63 Responses to Of Protestants and Priorities

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I’m sure this is going to cause quite a row here.

    I’m going to be asleep when it begins, so I’m trusting you all to be on your best behavior. Yes, I sharply criticized a peer in the Catholic blogosphere, and I’m sure he’ll want to give his opinion it.

    I’m ok with sharp criticism in turn, as long as it doesn’t dissolve into personal attacks and stays focused on the arguments. Any comment of Mr. Karlson’s meeting that simple standard may be approved by any of my co-bloggers.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “certain leftists declare almost precisely the opposite: to not support policy A over policy B is to disobey the Church and delay the triumph of social justice.”

    Bingo.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “it is perfectly acceptable to pursue methods in political matters that have absolutely no place in theological or liturgical matters.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. For that reason, I think it’s acceptable for political “doctrines” to change over time and for people to be “cafeteria” Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, libertarians, etc. in a way that is forbidden to Catholics when it comes to Church teachings. I have no problem, for example, occasionally “dissenting” from GOP doctrine on issues such as taxation or illegal immigration.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    Heretic! :)

    “Put not your trust in princes” is sage advice when dealing with any politicians, no matter what label they attach to themselves. Anyone who embraces politics as a substitute religion is going to be bitterly disappointed. Likewise anyone who believes that religion can substitute for the necessary evil of politcs, and the sometimes gritty give and take that occurs therein, is also going to be bitterly disappointed. Christ, as always, knew what He was talking about when he distinguished God and Caesar.

  • Phillip says:

    Having worked on a Govt. committee there is a tremendous give and take. Took six months to get one sentence in a policiy document that said that parents are children’s first educators.

    Then you start to apply CST to more complex issues especially where CST itself seems to offer nuanced approaches. For example seeking to help the poor but making sure that such social policies do not create dependency on the govt. Or having redistribution of income to meet the basic needs of the poor but not increasing taxes to the point where it discourages productivity. Or recognizing the right to immigrate while also recognizing the immorality of illegal immigration and the right of the state to limit immigration.

    Yes people can disagree. Even with Vox Nova.

  • “the virtue of thinking like a modern European as opposed to the vice of thinking like an American”

    I prefer thinking like a Catholic, wherever you are from, than thinking in line with the dominant secular culture – which in the US is particularly aggressive form of liberal individualism. And yes, while the Church has little to say on how precisely to put principles into effect, she does insist that decisions be formed using correct principles. Otherwise, we might as well just throw out the entire corpus of Catholic social teaching. But the pope says precisely the opposite – authentic human development is integral human development, which applies all of Catholic social teaching (on life, on sexuality, on economic justice, on peace, on the environment) in unison.

    Anyway, the fullest expression of what I want to say about this is here: http://vox-nova.com/2010/07/21/lowry-and-ponnuru-are-exceptionally-wrong/

  • jh says:

    You are so right to pont out that only Certain Protestants are decalred unclean.

    I mean Newsweek was basically the unoffical NEWSmag of the Episcpal Church for a year and they have been constantly on the attack

  • Sydney Carton says:

    I don’t get why you engage with those abortion-minimizing libs over there. Ultimately, they’re willing to do business with the likes of Nancy Pelosi so that government-sponsored theft is called “justice” in their world. You know them by their fruits and their fruits are bad.

  • c matt says:

    MM, I don’t disagree with what you say in principle, but the problem seems to arise when our political options eschew certain aspects of CST. Is there an hierarchy of teachings, such that a political option which favors a higher CST to the detriment of another is a superior option to one that favors a lower CST at the expense of a higher one? And then what to do when two equally placed CSTs are in conflict between the two options – abstain?

    Speaking in the concrete, is the correct moral option when Reps are better on abortion, but worse on torture than Dems (a) vote Rep, and hold nose on torture, (b) vote Dem, and hold nose on abortion, or (c) vote 3rd party or abstain?

  • T. Shaw says:

    For years, vox nova has been unduly influenced by marxist/leninism.

    They call it catholic social justice. I call it carnalicism – an ungodly admixture of economic ignorance, materialism, statism, and unadulterated class hatred.

    The entire corpus of their private-label brand of CST needs to be thrown out.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MM,

    An interesting post about which I could say much.

    For now I will say, however, that do identify the now-crumbling social democratic welfare state with “Catholicism” as such is completely unwarranted.

    When this discredited model finally does breath its last breath, will that then be tantamount to the death of Catholicism in the political sphere?

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Shaw,

    You go too far. There are no Marxists at Vox Nova. Just a group of people who don’t seem to grasp that the social and political model they hold up as an ideal is fiscally, demographically, and culturally unsustainable, and who cannot imagine the possibilities inherent in a free economy.

  • Phillip says:

    Identifying the social democratic wlfare model with Catholic social teaching would be like identifying the geocentric model with Catholic theology. The latter would have been the death of Catholicism. Some cannot see the former also as not wed to Catholic truth.

  • Art Deco says:

    authentic human development is integral human development, which applies all of Catholic social teaching (on life, on sexuality, on economic justice, on peace, on the environment)

    A glossary for the reader:

    1. “Economic Justice” = Rube Goldberg schemes for collective purchase of the services of physicians.

    2. “Peace” = lawyer’s briefs on behalf of the world’s ugliest and most violent ethnic particularlists.

    3. “the Environment” = swallowing what James Hansen says hook, line, and sinker.

  • If you people want to get beyond the slogans and have a real debate, I’m waiting. The problem is, Catholic social teaching has always seen a vigorous role for government in correcting market injustices -either indirectly through empowering unions; or directly through its tax, transfer, and regulatory policies. Pope Benedict himself is on record as saying that democratic socialism is very close to Catholic social teaching, and that social safety nets need to be protected. Of course, we can argue over the precise ways to achieve these goals, but it is seems to be that the approach of the American right – to dismiss notions of economic justice on grounds of individual freedom – has no part whatsoever in Catholic social teaching. It never had and it never will.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Minion,

    I’ve never avoided debate. I believe that is exactly what you and I had when I criticized your simplistic and hyperbolic attack on American conservatism.

    “The problem is, Catholic social teaching has always seen a vigorous role for government in correcting market injustices”

    It is more accurate to say that CST has, in fact, advocated a range of approaches to correct market injustices – and that it is very easy to both selectively read, and misappropriate the language of the Papacy in order to suit narrow political agendas. The language is necessarily broad, and sometimes lends itself to these distortions, because CST is above all concerned with acknowledging the just and legitimate claims of many and sometimes hostile interests. Because it attempts to do this, it will always be more complicated than ideologues make it out to be.

    Take for just one example section 88 of Quadragesimo Anno. Pius XI condemns economic individualism, the idea that competition alone is a sufficient guarantee of justice. But he also completely rejects the notion that the state ought to become an “economic dictatorship”, and instead calls for the robust development of intermediary bodies and associations, as well as a moral adjustment. He warns against the consequences of the government becoming, as you would have it, “vigorous” in assigning to itself tasks that are not properly its own, thereby disrupting its legitimate functions.

    You greatly abuse and distort CST when you present it primarily as a list of policies to be implemented by governments as opposed to a moral and ethical orientation for participants in a free economy.

    “Pope Benedict himself is on record as saying that democratic socialism is very close to Catholic social teaching, and that social safety nets need to be protected.”

    Well his predecessor is also on record categorically rejecting the “welfare assistance state”, without which social democracy or “democratic socialism” ceases to exist in a recognizable form. I can’t even begin to speculate as to what “democratic socialism” means to Pope Benedict, but I can say that an unsustainable system is not made viable through such endorsements.

    ” Of course, we can argue over the precise ways to achieve these goals”

    This is precisely part of the problem as well. The “social safety net” is not an end – it is a means to an end. A failure to understand that is the beginning of all failures of further communication.

    A social safety net is a tool that we employ to achieve a desired result, and if that tool breaks or if the nature of the problem changes, then it becomes irrational to insist upon its further use regardless, just as it is always irrational and usually results in immorality when ends and means are conflated.

    “it is seems to be that the approach of the American right – to dismiss notions of economic justice on grounds of individual freedom – has no part whatsoever in Catholic social teaching. It never had and it never will.”

    It never occurs to you, or, unfortunately, to many hard-heads on the right who end up giving up on the concept altogether, that there are better ways to achieve the desired goals. Those ways are inherent in CST, but they exist alongside endorsements of social systems that are no longer viable.

    My one and only problem with CST lies in this fact – that Distributism and managerial statism (along with trade unionism) exist side-by-side as potential solutions to social and economic injustice in the Papal encyclicals, when in fact these two ideas are almost mutually exclusive.

    Distributism on the one hand absolutely requires the sort of free economy, within a strong legal and ethical framework, endorsed by JP II in Centesimus Annus. To the extent that workers become owners, they become more directly responsible for their own welfare, and a heavy-handed regulatory regime is no longer necessary to sort out competing claims to the wealth of society. Neither are trade unions or minimum wages required to inflate wages beyond their market price.

    The sort of heavy-handed regulatory regime that many leftists tease out of other parts of the encyclicals distorts and stifles this free economy. It perpetuates the very institutions that keep labor and capital separated in different persons. Labor unions can’t favor worker ownership without ceasing to be labor unions – and you can say the same about welfare bureaucracies, regulatory agencies, and all of the rest of the machinery of government that has been erected to ensure “fairness”, and never quite succeeding.

  • Tony says:

    MM, when the Pope, or any bishop, expresses a feeling that democratic socialism is very close to Catholic social teaching, they are expressing a personal opinion about concrete political situations that vary in degree from one country to the next. “Democratic socialism” exists in different ways in different countries, and there is no one definition of it that applies to all the situations and also that meets all of the requirements of CST. They are not expressing anything that amounts to a Church teaching as such.

    There are theoretical ways that the Church’s two foremost principles of the social order (solidarity and subsidiarity) can be made to co-exist in much less tension than EITHER the current democratic socialism models or the unrestrained free-market capitalism models provide. The fact that nobody has thoroughly explored such options speaks more about the poor imaginations of people caught in their own culture’s limitations than that such options can’t exist.

  • Joe,

    This may be tangential, but this sentence of your really struck me:

    To the extent that workers become owners, they become more directly responsible for their own welfare, and a heavy-handed regulatory regime is no longer necessary to sort out competing claims to the wealth of society.

    One of my major objections to unions (as they exist in the US) and some of the other labor justice tools or approaches often emphasized by those seeking a more robust place for government in protecting workers is that they often seem to make the object of the worker to be doing as little work — the exact opposive of behaving like an owner, and a mentality which seems to denegrate the dignity of work as understood by the Church.

    The anecdote that summarizes this for me springs from a point a number of hears ago when I had cause to be working at a daylong project in a park service facility back in California. The building opened up at 9am, and I got to work. At 10:30 one of the workers came in and told me, “Break time. Shut down and come take fifteen minutes for coffee or a smoke.”
    “You go ahead,” I said. “I’m doing fine here and I want to get this done.”
    The guy sat down next to me, “Listen, son,” he said. “We fought to get a break every ninety minutes in our contract, and you are going to take a break whether you are union or not. Now shut that machine down and come outside. If you don’t smoke, you can stand around for twenty minutes.”

    That seemed to crystalize the difference between union and non-union right there: I wanted to get my project done and go do something else. He wanted a fifteen minute break every ninety minutes.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Heh. Who needs 20 minutes to smoke? I’d be fine with 2.

    In all seriousness, though, this is precisely the sort of thing that worker-owners would be unwilling or unable to do. A unionized worker doesn’t think about the long-term interests of the company, only what his union can squeeze out of it. Profits may go up or down, but his contract will remain the same until it is challenged or renegotiated – and rarely does that happen without a fight.

    A worker-owner has a direct interest in the profitability of the company, which can’t be helped by 15 minute smoke breaks every hour and a half. His own income will likely be tied directly to his productivity as a worker.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Here’s a man who gets it, so very well:

    “State power on the one hand and economic and social power on the other have grown continuously and have progressively merged. The counterweights against this
    accumulation and alliance of power are federalism, local government, family, market economy, ownership, private enterprise, well earned rights, corps intermediaires – but they have become ever
    lighter during that period and by virtue of the same development.”

    That’s from Wilhelm Ropke’s “A Humane Economy”, one of the most fascinating and agreeable books I have ever read (with the exception of his rant about population problems)

  • Art Deco says:

    If you people want to get beyond the slogans and have a real debate, I’m waiting. …the approach of the American right – to dismiss notions of economic justice on grounds of individual freedom – has no part whatsoever in Catholic social teaching.

    Minion, in the course of your real debate you might…

    1. Stop pretending your interlocutor is Herbert Spencer; and

    2. Consider the possibility that someone might consider freedom of contract a component of economic justice.

    You might also clue us all in to what policy measures constitute (in your mind or your fancy of the Holy Father’s) ‘democratic socialism’. (For example, does it include fleecing the federal treasury or the bondholders to benefit the United Auto Workers?).

  • OK, I appreciate those of who are (between the hecklers) willing to debate on the issues. On these issues: You are absolutely correct that CST always has, and always will, condemn both collective and individualistic solutions. You are correct that Distributism and worker-owner models are perfectly consistent with CST.

    But the great virtue of CST is that it is practical. It provides a concrete road map for the here-and-now. And while the free exchange favored by distributists is good, we can be sure that the unfettered free market will not lead to just outcomes – rather than a Tolkien-esque ideal of harmonious smallholders, you get a concentration of power and resources in an “economic dictatorship”. I believe the great insight of CST (especially in Quadragesimo Anno) is precisely this one – that collective ownership of the means of production and the unfettered free markets of liberalism lead to equally unjust outcomes – Pius’s famous “twin rocks of shipwreck”

    So how do we avoid this? Well, first, by empowering subsidiary mediating institutions. On this principle, we all agree. But the singular mediating institution betwee individual and state in economic life is the trade union. This is a core conclusion of Rerum Novarum, and all CST has followed this line. But American liberalism (reflected here) doesn’t care much for unions. Sure, you can point to abuses (is there any perfect institution in this world?), but the fact remains that unions are essential to justice – that was true in Leo XIII’s day, and it is equally true today. Remember, the union is designed to foster subsidiarity, to protect human dignity, to allow workers to deal with powerful employers on par.

    The decline in union power (thanks to the Reagan liberals) coincided with the largest rise in economic inequality since before the Great Depression (the time of Quadragesimo Anno). See the reseach of University of Chicago’s Raghu Rajan, who shows that this very inequality in both cases led to a massive financial crisis. Rajan notes that between 1976 and 2007, 58 cents out of every dollar earned went to the top 1 per cent of households. And remember, CST also has things to say about inequality – that the distribution of the pie is actually more important than the size of the pie (John XXIII).

    This brings me to my second point. First, empower unions and other subsidiary institutions (small over large businesses, for example). Second, use the authority of the state itself. Primarily, this means social safety nets – CST sees the income security of workers and pensioners as a basic human right, as is health care provision. The state’s role is the entire common good, not merely to act as a referee between “free” economic agents (liberalism).

    John Pau1 II puts this well in Centesimus Annus: “the State has the duty of watching over the common good and of ensuring that every sector of social life, not excluding the economic one, contributes to achieving that good, while respecting the rightful autonomy of each sector…the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings…The State must contribute to the achievement of these goals both directly and indirectly. Indirectly and according to the principle of subsidiarity, by creating favourable conditions for the free exercise of economic activity, which will lead to abundant opportunities for employment and sources of wealth. Directly and according to the principle of solidarity, by defending the weakest, by placing certain limits on the autonomy of the parties who determine working conditions, and by ensuring in every case the necessary minimum support for the unemployed worker”.

    In other words, the role of the state is both direct and indirect. Many on the liberal right quote John Paul’s admonition against welfare dependency, which is a very valid concern in some countries. It is not, however, an argument against the welfare state (any more than an ineffective UN is an argument against a world political authority). See what JP2 had to say about this in Laborem Exercens, where he strongly defends the concept of income security.

  • jonathanjones02 says:

    Ropke is great, a vitally important continential conservative (and sadly outside of mainstream Anglo-American conservatism, except for the “paleos.”)

    And, Joe, this is an important point: “You greatly abuse and distort CST when you present it primarily as a list of policies to be implemented by governments as opposed to a moral and ethical orientation for participants in a free economy.”

    MM: Both you and right-liberals (the “freedom” loving aspects of many American conservatives) use this term improperly, as a boogyman/hooray-term. It does not exist – only as an ideological construct…..”unfettered free market.”

    This, I think, leads to both semantic and content problems in argument. Anyway -

    I am sympathetic to your points here, as elsewhere and at other times. The difficulty, briefly, here as elsewhere, is threefold. First, a sympathy to statist solutions that is not required of CST – and it is improper to imply otherwise, especially when married to the throwing around of loaded terms that don’t really exist. Second, “unions” in the U.S. has come to mean public sector unions, which are as far away from Solidarity as you can get without being Soviet funded. This is gravely lamentable…..which leads to the third point – you cannot have cheap labor, particularly over long periods of high arrivals from one ethnicity with a poor record of assimilation, and still hold views similar to yours (pro-worker, as I think of my own views). For wages to be high, land must be cheap and available, and labor costs must be high. Immigration, especially from Mexico, drives down wages. C. Chavez and H. Truman, men more restrictionist than I (and I want to dramatically curb all immigration) were right.

    Sorry to ramble, but you (and Joe H. before you, and I think he’s come around) should add immigration restrictionism to your views, which do seem to me to be admirably (if incompletely) motivated by a concern for those without high levels of education/skill/cognitive ability.

    I want wages to rise, and mass/cheap labor has a big hand in their destruction since the actions of 1965.

  • Phillip says:

    Though perhaps one way to think of the market is as Benedict XVI put in Caritas in Veritate:

    “The Church has always held that economic action is not to be regarded as something opposed to society. In and of itself, the market is not, and must not become, the place where the strong subdue the weak. Society does not have to protect itself from the market, as if the development of the latter were ipso facto to entail the death of authentically human relations. Admittedly, the market can be a negative force, not because it is so by nature, but because a certain ideology can make it so. It must be remembered that the market does not exist in the pure state. It is shaped by the cultural configurations which define it and give it direction. Economy and finance, as instruments, can be used badly when those at the helm are motivated by purely selfish ends. Instruments that are good in themselves can thereby be transformed into harmful ones. But it is man’s darkened reason that produces these consequences, not the instrument per se. Therefore it is not the instrument that must be called to account, but individuals, their moral conscience and their personal and social responsibility.”

  • Phillip says:

    I would also be interested where CST teaches that unions are the “singular” mediating institution between the individual and the state.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Benedict is a very smart man. The market is a means to an end — the end being an efficient allocation of resources. It is imperfect in that respect insomuch as perfect rational behavior and perfect information are inevitably absent. Nonetheless, no other system allocates resources nearly as efficiently as a general matter. Moreover, there are certain moral components to a market system in that it allows men to exercise a certain measure of freedom that is good and intended by God. But like all freedoms it can be abused. The best way to counter the abuse is by overlaying the market with a moral system that supercedes and transcends it. In other words it is essential that the market not be viewed as its own god ala Ayn Rand. It is not the only or highest good. But one should nonetheless proceed cautiously in disturbing market forces in that the results are often unintended and noxious. And the impulse to disturb those forces should be grounded in humane values such as charity and fairness rather than envy and thirst for power. The idea that greatly disparate outcomes are intrinsically evil and automatically merit adjustment is not a feature of CST and never will be.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    MM,

    “But the great virtue of CST is that it is practical. It provides a concrete road map for the here-and-now.”

    Unfortunately it does not in some respects. It must be plainly and simply stated that I have yet to see the Papacy tackle issues such as inflation and the money supply, or the demographic crisis underlying entitlement programs all over the developed world.

    If they did, I can hardly imagine that they would demand the preservation of welfarism at all costs – they would instead, I believe, highlight the importance of Distributism (which I take to mean employee ownership and economic democracy) as these old structures disintegrate and those who have become dependent upon them are forced to exist without them.

    It is not even a question if, but rather one of when, all of the pillars of the modern welfare state come crashing down, including the trade unions as they exist now.

    “And while the free exchange favored by distributists is good, we can be sure that the unfettered free market will not lead to just outcomes – rather than a Tolkien-esque ideal of harmonious smallholders, you get a concentration of power and resources in an “economic dictatorship”.”

    Precisely the problem here is a failure to imagine that a concentration of resources and power can be shared. I don’t want a “Tolkein-esque” ideal as perhaps some Distributists do, a society of nothing but small shops and small farms – I want the “bigness” and efficiency of modern industry to be retained but more equitably owned and controlled. That I think is the key difference between the Papacy’s conception of Distributism and that of some others.

    The market only leads to unjust outcomes when the wealth created by it accrues to a small minority. The spread of ownership is a better means than the welfare state of ensuring that this wealth is more equitably distributed. The welfare state causes more problems than it solves, and degrades the moral character of the people.

    Ownership does precisely the opposite. But insofar as people are welfare dependents, or secure in their union contracts, or raking in an inflated public sector salary, they are not becoming responsible and independent owners.

    These two solutions are not compatible in the long run, and one can only grow at the expense of the other. It is high time for ownership to replace welfarism, and for the free economy to replace the managerial state.

    “But American liberalism (reflected here) doesn’t care much for unions.”

    Everything must be reduced to a person’s country of origin. This is a risible approach to a political debate.

    I don’t care for unions because they are bloated, corrupt, and reactionary. For over a century they, along with the welfare-state, have delayed the transformation of the capitalist system from one of autocracy and oligarchy into a genuine democracy (I can’t use the phrase “democratic capitalism” because Bush Jr. and others have sullied it with a different meaning).

    “Sure, you can point to abuses (is there any perfect institution in this world?), but the fact remains that unions are essential to justice”

    Abuses there are, but they are only symptomatic of the structural flaws. It’s a shame that unionism AND ownership, which are two rather antagonistic and incompatible processes, are presented side by side as long-term solutions in the Papal encyclicals. But it is hardly the Papacy’s fault – everyone in the world thought unions were going to solve the social question, mitigate class conflict, ensure distributive justice, and all of the rest. All of those assumptions turned out to be wrong.

    There is only one hope for unions – to serve as brokers of an emerging culture of employee ownership. The U.S. Steelworkers MAY be going down this path by collaborating with the Mondragon. Others, hopefully, will follow their lead. But it is unlikely – since the unions are political racket and a pillar of support of the Democratic Party, most of them will continue doing exactly what it is they do – perpetuating class warfare instead of seeking out ways to genuinely improve the condition of the working class in the long-term.

    “Remember, the union is designed to foster subsidiarity, to protect human dignity, to allow workers to deal with powerful employers on par.”

    Hopefully, you’ll understand the reasons why I oppose unionism this time.

    “The decline in union power (thanks to the Reagan liberals) coincided with the largest rise in economic inequality since before the Great Depression (the time of Quadragesimo Anno).”

    I don’t disagree. But the unions declined precisely because they were instruments created for a specific purpose in a specific era – the purpose of continuously raising the wages of workers in the era of national economies. We are beyond that era, and have been for 40 years.

    “And remember, CST also has things to say about inequality – that the distribution of the pie is actually more important than the size of the pie (John XXIII).”

    CST also denies that employers should be forced to pay uncompetitive wages, which will ultimately put them out of business and deprive workers of any wage at all. This again highlights the tension in CST between the desire for economic justice and the recognition of practical economic facts.

    The way you secure greater equality is ownership, plain and simple. You transcend the wage issue, and you tie income directly to ownership, productivity, and profits. Like any modern CEO, every worker should be earning a wage/salary + dividens + whatever else they collectively decide is economically viable.

    “This brings me to my second point. First, empower unions and other subsidiary institutions (small over large businesses, for example).”

    That which is falling, should be pushed over. No more unionism.

    “Second, use the authority of the state itself. Primarily, this means social safety nets – CST sees the income security of workers and pensioners as a basic human right, as is health care provision. The state’s role is the entire common good, not merely to act as a referee between “free” economic agents (liberalism).”

    In no way is the “entire common good” served by pursuing policies that lead straight to bankruptcy. The state should act as a referee between free economic agents – that is precisely what is meant when we speak of the free economy within a strong legal framework. I also do not oppose the state playing the role of a coach, encouraging the spread of ownership and its common use through various incentives.

    I certainly oppose the state taking control of the scoreboard and assigning a team points that it didn’t earn and depriving another of points it rightfully earned.

    “the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings…”

    This is best achieved by ownership, which is strongly endorsed in Laborem Exercens. The state can play its role by encouraging more ownership and protecting property rights.

    “Directly and according to the principle of solidarity, by defending the weakest,”

    No one opposes this – if by weakest is meant the genuinely destitute and those unable to care for themselves.

    “by placing certain limits on the autonomy of the parties who determine working conditions,”

    Ownership solves this issue.

    “and by ensuring in every case the necessary minimum support for the unemployed worker”.

    I’m fine with unemployment benefits in an economy that works. But lets not use this as an excuse to argue about their merits in our economy, which is gross and toxic combination of welfarism and consumerism.

    “It is not, however, an argument against the welfare state (any more than an ineffective UN is an argument against a world political authority).”

    I draw a distinction between a social safety net and a welfare state. Kept to the minimal functions listed by JP II, a safety net is fine. It becomes a welfare state when it becomes a substitute for private initiative, when it usurps responsibilities that rightfully belong to individuals, families and communities. This is precisely what we have now, and it is failing across the board. It is a moral and an economic failure.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Johnathan,

    “Sorry to ramble, but you (and Joe H. before you, and I think he’s come around) should add immigration restrictionism to your views, which do seem to me to be admirably (if incompletely) motivated by a concern for those without high levels of education/skill/cognitive ability.”

    I have come around, though I certainly don’t think that permanent wage increases can be sustained by shutting down the borders forever.

  • >But the great virtue of CST is that it is practical. It provides a concrete road map for the here-and-now. And while the free exchange favored by distributists is good, we can be sure that the unfettered free market will not lead to just outcomes – rather than a Tolkien-esque ideal of harmonious smallholders, you get a concentration of power and resources in an “economic dictatorship”.

    It strikes me that if CST is meant to be a clear and practical roadmap for the here-and-now, then the papacy has done a rather poor job of getting this across. If CST were a set of one-size-fits-all, clear policy prescriptions (“The economy of all Catholic countries shall be set up in the following fashion… And let he that says otherwise be anathema.”) this could have been made far more clear. Rather, it seems to me, that popes have gone to great lengths to be specific in naming certain evils and in laying out certain moral and social principles while not laying out a clear and practical roadmap — for the very reason that there is no one specific roadmap for how to build a just economy.

    As I think about it, however, it seems to me that this is one of the most basic divisions between progressives and conservatives: The progressive vision is always implicitly utopian, seeing always the hope that there is some particular set of policies which, if applied with strength and firmness by a virtuous government, will result in justice and harmony.

    The conservative vision, on the other hand, sees all any solution as necessarily a balance and tension between competing extremes. If it is on the one hand necessary for the force of the state to reign in private abuse of power, no sooner is that accomplished then the guides of the state will use their newfound power to their own good, and it will be necessary to in turn reign in the state.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    I have to throw in another Ropke. This book is just marvelous.

    “There can be no doubt that the time when the welfare state stood in need of our assistance and advocacy has passed. There is no likelihood that the indispensable minimum of government-organized security will be lacking in this era of mass democracy, robust social
    powers, unleashed egalitarianism, and almost habitual “robbery by the ballot.” On the other hand, it is very likely indeed that this minimum may be dangerously exceeded, to the detriment of the people, the health of society, and the strength of our economy. There need be no hesitation, therefore, about which side we should support with whatever strength we may possess. It is the limits and dangers of the welfare state which require our critical attention, rather than its increasingly doubtful blessings.”

  • The stat was so off I had to go look it up — Rajan’s actual data point, which MM misquotes, is that 58% of the total increase in personal earnings since 1976 have gone to the top 1%.

    Of course, this is the sort of statistic it’s rather hard to draw conclusions from, since the question is, of course: would keeping the top 1% from increasing their earnings so much actually have benefitted the bottom 99% noticably?

    The actual percentage of national income captured by the top 1% (those making $350k and above) is in the high 20% range.

  • Art Deco says:

    I would be very suspicious of any claim that the share of personal income accruing to the most affluent 1% is that high. That looks more like a statistic on the distribution of assets. I have been looking at statistics on income distribution for 25 years and have never seen any such claim, even for Latin American countries.

  • I don’t see the specific article I pulled “high 20% range” from, it may have been wrong or in another year, but the a quick google gives me this for 2005:

    The top 1 percent received 21.8 percent of all reported income in 2005, up significantly from 19.8 percent the year before and more than double their share of income in 1980. The peak was in 1928, when the top 1 percent reported 23.9 percent of all income.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/29/business/29tax.html

    I’d be curious whether using tax data throws it off.

    MM’s figure of 58%, though, is ludicrous on the face of it. And like I said, I’m not clear how much sense it makes to see “total increase in income” as some pie which is divided between income groups.

  • mundabor says:

    “it is perfectly acceptable to pursue methods in political matters that have absolutely no place in theological or liturgical matters.”

    Perfectly reasonable, and well-reasoned.

    Theology deals with the matter of immutable Truth; politics with the matter of changing an imperfect reality. Politics doesn’t live in a vacuum. It is perfectly fine for Catholics to seek convergence and common battle with Protestants, *provided this does not become dilution of the Catholic message*.

    Abortion, Euthanasia, same-sex so-called marriages, freedom of speech and academic freedom (Dr. Ken Howell is a case in point) are just some of the issues where Catholics and Protestants can fight side by side. But this doesn’t mean to protestantise our mass so that they can feel nearer to us (or we nearer to them, as the case may be).

    M

  • Art Deco says:

    Darwin, I think the reporter misconstrued what was being measured. The article referred to the metric as ‘reported income’, which the reader might identify with personal income, and said that 22% accrued to the most affluent 1%. If you look at figures issued by the World Bank, they commonly report the most affluent quintile of the American population as receiving around 47% of disposable income and most affluent decile as receiving around 28% thereof. That would leave around 6% for the 9% or so in the most affluent decile but not in the most affluent percentile, and 19% for those in the most affluent quintile but not the most affluent decile. That leads to the following:

    Top 1%: incomes 22x mean
    2%-10%: incomes 0.66x mean
    11%-20%: incomes 1.9x mean

    The article defines the most affluent 1% as taxpayers reporting in excess of $348,000 per annum. The thing is, personal income per capita in 2005 was around $36,000, which would put personal income per household at around $86,000. Were households in the most affluent 1% similar in size to those in the remainder of the population, mean personal income per household would have to be 21.8 x 86,000 = $1.875 million, or more than five times the lower bound cited by the article (and in excess of 5x the figure for the population who make the 98th percentile but not the 99th).

  • Interesting. Good catch.

    I must admit, I’m always intrigued when these articles based on tax return data come out. I’m sure there are all sorts or privacy reason why this would be a bad idea, but I would be in data nervana if I could get hold of a data warehouse with each tax payer assigned some unique (but non identifying) key and all of their reported income data over the years available to play with along with a little bit of basic demographic information. Sigh…

  • JD says:

    The decline in union power (thanks to the Reagan liberals) coincided with the largest rise in economic inequality since before the Great Depression (the time of Quadragesimo Anno).

    It’s an interesting phenomenon when a supposedly intelligent person shows so little awareness of the principle that correlation isn’t causation.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    The Karlson post started off with Hugh Hewitt. Just a side note about Hewitt. He was a cradle Catholic who left the Church over the Bishop’s letter on economics, the same Bishops letter that caused Michael Novak to found Crisis Magazine. Lose Hewitt but gain Crisis. Go figure that.

    Hewitt told me this over drinks on the last night of the 2004 GOP convention in New York. I ran into him at the bar of a bar-b-que joint near Time Sguare. Great guy. Ended up giving him my Rosary. Told him he was welcome back any time and that the Bishops are getting better.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    And one point about the influence of protestants on the religious culture of America. Without them, we would have gone the tepid way of Europe that is so loved by Karlson and my friend Minion. The Evangelical brand of public religiosity has kept religion on the boil in America such that the faith is still alive here while is is barely living in Europe. We as faithful Catholics owe our Evangelical brothers and sisters a great debt even though their method of praying may set our teeth on edge. What Europe needs is a good dose of Evangelical street preachers such as the ones I watched circa 1981 in Washington DC who effected my own conversion to the Catholic Church.

    “Progressive” Catholics also cannot stand that true ecumenicism, the coming together of strong believers over common action with the result of a growing love and respect and even conversion, is actually happening among the orthodox.

  • Art Deco says:

    Mr. Ruse, ‘Europe’ is not Scandinavia. There remains a vigorous Catholic minority in Ireland, Poland, and most of the Mediterranean countries.

    Rapid securlarization occurred in places with a large population of observant protestants (the Netherlands) and in places thoroughly and intensely Catholic (Quebec). Then again, you can find places of both description where this did not happen (the United States and Malta).

  • Pauli says:

    The Evangelical brand of public religiosity has kept religion on the boil in America such that the faith is still alive here while is is barely living in Europe.

    I agree with this, and AR’s entire comment, and the original post–backwards, as I often read blogs. American Protestantism might not be able to produce the Sistine Chapel or Augustine’s Confessions or even Lord of the Rings. But can modern Europe in her present state produce a Dr. Scott Hahn or any of the other charismatic evangelical converts? Please correct me if I am missing them.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Art,
    I agree that rapid secularization has occured in both Protestant and Catholic areas, but I think that Mr. Ruse’s reference to the evangelical brand of Protestantism is fair. That brand simply does not exist in Europe in the way it does in America, and that probably does supply a partial explanation for the greater religious vibrancy in the US. If your point is that there is not greater religious vibrancy in the US then we disagree.

  • Art Deco says:

    I am grateful to evangelical protestants for doing most of the legwork on questions of common interest and for catching and shielding us from a good deal of flak from the purveyors of both high culture and mass entertainment. My point, to clarify, is that Europe can not be treated as a uniform tapestry and that the sources of secularization are difficult to discern and understanding situations in given loci likely requires granular knowledge of these areas.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    The Churches in Europe are largely empty, with the exception of Poland and Malta. They are nearly full to full in the United States even though we have also undergone rapid secularization. I chalk this up to the public religiosity of the protestants who unashamedly proclaim their faith in the public square, something Catholics are now also doing. Like i said, their way of praying is not mine. Their way of prayer makes me curdle. Still, I appreciate it. Europe could use some of it. Less Sorbonne, more Talledega!

    It is funny to me that the Vox Nova boys love European Catholicism so much when it is largely dying. Having said that, i do not believe that European Catholicism is over, not yet anyway. In fact, many of the bright spots in teh faith started there recently; Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Neocatechuminate Way, the Emmanuel Community, the Community of the Beatitudes and many others.

    However….like i said to a French Cabinet Minister who said that France could never lose the faith because “France is the eldest daughter of the faith”, go to Ephasus and see the faith there. Faith does not reside in stones but in human hearts.

  • David Raber says:

    The core idea of politcal conservatism in this country today is basically “I am not my brother’s keeper,” and this is why many Catholics find it hard to be conservatives in the current sense of the term.

    I can understand how a follower of Jesus can say that we cannot or should not look to government to help us to fulfill our obligation to love our neighbor as ourself, but if you say that you should also be working very hard indeed in some other direction to fulfill that obligation; or at least show me some vision or some plan about how that job can get done.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    David, Of course this is nonsense and bigotry. Read Arthur Brooks book on the topic. Conservatives in fact give far more to charity than liberals. they give THEIR OWN money not money taken from others.

  • Pauli says:

    The core idea of political conservatism in this country today is basically “I am not my brother’s keeper,”

    Uh… not really. But that’s a wonderful strawman you constructed, or borrowed from the left, more like.

    All the better since the line was first uttered by a man who murdered his brother out of envy for God’s blessings. Cain should have just joined a labor union.

  • David Raber says:

    Pauli,

    The strawman you speak of shows up often at Tea Party rallies, speaking loudly and frankly about what motivates him. He works hard and doesn’t want his money going to people who don’t, as he puts it.

    Austin may be one of these strawmen, speaking of conservatives giving “THEIR OWN money” to charity.

  • Donald R. McClarey says:

    “He works hard and doesn’t want his money going to people who don’t, as he puts it.

    Austin may be one of these strawmen, speaking of conservatives giving “THEIR OWN money” to charity”

    Actually Conservatives are far more charitable than liberals.
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/03/conservatives_more_liberal_giv.html

    I can understand this. If one embraces a political outlook that thinks that Big Government is the solution, private charity only serves to stand in the way of a Big Government solution to poverty by ameliorating conditions that would otherwise call for government action. The problem from a Christian point of view is that Christ was tireless in telling people of their individual obligation to the poor, but uttered not a word that indicated this duty could be shifted to Caesar.

  • Pauli says:

    Taking care of your own and those around you without the help of government follows the principle of subsidiarity. Otherwise the answer to “Am I my brother’s keeper?” becomes “No: Big Brother is everybody’s keeper.” The real folks shouting “be warmed and be fed” to the poor rather than helping them directly are those who ignore the principle of subsidiarity and prefer their paychecks be garnished to take care of “the poor” in the abstract.

  • Phillip says:

    I think that is part of CST also – that an anonymous bureaucracy is not charity. To think so is to belittle what the Church teaches.

    I think there are a number of ways to address the needs of others including, as Benedict XVI stated in Caritas in Veritate, being open to life in our own families. I suspect many Catholics who shout about all the life issues forget that if they block openness to life in their own families they are acting contrary to CST and the detachment from material goods that we are called to have. I also think, since many seek to help the poor and homeless, that adoption, particularly of older children, is a very powerful example of love.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    The Tea Party Patriot does not like his money being taken from him by guvmint bureaucrats. He would rather give his money to others himself, thank you very much. this is also the heart of Christian charity. This is why Americans are much more in line with Catholic Social Teaching then our European friends. Europeans don’t even support their own Church let alone their fellow man. Why? Because the guvmint supports the Church so why should they?

  • David Raber says:

    It seems that most conservatives have an almost pathological distrust of government–perhaps influenced by our nation’s history (relative to George III’s rule) and the history of Europe in the 20th century. This is a lot of history, but not all of history, and moreover the relevant history to judge by would be the history of specifically democratic governments.

    At any rate, an objective view reveals that government (like religion) can be a good thing or a bad thing–and as good government, it can indeed do good, i.e., be an agent of “charity” broadly understood, and as far as I can tell, this is the basic Catholic understanding of government.

  • Joe Hargrave says:

    Aww, look at that. Mr. Raber’s hissy fit about conservatives not wanting to part with their money for selfish reasons backfired, so now he’s shifting ground and sounding another old canard – “pathological distrust of government.”

    That beats “selfish a-hole who hates the poor”, I have to admit, but it still isn’t accurate.

    I trust the government in a federal, constitutional republic – the people and the constitution. I trust the political process as it was originally established by the founders, and when it is rooted in a Christian culture.

    What I don’t trust is the modern bureaucratic welfare-warfare state. What I don’t trust is centralized planning, nannyism, and the managerial impulse. I don’t trust the federal government to know what the best policies are for every neighborhood in America, or that technocrats can micro-manage an economy to prosperity while radical ideologues navigate it to “social justice” using threats and coercion.

    What modern socialist governments do is not charity – it is a perpetual shakedown of the productive part of the economy to fund the unproductive part, the bloated public sector bureaucracy that has been erected to micro-manage our lives, and the military-industrial complex that is used to create a new world order.

    You want to see more charity? Decentralize, deregulate, lower taxes and end state-sponsored anti-Christian bigotry. Catholic social teaching says that no man is obliged to give to charity what is needed to sustain himself and his family, and even to live a dignified level – only what remains after those conditions have been met. When the government vacuums 40% of your income, it becomes increasingly difficult to amass anything beyond this level.

    There’s also the plain fact that we live in a society like none that ever existed in human history, in which grinding poverty has virtually been eliminated from daily life. Yes, there are exceptions, there always are, but the point is this: many of us rarely see people who are so poor they can’t afford the basic necessities of life, beyond the odd homeless person. This may change if we head into another Great Depression of course.

    “an objective view reveals that government (like religion) can be a good thing or a bad thing”

    We don’t have a good government. There’s no “can” about it. It’s bad. So I say starve the beast.

  • Austin Ruse says:

    I do, however, trust the guvmint to tell me how much water i can have in my toilet bowl….and coming out of my shower. Now that is CST in action, boys.

  • Pauli says:

    There’s a line from one of the popes’ encyclicals, I think, that has always stuck with me: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.”

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