22 Responses to Just Wage Open Forum

  • 60 hour work weeks, particularly spread between two different jobs, is feasible but tiring for a healthy young person without dependents. However dependents make this type of schedule difficult to maintain, particularly given the frequency of divorce and/or illegitimacy in the U.S. Childcare can be very expensive, and generally requires an adult working less than 60 hours a week.

    That said, it’s interesting that the $7.42 figure is in the ballpark of what the minimum wage ($7.25) will be next year. My understanding is that only about 1-2% of the U.S. workforce makes minimum wage, although that percentage may increase when the minimum wage is adjusted upward. Numbers aside, I am looking forward to your discussion of the just wage in CST.

  • Hmm…Not the resounding turnout I’d been hoping for, but then, I can’t expect people to hang out here every hour of every day, either.

    What I failed to make clear in my initial posting is that what I was calculating was a living wage for Laramie, WY, for two people.

    What I intend to discuss with a post that will hopefully be up tomorrow is that there is difference between just wage and a living wage, between just wage and minimum wage, and a living wage and minimum wage.

    I hope we hear more from other people about what they view as a living wage where they live, especially from Michael and Mark. This is, or at least seems to be, an important topic for them, and I’d really like to have them contribute a little before I post my next article.

  • Couple thoughts:

    What a good living wage is varies a huge amount by part of the country. I recall $8/hr feeling very comfortable in Steubenville, Ohio — but then I was paying $400/mo for a three bedroom duplex which I shared with three other working adults.

    Living in Los Angeles, it could be a lot rougher. Car insurance was $200/mo and medical insurance was $500/mo through my work for my wife and (then one) kid. Rent was $1000/mo for a one bedroom apartment.

    I think you were right to calculate an income and a half for two people. Sometimes that’s the husband working a job and a half, sometimes it’s both working, but it’s certainly not unreasonable.

    More generally:

    It seems to me that the real measure of a “just wage” has to do with the value of one’s work. It’s wrong for an employer to pay you less than a reasonable percentage of the value that your work creates for him — especially if paying you only a tiny percentage of the value your work creates results in putting you in poverty. (If you create a lot of value, it may be just to pay you pretty small percentage — though people often want more. In a given month I can point to a few million dollars in revenue that are directly attributable to my actions at work, and my wages are a pretty tiny percentage of that, but I’m nonetheless paid a comfortable enough wage I don’t think I could complain that getting a small percentage is “unjust”.)

    This creates, I think, dual responsibilities for the employer and employee: The employer has a responsibility to design jobs which are of enough value to pay a decent wage — and the employee has a duty to, if he’s a head of household or wants to be, be economically valuable enough to earn a decent wage through the value of his actions.

    My favorite example in this regard is the position of “greeter” at Wal Mart: I think Wal Mart is remiss in having a job description which contributes virtually no value to the company. But I also think that a worker who is a provider has a duty to be able to do something more valuable than being a greeter at Wal Mart. If the father of a family is working as a greeter and having trouble making the bills — the problem is not so much that he’s not being paid enough by Wal Mart as that he shouldn’t be working that job as a head of household.

  • DC, here’s something interesting for you. If you Google “catholic social teaching just wage”, your 2007 post on just wages is the second link that pops up. Just FYI.

  • Darwin Catholic has hit the big time ;-).

  • Boy, that’s odd. I would have thought some “social justice” focused Catholic site would rule that one.

    The benefits of being around a long time, I guess…

  • This creates, I think, dual responsibilities for the employer and employee: The employer has a responsibility to design jobs which are of enough value to pay a decent wage — and the employee has a duty to, if he’s a head of household or wants to be, be economically valuable enough to earn a decent wage through the value of his actions.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. Using economics positively and not normatively, we can set aside “justice” for a moment and say that a market wage is simply the value marginal product of labor (p*dq/dL).

    Now what does that mean if we’re not just “neutral” economists but Catholics who care about social justice? It means exactly what Darwin said: there is a dual moral duty at work. The employer has to be more realistic about the value and productivity of the work being provided, and the employee has to have the sense to know what constitutes valuable and productive work. Unfortunately, the reason we see guys in chicken suits on the street corner advertising stuff is because neither party is getting it right.

  • a just wage? that would be whatever my employer and I agree upon for me to work for him, with no coercion involved. And it doesn’t matter how I spend my money, or if I agreed upon to little, or how many bills I have.

  • Anthony,

    Actually the Church has ruled that a just wage is not just solely determined by whatever you and your employer agree upon, with or without coercion. Due to certain factors on the part of the employer and the employee, it is possible for the employee to agree, willingly and without coercion, perhaps due to ignorance, on a wage that is far below what the position is actually worth. Now, it is one thing if you’re accepting a much lower wage as a matter of volunteer work or charity, but it is something else if, say, you accept a position worth $20/hr for $8.50/hr, thinking that is a great wage (because you’ve only made $5.15 up until then), and the employer really could pay you $20/hr, then that’s a different story.

    Granted, there are hundreds of different variables to consider, and I believe that, for the most part, the employer/employee contracts are more or less just.

  • Due to certain factors on the part of the employer and the employee, it is possible for the employee to agree, willingly and without coercion, perhaps due to ignorance, on a wage that is far below what the position is actually worth.

    It’s not clear to me how one determines “what a position is worth” without reference to a free labor market.

  • I don’t believe I ever suggested that you could. The assumption that an employer and an employee can make a just contract as regarding the employer’s wages depends upon both having full knowledge of the market forces, and full access to the market. The assertion that, at times, it cannot simply be left to a private contract between employer and employee is due to the recognition that most people will only have an imperfect knowledge of the free market, and only partial access to the market itself.

  • BA,

    I think that in an open market, wages will tend to hit the maximum value possible given the value of the work done.

    So I guess I’d argue that an unjust wage would most often be the case of some sort of market breakdown — either a segment of employees not knowing the real market value of their work and being cheated into working for much less; or employers using some sort of market restriction or force to make employees work for a wage well below what the market would set if allowed to function freely.

    Does that sound reasonable?

  • The scenario envisioned, I take it, is that a man takes a job from employer A at $10 an hour not knowing that another employer, B, is offering $20 for a similar position. I doubt that this sort of thing happens very often, and if it ever did, the simple solution would be for the guy to quit his job and take the position with A.

    Determining which jobs are comparable to each other is, of course, a tricky business (I say this as someone who could be making double or triple my current salary by taking a “similar” job to the one I have now; yet I’m not going to do so because there are other non-monetary considerations in play).

    As for market restrictions making wages lower than they should be, I would certainly agree that the restrictions are unjust, at least in most cases. But given the restrictions, I’m not sure you can say that the agreed upon wage is unjust (at least if implicit in the idea is the notion that it’s immoral for an employer to pay it).

  • There can be conditions, such as a monopsony employer in an isolated region, where the equilibrium wage is below the market wage. A minimum wage in situations like that can help workers.

  • BA,

    I think I’d envisioned something more like: Joe normally pays his technicians at Joe’s Auto Shop $20/hr. He charges his clients $70/hr and has no shortage of work in sight. However, when he hires a new technician Tim, he tells him “Of course, this position only pays $15/hr” because he notices that it’s been a couple months since Tim lost his last job and Joe figures he probably doesn’t have many options. Tim works well and a couple months later finds out he’s making 25% less than the other workers, but Joe tells him, “We only do pay reviews once a year. You’re welcome to leave if you don’t like it,” knowing that there aren’t any mechanics near by hiring.

    Now, I guess you could argue this is the market wage, if Tim is not in fact able to go find another job. However, it does strike me that if there’s no economic reason why Joe has to pay him less, other than that he thinks he can get away with it and make his business more profitable, he’s arguably cheating Tim, and in that sense behaving immorally by paying an unjust wage.

    I don’t think it’s the kind of thing which external entities like governments can do a good job of preventing, so I wouldn’t support any kind of regulation to prevent that kind of occurance, but it does seem to me that Joe is treating Tim unjustly and thus arguably sinning.

    On the market restriction question, I might envision something like:

    The large manufacturing concern in a small town has gone under, and the town council puts out big tax and funding incentives to bring in a new company. Company ABC somes in and sets up a widget factory, part of their deal being they get the town council not to give building licenses to any other manufacturers to come into the town for at least three years. (Illegal, I would hope in the US, but let’s imagine.) ABC then announces it will pay $5/hr in its factory, which is a quarter of what the old bankrupt employer in town paid. The labor of one worker creates $100 in value for ABC per hour. But since people would have to move out of town to get manufacturing jobs elsewhere, enough people grit their teeth and go to work in ABC’s factory that they’re able to run a booming business with huge profits.

    I’d argue that’s pretty clearly of treating workers injustly and thus immorally — but all that has to be done to prevent that at a government level is not provide local monopolies to employers. There’s not a need to legislate wages, but rather to allow employers to compete.

    Do those examples seem to show clear cases of unjust wage paying?

  • I think this discussion, where we connect the moral wage to the current free market value of the labor, is off basis. Why do we have to take the current market value as a given? Maybe the current market value of the labor is unjustly low.

    Look at it from the point of the consumer. Is it moral to purchase goods or services paying a price that we know provides for inadequate wages to those who have labored to produce or deliver the product? As a consumer, should we not be willing to pay for things knowing that their producers are not compensated enough so that they can have an adequate living? I think that justly compensating those who produce our goods should be a major factor in determining what we are willing to pay for an item.

    You are treating the matter as if the market value of labor should determine just compensation. I think that what we need to do is to make sure that the morally just wage determines the market value of the labor.

  • Michael Enright, I have to politely but fervently disagree with your statement. You more or less put the cart before the horse, by immediately judging that wages ipso facto are unjust. You also make a broad, and I think invalid, assumption that just because wages are inadequate to live on, they are unjust.

    I will make a quick statement here, and more in my upcoming post, that not all jobs are intended to be positions one makes a living from, and thus the wages offered for those positions can both be just and inadequate to make a living. For example, I would not expect someone to make a living being a bag boy at Safeway. I would expect that to be a position intended for teenagers looking to earn some money while accruing job experience and a history.

    Honestly, if I felt a company engaged in dishonest business practices by paying its employees unjustly, then I would be morally obliged to shop elsewhere. However, I’m not going determine the price I’m willing to pay for a product based only on the wages paid to the company’s employees. The price I”m willing to pay is based upon how much I need an item and how much I can afford to pay for it. Judging whether or not a company pays just wages is separate issue and depends on regional economic concerns, the jobs themselves, and host of other issues.

  • I have to say that you are taking my statement out of context. I never said anything about teenage workers, although they may have a family to take care of themselves. There are plenty of grown adults forced to do work, and sometimes very hard work, that pays very little. One great example of this is migrant labor.

    Secondly, I never suggested that you determine the price based solely on the wages that are paid. You put that in yourself. I am not advocating for the labor theory of value.

    I also never judged any wage as unjust. That would have to be a specific call based on each particular job.

    All I made was a modest claim. My modest claim is that when purchasing something, and we know that the employees are paid inadequately, that we choose another provider and be willing to pay more so that the laborers are paid adequately. That is one of the factors we should look at when considering what we are willing to pay for an item. We shouldn’t be looking to pay the cheapest prices in order to be cheap if we know that means for inadequate wages. (I did not define what an inadequate wage is). The market itself should advocate for fair wages.

  • I beg forgiveness, then. I did read more into what you wrote than you actually put there. To my mind, there is no separating a just wage from market forces, and what you were saying seemed to suggest (I only say “seemed to suggest”, not that you did so) that we determine numbers beforehand (how, I don’t know), and then compare how the world lives up to that standard.

    Your reply states that I was making an issue out of practically nothing (though there are minor details I could quibble over with you). Mea culpa.

  • Ryan, I pretty much stopped taking you seriously after “… the Church has ruled that… ”


  • Anthony,

    This is directly from Centesimus Annus, an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, looking back at Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum from the perspective of a hundred years:

    8. The Pope immediately adds another right which the worker has as a person. This is the right to a “just wage”, which cannot be left to the “free consent of the parties, so that the employer, having paid what was agreed upon, has done his part and seemingly is not called upon to do anything beyond”. It was said at the time that the State does not have the power to intervene in the terms of these contracts, except to ensure the fulfilment of what had been explicitly agreed upon. This concept of relations between employers and employees, purely pragmatic and inspired by a thorough-going individualism, is severely censured in the Encyclical as contrary to the twofold nature of work as a personal and necessary reality. For if work as something personal belongs to the sphere of the individual’s free use of his own abilities and energy, as something necessary it is governed by the grave obligation of every individual to ensure “the preservation of life”. “It necessarily follows”, the Pope concludes, “that every individual has a natural right to procure what is required to live; and the poor can procure that in no other way than by what they can earn through their work”.

    If you don’t like it, I’m sorry. Or maybe you’re thinking I meant “dogmatically defined” when I said “ruled”, which I did not mean. I meant that popes, after long deliberation and consideration of the teachings of the church, came to the conclusion that I then just passed along in my comment.

  • Hello. It is test.

Thou Shalt Not Run Smear Campaigns

Monday, November 10, AD 2008

So the Republican Party is reeling, trying to find its voice and a clear path forward in the aftermath of a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad defeat. While initially we hear that the party will be led by fresh faces, such as Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal, and that forerunners for 2012 will also include Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, this brief noise has been covered over with the deafening sounds of ligaments snapping from too much finger-pointing. These days, if you want to know who is old-guard in the Republican party, you merely need to see who has his index finger splinted and bandaged.

Continue reading...

One Response to Thou Shalt Not Run Smear Campaigns

  • Even if you (I don’t, BTW) assume the smears are true, who ultimately looks worst for their airing?

    The candidate for whom the clothes were bought or the campaign manager who provided a blank check and no parameters for the purchase?

    The candidate who made embarassing civics and geography mistakes or the nomination committee vettors who failed to identify her weaknesses before her selection?

    The candidate who may have acted inappropriately in the company of fellow party members or the campaign staffers who sought to minimize their own failures by airing her pecadilloes to the world?

    Judith Martin used to say, “Miss Manners would be too polite to notice.”
    The finger-pointers only proved their own lack of class, not Sarah Palin’s.


Friday, November 7, AD 2008

So I sit on the couch watching Thursday Night Football, cringing at the poor performance of the Denver Broncos, and alternatively trying to work on my writing and my reading. And then it pops up during one of those lulls in action. Spicy chicken nuggets from Wendy’s. My stomach rumbles, and I immediately consider the benefit of running down to Wendy’s and ordering some. The store is just a few blocks away, the nuggets are only 99 cents a pack, and I haven’t eaten dinner yet. I stand up, contemplating, and then with a sigh I decide to eat the leftover stew from the previous night.

Continue reading...

3 Responses to Scandal

  • You had a better alternative that didn’t involve behaving petulant adolescent hellbent on dereliction of duty?

  • “Did the potential of defeating Obama truly outweigh the scandal provoked by voting for a candidate that is all for embryonic stem-cell research, and is only half-heartedly pro-life? Does it make any difference in retrospect, now that Obama won? What we view as the greater evil has now taken office, but it would it have been anything but a pyrrhic victory if the lesser evil took office, instead?”

    Yes, yes and no, as we shall see to our dismay during the course of the Obama administration.

  • It’s the scandal you don’t see that’s the most dangerous, friend.

A Prayer

Tuesday, November 4, AD 2008

O Father in Heaven,

Today we stand at a crossroads, and we ask humbly for Your guidance.  We pray for the graces to discern with open eyes and a clear understanding of Your intent for us this day.  Help us to be humble, to not let overweening pride or human ideology come between us and Your holy plan.  Let not our will, but Yours be done in this election, and provide us with the strength and courage to face the future regardless of the outcome.  Let the charity in our hearts never die; may our faith in You never wane; may our hope never extinguish.

Continue reading...

11 Responses to A Prayer

16 Responses to Pop Quiz

  • “Our taxes going to the needy, however beneficial it might prove, is an abrogation of the human will towards charity. It not only bereaves us of the choice of where our money goes, but it also stunts the growth of charity in our souls.”

    That’s funny!

    You caricature the Right very well…

    “As a note, Senator Obama—like many on the left—seems to have little to no faith in human charity.”

    I know. Does not he see how little the poor need anyone beyond individual givers, uniting outside of the government? Case in point. Latin American countries under right wing dictators…the usa…

  • Did you use the Acton-Cliff Notes?

  • So Mark, do you believe the populace at large incapable of charity? Or if not, perhaps you can enlighten us as to how exactly we’re supposed to provide for the poor.

    Frankly, I can’t see how leaving people with their money to choose to spend/donate as they deem right is a bad thing. Even if they waste the money on trinkets or fast food, that’s jobs for people. Take that money away, that decreases the number of jobs available, which makes more poor. Handouts don’t cover what a steady job can provide.

    But you might have a different viewpoint. Please, enlighten us.

  • I personally know someone in my family who made some unwise decisions, got pregnant, lost her job and healthcare insurance for not being able to work (her healthcare was attached to her job). The man who got her pregnant is a deadbeat. So, she set her eyes on abortion. Luckily, she has a pro-life Catholic in her family and together, we made the decision that she shouldn’t do that.

    She’s received about 200 dollars a month from the government on unemployment. Many in our family contributed what they can to assist her with her baby that was born in July.

    My point? There was no way that this “redistribution of wealth” in anyway really changed the playing field. Or, what if that “redistribution” made it easier for people to be like me — the first in an entire family to go after higher education. It costs $30,000 a year to receive the education I do. My mother makes just about that much in a year. How many youth with potential are barred from going to school because of skyrocketing costs?

    It seems to me that even if I knew that the government would be assisting people, it would no in way bar me from doing charity. I think the notion that the government doing some of the work will prevent people from doing charity is absurd. The reason people don’t give charitably is selfishness — it’s not because someone else is doing it. Would you stop giving to charity? Would you not stop to help someone because the government gave them a few measely dollars that hardly enables them — even stretching the money — to live even comfortably in this society? Do you remember when minimum wage was $5.15? Have you ever watched a family struggle making it by on such a salary?

    Obama seems to have little faith in human charity. Maybe. But as far as the rich giving to charity, the amount they give is hardly a dime in terms of the money they have. What is $2 million dollars to Bill Gates?

    Moreover, I dare to ask how fair is the economic system we have. It’s fundamentally social Darwinism — survival of the fittest. It’s a system of unrestricted competition and it’s the very reason why a small few can set a monopoly on money and get richer, usually without doing anything. Perhaps, all it takes is nothing but an investment.

    But how is such a system that is naturally disadvantaged to the poor and lower middle class really compatitible with the Catholic faith? It’s not a natural law approach to anything. It’s a consequentialist ethic — which is in itself moral relativism with another mask. What is good in terms of business usually has more to do with profit, shareholders, and prosperity of that particularly business than with the human dignity and welfare of society. Ultimately, we’re banking on the moral uprighteousness of the private sector just as we’re banking on the moral uprighteousness of the government. All of mankind is fallen from sin. Why should we trust one over the other? Why is one method so much superior to the other?

    Sure you’ll disagree with me, but I think it is something that Catholic Social Teaching is entirely consonant with political conservativism. But political liberalism, or “socialism” is just bad business all over the place. If I’m not mistaken, Catholic teaching is beyond “left” and “right” politics. And though the issue at hand is not “non-negotiable” and thus we can have legitimate disagreement, we’re not both right. Or maybe we’re both wrong.

  • Eric,

    Excellent response, and tough questions to address. I don’t believe that government spending on the poor destroys all charitableness, or that the government shouldn’t spend money to help others. But I do think that government handouts have a tendency to harden hearts towards those receiving handouts, especially here in the U.S. where there is such a culture of individualism that we tend to look down on people in need. Indeed, I struggle a lot with the question of how we can justify railing against higher taxes when there are people in need. Aren’t we just struggling futilely to cling to material wealth, wealth that ultimately means little in the long run? My problem, ultimately, is not whether or not the government should send some tax revenue to aid the poor, but how much it should tax others to do so. How much is enough, and how much is too much? Frankly, if tax cuts increase federal revenue, then why speak at all of “raising taxes out of fairness” even if it means less federal revenue to spend on welfare?

    But the problem of charity is a real one. Certainly there is a problem when half the people you talk to complain about “lazy good-for-nothings, feeding off the government”. Does this mean that the government not giving out welfare will inspire charity? Not by any means. But I do believe there’s a point where the government takes so much and hands it back out to so many others that it starts to wound charity in the hearts of those who are taken from.

    I fundamentally disagree that our economic system is naturally disadvantaged to the poor and the middle class. Maybe that’s because I come from a middle class family, and am in third generation receiving a college education. Maybe it’s because I come from Wyoming, which has very few minorities, and thus I don’t see the discrimination minorities suffer from. Maybe it’s because in Wyoming, you can always work construction, the oil fields, or the coal mines, and make more in a year without a high school diploma than most college graduates make. Or maybe it’s because I’ve seen my father work hard and build a small accounting firm, and has risen from making barely $30K/year to over $60K/year. Maybe its because my family was willing to offer a friend of mine free housing, food, clothes, and even a car for cheap in an effort to help him make it through college. And that friend started from a poor “white trash” (he’ll admit the white trash if you ask him) family, most of which is still in the gutters, not because they can’t haul themselves out, but because they keep wasting all the chances they get.

    The way we think things work undoubtedly comes from what we see growing up. Eric, I’m not sure what all difficulties you’ve had to face in your life, so I can’t necessarily appreciate where you’re coming from. But when I look at the economic system we have, I can’t see a better system for providing the poor with opportunities to rise out of squalor.

    Wealth tends to concentrate on a small percentage of the population? That doesn’t bother me any. Most of those who are wealthy worked their way to it. I think it is a fundamental prejudice to suggest that the rich don’t do anything to earn their wealth. I’ll agree that some don’t, and I’ll agree that some get rich quickly from dirty methods. But those are a scant few among the other hard-working, successful people.

    I could rant about this for hours, but I have work to do, so I’ll let it go there, without having said anything of substance. And I do understand very well the story of the rich man who donated a lot of money to the temple, but only a tiny, tiny fraction of what he had, and the poor woman who gave up her last two talents, and how Jesus praised her before his apostles for the sacrifice she made. There, at least, I can readily agree with you.

  • One interesting group to look at in this regard is the Amish. They refuse both social security, medicare and any form of private insurance because they believe such approaches do not constitute truly “being your brothers keeper”. Instead, each Amish community has its own emergency fund. Everyone is assessed, according to his means, to pay into that fund, and the fund then pays out when families run into problems (medical or otherwise) that result in expenses they can’t meet themselves.

    Now, here’s the thing: Even the most well off know they need to contribute to that fund, not only in order to avoid social and moral ostricization, but also because they know they have no other recourse. If the rich Amish bought insurance, but everyone was supposed to pay into the community fund to help the poor ones who couldn’t afford insurance — I would imagine that it would be a lot harder to get everyone to chip in. People would still have their charitable impulses reinforcing the need to help with the community fund, but their sense of self interest would no longer reinorce that impulse.

    Not that I’m saying I’m eager to give up my insurance…

    What I do think it can show the rest of us, however, is that getting people to participate in charitable/solidarity actions at a serious scale (not a hundred spare dollars once or twice a year, but enough to really cover the needs of those without their own means) relies on a sense of urgent need. If your self interest is brought into play because you rely on the same community fund, that gives urgency. If you know that there are no other options out there, and so if your parish (to pull an example) doesn’t put together a significant scholarship fund, than many of the students from poorer families will simply not be able to go to college — that gives urgency. But if one has the general feeling that there must be an awful lot of programs out there (private and public) already meeting a given need, there’s not much sense of urgency and people tend to keep themselves to themselves.

  • Ryan,

    I’m not convinced that tax cuts increases federal revenue, in fact, I think the opposite. It’s heatedly debated in political circles. But that’s not our interest here. We’re concerned on how we as Catholics — even as we disagree — can transform the political landscape with millions of other people with whom we agree and disagree. That’s the challenge. Personally, I’m all in favor of the FairTax. But that’s not the current tax system.

    I believe that the government has moral purpose. How the mechanism is used is the fundamental question. It’s difficult to answer. I’m not sure I agree with people having a hardened heart in receiving government “handouts.” I’m sure there are plenty who are grateful. It seems to me that if we had a system where people could receive needed assistance for a specific amount of time — in other words, a transition period — with information forwarded to them to aid them in finding a job and provided evidence that they are searching, I think we would be better off. This would decrease dependency dramatically and encourage self-sufficiency.

    It also seems to me that there are shades of the culture of individualism in saying “this is my money and the poor shouldn’t get it unless I say they can.” People of that sort don’t seem to care for charity — either through the government or themselves. Now surely this doesn’t account for the majority of conservatives. Nevertheless, the question of how much the government should help is one of prudence and that’s not definitively answerable.

    I do share your concern that the government giving out too much can have an adverse effect to some extent. I’ve been in the car with friends who say when they see a homeless person, “the government really ought to do something to help him.” But I don’t think that the lack of charity is contigent on the fact that the government is helping people, but rather it inadvertently reaffirms the lack of charity and moral disordering (for an ordered morality demands charity) that already exists in their own life. And I don’t think that we can avoid doing as much good as we can through the mechanism of the government (without the State exceeding its boundaries) for the sake of unintended consequences. It’s like not standing up against injustice because one fears that it’ll cause an unwanted backlash.

    In terms of our economic system, it depends on if its an unrestricted free-market or a free-market with a few minimal regulations. I favor the latter. I think the former does naturally give advantage to the upper middle class and the rich. I think that there are opportunities for people to rise out of poverty, but I attribute it more to God’s grace than to the system itself. I’m not entirely convinced that most of the wealthy worked their way to it. Just at my school, I see kids with a silver spoon in their mouth who in many ways are totally ignorant of the plight of others. Their parents can easily and readily afford college. Many of them have gone to private school their whole lives–some with tuitions just as high as their college tuition. They are born with all the support they need and with many advantages. What about children born to parents who aren’t as well off?
    Supposedly 60% of the bottom of the socio-economic scale is comprised of single parent households. Statistically children raised in such environments are more likely to do drugs, drink alcohol regularly, to drop out of school, to repeat a grade, to be sexually promiscuous, and the list goes on. I was born into the place on the scale. My grandmother who is 75 years old, to this day works, cleaning houses for two different families. One of which she has worked for her entire life (my grandmother’s family always worked for that family and I believe generations ago was “owned” by that family). The family she has worked for the longest is very wealthy. The lady — Mrs. Moroney — is a very liberal, pro-choice Democrat (she supports government intervention). She also happens to believe in me so much that she is willing to pay all remaining costs of my education — out of pocket — which has totalled over $30,000 by now. This was all generous charity and I am very grateful. But I ask myself to question — of the thousands of people that are born into a similar situation as mine, how many receive the same blessings?

    I’m not saying “let’s have a mass government ‘hand-out’ party,” but that there is some merit to the government assisting people. And yes, I’m looking at all of this through the lens of my own life — and I’d like to think through the lens of the lives of other people who won’t share my blessings. I find it very disheartening when things are just classified as “socialism” and dismissed. It really cuts off rational discourse and creates the endless culture war — this clash of orthodoxies — that we’re experiencing and are all frustrated about. Many Democrats, myself included, aren’t in favor of equal results in life. That’s not realistic. But we do favor an equality of opportunity and currently — and I don’t think anyone would argue this — there is a large disparity in the socio-economic ladder that makes this very difficult. Thus, people should be provided the resources they need — public and private — to help them achieve those means. No, we shouldn’t just subsidize it and give them a free ride and teach them that a lack of personal responsibility is alright; it isn’t.

    But I think a safety net that relies solely on charity in the western world is a recipe for disaster. It won’t happen. And the worse our education gets (its happening), the worse our morals get (its happening), and the more we’re all geared for ruthless competition with one another, we will fall. We’ve got to help as many as we can and I think it requires — at least at this point in history — that the government be involved. That’s my perspective.

  • Ryan,

    Would you say that the Amish system is an honest example of the doctrine of subsidiarity and distributism?

    Just a rhetorical question from a die-hard free-market capitalist just learning about Catholic teaching on economics and rethinking his position.

  • Eric,

    As a quick note, I might have been confusing about it, but the “hardened hearts” refer to the people seeing others getting handouts, paying their income into handouts, not the people receiving the handouts.

    I see the growth of government as a necessary effect of the decline of the morals of the populace. As people become less inclined to take care of themselves, the government has no choice but to step in a fill in the gaps. So to some extent I agree that government-funded welfare is a result of uncharitable hearts. I do feel that there’s a feedback in the system, though. As charity decrease, the role of the government increases, further justifying reduction in charity, forcing more government increase, and so on.

    But government exists to be a safety net, so I will never argue against the government providing safety nets. Government exists to protect us from outside threat. We could, perhaps organize that on our own with a bunch of independent militias, but it would be ineffective. Thus it provides a safety net there. Government exists to protect our rights from impinging neighbors. While we might have some success dealing with matters privately, and privately should be our first recourse, the courts exist as a safety-net to assure our rights are preserved. (I just wish they would stop inventing rights at the drop of a hat.) And these are cases that don’t directly touch upon the economic issue we’re talking about. Yes, we cannot count on safety nets that rely solely on charity. That, I believe, is actually called anarchy.

    The government first and foremost has to respect the human dignity of those it governs. Included in human dignity is industry, and compensation for labor. Thus I agree with government policy that regulates the markets so as to prevent monopolies and unjust wages. Thus I also agree with taxes, for I see the government as a body of people also deserving in compensation for their labor.

    The government has the ability to steer us through particular market forces, through taxes and subsidies. It can introduce artificial demands and artificial supply restrictions. And in do so, it can throw the market out of whack.

    Let’s consider colleges, for example. The cost of college is high, true, but its purpose is also to provide a further education and qualifications that make an individual valuable for some select positions in the market. Not everyone needs to go to college. Others can find themselves quite content with trade jobs or as laborers. Not everyone wants to be an executive. I agree, though, that having a college education gives one quite an edge in finding a nice, comfortable, high-paying job, and that many people who would be suited for those positions don’t get the chance because of financial considerations.

    What happens when we subsidize college education? The demand for college increases, as we’ve seen. We’ve struggled to send as many of our youth to college as we can, which in turn increases the demand. The demand is especially for prestigious universities. So what happens to the cost of attending? It goes up. On the flip side, a college needs students for a large portion of its funding, especially private universities that don’t receive state or federal funding. So more students means more funding. Except for the need for more facilities, more professors, more housing, more equipment, and so on. The net result? A mess. Usually the cost of attending continues to soar. At least, that’s how it has been at the University of Wyoming, and this little state university is one of the least-expensive to attend in the nation, even as an out-of-state student.

    Saying that, of course, calls my attention back to your silver-spoon students, who had no clue of the problems people around them suffered. Extrapolating from Wyoming probably makes me one of those, doesn’t it?

    “No, we shouldn’t just subsidize it and give them a free ride and teach them that a lack of personal responsibility is alright; it isn’t.”

    What is the right balance between providing, and enabling sloth? The problem, of course, becomes that the further away from the beneficiary you are, the less capable you are of making that decision. That’s why I feel government should be a last resort, and that family and community should be the first responders. They’re the best ones to know what you need (statistically speaking, anyway).

    To use your benefactor as an example: God bless Mrs. Moroney for her generous donation. Her example definitely supports what you said before about government intervention not preventing charity. But she also, by your very words, justifies my position. She knows you, knows your needs, believes in you, and thus has made a contribution. (You can burn me if I’m speaking out of line, too personal, or such, or if I’m just flat out wrong.) She wouldn’t necessarily do that to someone off the street because she doesn’t know if such a contribution would be worthwhile, what that person actually needed.

    Back to the college example, we don’t know if everyone needs the opportunity to go to college. For some, maybe going to college is the last thing they need. It certainly is telling when you provide a college education, practically free of charge, and many students simply flunk out for lack of care. Maybe it makes more sense to make the last two years free of charge as opposed to the first two. Federal Stafford loans already reflect this: the further you get in college, the more you can borrow.

    The problem I have is that too many of the policies suggested smack of eating the whole harvest without preserving seeds for next year’s planting.

    I would ask, then, what do you view as the ideal economic policy? How would you craft things so that everything works perfectly? I don’t ask this to be flip, but as a serious consideration. For a long time, I was very Ayn Rand-ian about unregulated free markets (while my sister was very, very Marxist, go figure). But I’ve migrated from the radical end to feeling that regulated free-markets, with government safety nets to assist those who fall through the cracks in the market work well. I might go a little further left of that, if convinced, but I cannot see any other economic policy in existence that provides the poor with as many opportunities.

    One thing that always caught me was this. Suppose we all stopped eating fast food and donated that money to charity. Well, that would nice at first, except it would put some 10 million people out of jobs, needing more charity. So suppose we cut out other luxuries in our lives and donated that money to charity. That’s more money given to the needy, but more people out of jobs, too. Keep following this line of thought, and suddenly we have huge unemployment and nowhere near enough money to help everyone. That’s why I was for a long time a follower of Rand’s “Virtue of Selfishness”.

    But then there’s the catholic concern about God and mammon. That’s what changed my mind. Economic growth is important, because it is far more beneficial for a poor man to have a job than handouts. But we can’t subscribe to Rand’s selfishness, because it is selfishness itself that causes the corruption in the markets. And addressing immediate crises in human lives is more important than keeping economic growth high. Putting the growth of capital over all other considerations is just as evil as socialism. But certainly, there has to be some concern about economic growth. I just haven’t figured out the right balance, yet.

  • Tito,

    I would. And the distribution here doesn’t bother me much because it is down at a community level. What worries me about government redistribution is that it is impersonal and wasteful. The thing is, I have no problem with saying that the rich have an obligation to assist the poor. Ideally, I would like that to remain between the rich and the poor without any government intervention. Of course, thing’s don’t work that way.

  • Ryan,

    I was thinking the same thing about distributism. I like the concept, but at the smallest nuclear stage as possible.

    Being raised in a very small town in the middle of the Pacific, I can see this model working well in a neighborhood setting as opposed at the federal or state levels.

  • Ryan,

    You’re misunderstanding me. I can’t answer you point by point, so let me hit a few points. Since we’re talking about the United States, when I say “government,” I’m not necessarily saying the national government. If something can be taken care of at a more local level, then it must be done there first if it can be just as efficient. Therefore, the city government or individual state governments — in my view — bear the responsibility of providing a “safety net” without going beyond its own means. I’m very much in favor of state and local governments providing assistance first to avoid the creation of unnecessary bureaucracies. Moreover, the farther away from the situation one gets, the less pressing it is and the less efficient one is at managing it. So, I think there is a way one can honor the principle of subsidiarity while seeking other principles of Catholic Social Teaching such as preferential option for the poor and vulnerable.

    I think such a half-way measure allows for much common ground debate instead of the polarizing back and forth, endless system of liberals vs. conservatives. Why? Liberals initiate new programs, seek to fund older ones that are falling apart, and they tend to do it especially while having a majority at the national level. In comes the conservatives, they deregulate, cut taxes, cut programs, etc. It goes back and forth and the tug-of-war effects the economy and many who are on the receiving end of such things.

    In my view, human dignity must trump economic growth. A respect for human dignity usually leads to some sort of solidary and community–which usually doesn’t allow for economic collapse. A lack of respect of human dignity leads to a cold machine of unrestricted free-market capitalism, where what’s good for the businesses is good for everyone (which really means almost everybody) and it’s based on a consequentialist ethic of right and wrong, which as I have said, emphasizes profits and shareholders over public interest and I don’t see how this is at all compatitible with Jesus’ teaching. However, to be fair, there must be a working economy if we’re going to be able to help those in need and therefore, the regulation by the government has to be kept to a minimum and this is why I support doing it, as much as possible, away from the federal level so that regional or state problems are solved within the state and only assisted federally if it is necessary.

    There is no such thing as a perfect economic system. But I believe that a free market that has “common good” oriented regulation that is kept to a minimum, without handicapping the market, I think is most effective. But that’s my view and I’m not absolutizing it anyway. Though, I don’t think I’m fundamentally wrong. For example, in regard to minimum wage laws the reason that the Bishops support it is because there have been cases of people being employed for wages that are not sufficient to live decently in our country, particularly to provide for one’s family. Making $5.15 an hour is ridiculous (the current wage is $6.44, I think). Now, arguably, it might have been better for each state to deliver a different minimum wage law, but nevertheless be required to have one could have been a common ground solution. Surely it’s cheaper to live in some states than others. But the fundamental recognition in law that there has to be some relative wage that is fitting to the economic situation of our country that respects human dignity should be established.

    Now in regard to education, you have some good points. But I’ll just point to Texas. I live in a state that is predominantly governed by conservative policies because everyone votes for Republicans. Every fiscal year when we start cutting the budget, education is usually first in line. So in places like “third ward” in Houston, which is essentially a ghetto of blacks and hispanics — the schools are run down, underfunded, science labs have no equipment, teachers are poorly paid. The cost of college as you mention is rising. All of this, but we’re having an 11 billion dollar surplus this year in Texas.

    In my view, it’s not simply the money that’s required, it’s the priortizing and the budgeting. Clinton ended his presidency with four surpluses and a deficit of 5.63 trillion dollars. (I’m not saying that he deserves all the credit — he doesn’t). When Bush leaves office, that deficit will have about doubled. We’re fighting a war that requires us to borrow $10 billion dollars a month. On a side note, over half a million Americans die from various forms of cancer and we spend about $5.5 billion on cancer research. That’s not even a month in Iraq.

    When political conservatives take office, funding for public education and financial aid for students are first in line to be cut and money is delivered elsewhere. So in my view it’s not entirely about cost (costs do matter) but when it comes down to what matters, what doesn’t, what’s more important, and what isn’t, is when I begin to go liberal. I think a lot of problems could be solved if our priorities in our budgets were different.

    And what I really want to get at here is that I’m talking here mainly in theory–sort of like a framework. The approach liberals take, I generally agree with. Now are their policies and tendency toward nationalizing some matters an immediate consequence? I don’t think so. I’d argue that I’m “liberal” and other self-identified liberals sometimes aren’t. Just to give an example or two. If liberals really cared about the weak and vulnerable, they would oppose abortion. If liberals really cared about personal freedom, then they would support transitory welfare systems with strict limits so that Americans don’t become ultra-dependent on the government for survival. In that way, I can argue that I’m adopting a more faithfully “liberal” position.

    I think it’s fair to say — as usual — we agree, more or less, on principle and not on policies.

  • Eric,

    I feel I need to go paragraph by paragraph here…

    P1) Good to get on the same page. I was thinking you only meant federal government. Now that that’s cleared up, with you 100%.

    P2) Still 100%

    P3) Still 100%. I really think that full respect for human dignity and a thriving economy go hand-in-hand, that the second naturally springs from the first. Yes, human dignity must indeed trump economy when it becomes an either-or situation. I think we only differ on when that happens. Maybe the how, as well. We’ll see.

    P4) I’m only cautious about the minimum wage thing. That might be because in Wyoming, in most cities the cost of living is cheap. (Not in Laramie, where college students drive housing prices up, or in Rawlins, which is struggling to house a massive number of construction workers, or in Jackson a.k.a. “Little California”.) There’s a lot I could say about minimum wage, and it reflects back on immigrant workers that cram together in a small house, only staying there to sleep, essentially, as they struggle to make ends meet. But then, I don’t know if finding roommates to help split the cost is a good idea or not, giving the potential of abuse. And I suppose, reluctantly, that it makes sense to index minimum wage against inflation, but minimum wage is minimum wage for a reason. It is the wage that says “I have no skills, yet”. I’d rather see a bill mandating a certain amount of raise every so often than a bill raising minimum wage. Your thoughts on that?

    P5) To fix education, we have to fix our public schools and the success of our students there. I have no good ideas of how to do that. The cure, I don’t think, is as simple as throwing money at the problem. Do you think Texas might be willing to have recruitment of public school teachers on the level that it recruits football players? Get all the public schools together and have a draft of potential teachers, of which stats regarding each one’s teaching ability are publicly known? I’d definitely be willing to distribute some of that $11 billion surplus to help each school acquire teachers up to some set salary cap.

    It seems to me that fixing college, or making college available to more and more people, does little unless we actually make our public schools quality schools again. But then, I’ve also heard that a lot of failing schools are failing due to cultural reasons, not financial ones. Do you know or have any experience with this?

    P6) Priorities are going to be a place we differ. All I can say about your example, though, is that cancer is something that plagues all mankind, the Iraq war that is primarily an American and Iraqi problem. The problem I have with the Iraq War right now, and ever since the terrorists decided to make Iraq the central front, is that the Iraq War seems to be a low priority thing, even with all that we seem to be dumping into it. It doesn’t feel, to me, that we’re taking the war seriously. If we had really been serious about it, ramped things up to the levels of previous wars, I think we’d be out of Iraq by now. And since we thought we could fight Iraq in our spare time, I don’t think we should have gone in in the first place. I guess maybe I would amend what you have to say, then, is not just priorities, but commitment to them. Enough half-baked ideas or empty promises.

    P7) Makes sense to me.

    P8) I talk in theory a lot, too. My field of research is theory. Mathematics is about as theoretical as you get. So don’t worry if you’re getting too theoretical.

    P9) I think, between us, we could hammer out an acceptable policy. Let’s try to have one drafted up to present to the next president, whoever he is!

  • Ryan,

    In regard to your first question on minimum wage. Currently, minimum wage laws are done from the federal level. States can raise the wages higher, but cannot be lower than the federal mandated minimum wage. The notion of a “living wage” was introduced by Pope Leo XIII against the excesses of laissez-faire capitalism and communism. The Holy Father affirmed the right to private property while insisting on the state requiring a living wage. In essence, private property requires state protection and a certain dimension of the common good requires state regulation. Thus, minimum wage is a set legal stature by which the state mandates that all workers be given a “living wage,” which is necessary for a person to achieve a humane standard of living–a person should be able to afford quality housing, foods, utilities, transportation, health care, and minimal leisure.

    Some excerpts of Rerum Novarum:

    “If a worker receives a wage sufficiently large to enable him to provide comfortably for himself, his wife and his children, he will, if prudent, gladly strive to practice thrift; and the result will be, as nature itself seems to counsel, that after expenditures are deducted there will remain something over and above through which he can come into the possession of a little wealth. We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property.” (#65)

    “Wealthy owners of the means of production and employers must never forget that both divine and human law forbid them to squeeze the poor and wretched for the sake of gain or to profit from the helplessness of others.” (#17)

    “As regards protection of this world’s good, the first task is to save the wretched workers from the brutality of those who make use of human beings as mere instruments for the unrestrained acquisition of wealth.” (#43)

    How the state ensures a “living wage” can have a variety of forms, I imagine. The most common method is through minimum wage laws. Obviously, I support minimum wage laws. Given the unique structure of the American political system, I don’t think minimum wage laws — as I’ve said — have to be legislated on a national level. Since each state has its own economy, since the price of living in Alabama is not the same as the price of living in New York, then it seems to me preferrable that minimum wage laws still be made, but by the state rather than federal government. That way, the minimum wage in New York or California (places where it’s relatively more expensive to live) be higher than the minimum wage in Louisiana or Nebraska where the cost of living is notably lower. Giving differing state economies, it is more reasonable to not have an across the board minimum wage law. That’s my view on that matter.

    In regard to education, I don’t think we disagree much. We spend more money than any other industrialized nation in the world on education and we have a poor quality of education. One thing — we’re also a much larger country than many others and we have a profoundly different system. So in some ways, I think it’s not always good to compare. There is a need of money, as I noted with schools with outdated textbooks, lacking scientific lab equipment, and poorly paid teachers.

    One thing I think is the emphasis on athletics and not on academics, particularly in the south. The other is the shortage of teachers. Teachers aren’t paid well for all the work they do. A lot they do for free (e.g. staying after school to tutor students for hours). One thing is that education needs to be the item on our list that doesn’t face routine budget cuts. Huge surpluses and problems in our education system such as the ones we have, don’t make much moral sense.

    On the matter of proving the quality of education, I agree entirely. I’m in favor of all but abolishing standardized testing. All it does is gear the entirety of one’s education toward remembering facts to pass some test. The emphasis in education should be on writing well, thinking rationally and critcally, and being able to articulate clearly and synthesize ideas coherently. This usually curbs one’s tendency toward relativism because many of these tenets are present in a liberal arts education.

    Education is also suffering because of at home issues. Students in single parent households are likely to do poorer in school than those who have a traditional family setting. Some parents (Asians especially) are more interested in their children’s academic success than other ethnic groups (African Americans and Hispanics especially). This needs to be a factor that influences our approach to education so that this isn’t a cycling, never-ending reality. The people who grow up to vote, to effect the morality of our country and our culture, come through the education system. There will always be some failing at home and if there isn’t a “safety net” of some sort in the education system to limit cultural and moral relavitism through educating people away from that, we’ll continue to have problems. I suspect in retrospect that one of my high school teachers was a Catholic and that he geared me away from such forms of thinking. Surely, an aversion of relativism isn’t contigent on one’s being Catholic, but simply on being rational (so it’s possible to achieve). After all, everyone who approaches the abortion debate with a poor understanding of morality (and the ‘answerless’ question of when life begins) came through the American education system. It’s why I think it is so fundamental.

    In regard to priortizing issues, I was merely pointing out the fact that it seems that our priorties are misplaced. For someone who calls himself a “liberal,” I think most liberal methods in international policies are severely flawed. To give one example, sending millions of dollars to African governments to help people is commendable in intention, but in policy it doesn’t work. To send money through the machinery of a corrupt government is to waste money because it’ll never reach the people. There is a sufficient amount of food in Africa, it just isn’t distributed justly. I’ve been told (so I’m not sure if it’s true) that the government stores food up and keep it from its citizens. So we have to find more creative ways of dealing with these morally-pressing problems besides throwing American money at it. Essentially, I’m bad mouthing putting more financial power on foreign rather than domestic issues. Cancer was just the example I used. And I too agree that much of what we do, we do half-heartedly, which is an essential ingredient to its failure.

  • Eric,

    I’m ambivalent about standardized testing. For the one year I tested the waters in the college of education, I was exposed to a lot of prejudice about how schooling is to be done. Standardized testing is bad. Dividing students up into tracks is bad. Lots of projects that span many subjects are good. Lessons should be tailored so that the brightest and slowest are each engaged and learning. Grades should be based on rubrics, not the 100 point or A, B, C, D, F scales. Some of these points I agree with, others I don’t. One of my presentations was on standardized testing, and because the prevailing attitude was so negative, I tried to put as much positive spin on it as I could, and I couldn’t muster very much. (Even so, everyone thought I was a crazy conservative who was gung-ho on standardized testing.) But the question becomes, how do you ensure that certain benchmarks are met, that students are actually learning what they need to learn?

    The problem, like in all other areas, is the human factor, especially with teachers. Do we trust all teachers when they say that students have learned what they need to learn, or do we have some other measurement to go by? We can probably trust good teachers, but what about bad ones? But then, how can we trust test written and graded by people who are distant from the students have no idea if the results correspond to the student’s actual abilities? So I don’t think standardized tests are good, but I don’t have a more reasonable alternative, either.

    On the cultural issue affecting education, I’m with you 100%. But I’m not sure how to fix that problem. You can’t legislate that there have to be two parents, and you can’t mandate that parents take sufficient interest. I kind of feel that the only hope is to try to stress to our youth the importance of respect for sex, the sanctity of marriage, and the strength of a stable home in order to try to make life for the next generation better. And that becomes increasingly difficult as the nation is rapidly purging itself of respectable role models.

    As for minimum wage, I can agree that letting the states decide where the minimum is a good idea, especially in the respect for local economies. One of the problems I have is that the minimum wage can only go up. That might be all right if minimum wage is indexed against inflation (though I have arguments about that involving an increase in minimum wage only exacerbating inflation), but there are times when the economy slumps, and companies can only offer lower wages or lay people off. Another problem I have is that I have strong feelings against minimum wage being the base “living wage”. I’m not entirely certain why at the moment. Minimum wage is for the base, green, unskilled worker. Someone who has held a job for a year should not be making minimum wage. He should have seen some raises along the way, at the least. But that is theory, not practice. But here’s the main concern: when you increase the cost of unskilled labor, business tends to be less inclined to hire unskilled labor, and that hurts the unskilled laborers, makes it more difficult to develop skills and build a resume. So I guess the question is: is it really better to have no job at all than a job at $5.15/hr?

    I have no idea how much cost of living in in some places, but I think two people can live frugally in Laramie on about $1500/mo. That ends up being $750 per person take home. Using my sledgehammer approach to taxes (I assume the government simply takes 20% at this level), this amounts to needing to make a little less than $6.00/hr, assuming 40 hours a week, 4 weeks a month. At $5.15 an hour, this means the need to pick up a part-time job, but it is manageable. I know this doesn’t offer much chance of getting ahead, and any emergency can quickly destroy the budget.

    How do these numbers weigh against where you’re at?

    For the priority issues, I feel I might have stepped a little out of line with parts of what I said, and I apologize. And everything you said in your last comment about priorities is dead on, so I don’t have too much to add there.

  • I don’t think you stepped out of line on anything. Your apology is well accepted, but it isn’t necessary.

    To be brief, minimum wage laws are complicated and I don’t think we can come to an exhaustive, objective conclusion on what we should do. You pointed out correctly, I think, that a bare minimum wage can allow a person to live decently if they’re conservative and unyieldingly prudent with their spending habits. However, the slightest emergency can lead them to financial ruin. All I have to say is look at the skyrocketing cost of health care and the basic requirement of education today — with students needing supplies for projects, entire classes being mandated to purchase something, etc. The greater the number of people in this situation, the worse off we’ll be. Because we can’t have that many people fall through the cracks and expect our economy to survive. At the same time, we have to promote personal virtue and responsibility and not go into communism. So it’s a fine line.

    I agree entirely on standardized testing. I did change the standard of measuring progress: “The emphasis in education should be on writing well, thinking rationally and critcally, and being able to articulate clearly and synthesize ideas coherently.” I’m not opposed to testing if the entirety of your education is geared toward the goal of a sort of liberal arts — writing, analyzing, critical thinking skills, and being able to synthesize (coherently) information. If the education is good, then any sort of standardized test at the end of the day should be fairly simple. That’s currently not the case. Our education is geared toward passing a test and not toward being a fully developed human with knowledge of history, the arts, and the capacity to articulate and communicate effectively orally or in writing. Therefore, with the failure to do well on standardized tests, standards of education become increasingly lower, more class time is spent on taking practice tests, etc, than on actually developing these deeply needed skills. I think that’s why education is in such a crisis.

    I truly support any American who teaches their children at home because of personal disatisfcation with the current system. I’m glad this conversation is happening here because it deeply concerns me that Christians, especially Catholics, are not at the front of the American education reform movement. Most of whom I know (or rather, I have discussed it with) are just are very cynical and apathetic toward it. Behavior, values, etc. are learned. And if we cynically criticize culture and education, but aren’t the agents of change, our Christian values will receive — at most — lipservice. That’s what has happened in this country. Every sort of moral relativism, every affirmation of birth control, religious relativism, etc. will be conditioned into the next generation–in both education and culture. This is what I think happened in the late 20th century. The education system was taken away and Christians have not been on the forefront in reform and influence. We’ve created private schools, began to home school, but the mainstream public education that influences the majority, we’ve left to its own designs. And we’re paying for it now.

On These Slippery Slopes

Wednesday, October 29, AD 2008

We seem to be teetering on the edge, and there is fear that a President Obama will push us over into the long descent into the night. Those of us who value life and cling (bitterly or not) to our religion are, if not terrified, at least horrified at what Obama intends to do in office. Pass the Freedom of Choice Act, an attempt to legitimize abortion across the board. Make a national health insurance fund that is more appropriately labeled as health care. Raise taxes on the rich and give tax credits and refunds to the poor (definitions of “rich” and “poor” still pending) in order to “spread the wealth around.” Focus on Afghanistan to the detriment of Iraq and, in general, the War on Terror.

Continue reading...

9 Responses to On These Slippery Slopes

  • Spot on. People forget that we live in a republican (turning more democratic) nation where the representatives are obsessed with catering to the popular will. Sure, our elected leaders have mucked things up, but they have been aided and abetted by the people who have put them into power. It’s not enough to elect the right people – that will happen, but we have to make sure the people voting understand why they are the right people.

    It’s a hard road, but especially for those of us who are Burkean in political bent, we have to appreciate that there’s a broader culture that has to be transformed, and we can’t expect certain ballot box results to make everything better.

  • I largely agree.

    Our cultural cesspool is a product of the people who have embraced abortion, the gay agenda, contraception, divorce, etc. However, a great deal of this has been imposed on the people by the judiciary. The culture of death has won most of its important victories through the courts, and public opinion changes to reflect the courts–which function as an oligarchy in this country.

    Personally, I doubt that 50% of the country would actually favor FOCA. For example, recent polls show 90+% of the population wanting some restriction on abortion. More than 80% wanted significant restrictions on abortion.

    A majority of Americans are conservative on social issues, but they’ve been tricked by sound bites (“Right to choose,” “Roe v. Wade”, Separation of Church and State”) that they are willing to accept things like FOCA even though they don’t agree.

  • Very good. It’s been our own inaction, complacent attitudes and desire to “go along to get along” that have gotten us to where we’re at.

    I recently read a post that claimed Catholicism is always counter cultural. Kinda makes sense if it’s realized that the culture will be secular and oriented towards the material world. We can’t all be Mother Teresa but can strive to be more than we are.

  • Blaming ourselves and working on ourselves is part of the battle. We certainly need to practice our faith, pass it on to our children, and evangelize those around us through example and dialogue.

    The other part of it will be more difficult. The courts have played a significant role in changing attitudes in this great nation of ours. We are one or two more justices away from possibly turning over Roe v. Wade. With Obama as president we certainly will lose that opportunity.

    That is why we need to hit prayer really hard from here until November 4. Throw in some fasting to purify our souls and we may possibly change hearts and minds through the grace of God.

    We lose then this is what Ryan was saying about God chastizing us. We will reap what we have sown as a nation as a President Obama further embeds the culture of death upon American society.

    Ora pro nobis.

  • “Make a national health insurance fund that is more appropriately labeled as health care. Raise taxes on the rich and give tax credits and refunds to the poor (definitions of “rich” and “poor” still pending) in order to “spread the wealth around.” Focus on Afghanistan to the detriment of Iraq and, in general, the War on Terror.”

    Sounds good and Catholic to me!

    BTW, Ryan, just what is Bush’s so-called “War on Terror” and how does it square with the Culture of Life?

  • I’m always confused when government social programs are cast as advancing Catholic social teachings. Jesus instructed us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. He didn’t instruct us to lay all responsibility at the feet of the government.

  • With a population of 98% meat eaters and 10 billion slaughtered each year, it sure is a culture of death. Our vote choice is like arsenic or cyanide.

  • Mark,

    1) The Devil is in the details. I don’t have a problem with the government providing health care for the needy, per se, but I do have a problem when the government wants to offer blanket protection to everyone. We can’t pay for this financially, so we’ll pay in other ways, such as time, as in long waiting lists for scarce resources. It isn’t the intent that I disagree with as far as health care goes; the implementation, however, is lacking. Same with the raising the taxes to give handouts to the poor. When historically, doing such a thing has only left more people poor and unemployed, is that really helping the poor? Again, it isn’t intent, but implementation.

    2) Bush’s so-called “War on Terror” is really a global police effort attempting to crack down on trans-national, violent radicals who set bombs and kill civilians in order to try to topple nations and governments. Whether his War on Terror squares with the Culture of Life depends on a number of issues. Does the US have the right to punish criminals that have committed crimes against the US when the criminals themselves are on foreign soil? If so, does the US have the right to send military units into foreign nations for the purpose of detaining these criminals? If so, does the US have the right to exercise lethal force against these criminals, which are wholly unrepentant and use lethal force themselves?

    The War on Terror squares with the culture of life, I believe, when falling within the Just War Doctrine. Do I think that it has remained within those constraints? We know that it was just to go after Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The threat posed by those groups is grave, severe, and lasting. The other conditions, though? We seem to have a reasonable chance for success, provided that we fight seriously, and not just in our spare time with our spare change. We know that no other means works–we’ve tried for years to negotiate with these people, and that has brought us nothing but grief. We can’t just ignore them because they won’t ignore us. So when the options essentially boil down to: be placid and allow them to continue to suicide bomb us, or take action and destroy these radical groups, the choice seems clear to me. A government has a duty to protect its citizens (when those citizens aren’t themselves violating law), and the intent to destroy Al Qaeda and end its radical terrorism is justified. Now, are we causing greater harm than if we had let the situation lie? From what I’ve read and seen in the news, the answer appears, to me at least, to be negative.

    What about the war in Iraq? After long consideration, I eventually concluded that we were not justified in going into Iraq. We had the option of letting Hussein rot, and from what I could tell, that would not have left us in a position of grave and lasting harm. But that point is moot. What we have to focus on now is what we do now that we’re in Iraq. We can’t go back in time and unmake the decision to go into Iraq, so need to figure out how to leave without making matters worse. We seem to have weathered the storm fairly well, and Iraq seems to be headed towards stability. Not perfect peace by any means, but stability. But here I would use the Just War Doctrine again: the damage of us leaving before Iraq has reached a stable point far outweighs the damage of staying. It is a certainty that an unstable Iraq will send the whole area up in flames. A region-wide conflict would inflict severe and lasting damage, perhaps even embroil us in a much greater war.

    So, a long answer to a short question, I know. But let me sum up my thoughts: Bush’s War on Terror sometimes squares with the culture of life, sometimes doesn’t. We know that his implementation of this global effort is far, far, far from perfect. Catholic voices definitely need to speak out against those parts–unnecessary warfare, torture, etc–that are squarely contrary to the culture of life. But because the whole plan has flaws doesn’t mean we toss it for a worse one. And I personally believe that Obama’s plan is a worse one.

    That doesn’t mean that I agree with what McCain will do, but as I should have mentioned in my post, McCain himself is a compromise. The choice is between voting for someone who is 0% pro-life, and 55% pro-life (numbers made up, so don’t fact check me on them). We want a 100% pro-life candidate, but we find ourselves forced to compromise to the 55% (assuming we wish to vote for one of the two main candidates). So even with McCain, we will reap what we sow.

  • Pingback: The Case For Not Voting? « The American Catholic: Politics and Culture from a Catholic perspective

Calling a Spade an Earth-Destroying Instrument of Destruction

Tuesday, October 21, AD 2008

This started out as a reply to Chris’s “We’re All Socialists Now” post, and just kept going, so I decided to make a whole post out of it instead of clogging the comments.

There is a huge intellectual dishonesty in all of politics, in which it is never so important to simply call a spade a spade, but to distort it for political benefit. A spade to one party is the earth-tearing, vegetation-mutilating instrument of doom, while to the other party it is the vehicle of agricultural and personal independence.

Continue reading...

22 Responses to Calling a Spade an Earth-Destroying Instrument of Destruction

  • Great post, Ryan! I especially liked your final sentence.

  • I don’t think we should give ‘other’ people power over what we make. This violates the Principle of Subsidiarity. Jesus did say we will always have the poor. To take my money away from me and giving it to the ‘State’ to redistribute smacks, rightly or wrongly, of Socialism.

    Senator Obama’s heart is in the right place, but he wants to place the decision making abilities of how to spend your hard earned money into the hands of others that may or may not spend it correctly.

    I see where you are coming from about not pigeon-holing a candidate based on his plans. But if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck plain and simple. To obfuscate the issue of well Senator Obama ‘means well’ and he really wants to do good with other peoples money is not going to sell to most Americans.

    Good post though.

  • Thanks, Chris. But what, no comment about the bumper-stickers?

    Tito, I have no problem with saying that Obama’s policies smack of socialism, and I disagree with his solutions almost 100%. But the thing is, depending on which side you’re on, shouting socialism either overstates or understates the problem, and like people shouting “racism!” and “bigot!”, simply working on the accusation “socialist!” shuts down honest discourse.

  • Ryan, that entire ‘graph was a great one.

    Tito, I have no philosophical issue with the federal government using *some* of my money for legitimate purposes, even of a “social safety net” variety… after all, our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, so there is no *intrinsic* conservative objection to federal programs; the problem comes with inefficiency and unintended negative consequences, which is why the principle of subsidiarity is — as you indicate — so important. But I see no reason to be inherently opposed to federal programs, a view I occasionally (you think?) detect coming from the libertarian corner of the conservative tent.

  • No, Ryan. Obama is Jimmy Carter 2.0. Oh you might not have been around during Jimmeh’s time as president. Mortgage rates up to 19 percent. Sluggish stock market. Jimmeh telling us to just wear sweaters to conserve energy. Not to mention The Iranian Hostage Drama. Obama is a Socialist. Socialists aren’t compassionate. My City With All Its Works/pomps has been handicapped for six decades by the most onerous wage tax in this here nation. Why bedroom suburbs like King Of Prussia, Malvern, Cherry Hill have had humongous growth in last quarter century. Oh, City has had continuous Dem mayors since 1952 and City Council domination about that long. Current Mayor Michael Nutter is fine fella, three new Council members have issued strong budget-cutting suggestions they call the Freshman 15. Still the Socialist party. Hope you get a teaching job in the field for which you are receiving an edjermacation. Otherwise, stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s are always hiring. In the burbs.

  • Gerard,

    I think you missed my point, or maybe I didn’t state it clearly enough. Making a slogan out of “socialist!” certainly appeals to the base. I want to cry “socialist!” myself. But in terms of winning over undecided voters, especially those who see political dishonesty everywhere, that simply doesn’t work. My sardonic remarks about slogans was meant to emphasize that we try to reduce everything to soundbites in the mistaken belief that no one is interested in knowing the details. The point is that Obama has many of the right intentions–which endears him to people–but has horrible solutions. But you can’t convince people his solutions are horrible simply by shouting “socialist!” They need to be convinced, because when they hear you shout “socialist!” they’re not going to simply roll over and say, “okay, I believe you!”

  • Gerard E.,

    You’re referring to Philadelphia right?

    I believe Detroit has had similar problems.

  • Ryan- above post stands. Get clearer.

    Tito- correctamundo. My City of Brotherly Love the home of the NL Champeen Philadelphia Phillies whoo hoo Go Phillies Go.

  • Chris Burgweld,

    I don’t doubt that we do need to the Federal government in certain roles such as national defense and for natural disasters.

    Safety nets sure, but when we start looking more and more like western europe, you better believe that we are already on our way to becoming communists.

    Mikhael Gorgechev once commented on the E.U. that they have become more successful than the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact in their social policies than they (the Russians) could have ever imagined.

    When you get that kind of endorsement/adulation from a communist, it speaks volumes.

  • Gerard,

    I’m not sure what you’re after, then. If we’re worried about not just intent, but effectiveness, then simply crying “socialist!” to make your point is like using socialism to dig us out of poverty. The intent is in the right place, but the implementation is lacking and actually counterproductive. I agree that Obama’s policies will dig us deep into the welfare state and cripple us economically. But I didn’t write this post to talk about his policies specifically, but how we think we need slogans to save us, and how slogans obscure the issues at hand. Your description of Philadelphia’s plight under socialist management is excellent discourse on why socialism is bad, and is a huge step up from just crying “socialism!” And I don’t believe that someone supporting a socialistic model is evil and devoid of compassion. Misguided, yes; lacking information, yes; stuck in a dreamworld, yes; possessing even a corrupted form of compassion, yes. In order to convince people that socialism is wrong, you can’t simply say “socialism…baaaaaaad.” You have to have explanations. Details, not slogans.

  • Ryan- socialism never works. Inner cities or whole countries. Why Cuban cab drivers are still tooling around in 1959 DeSotos. Why the mainland Chinese people are flocking to the big cities and working their youknowwhats off. Why big cities like mine repeat the same problems while the two main daily papers- subscriptions both waaaaay down- call for more of the same solutions. Socialism takes the human spirit out of the equation. We do really well for ourselves and our families when the wraps are off. The American Dream and so forth. Capitalism is like democracy- not the best idea, but a whole lot better than anything else. Explained?

  • “socialism never works”

    Words to live by. I believe Obama and his backers wish to convert the US into a socialist state of the West European variety. Statements to the contrary are mere campaign ephemera.

  • I think the real problem is when people call an “Earth-Destroying Instrument of Destruction” a spade.

  • Gerard.

    Ah. As so many times I have experienced in life, we’re not connecting because we’re not even arguing the same issue. You want to argue “socialism is wrong”. I want to argue “shouting slogans doesn’t help a candidate in the political realm.” These aren’t even close to the same issue. And as long as you want to make the issue socialism itself, nothing I can say about my post means anything, because my post is not meant to address whether or not socialism is wrong. Similarly, I can argue until I’m blue in the face that we shouldn’t rely on cheap slogans (as good as they feel to say), and you won’t be satisfied because I’m not addressing the issue of socialism.

    If you want, I can make my next post about socialism and its evils, how it is degrading to the human because work is made for man, not man for work, and how work is one of the highest forms of thanksgiving we can give to God, and how socialism turns the whole thing upside down, treating man as purely material, crushing the human dignity by rendering meaningless work and its glorifying aspects, and how socialism leads to the utter economic collapse of a nation even without consider the dignity of a human being. But that wasn’t the topic of this post. The post was about slogans, how they do injustice to candidates, how they provide a cheap, ineffective shortcut to actually defining the issues, looking at specific policies, comparing and contrasting, and making a strong, recognizable case that one’s plan works over the other.

    I would also like to note the following: I wrote “Saying that Obama is a socialist is not calling a spade a spade; it is calling a back-hoe loader a spade…” The order there was intentional. I don’t think calling Obama a socialist is a good thing because I feel the danger he represents is so much bigger than working towards socialistic policies, as many times bigger as a back-hoe loader is bigger than a spade.

    Lastly, (and this is tongue-in-cheek), how can you say that socialism doesn’t work? It does what it purports to do–level the playing the playing field. Of course, that level is abject poverty for all…

  • Heaven knows I enjoy a good hair-splitting session over language matters. But I think part of the problem with parsing the definition of a socialist is that many people who self-identify as socialists have worldviews fairly similar to Obama’s (or perhaps to his left, if that is possible.) The definition seems to have evolved from its orginal form. It happens.

    It’s a bit like the present use of the term “anarchist.” This one really gets my goat (remember what I said about enjoying hair-splitting?) because I was always under the impression that anarchists believed in the abolition of all government. I thought of anarchists as a sort of extreme libertarian. Then I learned that “anarchism” was being embraced again on college campuses, but what was being sold as “anarchism” looked an awful lot like old-fashioned Marxism (which is anything but anarchic) to me.

  • Shoot–that was actually me.

  • Yes, I’ve been cynically amused that the new “anarchism” is basically socialism with lots of talking about how one is really far too sophisticated to believe in the “modern nation state” — but since all these rubes have inflicted one on us we might as well have it give us everything we want.

  • That sort of “anarchism” is just a pose, a faux radical stance adopted by people who, for some reason, want to think of themselves as something different from your garden-variety leftist. But yeah, an “anarchist” who supports government healthcare and gun control is just confused. It’s as if one of the colonists (in Ben Franklin’s era) had claimed to be a radical democrat, but none of his policy proposals involved voting or representation; instead, every proposal involved strengthening the monarchy and giving it more power.

  • The free market or the slave market; pick one.

  • Micha,

    Again, I don’t understand your post. Could you please explain?



  • What a load of crap!

  • d,

    No need for that type of language here. I’m sure you could have expressed yourself in a much more dignified manner.

Reflections on Death

Monday, October 20, AD 2008

My wife’s grandfather, Dave, died Saturday night after a long fight with a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease. As opposed to the more common forms that start in the appendages and work their up, this started immediately at the head and worked its way down. In his last days, he could not feed himself, speak, bathe himself, or even write to communicate with others what he needed. It was a difficult time for everyone; for my wife’s grandmother, who has divorced once and buried a second husband already; and for the rest of the family, who have felt as though they were just marking time, especially as week by week the reports of his health bore increasingly bleak news.

Continue reading...

2 Responses to Reflections on Death

The Root of All Abortion

Thursday, October 16, AD 2008

While sitting down with a group of friends for an afternoon of games, the issue of pregnancy came up. My friends, which are of a liberal bent, had the following things to say about pregnancy: “the most contracted STD”, supporting a “parasite”, like “having cancer”, and a few other clever remarks we’ve all heard hundreds of times over. When the issue of abortion came up, you can bet they were all in support of a woman’s right to “choose”.

Continue reading...

23 Responses to The Root of All Abortion

  • Excellemt commentary.

    There’s a big difference between ‘Christian humanism ‘ and ‘secular humanism’, and that difference is really the ‘big divide’ in the abortion discuassion.

    (In Canada we’re not even allowed to discuss it!)

  • Phenomenal.

    You’ve exploded the lame duck excuses into smitherines. God bless you for it.

  • It makes me almost laugh when someone says they accidently got pregnant. I have always wanted to answer with, “did you have sex?” When you have sex (the purpose of which is both unitive and procreative – not getting into this that is a whole other issue) and do not get pregnant it is more like you accidently did not get pregnant. When you flip on a light switch you do not say I accidently turned on a light — that is the purpose of the switch.

  • Ryan, you need new friends. They say these things in front of you? Maybe you can hand out this fine essay of yours to them as a way of explanation.

  • Ryan,


    J. Christian,

    I’ve always struggled with that once I embraced the full teachings of the Church. In my opinion, and it’s only an opinion, maybe Ryan by his faithful witness to Christ may be able to sway their opinions. Maybe even have them convert!

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,


  • Tito,

    There is always the possibility that by his witness Ryan will win them over one day, and I certainly hope this is true. It would take a person made of much stouter stuff than I. To have “friends” who think of children as a disease… Well, Christ be with you, Ryan!

  • J. Christian,

    It is very difficult. Especially when comingling with my secular friends. When certain subjects come up I’m uneasy as to correct my buddies or let it slide.

    It’s never easy.

    Though in these instances one can learn humility and patience well.

    In Jesus, Mary, & Joseph,


  • I was struggling with the Precious Blood Chaplet, in which you say 33 Our Fathers while reflecting on text from Evangelium Vitae. Sounds good, right?

    But repeating the Our Father that many times got tedious, and I wanted to pray it with my heart (I know, this shouldn’t be a struggle for someone praying the Rosary).

    I feel like this post was the answer to my unspoke prayer. At this time in history, on the cusp of an Obama presidency, we need to pray the Our Father more times than we think we ought. “Thy will be done!” must be our constant refrain as we submit to the rule of Choice, as we watch more of our tax dollars pile into the hands of abortionists, as we watch cloned embryos treated as waste products, as we watch the right to life lobby get beaten to a pulp.

    No, we will not stop our outcry. But God have mercy! Thy Kingdom come~

  • Is comment moderation in effect?

  • Sorry–wasn’t getting through for some reason. Please delete or ignore the above.

    Good post.

    For good pro-life discussion of the rape issue, see
    http://www.feministsforlife.org/Q&A/Q2.htm and the linked articles.

    For a thoughtful scientific response to the “parasitism” analogy, see
    The author, a biology professor, taught courses in both embryology and parasitology. The library page of the parent site (Libertarians for Life) has links to many well-written articles:

    I’d like to add clarification to your remarks on Church teaching. The Catechism states:

    “Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…” (#2271)

    In other words, an intentional attempt to kill or dislodge the embryo/fetus before it can reasonably be expected to survive independently violates moral law. A medical procedure necessary to save the mother’s life may be used even if fetal demise occurs as an unintended secondary effect. An example would be the removal of a fallopian tube in imminent danger of rupture from an ectopic pregnancy. (Of course, in the given example the baby would have no chance of survival even if the tube were left alone.)

  • Sorry for the above inanity; I think the combox was just refusing my urls. I can email them if anyone is interested, but I suppose Google will do.

    Good post.

    For good pro-life discussion of the rape issue, check out the topics page at Feminists For Life’s website.

    For a thoughtful scientific response to the “parasitism” analogy, go to Libertarians for Life’s website and look up the article, “Why the Human Embryo or Fetus is Not a Parasite.”
    The author, a biology professor, taught courses in both embryology and parasitology.

    I’d like to add clarification to your remarks on Church teaching. The Catechism states:

    “Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law…” (#2271)

    In other words, an intentional attempt to kill or dislodge the embryo/fetus before it can reasonably be expected to survive independently violates moral law. A medical procedure necessary to save the mother’s life may be used even if fetal demise occurs as an unintended secondary effect. An example would be the removal of a fallopian tube in imminent danger of rupture from an ectopic pregnancy. (Of course, in the given example the baby would have no chance of survival even if the tube were left alone.)

  • I|remove the word abortion and consider the human emotions and it is a question we all face. Will we be selfless or will we be selfish? The rest is just chatter.

  • I don’t think it’s wrong to expect justice for oneself.

    The problem is that people don’t expect justice for the unborn!

  • Exactly. What gives those embryos the idea that they have the right to come into this world uninvited? We need to dispense justice on the unthinking potential-humans that unfairly take advantage of people who make love in a certain way!

  • I certainly hope that I will have a positive effect, a good Catholic influence, on my friends. One of them is a homosexual, and has made it clear how grateful he is that I don’t simply condemn him out of hand. He knows that I feel his acting on his sexual preference is sinful, but he also knows that I still offer friendship and support. We sit down and talk amiably about issues of religion and particular viewpoints from time to time, and I don’t know if I’ll have any effect, but at least he’ll be more informed.

  • CMinor,

    Moderation is not in effect.

  • Suzanne,

    No, there’s nothing wrong with expecting justice for oneself. The problem is, we tend to expect preference for ourselves, and to justify it we try to wrap it up as justice. I doubt any one of us really wants what we truly deserve (outside the sacrifice on Calvary, of course).

  • CMinor,

    No we are not moderating, but our spam detection system marked your posting as spam.

    I apologize for this, but I believe that it was because you had a link in your comments. This shouldn’t happen again. Everyone can place a link in their comments, it just takes time for our spam detection system to discern what is and is not spam.

    Comment away CMinor!

  • My apologies–as no message came up when I hit the “Submit” button I figured my comments had evaporated into the ether. Boy, do I feel stupid!
    Would somebody on the site please just delete my multiple post attempts and just leave the last one? There’s no reason anybody should have to plow through my repetitions.

  • CMinor,

    No apologies needed.

    It wasn’t you (I think), it was our spam detection program. It thinks you’re a spammer.

  • A good commentary. I know we talked about it a while ago but I just wanted to mention that it looks like overpopulation theorists (whom I think we all agree contribute to a culture of death) are starting a new fundraising and organizing drive.

    Here is a link.


    Some of those who signed the letter I recognize like Albert A. Bartlett. This is the same person speaking in a set of youtube videos that a believer of his put online as “The Most IMPORTANT Video You’ll Ever See” in 8 parts.

    The first is in the above link.

    About the Bartlett videos, I watched them all and wrote up a list of the things that were questionable. It ended up being 3 or 4 pages long. Maybe I write using too many words but (in spite of being a math lesson on a specific type of equation) it has many errors (that I’m willing to point out if someone is interested in listening and noting them, and also notice how little he actually talks about ecological damage).

    As Tito may know already, I don’t view those who advocate better care of the environment as foolish or encouraging others to act badly. I think they are trying to deal with a serious topic that should be taken as such.

    But I’m not sure if this misuse (in my opinion) of environmentalism is likely to end soon. And I don’t want to see a movement that is intended to do good turned into a cheerleader for the culture of death-especially when real world attempts to deal with “overpopulation” have resulted in no improvement in environmental conditions (sometimes things have gotten worse) and a sizable number of people dying.

    One last thing makes me curious (and I apologize in advance if this makes me seem ignorant to someone who can explain). Why is it that people like Bill Gates are actively listed among those invited to join?

  • I can’t cite chapter and verse re Gates’s charitable work, Nathaniel, but it seems to me this won’t have been the first time he’s promoted population control through his foundations.

Sarah Palin and Small Town America

Monday, October 13, AD 2008

When Sara and I were working through our marriage preparation last fall, Fr. Gallinger warned all of us that we should make sure to have the marriage license ready before the ceremony. After all, there’s nothing like reaching Saturday and finding out that the courthouses are closed. I assume this is a general cautionary for people getting married elsewhere, for he continued in a humorous vein: “Of course, in Wyoming, if you can’t get into the courthouse, you know someone who knows someone who has the keys to let you in.”

Continue reading...

One Response to Sarah Palin and Small Town America

  • Dear Ryan,
    Very good!! I was amused by the small town “keys of the courthouse”:) story. I think you may be right about the small town factors. I like living in Wyoming, too.
    Take good care.
    Sincerely yours,
    p.s. Because of your giving me the Catholic websites, I realized that it was the debate tonight, and I ran over to the Newman Center and saw the entire final presidential debate. Thank you so much for that!

Religion in the Political Realm

Thursday, October 9, AD 2008

The question of the role of religion and faith in politics should not be as controversial as it is today, and yet it comes up time and again. Will a Catholic president bow to the Pope? Will a Mormon president bow to the Prophet in Utah? Will a candidate be willing to honor the “separation of church and state”, not allowing his faith to interfere with his politics? Will an evangelical vote to remove science from the classroom, since “science conflicts with religion”? Some of these concerns are legitimate; others are formed by prejudices, propaganda, and general misunderstanding, and thus easily dealt with.

Continue reading...

5 Responses to Religion in the Political Realm

  • Senator Biden is a schizophrenic by his mere statement of “personally” believing in the sanctity of life, but “pubically” against it.

    Regardless, good article Ryan.

  • Thanks, Tito. I suppose to be fair, though, I should try to think of other excuses for Biden than just deceit or schizophrenia. Maybe he really does hold a relativistic mindset in which the only truth is personal truth, and the freedom of personal truth trumps rights to life. Or maybe he fundamentally believes that true Catholics will avoid abortion regardless of what the government permits, and thus he can support legislation contrary to the Catholic viewpoint for the sake of those who are not Catholic and will try to procure abortions with or without government support. However, I think those are rather weak arguments. If you believe you know the truth, you want to spread the truth, especially when error is dangerous. Correcting an English student from “through Mama from the train a kiss” to “throw a kiss to Mama from the train” is not horribly vital, though it helps the student learn how to better communicate. Correcting an engineering student on his statics homework is much more vital, because if you crunch the numbers incorrectly, bridges collapse and buildings fall down. Moral truth is especially important, because of the damage to the soul. Thus if I believed life begins at conception, I cannot but warn people against abortion.

  • …or he could be holding those two conflicting ideas for political expendiency.

    But truthfully, we won’t know unless he is asked these questions directly as to ‘how’ his moral compass operates.

    My best guess is he trully believes it is possible to “personally” against something while “publically” for it.

    Mario Cuomo’s infamous Notre Dame speech helped to pave the way for this. Where he stated pretty much the same thing.

  • Excellent post, Ryan… everyone has a religious belief, insofar as “religious belief” is a synonym for worldview. Regardless of what worldview a public official claims to hold, their “real” worldview is better determined by their actions & policies than by their public proclamations.

  • Pingback: Paris - History | Worlds Biggest Cities

Pithy Thoughts on Prudence

Monday, October 6, AD 2008

I used to dream about the great things I would set up someday when I had the money. I had ambitions of expanding Casper College into Wyoming’s second university. I had aspirations of setting up a scholarship fund that would help worthy students attending college. I built businesses in my mind, crafted scenarios where, once I had the money, I could start doing things that would make a difference.

To an extent, those dreams remain, even though reality is slowly draining my hopes that I’ll ever have millions of dollars lying around to fund these projects. Still, in my spare time, I think of smaller ways to make a mark on the world. I think of soup kitchens or adopt a family or something that would help some poor family get back on their feet, or at least endure another day.

It doesn’t take a Catholic conscience to want to help those less fortunate, and it doesn’t take supernatural charity to want to give a hand up to those coming after us. That much decency, I believe, exists in most, if not all of us.

Continue reading...

One Response to Pithy Thoughts on Prudence