12

Our Pyrrhic Victory

I want to be excited about the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby and against the blatantly illegal and unjust HHS contraception mandate. But as I said back in March, writing for Crisis:

[In the event of a Hobby Lobby win] my celebration will be muted and limited, however, because a legal victory will not address the underlying philosophical and cultural divide that brought this case before the court to begin with. Contrary to what some may believe, law is not the foundation upon which society rests; it is rather the adhesive we use to patch up broken pieces of society. The more laws, precedents, mandates, rulings and decisions we require to defend our basic interests and assert our rights, the greater indication we have of a society that is almost literally tearing itself apart.

I’m not alone in this. James C. Capretta writes in The National Review:

But even in victory, it is hard to avoid the sinking feeling that having to fight at all over this issue is something of a defeat.

That’s because the HHS mandate was always a politically contrived issue without real legitimacy…

What’s most discouraging is that millions of American voters really seemed to buy it. The absurdity of the “war on women” claim has not undermined its potency. Unfortunately, the Hobby Lobby decision, welcome and necessary as it is, ensures that the “war on women” flag will be waved incessantly in the run-up to the 2014 midterm election. The GOP will need to do a far better job this time around in framing the issue and making it clear that what the Obama administration wants is not access to contraceptives but victory in a pointless ideological crusade.

And Ross Kaminsky at The American Spectator writes:

Although the Court got it right, conservatives and libertarians alike — namely any American who understands the primacy of our Founding principles over the utilitarian approach of statists — have an uphill battle on our hands when it comes to the population overall…

Until “hearts and minds” are changed so that Court decisions such as Hobby Lobby are heralded not only as correct, but as obviously so, these small victories mean little in the longer war against a determined and patient foe.

I was fairly certain from the beginning that the Court would rule in favor of Hobby Lobby. But the reason Hobby Lobby prevailed was because the administration failed to consider the possibility of simply paying for these contraceptives itself, i.e. with our tax dollars. Though I understand that in the context of case law and precedents, there is a significant distinction between compelling direct payment/participation and simply collecting taxes, in practice it amounts to the same thing. One way or another, we will all have our pockets picked to serve the federal government’s ideological agenda.

I was prepared for the hysteria and mass psychosis of the left and the radical feminists as well. From the moment it was announced and conservatives pointed out the slam-dunk case against it, proponents of the mandate have engaged in one of the most dishonest and demented propaganda campaigns in modern history. That they would now threaten violence with impunity is not surprising either. We live in two different philosophical, moral, and semantic universes. Between them exists a chasm which rational argument cannot cross. To even engage the mindless arguments against the ruling would be beneath any of us. Ginsberg’s dissent may be worth deconstructing, but I will leave that to people with more time (besides, I think Alito and, I never thought I’d say this, Kennedy did a fine job addressing her directly in their opinions).

The enemies of the Constitution, the 1st amendment and Christianity in this country have been handed a victory even in defeat, a banner around which to rally and reinforce their collective delusions. Against this insanity, which will be used against the tottering remnants of our republic and our churches like a battering ram, sober and reasoned discourse will not stand. Our enemies are not interested in it. They do not want it, any more than the Jacobins or the Bolsheviks wanted it. They want our heads on pikes and our hearts on platters, they want to write our epitaphs in blood and erase our memory from the Earth. If you don’t believe me, check out some of the reactions for yourself.

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Have We Always Been This Crazy?

You’re on the Internet, reading a politically-themed religious blog. You’ve heard about the shooting in Santa Barbara. I almost feel as if I’d be wasting my time and insulting your intelligence by providing a link. Long story short: a rich kid went nuts because no girls would sleep with him and killed a whole bunch of people. Then everyone immediately projected their ideological loves, fears, and hatreds onto the situation and into the Interwebs in a massive deluge. Only three things get people this worked up in the Twitterverse: race, gender, and sexual preferences. This time the wheel stopped at gender.

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The Debate Continues: CST, Markets & Morality

Ethika Politika strikes again: at me, that is, and my recent Crisis piece defending libertarianism from the charge of heresy contra Mark Shea. This time it is not my friend Gabriel Sanchez on the attack, but Gregory J. Guest. It is really quite something to read the sort of things that people assume you believe. The point of my Crisis piece was rather straightforward, I thought: the libertarian rejection of confiscatory taxation is not some kind of heretical argument, but finds justification in Pope Leo XIII’s defense of private property as inviolable and his explicit teaching that charity – the pretext upon which some would confiscate wealth at gunpoint – is not a duty of human justice (except in extreme cases).

According to Guest, however, I am defending an “ideology of license” and thereby our “materialist culture”; that I – and he wrongly shares this view with Sanchez – “discard all “ that doesn’t align with “preconceived notions” about business, government, etc.; that, once again, contrary to much of what I’ve written I do not “afford man a social nature” and that individual contracts are everything (stock anti-libertarian canards); and this is only for starters. Of course none of it is true: the defense of private property rights against the pretense of those advocating violent confiscation has nothing at all to do with an “ideology of license” or materialism. Moreover I’m quite open to as many radical alternatives to the traditional business model as people want to suggest, provided that they can actually persuade people to participate in them instead of forcing them. I do not deny, and no one in the classical liberal tradition has ever denied, the social nature of man; it is our belief in his social nature that justifies our rejection of the modern state, as many of its activities at least imply that we are somehow unable – i.e. that it is not in our nature – to organize our affairs and take care of each other without the threat of violence hanging over our heads. Coercive violence is anti-social; peaceful cooperation, which all libertarians advocate, is practically the definition of society.

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Touching Up The Ol’ Hermeneutic: A Reply To Gabriel Sanchez

Gabriel Sanchez, a Catholic author I know and respect, has written a critique of my – as he calls it – selective “hermeneutic” of libertarian Catholicism at Ethika Politica. Specifically he is critiquing my critique of Mark Shea’s indictment of libertarianism as heresy at Crisis magazine. It seems he at least agrees with my point that libertarianism is not heresy, but that may be where the agreement ends There are some broad points of his critique I want to address.

First there is Sanchez’s claim that my argument regarding the limits Leo places on the state with respect to taxation and charity is “strange.” The part of paragraph 22 that Sanchez says I “overlook” is irrelevant; in context, it is clear that Leo does not believe that the state has a duty to expropriate and confiscate wealth in the name of charity. I could have quoted more of that paragraph to support my point, such as “[n]o one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.”” After this, the part I did quote:

“But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(14) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law.”

Maybe we live in two different semantic universes, but in mine, when someone says “no one is commanded”, “not of justice”, “not enforced by human law”, the meaning is clear: the state has no obligation to confiscate the private property of citizens and distribute it to whomever it deems worthy. Whether to give and how much to give is a matter for each individual to decide. I suppose it is arguable that the state could do these things with the consent of the people, but it is not required to do so and the libertarian argument against them would remain quite valid.

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Shea & I: A Follow-Up

The-Pope-and-the-Inquisitor

I have a new piece up at Crisis regarding libertarianism and heresy inspired by a post on Mark Shea’s blog. Since I post there under my actual name, and since the reasons I had for writing under a pen name have largely vanished, I suppose my pen name is no longer needed here, though I will keep it because the Marquis de Bonchamps is still my hero. Anyway, I wanted to post some additional thoughts here for those interested, and since there are (as of 5/3, 11 am Pacific Time) 320 comments between my article and Shea’s reply, there might be a few. So here they are:

1) I didn’t choose the name of the piece – or the picture (above). Shea and I am sure others know that writers don’t often get this privilege when they submit something for publication. It’s not that I wholly object to the title and I like the painting, but I might have chosen something else. It wasn’t my intention to provoke the man.

2) Speaking of which, I haven’t followed Shea’s writings enough to know whether or not he deserves the almost unprecedented levels of animosity directed at him through the com-boxes. I’ve found some of his writing to be agreeable in the past and I have nothing personal against him. It was his claim, not his character, I was seeking to critique. I don’t approve of or condone the savaging of the man on a personal level.

3) Shea, through the com-boxes in his reply (though oddly not in the actual reply), thinks my argument is “silly” because if libertarianism is heretical, it can’t possibly be worth anything (thus rendering my probing questions in the opening of the piece superfluous). And yet in his original post (the second link above), he makes a practical argument against libertarianism and I am still not sure if it is the reason why he thinks it is heretical or if it is just some unrelated tangent. If libertarianism is heresy – end of story, end of debate – why proceed to make a rather half-hearted point against it, in this case, that it is somehow “utopian”? Or is that the reason he thinks it is heretical? He didn’t make that clear, hence the questions I pose in the piece. I also make clear that since I believe that a) libertarian arguments against confiscatory taxation are rooted in true and morally good principles and b) the Church does not reject what is true or good that c) it is very likely that at least what I call libertarianism is not “heretical.” I thought that was rather obvious.

One last thing: another publication will be posting a reply to my piece on Tuesday. I won’t give anymore details for now, but I expect a lively exchange to result.

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An Illiberal Catholic Assault on Hobby Lobby

Note: once again, this is a guest post by Stephen Herreid, not Bonchamps.

“Well, it turns out our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.” – President Barack Obama

“…America was never well-founded, so either needs to be differently re-founded or at least endured, even survived.” – Patrick Deneen

Faced with the historic government overreach that is the HHS mandate, it ought to be easier than ever for Christians to know who their enemies are. One would hope that in this desperate time conservatives and Christians would unite against the enemies of the Church, and defend the religious liberty that has already been half-robbed from us. Unlike in many other countries, where Christians are already third class citizens and some are killed and violated by the thousands, America is the home of a long-standing Constitutional Republic, a Rule of Law tradition that explicitly protects and honors our religious liberty. The army of the Left is united in its effort to topple that grand tradition and the Church that it protects. Appallingly, the army of the Right is not so united in their defense.

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Conservatives & The Eich Affair

Joseph Shaw over at LMS Chairman has posted a four part-critique of the conservative response to the Eich affair (and related incidents) titled “Why Conservatives Are Wrong.” Whereas Jeffery Tucker attacked conservative libertarians from the left, complaining about their “brutalism” in their assertion of their rights to live according to traditional and natural values, Shaw attacks from the right, following the general outline of the illiberal critique of the foundations of American political thought. A serious critique deserves a serious response, which is what I hope to provide here from a classical liberal perspective.

At the outset it is worth highlighting that Shaw, myself, and I imagine many of us on both sides of the “America is good/America sucks” divide share many common concerns and basic moral values. This is not a battle between left-wing “liberal” Catholics and orthodox “conservative” Catholics; it is a strategic and perhaps philosophical dispute between two groups that share a set of values and commitments to authentic Church doctrine and the natural moral law. Our most important point of agreement is that neither of us are “progressives”; we do not view history as a linear ascent to some utopian future in which fallen man has been redeemed by his own self-righteous awakening. We, political traditionalists and classical liberals both, ground ourselves in “self-evident truths” that do not change with the direction of the winds and in our belief in the superiority of reason to the irrational and fickle demands of the mob.

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Economic & Semantic Ignorance: It Rolls Downhill

 

Acton’s Power Blog covered yet another piece on Pope Francis’ salvo against the free market today in the run-up to his meeting with President Obama, and the theme is quite familiar: “Pope Francis is not an economist or technocrat laying out policy…”

It seems as though this is now a magic incantation by which anything and everything a person says about economics becomes acceptable and perhaps even praiseworthy. I could be grateful for the fact that there is a subtle implication here: if an actual economist were to say the things about free markets that Francis said, he wouldn’t have much credibility left as an economist.

The plain truth here is that whether or not a person is an economist has nothing to do with the actual nature of the statements they make. Let’s take a look at what Francis himself said in a follow-up interview to Evangelii Guadium:

I wasn’t speaking from a technical point of view, what I was trying to do was to give a picture of what is going on. The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view…

With all due respect, these are testable claims about empirical reality. “But what happens instead, is…” Yes, that is an empirical statement. An attempt to “give a picture of what is going on” is an attempt to explain reality. There’s no way out of it: these are “technical” statements, their lack of details or any evidence of systematic economic training notwithstanding. (I’m familiar with the translation controversies too – none of them help his case) Moreover, they are simply false. The world’s poor have benefited immensely from the globalization and liberalization of economies; according to the World Bank, in spite of a 59% increase in population in the developing world, the number of people living in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 per day) has fallen from 50% to 21% in the last 30 years.

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The Real Brutalism: A Critique of Jeffrey Tucker

If you haven’t heard, the libertarian Catholic Jeffrey Tucker has launched a salvo against libertarians he classifies as “brutalist.” What does he mean by this? In his words:

In the libertarian world, however, brutalism is rooted in the pure theory of the rights of individuals to live their values whatever they may be. The core truth is there and indisputable, but the application is made raw to push a point. Thus do the brutalists assert the right to be racist, the right to be a misogynist, the right to hate Jews or foreigners, the right to ignore civil standards of social engagement, the right to be uncivilized, to be rude and crude…

This, in contrast to the libertarian “humanitarians” among whom Tucker counts himself, who believe that:

Liberty allows peaceful human cooperation. It inspires the creative service of others. It keeps violence at bay. It allows for capital formation and prosperity. It protects human rights of all against invasion. It allows human associations of all sorts to flourish on their own terms. It socializes people with rewards toward getting along rather than tearing each other apart, and leads to a world in which people are valued as ends in themselves rather than fodder in the central plan.

It would be difficult to deny that there are libertarians who enjoy crudeness its own sake. But it appears that Tucker doesn’t really know what he wants. How can one favor the flourishing of “human associations of all sorts” and then complain about the ones that aren’t sufficiently polite? Take this muddle of contradictions from the same piece:

So let’s say you have a town that is taken over by a fundamentalist sect that excludes all peoples not of the faith, forces women into burka-like clothing, imposes a theocratic legal code, and ostracizes gays and lesbians. You might say that everyone is there voluntarily, but, even so, there is no liberalism present in this social arrangement at all. The brutalists will be on the front lines to defend such a microtyranny on grounds of decentralization, rights of property, and the right to discriminate and exclude—completely dismissing the larger picture here that, after all, people’s core aspirations to live a full and free life are being denied on a daily basis.

Is this town not a “sort” of “human association” that is operating “on its own terms”?

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23

Rand Paul: Frontrunner

After winning two CPAC polls and a spat with Ted Cruz in recent days, it is arguable that Rand Paul is the current GOP front-runner for the 2016 presidential election. Of course it is absurdly early to really make the call, but many of us have been expecting this trajectory since Paul was elected to the Senate in 2010. Some of us, myself included, have welcomed it.

On the non-negotiable issues for Catholics who even bother to vote in accordance with the natural moral law, Rand Paul is solid. He is 100% pro-life, supports the 10th amendment right of states to determine their own marriage laws, and has declared school choice “the civil rights issue of our day.” (Remember, the right of parents to educate their children as they see fit is a non-negotiable.)

On economics, he has proposed the establishment of free-enterprise zones for cities such as Detroit that have been devastated by decades of bureaucratic mismanagement, union thuggery and bloated government. The “social justice” crowd will never accept human freedom as a means by which the common good can be served, but the rest of us are under no obligation to ignore empirical reality. It is the creation of wealth that lifts masses of people out of poverty, and it is the unleashing of creative human potential from the pretensions of would-be social engineers and demagogues that allows the most wealth to be created and shared.

My only problem with Rand Paul is foreign policy. I imagine that some of my respected co-bloggers also have this problem, though for a much different reason than myself; they may see him as too much like his father, while I am disappointed that he is not overtly enough like him. Yes, I am a Ron Paul non-interventionist (I can’t stop you from calling me an “isolationist” in spite of my preference for free trade, the free flow of information and cultural exchange, but you should know that I’ll think you a moron if you do).

I was proud of Paul, and for the first time, much of the GOP, when it rejected Obama’s ambition to attack the Syrian government and send aid to Al-Qaeda (to switch our enemy from Eastasia to Eurasia). Since the Ukrainan crisis, Paul has been doing his best to straddle the fence and appease the interventionist hardliners as well as the loyal support base his father built up and which he needs to win his campaign for him. I am encouraged, however, that in spite of the obligatory denunciations of Putin that all US  politicians must offer, Paul has spoken of the dire need to protect the world’s persecuted Christians. As Putin has also often spoken of this need, perhaps this could form the basis of peace and cooperation between our nations. Nothing in my view is more dangerous, tragic, stupid and unnecessary than the antagonism currently brewing between the West and Russia over Ukraine – a situation that was deliberately inflamed by Western support and encouragement for the Ukrainian opposition.  Rand Paul will only have my support if he can prove himself to be above this irrational nonsense.

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Illiberal Catholicism: A Sharp Critique

[Please note: I, Bonchamps, am not the author of this piece. This is a guest post authored by Stephen Herreid that I believe is worth your time as it takes up a topic that has been of great interest to me as of late. Please address your comments to him.]

I’ve written elsewhere of Patrick Deneen’s coming-out as a “radical Catholic.” In his article “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching,” Deneen issues a clarion call for other radicals to join in his contempt for the “deeply flawed” American project. Deneen essentially makes an argument that conservative Catholics ought to see themselves as having more in common with the coercive left than with the Catholic struggle for religious freedom in America. Why? Because his brand of Catholicism is anti-American and anti-liberty first, Christian and pro-life second.

Following the publication of Deneen’s article at the American Conservative, the pro-American Catholic scholar Peter Lawler was quick to call out Deneen as “repulsively lacking in gratitude” toward an America which has treated Catholics so well. “His article should have been published in The Anti-American Conservative,” he quipped. Indeed, I wonder how we can include Deneen’s anti-American agenda among us while maintaining the moral objectives of Catholicism in America.

Deneen is the most respectable representative of a movement among Catholic “conservatives” that has been justly called illiberal Catholicism, a recently cobbled-together Frankenstein monster whose sewn-up pieces include reactionary European thought and modern American leftism. Those who adhere to this movement differ on many points, but what holds them together is their hostility to religious liberty, the market economy, American Protestants, conservative activism, the Republican party, and the pro-life movement as currently constituted. At a moment when the Church is in very real danger of losing her liberty, when Catholic institutions only retain what fragile protection they have through legal appeals to American ideals of liberty, Deneen’s camp has decided to lend their rhetorical aid to the left’s attack on those ideals. Yes, the current administration is attacking the foundational American principles and laws that protect the Church from persecution. But “America was never well-founded” anyway, writes Deneen, “so either needs to be differently re-founded or at least endured, even survived.” Sure, the federal government is robbing us of our religious liberty precisely by way of an unconstitutional attack on the economic liberty of Christian employers. But after all, Deneen believes that Catholics should be “deeply critical” of the free market. It is fair to ask: What on earth does he hope to achieve?

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A False Anthropological Dichotomy

Not long ago I examined an article by Patrick J. Deneen concerning the intellectual divide between American Catholics. If you will recall, Deenen divides American Catholics into a pro-America/liberal camp and an anti-America/illiberal or “radical” camp. At the heart of this divide, so they say (I will challenge this below) is an alleged conflict of “anthropologies”; it appears to be common currency on the illiberal side of the debate. Liberals – and to be clear, we’re talking about classical liberals for the most part – supposedly hold to an anthropological view that is self-centered and individualistic. Worse yet, in this view, human beings are allegedly driven primarily by fear and greed (when they aren’t gratifying their basest urges). All of this contemporary classical liberals are alleged to hold as demonstrated irrevocably by the laws of microeconomics and the sophisticated and often indecipherable mathematical models of neoclassical economists. Dig a bit deeper and the whole rotten anti-Christian edifice can be traced back to John Locke, whose “possessive individualism” birthed the demon-spawns of Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson and gave us the American commercial republic.

The reality, of course, is quite different. The fundamental value of classical liberalism is not “individualism”, but liberty. But the nature of liberty is such that only individuals can exercise it, for the human race is not a hive mind; each human being possesses his or her own intellect and will and is, barring some defect, responsible for the decisions they make. Metaphysical libertarianism, which is the position that human beings have free will, is a foundational assumption of Christianity (and indeed of any ethical system that presupposes human beings can make moral choices). It is also the foundational moral and methodological assumption of classical liberal sociology, political theory and economics. People are free by nature, and cannot be studied as if they were not free. And because we are free by nature, we are gravely harmed if we are unnecessarily restricted in our liberty by other men, including and especially governments.

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15

Tolerance and Graciousness in the Gay Marriage Debate

A blogger named Dennis Sanders has written about the recent controversy in Arizona from the perspective of a gay man (“married” and “a man of the cloth”, he says). There are two main ideas in his piece, one that is the centerpiece and another that is peripheral but also important. The centerpiece is that “marriage equality” advocates (I will call them same-sex marriage, or SSM advocates) ought to recognize that the refusal of orthodox Christians to participate in gay weddings is not necessarily or even often attributable to hatred and bigotry. Though SSM advocates may not understand or condone the religious and philosophical arguments we put forward, it would be better for society if people on both sides could stop assuming the absolute worst of one another. The peripheral argument is that this proposed change of tone and behavior on the part of gay marriage activists is necessary if they are to be gracious winners in the culture war. It is Sanders’ belief, shared by many on his side of the argument, that they have won this war even if we on the other side have not surrendered yet. His language is civil and conciliatory, though one still cannot help but feel that the main point here is “let the babies have their bottles.”

As far as the first argument goes, I am all for it. Though I am sure that Mr. Sanders would be deeply offended or perhaps just annoyed at my refusal to recognize his relationship with another man as a marriage, I have always been a proponent of true and authentic tolerance. Sanders quotes another writer on tolerance, and both he and this writer agree with me: tolerance is only possible in relation to something or someone we dislike. I dislike the “marriage equality” movement immensely, not simply because of some passages from the Bible, but because of its concentrated philosophical and political attack on the natural law foundations of Western civilization. Its incessant self-comparison to black civil rights struggles is as fallacious as it is nauseating; its core assumptions, taken to their fullest implications, are anarchistic and nihilistic. It is precisely because the vast majority of ordinary people rarely take their stated beliefs to their logical conclusions that I am able and willing to tolerate most of those beliefs. I believe we can have a pluralistic society, governed by the 10th amendment of the US Constitution, in which different people in different polities can establish different laws and customs by which they live. Furthermore, they can and should peacefully co-exist within the same American nation. Such was, I believe, the vision of our founding fathers.

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AZ “Anti-Gay” Bill Vetoed

As I expected, Arizona governor Jan Brewer has vetoed SB 1062. Though it has been described in the media as a bill that establishes a “right to deny service to gay and lesbian customers”, this is quite false. The aim of the bill was to provide the same protections currently afforded to religious institutions under state law to  “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church,” “estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity” and to allow religious defense to be used as a defense in lawsuits by the same entities.

In itself, the bill is harmless. It makes no reference to homosexuals, even though the outrageously unjust decision of Elane Photography v. Willock, which may be heard by the Supreme Court at some point in the reasonably near future, was the impetus behind it. In context, however, the bill was quite unnecessary and I believe will ultimately end up causing more harm than good.

In the first place, Elane v. Willock took place in New Mexico, wherein homosexuals are a “protected class” under NM state law. No such protections exist in AZ; ergo, no legislation along these lines was really needed at this time. The actual threat to religious liberty, at least from the vindictive sort of activism that has brought photographers and bakers to court, was non-existent. The summary and background written by proponents of the bill made Elane one of its core concerns without recognizing that NMs distinctive protections for homosexuals were responsible for the legal conflict in that state (as an aside, I do not believe Elane Photography refused service simply because Willock was gay).

Because the bill wasn’t really necessary and a tangible threat in the form of an actual lawsuit against a Christian business owner was not in play, it was easy to see it as an irrationally spiteful measure (as I would see the actions of Vanessa Willock against Elane Photography, by the way). Now it is one thing to have to put up with the left-wing media’s triumphalism when we have a moral duty to make a stand, as Elane Photography and other businesses have; it is another thing to have to witness the spectacle of melodrama from the homosexual political movement and its straight allies as Brewer announced her decision. The passage, veto, and failure of SB 1062 gave aid to our enemies who would trample our religious liberties into dust, and did harm to our own cause. I do not blame Brewer for this. I blame imprudence on the part our well-meaning friends in Arizona. As the governor herself put it:

Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.

We must only fight battles that need fighting. Preemptive strikes didn’t work out too well for George W. Bush and they aren’t going to work out well for the social conservative movement. Right now this country is split – roughly half of it agrees with our basic proposition that the right to free exercise of religion and conscience outweighs a gay couple’s right to have any business they like participate in their gay weddings. If we push for unnecessary legislation against vague or non-existent threats and hand PR victories to the enemies of liberty, that balance could shift against us in short order.

The moral high ground never belongs to perceived aggressors. Only those who strike back in legitimate self-defense can strike with overwhelming force and the moral support of the people. If this lesson is not absorbed, then our cause will never prevail.

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Liberalism, Capitalism & Pluralism: The Catholic Wars Continue

On February 6, The American Conservative published a piece by Patrick J. Deneen titled “A Catholic Showdown Worth Watching.” In it, Deneen outlines the positions of two hostile political camps within American Catholicism: the “liberal” camp and what he calls a more “radical”/illiberal camp. The liberal camp is characterized by its support for free-market capitalism, liberal democracy, a vigorous interventionist foreign policy, and the basic compatibility of the American republic with Catholicism. The radical illiberal camp is virtually the opposite in every respect; it is skeptical of and in my experience quite hostile towards free-market capitalism, contemptuous of liberal democracy, anti-interventionist and views the entire American project as a failed enterprise incompatible with Catholicism.

In my view there ought to be recognition of a third camp: Catholic libertarianism. Of course this immediately lends itself to semantic confusion. After all, some of what Deneen’s “liberals” hold would align with what libertarians hold, and both might lay claim to the descriptor of “classical liberalism.” The important point of dispute between this peculiar lot of liberals and libertarians proper, at least given the specific points raised by Deneen, would be the matter of foreign policy. Catholic libertarians such as Tom Woods and Judge Andrew Napolitano are resolutely opposed not only to American interventionism, but also to the growing domestic security apparatus that poses a threat to individual liberties. Deneen’s liberals, or at least the contemporary names such as Wiegel, Neuhaus, and Novak, may better be described as neo-conservatives. Insofar as the Catholic neo-conservatives share economic views with the libertarians, I will include them as “classical liberals” in the analysis to follow. It may also be argued that Catholic libertarians aligned with the Austrian school of economics and political theory are also quite critical of liberal democracy. Hans-Hermann Hoppe, an Austrian intellectual, has led the way in the libertarian critique of democracy and there is no reason to assume that a classical liberal is necessarily a democratic liberal.

Read the rest here. 

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The Majority Dissent

John Zmirak breaks down widespread resistance and dissent among Catholics on the issue of contraception in “The Shame of the Catholic Subculture” for The Catholic ThingThe most salient facts of the situation:

On a grave moral issue where several popes have invoked their full moral authority short of making an infallible declaration, 95 percent of U.S. Catholics (the number is surely higher in most of Europe) have rejected the guidance of Rome. They are not “bad Catholics” so much members of a new, dissenting sect – which happens to occupy most of the seats in most of the churches, and many of the pulpits and bishop’s offices, too.

I’m not sure that I agree that they are not “bad Catholics.” To the extent that they have been poorly catechized, this might be the case. Many of us know from personal experience however that there are plenty of people who say that they are Catholics, understand that Catholics must abide by the dogmatic teachings of the Church, and simply don’t. However they rationalize it is really not important to me.

On the other hand, Zmirak makes a convincing case for extending a tolerant and understanding olive branch to well-meaning dissenters (and that does not include all dissenters, mind you); they’re over 90% of the Church, perhaps over 95%, at least in the developed West. H also makes a good point about conservative/traditionalist circles that, while doctrinally orthodox, suffer from ideological stagnation and social isolation. The 90-95% need those who believe that truth is not optional to speak boldly for it, but not in a way that is alienating or unsympathetic to their concerns.

If, for instance, the problem with contraception is that an otherwise willing Catholic family feels it simply can’t handle the financial burden, then those of us who would have them hold to the teaching of the Church should be devising creative solutions to that problem. Perhaps living as self-contained nuclear families in a mass consumer society is not the way to live as Catholics. Perhaps local, voluntary, and bold projects are needed to unite people who wish to live the faith authentically, to share burdens and responsibilities – something beyond the mere handouts so often advocated by leftists. The pro-life movement has had great success with crisis pregnancy centers and other forms of relief for pregnant women; I see no reason why we can’t take it a step further and devise forms of relief for struggling parents.

Check it out!

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Brace Yourselves: The Dark Enlightenment is Upon Us

If you haven’t heard just yet, there is a new political ideology making headway mostly in the online world: neoreaction. A friend of mine, Nicholas Pell, has given the basic rundown of this movement complete with useful introductory links for Taki’s Magazine. It will be worth your time to familiarize yourselves with this movement, regardless of what you come to think of it or may think already, as I believe it will only grow with time. For those who don’t know, by the way, I’m your local, friendly, fringe political theorist 🙂

Though the neoreactionaries appear to be a diverse group, ranging from your familiar traditional Catholic monarchists to godless futurists and trans-humanists, they are united by one common belief: that democracy has failed. It is this singular belief, in my view, that distinguishes neoreactionaries from conservatives, at least in the United States. Many of the other beliefs I have seen expressed by NRs, such as a strong preference for hierarchy, order, rational discrimination, and things of this nature are acceptable to most conservatives who aren’t, say, Huntsmanites. Of course I distinguish conservative politicians, whose expressed views are subject to public scrutiny, from the average voter. 

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Religious Liberty: Necessity or Virtue?

Hello again TAC! It has been nearly a year since I posted here, and it is good to be back. I have a long one for you this time, but I think you will find it interesting and my hope is that it will contribute to an ongoing discussion about an important topic.

In December of last year John Zmirak, a Catholic author I know and respect, wrote a piece for Aleteia.org titled “Illiberal Catholicism.” In it, Zmirak takes to task a growing tendency among both Catholic traditionalists (bear in mind I consider myself a traditionalist) and various leftists to denigrate liberalism in general and America’s classical liberal heritage in particular. The piece rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, as several hundred Facebook posts I skimmed would attest. There were lengthier responses from some corners of the Catholic blogosphere as well. If I had to offer the thesis statement of the piece, it would be this:

 [T]here is something very serious going on in Catholic intellectual and educational circles, which — if it goes on unchecked — will threaten the pro-life cause, the Church’s influence in society, and the safety and freedom of individual Catholics in America.  The growth of illiberal Catholicism will strengthen the power of the intolerant secular left, revive (and fully justify) the old anti-Catholicism that long pervaded America, and make Catholics in the United States as laughably marginal as they now are in countries like Spain and France…

From there, Zmirak provides us with an overview of the lack of tolerance in Church history that was bound to rankle traditionalists, as well as an endorsement of political and economic liberty that anti-capitalist traditionalists and leftists could not but despise. He also explicitly identified with “Tea Party” Catholicism – what could be more philistine for the enlightened anti-capitalist crowd, traddie or leftie?

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12

Rand Paul Defends the Bill of Rights

“I have allowed the president to pick his political appointees…But I will not sit quietly and let him shred the Constitution.” — Senator Rand Paul (go here for more quotes)

Update: Senator Ted Cruz reads tweets supporting Rand Paul on the Senate floor.

Rand Paul has been filibustering the nomination of Obama’s pick to head the CIA, John Brennan. He is doing so because of a consistent refusal of Obama, Brennan, Holder and other administration higher-ups to clearly and unambiguously reject policies that violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens, including the right to due process prior to the deprivation of life, liberty or property.

I’ve been skeptical of Rand Paul for some time. I didn’t mind his endorsement of Romney, but I did mind his statements pledging unconditional defense of Israel in the event they are attacked. I don’t think this country should pledge unconditional defense of any country, least of all one with a nuclear arsenal of its own. His position on immigration isn’t quite what I would like either. I want it slowed to crawl and troop deployment on the border. He’s still playing the desperate “do anything to get Latino votes” game, a losing game for the GOP no matter what they propose. But I digress.

At this moment, there is no other prospective candidate for 2016 I would even consider supporting. Though there is still time for another acceptable candidate to emerge, today’s filibuster earns him major points in my book. It may be a largely symbolic gesture, but it is a necessary one. It lets the people of this country know that those of us who still value the Bill of Rights and view those rights as sacrosanct have an advocate at the higher levels of government. The value of this can’t be overstated.

I wish him all the best and my prayers are with him.

Oh, and read my latest post at Catholic Stand 🙂

21

Book Review: Return To Order

Return to Order

Title: Return To Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society

Author: John Horvat II

Publisher: York Press

Publication Date: January 2013

For my first TAC book review, I will be looking at a book that is being seriously promoted by the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP), Return To Order (RTO) by John Horvat II. I was somewhat familiar with the perspective of TFP prior to reading the book, having attended one of their conferences and read some of their basic literature. Horvat acknowledges his indebtedness to Dr. Plínio Corrêa de Oliveira, TFPs founder and primary theoretician who developed a historical narrative of the rise and fall of Christendom in the grand style I have always enjoyed and appreciated. Whereas Oliveira’s work, or at least what I have read of it, was broadly focused, Horvat’s analysis is specifically focused on the United States.

The premise of  Part I of RTO is that the cultural and economic crisis of the United States is rooted in a spiritual disorder that the author identifies as “frenetic intemperance”, a willful and energetic disregard for limitation and restraint in virtually all areas of life. Unlike many cultural and economic critics, Horvat does not blame “capitalism” for the development and proliferation of this spiritual disorder. Indeed, Part II of the book asserts that the technological progress and prosperity that capitalism has bestowed upon civilization could have been – and should have been – pursued within the cultural context of Christendom. There is no necessary connection between material progress and spiritual decay.

Horvat is firm in his rejection of socialism as a solution to cultural and economic disorder. Though he puts forward an idealistic view of the (capital S) State that I don’t think will ever be recovered, he does distinguish this ideal from the really-existing state, which is managed and staffed by people who loathe the remnants of Christendom and work ceaselessly to purge them from the society they are building.

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Dorothy Day: Anarcho-Capitalist, Perhaps

A Facebook friend brought my attention to the tug of war taking place over the legacy of Dorothy Day in recent months between pro and anti-capitalists. The Catholic Worker has criticized both the NY Times and Fr. Robert Sirico of the Acton Institute on Day-related matters. Liberals can’t claim her, so it is said, because she was anti-abortion and loyal to Church teaching, obviously never having gone the way of radical disobedient feminism. But conservatives and libertarians can’t claim her either because she rejected capitalism.

Or did she? As best I can tell, she neither practiced it or preached it as a way of life. And yet she did say the following:

We believe that social security legislation, now balled as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion…

Of course, Pope Pius XI said that, when such a crisis came about, in unemployment, fire, flood, earthquake, etc., the state had to enter in and help.

But we in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam.

If you don’t believe in “force and compulsion”, you believe – by logical necessity – that capitalism is at least permissible. At least capitalism as Fr. Sirico, Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard would define it, which is nothing more than private property + free exchange of goods and services. No capitalist along these lines, moreover, could or likely would raise any objection to voluntary collectivist projects such as workers cooperatives or agricultural communes. Voluntary Distributism, which Day supported in her writings, is capitalism.

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10

We Must Not Forget

I’ve been seeing it all over Facebook and some of the websites I frequent: an abortionist has killed another woman. The abortionist: LeRoy Carhart, a typically careless, deceptive, and incompetent child-killer. The woman: Jennifer Morbelli, who was seeking an abortion at 33 weeks. That’s the ninth month of pregnancy. The child: existed. And had a name, evidently, which was Madison Leigh.

I would have to be a heartless, emotionless robot to fail to understand why so many people are identifying Ms. Morbelli as “the victim” of Carhart. It seems rather obviously so, doesn’t it? Except it isn’t. It simply isn’t.

There is a point at which one’s rhetorical approach can become self-defeating and absurd. I don’t know why exactly Morbelli was seeking an abortion, but chances are it wasn’t to save her life – not that it would become acceptable in this case, but it would at least become more understandable. Speculation I have seen is that she was seeking a late-term abortion for a typical reason such as defects or deformities in the child.

In case you aren’t familiar with the procedure, a late-term or partial-birth abortion typically involves delivering a baby almost entirely save for the head, jamming a pair of scissors into the back of its neck, and sucking its brains out through a hose. So there is no doubt in my mind who the real victim was here.

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New Blog, Ron Paul & Other Things

Hello TAC. I haven’t been posting here as often as I once was since a) I wanted to get a new blog up and running and b) I am also going to be writing for Catholic Stand, and my first piece is appearing tomorrow.

My new blog is called “Liberty & Dignity.” It is not an explicitly Catholic blog, but it is devoted to a natural law/rights version of libertarianism called “paleo-libertarianism.” I distinguish paleo-libertarianism from other kinds of libertarianism in the following way: the paleo brand explicitly recognizes that liberty is a historical and cultural product as much as it is an abstract ideal, that it requires certain institutional prerequisites and supports, and that taken out of its proper context – like anything else – it can self-destruct. It is close to but not identical with paleo-conservatism.

My first article for Catholic Stand will explain how I believe all of this as a Catholic.

Now, onto the Ron Paul business. Obviously I don’t agree with many of the comments left on Paul Zummo’s post about Ron Paul being an inherently malicious person. At the same time, I found his comments to be wildly inappropriate and politically destructive, much like Todd Akin’s rape comments. His subsequent statements on his Facebook page really didn’t improve the situation either.

I am not too happy with his son either, for much different reasons, but you can read my blog to learn more about that.

Here at TAC and Catholic Stand I am going to continue focusing on the two issues that pose the greatest threat to religious liberty in our time: the HHS mandate and the “marriage equality” movement. I expect it will also be necessary to continue defending free markets and private property as our social democratic government continues its assault on both. Many Catholics still believe that they have a religious obligation to support a welfare state and open borders. These beliefs are toxic even if well-intended.

Well, that’s all for now. Let the comments roll.

16

Outrage & Disgust: Gun-Grabber Cuomo Pushes for Infanticide

I have been writing about politics, morality and religion for years now, and I often do so with a certain amount of passion and sometimes anger. I really thought I had seen it all in terms of hypocrisy and sheer moral blindness. I really didn’t think it could get much worse. But here we are.

In case you haven’t yet heard, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo is aggressively pushing for a bill that would legalize late-term abortions in his state. It would allow non-doctors to perform them. It would eliminate parental notification laws – all of this, according to the Democrats for Life, who are as disgusted as I am with this man and his agenda.

And there is is plenty to be disgusted with here. Partial-birth abortions themselves are disgusting, the violent dismemberment of a tiny human being usually for the convenience of someone else. Abortion clinics are often disgusting, staffed by incompetents and criminals, the refuse of the legitimate and respectable medical profession. The rest of Cuomo’s legislation is pretty bad as well, including coercive wealth redistribution and other infringements upon liberty and property in the name of “gender equality”, something the coercive arm of the state has no business getting involved in at all.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, is more disgusting than the sight of this man himself, who just recently pushed through some of the most aggressive anti-gun rights legislation in the entire country, supposedly for the children. Here is what the unconscionable scumbag declared while promoting his gun policies:

“This is a scourge on society,” Cuomo said Monday night, one month after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that took the lives of 20 first graders and six educators. “At what point do you say, ‘No more innocent loss of life.”‘

What I want to know is, at what point does someone slap Andrew Cuomo so hard, so many times, that he never again has the gall to speak of “innocent loss of life” while promoting the mass-murder of infants with dirty metal tools in dirty little rooms? At what point do we, perhaps, strap him to a chair and force him to watch the scissors being jammed into the back of the child’s neck before its brains are vacuumed out? At what point do we go absolutely crazy, unable to bear for another day, another moment, a moral blindness and/or hypocrisy so heavy and so dark that you just want to to completely give up?

I don’t really have much more to say about it. Not much more should be said about it. At this point you either see how completely messed up this is, or you’re hopeless and we can’t communicate. Finally, check out my new personal blog, where I will try to contain all of the foreign policy and civil liberty stuff that TAC readers can’t stand. You know, the Ron Paul echo chamber stuff.

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The Slaughter of Innocents

"Slaughter of the Innocents" by Ghirlandaio Domenico

“Slaughter of the Innocents” by Ghirlandaio Domenico

I never quite know what to say whenever a public tragedy occurs. Everything sounds like an obligatory platitude, or something that has already been said, or something that shouldn’t even need to be said. Ultimately the slaying of 20 innocent children along with 6 adults is horrific beyond words.

The reality we live in is one in which almost everyone agrees that to “politicize” tragedy is wrong, and in which almost everyone does it anyway. It didn’t take long for the gun-grabbers to begin howling against the NRA, the 2nd amendment, and guns in general. Some of the howling may really be sincere. Children died, and emotions are running extremely high. Some people may really believe that taking away my right to own a gun, and the rights of millions upon millions of sane, decent people’s right to do the same, is necessary to protect society from the handful of psychotic individuals who will use guns to inflict harm on the innocent.

So this is not an angry tirade against the gun-grabbers (as well as the others I will surely also offend). If I could inject tone into written words, I’d say this is more of a plea, though not a hysterical one.

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The Origins and Role of Government

So we’ve been discussing the proper role of the state on this blog recently, particularly as it relates to the legalization of marijuana. This discussion, in all of its unfortunate snarkiness and nastiness (to which I freely admit having contributed, not that I’m proud of it) is really a discussion on the proper role of the state.

I think it is rather uncontroversial to assert that America was basically founded upon the Lockean social contract theory. We begin with the proposition that everyone has basic natural rights: to life, liberty, and property. In a hypothetical scenario in which there is no coercive authority (the state/government), we must also act as our own judge, jury and executioner. In this anarchic situation, our rights to life, liberty and property are unsecured. In order to secure them, we collectively renounce our right to be our own personal government and transfer that right to a government we establish by contract. Our property – life, liberty and estate – is more valuable and necessary for life than our “right” to do as we please, when we please, to whomever we please.

The terms of the contract are rather simple. They are stated very simply in the Declaration of Independence. Governments exist to protect our natural rights. They don’t exist to make us “better people” – that’s what the Church is for. They don’t exist in order to achieve “social justice” – that is what private charity and free markets are for. The individual American states were founded by people of like-minds who wanted to establish communities that reflected their religious values – Pennsylvania for Quakers, Maryland for Catholics, and so on. The Constitution was created by the states mostly for the purposes of common security.

Government is not a positive good. It is an evil necessary to prevent the greater evils that would result from total anarchy. As such, it must be kept on the tightest of all possible leashes, which is why so many Americans demanded a Bill of Rights as a condition for the ratification of the Constitution. If men in a state of anarchy would be evil, they don’t suddenly become angels because we give them titles, badges, and offices. The evil in our hearts is the evil in their hearts, and the greater the scope and depth of the powers we give to governments, the greater potential for evil we establish.

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14

The Forgotten Men & Women of America


In 1883, William Graham Sumner published an essay titled “The Forgotten Man” (originally titled “On the Case of a Certain Man Who Is Never Thought Of” – not quite as catchy) which is as relevant today as it was when it was written. The essay is a great exposition of the laissez-faire understanding and approach to social problems and articulates what I believe many on the libertarian right and within the Tea Party believe today. From a Catholic point of view, there is much I find agreeable within it, though there are certain tangents, unnecessary to the main argument, that I would take issue with.

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145

Thinking Rationally About Secession

Secession has been in the news lately. Well, not the mainstream news, for the most part, but local, Internet and alternative news outlets have been reporting a growing number of signatures added to secession petitions submitted to Washington (one has it at over 750,000 signatures). This began almost immediately after President Obama’s reelection, and while no one really expects this particular movement to go anywhere, people on both sides of our political divide take it somewhat seriously as a sign of how polarized and unstable our situation has become.

I’m going to tell you what I think about secession, and my hope is that readers will find it somewhat reasonable. In short, I reject the absolutely hysterical and frothing narrative that comes from some leftist quarters about the evil of secession. I don’t much appreciate the haughty dismissal and contempt that comes from some on both the left and the right, as if only a mental patient would want to secede from what America has become. Lastly, I don’t agree with the secessionists, but it has nothing to do with any sort of moral or philosophical objection to the principle of secession (I don’t think it is racist or crazy, in other words). Now to the meat and bones.

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26

Why We’re Not Going Anywhere

Archdiocese launches Campaign for Religious Liberty

Let me explain, in as clear and precise terms as I can, why social conservatives are not going anywhere, nor should they go anywhere, but should remain right at the heart of the conservative movement and gain acceptance among libertarians as well, and should reject as the foolish garbage that it is all suggestions to the contrary.

First, our principles are not electoral losers. Leftists believe they are on “the right side of history”, comparing the campaign for “marriage equality” with every civil rights struggle of past eras. They believe that this fact is reflected in the way the youth vote splits and the purported reasons why. At the same time, they gloat and brag about the size of the Democratic share of the minority vote.

The merits of the “marriage equality” campaign don’t need to be discussed here. I’ve discussed them to death on this blog in previous posts. The fact remains that minorities are opposed to “marriage equality.” If Hispanics can be won over to the GOP on the immigration issue, it will put a stop to this “wrong side of history” nonsense for a generation. The uncomfortable alliance between racial minorities who hold socially conservative views and white liberals will finally be blown apart. Unlike them, when racial minorities finally do side with the GOP en masse, we won’t attribute white liberal hatred for them to “racism” (even though it sure looks like it sometimes). This is a battle of values, not skin colors, and a failure to see that is one of the reasons why the white liberal left will never win the future they mistakenly believe to be theirs.

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25

What Is To Be Done?

The narrative game has begun. One of the major memes we can expect to hear now that the GOP lost the presidential race is that “extremism” is to blame. Many of us know that it was absurd to label Mitt Romney “extreme” on anything. Even those on the other side willing to concede this point will say something like “the GOP is being held hostage by the extreme right” and “the Tea Party is to blame for the GOP defeat.” This is all, of course, complete nonsense, but many Republicans will buy it.

I honestly don’t know if it is possible to isolate and eliminate the factors that are ultimately responsible for Barack Obama’s reelection and Mitt Romney’s crushing defeat last night. What I do know is this: in 2004, President Bush was said to have won primarily because of a surge of evangelical voters who stormed the polls to defeat gay marriage initiatives in key swing states. Last night, voters approved gay marriage in three states and defeated two GOP Senate candidates because of remarks they made to the media about rape and abortion. Neither “extremism” in general or the “Tea Party” is to blame; commentators have been quick to point out that Akin was not a Tea Party choice and that perfectly moderate Republicans such as Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin went down in defeat last night.

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13

Wednesday’s Narratives

By Wednesday morning, we will likely know who the 45th president of the United States is. I say “likely” because it possible that we won’t know due to all kinds of logistical problems associated with tallying elections. Assuming there is a clear winner, though, we will hear different narratives from different camps about the significance of the outcome. Here is what I am thinking we may see.

If Obama wins…

Conservatives will blame Romney, if the margin of defeat is incontestable. His perceived increase in likability will be swept under a tide of commentaries about his remoteness and inability to connect with the average voter. He will join the ranks of GOP losers such as Bob Dole and John McCain and will, hopefully, fade away. If the margin of defeat is extremely narrow, moderate Republicans will probably take the changing demographics narrative to heart while hard conservatives will blame either a) Mitt’s moderation in policy and tactics, which will have proved unable to motivate the base and get out the vote, and/or b) claims of voter fraud and other shenanigans on the part of the Obama camp. In either case, the atmosphere of despair and hopelessness will be thick and heavy, especially in the face of Democratic triumphalism.

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18

Election 2012: One Last Argument for Mitt

The election is almost upon us, and many of us have made up our minds as to whom we are going to vote for, or whether we will even bother to vote at all. On the slight chance that someone from the ever-shrinking pool of undecided voters in a critical county in a vital swing state stumbles upon this blog post, the even less likely chance that they are Catholic, and the even less likely chance that their Catholic faith informs their political conscience, I’ll make one last appeal for a GOP vote.

I say a GOP vote, and not a Romney vote, because a) the most important issue at stake in this election really only depends upon which party, not individual man, is in power, and b) many people on the fence probably aren’t very enthused about Romney the man. I’ll admit that even as someone who has made up his mind, I am still not enthused. Granted, Romney isn’t as awful as many of us imagined him to be before he took Obama to the woodshed in the first presidential debate, it still isn’t easy to joyfully rally to his banner. He lacks the consistency and commitment to principle of the enigmatic Ron Paul, a pretty old guy who manages to get thousands of  modern American 20-somethings to care about things other than themselves, which is nothing short of miraculous in its own right. Still, he has emerged as a capable enough candidate for the highest office in the land. But let’s return to the issues.

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17

Enough is Enough: Rape Babies Don’t Deserve Death

Thank the Good Lord I am not a politician. If I were running for office, what I am about to write would undoubtedly cause me to plummet in the polls and induce a heart attack for my campaign manager. It is up to us – bloggers, polemicists, wags, editorialists, etc. – to say plainly and boldly what politicians cannot say. By now hundreds if not thousands of us on the pro-life side of the spectrum have weighed in on the mountain that the Obama campaign and the leftist media have made out of the molehill of the “rape exception” that many self-identified pro-lifers hold. FYI: it is a molehill not because rape is no big deal, but because less than 1% of abortions are performed on rape babies. I don’t know if what I have to say will be different from what you have read, but I’m about to douse this issue in gasoline and light a match, so check yourselves now.

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3

Language & Determinism

I have been obsessively reading articles on neuroscience, determinism and free will lately. Much of what I read is fascinating, but it is what I haven’t read that I find even more interesting. As I type these words, I am making, with each word, what I would call a choice. Some choices are easier than others, obviously, if I want my post to follow the basic rules of spelling and grammar that currently govern the English language.

I am doing something more than that, however. I am also assuming that what I write will be read by people who can also make choices. If I am merely disseminating information, there won’t be a choice I am imploring you to make. If I am attempting to convince you that one position regarding a controversial topic – free will vs. determinism, perhaps – is correct and the other is false, I am certainly acting as if you have a really-existing capacity of choosing. You will take the information I supply, sufficiently reflect on its implications for your value system, and decide it is worth acting upon or at least considering. That is the hope, at least.

It is a hope that is undeniably present in virtually every appeal for determinism I have read. Here is one of the more blatant offenders:

 We have or are capable of two sorts of attitude, and thus we may respond to determinism with dismay or intransigence. But we can also attempt to respond in another way. We can attempt to change our feelings. We can see what we must give up, and what we can keep, and the value of what we can keep. This can be called the response of affirmation.

Really? We may? We can? How? How might we do that? What faculty enables me to do these things? I call it free will. If free will is something other than this faculty, I don’t know what free will is.

Here is another example, this time of an author spelling out the implication of determinism:

What we should discard is the idea of punishment as retribution, which rests on the false notion that people can choose to do wrong.

I scratch my head in awe and wonder that someone who just insisted that free will is an illusion and choice a myth can make appeals to reason, to an imagined faculty of choosing. In many of the articles I read, the determinists are always described as “rational” or even “hyper-rational”, they’re so rational that they are bursting and oozing with rationality from every pore and orifice.

And yet there is no rational form of communication that can convey their most fundamental premises and beliefs. Advanced human communication, verbal and nonverbal alike, presupposes the capacity to choose. Articles by determinists are filled with moral exhortations for positive action, for changes of heart and attitude, for compassion towards the poor sinners who couldn’t have chosen not to sin.  These are not the grunts and groans of mindless animals, but the deliberately and freely chosen words of conscious beings who would like to see people behave and think differently than they currently do.

There is something deeply wrong with a worldview that must continually acknowledge that its premises sound absurd from the standpoint of human experience  but are justified by “the science.” Free will isn’t the false idea here. It is physicalism. Free will is how we describe what occurs millions of times in the life of millions of human beings every day. Physicalism is how presumptuous opposition to anything even resembling the supernatural or religious ought to be described. But who will have the courage to challenge physicalism instead of merely defending the constantly experienced reality of free will?

 

 

17

Scoring the Debate

I was a little disappointed to see some mainstream conservative pundits declare Obama the victory of the debate “on points.”

Obama, to his credit, performed much better this time around. He kept pace with Romney and landed a number of critical blows. He came out ahead on the Benghazi exchange, though as other pundits noted, the story tomorrow may not look so good for him. But I don’t think Obama can be declared the winner of the debate.

Each issue ranks differently on the list of importance for voters. I think many of us would agree that the economy is by far the most important issue for most voters, including the undecided voters who were present at the debate and in the post-debate focus groups. Given this, it follows that winning an exchange during the debate on the economy ought to be weighted more heavily than winning an exchange over other issues. Of course almost all issues can be related back to the economy, but some are more “purely” economic than others.

On those issues, I thought Romney emerged the clear victor. I think he presented himself as someone with a superior working knowledge of business and economics, and probably inspired more confidence in his ability to handle the nation’s economic problems than the President.  Double Romney’s points for every answer that created the impression that he knows more about economics than Obama, and he becomes the clear winner of the debate.

I may just sleep through the foreign policy debate, though. My regular readers know why. I’m a Paulbot anti-American isolationist! No one represents my views. Oh well.

55

VP Debate: Not What I Expected

I’m sure many of you will disagree with me, seeing as how this is a mostly conservative blog, but I do not think Paul Ryan won tonight’s debate. In fact, I was disappointed in his overall performance, particularly his weak answers on abortion.

Yes I’m glad he raised the religious liberty issue, but he should have taken a moment to insist that opposition to abortion is rooted in the belief that all innocent human beings, born and unborn, deserve protection under the law. We all know that “life begins at conception.” The question is not when life begins, but when the right to life begins. Ryan’s hands may be tied to a certain extent by Romney’s position, which admits for various exceptions – conditions under which it is ok to butcher an innocent unborn child. Even so, he could have answered much better than he did.

That aside, I believe Biden dominated the debate. I know I am not the only one making this comparison, but it looked like a Thanksgiving dinner. To some it looked like mean old uncle Joe trying to beat up on nephew Paul, who held his own. To others, including myself, it looked like mean but knowledgeable Uncle Joe schooling a somewhat intimidated whippersnapper.

What I think, fortunately, doesn’t matter. Some post-debate polls, such as CNN’s, said Ryan won the debate, while others, such as CBS’s, had Biden winning. It appears that the debate was a tie game, with Biden having met his primary objective and Ryan having (mostly) stood his ground. Perhaps I am more disappointed than most because I expected much more from Ryan. I didn’t expect him to be a foreign policy whiz, but I expected more fight out of him on economic issues and certainly a whole lot more on social issues, particularly abortion.

Maybe he could take lessons from Ron Paul on how to respond next time (if there is a next time, in 2016 perhaps).

 

24

Prudence: The Lost Virtue

What does it mean to exercise “prudential judgment”? In recent years this phrase has been thrown around quite a bit in Catholic circles. I recently read a Facebook update arguing that prudential judgment is to the conservative right what “the demands of conscience” (I paraphrase) are for the liberal left. In both cases, so it is said, you have cafeteria Catholics putting politics over doctrine, and using these phrases to cover-up their misdeeds.

Of course there is some truth to this idea, but not a lot. When we speak of “prudential judgment”, we are almost always speaking of the most efficient way to attain a given objective. The moral mandate to care for the poor is non-negotiable, which is why we must reject the vicious anti-altruism of someone like Ayn Rand. Even if this is agreed to semantic disputes are unavoidable. What does it mean to “care for”, and who qualifies as “poor”? Obviously there are radically different and in some cases mutually exclusive concepts behind these words in different camps. Even if understanding can be achieved here, there will still be disputes over how this is to be done. This is where we exercise prudential judgment.

The bigger problem, in my view, is the presumption that prudence and morality are somehow distinct. Prudence is a virtue, after all. To deliberately ignore prudence and pursue whatever policy sounded the most righteous as it was being proposed isn’t moral at all – in fact, such behavior ought to be denounced as recklessly immoral. The act of prudential judgment itself is not something distinct from moral behavior, but is in fact essential to moral behavior. The possibility that more harm than good will be done if a particular policy is pursued is always worth considering, no matter how morally justifiable it appears in the heat of the moment.

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24

Russia Defends Traditional Values

Mother Russia has done it again: this time, it pushed through a UN resolution affirming the link between traditional values and human rights. It did so against the protests of European and American delegations, who were primarily concerned about the implications that such an affirmation would have for gay rights.

The European and U.S. delegations repeatedly complained that “traditional values” is a vague concept used to justify violence and discrimination against women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) persons.

Homosexual activists are not happy:

Support for traditional values is deeply troublesome to LGBT groups, as the Gay Star News reports. They are worried it will be used to defend the natural family, and fear they will be unable to de-criminalize homosexuality worldwide.

I am thrilled to see that there is a relatively powerful nation on this planet that isn’t an Islamic theocracy willing to defend traditional values before the entire world. I am elated to see Russia brushing aside as the anti-social insanity that it is the complaints of LGTB activists and their UN proxies.

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5

This One’s For You, Chris

One of the more amusing episodes of the post-debate media coverage was Chris Matthew’s on-air meltdown, in which he shouts to his fellow MSNBC panelists “where was Obama tonight!?” and “he [Romney] was WINNING!” among (many) other things. It was priceless:

It’s hard to believe it was only four years ago that Matthews, to his everlasting shame, announced that Obama sent a thrill up his leg.

It would appear, then, that:

It’s more than the title, too. I mean, it’s clear that Obama has done Chris quite wrong, and that he will be sorry someday – unless he heeds Matthew’s warning and starts taking cues on how to debate from him and his colleagues (pray that Obama actually does it).

In all seriousness, Romney was the clear winner of the debate. But this was really nothing compared to the massacre that is going to take place on October 11. I’ll be watching with pizza and imported beer!

24

Stupid Meme: Libertarianism & “Gay Marriage”

One of the more annoying memes I am often confronted with is the automatic assumption that libertarians must be for “gay marriage.”I can understand why some people automatically assume such things in good faith, but I can also tell when the leftist media is attempting to exploit an apparent rift between libertarians and conservatives on the right. Whenever I read somewhere that there may be tension between different wings of the American right on an issue such as “gay marriage”, it is almost never a conservative or a libertarian writing it.

Is it consistent with libertarianism to be an uncritical and loud advocate of “gay marriage”? In my view, the answer is no. In fact, it is more consistent with libertarianism, at least in the current political climate and given the way the issue is currently framed, to be opposed to the “marriage equality” movement. The word “equality” ought to be the first indication to a libertarian that something may be amiss, since egalitarian movements are often statist, sometimes outright totalitarian movements that seek to achieve an ideal of equality by sheer force. Communism is the most obvious example, but what feminist and certain racial groups have achieved on college campuses is only a microcosm of what they would like to see in society at large: free speech utterly silenced, opposing views ostracized, careers denied or ruined over the utterance of a heterodox opinion (just view the archives of The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for countless examples). To some extent this already does happen in society at large, but only selectively – for now.

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18

Third Party Love & Hate

A couple of posts at Breitbart’s “Big Government” site have resulted in thousands of comments  and intense debate between libertarians and conservatives, and between libertarians themselves over the merits of supporting a third-party/independent alternative to Mitt Romney. Having been involved in third-party politics myself at one point in my life, I am sympathetic to the cause. But given the stakes this November, I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote for Romney, as I’ve already posted here at TAC.

I must say, however, in response Kurt Schlichter (the author of the aforelinked pieces) that I regard this as a highly personal choice, and not one that I am willing to guilt others into making. On many of the issues that matter to me and other Ron Paul supporters, Romney is absolutely abysmal and nearly indistinguishable from Obama, whether we are talking about civil liberties, constitutional protection of the lives of American citizens (even the bad ones), foreign policy, monetary policy, and a host of related issues. Those who prioritize such issues cannot be expected to give Romney their vote. There was also the disgraceful treatment of Ron Paul and his delegates by the GOP at the RNC this year. Schlichter would have us basically forget all about it.

With that said, however, when Ron Paul stopped actively campaigning for the GOP nomination, his candidacy in effect came to an end. There certainly is something bizarre about a pledge to vote for a man who by the looks of things would like to settle into a well-deserved, hard-earned retirement from public life. I always suspected that Paul didn’t really want to be president. Some see this as a positive trait, and it can be in certain contexts, but men also need leaders. If that makes me sound fascistic, so be it. Human nature is what it is.

So people who accept the reality that Paul is unable or unwilling to capture the nomination and the Presidency are then faced with other options. I’ve explained my choice, but many others are considering Gary Johnson, and Schlichter is addressing them as well (as well as Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate’s supporters). Aside from the fact that Johnson is pro-choice and therefore unsupportable for Catholics, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to support either of these men as an alternative to Romney.

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8

Murray Rothbard & Catholic Political Thought

Traditionalist Catholics are typically not fans of Murray Rothbard. And yet as I read more of his work, I find more reasons to appreciate Rothbard’s insights into political theory, which I believe were shaped by a deeper appreciation for the Catholic political and philosophical tradition than some are willing to admit. It is easy to see Rothbard as nothing more than a secular Jewish atheist who opposed “the Old Order” and supported unrestricted personal liberty. And yet he spent his final years advocating for Pat Buchanan’s presidential run and his socially conservative platform.

That there is an affinity for Catholicism in Rothbard’s thought is not surprising. He identifies the Catholic countries, above all Austria, as the originators of subjective-utility economics, while Protestant countries such as Britain developed more labor-centric economic theories. The Catholic tradition had identified consumption (in moderation) as a worthwhile activity and goal; the Calvinist tradition emphasized hard labor as the primary good and consumption as a necessary evil at best. He writes:

Conversely, it is no accident that the Austrian School, the major challenge to the Smith-Ricardo vision, arose in a country that was not only solidly Catholic, but whose values and attitudes were still heavily influenced by Aristotelian and Thomist thought. The German precursors of the Austrian School flourished, not in Protestant and anti-Catholic Prussia, but in those German states that were either Catholic or were politically allied to Austria rather than Prussia.

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7

How I Chose To Argue For Free Will

Hello TAC, it is good to be posting again after a prolonged illness that left me unable to do anything but make half-conscious Facebook updates. I have been following the news, and for the sake of our collective sanity, I am going to refrain from extended commentary on foreign affairs. Instead I wanted to share with you an interesting discussion I had recently with some rather confident, cocky atheists on the question of free will.

It had begun as a debate on the so-called “problem of evil.” They think we have a problem with evil; maybe some Christians do, but I don’t. But I do think atheists – by which I mean Western, science-worshiping, philosophical materialists – have a problem with evil. Namely, how do materialists who reject free will (either explicitly or implicitly, depending on how well they’ve thought it out) even speak of such a thing as “evil”? Assuming we are speaking of human acts, and not things like bad weather, to describe an act as “evil” or malicious or malevolent or something similar assumes and implies that it was freely chosen. No one speaks of a lion’s decision to tear apart a zebra for sustenance as an “evil” act. What mindless animals do has no moral significance whatsoever. What people do has significance solely on the assumption that we can choose otherwise. In other words, free will. Without the assumption of free will, morality utterly collapses into a meaningless rubbish heap.

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12

Why Life Matters

I am heartened to see that abortion has become a central issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. I am even more happy to see that the Democratic Party is spending far more time discussing it this time around than the GOP. While I certainly hope the Romney-Ryan ticket steps up and delivers a strong pro-life message in the final months before the election, the fact that the Democrats are now making such a big stink about it demonstrates that even they must acknowledge the awesome power of the pro-life movement.

This movement, of which I consider myself a small and rather insignificant (but eternal) member, is more than political lobby. Unlike the various lobbies that represent the special interest groups and key demographics that prop up both the Democrats and the GOP, the pro-life movement represents a group that can’t vote, can’t contribute to campaigns, and can’t even speak for itself, the truly least among us.

Given this new-found interest in abortion, the sort of things people are likely to hear as the DNC continues to unfold this week, and the fact that I believe basic refreshers are good from time to time, I want to discuss the pro-life point of view a bit. I cannot be comprehensive here, but I will raise some of the issues I think are fundamentally important in this debate.

Many of our opponents do not really understand what it is that motivates us and drives us. To them, to quote one pro-choice radical feminist I recently witnessed on a news program, we pro-lifers apparently believe that “a fetus has more rights than a pregnant woman.” Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth. We believe in accordance with the Declaration of Independence, that all men (males and females) are endowed with inalienable rights at the moment of their creation. The life inside the pregnant woman is not more valuable than the pregnant woman; they have the same value and are worthy of the same protection under the laws of a just, civilized, and humane society.

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24

Absolutely Disgusting and Disgraceful: TSA Targets Paul Family

The details are here.

The reason for the blatant harassment?

TSA agents did not cite any specific threat, but insinuated the Paul family was a threat to Mitt Romney, claiming the nominee “might be nearby.”

If I ever needed concrete proof that what the TSA does is not only a violation of human dignity and absolutely intolerable in a country that claims to be free, but also completely unnecessary and politically-motivated (after all Paul publicly criticizes the TSA), this is it.

Love or hate his politics, the idea that Ron Paul, his wife, or anyone else in his family poses a threat to Mitt Romney or anyone else is an absolute joke. Incidents like these make me ashamed of my country, and I am more than disappointed that this is one problem that the GOP in neither able or willing to address.

There is no level of security that is worth this level of invasive and perverted government intrusion into our lives. If the price of “security” is seeing children traumatized, old and disabled people humiliated, women sexually violated, and citizens in general being treated as potential enemies and threats by a fraternity of uniformed government thugs, I will gladly do without it.

Live free or die, America.

 

9

Romney’s Speech: Likes & Dislikes

Likes: Romney did a fine job undermining the hysterical “war on women” propaganda being shoved down our throats 24/7 by the DNC. Undecided voters in the battleground states will be less likely to accept the notion that Romney is a “dangerous extremist” who wants to send women “back to the dark ages.” He stated his willingness to defend innocent life and the institution of marriage but did not press the point.

I appreciated his emphasis on family, community, and religious faith comprising the foundation of social and economic life in the United States – this, in contrast to inefficient welfare bureaucracies and self-appointed nannies deciding what is best for us. The best social safety net is a spouse, a job, and a church.

I also appreciated his insistence that success in business is not something to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate, and that private-sector experience is an asset to the Presidency.

Dislikes: Of course my co-bloggers and half of my readers will disagree (and that’s ok), but the reassertion of America’s old foreign policy really strikes a sour note with me. I wasn’t particularly thrilled when Chris Christie called for a “second American century” either. A country with financial problems and cultural divisions as deep as ours, and with a serious and unattended crisis on its southern border, cannot afford to be the policeman of the world.

Granted I didn’t expect Romney to say anything about the broken border tonight, but in my view this is the most serious national security threat and the one that ought to be the top priority. One of the reasons I supported Ron Paul in the primaries is because I agree with his foreign policy views – and reject those of the rest of the GOP.

But since I don’t really believe that Obama’s foreign policy is significantly different, at least for my tastes, this is really a non-issue for me as far as the election itself goes.