single Canadian who was unhappy with Canadian health care. Not one. I sought them out. They’re few and far between. 4) I am currently without health insurance.

  • You still didn’t answer the question.

    If you needed emergency surgery would you wait 3-6 months or would you jump back to the greatest nation in the history of the world, America?

  • Its not my position, it is God’s. Even Marx couldn’t overcome that.

  • You still didn’t answer the question.

    If you needed emergency surgery would you wait 3-6 months or would you jump back to the greatest nation in the history of the world, America?

    You never ASKED me a question. You said “Iafrate would probably do such and such.”

    But since you asked me directly this time…

    Presumably you are asking me assuming I still lived in Canada. Considering I had no U.S. health care at all when I lived in Canada I would obviously wait it out because “the greatest nation in the history of the world” would be of absolutely no help.

  • Phillip – What makes you hate poor people?

  • Tito, you are under the mis-apprehension that the US healthcare system is superior to that of other advanced economies. It is not.

    I am one of the lucky ones – I have insurance, decent by American standards. But in other countries I am familiar with, I can see doctors faster, I can get similar treatment, and I don’t have to deal with byzantine insurance bureacracies.

  • Michael I.,

    Are you going to scrub your fingertips until you scrape the skin off because they typed out the greatest nation in the history of the world?

    LOL

  • MM,

    Exchanging byzantine insurance bureaucracies for byzantine government bureaucracies is a step down in most people’s opinion.

    You may be able to get basic medical care at a lower price, but you will have to wait for most surgeries and other sophisticated medical procedures due to the lack of highly trained physicians being priced out of the market and to heavy regulation making it impossible to make a living in those fields.

  • Michael I.,

    i cut and pasted it.

    That was an awesome comeback!

    Niiice!

    🙂

  • But we are back to the point where we were before. The bishops have made a prudential judgment. Some laymen agree. Some disagree for different reasons. Abortion is an intrinsic evil. Obama’s health care plan is a prudential judgment. Elimination of class distinctions is not a component of CST. Rationing of some sort will happen as it does currently. Death is an inevitability. Not all health care that is available needs be present in a health plan to be moral.

  • The prudential judgment of the bishops is one thing, but their insistence that health coverage should be universal is not a prudential judgment.

    Abortion is an intrinsic evil.

    What does this have to do with it and why did you just throw it in the middle of this paragraph? Are you one of those “everything is really about abortion” types?

  • Just that the Senate plan just passed includes abortion coverage and the bishops have noted that one cannot support the current plan as a Catholic.

    Yes basic coverage for all is a Catholic principle. The problem with the bishops’ statement is that if abortion payment, as well as conscience provisions, were provided in the legislation, they would support it as being consistent with Catholic principles. This is their prudential judgment. Mine is that it does not. That’s the prudential judgment part.

  • I don’t see how universal “coverage” is anything but prudential. Universal access to basic health care may be a Catholic principle, but “coverage” suggests insurance, and the role of insurance is prudential. To the extent a society can afford it, no one should be denied access to basic health care. The extent to which that is actually happening in the US today is debatable, as is how improvements can be made. With proper protections against abortion, I have absolutely no problem with Catholics supporting a variant of the current legislation; I also have no problems with Catholics opposing it. To suggest that Catholics are required to support or oppose in such a case is just mistaken. Phillip is correct.

  • Thanks. Better said then my efforts.

  • Mike Petrik – But Catholics cannot support the standard republican line on health care. Period.

  • Michael,
    Discourse is not served by throwing our vagueries like “standard Republican line on health care.” Moreover, there is nothing in the GOP healthcare platform that is inimical to Catholic teaching. Period.

    http://www.gop.gov/solutions/healthcare

  • Moreover, there is nothing in the GOP healthcare platform that is inimical to Catholic teaching. Period.

    If you ignore all the lies in the platform, as represented in that link, maybe you statement would be true.

  • I rest my case.

  • Of course you do. Rest assured, too, in your “what can I get away with” ethic.

  • Michael,

    How can you on the one hand insist that only those who are ideologically sympathetic to you have an accurate understanding of what socialists/anarchists advocate, and yet on the other hand insist that only those who are _not_ Republican (indeed, only those who dislike them) have an accurate understanding of what Republicans advocate?