Most People Are Not Like You

Wednesday, February 18, AD 2009

Almost no matter who you are, the above is almost certainly true. Yet it’s a fact that few people seem to readily grasp.

I was struck by this as I continued to read the exchange between Ross Douthat and Will Wilkinson over whether secular libertarian intellectuals should all pack up and join the Democrats. Will predicts:

…I think intellectual capital flight from the right really does threaten the GOPs future success. If Republicans keep bleeding young intellectual talent because increasingly socially liberal twenty-somethings simply can’t stand hanging around a bunch of superstitious fag-bashers, then the GOP powers-that-be might start to panic and realize that, once the last cohort of John Birchers die, they’ve got no choice but to move libertarian on social issues. Maybe. I like to imagine.

This reads like it comes from some alternate universe, to me,

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19 Responses to Most People Are Not Like You

  • People like Wilkinson have been crying out since 1976 that the GOP needs to go liberal on the social issues. That was John Anderson’s theme in the 1980 Republican primaries and fueled his third party run in the general election. It is all rot. Most republicans are fiscal and social conservatives and believe in a strong defense. A political party does not achieve success by alienating its base.

  • “And the majority of people who actually vote (and thus determine which party is in charge at a given time) are so woefully uninformed that making intellectual statements about parties as a whole is nearly impossible”.

    Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

  • Does anyone else find this woefully superior?

    Well, it’s true that I’d feel pretty comfortable saying that simply by having the interest to read that much about politics, regular readers of this blog are probably in the top 10-20% of voters as far as being informed. So yes, I suppose I am rather elitist in that sense. Though for what it’s worth, I’d also be ready to say that being informed about politics is not necessarily indicative of much of anything in regards to one’s worth as a person or overall intelligence.

    Perhaps I’m overestimating based on the sort of “man on the street” interviews which those on either side of the political spectrum are often able to use to point to how idiotic the other sides voters are (recall the YouTube that was going around where a local radio station got a bunch of Obama voters to voice their support for Obama’s opposition to Roe v. Wade, and even his choice of Palin as a running mate), but I do tend to think that the average voter has a very, very simplistic understanding of politics and economics (and the stands that the candidates have taken on them.)

  • Winston Churchill said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute talk with the average voter. I have noticed that when I discuss budgetary woes of the government with people who do not follow these issues very closely, invariably they will say that there would be plently of money if we didn’t give so much to foreigners. When I point out that foreign aid is a miniscule portion of our budget they will often refuse to believe me. I have never been interested in professional sports and my knowledge of that subject is small. I am afraid that a substantial percentage of the voters have the same attitude towards politics and the functioning of the government. I do not think it is elitist to point this out, but merely factual. Needless to say, this does not cause me to think that intellectual elites in our society make better political judgments. I agree with Buckley that I would rather be governed by people chosen at random from a phone book than the faculty of an elite academic institution. Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized.

  • Remember the much-maligned “values voters” of 2004? Well, gee, what happened to them all? Did they all take up recreational drugs and wife-swapping during the past 4 years and thus social conservatism is now on its last legs?

    I don’t think this past election had much to do with social conservatism at all. It was decided by the economy, above all, and by the fact that Obama ran a very good campaign (and had the MSM in his back pocket) and McCain ran a very poor one. (Other factors: the GOP learned nothing from the kicking it got in 2006 and so was seen as Dem-lite and the media successfully demonized Bush – who certainly made his mistakes.)

    One thing I do believe is that the conservatives made a great error in ceding the culture to the Left. As a result, we have kids who are indoctrinated in public schools, exposed to all sorts of garbage in the media, and have reached maturity thinking the party of “freedom” is the one which wants to expand government into every reach of life and the GOP is the party of white guys who yearn to oppress everybody. How the heck you reverse that at this stage in the game is beyond me. The only thing I can hope for this that once these Obama-smitten young folk actually get out of college and are paying taxes, the burning issues of gay marriage and pot legalization will recede in importance. It’s struck me before that that “political correctness” came to the fore in prosperous times. And it took hold most strongly in those parts of the country with high percentages of well-to-do upper middle class people with the luxury to worry about sexist language, recycling, “a woman’s right to choose” etc, etc. Real estate ain’t cheap in Berkeley on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

    P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college. Then he got his first job and took a look at what was withheld and lo, a conservative was born. And the GOP didn’t have to jettison its pro-life plank or become “cooler than thou” to bring him around.

  • Oops, that should be “Berkeley or the Upper West Side of Manhattan.”

  • “P.J. O’Rourke was a Maoist in college.”

    When he told his rock-ribbed Republican grandmother that he was a Maoist she said “Just as long as you aren’t a Democrat dear”. Looking back on this time O’Rourke said: “I like to think of my behavior in the sixties as a “learning experience.” Then again, I like to think of anything stupid I’ve done as a “learning experience.” It makes me feel less stupid.”

  • Well educated people are just as likely as ill-informed people to make their political judgments on the basis of myths, prejudices and passions, perhaps more so since so much of higher education has been politicized

    Very true, and what is wearisome is that these people think they’re rational and expremely knowledgable when all they’re doing is expressing the fashionable prejudices of the day. Mac down at the truck stop might have some ignorant prejudices, but Mac usually don’t think he knows everything about everything. Whereas I’ve had the most frustrating conversations on and off-line with college-educated people who “know” belief in God is idiotic, the Pope is a Nazi, the Founding Fathers were contemptible racists, Republicans hate poor people, animals should have the same rights as people do – who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?

  • “expremely”??? Was I trying to type extremely or supremely? Actually, I rather like “expremely.”

    (I really need to break down and get me some reading glasses. I’m at that age,…,)

  • “who said there is no belief so foolish an intellectual has not held it?”

    True Donna. My late mother and father never attended college although they made certain that my brother and I did. I never met a professor at college or law school with as much common sense as my parents displayed to me every day. The education I received at college and law school was mere icing on the cake for the more important lessons I learned from my factory worker parents. I just wish they had been alive to help their lawyer son and his librarian wife raise their own kids. I don’t think we have done badly, but input from them would have been invaluable.

  • Agreed, Donna. One of the reasons I’m suspicious of the technocrat culture which so many on the left seem enamored of (Europe envy, I guess) is that I think the elites generally know rather less about a situation than they think.

    Doesn’t stop me from being something of an elitist, but at least I’m an elitist who doesn’t think that knowing a great deal about a topic means that I should make everyone’s decisions for them.

    To know much is to know you don’t know everything.

  • Donald, since we appear to have similiar tastes in humorists, I think you’ll appreciate Iowahawk’s take on the Archbishop of Canterbury, written in Chaucerian English:

    http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/dburge/2009/02/17/heere-bigynneth-the-tale-of-the-asse-hatte/#comments

    It won high praise from Christopher Johnson (who I pray swims the Tiber one day).

    /OT

  • Ha! Donna if Iowahawk isn’t making a mint from his brilliance in the “real world” there is no justice. The man is consistently the funniest writer on the net. The Archbishop is a prime example of the worthlessness of education without an ounce of common sense.

  • Donna V.,

    How about a pic for your ID?

  • He knows people like him and I know people like me. But neither means that all young intellectuals are like us.

    While I agree with your broader point about the nature of political coalitions, I think there are solid grounds for believing Will’s intellectual and educational formation is more typical of young intellectuals than yours (or mine).

  • Tito: I confess – I have no idea how to post a picture here. There – now you all know there is no way I can be a member of the techocratic elite:-)

    DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers.

    Donald: I had the good fortune to meet Dave Burge (Iowahawk) at an informal get-together of conservative bloggers and blog readers held in Chicago in 2004. He looks like a pretty hip fellow, a guy who would have been playing the bongos in a bebop jazz band 50 years ago (the goatee gives him a Maynard G. Krebs vibe); but he said that the tension between the small town Iowa values he was raised with and the Chicagoland liberals he is now surrounded by inspires much of his writing. I didn’t talk to him for long, but we found we both have a weakness for cheesy low-budget 1950’s sci-fi flicks. A very affable, pleasant man. I don’t think he was making a lot of money from his writing then; I hope that has changed.

  • Above post is yet another echo of longtime New Yorker Moon Pitcha critic Pauline Kael. Who remarked that she was surprised that Tricky Dick swamped Goo Goo George in 1972 presidential election because nobody she knew voted for Trickster. Above essayist apparently polled limited number of people or own self for conclusions. Lies damned lies and statistics I say. I could say that Current Apostle for Hope and Change is worst thing to happen to Democratic party. Looks about true. Even though House Speaker La Pelosi is real President and allows Hope/Change Apostle to do her bidding as she sees fit. But- proof of my own. Many of y’all know that last Friday night, Phila. Police Officer John Pawlowski murdered- fifth officer killed in a year. Within 12 hours, Facebook group page set up to memorialize him. More than 11000 members as I write including own self. And my darling brilliant goddaughter Regina. And many many other young folks who admire and respect our fine law enforcement pros and mourn Officer Pawlowski- Mass of Christian Burial on Friday noon at Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. Thus I have confidence in this nation’s future.

  • I know that most of the folks I know with any sense don’t talk to folks who look like they’re doing “man on the street” interviews– and that’s both for the liberal and conservative folks.

  • “DarwinCatholic: Good point. I would add that we live in a time when verbal glibness is frequently mistaken for wisdom. It isn’t just the honest but gulliable townfolk who get taken in by the snake oil peddlers”.

    I believe the subject was exhaustively discussed by Socrates in THE SOPHIST.

    [Note; The Sophists were the lawyers of their day. They could argue both sides of a case with equal conviction].

Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

Thursday, February 5, AD 2009

As the election becomes more a matter of history than immediate emotion, it is a good time for sober analysis of what went on in the 2008 election. Yuval Levin has a very good analysis in Commentary Magazine of the phenomenon that was Sarah Palin’s candidacy. In framing the controversy he makes an interesting distinction:

In American politics, the distinction between populism and elitism is further subdivided into cultural and economic populism and elitism. And for at least the last forty years, the two parties have broken down distinctly along this double axis. The Republican party has been the party of cultural populism and economic elitism, and the Democrats have been the party of cultural elitism and economic populism. Republicans tend to identify with the traditional values, unabashedly patriotic, anti-cosmopolitan, non-nuanced Joe Sixpack, even as they pursue an economic policy that aims at elite investor-driven growth. Democrats identify with the mistreated, underpaid, overworked, crushed-by-the-corporation “people against the powerful,” but tend to look down on those people’s religion, education, and way of life. Republicans tend to believe the dynamism of the market is for the best but that cultural change can be dangerously disruptive; Democrats tend to believe dynamic social change stretches the boundaries of inclusion for the better but that economic dynamism is often ruinous and unjust.

Both economic and cultural populism are politically potent, but in America, unlike in Europe, cultural populism has always been much more powerful. Americans do not resent the success of others, but they do resent arrogance, and especially intellectual arrogance.

Addressing how Palin’s candidacy turned this cultural fact into a firestorm, he says:

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12 Responses to Levin on the Palin Phenomenon

  • But she’s winkin’ at you, DC, as she holds that hard-metal, big semi.

  • It’s an interesting article. I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    I would definitely agree that the deep philosophical underpinnings to modern US conservatism, sadly have been little expounded of late.

  • In retrospect, she was too soon, too late. The McCain campaign was trucking along on its own speed- designed to become as moderate and milktoast as possible when she joined the team. Then September 15- the Sunday that triggered the Great Financial Sector Meltdown. Any incumbent party would have also melted down. The vicious, borderline insane attacks by Chattering Class members should be saved by her upcoming campaign and used for political literature three years hence. Meanwhile she looks better and better each day. More tax troubles for Obamaites. Senate hearings into nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary cancelled. This after US Today reported Solis’ businessperson hubbo just settled with various gummint agencies for about 16 years worth of tax liens. Mindful of complaint by Casey Stengel when the Ol’ Perfesser managed woeful 1962 NY Mets- “can’t anybody here play this game?” As though there was conspiracy within DNC to bring our Sarah to forefront. Or more like vetting of Cabinet officials consists of rubber stamp use.

  • Interviews hurt her image — at least, I became less impressed.

  • I would argue that there is not one flavor of economic populism… when it comes to taxation for example, low taxes are populist aren’t they? Being unfettered by excessive government regulation is populist isn’t it?

    Agreed. And note, the Democrats have in turn grabbed on to “tax cuts” for “most Americans” as well.

    Actually, I doubt one could define economic populism very clearly because it’s fairly contradictory.

  • DC,

    maybe it’s easier to define what is NOT economic populism:

    – taxpayer funding of large corporations
    – taxpayer funding of activities that most people find objectionable (abortion)
    – taxpayer funding activities that most people find of little value (the arts)

  • I’d agree with that.

    And I think the following are probably populist as well:

    -Keep American jobs from going overseas.
    -Tax the rich but leave money in “ordinary people’s” pockets.
    -Reign in “Wall Street” up help “Main Street”
    -Generously fund “worthy” programs but never “waste”

  • DC,

    populism is sometimes right, as in my example, and sometimes wrong as in yours (except maybe the first one)… in my opinion anyway.

  • But having finally gotten voters to listen, neither Palin nor McCain could think of anything to say to them.

    And is that because Palin actually had nothing to say or because she was horribly mismanaged by the McCain campaign? We really don’t know yet. I agree with DarwinCatholic that if she can present the nation with a coherent worldview and vision her national career is far from over, despite the disdain of the elites. I have a sneaking suspicion that the elites won’t be looking so good 4 years down the road. Heck, we’re barely into The One’s first term and they’re not looking so hot right now. Palin is supposedly dumb and Nancy (“500 million unemployed”) Pelosi is a rocket scientist? The Dems love taxes, but apparently actually paying them is for the little people. When Andrew Sullivan’s obsessions with Palin’s uterus and Keith Olberman’s goofy swooning over The One qualify them for membership in the “cultural elite,” it’s pretty clear that the bar is set pretty low.

  • My wife and daughter are members of Team Sarah, as is my mother-in-law, a life-long Democrat. I think Palin has a bright political future, especially if, as I think likely, the Obama administration crashes and burns.
    Even she couldn’t save McCain, who, after the convention, faced an economic collapse combined with a dithering campaign to tranform him into last year’s Bob Dole. In 2012 or 2016 Palin will be able to run her own type of campaign and I think she will prove a formidable candidate.

  • Matt,

    Agreed,

    Jason,

    There should be one on the second sentence of the article. (Though I’d originally failed to provide it and added it a few minutes after publishing.) Sorry about that…

Contact Conservatism

Thursday, January 29, AD 2009

Bearing has an interesting post up which I suspect reflects the political experience of many serious Catholics over the last twenty five years. The whole thing is worth reading, but I’m quoting it extensively because I think the point she’s making is interesting and widely applicable:

I entered full communion with the Catholic church at the Easter Vigil in 1993, when I was a freshman in college…. A couple of years after that, I had a second conversion in which I was forced to realize that I could not be simultaneously a believing Catholic and a supporter of legal abortion. (Why it took me so long is another story again. Hint: There were some serious problems in that particular RCIA program.)

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21 Responses to Contact Conservatism

  • The phenomenon is among the good fruits of the pro-life movement. Like Catholic younguns standing with fundamentalist elders and Orthodox Jewish rabbis at the D.C. Mall every February 22. Or a major hardcore teevee fundy minister, John Hagee, disavowing any real or imagined anti-Catholic sentiments to express his admiration for our own Benedictus Magnus. Or a bright, conscientious young man like see above getting older, more orthodox Catholic, and horrors more conservative. Attention Iafrate or the other folk who occasionally get snotty on this blog- these are the people for whom you claim to speak. Doesn’t work that way.

  • “I’ve noticed more and more over the years that serious Catholics I know who I would not think of as being political seem to gradually get drawn into strongly conservative stands on a number of essentially secular issues.”

    I’ve noticed the same phenomenon. I think one of the main reasons for this is that we tend to read people who agree or are sympathetic with us. I don’t visit Daily Kos very often, for instance (although I’ll read people like Yglesias). Nobody likes to regularly read people who mock their deepest beliefs.

    And so, over time, we gradually hear much more about the good arguments for all sorts of conservative positions, and less of the counter-arguments. As abortion is one of the most significant (perhaps the most significant) divides between the parties, conservatives are more likely to at least be sympathetic to pro-lifers, and so pro-lifers are more in contact with people in the conservative movement.

    Personally, I think it is important for people to resist this tendency to a certain extent. I try, at least, to formulate my opinion on various issues without regard to which political party supports them. But, honestly, it seems to me that many people do not make the effort to do this. Granted, everyone has a limited amount of time to spend arguing about politics; it’s reasonable once you’ve determined that there are not other proportionate reasons not to keep up-to-date on every issue. But political tribalism can get tiresome.

  • I think this is a reasonable point, but I would hasten to suggest that these moves to conservatism are necessarily wrong. Especially when you consider that the paradigm has shifted such that many things that today’s Republicans do is not necessarily all that conservative in a historic context. Reagan would have been mortified at some of the actions of the Bush administration, Obama is certainly no JFK.

    It certainly would be better if there was a balance between the parties on the most fundamental of Catholic issues, as there had been prior to Roe vs. Wade, perhaps, this balance could be restored though, if all Catholics voted against the evil of abortion. If all Catholics refused to vote for democrats as long as abortion was one of their platforms, they would either wither and die or drop it like a hot rock. If all Catholics took an active role in the Republican party, they could certainly create a very balanced left-right position, and one weighted in justice as well.

  • What a excellent post. Also let me say something as to political “tribalism” In some ways its is easier being a conservative and being what could be argued the broad tent of the Republican party than perhaps the Dems

    We see this in the fact that conservatives seems to be eating their own lately calling everyone else in the party RINOs. We have Movement Conservatives, Liberatarian COnservatives, COmapssionate Conservtive Republicans, Cruncy Cons, Paleo Cons, Neo Cons etc etc.

    I think the diversity of all this for good and for bad is not really contemplated a good bit but it is a reality. I can put lets say 5 or 6 of some of the leading Republican leaning conservatiove Catholic bloggers in a room and while uniting on abortion will be at each others throats on the torture debate, Policy toward Israel, No Child Left behind, immigration policy, the Medicare Drug Benefit , global warming etc etc.

    So while I do think that Pro-lifers because of interaction might take on a overall more conservative ethos I am not sure in reality they are all in the same tribe.

    The Democrat party does not seem to me to exactly allow this as well as they once did. If though there is long time effective Blue Dog Democrats movement with real numbers and a real pro-life movement wellwe might see that over there

  • should be “not necessarily”

  • I agree with John Henry’s analysis, but I would also had that to a large extent party loyalty has more to do with the party than with the actual policies the party favors. Here in the Midwest, for example, it’s not uncommon to meet people who hold conservative views on a whole range of issues (not just social issues but also on matters relating to economic policy and national defense) who are nonetheless Democrats. The same phenomenon used to be true in the South though it has since died out. If you probe them on why this is, the answers typically have to do with policies and politicians from the past, rather than anything going on right now. In many cases being a Democrat is like being a sports fan – it’s more a matter of loyalty to the “home team” rather than support based on any recent accomplishments.

  • Jh,

    will be at each others throats on the torture debate, Policy toward Israel, No Child Left behind, immigration policy, the Medicare Drug Benefit , global warming etc etc.

    and rightly so, the Church is clear there is morally acceptable diversity of opinions in these areas.

  • blackadderiv,

    do you think that is exclusive to the Dems? If so, why is that? I don’t know many Republicans who that would apply to.

  • Matt,
    I think that would describe a lot of northeastern Republicans who are becoming democrats. Party affiliation throughout New England, NY, and PA seems to be switching toward Dems, partly because of new voters, but also because the kind of Republicans who correspond to BA’s analysis are becoming independents or Republicans – the reverse of the Southern shift.

  • do you think that is exclusive to the Dems? If so, why is that? I don’t know many Republicans who that would apply to.

    I think there are cases where something like this would be true of Republicans, but my impression is that (at least recently) this has been less true of them than for Democrats. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that the Democratic party tended to be associated with other groups, such as unions, particular ethnic communities, etc., which helped to forge loyalty and identity among members. I don’t think there was anything comparable for Republicans, aside from perhaps the country club.

  • I fit with the original post. The Democratic party drove me away over abortion. I vote for a lot of Republicans I can barely stomach. Still, I have drifted more conservative, partly because I argue with the conservatives and rarely debate liberals. I find arguments for smaller government, and free markets persuasive – but I don’t just roll over. If it weren’t for abortion, I’d probably still lean Democratic, but that’s changing.

    What does surprise me is how many people ‘drink the GOP cool aide” as some put it. I supported Bush (although I voted Constitutional Party – I’m in a solid blue state) generally, but found it odd how many intelligent otherwise thinking Catholics would get so upset and antagonized at any questioning of Bush – which lessened by the end, but seems to be coming back.

    I need to reread Eric Hoffer’s “True Believers”

    @GNW_Paul

  • Somewhat similar situation with me.

    What has turned me off most with Democrat(ic)s is that when challenged they get emotionally unstable and begin ad hominem attacks instead of focusing on the issues. Granted these aren’t all Democrat(ic)s, but it was enough that it partly contributed towards me drifting towards more pro-life and conservative issues (though my faith was the predominant denominator).

    What I’ve noticed in this past election is the obtuseness of many (alleged?) Catholics that know their faith yet go on voting for pro-abortion candidates. I’m still grasping whether it’s due to party loyalty or a just poor catechesis.

  • Tito- the latter. Oh, and folks get together on January 22. I knew that. Bad typing fingers, bad typing fingers….

  • I think it’s poor catechesis combined with a crisis of identity. Speaking as the OP, I know part of what took me so long was “I can’t bear to see myself as someone who votes Republican.”

    Before that, it was hard to see myself as someone who opposed abortion, too.

    And I think a lot of that is successful propaganda from legal abortion supporters who try to paint the anti-abortion side as backward, anti-woman, anti-science, “single-issue” voters, etc. There’s so much marginalization of any opinion that might move people even a step towards protecting the unborn.

    An impulse to fairness has me wondering if it goes both ways, if there is an element of propaganda within the pro-life movement aimed at vilifying or marginalizing pro-choice people [as opposed to vilifying abortion] in order to create an emotional barrier to “conversions” of identity from pro-life to pro-choice.

    I mean, I know I’ve seen pro-choice people claim that pro-life people call them babykillers, but I’ve never seen anyone actually aim that word at another person, in writing or in speech.

    Unless our insistence that preborn humans are people is supposedly the “emotional” barrier, since it prevents us from seeing the truth that’s obvious to them, e.g., that preborn humans are only potential people and therefore have only potential rights. I guess from that perspective it could look like a sort of emotional blackmail, aimed at getting us to identify with the preborn human, to see ourselves as former fetuses. Just like I felt a strong emotional pressure to avoid seeing myself as one of “those” people who opposed abortion, a pressure that lasted years into my conversion and kept it incomplete.

  • Bearing,

    It goes both ways. I don’t know how the pro-choice crowd talks about us, but us pro-lifers have our own language and it can get out of hand (at times). Though I have noticed a considerable drop in this type of derogatory language these past three years.

  • Interesting…I’ve never understood the Catholic comfort with voting Democrat. I can’t think of a single issue advocated by the Democrats in the last 50-odd years that I would have agreed with them on.

    I certainly grew up in the post-Roe world, born well after the intellectual shift in the two parties had taken place in the early 1970s.

    As a teenager I never saw myself voting for or supporting Democrats, even when I was indifferent to abortion as a political issue.

    I’ve never grasped what’s so appealing, especially to Catholics, about the statist economic policies and dovish weakness the braying ass has stood for.

    [ed. – please no profane language]

  • Well, Flambeaux, I guess the last few years have been a process of me wondering that myself. I was Democrat-leaning before I became Catholic, and have leaned less that way since.

    But perhaps it will make more sense to look at it negatively. How about, instead of trying to understand a Catholic comfort with voting Democrat, try to understand a discomfort with voting Republican. Maybe for some, Republicans are more revolting than Democrats are appealing.

    Or maybe it’s just easier to claim you dislike one politician than to claim you like another. Disdain is cooler than enthusiastic support.

  • bearing,

    Maybe for some, Republicans are more revolting than Democrats are appealing.

    Or maybe it’s just easier to claim you dislike one politician than to claim you like another. Disdain is cooler than enthusiastic support.

    What do you find less more revolting than abortion? More importantly, what does Church?

  • I’m working my way backwards through a bunch of your past posts and adding my two (or three or four) cents to them 🙂

    Politically I tend to vote Republican, mainly due to the pro-life issue and a general tendency to prefer smaller government. But, that being said, I have voted for pro-life Democrats and if one were running for a major office today I would go out of my way to vote for them, because I believe that if the pro-life movement is to survive, it needs to become bipartisan and not be anchored so tightly to the conservative wing of the GOP. In this fashion it will be better able to ride out the inevitable swings back and forth in public opinion.

    I also believe that the GOP at the national level is making a huge mistake by being overly harsh on immigration. Yes, I sympathize with all the arguments about how immigrants should “play by the rules” and respect the law. I believe uncontrolled illegal immigration is unfair to the immigrants themselves (since it allows them to be exploited by their employers) as well as to legal immigrants and U.S. citizens. Some kind of reasonable solution, neither too harsh nor too lax, is needed.

    That being said: like it or not, the children of illegal immigrants who are born in this country are citizens and will be old enough to vote before you know it. Some of them already are. Hispanic voters could be a gold mine for the GOP with their pro-life, pro-family ethic and strong affiliation to either Catholicism or evangelical Protestantism. If the GOP keeps hammering on the “send them all back where they came from” message, they will lose the next generation of Hispanic voters. Hispanics will soon pass blacks as the biggest minority in the nation so to lose them is to lose, period.

    I think the pro-life and conservative movements have shot themselves in the foot too many times by voting for candidates who proved to be corrupt or incompetent, and thereby discredited everything they stood for, making it that much harder to elect conservatives in the future. Some will argue that President Bush 43 fell into this category; I would not classify him as incompetent, so much as disappointing.

    In closing let me cite an example from the wonderful world of Illinois politics. In 1998 we had a real live pro-life Democrat, Glenn Poshard, running for governor against then-Secretary of State George Ryan. Ryan was Republican and also claimed to be pro-life. I was tempted to vote Democrat that time, but ended up voting for Ryan, thinking that the Republicans were the more reliable pro-life and pro-family party. Well, we all know where that got us. Ryan pretty much destroyed the Illinois GOP and paved the way for the walking, hairbrushing disaster we know as Blago. If there is any vote I have ever cast in my life that I wish I could take back, that is it.

    I do not know what I would do if I were confronted with a choice between a pro-choice candidate who seemed to be reasonably competent on other issues, and a candidate who claimed to be pro-life but was obviously corrupt, incompetent, or insane. In other words, envision a replay of the 2006 gubernatorial election, but with Blago’s and Topinka’s party affiliations reversed and Blago being pro-life. Would I, as a Catholic, have been obligated to vote for Blago in that situation? Would I have been obliged not to vote at all?

  • I voted for Poshard. I had my doubts about Ryan on the pro-life issue, amply justified as it turned out, and I knew from my contacts in Kankakee, Ryan’s home turf, that Ryan was a crook. In regard to Blago and Topinka what a miserable election that was: both pro-aborts, with one a crook, and another a member in good standing of the corrupt Combine. I held my nose and voted for Topinka, while despairing of the low state of Illinois politics.

  • I voted for Topinka as well, on the grounds that she was the lesser of two evils both with regard to abortion (Planned Parenthood didn’t consider her pro-abortion enough for their taste, since she did actually endorse things like parental notification) and with regard to corruption and mismanagement, though she was far from ideal on either count.

When to be Progressive

Monday, January 26, AD 2009

Being a contarian sort of creature, I’ve been wanting for some time to write a post on why the progressive instinct is sometimes the right one. I’m quite certain that neither conservatism nor progressivism, properly understood, is the only possible view for the moral and reasonable citizen — and yet I find myself impeded in this by being in fact a very temperamentally conservative person.

First off, I’d like to suggest that as most precisely used “conservative” and “progressive” (I’m avoiding the term “liberal” here because it strikes me as having an even more confusing and increasingly imprecise meaning) are very relative terms. The progressive seeks to change current social structures, attitudes and political institutions in order to make them better. He seeks to progress. Conservative seeks to preserve existing structures and institutions, and when he accedes to change he urges that it be done slowly in order to avoid the disruption which rapid change often results in.

I would argue that there are some times when we should follow the progressive instinct, others when we should clearly follow the conservative one, and many in which it is a matter of debate which should be followed.

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51 Responses to When to be Progressive

  • “A society without the means to change itself is without means of its own preservation.” – Edmund Burke

  • Chesterton has m any essays on being progressive; he is generally critical. And the reason foe that is the failure to define [even more or less] what is meant by being “progressive”. A brake-less car running downhill is progressing at greater and greater speed.

    The good of progress can lie only in progressing to a particular goal.

  • I think Gabriel nailed it. The whole idea that “change” is good is simply wrong, as wrong as the notion that “change” bad. Neither is true, if the change is good in intention, rightness of the act, and a result that is good, it is good, otherwise it is bad. Those generally referred to as “conservative” here are those who resist changes they believe to fail one of these tests, and to be in favor of those changes which they believe to pass all of these tests. My best understanding of “progressive” is the imperative to change the rightness of the “act” or even the definition of “good result”.

    I’m not sure I would consider the American Revolution progressive, it was not a revolution as such but an establishment of independence based on established principles and natural law, that is much different from a revolution.

  • Chesterton is a man with a thought on everything, and now that I think about it there’s one which touches closely on what I was trying to get at here. In 1924 newspaper column he wrote:

    “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types–the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine.”

    Now, I would agree that many progressives now (as in 1924 and as in 1789) hail change for change’s sake, but I think to a great extent that stems from a shorthand in which they assume that everyone must share their ideas of what the goal of society ought to be. One can hardly progress without a goal you’re progressing towards, and if you ask someone why they support same sex marriage or abortion rights or some such you won’t get, “Because that’s a change” but rather “Because marriage should be any kind of loving compact between two adults” or “Because women need to be equal to men not slaves to their wombs.” I think those are things we should run away from terribly fast rather than progressing towards the, but they’re definitely goals.

    Indeed, in the wider sense, I’d argue that one of the basic differences between progressives and conservatives is often that progressives believe human society is mutable and that we can thus achieve a world with no proverty, or no ignorance, or no war. So progressivism often seeks big, world changing solutions which will solve big problems. Conservatives are (or ought to be) much more modest in their goals and recognize that society is not perfectable. But in this comes the danger of hesitating to correct evils that _can_ be ameliorted.

    As for the American Revolution, my question would be: To what extent were the principles and natural law which formed the basis of the Declaration of Independence truly seen as established at the time? Only a couple generations before the people asserting the right of the representatives of the people over the rights of the king were the Roundheads of the English Civil War and the Parliamentarians of the Glorious Revolution — in neither case people one could label as “conservative”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m highy supportive of the ideals of the American Revolution — I’m just not sure one can rightly label them “conservative” within their own context — whereas in our present day to a great extent it is conservatives who want to hold on to a more classical American vision of representative government while progressives seek a much more all-encompassing modern state.

  • DarwinCatholic,
    As for the American Revolution, my question would be: To what extent were the principles and natural law which formed the basis of the Declaration of Independence truly seen as established at the time? Only a couple generations before the people asserting the right of the representatives of the people over the rights of the king were the Roundheads of the English Civil War and the Parliamentarians of the Glorious Revolution — in neither case people one could label as “conservative”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m highy supportive of the ideals of the American Revolution — I’m just not sure one can rightly label them “conservative” within their own context — whereas in our present day to a great extent it is conservatives who want to hold on to a more classical American vision of representative government while progressives seek a much more all-encompassing modern state.

    I think if you accept my premise, that conservatives are not opposed to change by nature but that the change must meet the overriding principles of good intent, right action, and good result, then the American declaration of independance is conservative (not that it is not “progressive” either). The right of self determination has a long history in jurisprudence, recognized in the Magna Carta 500 years before. Keep in mind that the turning point for the declaration was not the fact that the colonies were subject to royal rule as were all the constituencies of the British Empire, but that they lacked the representation which was afforded to the English alone. In fact, it was not strictly King George alone who was oppressing the colonies but the British Parlaiment.

    In my point of view, to be conservative is to believe in certain absolutes principles, and then to apply those principles to the situation of the day. Take the “New Deal” it was opposed by conservatives at the time, but today the damage of dismantling the Federal welfare state that it resulted in would be so grave that no mainstream conservative would support it. On the other hand, most conservatives believe that reforms can and do improve the situation, and so they support them.

    Progressivism, I think decries the possibility of absolutes which might interfere with the remaking of society to the absolute equality they seek.

    Matt

  • We cannot escape the Enlightenment, liberal framework of our existence. It is in everything, which is not all bad…..but I would say – with a recent VN debate on my mind – that a sentiment of morality, custom, the good, virtue, is the way to go….anti-ideology, anti-totalizing. This is not so much “conservative” as it is humanist.

    Much of American conservatism is heavily infused with liberal, EN, contractual thought….the assumptions of Locke, basically. But liberty and freedom as first virtue is a false anthropology. We should be free insofar as we are free to seek the good! Goodness and virtue are of the highest value.

  • I think the “progressive” label is misleading. I began moving from left to right when I started noticing how crestfallen and sour certain writers at “The Nation” were about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the implosion of Soviet style socialism. What in the world was “progressive” I wondered, about clinging to a system which had produced so much death and misery?

    Of course, liberals are not Communists. But the liberal prescription for solving human ills has not changed. Larger government and more government control and confusing charity with spending other people’s money. Perhaps that wouldn’t matter if these social programs actually worked. But I lived in Washington DC for 13 years, a laboratory for every social program dreamt of and the crime rate never seemed to improve, the public schools got ever worse and the pot-holes got ever larger. More and bigger government was keeping a lot of people in Arlington and Alexandria and Georgetown employed – but was it really helping the folks in Anacostia?

    When people today talk of Obama’s “New New Deal” I remember that the first New Deal prolonged and deepened the Depression, which only came to an end with WWII. The “New New Deal” is not new, not fresh, and I really fear that it will turn a recesssion into a depression. Good news if you’re a left-wing policy wonk looking for employment in DC, bad news for the rest of us.

    Your post is a good reminder that we must have the wisdom to discern positive change from destructive change. One thing I truly admire liberals for is their support of MLK and the civil rights movement of the early ’60’s. The tragedy is that MLK was assassinated and more radical groups moved to the fore.

  • The fatal flaw in “progressivism” as a political ideology is that it ultimately reduces to the force of will. Might makes right; the raw exercise of power determines the Good. All is about dominant power structures. There is no appeal to a transcendent order, and there is no sense of telos. Change pointing toward what???

    Jonathanjones02 is right that liberty and freedom as first virtue is a false anthropology that often plagues conservatism; I would add that progressivism is also victim of a false anthropology, that of the preeminence of power. The only correct anthropology is that of the Cross.

  • I have often described myself as an American Conservative, because most of my political philosophy is grounded in the American Revolution: a wariness of governmental power, anti-utopianism, a firm conviction that men are not angels and that govenment is necessary because of that sad fact, that the best government tends to be that government which governs least, a fear of subordinating American sovereignty to any outside power, that the union of the states is necessary to preserve American freedom,etc. I do not agree with the Founding Fathers on everything, but on most things I am in accord with them.

  • Donna,

    great post!

    One thing I truly admire liberals for is their support of MLK and the civil rights movement of the early ’60’s. The tragedy is that MLK was assassinated and more radical groups moved to the fore.

    Conservatives of the 60’s are often villified for obstructing the civil rights movement, but that is not exactly their position:

    Bill Buckley, wrote at the time:
    we applaud the efforts to define their rights by the lawful and non-violent use of social and economic sanctions which they choose freely to exert, and to which those against whom they are exerted are free to respond, or not, depending on what is in balance. That way is legitimate, organic progress.

    Rightly or wrongly, he was applying a conservative view which believed in racial equality, but not one forced on the state or private citizens by the federal government, or by reverse discrimination policies. He may have been in error, but he was not the monster that many have painted civil rights era conservatives. Bear in mind that the civil rights era was preceded by an era when progressives were trying to remove the problem of racial inequality by exterminating “unequal” races…

    An interesting point that I have read of, is that progressives will often grab on to whatever movement is ascendant and ride it’s coat-tails to power. Thus you see a lot of far left infiltration into and integration with civil rights, gay activism, environmentalism, and even Catholic organizations.

  • “Bear in mind that the civil rights era was preceded by an era when progressives were trying to remove the problem of racial inequality by exterminating “unequal” races…”

    To me, nothing says “American progressive” more than Margaret Sanger and eugenics. Or Oliver W. Holmes writing in Buck v. Bell that “three generations of imbeciles are enough” (in favor of forced sterilization). American progressivism seems to follow the prevailing tide of opinion, hence the idea that power is everything.

  • Thus you see a lot of far left infiltration into and integration with civil rights, gay activism, environmentalism, and even Catholic organizations.

    Now that is interesting. On my way home from work, I was trying to think of a movement meant to remedy a genuine social ill that did not swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Far left infiltration certainly is one explanation. Another, perhaps, is just the human tendency to go to extremes, which is magnified in the mass (and another reason to fear an overextended government.) And there’s the rub – how do you seek to right wrongs without setting the law of unintended consequences into effect? I believe it was right, for instance, to decriminalize homosexual actions back in the ’60’s. But nobody then forsaw that gay marriage would be an issue 4 decades down the road. Heck, I don’t believe anybody saw it coming back in the ’80’s.

  • A historical note: France actually had two empires, the second under Napoleon III, the nephew of Napoleon I, from 1852-1870. A great post nonetheless, however.

  • The Radicals on the Right were wrong during the civil rights era, clearly wrong over the last 8 years by voting for dimwit W; and will, not surprisingly, be wrong on gay marriage and the environment. You are therefore deemed unfortunately hopeless. Please stand aside and let us adults take it from here.

  • “Please stand aside and let us adults take it from here.”

    Don’t you just love it when you make a point, and someone comes along a few hours later to prove it?

  • Please do not mistake your reality with reality. For yours is a special one that requires the full removal of reasoning and common sense. Nothing to fear, however; as cooler heads are now in charge and everything will be okay. It may take a little time for the grown-ups to undo the last 8 years of mid-bogglingly bad policies, but we will ultimately put it all back together again and make it all better. Sleep well, kiddo.

  • Keep digging the hole deeper, Obama-can! It gets better with everything you write.

  • I have to get it out of my system now, for once we move to full socialism I will not need to debate with you radicals as you will all be silenced, your churches shut down, and free-abortion clinics (paid for by your hard earned dollars) will spring up on every corner.

    Oops, did I just let the master plan cat out of the bag?

  • “The Radicals on the Right were wrong during the civil rights era…”

    This is historically false. Republicans were opposed to slavery, not Democrats. Republicans fought for civil rights, not Democrats. As an African American, my civil rights are partially indebted to the Republican men and women who fought for them — not to Democrats.

  • Lyndon Baines Johnson and JFK were republicans, I guess? You may try to rewrite the events of the day but you run into problems when rewriting history. It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s. To hang your hat on the republicans as the current representative of minorities is to miss almost every event of the last 150 years. Next you will argue that the republicans are the true protectors of the separation of church and state and are against torture. You have the right idea, just seemed to have the parties mixed up.

  • “and free-abortion clinics (paid for by your hard earned dollars)”

    What was that you were saying about reality? Mexico City, anyone?

  • Obama-can,

    I think you’re getting your history mixed up. It was the Democratically controlled south that seceded from the Union. And it was the Republicans in both chambers of congress that pushed through LBJ’s Great Society legislation.

    This is getting amusing I must say.

  • Eric Brown,
    This is historically false. Republicans were opposed to slavery, not Democrats. Republicans fought for civil rights, not Democrats. As an African American, my civil rights are partially indebted to the Republican men and women who fought for them — not to Democrats.

    This is pretty accurate regarding political parties, but I’m not sure it’s entirely fair to label all democrats as “progressives”, certainly not the the southern democrats who opposed the civil rights movement to the bitter end. Somewhere along the way the elitist northern democrats who really were progressives, realized they could abandon their genocidal approach and ride this wave to power and joined on. It may be fair to criticize democrats and republicans for a lack of action on civil rights in the 60’s, however it is certainly not terribly imbalanced on either side.

    In fairness, I think there were many principled democrats right up until the late 70’s and even into the 80’s who opposed the evils that their party was embracing, they’re all now deceased, or Republicans. Interestingly most of the old warhorses of the democrat party were once pro-life: Kennedy of course, Al Gore, Joe Biden to name a few.

    Obama-can,
    Lyndon Baines Johnson and JFK were republicans, I guess? You may try to rewrite the events of the day but you run into problems when rewriting history. It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s. To hang your hat on the republicans as the current representative of minorities is to miss almost every event of the last 150 years. Next you will argue that the republicans are the true protectors of the separation of church and state and are against torture. You have the right idea, just seemed to have the parties mixed up

    The greatest hero of civil rights was Abraham Lincoln, a Republican. His nemesis Jefferson Davis was a Democrat.

    The South was heavily democrat until the early 70’s as the “party of death” abandoned it’s moral values entirely and embraced the holocaust of abortion as it’s major plank. So, yes, I imagine that there were quite a lot of democrats named Bubba. You might note, as I saw mentioned somewhere recently that it was a Republican Governor who executed the Brown vs Board of Education ruling… not a deathocrat.

    Here’s a little history lesson:
    Former KKK Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd served as a Democratic congressman and senator from 1952 until today.

    Where are the progressives? Aside from the quite insane Obama-can, it would be nice to hear a defense of progressivism… or have they retreated to their haven, where posts they can’t refute are suppressed.

  • I almost suspect that Obama-can is pulling our legs. Surely nobody can be so deluded as to believe the South that fought the Civil War was Republican.

    But when I contemplate our public school system, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they’re teaching that Lincoln, the first Republican president, was actually a Democrat.

    I recently met a young person who was under the impression that Nixon “got us into” the Vietnam War. Because only Republicans get us into wars, dotcha know? He was taken aback when I told him about a certain Mr. Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. No prizes for guessing who that young person voted for in Nov.

  • Looking at a couple of the interesting comments here (which would be basically all the comments except the odd interruptions of Obama-can) I should clarify that I’m essentially using “progressive” as an opposite term to “conservative”, not in the sense of the progressive movement as an entity which has existed in more-or-less unbroken form since the mid-nineteenth century.

    Part of what I’m wrestling with here is that I on the one hand have a strong sympathy with the basic reflexive “let’s not do anything too fast — you can’t change human nature” kind of conservatism, yet at a historical level the classical liberalism of the 18th century which is what so many modern American conservatives want to “conserve” was itself a “liberal” movement against the anciene regime kind of instincts that conservatives of the 18th century had.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    so you’re referring to “progress” vs. “non-progress” more than the progressivist movement. At that point, I think you’re 100% right, there are times for both, and it is very hard to know when each inclination should be followed. The first 2 principles of double effect are relatively easy to determine, the last one is the problem… will this change have a good effect which outweighs the bad effect. Even hindsight doesn’t always provide the needed clarity.

  • And expanding on the above: I’m hesitant to call “conservatism” an approach in which one preserves that which is good and rejects that which is destructive because that basically turns “conservatism” into a shorthand for “good sense as I see it”.

    I would hope that most self declared conservatives would take that approach, but I’m trying to come to some sort of an idea of what the conservative and progressive tendencies are, and I don’t think that turning “conservative” and “progressive” into synonymns for “reasonable” and “unreasonable” will prove to be useful in describing what is a conservative and what is a progressive tendency.

    Certainly, we want both self declared conservatives and progressives to be reasonable, but doing this means understanding what our overall political tendencies are and from that coming to an understanding of when we need to go against them: When the progressive needs to realize that he may not be able to organize a new system better than the status quo; and when the conservative needs to admit that overturning the traditions of the past in a given area would actually be a good thing.

  • “It was the South, the predominantly republicans south, that fought literally to the death to try and continue slavery. I don’t think there were a lot of democrats named Bubba trying to prevent integration in the 60’s.”

    Actually virtually all the Bubbas trying to stop integration in the 60’s were Democrats. George Wallace, Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, Orville Faubus, all Democrats. The Democrats in the South fought vociferously against desegregation. In regard to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 63% of Democrats in the House voted in favor of it, while 80% of Republicans did. In the Senate, 69% of Democrats voted in favor of it, while 82% of Republicans voted in favor. The Democrat Party controlled the South following Reconstruction for two reasons: The Republican Party led the successful fight in the Civil War to preserve the Union and end slavery, and because the Republican party nationally was the party in support of Civil Rights for blacks.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    neither do I think it’s reasonable to consider “conservatism” a monolithic rejection of all change, which is the mischaracterisation used by the left. Progressivism and conservatism have real meanings beyond the root of their name, just as the americanist heresy did. Calling all support of a change “progressive” and all opposition to change “conservative” makes those words really devoid of value in my opinion.

    I do recognize that their may be an subjective aspect, an impulse to change or not change, and that’s perhaps what tends to put us in one camp or the other. I just don’t think it’s something we can generalize on. I know some conservatives, on the far right who have a radical impulse for change (the Ron Paulites are typical of this), it’s perhaps only the moderates on either side who really have a smaller impulse for change.

    I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good. Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent. Now, one can be conservative and say that in the present context, torture is always evil, but that’s not the same as intrinsically evil. In the same way, it appears many progressivists support women’s ordination despite the fact that Church has absolutely declared it to be impossible, they are seeking to move the goal-posts.

  • Matt,

    Would you say that it is a mischaracterisation of the right to say that “progressivism” is a monolithic movement to change things for the sake of change, rather than to seek to reform — versus revolutionize — and adapt institutions to be better oriented toward true justice?

    In regard to torture, I think you’re profoundly mistaken. I’m a theology major at a vibrantly orthodox Catholic school and I have never learned anything, nor read anything as a convert, that has asserted anything other than torture is an objectively wrong intrinsic moral evil. My boss, Fr. Joseph Pilsner, who is a moral theologian with a Ph.D. from Oxford University confirmed this fact before I even began looking into it just now. I think it is safe to side with him on this matter.

    Torture IS in a fact an intrinsic evil that is objectively wrong in and of itself. Torture hardly has any place in Christian morality given that God Himself was tortured before his ghastly death on a Cross. It seems to me hardly reasonable to argue that as Christians — imitators of Christ — we would view torture as a justified course of action given that the ends do not justify the means and the basic fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity that cannot be violated. It is hardly conceivable to see any moment or circumstance whereas such physical and moral violence that was inflicted on the Lord can and should be inflicted on another human being.

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States , No. 22, 23, November 2007)

    Pope Benedict XVI talked about this in September 2007, when he addressed an international congress of Catholic prison ministers. “Means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners” must be eschewed by public authorities, he said. Immediately he added the following statement, which incorporates a quote taken from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’” (No. 404).

    The Bishops hit the point again. “The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism” (No. 88). The terminology — fundamentally — refers to something that in and of itself, by its very nature is not compatitble with human dignity. Therefore, there is no justification of it. It is an intrinsic moral evil just as abortion is. In Veritatis Splendor Pope John Paul II included ‘physical and mental torture’ in his long list of social evils that are not only ‘shameful’ (‘probra’), as they are declared to be by the Second Vatican Council, but also “intrinsically evil.”

    The following is from Gaudiem et Spes:

    “Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.”

    Torture is listed in the Catechism as a violation of the Fifth Commandment. “Torture…is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Torture is not SOMETIMES contrary to human dignity. Torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity, period. The government or any party may have a good intention, but the problem is that since some action is not in accord with the natural moral law; therefore, the deliberate employment of and support of torture, no matter how one tries to disguise it or make it seem not like torture, is an intrinsic moral evil, which translates in Catholic moral theology as a mortal sin.

    I’m sure this may seem like “liberal-fuzziness,” but I am taken by the Lord’s commandment to love thy enemies. I can agree that sometimes loving one’s enemies can involve an unfortunate resort to self-defense, remotely in the form of violence. But torture since it is intrinsically evil does not fit the criteria. St. Paul beautifully says in his letter to the Romans , “No ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    In the spirit of Pope John Paul II to promote the intrinsic evil of torture and the scandal of capital punishment undermines credibility as well as spiritually and morally diminishes us and any attempt to truly build a Culture of Life.

  • Eric,
    Would you say that it is a mischaracterisation of the right to say that “progressivism” is a monolithic movement to change things for the sake of change,

    yes I would.

    rather than to seek to reform — versus revolutionize —

    both are true, I don’t think it’s properly called progressive if it’s just a matter of reform.

    and adapt institutions to be better oriented toward true justice?

    This is an intention that is neither progressive nor conservative.

    In regard to torture, I think you’re profoundly mistaken. I’m a theology major at a vibrantly orthodox Catholic school and I have never learned anything, nor read anything as a convert, that has asserted anything other than torture is an objectively wrong intrinsic moral evil. My boss, Fr. Joseph Pilsner, who is a moral theologian with a Ph.D. from Oxford University confirmed this fact before I even began looking into it just now. I think it is safe to side with him on this matter. Torture IS in a fact an intrinsic evil that is objectively wrong in and of itself.

    I know Fr. Pilsner is orthodox, and he is certainly entitled to that opinion, as are you. There are many eminent theologians past and present who disagree and the Church has not definitively said otherwise.

    Fr. Harrison is a good and orthodox priest also, and he disagrees with you. As does the namesake of your Catholic school (ST, IIa IIae 65, 1). As does the great theologian St. Alphonsas Ligouri.

    http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt119.html

    Ligouri:
    Under what conditions can a judge proceed to have an accused person tortured (#202)? Answer: the judge may only “descend to torture” as a last resort, i.e., when full proof cannot be obtained by non-violent means; next, there must already be “semi-complete proof” (semiplenam probationem) of the accused’s guilt arising from other evidence; and finally, certain classes of persons are to be exempt from torture, either because of their frailty or their great value to society: “men of great dignity”, knights of equestrian orders, royal officials, soldiers, doctors [probably in the general sense of learned men] and their children, pre-pubescent children, senile old folks, pregnant women, and those who are still weak after childbirth.

    Are you saying these saints and doctors of the Church are in error in their moral theology? Or is it perhaps more likely that the context and circumstances of today render torture no longer an acceptable practice as Cdl. Palazzini suggests (1954):

    Other reasons [i.e., other than human rights per se] are very weighty, especially today when sophisticated investigative methods aided by scientific expertise render much less useful any recourse to methods [i.e., torture] which, to say the least, are so imperfect. Public opinion, which carries a certain weight among the various means of deciding on specific social goals, is today clearly against the use of torture.

    Torture hardly has any place in Christian morality given that God Himself was tortured before his ghastly death on a Cross.

    Really, spare me. Christ was executed by the state, does that make capital punishment intrinsically evil? no.

    It seems to me hardly reasonable to argue that as Christians — imitators of Christ — we would view torture as a justified course of action given that the ends do not justify the means and the basic fact that every person is made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity that cannot be violated. It is hardly conceivable to see any moment or circumstance whereas such physical and moral violence that was inflicted on the Lord can and should be inflicted on another human being.

    I agree, I don’t believe that the type of torture and execution Christ endured could ever be justified, but there is a large difference between that and what the Church accepted as justified for most of 2000 years.

    “A prime example [of intrinsically evil actions] is the intentional taking of innocent human life, as in abortion and euthanasia… Direct threats to the sanctity and dignity of human life, such as human cloning and destructive research on human embryos, are also intrinsically evil. These must always be opposed. Other direct assaults on innocent human life and violations of human dignity, such as genocide, torture, racism, and the targeting of noncombatants in acts of terror or war, can never be justified.” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States , No. 22, 23, November 2007)

    Can never be justified, is not the same as intrinsically evil, and this document is not definitive in any event.

    Pope Benedict XVI talked about this in September 2007, when he addressed an international congress of Catholic prison ministers. “Means of punishment or correction that either undermine or debase the human dignity of prisoners” must be eschewed by public authorities, he said. Immediately he added the following statement, which incorporates a quote taken from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The prohibition against torture ‘cannot be contravened under any circumstances’” (No. 404).

    Can never be contravened, is not the same as intrinsiclly evil, and this document is not definitive in any event.

    etc. etc. etc.

    Torture is listed in the Catechism as a violation of the Fifth Commandment. “Torture…is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” Torture is not SOMETIMES contrary to human dignity. Torture is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity, period. The government or any party may have a good intention, but the problem is that since some action is not in accord with the natural moral law; therefore, the deliberate employment of and support of torture, no matter how one tries to disguise it or make it seem not like torture, is an intrinsic moral evil, which translates in Catholic moral theology as a mortal sin.

    You are proof-texting the CCC. The full quote is:

    Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity

    So, the CCC does not say that torture used in the classical ticking time bomb scenario is contrary to the respect for the person and for human dignity, nor does it say that it is intrinsically evil.

    I’m sure this may seem like “liberal-fuzziness,” but I am taken by the Lord’s commandment to love thy enemies. I can agree that sometimes loving one’s enemies can involve an unfortunate resort to self-defense, remotely in the form of violence. But torture since it is intrinsically evil does not fit the criteria. St. Paul beautifully says in his letter to the Romans , “No ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    You really need to read some more pre-Vatican II Church history, there’s 1960 years there, dig in. The Church does not instruct us to pacifism.

    In the spirit of Pope John Paul II to promote the intrinsic evil of torture and the scandal of capital punishment undermines credibility as well as spiritually and morally diminishes us and any attempt to truly build a Culture of Life.

    You need to not be so emotional in your arguments and stop talking past my actual statement, I’m sure Fr. Pilsner would not approve of such. I did NOT in any way shape or form, promote torture or capital punishment… you know this to be true. My point, which I was very precise about is that torture was permitted by the Church under certain circumstances, and now there is a move afoot to declare it intrinsically evil, thus changing the rightness of an action. Argue with the popes and St. Thomas if you like, but my statement is factual.

    I’m curious, how do you define torture? Is all means of inflicting pain mental or physical to be considered torture?

    Matt

  • Progressivism and conservatism have real meanings beyond the root of their name, just as the americanist heresy did. Calling all support of a change “progressive” and all opposition to change “conservative” makes those words really devoid of value in my opinion.

    I agree that the terms have real meanings beyond just “change” and “no-change” — to the extent that I think the “change” and “no-change” political philosophies are rooted in different understandings of human nature and the perfectability/maleability of society. However I think it’s important to try to understand the conservative and progressive approaches to society and politics outside of the specific topics in conflict now. Liberating the Russian serfs and American slaves was very much a progressive project, as was the push for civil rights and for women to vote. And yet eugenics, same sex marriage, abortion and a host of other wrongs (past and present) also spring from a progressive instinct. (And similarly, conservatives have at times clung to things that don’t deserve to be clung to — the conservative Southern Democrats of the 1950s and 60s spring to mind, as do the turn-of-the-century conservatives who strongly opposed votes for women.)

    I know some conservatives, on the far right who have a radical impulse for change (the Ron Paulites are typical of this), it’s perhaps only the moderates on either side who really have a smaller impulse for change.

    I agree that some on the far right seek very radical change in society, though I would tend to say that this makes them not truly conservative in their approaches. Reactionary, perhaps, but not conservative in a sense Burke would recognize.

    I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good.

    It happens, but I don’t think it’s conscious. Those who are strongly progressive believe that it’s possible to significantly remake society — moving it much closer to some sort of ideal. What that ideal is perceived to be, however, changes constantly, though often unconsciously. For instance, at some point feminists went from wanting women to be given voting and other key civil rights while retaining their traditional place within social and familiar structures to wanting women to be “equal” as in “the same as” men, and thus all sorts of demands centering around birth control and abortion became “feminist”. I don’t really think that was the result of a conscious, “We got the vote, now lets demand freedom from reproduction,” thought process, however, so much as that people in the movement gradually came to change their worldview in regards to what “justice” was.

    Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent.

    I don’t want to turn this into a torture debate thread, however I think this is a poor example. Asserting that torture is an “instrinsic evil” is not necessarily a strictly progressive view, and it’s an argument that gets into all sorts of definitional problems. Further, I think it’s a mistake to simply assume that because a practice was tolerated in the Church (and regulated and discussed by theologians) means that it was officially defended on grounds of moral theology.

    That St. Alphonsas Ligouri, to pull your example, described limited circumstances in which he thought torture might be used (clearly operating under the assumption that torture was a pretty standard method of judicial practice) does not mean that he was right — just as the fact that Paul gave advice to a slave owner on how to treat his slave kindly as a Christian does not mean that slavery is a good idea.

  • I would still like to hear a response to my proposal that “progressivism” allows for the movement of the definition of what is “right” to suit the common good.

    It happens, but I don’t think it’s conscious.

    I’m not so sure, while I think that many progressives are not actively aware of this, a glance at the ethics departments of most universities will find that there is an ongoing effort to redifine the “rightness” of an action to suit the progressive view of the common good.

    Take for example the progressivist view that torture is intrinsically evil. This is a change in what is right (at least according to the Church) which for hundreds of years considered that in the circumstances of the times torture was not intrinsically evil, and even carried it out to some extent.

    I don’t want to turn this into a torture debate thread, however I think this is a poor example. Asserting that torture is an “instrinsic evil” is not necessarily a strictly progressive view, and it’s an argument that gets into all sorts of definitional problems. Further, I think it’s a mistake to simply assume that because a practice was tolerated in the Church (and regulated and discussed by theologians) means that it was officially defended on grounds of moral theology.

    That St. Alphonsas Ligouri, to pull your example, described limited circumstances in which he thought torture might be used (clearly operating under the assumption that torture was a pretty standard method of judicial practice) does not mean that he was right — just as the fact that Paul gave advice to a slave owner on how to treat his slave kindly as a Christian does not mean that slavery is a good idea.

    It’s only a poor example because you’re not recognizing my point in using it. An act which is intrinsically evil could never have been justified under any context ever. It is evil by definition. The Church for nearly 2000 years did not define torture (or slavery) as intrinsically evil, but prescribed particular circumstances and limits to it’s use. Suggesting now that the Church was in error on a matter of faith and morals is certainly progressive. I’m not talking here about whether slavery or torture are “good ideas” but whether their very nature as viewed by the Church has changed, as opposed the context of their use, just as the circumstances of the times are suggested as making capital punisment all but unnecessary.

    My point here, and I am open to correction is that progressivism accepts as reasonable the changing of an act from evil, to not evil or vise versa, in order to make it permissible to effect a good result, or to eliminate a bad effect (as in the case of torture).

    Matt

  • Darwin,

    Sorry that this can’t be a rousing apologia for progressivism, but I thought I’d just throw in a few probably incoherent, and certainly fairly obvious, thoughts on finding a definition, from the point of view of someone who considers herself a political progressive.

    One is that “conservatism” and “progressivism” are highly context-sensitive. I say that I’m politically progressive, but I consider the pro-life movement progressive (and note that it’s adopted many of the smartest techniques of classic progressive civil rights action), as part and parcel of the defense of the dignity and civil rights of women, children, and the disabled (broadly construed here as those who are physically and mentally dependent and incapable of coming to their own defense–which must include the unborn). Further I see no necessary correlation between theological or liturgical “progressivism” and political progressivism, and in those areas am probably a (theological) “neo-cath” and a (liturgical) reactionary, chapel veil and all. In some areas, such as education, “progressivism” has come to mean a status quo in the theory American educational reform that is beginning to be attacked by many on the political left–E. D. Hirsch was the leader in this regard–as resulting in manifest social injustice, and so needing to be opposed vigorously by progressivists. And in some contexts, such as female suffrage (where the progressives decisively won the day) or eugenics of the last-century variety (where the conservatives won), there really is no “progressive” or “conservative” anymore as the field of battle has vanished.

    Another thought is that much of this discussion seems uniquely American. Europeans of my acquaintance laughed at the election-season discussion of whether Obama might count as a socialist or not; in many parts of the world, quite “conservative” people hold views far, far to the left of any serious American presidential candidate, and many “progressive” or “liberal” people hold views too far right for the American mainstream (I’ve heard comments about immigration from leftie Englishmen that would make your hair curl, Democrat or Republican). Try selling Chesterton’s British distributism to the American public, see which box it gets you put in.

    I’m not going to try to address the various points and challenges above, first because I’m clearly outnumbered and don’t even have the time to keep up my own blog, let alone defend the liberal cause here; and second because (as you know) even though I have fairly strong political views, discussing politics is one of my least favorite activities. Nothing against those who enjoy it, of course.

  • I say that I’m politically progressive, but I consider the pro-life movement progressive (and note that it’s adopted many of the smartest techniques of classic progressive civil rights action),

    This, I think, is a good point. It’s no coincidence that pro-life advocates frequently cite the campaigns against slavery and segregation for precedent. And it’s interesting how many of the “it would never work to restrict abortion” arguments one hear’s from pro-choice people are essentially of the “the side effects of trying to change society would be too dangerous” variety.

    Try selling Chesterton’s British distributism to the American public, see which box it gets you put in.

    Heh. Well, and that’s where you run into ideals versus context. Frankly I like a fair amount of what Chesterton has to say from my perspective as a conservative, but it strikes me that proposing to actually get there from here in any direct fashion would be highly un-conservative.

  • a glance at the ethics departments of most universities will find that there is an ongoing effort to redifine the “rightness” of an action to suit the progressive view of the common good.

    I guess I’d see the directionality differently. I’d say that both secular progressives and the secular inhabitants of ethics departments are both drinking the spirit of the age from the same well, to some extent, and so similar tendencies are not so much an attempt to revise “rightness” to match some existing progressive view, but rather everyone going with the flow.

    My point here, and I am open to correction is that progressivism accepts as reasonable the changing of an act from evil, to not evil or vise versa, in order to make it permissible to effect a good result, or to eliminate a bad effect (as in the case of torture).

    I don’t think that’s at all a necessary assumption of progressivism. It seems to me that progressivism has much more to do with the assumption that it’s possible to take direct action to reform society to make it closer to an ideal. It seems society and to an extent perhaps even human nature as mutable — but that doesn’t necessarily imply the ability to redefine what is good.

    Though I think that the “we’re making progress” mindset is probably more generally open to the idea that “we know better what is good now” than the conservative mindset is.

    On torture:

    It’s a long messy question, and I really don’t want to get into it here as I’m not convinced it’s relevant.

  • Eric Brown has got it exactly right. And in the correct manner, citing relevant passages from papal teachings and encyclicals [as the Catrechism does]. We cannot overcome such an evil as terrorism, for example, by bec oing ourselves terrorists.

    Is not such an act as that of torture more than equivalent to the bit if incense which our martyrs refused to burn for the idols of antiquity.

  • Gabriel Locuta Est, Causa Finita Est right?

    Wrong.

    Eric has not responded to Brian Harrison’s arguments, nor St. Ligouri’s, nor St. Thomas (pray for us), nor has anyone else.

    The argument has nothing to do with efficacy, or becoming terrorists ourselves, or that last bit of rambling you posted, so if you want to join the argument for real, by all means do so.

    I’m beginning to think that the mark of progressivism is the inability to respond substantially, instead just tossing out red herrings.

  • Matt,
    If you wish to continue a serious discussion, you should make a great effort to eschew efforts to be denigratory. [You must also be careul of using Latin if you are not good at it. Hint: I am not a woman].

    One of the marks of all the Church’s teachings is a painstaking examination in greatly tiresome detail. Yoiu cheerfully quote a bit from St. Alphonse Liguori and treat as Holy Writ. But St. Alphonse was never a pope, nor was St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Whether a papal doument is infallible or not, Newman writes that we must accept it obediently, perhaps until another pope does a further explication.

    In the papal documents, I believe that the popes are looking at the soul of the torturer.

  • Gabriel,

    If you wish to continue a serious discussion, you should make a great effort to eschew efforts to be denigratory. [You must also be careul of using Latin if you are not good at it. Hint: I am not a woman].

    my apologies, I was simply trying to draw you into a discussion rather than a pronouncement of Eric’s infallibility.


    One of the marks of all the Church’s teachings is a painstaking examination in greatly tiresome detail. Yoiu cheerfully quote a bit from St. Alphonse Liguori and treat as Holy Writ. But St. Alphonse was never a pope, nor was St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Yes, however, Thomas is a doctor of the Church, his teachings are the basis for the Council of Trent which is still in force. Nor do I treat their quotes as “Holy Writ” only arguments in favor of my premise, nowhere do I suggest they are definitive. Not all teachings of the Church are pronounced by Pope’s, in fact, that is not the norm. Nevertheless, if you’d care to refer to the link to Fr. Harrison’s essay he cites:

    Pope Innocent IV, Bull Ad Exstirpanda (May 15, 1252). This fateful document introduced confession-extorting torture into tribunals of the Inquisition. It had already been reinstated in secular processes over the previous hundred years, during which Roman Law was being vigorously revived. Innocent’s Bull prescribes that captured heretics, being “murderers of souls as well as robbers of God’s sacraments and of the Christian faith, . . . are to be coerced – as are thieves and bandits – into confessing their errors and accusing others, although one must stop short of danger to life or limb“.33

    Whether a papal doument is infallible or not, Newman writes that we must accept it obediently, perhaps until another pope does a further explication.

    In the papal documents, I believe that the popes are looking at the soul of the torturer

    Fair enough… but that’s not what the argument is about.

    I’ll ask it again…. Is all means of inflicting pain mental or physical to be considered torture? If torture is to be considered intrinsically evil, then we must know what it is.

  • I’m going to reply to you. I begin typing something, pressed back, loss the ordering, etc…so I’m waiting to re-collect.

    One thing to think about and is apart of my point — saints and Doctors of the Church do provide wisdom, but they do not share the charism of necessarily being a part of the college of bishops and/or being apart of the universal Magisterium.

    St. Thomas Aquinas explicitly argued against the Immaculate Conception and this was later declared by Pope Pius XII ex cathedra as a long-standing, irreversible dogma that is revealed in Sacred Scripture and Tradition. Aquinas as brilliant as a thinker as he was, is not infallible nor is any other such thinker. St. Thomas is the patron of my university and I am certainly a fan of Thomism; it is just remains that it is not a fact.

    Moreover, I’m going to address the ordinary versus the extraordinary magisterium. When Pope John Paul II declared that women cannot be priests, he did not do it ex cathedra, but this does not mean that his statement is not necessarily definitive.

    I will wait and address the matter at once. Just a heads up.

  • By “pressing back” I meant the browser button which in effect deleted everything I wrote…

  • I meant to say it “remains a fact that each of his conclusions are necessarily the explicit universal norm that is to be accepted by the whole church unless each of them — judged individually — is in accord with the eternal truths of God.”

    I hope that’s clear — and I’m not saying Thomas was a heretic.

    I really should login to edit my messages, but oh well.

  • Eric,

    I appreciate that Aquinas was not a bishop, but his status as a doctor of the church and his influence on the moral theology of the Church since his time lend significant weight to his teachings, especially in that area. His question about the Immaculate Conception was around the need to reconcile it with the dogma that Christ was the Redeemer of all, if Mary was conceived immaculately, she was not (he thought) in need of redemption. This dogma was at the time a very open question, and Thomas struggled with it, it is not at all apparent that he had concluded against it.

    We all accept that not every pronouncement from the pope is “ex cathedra” but yet it could be definitive… if it is definitive it has to be, well, definitive. The equivocation in GS and the CCC, and the very low degree of authority in a papal speech given to the Red Cross suggest that he did not intend to make an “ex cathedra” statement, together with the lack of a universal norm of the ordinary magisterium, and the historical context of a pope authorizing the use of torture suggest it is not “intrinsically evil”, at least not yet. I would accept with docility a declaration which the Church instructs as definitive.

    I’m curious though, if capital punishment is not intrinsically evil, how is it possible that a much less severe form of physical harm is?

    I still would like to know if every act which inflicts pain, physical or moral is to be considered torture? And if the Holy Father intended to teach definitively that torture is intrinsically evil, is it possible that he envisioned that he referred to at least a certain level of severity, beyond say, imprisonment, caning, flogging, paddling, spanking, or washing of the mouth with soap….

    That’s a little bit of a segue, my point remains that the move to declare torture intrinsically evil involves a change in the inherent rightness of an act as at least generally accepted, rather than an acknowledgment of that it is not suitable or necessary in our time, or a conclusion that it does more harm than good. This impulse, is one of progressivism in my estimation, and is very dangerous. I don’t think I’m out of line in suggesting that John Paul II had a progressivist instinct in some areas, as did many of the authors of Vatican II.

  • Matt,

    I’ll address all those in the coming days, hopefully. I’m a student, other things come first. Racism is a less severe evil, technically speaking, than murder; however, it is too intrinsically evil because there is no justification for racism in any circumstances. The nature of the action makes it unjustifiable not necessarily the severity of it.

  • Eric,

    I understand, I look forward to continuing the discussion. I would definitely agree with you on racism, although slavery is another matter (except when it is based on racism as in the American model).

    We have to be clear that not being intrinsically evil doesn’t mean that it is acceptable in general, but that it may be been under certain circumstances even if those circumstances are not even possible. It is possible that when the pope speaks of things which can not allowed he is referring to the context of our present day where the rule of law largely holds over chaos.

  • Not to make the order taller, but it strikes me that the phrase “intrinsically evil” itself is one that is used often but seldom defined, and that this is part of the problem.

  • DarwinCatholic,

    I quite agree:

    This should suffice?

    1756 It is therefore an error to judge the morality of human acts by considering only the intention that inspires them or the circumstances (environment, social pressure, duress or emergency, etc.) which supply their context. There are acts which, in and of themselves, independently of circumstances and intentions, are always gravely illicit by reason of their object; such as blasphemy and perjury, murder and adultery. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.

    It seems to me that if pointing a gun at the head of man who may not be morally culpable for any of his actions and pulling the trigger is NOT intrinsically evil, I don’t see how torture in an of itself could be, unless you define torture to a level which makes it exclude any possible treatment that would possibly be morally acceptable (ie. maiming and mutilation). In that case, I think it’s fair to suggest that it would not be a changing of the morality of an action to define it as intrinsically evil, and not a progressivist notion.

  • Dear Matt,
    Thank you for baccking down a bit. Now we can get to the core of the discussion – the morality of torture. It is indeed a complex matter. And it is, I think, parallel to the question of the death penalty.
    Both are to be examined in the light of the effect on the torturer or the executioner. Pain and death are part of our world, of our existence. And so much so that Our Lord subjected Himself to both. By which He conquered both.
    For us, death is but the prelude to the next world. So much so that we are forbidden to kill ourselves. We must wait until God calls us.
    I am uncetain whether torture has been specifically forbidden by the Church. I fear that its worst effect is on the torurer, [Greatly mixed in with this is sadism].

  • Gabriel,

    agreed.

    am uncetain whether torture has been specifically forbidden by the Church. I fear that its worst effect is on the torurer,

    I am certain that one could quite reasonably conclude that it has been forbidden, i’m not sure I would be comfortable arguing against that. That’s does not of course necessarily make it “intrinsically” evil. It’s possible that at some point, the Church could ban capital punishment if the circumstances of the times, and, as you point out our understanding of the moral effect on the executioner and society is ever found to demonstrate circumstances where it doesn’t cause more harm than good no longer exist. I would argue against such an effort, but would give intellectual assent if it were decided.

  • the vatican has to be careful about wnat mr. obama is doing. too much government is not good. he o.k. the use of our money to be used for family planning and the hand out of codoms in the u.s. and around the world. the church could promote more morality and spirituality. God always provides. everything will fall in place. have faith in God. Catherine

True Audacity

Tuesday, December 9, AD 2008

New Catholic Congressman

President-Elect Obama used the word audacity a lot in his rise to the presidency but how much audacity does it take to be a liberal state senator, representing a liberal district, in a liberal state? True audacity is going against the odds and against the consensus on pundits. That is exactly what Joseph Cao did in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District. Cao is a devout Catholic Republican Vietnamese immigrant in an overwhelmingly African American and Democrat congressional district. Although his opponent is undoubtably corrupt politician facing serious indictments, he was still not given a chance at winning. Unfortunately, voters, especially it seems African American voters, often overlook these flaws in the name of some sort of racial solidarity. Nevertheless, Cao won! Let’s pray that he can help rebuild the wonderful city of New Orleans and provide true opportunity for its amazing people. Cao, like Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin, is already getting attention from Republican leadership as the future of the party.

After Katrina My HometownAlthough Cao probably hasn’t even had a chance to organize his staff, yesterday I heard Al Sharpton say that he would be working to “fix” this situation. Seems for Sharpton and his ilk working with a person who cares about the district and its people is trumped by partisan and racial politics.

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4 Responses to True Audacity

7 Responses to Basic Health Care and the Common Good, A Conservative Response

  • Good post.

    I’m part of a project in Madison, WI that is addressing this issue right now. It’s called Our Lady of Hope Clinic, and it will offer free basic healthcare to the uninsured.

    How will this be paid for? We are currently recruiting and signing up benefactors. These benefactors will pay a single annual fee to receive all of their primary care from the clinic. What’s in it for them?

    1. Their contribution serves the poor.
    2. They get high-end concierge-style care. In other words, instead of the average six-minute appointment, they are guaranteed 30-minute office visits so the provider gets a complete picture of their health and their needs. There is 24/7 access to a personal physician. This also allows for a focus on preventative medicine so health care doesn’t turn into “sick care.”
    3. Only 300 benefactors per physician–about 10% of the typical practice. This allows for the long appointment times and individualized attention. It also allows the doctors to spend slightly over half of their time treating the poor.
    4. 100% pro-life. Parents don’t have to worry about doctors pushing birth control pills on their teens.
    5. No billing or claims. The annual fee covers everything.
    6. There are tons of tax deduction opportunities, depending on one’s situation.
    7. Depending on their current coverage, many people can actually save money by becoming benefactors and switching to a high-deductable secondary coverage for their advanced care.

    Certainly the solution to American health care is not singular, but I believe this model will make some serious inroads. It’s a win-win for the poor and the benefactors.

    Additionally, it eases the burden on the system. When the uninsured can treat, for example, their diabetes early, it cuts down on ER visits that will never be paid for. This reduces the sunken costs of our hospitals and benefits the consumer.

  • Oh yeah, if you’re interested in learning more: http://ourladyofhopeclinic.com/

  • Sounds like a pretty good idea. It kind of reminds me of the stuff Wal-Mart is doing with its health clinics. My main concern is that if these sorts of things become too popular, the AMA will try to shut them down, ostensibly on grounds of safety but really as a form of protectionism for doctors.

  • How dare you question the motives of the AMA. What’s next, teacher’s unions? The ABA?

  • When I was fairly young our family got most of our care from a local clinic which worked on something like this model — it was I believe open to anyone who was a city, state or federal employee (my dad worked at a city college) and it was the local clinic at which young doctors did their internships.

    And yes, one of the major obstacles to this kind of thing is the AMA, which wants to make sure that the value of doctors (and thus cost of health care) remains high.

  • How dare you question the motives of the AMA. What’s next, teacher’s unions? The ABA?

    Ha!

  • Diagnosing standard diseases and infections, and treating them with anti-biotics. Standard inoculations. Basic screening tests. Treating basic injuries. X-rays. Standard ultrasounds and pre-natal care. Delivery in cases without complications. Well-child care.

    It is an interesting idea, although it may be difficult to distinguish in practice between ‘basic’ and advanced health care. To cite one example, during both of my wife’s pregnancies, either she or the child required more than ‘basic’ care; it is hard to assess pregnancy risks ex ante.

    I have had a couple acquaintances (both in their twenties) in the past five years who went to the doctor with fairly minor complaints (a persistent cold, a sore knee) that turned out to be cancerous, requiring prolonged medical treatment. It is possible that a regular nurse or less skilled personnel would have made the proper referrals for a timely diagnosis; but health care is a field where incremental differences in education can matter a great deal. At least, so it appears from the outside.

    Given the large number of people who cannot (or will not) pay for basic insurance now, the balance of harms may weigh heavily in favor of relaxed licensing requirements. Any change will have trade-offs, and this is an interesting suggestion. How feasible it is politically is another question entirely…..

Is Religion the GOP's Downfall?

Tuesday, November 25, AD 2008

Everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is that the GOP lacks these days. Kathleen Parker seems to think that the big problem is its lack of a columnist with the prose style, intellectual rigor and cultural sensibilities of a Maureen Dowd — and in her most recent Washington Post column she tries to fill that void. [HT: Cranky Conservative]

As Republicans sort out the reasons for their defeat, they likely will overlook or dismiss the gorilla in the pulpit.

Three little letters, great big problem: G-O-D.

I’m bathing in holy water as I type.

To be more specific, the evangelical, right-wing, oogedy-boogedy branch of the GOP is what ails the erstwhile conservative party and will continue to afflict and marginalize its constituents if reckoning doesn’t soon cometh.

Simply put: Armband religion is killing the Republican Party. And, the truth — as long as we’re setting ourselves free — is that if one were to eavesdrop on private conversations among the party intelligentsia, one would hear precisely that.

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17 Responses to Is Religion the GOP's Downfall?

  • I love your blog. I’ve been searching for the perfect combination of Catholicism and conservatism for years. I’m tired of those that are too despairing but also those that are too philosophically mushy and obsequious. I appreciate the generally free-market tone as well. I used to be “anti-capitalist” until I started actually studying real economics… that and seeing how the economy works as a father and provider, rather than as a mooching, idealistic college student. Your content is timely and relevant. Socialism is no longer just another option, it’s part of the problem. God bless!

  • Darwin,

    Since you have analyzed Parker so well (which I agree with you… her ideas will have the Republicans lose more elections), can you tell me what is Noonan’s problem?

  • Dr. Dobson responds to Kathleen Parker. http://www.citizenlink.org/content/A000008766.cfm

    I will be charitable and assume that Ms. Parker was drunk when she wrote her screed. Surely no one sober could wish to reveal herself as a bitter bigot who, under the guise of giving suicidal advice to the GOP, spews the type of hate better reserved for the walls of a public toilet instead of a newspaper column.

  • The difference between Dowd and Parker is that Dowd has the good sense to attack the other party. I don’t think Noonan has a problem, personally. I do not agree with everything she writes, and her style is very hit-and-miss, but she is in an entirely different class (in many respects) than Parker.

  • Noonan has class, which Parker appears (at least from the few pieces I’ve read of hers lately) to lack.

    However Noonan does seem to have two problems that annoy me, though they certainly don’t keep me from sitting down with her column and the drinks column of the WSJ of a Saturday morning over coffee.

    1) She has a schoolgirl crush of sorts on Obama.

    2) Of late she seems to almost always have 3-4 themes for each column, and never quite decide which one she wants to write about.

  • Public religion defeated GOP, eh? Not the perceptions of the GOP as a party of fiscal irresponsibility, lawlessness, corruption, and deceit? Not the perceptions of the Bush Administration’s performance and the persuasiveness of the McCain campaign?

  • What defeated the GOP was the third term itch and the September financial collapse. The economy tanks and the party in power is going to take it on the chin.

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  • Doesn’t the whole debate seem a little asanine in perspective though? How would your average Republican-off-the-street of today stack up–in terms of social and moral issues–to a Democrat from the same street from 50 years ago? The political center can be determined by reference to the extremes of the right and left, but don’t we find the center marching consistently and inexorably further and further to the left? The more I see the more I think Polybius and his anacyclosis are right (no pun intended).

    Practically, religion and traditional values are not going to win a whole lot of points with the next couple generations. So Republicans will adapt, and become something else–they won’t be as far left as the Democrats, but not as far right as they are now.

  • “but don’t we find the center marching consistently and inexorably further and further to the left?”

    No. Obama for example, although I believe he is at heart a socialist, probably will not implement economic policies as far to the left as FDR. Many evangelicals were indifferent to abortion as an issue for a few years after Roe. The semi-pacifism of Carter will probably not be a guiding star of the Obama administration. The Reagan administration and the free market economics it ushered in came as a radical break with the ever increasing government involvement with the markets since FDR. The RINOS used to control the Republican party and are now a marginal fringe. Union political strength has been steadily diminishing for generations and I doubt if the Obama administration will be able to pass card check and reverse the trend. There is nothing inexorable or inevitable about politics. Many a bright new idea turns out to be merely a passing fad to be added to the closet of history.

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  • Donald, I think it is true that “consistent” wasn’t the best word choice to apply to political evolution, and I think you could have skewered me on that mistake but you were merciful (so thanks). But I do think that certain things–certain momentous social and political changes–are inevitable. It all depends on the scale of analysis–your examples, though compelling, go back about 4 generations or so.

    As you pointed out, policy and policy makers come and go. But demographics are slooooow to change. Or they have been relatively slower to change in comparison to policy. If you believe, as I do, that we can fairly accurately forecast demographic changes in the future — and — you believe that demographics have a lot to do with voter behavior, then you will be able to find a certain inevitability in our political future.

    With the way *I* percieve our demographics to be changing, I don’t see religious or moral issues being determinative in national political contests the near future. I think the GOP is losing, and I think that it was inevitable. I am not saying I am glad or sad about it, I am just stating my opinion. In 20 years I seriously doubt pro-life will be a viable campaign platform in most of the country. If that day comes, I don’t think we are ever coming back.

  • Tim,

    I disagree. I think my generation is more pro-life than the last one. Though, I do think this generation is perhaps more liberal. That doesn’t mean some of us aren’t social traditionalists.

    I think what is hurting the GOP is not the religious base, though I will admit — some of the “right wing” can be quite alienating to certain voters and I find myself annoyed with the fact that I get associated with radical biblical fundamentalists, who sometimes do not help the debate — and this isn’t to say no one from the other side hasn’t provoked them.

    Though, on several issues, I thnk the GOP has dropped the ball. Health care is one of them and it’s the one issue I go on and on about. After Clinton’s health care reform failed, the GOP took control of Congress. They had a willing president, who would have made a compromise as was done with Medicaid, Medicare, and SCHIP. No, instead they go after Clinton using tax payer dollars and turned the political arena into an angry circus.

    I recentedly looked up some statistics. Currently, in states that usually go Republican have the highest rates of Americans lacking health insurance with the opposite being true of states that traditionally go Democratic. The fact is the GOP had 12 years in control of Congress and health care wasn’t a priority to them. SCHIP, the public health program for children doesn’t get much conservative support — even in states where they get unborn children covered to encourage women to not have abortions — funding gets cut, thus so do the recepients of federal aid. How does that help fight abortion?

    Regularly, fiscal year after fiscal year, funding is cut to public education. Yet, we’re willing to borrow $10 billion dollars a month to fight a war and rebuild Iraq? My focus here is not the ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ of certain policies, but the perception of priorities.

    There are plenty of Democrats — ones I know — who hold traditional Christian moral values particularly among African Americans and Hispanics. However, for whatever reason, they vote in terms of domestic and economic policies. Everyone in my household voted for Obama except for myself.

    Hispanics and African Americans, which primarily make up the majority of the bottom of the economic bracket don’t have a sense that the GOP really cares about their concerns. Overwhelmingly in this last election, these two groups went for Obama more so than in the last election. It’s one thing to say that the mechanism of government is not going to help people who are socio-economically disadvantaged, but that doesn’t mean don’t do anything. I think there’s a reason Republicans don’t come to mind when thinking of legislators who are adamant about finding some way to assist the American people, particularly the most vulnerable. This isn’t the say Democratic positions are the solutions, but if it doesn’t even seem to be a priority — and I don’t see how when fundng is being directed away from inner city schools and social programs that provide a safety net for the most vulnerable are first in line to lose funding — I think it’s difficult for the GOP to make its case for the groups that go Democratic in large numbers, particularly Hispanics who are a growing population.

    In essence, if the Republican Party without going left on “life issues” goes left on economic policies, I honestly will welcome it. Maybe then I’d switch parties.

  • The GOP did not fail. the RNC did. The GOP took over Tennessee by keeping on message and target unlike the national RNC.

  • Sarah Palin did not fail, John McCain did. Ms. Parker went into panic attack on Sarah in mid-September at the height of the attacks on her state, number of children, NRA membership, Trig, etc. Gone wobbly since then. Seems to think Democrat Lite is the way for GOP to go. Might be hanging out with Christie Todd Whitman too long. As for the need of a MoDo-style columnist- so who is Ann Coulter? Only tougher, smarter, funnier on an off day than Mo at her best. Ms. Parker- chill.

  • I’m not sure Parker would be classified as a Beltway Insider–I think she’s in NC these days and if I recall used to work for a Florida paper. I think she is mainstream Protestant of the type for whom mentioning religion in conversation is a social no-no, however. Though I’ve been a fan of her writing for years–and recent columns notwithstanding she can be quite good when she wants to be– I have often found her to be disappointingly lily-livered when it comes to contentious religious and social issues. It’s really too bad that she seems to have imploded, both as a political commentator and as a writer, over recent events. I’m at a loss to explain her reaction to Sarah Palin. One would think a student of politics could look past a candidate’s cotillion bearing.

  • The citizens of Gardner, KS are currently working to recall two members of their City Council. The recall is tied up in the courts at the moment, but it should go to a vote in March of 2010.

Bragging Rights

Monday, November 24, AD 2008

Goodness knows, there are lots of ways that liberals and conservatives manage to annoy each other. Still, one that has struck me recently is an odd sort of bragging rights.

One of the main divisions between these groups at this point in time is over how the less vulnerable in society are best provided with care. The liberal view is generally that comprehensive government programs should be set up to assure that everyone in society has a certain basic level of food, income, medical care, housing, babysitting, rice pudding, etc. The conservative view is generally that guaranteed government handouts create dependency and hurt people in the long run, and that short term help for those in trouble is generally better provided by family, church or private charity.

The problem comes when members of these two groups get together and start arguing about how to help others.

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9 Responses to Bragging Rights

  • There’s probably an entire book that could be written about this topic. One way I’ve often thought about it is to describe it as first order vs. second order thinking. Taking the cue from math, you can take the first order derivative of something, and it can tell you one thing. But you have to take the second order derivative to know where you really are — local maximum or minimum. It’s that second order condition that completes the picture and gives you a fuller sense of where you are.

    I would characterize a lot of progressive thought as first order thinking. It often correctly identifies the problem, usually out of a conscience that is rightly ordered toward sympathy and justice, and the emotions they arouse. Unless you dig a little deeper, the immediate temptation is to resort to policy that has coercion as its underpinning. Coercive policy might or might not be warranted, and a technical review of the problem can help find the answer. (And this is true not only of economic policy, but a lot of “progressive” social policy as well).

    Second order thinking isn’t very popular, though. If it takes more than a soundbite to describe a problem and its possible solutions, it won’t get much air time. Hence the corner the conservative is often backed into: not supporting the easy fix, he looks like a curmudgeon at best. The second order inspection often reveals deeper truths that aren’t “convenient,” to coin a phrase.

    In fact, Darwin, one thing you left out from the conservative’s proposed toolkit of solutions that REALLY raises the ire of the Left is morality. Blaming the victim is not what I mean: rather, it’s a general verdict on the nature of mankind’s relationship with God that is at fault. This is a complete non-starter in most cases, and yet – religion aside – how are we ever to cease being moral creatures? We still need the language to talk about morality and rescue it from non-judgmentalism and vapid “tolerance.” There needs to be a way to salvage that tool from the kit, because so many of our economic and social ills have moral causes at their root. (Not entirely, of course, but enough to warrant at least a discussion.)

    We have to move beyond ideologies and soundbites to solve our problems. Serious, sustained thought is necessary to get at the root of the issues. The solutions will not always fit neatly into our worldviews — which is why, even as a conservative, I readily admit that there is a strong role for government to play in many areas of public policy. What the Left also needs to admit is that there are valid arguments to be made for charity, local solutions, market-based approaches, and (yes) “cultural” change on morality. I don’t think these two worldviews are mutually exclusive, yet our rhetoric almost always treats them that way.

  • There’s probably an entire book that could be written about this topic.

    There already is one.

  • Arthur Brooks and I went to the same graduate school, but I doubt that’s why we share some opinions.

  • I think that American conservatives get into trouble when ideology seeps into their solutions, because ideology implies totality – in effect, a denial of the trade-offs that do and will always dominate life. This is to say that policy gets mixed up with ideological principle (Bush’s idea that all kids can be above average in school, and that Wilsonian adventurism made up as spreading democracy to grateful peoples is a-ok). What policy should be mixed up with, instead, is conservative sentiment – against utopia, realizing that trade-offs exist, against ideology. The solutions should be flexible, and we should not be “running people out” of any center-right coalition, which is always shifting and always full of contradiction.

  • I enjoyed this piece for many reasons, not the least of which was the authors frank discussion of the obvious flaws in both viewpoints. I can see agreement with both sides but can’t help remember the frustration I felt trying to help an 18 year old with no medical insurance having an allergic reaction but not wanting an ambulance because he knew he couldn’t pay the bill. Some things may not be rights according to conservatives but how do you explain that to a self reliant 18 who in just another minute or two may not be able to breathe? In other words, theoretical discussions are nice but don’t help many people if they need help right now. Ideaologies are nice but don’t solve many problems, progressives may use coercion, but there solutions to help people.

  • “I felt trying to help an 18 year old with no medical insurance having an allergic reaction but not wanting an ambulance because he knew he couldn’t pay the bill. ”

    You call the ambulance and the 18 year old worries about the bill later. With Universal “free” Government Health Care the thrifty 18 year old will soon find that his paycheck has a lot more to worry about than an ambulance bill.

  • You missed my point. I was on the ambulance and he needed to be transported and didn’t want to go. I understand that he would have more to worry about from taxes but conservative ideology is very easy to advocate in the abstract and sometimes very difficult to advocate in the specific. The progressive ideology is just the opposite, very easy to advocate in that kind of a situation but very difficult to advocate in the abstract. This is why most people can’t answer the “what about” type arguments of most progressives.

  • “This is why most people can’t answer the “what about” type arguments of most progressives.”

    I think that’s right. It has struck me in arguments related to the automobile bail-out. Progressives are arguing ‘what about all of the people that will be out of a job?’ And conservatives are responding ‘what about the larger number of people you can’t see who will lose their jobs because the bailout involves making a terrible investment with scarce resources?’ The conservative argument is perfectly sound, and, in my view, is superior on policy grounds. But it does have the disadvantage of being more abstract (like the argument about mediating institutions and health care).

  • Micah,

    Good point.

    Another element, tying specifically into the point you make about the ambulance, is the inability of many people to think longer term.

    There was a point back in college when I specifically skipped paying health insurance for a year, on the theory that the student plan was a thousand dollars in spending that I never got anything for. It figured that that would be the year I managed to injure myself — and so spend six hundred dollars out of pocket on some doctors visits in town. It took me several weeks of kicking myself over this to realize that:
    a) I’d still actually spent less than the 1000 for the insurance
    b) I would have been able to spend much less if I’d shelled out the $120 for a doctors visit right away when I injured myself, instead of walking on it for a couple weeks and showing up when I had a badly healed wound and a tenacious infection.

    That’s one of the things that often strikes me when people talk about the, “By not having health insurance, you force people to get treated in an emergency room for the flu,” argument. It’s certainly true that what many people end up doing without insurance is waiting until things get so bad they end up having to be taken to the ER — but its a self defeating behavior.

    And yet people naturally want to avoid spending the smaller amount of money to get treated when its not an emergency yet.

Reflections on a Defeat

Wednesday, November 5, AD 2008

So we lost. I don’t like it a bit, but it’s not exactly a surprise, and there it is. What is one to make of it all?

The Historic Moment
A great many people have commented on the historic nature of a black man being elected president of the United States — when in some states he would not have been served at many lunch counters fifty years ago.

I’m glad that those who are deeply inspired by that are having their moment — people should realize that skin color is not a barrier to achievement in the US and if this helps people (black, brown and white) realize that, all to the good. I must admit, as a 29-year-old who grew up in the working class suburbs of Los Angeles, I’ve figured for basically all my life that it was simply a matter of time till we had our first black president, our first hispanic president, out first female president, etc.

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22 Responses to Reflections on a Defeat

  • I think your last paragraph was particularly on target. Conservatives can tailor their message to the middle class without necessarily giving into Douthatism and the whole party of Sam’sClub, big government “conservatism” ideal. One thing we do need to keep in mind is that while we need to return to traditional conservative principles, doing so without also educating the electorate as to why these ideals work is pointless.

  • Progressives will now have more opportunities to put their ideas to the test. The near future of conservatism will be contingent on how well or poorly those ideas work out in practice and how well or poorly conservatives respond to their consequences. I’d like to think that we’ll learn from our and each other’s successes and failures, but that’s not likely to happen.

  • One thing we do need to keep in mind is that while we need to return to traditional conservative principles, doing so without also educating the electorate as to why these ideals work is pointless.

    Yes. And conservatives need leaders who understand conservative principles and can intellegently and effectively communicate the prudence of their principles to the public.

  • Bush simply went the big government route, with programs like No Child Left Behind and the Prescription Drug Benefit.

    Respectfully, McCain didn’t lose due to either of those issues. Neither issue is particularly responsible for Bush’s unpopularity.

    The GOP would be especially wise to find a way to appeal to socially conservative Hispanics.

    I don’t believe the GOP can be effective in doing so. Unlike some of their white counterparts, they at least aren’t voting against the GOP based on social issues. The issue the GOP has with Hispanics is that they are in the habit of alienating them. Given that Hispanics (like blacks) tend to be urban, they are often the “them” in the us v. them debates. This has been amplified in the foreclosure crisis. Until the GOP has an urban agenda, they will not be ‘relevant’ to Hispanics.

  • Respectfully, McCain didn’t lose due to either of those issues. Neither issue is particularly responsible for Bush’s unpopularity.

    No, McCain lost to the economy totally tanking, Bush being widely unpopular, and McCain not having enough of a set of policy principles to differentiate himself from Obama. McCain is essentially an old-fashioned, honor-focused man, but he’s without political philosophy. Since he wasn’t able to make Obama’s positions look sufficiently dishonorable or scary, he didn’t really have much of a way to present an alternative vision to Obamas.

    I don’t believe the GOP can be effective in doing so. Unlike some of their white counterparts, they at least aren’t voting against the GOP based on social issues. The issue the GOP has with Hispanics is that they are in the habit of alienating them. Given that Hispanics (like blacks) tend to be urban, they are often the “them” in the us v. them debates. This has been amplified in the foreclosure crisis. Until the GOP has an urban agenda, they will not be ‘relevant’ to Hispanics.

    You’re right that when Hispanics vote against the GOP, they do so because the GOP is in the habit of alienating them.

    However, in the California and the Southwest (which is where this matters) Hispanics are most definitely not a strictly or even primarily urban group. A lot of Hispanic voters in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and many regions of California are rural and small town people. (Significant parts of the Mexican-American side of my family still live in small towns in New Mexico and Nevada.) Those Hispanics have concerns very much like rural and small town white voters — if it can be made clear that the GOP is not out to get them.

    Getting into the cities — I don’t think it’s necessarily as helpless as you’re painting it. Democratic big city politics are one of the clearest failure stories of the last 15 years. It’s well past time for Republicans to start seriously contending for those big city mayorships. And 2nd and 3rd generation Hispanics tend heavily towards the sort of blue collar small business/contractor lifestyles (pretty much describes my Ramirez relatives back in LA) which among white voters trend well towards the GOP much of the time. Those are the folks the GOP should be going for.

    Hispanics are far too diffuse a group to ever massively in one side or the other (and many of us stop listing ourselves as “Hispanic” after a few generations and a bit of intermarriage) and the GOP will certainly never have a lock on them. However, it does need to be able to get close to 50% of the Hispanic vote in key Southwestern states if it’s ever to get that region back in play again. And given how increasingly hostile to religion and traditional culture West Coast Democrats are, I don’t think it’s necessarily a stretch at all.

  • “I can’t imagine that if a Clarence Thomas type figure had been running for the GOP and won, there would [not] be all this rejoicing.”
    I seem to recall a Condi Rice-as-Prissy-from-GWTW cartoon that would indicate otherwise. BTW, I don’t think you intended that “not”; it makes for a double negative and counters your point.

    “I think it’s rather early to start imagining that the US will become a Sweden or even a France any time soon.”
    My DH proposes the slogan, “Obama’s America: Like France, only without the culture, wine, and cheese.”
    But you’re right; I wouldn’t expect it to take. We Yanks really don’t cotton to being told what to do.

    I have the impression that the Obama campaign did a fair amount of outreach to Hispanics. It’s a shame that McCain, whom one would think would have an advantage there as a Southwesterner, did not–the socially coservative Hispanic community would seem to be natural allies to the GOP.

  • BTW, I don’t think you intended that “not”; it makes for a double negative and counters your point.

    Fixed. Thanks. Two conflicting layers of edits…

  • I was heartened to notice that the Catholic Church did some outreach regarding the candidates’ abortion positions. I’m afraid churches may have to take up the slack in Hispanic outreach. Many of them are already doing it anyway, and I’m afraid the old guard GOPers can’t be relied upon.

  • “As Reagan said after losing the primary in ‘76: It’s time to get to work.”

    Yep. Losing in anything is always a painful experience, but it can be extremely useful if it is also a learning experience. This year has taught us many valuable lessons if we will only have eyes to see them. One lesson I would suggest is that it is foolish to write off any part of the country. Obama made early and strong efforts to take Red states that looked to be completely out of his grasp and it paid off. People are certainly not going to vote for a party if it doesn’t even ask. The Republican party needs to implement a strong rebuilding effort in every state in the Union. Next time we fight a truly national election and not give our opponents the luxury of not having to play defense.

  • Awk. I meant to say, “outreach to Hispanics.” Duh.

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  • This is tangential at best (although Douthat was mentioned earlier in the thread), but this quote is priceless, particularly since it is given in the context of a panel discussion which includes Kmiec. I know Douthat comes in for a lot of criticism among small-government conservatives, but his willingness to write forthrightly about topics such as pornography and abortion in places like the Atlantic or Slate is certainly admirable:

    “I am sure that Kmiec is weary of being called a fool by opponents of abortion for his tireless pro-Obama advocacy during this election cycle, but if so, then the thing for him to do is to cease acting like the sort of person for whom the term “useful idiot” was coined, rather than persisting in his folly.”

    http://www.slate.com/id/2203800/

  • Ha! How true.

    I’d seen round one of that discussion, and Douthat’s piece struck me as pretty solid. Kmiec’s was, of course, totally idiotic — and verging on incoherant. Not sure why he was invited to participate in a forum on conservatism in this case.

    I enjoy reading Douthat, though I certainly don’t agree with everything that he says. He may get a somewhat overly hard rap on the big government question, though, in that although he’s certainly an advocate of “programs” for the middle class (and I think he _does_ go too far on that) I don’t think he’s necessarily a centralizer. My impression is that he’d be just as much if not more behind approaches such as charter schools that take what was previously a centralized program and open it up as a decentralized, locally run one.

  • “What is one to make of it all?”

    For a nation in which a large percentage of the population claims to be Christian and yet they asked for a pro-“choice king”, and for a good economy over the right to life, they were granted their desires. Why does the image of Saul come to mind?

  • I really don’t understand the repeated assertion that the choice of Obama represented desire for “a good economy” over the right to life.

    Obama’s stated policies will be disastrous for the US economy. Anyone who wanted economic sanity was out of luck this election, but McCain might have been marginally less disastrous.

    Neither party mounted a candidate with a sane approach to economics.

    So can someone explain how the “a vote for Obama is a vote for a good economy” meme got started?

  • The perception is out there, for whatever reason, that the Democrats are good for the economy. I think it is based on fond memories of the dot.com bubble which crested during the Clinton years, and a misplaced belief that George Bush and the Republicans somehow were responsible for the current financial crisis. There is not a solid basis for these perceptions, but one of the common features of democracies is that they act irrationally. Nevertheless, Barack Obama did well among voters who listed the economy as their top concern.

  • Thank you, fus01.

    I heard the sentiment several times from our parish priest, certainly no fan of Obama, but I haven’t had a chance to ask him about the rationale behind it.

    It frustrates me, due to what seems to me the evident falsehood of the assertion.

    I should get out more. 🙂

  • Obama’s stated policies will be disastrous for the US economy.

    Yeah, just look to Michigan to see how Obama’s stated policies will work out. There’s always the hope that once he’s in office he’ll take a little more sane approach to things, but alas, he just announced his economic team, in which Jennifer Granholm is a key adviser. Trust me, you don’t want Obama to do for the country what Granholm has done for Michigan.

  • Since you refer to me in a section of “Obama voters,” one thing I want to say — I did not vote for Obama, ok? Nonetheless, we are required as Christians to work with the situation as it stands; he is the candidate who won. So, instead of giving up hope, the Christian response is to have hope — as Pope Benedict has shown many times. Sure, we might not get what we want, but we certainly will not if we sit around just telling each other how bad Obama is.

  • I certainly agree, Henry, that Christians must never abandon hope. The future of Christianity does not rely on some particular party in some particular country winning. It’s always problematic when people identify their religion with their party so closely as to see that as being the case — though I flatter myself this does not happen terribly often among Catholics in our country.

    However, I don’t think that hope necessarily means making efforts to actively work with the Obama administration on some topics — at least in ways that betray our fundamental principles. Personally, I find place rather more help in taking the next four years to achieve a clearly articulated positive political philosophy — and then defeating the Democrats (or at least those who reflect Obama’s ideals in regards to life issues) at the executive and legislative levels.

    But to each their own.

  • Obama will now find that voting “present” is no longer an option. The ball is in his court now. It will be back in ours soon enough unless he performs much better than I expect. I think the election of 2008 is merely Act I in a new stage of the political history of the nation. The Democrats routed the Republicans in Act I. The curtain is now going up on Act II and the audience is leaning forward.

  • Genesis 1:27, “So God made man in his own image”.
    Genesis 2:7, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.”
    Genesis 2:21-22, “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, …the Lord had taken from man, made he a woman, & brought her unto the man”.
    From the above verses, it is obvious that God formed man/woman from dust instead of transforming apes to human beings.

Weary of Wonkery

Tuesday, October 28, AD 2008

Whether the next four years are spend under an Obama administration or a McCain administration, one thing that may be said with certainty is that conservatives are going to have to do some serious thinking over that time in order to come up with an agenda that can bring conservatives back into political success — and bring the GOP back into something like conservatism. Either administration will be enough to make principled conservatives cringe — though I think that an Obama one would visit greater damage upon the country.

There are lots of contenders out there wanting present the new conservative policies that will bring the GOP back to relevance. Ross Douthat is very much at the forefront of that, with his Grand New Party out in bookstores.

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6 Responses to Weary of Wonkery

  • One word: liberty

    It seems that with each initiative/referendum that comes about, we end up with a more complex set of regulations intended to make our lives easier/better.

    For instance, we here in WA are deciding on a home health care initiative, cloaked in the language care for the vulnerable. What is more likely to come about should this pass, is more and more encumbrance and hindrance of those trying to provide the care by more red tape.

    I think the principled conservative has a steep hill to climb in that our society tends to look for solutions from our government rather than ourselves. This is evident from the rhetoric from both the left and the right these days.

  • “…our society tends to look for solutions from our government rather than ourselves.”

    It’s only going to get worse.

  • “…conservatives are going to have to do some serious thinking over that time in order to come up with an agenda that can bring conservatives back into political success — and bring the GOP back into something like conservatism.”

    I am all for conservatives spending their allotted time in the wilderness coming up with new ideas and/or new framing for good old ideas, and I think it’s important for the GOP to sort out how conservative it wants to be. The problem I have with the coming conservative civil war (which may have some very good results) was best expressed by Megan McArdle’s discussion the financial crisis: “Isn’t it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?” To that end, a couple of points:

    1) Bush was incompetent. Let’s look at three of the major failures of his terms in office”

    a) The deficit. He cut taxes, increased spending, and ignored the resulting deficit. This isn’t conservative (or liberal). It’s just incompetent, and it does not take a major re-tooling of conservative philosophy to avoid this.

    b) Katrina. Hurricane relief is not a policy problem, it is a competence problem.

    c) Iraq was the major disaster of the Bush presidency. The failures in Iraq (both in finding WMD’s and establishing security) are what caused the public to turn on Bush. Granted, this was partially a policy difficulty, but Iraq (at the time of the invasion) was supported by almost 70% of the country, and by pundits with divergent approaches to foreign policy. For example, I didn’t think it met just war criteria; many people I respect did. In any case, I do not think the public will have any appetite for extensive military involvement oversees for quite some time, and so I do not think this is an area where the conservative movement has to do that much intellectual spadework for ’10, ’12, or ’16.

    2) The major reasons Obama is winning is that Bush is very unpopular, the economy tanked within the last six weeks, and McCain is not a great candidate. In that order. Bush and McCain are going away. Neither will run again. The economic crises was caused by a convergence of events, none of which were ‘big-picture’ intramural policy debates within the Republican party prior to the crisis.

    In short McCain is likely to lose by between 3%-8% in a year in which nearly everything has gone wrong for the Republican party. That doesn’t look like a party that is collapsing to me. I think Douthat makes good points regarding the fact that conservatives are in some sense a victim of their own successes as the center has moved rightward on welfare reform, the second amendment, and crime over the last twenty years, but I don’t think the poll numbers indicate that it’s time to blow up the Republican party. It’s been a rough two years, but ‘this too will pass.’

  • The problem I have with the coming conservative civil war (which may have some very good results) was best expressed by Megan McArdle’s discussion the financial crisis: “Isn’t it marvelous how the financial crisis has been caused entirely by things that you were opposed to before the crisis happened?”

    Heh. Ain’t that the truth. And certainly, the various claims as to where the conservative movement needs to go now mostly seem to fit that model.

    In that regard, I found very amusing the “Death of Conservatism” article which Ross Douthat linked to as being very emblematic of the various epitaphs for the movement being penned right now, except that this one was written in 1992:

    http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=bbbe161e-98ab-4937-bcb3-aefe1123502a&p=3

  • Wasn’t it just a few years ago, when Democrats lost the presidency and congress in 2004, that we saw lots of articles about how liberals were no longer in touch with the American public, liberalism needed to become more relevant, etc.>?

  • That’s a good link, Darwin. A well-made case that was not exactly vindicated by events.

    It seems to me that many of the loudest voices (e.g. Brooks) represent the smallest constituencies of the conservative movement. More broadly, I think pundits (and amateur pundits) project a concern about issues onto the general public that just isn’t there.

    S.B. – It seems like it was ten years ago, but yes, in 2004 the Democratic party was in complete disarray – in desperate need of a re-tooling to return to relevance in a center-right nation according to many pundits. Granted, it is unlikely that there will be a convergence of events quite like Katrina/Iraq failure/economic collapse within the next four-eight years, but it does mean that a strong candidate may have slightly less than even odds shot in ’12 or worst-case ’16.

    The political brilliance of Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid is unlikely to banish the Republican party to the wilderness for a generation. That said, Iraq has damaged the conservative advantage in foreign policy in the near-term, and it will take a while for conservatives to find their footing over the next several years.

Sarah's Going Rogue

Sunday, October 26, AD 2008

See here and here.

I’m perfectly fine with that… maybe she’s not the hope for the future of populist conservatism that many believe she is or was, but I’d rather have her in the mix than not. And while she certainly bears some responsibility for some of her poor performances in interviews, an equal amount goes to the campaign for mishandling those aspects of her rollout.

(HT: Rod Dreher.)

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14 Responses to Sarah's Going Rogue

  • Sarah’s biggest problem is that she does not know how much of an amateur she is…and how much she does not know…

    And a reformer?

    Maybe in an artificial ‘reality-tv’ show…probably her next destination…if not Faux Noise…

  • Naturally I disagree, Mark. 🙂 I think Sarah is well aware of how much she doesn’t know… I just think the whole prep process for her rollout was bungled by the campaign.

  • What is her appeal…sexually-charged bigotry, demagoguery and anti-intelectualism?

    Oh..I know..she’s pro-life…as her trophy baby proves…

  • Mark, let’s focus on one thing: the charge of anti-intellectualism. Not being an intellectual isn’t the same as being anti-intellectual. Nor is disdain for *some* intellectuals the same as anti-intellectualism.

  • You know Obama is not such an intellectual. Have you ever seen him for something he hasn’t reheased for (the debates) or without a pre-written speech? He stutters for days, he can’t find words, and he really reminds me of George Bush.

  • Is it me or is it that ‘W’ doesn’t try nor care to work on his speech impediment(s)? It can get irritating sometimes… and I like the guy, but sheesh it does get irritating at times.

  • Mark needs to find another blog, more in tune with his thinking. Here’s one…

    http://brands.kraftfoods.com/koolaid/KoolSpace/

  • Mark,

    When this blog was started, you said, “I’m outta here!”

    Well, leave… I’m tired of your leftist-Koolaid drinking self.

  • Wingnut loons,

    So am I a socialist for believing in the progressive tax code we’ve had in this country over the past umpteen years?

  • So am I a socialist

    Wow, not only are you a vile partisan who makes disgusting comments about Palin, you obviously don’t have tremendous reading skills. No one actually called you a socialist.

  • No,

    it is your bigotry, demagoguery and anti-intelectualism that is not wanted here while you pretend to be Pro – Life.

  • Mark,

    You wouldn’t find random name calling with little relation to reality convincing if it was aimed at Senator Obama. Why do you think it woudl convince your opponents? Or are you just wanting to be unpleasant at the moment.

    You’re capable of reasonable discourse at time, but other times you just seem to want to cause trouble.

    And if you show up being offensive and trying to cause trouble, don’t get all surprised if you get rhetorically dogpiled.

  • To answer your question, Mark, yes you are “a socialist for believing in the progressive tax code…” Perhaps you’re not as committed a socialist true-believer as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engles who made progressively punitive taxation of incomes a major demand of their Communist Manifesto (1848). Perhaps you’re a soft core socialist who lacks the courage to honestly admit and follow the convictions you proclaim. Still, you’ve announced that your allegiance is to the socialist program. To use a bit of the old time Marxist lingo, Mark you are objectively a socialist.

Measured Rhetoric Is More Effective

Friday, October 24, AD 2008

A good part of what I was trying to say in my Socialist post the other day concerned the relationship between precision in political rhetoric and its ability to persuade; in short, I think that “toned-down” rhetoric is more likely to convince an interlocutor (let alone an observer)  of at least the plausibilty of one’s position than is the “speaking truth to power” approach.

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22 Responses to Measured Rhetoric Is More Effective

  • Just so.

    I suppose it’s just an intellectual twitch of mine, but whenever I hear that someone is a person who “speaks truth to power”, I have the strong urge to walk rapidly in the opposite direction. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anything worth hearing given that moniker.

    Much though I don’t want to see an Obama presidency, and eager as I will be to keep it to four years if it happens, I hope that the general conservative movement can hold itself back from an “Obama derangement syndrome” which is equivalent to the Clinton and Bush varieties suffered by the two respective parties. Aside from being unattractive, such obsessions make it harder to understand one’s opponent, and thus defeat him.

  • I hope that the general conservative movement can hold itself back from an “Obama derangement syndrome” which is equivalent to the Clinton and Bush varieties suffered by the two respective parties.

    Ditto. We can certainly push back against the administration, but I really don’t want to walk into Borders and see entire tables dedicated to books detailing the evils of the Obama administration written by unhinged conservatives or disenchanted leftists.

  • I really don’t want to walk into Borders and see entire tables dedicated to books detailing the evils of the Obama administration written by unhinged conservatives …”

    You’d never see that even if such books existed by the truckload. They’d be neatly hidden away outside of public view. That is, if Borders bothered to stock them at all.

    😉

  • Jay:

    Good point. But hopefully we won’t be seeing too much of that kind of stuff either way.

  • On this issue of measured rhetoric, why is it that there has been little (or no) measured critique of the Bush Administration by Senator McCain? It seems that he could have critiqued President Bush’s bloating of the federal government and budget in a decidedly un-conservative way.

    Or did he make those critiques and I missed them (likely story).

  • “Or did he make those critiques and I missed them (likely story).”

    There was little that the Bush administration did domestically that McCain did not attack at one time or another.

    Here is a link to a newspaper story from May 22, 2004 in which McCain attacked the budget of the Bush administration.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/republican-split-could-block-bush-budget-564277.html

    “Yesterday the budget hold-up drew fierce criticism of the Senate rebels by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives. But John McCain, the Arizona senator and one of the four, angrily shot back, accusing “some of those in our party” of abandoning the commitment of “real Republicans” to fiscal responsibility.”

  • Thank you Donald. I guess I mean to ask why this didn’t/doesn’t seem to be a prominent part of McCain’s campaign.

  • I don’t think McCain has done a very good job of that — partly, I imagine, because he doesn’t want to offend the 25% of voters (pretty much all Republicans I assume) who still say they approve of Bush’s performance. In that sense, someone with more conservative credentials would have probably been able to campaign better than McCain, criticizing Bush from the Right.

  • “I guess I mean to ask why this didn’t/doesn’t seem to be a prominent part of McCain’s campaign.”

    Good question Father. McCain is a true maverick and campaigns in the way he wishes to campaign whether it makes sense to others or not. Not stressing this difference with Bush doesn’t make much sense to me, since the Republican base is always in favor of the government spending less.

    One decision McCain made was to save most of his advertising money until the last two weeks. This gave Obama a four to one, in some states an eight to one advantage. Now they are making huge ad buys and Obama’s ad avantage is now down to 5-4 nationally. A very risky tactic, and we shall see how it works for McCain. I can understand why he did this however. If you can’t match your opponent dollar for dollar, do it when you know the voters will be paying attention.

  • So I’m supposed to pretend I think Obama means well when really I know better?

    I’ll just stick with the truth, thanks.

  • Steve, how is this any different than people say that Bush lied us into Iraq, because, well, they just *know* that he intentionally deceived us? There is *no way* I’d ever vote for Obama, but I don’t need to employ overblown rhetoric to make my case… as DC noted at the top, the whole “speaking truth to power approach” invariably turns people off. So if our goal is to actually *convince* people of the truth and rightness of our position, we ought to employ an approach which makes that more likely, not less.

  • Agreed, Chris. Measured rhetoric is more persuasive. Given that persuasion is a prerequisite for the maintaining of laws and policies in a democratic society, I’d say persuasive rhetoric should be the rule. Moreover, cases against Obama’s policies will better persuade if they are not undermined by hyperbolic or demeaning rhetoric.

  • Measured rhetoric seems to me the most optimum pathway towards bringing others into your own camp. It’s like a girl getting hit on at a bar, her defenses are up because she knows the environment she’s in. But at a grocery store she would be as aware of men’s advances.

    Yes I know the analogy is pretty simple, but it does state the case very well.

    What do they say? You’ll attract more with honey than with vinegar.

  • I don’t mean to be a jerk–seriously I don’t. But Obama wants to re-legalize a procedure of delivering babies up to their head, stabbing them in the back of the skull and sucking out their brains. That’s not overblown rhetoric; it’s the truth. It’s not hyperbolic; it’s an apt description.

    So what is the “measured rhetoric” for this? I guess it would be “choice”?? The culture of death already has the upper hand in a lot of ways, and now we’re willing to play on their home field by using their lexicon to define terms of debate?

    I think we run the risk of sanitizing some dramatically anti-human, anti-Christian ideologies–and in doing so, blind ourselves and our neighbors to the dangers of electing radicals like Obama.

  • It’s not hyperbolic; it’s an apt description. So what is the “measured rhetoric” for this?

    Steve, I agree with you: that is an apt description. No, “choice” is *not*, because it isn’t a description at all. But I’m not talking about how to describe the process of PBA or infanticide… I’m talking about this: how can we persuade people that PBA needs to be outlawed? What is the most effective way to convince them? Just as a matter of psychology, I don’t think calling them “baby killer” is likely to work. I can assure you, I’ve had the experience of employing language that is stark and explicit, and it inevitably fails as a matter of persuasion.

  • And I know you aren’t trying to be a jerk, Steve. 🙂

  • Definately not a jerk. The question needed to be asked. 🙂

  • -It’s like a girl getting hit on at a bar, her defenses are up because she knows the environment she’s in. But at a grocery store she would be as aware of men’s advances.-

    Man. Does this work? I’ve been married eleven years and now it’s too late to try it. Rats!

  • Well, thanks for the assumption of good faith, but when I re-read my first post in this thread, even I thought I was a jerk.

    Now, I do believe that persuasion can be greatly effective in certain circumstances. If you are debating the best way to create jobs or save social security, or any number of things, I think it is an effective tool.
    That said, I appreciate, and generally agree with your point. What troubles me, however, is that Obama’s words, associations, and voting record suggest to me that he does in fact have a radical leftist ideology.

    Now, how do you use measured rhetoric to combat this?

    Using the PBA example, if someone knows about PBA, how can we convince someone that it’s wrong? Isn’t it self-evident?

  • Steve:

    You raise a good question. I think we can be forceful without becoming unhinged. Just look at Egan’s wonderful article today. It was blunt, and even shocking to a degree, but he maintained an even tone that simply laid all the facts on the table. I think he gave us an example to be followed.

  • And I assumed most people know what article I am referencing, but if not, here it is.

  • Rob,

    Oh, it totally works. But all is not lost: You can always try hitting on your own wife while you’re at the grocery store together.

Catacombs or New Jerusalem?

Friday, October 17, AD 2008

There are two poles, I think, to Christian attitudes towards the state. 

At the one pole is a catacomb mentality.  Here Christians think of the state as an unrelievedly secular force, and they seek to render what they must unto Caesar while keeping themselves aloof from its corrupting influence. 

At the other pole is what might be termed the New Jerusalem mentality, in which the Christian sees the state as a means to achieve a more just and loving society which will reinforce virtue.

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3 Responses to Catacombs or New Jerusalem?

  • I think the categories you construct here are very helpful for Catholics thinking about politics. It helps to organize our thoughts and to see that the political good is somewhere between these two extremes.

    The New Jerusalem mentality makes me think of Plato’s perfectly just regime in the Republic. In seeing the absurdity of the requirements of perfect justice, Plato helps us to realize that perfect justice is not possible in this world, and so what we should work for is much more limited. Justice in the polis first requires justice in the soul, and this is a lifelong battle every individual fights.

    I think one of the other flaws with the Catacomb approach is that it is not right for everyone. As Catholics, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world. There will be some of us who will be politically engaged, others not. We must be “for the world but not of the world”, as someone maybe said somewhere. In short: we can’t all be hermits, but hermits are important too.

  • This is well put, and captures something I have been thinking but haven’t been to express as well as you have had. The New Jerusalem approach seems to me to be the theological equivalent to the secular quest for perfection. It disregards human nature and really, in a sense, deifies man.

    I guess the follow-up that we should all pursue is how to find a happy medium between these two attitudes. Or is there a happy medium? Is the correct approach something different altogether?

  • Yeah, I really needed to have some coffee today. That’s what I get for eating meat on a Friday instead. Anyway, that first sentence was butchered, but hopefully you caught my drift.

    Thankfully the weekend begins in about ten minutes.