In Memoriam: Tiananmen Square

Thursday, June 5, AD 2014

“The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”



Yesterday, June 4, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the brutal suppression of the pro-Democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.  Over 3000 of the protestors were murdered by the Communist government of China.  Tyranny won that round, but I have absolutely no doubt that Democracy will ultimately prevail in the Middle Kingdom.  When it does, the heroes and heroines of Tiananmen Square will be remembered and their murderers forgotten.


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2 Responses to In Memoriam: Tiananmen Square

Brace Yourselves: The Dark Enlightenment is Upon Us

Wednesday, January 29, AD 2014

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

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

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149 Responses to Brace Yourselves: The Dark Enlightenment is Upon Us

  • The Constitution for the United States of America is ratified by every state. Any change to the Constitution must be ratified by three quarters of the states. The Preamble, the purpose of the Constitution is unchangeable, immovable, irreducible. Let us go forward with our inheritance. Live the Constitution, Love the Constitution.

  • Wow. Unchangable, immovable, irreducible? It’s not Holy Scripture. I prefer the Constitution to all other arrangements that are possible at the moment. But don’t forget the Declaration of Independence, which articulates even more fundamental truths – namely that any government, if it ceases to protect the legitimate rights of the people, can be and ought to be tossed off.

  • “It’s not Holy Scripture.” The Constitution for the United States of America is the TRUTH, the whole TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH, so help me God. The “Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity”, all future generations should flow forth from these unalienable rights endowed by our Creator to man, the citizen, who with his sovereign personhood constitutes the state. God, through the sovereignty of the human being, creates Caesar.
    Our posterity, our (constitutional) posterity exist in the mind of God. God, WHO is TRUTH. America is all generations, who have gone before us, in We, the people, all citizens, here and now and all future generations to come who have yet to be brought forth. The future generations come to us in perfect TRUTH, innocence and virginity. God does not make junk or sin or evil, only perfect Justice. The human soul comes to us in perfect TRUTH and Justice. The Supreme Court Justices are the personification of God’s perfect Justice.
    “…namely that any government, if it ceases to protect the legitimate rights of the people, can be and ought to be tossed off.” The Constitution is the measure by which government must be judged or reckoned, or “tossed off”. God made us, God takes care of us.

  • Yeah… I’m just gonna slowly back away now. Though I have to say something about this here:

    “The Supreme Court Justices are the personification of God’s perfect Justice.”

    When they forced abortion-on-demand on the 50 states of the Union, they were the personification of Lucifer’s nether-regions.

  • Also, The Declaration of Independence is also ratified by all of the colonies before the colonies became states.

  • Our problem is not democracy. It’s decadence.

  • “When they forced abortion-on-demand on the 50 states of the Union, they were the personification of Lucifer’s nether-regions.” and they ought to have been “tossed off”. Roe v. Wade denied the human soul endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights, free will, intellect, intuition, genius. Roe V Wade denied to every American male the ownership of his offspring, his seed, giving the child over to the individual who intended to end his life, to scrape the human soul from the womb. Justice Stewart Potter asked Sarah Weddington, the attorney for Roe if the child in the womb might be a “person”. The child was not given the benefit of a doubt, because no one knew. Human rights are predicated on the existence of the human being, an individual substance of a rational nature. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of the “person”
    The Supreme Court is to deliver equal Justice to all persons. In delivering equal Justice to all persons, living, deceased and yet to come, the Supreme Court is the personification of the virtue of Justice

  • Donald McClarey welcomed you back to The American Catholic. Welcome back.

  • Welcome back Bonchamps, I reread you post and it is very good.”neoreaction” Obama wants to be king and the neoreactionists are going to make it happen.

  • Wherever this ultimately leads it would appear that we are in for a rough patch of civil violence.

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  • As Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

  • Thank you for the education Bonchamps.

    “Meathead” has had his way. Such a more peaceful planet these days. Oh by the way…mall shootings / school shootings. Blame it on Church and Democracy.

    God help us.

  • In the U.S.; less than a century of full-blown democracy has resulted in steadily increasing moral degeneration, family and social disintegration, and cultural decay in the form of continually rising rates of divorce, illegitimacy, abortion, and crime. (xiii)

    This reminds me of this post by Sarah Hoyt where she remarks on how everybody (yes, I’ve even noticed it with a lot of Catholics) seems to have some concept of “paradise lost”. i.e. “Today sucks, yesterday was better, tomorrow’s going to be even worse.”

    There was always this bliss and perfect place from which we came tumbling down.

    In the early stages of the turning, humans can’t visualize what comes next and always always treat it as chaos and dissolution, which then goes to feed the myth of paradise lost.

    Really, read the whole thing. Then realize it’s all been downhill after that first week. Yesterday had its sins. Tomorrow will to. We may as well do the best we can to reduce our part’s in today’s.

  • Our problem is not democracy. It’s decadence.

    Our problem is original sin. 😉

  • Unalienable rights can only be endowed by an infinite Supreme Sovereign Being, our Creator. “The rights the state gives, the state can take away.” as said by Thomas Jefferson. Therefore, the rights the state gives may be called “alienable” Unalienable rights, rights that cannot be taken away point to an infinite God. Human rights which must be unalienable since man is not created by the state, point to an un-created Supreme Sovereign Being WHO is existence and exists and may not be blasphemed without denigrating every human being and all of creation.
    In other words, our Founding Principles and our Founding Fathers brought forth this nation, the United States of America on acknowledging an infinite loving God WHOM they called “our Creator”. And furthermore, invoked God’s Divine Providence in The Declaration of Independence and God’s Divine Providence in the Preamble to our Constitution for the United States of America as “the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity,”
    Atheism has no place here, in America. We, the people, tolerate the misunderstandings of the atheist, but atheism can go to hell where it belongs.
    Any movement such as the “neoreactionaries” better have a firm grasp on theology and the God who created and endowed man, composed of human body and rational, immortal human soul in free will and freedom and endowed man with unalienable human rights for now and eternity, or the movement’s participants better prepare to endure the loss of their immortal souls.

  • ““Today sucks, yesterday was better, tomorrow’s going to be even worse.”” and for atheism to prevent us from invoking Divine Providence is un-American and pure evil. Evil is as evil does. “You will know them by what they do.”

  • ““Today sucks, yesterday was better, tomorrow’s going to be even worse.”” and for atheism to prevent us from invoking Divine Providence is un-American and pure evil. Evil is as evil does. “You will know them by what they do.”

    Uh… I suppose? Maybe?

    Sorry, you went off the reservation there and didn’t leave a forwarding address. No idea what your point is.

  • A republic, if we can keep it.

    The rise of popular democracy, it seems to me, goes hand-in-hand with the rise of egalitarianism and the fall of the Republic, in the United States. Need not be linked, you say? Truly, but I believe that they are.

  • I recently quoted Gibbon from “Decline and Fall . . . “ Here it is paraphrased: “An educated, well-informed populous, possessed of arms, tenacious of property, and collected into constitutional assemblies form the only balance capable of preserving a free constitution against enterprises of an aspiring prince (despotism).”

    The word “republic” is derived from the Latin “res publica.” It means the public thing. Laws that equally affect all the people are good. Those that positively affect some of we the people while adversely impacting others of we the people are bad.

    Life, liberty and property (pursuit of happiness) are inalienable rights given to you by God.

    The progressives believe the government/state owns you and your property.

    The Constitution needed to amended to impose the income tax (not proprtional) on some of the people; along with the Federal Reserve: set up to benefit the money interests and the nation state. These were some salvoes fired in 1913 from so-called progressives’ siege guns which are constantly battering the “walls” of the Republic. The income tax and FR tear at the people’s hold on their property/pursuit of happiness.

    One hundred years after the 1913 impositions of the FR and the income tax, the US is suffering evolving Obamocracy (class war, gender, race-baiting, and sexual orientation politics). They’re daily pitting some of us against the rest of us. In reality, it’s idiocracy.

    The only answer is to limit the idiots’ power.

    That the idiocrats have not destroyed everything is a testament to the strength of the American people and their families.

  • Democracy is a very big problem.

  • T. Shaw.
    Thanks for Gibbons quote.
    The balance is precarious. Maybe it has been for quite awhile. To some it feels as though the wheels are falling off of the cart. Thank you for the clarity.

  • A theme of the 19th century historian, Lord Acton, was that freedom and equality are, perhaps, ultimately incompatible.

    Of the French Revolution, he observed, “The hatred of royalty was less than the hatred of aristocracy; privileges were more detested than tyranny; and the king perished because of the origin of his authority rather than because of its abuse. Monarchy unconnected with aristocracy became popular in France, even when most uncontrolled; whilst the attempt to reconstitute the throne, and to limit and fence it with its peers, broke down, because the old Teutonic elements on which it relied – hereditary nobility, primogeniture, and privilege-were no longer tolerated. The substance of the ideas of 1789 is not the limitation of the sovereign power, but the abrogation of intermediate powers.”

    Now, it is precisely these “intermediate powers” that are the great obstacle to despotism; the Tudor despotism would have been impossible, before the destruction of the feudal nobility in the Wars of the Roses. Henry VIII could sent More and Fisher to the scaffold; the Emperor Charles V could not send John of Saxony or the Landgrave of Hesse to the scaffold. In Scotland, it was no idle boast, when “Bonnie Dundee” or “Bloody Clavers,” depending on one’s point of view declared

    “There are brave downie wassles three thousand times three
    Cry hey for the bonnets o’ Bonnie Dundee”

    It was the clansman’s loyalty to his chieftain that maintained his freedom from government interference.

    By contrast, those who care chiefly for equality are easily persuaded that, if the central power is weak, the intermediate powers will run riot and oppress.

  • The Wilsonian “administrative state” and its progressive “rule by experts” was a pipe dream, borne of the now-derisible naive confidence of the turn of the 20th Century. Industry, science and law were finally taming the brutish natures of man (they thought,) and soon there would need be no more political conflict of any kind. A kind of Platonian Republic would be set in place, whose philosopher kings would be scientific, economic and social experts, and Man would witness “The End of History.” The War to End All Wars was the final cataclysm, and after the imperialist bourgeoisie had expended their bellicose urges once and for all, peace – not necessarily freedom, but that was a fair price to pay – would rule the world.
    We still labor under the works of the acolytes of that self-contradictory dream. The progressives, after WW2 fully compromised by their humanist cousins the communists, are still trying to build “the perfect state” and the only thing in their way is that pesky Constitution and its idiotic “limited government” ideas.
    Democracy, as attested to repeatedly throughout history, works well when the population is educated, resolute, moral, industrious and prosperous. However, as Athens teaches, all it needs is for one lazy but charismatic scoundrel to convince the public that they can vote themselves money from the treasury, and it collapses. Elaine, the Winston Churchill quote is among my favorites, as is another of his: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with an average voter.”
    The progressives have taken advantage of democracy’s Achilles’ Heel, and are attempting to pull an end run around the Constitution. They have convinced too many people that security is favorable to liberty, and any thought of removing the safety caps of Leviathan scares the willies out of soccer moms and pajama boys from Seattle to Miami. Reversing that attitude will be generations in the doing.
    At this point, there’s usually a call to action or resolution of course. Sorry. All I have is Pray the Rosary, spend time with Our Lord in Adoration and take the Sacraments as often as is practical. Our current troubles will work themselves out as the natural balance asserts itself as it has in the past, again and again. We should simply be certain that we are standing on The Rock and not on sand when the waters rise, which they will. Gahenna will receive boxcars of fuel very soon, so we simply need to be sure we are not among it.

  • I’m kind of with Art Deco. Democracy is not so much the problem as it is a system that is quite efficient at garbage in, garbage out. Or, as Will Rogers (I think) put it somewhat: Democracy is that system of government where the people get the government they deserve, good and hard.

  • First of all: All pure democracies have fallen because majority rule leads to tyranny of the majority.

    Second of all: We were never meant to be a democracy! Our form of government is a republic.

    Third of all: The reason our form of government is failing us is because we are not willing as a whole to govern ourselves. Please read the following quotes from John Adams, one of our nation’s founders and second president. I have included the link below for additional founders’ thoughts on why our country is failing.

    “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    John Adams

    “Liberty can no more exist without virtue and independence than the body can live and move without a soul.”
    John Adams

    “Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private, and public virtue is the only foundation of republics.”
    John Adams

    “[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”
    John Adams

    “The laws of man may bind him in chains or may put him to death, but they never can make him wise, virtuous, or happy.”
    John Adams

    “Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty.”
    John Adams

    “Honor is truly sacred, but holds a lower rank in the scale of moral excellence than virtue. Indeed the former is part of the latter, and consequently has not equal pretensions to support a frame of government productive of human happiness.”
    John Adams

  • I really think we are very lucky to have this Pope at this point in history.
    He has Meathead eating out of his hand.
    Let’s all try to give those poor stupid souls a hand up out of Gahenna, no matter how hard they try to get there.
    It really is very annoying to deal with Meathead, though.

  • Thank you, Barbara, for the quotes from John Adams.
    “First of all: All pure democracies have fallen because majority rule leads to tyranny of the majority.” The majority of one, or “E Pluribus Unum”, “One from Many” is our constitutional posterity, the one who comes to us in innocence and virginity, in truth and Justice raises us all up..
    Walter Yates:
    “Wherever this ultimately leads it would appear that we are in for a rough patch of civil violence.”
    Walter, the violence is already upon us in the form of the lies about the human person in pornography, the eradication of the virtue of Justice, the standard of Justice, of the newly begotten innocent posterity, the pearl of great price in the human body, the human soul, denied by atheism, and the surrender of sovereignty for a bowl of pottage. How much more violence can happen to a people, a sovereign nation before it ceases to exist?
    Bonchamps: “But don’t forget the Declaration of Independence, which articulates even more fundamental truths – namely that any government, if it ceases to protect the legitimate rights of the people, can be and ought to be tossed off.”
    This principle is also inscribed in the First Amendment which proclaims the peoples’ right to petition government for redress, with the connotation that the government is ready, willing and able to address and redress any fault or mistake without imposing absolute autocratic authority abused over the citizen who constitutes its very existence.(Obama care and the HHS Mandate are very good examples of absolute autocratic authority abused)
    WK Aiken:
    “The Wilsonian “administrative state” and its progressive “rule by experts” was a pipe dream”
    Woodrow Wilson’s pipe dream, the League of Nations is alive and well in the United Nations and both as corrupt, imposing atheism, removing any acknowledgment of our Creator, Divine Providence and of man’s soul. The human rights of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights defines man and human rights as coming from the “community” or the state, They say that these rights are inalienable, but without an infinite God to reinforce man’s rights what will a corrupt state do for man except enslave him?
    Michael Paterson-Seymour: “By contrast, those who care chiefly for equality are easily persuaded that, if the central power is weak, the intermediate powers will run riot and oppress.”
    “…those who care chiefly for equality” must busy themselves with equal Justice. There is honor among thieves, therefore, equality can only be made through the virtue of Justice, equal Justice for all. “Those who hunger and thirst for Justice will have their fill.”
    “Balance!” The Executive, the Legislative and the Judicial branches of government are balance. These people represent we, the people.
    T Shaw:
    “Laws that equally affect all the people are good. Those that positively affect some of we the people while adversely impacting others of we the people are bad.” Very well said.

    “Democracy: The God That Failed” If persons are not insulted by that title, they ought to be. Patriotism is a virtue. Politicians are punks. “All I have is Pray the Rosary”

  • Nate Winchester: “““Today sucks, yesterday was better, tomorrow’s going to be even worse.”” and for atheism to prevent us from invoking Divine Providence is un-American and pure evil. Evil is as evil does. “You will know them by what they do.”
    Uh… I suppose? Maybe?
    Sorry, you went off the reservation there and didn’t leave a forwarding address. No idea what your point is.”
    I did not go very far. I see the neoreactionaries as trying to circumvent our founding principles. God is dead. Democracy is dead. If the neoreactionaries called themselves “reactionaries” they would lose the appearance of civility and their true face of the roaring lion seeking to devour souls would become evident, but because they call themselves “neo”, not ye there, people will feel empathy for them and for their cause.

  • Barbara quotes John Adams: ““Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
    One wonders whether the U.S Constitution would have functioned as well in a country whose morality and ethics were informed by Catholicism rather than protestantism.
    Much of the success of the federal republic of America was tied to a strain of enlightened individualism bolstered by a protestant work ethic and an ethos of self reliance encouraged by a uniquely Puritan vision.
    I suspect Adams might have concluded that Catholicism and the Constitution would be incompatible.

  • Mary de Voe wrote, “’…those who care chiefly for equality’ must busy themselves with equal Justice.”

    Of course. As Hilaire Belloc said of the French Revolution, “The scorn which was in those days universally felt for that pride which associates itself with things not inherent to a man (notably and most absurdly with capricious differences of wealth) never ran higher; and the passionate sense of justice which springs from this profound and fundamental social dogma of equality, as it moved France during the Revolution to frenzy, so also moved it to creation.

    Those who ask how it was that a group of men sustaining all the weight of civil conflict within and of universal war without, yet made time enough in twenty years to frame the codes which govern modern Europe, to lay down the foundations of universal education, of a strictly impersonal scheme of administration, and even in detail to remodel the material face of society—in a word, to make modern Europe—must be content for their reply to learn that the Republican Energy had for its flame and excitant this vision: a sense almost physical of the equality of man.”

    But it was not democracy, but the armies of Napoléon that gave a code of laws to a continent and restored the concept of citizenship to civilisation.

  • “Woodrow Wilson’s pipe dream, the League of Nations is alive and well in the United Nations and both as corrupt, imposing atheism, removing any acknowledgment of our Creator, Divine Providence and of man’s soul. The human rights of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights defines man and human rights as coming from the “community” or the state, They say that these rights are inalienable, but without an infinite God to reinforce man’s rights what will a corrupt state do for man except enslave him?”

    Exactly. What they thought would happen and what we now truly labor under are polar opposites. Their naivete and prideful self-deception (or, more accurately, their willingness to be deceived by the Prince of Lies) made their hallucinations seem very real, and their descendants continue to pursue that unreality, at our cost. The awakening will be sudden and painful, as are all awakenings from such stupors.

  • “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?” — Thomas Jefferson

    And then Pope Leo XIII asked, “can belief in God be secure when the government is indifferent to Him, and when ten thousand different denominations all claim equal rights and importance?”

    Good questions, all.

  • MPS,

    Men are not equal. That is why the French Revolution is one of histories greatest mistakes and crimes. It unleashed communism upon the world, men who accurately saw that the bourgeois Napoleonic republic could only proclaim equality in name. Marx and Lenin would see to it that a massive totalitarian state would try to create equality in fact. 100 million corpses and several failed states later, we see the ultimate fruits of Jacobinism.

    Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, et. al;, on the other hand, were quite consciously aware of the benefits of aristocracy. Though America could have no official hereditary aristocracy, Jefferson believed in an aristocracy of natural talent and merit, while Madison sought to prevent the tyranny of the majority – who would violate property rights in the name of “equality” – in Federalist 10.

  • Bonchamps writes, “…And then Pope Leo XIII asked, “can belief in God be secure when the government is indifferent to Him, and when ten thousand different denominations all claim equal rights and importance?”
    “We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest.” (Benjamin Franklin)
    “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. ” (Benjamin Franklin)

  • Bonchamps: “And then Pope Leo XIII asked, ““can belief in God be secure when the government is indifferent to Him, and when ten thousand different denominations all claim equal rights and importance?””
    Jesus Christ, the Son of the Supreme Sovereign Being, giver of life and our Creator, is a sovereign person, a citizen of the world, a Perfect Person, the revelation of Justice and of God, our Father in heaven. “When one person is denied civil rights, all persons are denied civil rights” I do not know who said that but it is true.
    When the Person of Jesus Christ is denied His freedom, His Justice, equal Justice for all sovereign persons is violated and becomes a sign of vagrancy.

    “Equality” is endowed by our Creator, by God, not the Court of law. “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”…in sovereign personhood. Sovereign personhood is from our Creator. Equality is from God. The virtue of equal Justice, on the other hand, is a virtue to be practiced by the court of law and is the only Justice to be asked for and gotten from a court of law.
    The pursuit of Happiness is one of the endowed civil freedoms. It is a companion to freedom of Religion. The pursuit of Happiness is not a guarantee of catching Happiness, but the eternal pursuit of God. One is only free to pursue God. And the state may not “…prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

  • Bonchamps wrote, “That is why the French Revolution is one of histories [sic] greatest mistakes and crimes. It unleashed communism upon the world…”

    In 1848, Tocqueville, in a speech to the National Assembly, declared the precise opposite, “But, concerning the very principle of private property, the Revolution always respected it. It placed it in its constitutions at the top of the list. No people treated this principle with greater respect. It was engraved on the very frontispiece of its laws. The French Revolution did more. Not only did it consecrate private property, it universalised it. It saw that a still greater number of citizens participated in it. It is thanks to this, gentlemen, that today we need not fear the deadly consequences of socialist ideas which are spread throughout the land. It is because the French Revolution peopled the land of France with ten million property-owners that we can, without danger, allow these doctrines to appear before us.”

    This is precisely the Distributist principle that Catholics like Belloc and Chesterton championed.

    Tocqueville added, “The ancien régime, in fact, held that wisdom lay only in the State and that the citizens were weak and feeble beings who must forever be guided by the hand, for fear they harm themselves. It held that it was necessary to obstruct, thwart, restrain individual freedom, that to secure an abundance of material goods it was imperative to regiment industry and impede free competition. The ancien régime believed, on this point, exactly as the socialists of today do. It was the French Revolution which denied this.”

  • de Tocqueville wrote before the full implications of Jacobinism mutated into Bolshevism. Equality in private property is impossible to maintain. We can only be equal in our right to possess property, never in the quantity of it or what we are able to profit by it through the addition of our individual initiative and industry. France has had to contend with radical socialist and communist parties, as has all of Europe.

  • “France has had to contend with radical socialist and communist parties, as has all of Europe.”

    And yet, in no country in Europe is land ownership more widely distributed and I am sure the similarity between Poujadisme and the American Tea Party movement is not lost on you.

  • MPS and Bonchamps,

    Private ownership of property is converted to a conditional license to occupy when a state, through taxation or regulation (eminent domain), has recourse to strip one of “ownership” by reason of one’s failure (or inability) to pay or perform.

    Is this what the French Revolution granted its citizens?

  • Slainte,

    Arguably yes. Though the “takings clause” of the 5th amendment puts sufficient restrictions upon the federal government so that we needn’t necessarily say that we have mere “conditional license to occupy.” Fair value must be paid, after all. Allodial titles to land are now all but extinct, but the 5th amendment is far superior to most other arrangements.

  • Slainté

    “Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified” (Déclaration des droits de l’Homme et du citoyen)

  • MPS and Bonchamps,

    The Constitutional and other safeguards protecting the right of private property are quite amenable to change depending on policy makers’ sliding definition of legitimate state interest.

    In the U.S, the “Kelo” decision erased the bright line that made eminent domain “”takings” rare and permitted under very narrow circumstances, ie., infrastructure needs. Kelo opened the door for the state to “take” private properties for the benefit of private developers who promise to increase state and municipal tax revenues. The reasonableness of the compensation offered the citizen who is divested of his “private property” is what the state deems to be fair market value.

    In the U.S. we are on a slippery slope…

    In addition to transferring private property from the aristocrats/church to the citizens, the French Revolution also gave the world “The Committee of Public Safety” with the power to oversee the security of the fledgling republic, and of course, an administrator Robespierre to oversee it.
    Monsieur Robespierre contrued his duty as a mandate to execute anyone who fell under suspicion, including one Thomas Paine who narrowly escaped the guillotine.
    As the Jacobins became the French government, the “Committee of Public Safety” arbitrarily arrested and executed anyone whom they deemed a threat to the Republic’s interest. Thus, was born the Reign of Terror.
    I side with Bonchamps on his evaluation of the French Revolution, MPS. NO to Voltaire and NO to other French “thinkers” who supported the Jacobins and the Reign of Terror.

  • It is not virtuous Justice to remove sanctions from atheism. The atheist denies the self-evident truths and equality into which our Creator created all men. It is not virtuous Justice to remove sanctions from unnatural sexual behavior. The homosexual practitioner denies the self-evident truths and equality into which our Creator created all men. It is not virtuous Justice to remove sanctions from the killing of innocent human beings who are created in equality and the self-evident truths of the reality of the human soul in immortality, reason, sovereign personhood, and free will. The abortionist, the atheist, the homosexual practitioner tell the court that God created some human beings who are less than equal. If all men are created equal by God, then, how is it that our Creator created all men equal except some, without calling God a liar?

  • slainte: “In the U.S, the “Kelo” decision erased the bright line that made eminent domain “”takings” rare and permitted under very narrow circumstances, ie., infrastructure needs. Kelo opened the door for the state to “take” private properties for the benefit of private developers who promise to increase state and municipal tax revenues. The reasonableness of the compensation offered the citizen who is divested of his “private property” is what the state deems to be fair market value.”
    The Fifth Amendment reads “for public use” with just compensation. The court changed the Constitution without the ratification by three quarters of the states’ informed consent, by substituting and contorting the meaning to be “public purposes”. This is unconstitutional. Must We, the people, have a constitutional amendment to return to the original constitution? Will the real America please stand up.

  • slainte: “As the Jacobins became the French government, the “Committee of Public Safety” arbitrarily arrested and executed anyone whom they deemed a threat to the Republic’s interest. Thus, was born the Reign of Terror.”
    The execution of a person for treason without bloodguilt is a crime against humanity. Only for killing a man must a man be put to death. “But when a man kills another after maliciously scheming to do so, you must take him even from my altar (compassion, mercy) and put him to death.” Exodus 21:14. So, without God, this country is becoming Godless.

  • What I am reading about in the Reign of Terror is mob rule. They had fancy clothes but despicable virtue or no virtue at all. Speaking of mob rule Obama and his pen and Andrew Cuomo and their ideal of democracy. Some people want no morality or virtue imposed upon them as long as they are the mob that rules.

  • Slainté & Mary de Voe

    The great Catholic historian, Lord Acton summed up the Terror; “It was prepared by the defeat and defection of Dumouriez; it was developed by the loss of the frontier fortresses in the following July; and it fell when the tide of battle rolled away after the victory of Fleurus.”

    The Committee of Public Safety was, in effect, the War Cabinet, when the Republic was faced, in the words of another Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, with “civil conflict within and of universal war without.” Its leader or prime minister was Carnot, the War Minister. Robespierre, who had no executive rôle, was its spokesman in the Assembly or “Leader of the House,” in parliamentary terms. His task and it was not an easy one, was to get the Committee’s resolutions passed, to maintain the Deputies’ confidence and that of the Commune of Paris, which, in effect, held the government hostage. What they were capable of, they had shown in the September Massacres.

    To sustain the war, Carnot demanded a draft of 700,000 men, the requisitioning of supplies to support them and the imposition of a non-convertible paper currency (the Assignats) Most of the victims of the Reign of Terror were draft-dodgers and deserters, hoarders, peasants who concealed grain, black marketeers and currency speculators. A minority were guillotined; most were executed on arrest by drum-head courts-martial.

    Those who enforced Carnot’s policies of summary executions and the burning of villages, to leave the recalcitrant with the option of joining the colours or starving, were men like Kléber, Moreau, Reynier, Marceau, and Ney, who commanded the army of Sambre et Meuse, Hoche, Desaix, and St. Cyr, who commanded the army of the Rhine and Bonaparte and Masséna who commanded the army of the Apennines. Such a constellation of military talent has never been equalled and, for twenty years, these men and their successors sustained a successful war against the whole of Europe. That was the real French Revolution; in comparison, events in Paris were a side-show.

  • MPS and Bonchamps,

    MPS, thank you for your description of the Reign of Terror; the people of the Vendee, however, who rose up to protect against the annihilation of a Catholic France and its monarchy would likely take issue with your praise of Robespierre and company.
    Bonchamps, apologies for derailing your thesis that the French Revolution was a primary cause of modern day Communism. My comment qualifying private property as state property in the wake of excessive taxation and onerous regulation did not advance your conversation.
    I hope that you and MPS will continue where you left off as I believe your thesis is credible.

  • All humans are created equal in dignity, but are inherently unequal in function and ability.

    Liberal progressivism maintains the opposite, hence its tyranny of elitism.

  • Slainté

    Belloc describes the outbreak of revolt in the Vendée: “Four days before the defeat of Neerwinden itself (on 18 March 1793), and four days after the decree of conscription in the villages, a horde of peasantry had taken possession of the town of Chollet in the southern part of this district, Vendée. Three days before the Committee of Public Safety was formed the insurgents had defeated regular forces at Machecoul, and had tortured and put to death their prisoners…”

    It was conscription that triggered that revolt (The rising in Lyon occurred on 20 May following). As Lord Acton laconically put it, “They hated the Revolution, not enough to take arms against it, but enough to refuse to defend it. They were compelled to choose.”

    To argue, as some have done, that the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (Law of 12 July 1790) passed nearly three years earlier, had anything to do with the rebellion is fanciful, although the execution of the king, less than three months earlier on 21 January may have had an influence.

    At all events, The émigrés and their princes had no love for these peasants and stay-at-home gentry and clergy, who took so long to declare themselves; one of their leaders, Puisaye showed Napier a letter in which the Count of Artois (later Louis XVIII) directed that he should be put secretly to death. That was shrewd; a man who had led a revolt against one government could, perhaps, rouse the people against another.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: “”To argue, as some have done, that the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (Law of 12 July 1790) passed nearly three years earlier, had anything to do with the rebellion is fanciful, although the execution of the king, less than three months earlier on 21 January may have had an influence.”” “…the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (Law of 12 July 1790)” the state subsumed the clergy because they were men and citizens, and subsumed the priests because the state and their law denied their human souls, the transcendent and immortal part of their being. It could not but have had an effect no matter how many years later. This is what is going on in American now, the denial and disrespect for the human soul.

  • “Most of the victims of the Reign of Terror were draft-dodgers and deserters, hoarders, peasants who concealed grain, black marketeers and currency speculators. A minority were guillotined; most were executed on arrest by drum-head courts-martial.” You conflate draft-dodgers,deserters, hoarders, from an unjust war with black marketeers and currency speculators. This would put Wall Street to the guillotine, wouldn’t it?
    “draft-dodgers and deserters, hoarders, peasants who concealed grain,” and anyone else who refused Obamacare, and stuck to their Constitutional rights and freedoms.

  • “That was the real French Revolution; in comparison, events in Paris were a side-show.”

    Ah! What convenient way to ignore genocide, which is precisely what happened in the Vendee. I have no idea what motivates MPS’s obscene apologia for one of the most brutal and bloody crimes in human history, nor do I care. All the pedantry and name-dropping in the world, all of the Bellocs and Actons in existence, cannot wash away the crimes of that clique of nun-killing, church-desecrating, Catholic-mass-murdering fanatics. Every future persecution of the Church by secular powers, from the anarchists in Spain to the Freemasons in Mexico and Bolsheviks in dozens of countries, was prepared by the Jacobins and their march through the Vendee.

  • Puisaye showed Napier a letter in which the Count of Artois (later Louis XVIII) directed that he should be put secretly to death. That was shrewd; a man who had led a revolt against one government could, perhaps, rouse the people against another.

    Le Count d’Artois was later Charles X. The Count of Provence was Louis Xviii.

  • MPS, I suspect that while your residence is in Scotland, your heart is in France. I can identify with this.
    So what is the story of the St. Maur family and its place in the French Revolution.

  • Art Deco

    You are right, of course and it was the Count of Provence who wrote the letter.

  • Slainté

    They were Vidames or stewards of the Abbey of Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, presiding over capital cases that could not be tried in the Abbot’s court, because churchmen could not pronounce a death sentence without incurring irregularity for “defect of mildness” (defectus lenitatis). In other words, they were minor provincial noblesse de rôbe.

    Despite their Church connection, they were free-thinkers and liberals before the Revolution; afterwards, they were very devout and supporters of the various coalitions that go by the name of the “Party of Order.”

    The Scottish branch settled in Scotland in the 12th century – After the Reformation, Catholics and, later, Jacobites to a man (and woman)

    I do practice law in France and spend about a third of my time there. I have a little studio apartment on the Left Bank, in the Bl Raspail, near the Luxembourg Gardens. It is an authentic piece of old Paris – My French Law Agent’s wife said she could imagine Toulouse-Lautrec staying there, when he was down on his luck.

  • Bonchamps,
    I have been reading up on the Dark Enlightenment and as you might tell by my blog name; Trebuchet, I may be a candidate for enlistment. I find that I am mostly in agreement with your position that the Jacobins of the French Revolution led by Robespierre and their attempt at democracy destroyed the Republic and has worked its way through Marx and from Marx to Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School founded by Lenin and moved to Columbia University in 1930 by John Dewey (for a full history of the effect the Frankfurt School has had on education and society and how it has destroyed our Republic read “Cry Havoc” by Ralph de Toledano). That is where I disagree with you; in order to save The Republic that this country was founded on democracy must be eliminated. I am in full favor of what the Founding Fathers put in place and they realized that democracy as practiced by the Jacobins was the enemy of liberty and The Republic which they had established here. What is ignored by the acceptable, handpicked historians of the Frankfurt School is that at the time of our Revolution the Founding Fathers had fully intended to make America a Constitutional Monarchy, which England had already become(King George did not cause the conditions that led to the Revolution. He was being poisoned with arsenic and his bastard half brother Lord North, a member of the Illuminati, was imposing the tax and conditions on America that caused the break.), and France under the guidance of Lafayette an Charles Danton was about to become. The idea was to unite these Republics into a form of world governance guided by Natural Law as enumerated in the Pentateuch and seasoned with the Salt of Mercy of the New Testament. It was to be a secular extension of Christendom that had existed in Europe since Charles Martel. But the Jacobins destroyed the Monarchy in France, chased Lafayette to Austria where he spent 5 years in prison, and executed Charles Danton the real architect of the Republic (Danton and Lafayette were members of the same Masonic Lodge in England as Ben Franklin). Also, something not taught in present day histories of the French Revolution is that it was not a popular uprising; in fact as others have pointed out here, the Vendee/Royalist/Catholics were dead set against it and paid dearly to the tune of at least 500,000 murdered by the Jacobins. So how does a small group of radicals pull off such a coup? “Money is the Mothers Milk of Politics” said Lenin. During the Crusades the Hapsburg rulers of the Franco-Austrian Empire were charging a Tax to support the expedition to the Holy Land. Some Frankish cloth merchants approached the Turks and arranged safe passage through the Holy Land to an ancient land considered the gateway to India and the Far East known as Arian part of present day Iran and India. They established a base in Geneva to deposit gold and silver and established the Note of Credit which when presented in their established center in Arian would allow them to draw upon their account in Geneva. These merchants became opposed to paying tax to the Monarchs and the Church but had no problem paying protection to the Turks perhaps because it gave them a monopoly on trade in Europe and they became incredibly wealthy and had no intention of giving it up. For the sake of brevity I must skip over much history at this point but suffice it to say that the founding of America (by a union of Catholic Bankers and Masons; yes that’s right Catholics and Masons) was not in the French Merchants play book and they sought to stop it. The Jacobins were heavily financed by these Merchant Bankers and by their friend the Sultan of Mysore who expected in return the French to drive the English Navy from the seas. The Jacobins did mostly what they were expected to do. As an aside anyone who thinks that the Vendee lands were turned over to the people of France by the Jacobins is wrong; most of the Church and Vendee lands were given to the wealthy supporters of the Jacobins. So here is the upshot. These Merchant Bankers became the enemy of The Republic, of Christendom, of the Monarchy and of Free Markets. These are the things that threaten them most because they would cause the dilution of their wealth and power, especially a truly free and open form of free market capitalism. They financed Lenin in 1917 with 10 million in gold, they helped bring Hitler to power, they control the IMF, the World Bank, the Central Bank of every nation and our Federal Reserve; they’re the Man on the Grassy Knoll and the Occupy Movement. These men and women love what passes for democracy today because it allows them to purchase the votes they need to insure their continued success. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that said “Lucifer sits in the boardroom of every bank”. So if I am a reactionary because I feel there is a need to change the path we are on then, Oh Well. But I do feel the name Dark Enlightenment sounds to foreboding; perhaps:

    Verus Sapientia Illuminatio

  • Trebuchet,

    Democracy cannot be destroyed. There is no practical program for such a thing to occur.

    There is a practical program, however, for the nullification of federal tyranny at the state level (to be addressed, in detail, later on). Popular sovereignty in the context of state’s rights has widespread support, and is the key to resisting the dark forces determined to cast into the fire once and for all Christendom’s tattered remnants.

  • Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings. Ratified 12/15/1791.
    No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
    “for public use” and only for public use.

  • MPS, thank you for the background information. What issues were pre-Revolutionary “liberals and free thinkers” concerned about? In other words, what caused the French Revolution….why the blood bath?
    Slightly off topic: Your fellow countryman General Jean Humbert is very well thought of in County Mayo, Ireland and by members of my family. Gen. Humbert rendered assistance to the Irish against England in 1798. Although the campaign was not successful, the towns people, in gratitude, erected a monument in his honour in the middle of town. His memory is still very much alive today.
    It’s curious that so soon after the French Revolution, French troops were active in Ireland….the French apparently viewed Ireland as the back door into England; and England knew it.

  • Bonchamps,
    Why in your opinion was the French Revolution so much more violent and bloody than the American Revolution when both apparently sought to displace old hierarchical/monarchical orders with new orders grounded in Enlightenment principles?

  • Ms. De Voe,
    Eminent Domain has been interpreted more broadly than you might imagine. See, NYS Court of Appeals decision and NY Times Article of November 25, 2009.

    In the Matter of Daniel Goldstein, et al., Appellants, v. New York State Urban Development Corporation, d/b/a Empire State Development Corporation, Respondent.

    NEW YORK COURT OF APPEALS, 2009 NY Int. 180, 2009 NY Slip Op 08677.
    Decided on November 24, 2009, No. 178
    NEW YORK REGION | November 25, 2009
    Ruling Lets Atlantic Yards Seize Land
    The last major hurdle to a $4.9 billion development in Brooklyn fell after a ruling by New York’s highest court.

  • Slainte,

    The simple answer is that the American colonists were attempting to preserve their rights as Englishmen. The French were attempting to destroy and rebuild society from the ground up. The American colonists were fighting for independence – not for the destruction of the old order. The old order could continue to exist in England or Canada or wherever else people were willing to put up with it.

    Not so with the French. Read Rousseau’s Social Contract. “Anyone who says ‘outside the Church, there is no salvation’ ought to be driven from the state.” The French Revolution was about the elevation not just of reason over faith/religion, but the state over all challenges to its authority. Rousseau hated the Church because it divided men’s loyalties – the same reason Hobbes hated it. The Jacobin terror was arguably the first secular totalitarian regime in history, totalitarian because it demanded absolute and undivided allegiance. The profaning of the churches, their desecration, their physical leveling, the genocide in the Vendee – the worst outrages of this revolution, like many that would follow, were against the Church. It is what middle-class Jacobinism, anti-clerical/Masonic nationalism, and Bolshevism have in common, a rabid hatred for this institution that dares to tell men that they have loyalties and duties more important than those they owe to their temporal rulers.

  • Slainte: “Eminent Domain has been interpreted more broadly than you might imagine”
    Interesting that the Courts may take privilege with the Constitution without informed consent of the people for whom the Constitution is written. It is extremely evident in the separation of church and state which words are not in the Constitution and ignore the words “nor shall private property be taken for public use” words which are in the Constitution and all this without ratification by the people.

  • ““Anyone who says ‘outside the Church, there is no salvation’ ought to be driven from the state.””
    Andrew Cuomo’s statement that people who are anti-abortion, pro gun ownership or against gay-marriage do not belong in New York State is so similar that it is chilling.

  • Bonchamps,
    I have read Rousseau’s “Social Contract”. I am also aware that the American and French masons who headed the respective revolutions shared a visceral disdain, if not hatred, for Catholicism.
    I surmised the reason the blood bath occurred in France, but not America, was due to Catholicism’s almost non-exisent role in America. In France, it would seem the effort was to annihilate the Church and those who refused to renounce the faith.
    It seems telling that Ben Franklin, Voltaire, the Marquise de Lafayette, John Paul Jones all belonged to Paris’ “La Loge des Neuf Sœurs”….the Nine Sisters Masonic Lodge.
    Perhaps I am wrong…but having read so much about masonry from various popes, I take the matter seriously.

  • Slainte,

    I don’t think you are wrong. But keep in mind that Anglo-American Freemasonry and Continental Freemasonry are different animals. It is true that Locke wanted to exclude Catholics from religious toleration, but Jefferson, Washington, et. al. saw that this would be absurd. There was already a Catholic colony in America, Catholics had – in spite of Puritan persecution – contributed to the war for Independence, France had come to the aid of the colonies, French soldiers and envoys were among the colonial armies, etc. The milder form of Freemasonry simply holds that all religions are more or less equal, including Catholicism.

  • Bonchamps,
    Final point. You will note in my comment to MPS that I reference General Jean Humbert who landed on the west coast of Ireland in 1798 ostensibly to assist the Irish against the usual British onslaught. What I never realized is the significance of the words General Humbert used in his proclamation to the Catholic Irish.

    To wit:

    “…an excerpt from the proclamation of General Jean Humbert, the French General who led the French and Irish armed forces in the short-lived Republic. The proclamation was made on 22 August 1798, the day the General first landed in County Mayo, Ireland:[3]


    After several unsuccessful attempts, behold at last Frenchmen arrived amongst you…

    Brave Irishmen, our cause is common. Like you we hold as indefeasible the right of all nations to liberty. Like you we are persuaded that the peace of the world shall ever be troubled as long as the British ministry is suffered to make with impunity a traffic of the industry and blood of the people . . .

    Union, Liberty, the Irish Republic! Such is our shout. Let us march. Our hearts are devoted to you; our glory is in your happiness.”
    Quite amazing..Gen Humbert appears to be delivering a masonic message to the Catholic Irish peasants.

  • Mary De Voe writes, “…It is extremely evident in the separation of church and state which words are not in the Constitution and ignore the words “nor shall private property be taken for public use” words which are in the Constitution and all this without ratification by the people.”
    I am equally concerned with the unexpected expansion of Eminent Domain following the Kelo decision. We need to pray for our judges so that they may exercise great care and prudence in their deliberations and rulings.

  • Who gave government officials permission to change the Fifth Amendment from “public use” to public purposes in eminent domain. Government officials are not “the public” and their use is not the “public use”. Who gave government officials permission to change The Constitution for the United States of America without ratification by We, the people, at least three quarters of the states?
    Who gave Andrew Cuomo permission to alter the citizens’ spiritual life? Cuomo was elected to represent the public’s public life. Who gave Andrew Cuomo ownership of New York State? Al Capone went to prison for less than that.
    Who gave Obama permission to alter his constituents’ spiritual life, deciding for us how much tax money is to be redistributed and who shall receive redistribution, who shall live and who shall be aborted, who shall be allowed self-defense and who shall suffer jeopardy of life, who shall be given permission to sully their souls with unnatural sex, and who shall not be allowed to remain innocent and pure, and who shall be given stimulus packages and who shall pay for it?
    Who gave Roe versus Wade permission to own the human life in the womb?
    Who gave government officials permission to substitute unnatural sex for natural sex?
    Who gave government officials permission to euthanize old folks except that we remember freedom?

  • Bonchamps you wrote
    ”Democracy cannot be destroyed. There is no practical program for such a thing to occur. There is a practical program, however, for the nullification of federal tyranny at the state level (to be addressed, in detail, later on). Popular sovereignty in the context of state’s rights has widespread support, and is the key to resisting the dark forces determined to cast into the fire once and for all Christendom’s tattered remnants.”
    You are right; the Republican form of Democracy that was given to us by the Founding Fathers as described in Federalist #10, (addressing the question of how to guard against factions, or groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community ie; the ACLU) should not be destroyed. It is what has protected us against the pure democracy of Rome which destroyed the Republic and gave them the Emperors and that of the Jacobins which gave France Napoleon, and now our faux democracy as practiced by the Progressives which is on the verge of giving us “one party rule” (if there is such a thing as re-incarnation then I would have to say Robespierre has returned as Obama). However; at the same time I support an uprising as that of Captain Shay who along with other farmers that fought in the Revolutionary Army came home to find that the “Courts” had taken their lands and homes for unpaid taxes during the time they were fighting and sold them (mostly to their wealthy friends who had helped to put them on the bench). Shays’ Rebellion; as it became known, failed and Shay spent two years in prison. When the situation was brought to the attention of then President Thomas Jefferson he had the judges arrested and the lands restored to Shay and the other farmers. So, I suppose that when you used the term “Nullification of Federal Tyranny”, we are in approximation to each other and that rather than a destruction of democracy; a re-balancing of power must take place. Your use of the phrase “Popular Sovereignty” strikes a chord with me and I look forward to your exposition on the subject.

  • The “spirit” of the Vendee did not die; it lived in the heart of Charles Maurras and “Action Francaise” in 1934…
    In a recent article “February 6, 1934: A Royalist Last Stand”, Gary Potter recounts Charles Maurras’ heroic leadership of a group of Catholic men assembled under the banner “Action Francaise” who valiantly, yet unsuccessfully, assaulted French police in Paris’ Place de la Concorde to seize control of Palais Bourbon.
    The goal of Charles Maurras and Action Francaise assault…to restore monarchy to 1934 France and to replace France’s “national Masonic motto of “liberte, egalite, fraternite” with “travail, famille, patrie (Work, Family, Country).”
    “Action Francaise upheld both authority and freedom”…” Maurras saw the family as the heart of society. In fact, family was so important to the men of Action Francaise they wished to be ruled by an identifiable one instead of by corrupt politicians and faceless bureaucrats. As a father is the natural head of his family, so a monarch is head not simply of the royal family but the family of the nation. (As with so much else wrong with modernity, decline of the family as a social institution can be seen to begin with the Revolution of 1789. The nineteenth-century novelist Honore de Balzac recognized this. He wrote: “When it beheaded Louis XVI, the Revolution beheaded in his person all fathers of families. The family no longer exists today; there are only individuals.”)”
    Action Francais claimed “…Decentralization of political power was vital. Napoleon, who incarnated the Revolution, concentrated it in the central government in Paris, where it remains unto this day even as in the U.S. it has been centered in Washington since the War Between the States…”
    “…Restoration of the monarchy in France would have entailed the revival of regional parliaments, professional and workers’ guilds, and similar organic associations. The King’s authority might be absolute but these intermediary bodies, together with the teachings of the Faith, would limit its scope.”
    “As for the Faith, making Catholicism the religion of the state was another of the goals of Action Francaise.”
    “…Maurras saw that men need work, not mere jobs, and it is best done when done where they live. That is, Action Francaise wished France to remain as she still largely was before World War II, primarily an agricultural country. Rootedness was desired, not the restlessness of industrial society…”
    “Despite the defeat in Place de la Concorde on February 6, 1934, these principles of Action Francaise, without restoration of the monarchy, were….enacted into law – by the government that existed in France between 1940 and 1944. It made abortion, for instance, a capital offense and required religious education in state schools with a crucifix in every classroom. This government came into power when the parliament of the Third Republic, acting in the aftermath of the army’s retreat before advancing German troops, voted itself and the Republic out of existence….”
    “why did no trace of Vichy’s achievements remain after World War II?….It was due to one of the worst mistakes a Pope has ever made. Misled by powerful French prelates, notably the Archbishops of Bordeaux and Algiers (then a French city), Pope Pius XI issued a ban against both Action Francaise and its newspaper in 1926….”
    “….it was left to his successor, Pope Pius XII, to lift the ban. It was his second official act as Pope, his first being his assumption of the Throne of St. Peter, but it still came too late…”.
    “….The French political left remembers this as an occasion when “fascists” came close to overturning the institutions through which France has been governed since the Revolution of 1789…”


  • Slainté

    In the memorable exchange in 1910, in Maurice Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, between Maurras’s Jesuit defender, Pedro Descoqs and the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière. over the affiliation of Catholics with the Action française movement, led by the agnostic positivist Charles Maurras. So far as I know, this exchange has never appeared in English, which is astonishing, as it was what united such disparate thinkers as Blondel, Maréchal, the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, Lubac and Daniélou. It was a fundamental moment for the Nouvelle Théologie, much as Keble’s Assize Sermon had been for the Oxford Movement.

    Descoqs argued that Maurras’s political views were independent of his views on religion and that they coincided with Catholic social teaching, so that with proper precautions Catholics could associate themselves with his movement. Maurras’s mistake about the supernatural did not prevent his analysis of the natural from being quite accurate.

    Blondel agreed with Descoqs only on the point that the basic issue was the relationship between nature and the supernatural. In Descoqs’s conclusion he saw a perfect illustration of the theological extrinsicism which made the supernatural simply a superficial addition to the natural order, leaving the latter essentially untouched and related to the supernatural only by an external decree of God. For Blondel nature was made for the supernatural, and a failure to recognize that sublime destiny could not leave one’s analysis of the natural laws of society unaffected. He called himself an “integrist” precisely because religion is comprehensively, inclusively pertinent to the human condition. Even more seriously, Descoqs had allowed Maurras’s insistence on order and submission to evacuate his notion of Christianity itself, to the point that Descoqs was content with:

    “A Catholicism without Christianity, submissiveness without thought, an authority without love, a Church that would rejoice at the insulting tributes paid to the virtuosity of her interpretative and repressive system… To accept all from God except God, all from Christ except His Spirit, to preserve in Catholicism only a residue that is aristocratic and soothing for the privileged and beguiling or threatening for the lower classes—is not all this, under the pretext perhaps of thinking only about religion, really a matter of pursuing only politics?”

  • MPS,
    How did Vatican II resolve the crisis within the French Church arising from competing dual theories of “Nature and the Supernatural”? What did the VII Council conclude about nature and the supernatural?
    Did St. Thomas Aquinas recognize a dualism between Nature and the Supernatural?
    Finally, what is the Church’s present “vision of humanity” post Vatican II…either of the following or some other view?
    Augustineanism….man exists, wretched and fallen, in a state of nature darkened by the temporal effects of original sin with no ability to aid in his own salvation and completely dependent on a distant God. Only through the intercession and unmerited Grace of God is man able to be saved. Nothing man can do on his own initiative may contribute to his salvation.
    Thomism… exists in nature darkened by the temporal effects of original sin but through the unmerited Grace of God and the Church, man is saved. Through his intellect and reason, albeit skewed by original sin, man may come to know God and aid in his own salvation.
    Thank you for your perspective.

  • Slainté
    We should bear in mind Para 29 of Splendor Veritatis, where Pope John Paul II stated: “Certainly the Church’s Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one.”

    As for St Thomas, he is quite definite that “the beatitude of any rational creature whatsoever consists in seeing God by his essence” [In IV Sent, d. 49, q. 2, a. 7:] and that “one has not attained to one’s last end until the natural desire is at rest. Therefore the knowledge of any intelligible object is not enough for man’s happiness, which is his last end, unless he know God also, which knowledge terminates his natural desire, as his last end. Therefore this very knowledge of God is man’s last end.” {SCG III, c. 50.] In this he would appear to be at one with St Augustine’s famous opening line of the Confessions, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

    He is equally clear on the sheer gratuity of grace: “Even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.]. He also says, “The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

    By contrast, all of the Thomists of the 16th century cite Aristotle in this context: “If nature had given the heavenly bodies the inclination to linear motion, she would also have given them the means for it.” [De Caelo, II, 290a] . . . the thought of a “desiderium naturale,” which points in nature beyond nature, would, according to the theologians of the sixteenth century, make salvation a right, and grace would cease to be a gift. The consequence of this was that they superimposed a hypothetical purely natural destiny of man, a “finis naturalis,” onto the actual destiny given in salvation history; and thus the fateful construction of a “natura pura” came into being. The mischief came when this purely hypothetical natura pura was made the foundation-stone of their Natural Law theories. By contrast, Maurice Blondel, insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    For de Lubac and his school, Nature is not a divine seed, but rather an emptiness which is “ordered” to its fulfilment in Christ precisely because it exists as a privation. Nature is no sort of divine seed, or immanent movement toward the supernatural, rather it is instilled with a desire for the supernatural that is born precisely out of its own poverty. Grace is purely gratuitous, precisely because creation is itself a gift – “You have made us for Yourself…” This is perfectly consistent with Lumen Gentium, which avoided the Scholastic categories altogether..

  • MPS wrote, “….all of the Thomists of the 16th century cite Aristotle in this context: “If nature had given the heavenly bodies the inclination to linear motion, she would also have given them the means for it.” [De Caelo, II, 290a] . . . the thought of a “desiderium naturale,” which points in nature beyond nature, would, according to the theologians of the sixteenth century, make salvation a right, and grace would cease to be a gift….”
    Does the aforementioned reasoning reflect the neo-Thomist “Salamanca School”?
    If so, does the “rights/obligation” concept of Natural Law arise from Renaissance era “Christian Humanism”?
    Ie., Human beings have a desire and thus a “right” to know God, which creates a corresponding “duty” by God to convey Grace upon us so that we may attain the end of our desire….or….alternatively the Divine Will is obligated and subordinated to our human will to make Himself known to us.
    If so, this is Hubris.

  • Slainté

    No, the Salamanca School – and all the Neo-Thomists – absolutely rejected the idea of a desiderium naturale, precisely because they believed this was necessary to safeguard the gratuity of grace. Accordingly, they believed that a theory of Natural Law could be developed that left man’s supernatural destiny out of account.

    That was why Charles Maurras’s Jesuit defender, Descoqs a follower of Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas had allowed the political sphere a wide degree of autonomy and he was prepared to detach “political society” from “religious society.” Laberthonnière retaliated by accusing Descoqs of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”

    Jacques Maritain, too, challenged the Neo-Scholastic doctrine of natura pura by insisting that “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account” and “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology…”

  • Slainté

    Recall the scathing words of the Abbé Laberthonnière to those French Catholics who hoped that L’Action française would lead to “the triumph of the Church in society.”

    “The triumph of the Church in society? That would be excellent. But then, it is necessary to examine by what means our religion permits us to pursue it. Moreover, it has not been promised us. And then, it is not, perhaps, the most pressing of our tasks.

    The Church is like Christ. To go to souls, she is, in her own essence, a soul of truth and kindness. And, if He needs a body to act in the world, it is by His soul and for His soul that His body subsists. And, if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labour to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls.

    Her power does not consist in giving orders, to which external obedience is required, backed up by threats or favours. Her power is to raise souls to the life above. It is to give birth to and to cultivate in consciences the supernaturalising obligation to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through temporal defeats to a triumph that is timeless.

    Do not indulge in childish dreams, when you have in your grasp eternal realities that invite you. Understand, all you who would triumph and reign on earth – Et nunc, reges, intellegite.” [To a French audience, instantly recognizable as the text of Bossuet’s funeral oration for Henrietta Maria, widow of the executed Charles I of England that everyone reads at school]

  • MPS.
    The words from Abbe Laberthonniere have sung in my being and I am grateful for your contribution, otherwise I may never heard the truest of song.

    “And if we wish His body to be beautiful and vigorous, if we wish it to be radiant, let us labor to enrich her soul with the faith and love of our souls.”
    Yes! Sanctification.

    “It is to give birth to and cultivate in consciences the supernaturalising obligation to live for God and for others, through Christ, and to pass through TEMPORAL DEFEATS to a TRIUMPH THAT IS TIMELESS!

    Outstanding! Thanks for sharing your talents and education. God bless.

  • Philip

    And that is in my limping translation:

    « Et si nous voulons que son corps soit beau et vigoureux, si nous voulons qu’il rayonne, travaillons à enrichir son âme de la foi et de l’amour de nos âmes… c’est de faire naître et de cultiver dans les consciences l’obligation surnaturalisante de vivre pour Dieu et pour les autres par le Christ et d’aller ainsi à travers les défaites du temps, à un triomphe qui n’est pas de temps. »

  • MPS,
    I am reflecting upon your response to my queries and formulating a reply.
    But in the interim, I want to join Philip in letting you know how privileged we are as a group to have you among us; and I am personally grateful for your patience and willingness to share your impressive knowledge of philosophy, theology and even folklore (ie., Sir Boyle Roche : )

  • MPS, I can only assume that when philosophers and theologians go before God upon their death, Our Lord must scratch His head and charitably inform them that they confuse even Him with some of their theories and pearls of wisdom. : )
    That said, I hope I will not worsen your headache, that I confess to be solely responsible for, with my fledgling efforts…
    So the Jesuit Descoqs would have aligned with the Dominican Cardinal Cajetan who proposed an order in which the hypothetical state of “pure nature” would have its own natural end distinct from man’s supernatural end.
    Descoqs and Cajetan would support agnostic Maurrus whose “Action Francaise” movement, while not ordered toward the supernatural, sought to attain temporal ends consistent with the Church’s interests.
    For Descoqs and Cajetan, natural law could thus exist separately from revelation; positive law could exist separately from divine providence; Rawlsian philosophy on social justice might be deemed acceptable because its ends are acceptable notwithstanding that its reasoning is not aligned with the supernatural end of man. All of the foregoing assumes Nature has an end of its own separate from God/the supernatural and this is called extrinsicism.
    But DeLubac and the Neo-Theologians reject the separation of Nature from the Supernatural insisting they are integrated and thus dependent on God and grace as gift.
    Karl Rahner, following De Lubac, sought to integrate Nature and Supernatural but went too far when he declared God to be immanentized in nature.

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  • Slainté

    Bang on! The argument over l’ action française was the catalyst, but the real disagreement was over Natural Law and, beyond that, of the whole relationship between nature and grace.

    Blondel, Maritain and Laberthonnière saw clearly that the Neo-Thomists unwittingly endorsed the liberal privatisation of religion; if the Gospel has nothing distinctive to say about “the practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality” (Maritain) and unaided human reason is a sufficient guide, religion has no rôle in the public square. It seems to me that the New Natural Law School (Finnis, George & al) have taken up, where the Manualists left off.

    As for Karl Rahner, like de Lubac and other theologians, he was struggling with a profound mystery: the interior fact of soliciting grace and the external fact of revelation which together make up Christianity. It is here, particularly, that the documents of VII are illuminating, in locating, rather than attempting to solve the mystery.

  • An interesting article on the problems with De Lubac’s theory of the natural desire for the supernatural.

    I will also have to look up one or two good books that note significant problems with De Lubac’s interpretation of Aquinas.

    The long and short is that De Lubac may have been seriously wrong in that interpretation.

  • MPS,
    Thank you for your guidance; it finally makes sense.
    Two final points;
    I refer you to Gary Potter’s article “February 6, 1934: A Royalist Last Stand” which provides in part,
    “Not as soon, but eventually, Pius XI realized he had made a mistake. He charged Msgr. Alfredo Ottaviani, future head of the Holy Office, with the mission of negotiating a face-saving agreement with Action Francaise that would allow him to lift the ban. Ottaviani succeeded, but Msgr. Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI and an ardent disciple of the French liberal Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, kept the agreement bottled up in the Vatican bureaucracy until the Pope died in 1939. Thus it was left to his successor, Pope Pius XII, to lift the ban. It was his second official act as Pope, his first being his assumption of the Throne of St. Peter, but it still came too late. World War II began less than three months later – not time enough for the rehabilitation of Action Francaise to register in the minds of very many before the hell of war broke loose.”
    Why the delay in lifting the ban of Action Francaise until 1939…were the reasons political or theological or was something else at play?
    In the 1950s, Yves Congar, Joseph Ratzinger, Henri De Lubac, Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar and others were on a list compiled by the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) suspected of, or under a cloud of, possible Heresy. Your insight as to why is appreciated.

  • Phillip,
    Thank you for your comments and the article on De Lubac and man’s natural desire for the supernatural.
    I look forward to reading it.

  • Slainté

    The ban on l’ Action française was unusual, in that, not only were a number of Charles Maurras’s books placed on the Index – He had expressed his contempt for the spôoirit of the biblical prophets and even Jesus in certain of his early works – but so was its newspaper, with future editions being prohibited “sight unseen,” as it were.

    The movement had a number of dubious aspects: its “Catholic atheism,” a purely instrumental attitude to religion, as a source of social cohesion and, above all, as the guardian of order, its virulent anti-semitism and integral nationalism and its appeal to violence. Pope Leo XIII, after all, had exhorted Catholic to “rally to the Republic,” explaining that a distinction must be drawn between the form of government, which ought to be accepted, and its laws which ought to be improved, only to be accused by the Catholic press of “kissing the feet of their executioners.” In 1940, alas, too many Catholics, under its influence, rallied, not to the Republic, but to Vichy and the members of its paramilitary wing, the Camelots du Roi moved seamlessly into the Milice, enthusiastically rounding up Jews for deportation. After the Liberation, Maurras was sentenced to life imprisonment as a collaborator. A few of his followers had been shot in the épuration sauvage and others fled abroad. Partly as a result, there was an enormous wave of support for the Communists – the « parti des 75.000 fusillés morts pour que vive la France » [the party of the 75,000 shot, dead that France might live) for its leading rôle in the Resistance.

    The suspicion aroused by the « Nouvelle théologie » had its roots in the Modernist crisis at the beginning of the century. As Blondel had pointed out, “First, the scholastic ideology, which still exclusively dominates, includes the study neither of religious psychology nor of the subjective facts that convey to the conscience the action of the objective realities whose presence in us Revelation indicates; this ideology only considers as legitimate the examination of what objectively informs us about these realities as designated and defined. Moreover, and especially, everything is instinctively resisted that would limit the authoritarianism born of an exclusive extrinsicism. And, without formulating it, the conception is entertained according to which everything in religious life comes from on high and from without. Only the priesthood is active before a purely passive and receptive flock.” Any deviation from the traditional scholastic model was seen as a stalking horse for the Modernism condemned in Lamentabili and Pascendi.

  • Thank you MPS for sharing your gift of intellect and clarifying so much
    historical and other information about France’s faith journey.
    It does seem that not only France, but the entire world, needs a renewal and
    return to authentic Catholicism. Hopefully this can be accomplished without
    further wars or wrongly scapegoating minority groups. Gary Potter who wrote
    the article about the Action Franchaise event at Place de Concorde that
    occurred 80 years ago today claims that Maurras became Catholic before he
    Perhaps then hope does spring eternal.
    Pax tecum.

  • “”Only the priesthood is active before a purely passive and receptive flock.””
    According to St. Augustine, the faithful participants (the flock) must offer up their hearts to God at the same time the priest offers up his heart at the Offertory of the Mass. Only the priest brings Jesus Christ’s Real Presence to the altar. The flock participates through the priest. It is called assisting at Mass and it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday without, as it were, extenuating circumstances.
    Pax tecum.

  • slainte,

    A good insight into how such an apparently minor philosophical distinction of the natural desire for the supernatural can lead to serious political differences:

  • Phillip,
    Wow, what an interesting article; I appreciate Prof. Deneen and have read several of his pieces on the topic of liberalism.
    Having spent some time thinking about liberalism, I sthink perhaps the great and ongoing battle of the last few centuries might well be the repeat clashes of Catholicism v. the Enlightenment (now known as Liberalism).
    As to individual Catholics, what appears to distinguish the two categories referenced by Prof. Deneen is the degree to which each respective group has ingested, absorbed, and synthesized Enlightenment principles with their Catholic faith. Dineen’s “radical Catholics” seems to exhibit a tougher time holding irreconcilable principles as equally true and acceptable in contrast with the John Courtney Murray American traditionalists who seem to do so effortlessly and without concern.
    How does one reconcile the following principles:
    i. radical individualism with Catholic concern for the common good;
    ii. separation of church and state with a Catholic concept of state which envisions God’s presence in all facets of governing and whose end is God directed;
    iii. religious freedom with a Catholic view that the Catholic Church is the one true Church and no other Church holds the fullness of Truth; and therefore cannot be equal;
    iv. the secular state’s elevation of reason (science) to the exclusion or segregation of faith.
    Our motivation as Catholics living out our faith journey in all facets of our lives cannot be oriented toward enlightened self interest, utility, or beneficial contractual exchange, it must always be about love of Christ and the desire within us to imitate Him and to draw closer to Him through prayer and interaction with others. We Catholics desire Him and it is because we want to be with Him that we strive to act as we ought, and then confess and do penance for those times when we fall short in our efforts. Liberalism is simply incompatible with Catholicism because its ends conclude in a natural end which does not engage the supernatural.
    Politically, I sometimes wonder whether the Enlightenment Revolutions of the 18th century weren’t designed to accomplish the same End merely using different techniques or strategies. The singular End is the conversion of Christianity, and in particular Catholicism, to a single faith system oriented toward a natural secular humanism which denies the supernatural.
    The French Revolution was a head on assault against all things Catholic and Christian which substantially weakened Catholicism in France, while the American Revolution was a more passive enterprise in sowing Enlightenment principles within a Christian culture which progressively and inexorably, over time, wore away and eroded first protestant christianity, and now Catholicism.
    If true, we may now be experiencing something akin to a stepped up effort whereby Catholics, each imbued by a liberal culture with varying degrees of enlightenment ideology will proceed to duke it out with each other.
    As Catholics, it is important to pray for unity among Catholics and christians and for the Holy Spirit to purge from within us false ideologies which compete with the trur faith.
    Fortunately, I think there is a desire within many Catholics to know and be with Christ and to live their lives oriented toward Him…and it will be this desire, with prayer, which the Holy Spirit will build upon to overcome the spirit of this world (nature) and thus unite us with Christ (supernatural).
    Your thoughts?

  • slainte: “The singular End is the conversion of Christianity, and in particular Catholicism, to a single faith system oriented toward a natural secular humanism which denies the supernatural.”
    This is called atheism. To deny the infinite God of Catholicism is to deny unalienable civil rights to Life, Liberty and pursuit of Happiness. Rights that come from the state may be taken away by the state, and are, as is the state, finite, ending. Unalienable civil rights come from the Infinite God. Man’s soul is immortal and cannot be sustained by finite rights. Man’s home is in eternity with God. Denying the supernatural destroys any hope of an immortal soul to see God in eternity. Denying man’s immortality is despotism and the epitome of totalitarianism.

  • Thank you Mary for a very wise and prescient comment. While writing my comment I was reflecting on the discussion with MPS regarding natura pura and our desire for God, Phillip’s article, as well as two pending political issues, ie., the HHS mandate launched against the Church in the U.S, and most recently the U.N assault against the global Church.
    It does seem sometimes as if the forces are aligned against Catholicism. I tend to agree with you that what is at work is either a form of atheism or possibly pantheism; neither of which acknowledge the supernatural. Not quite sure….but I wish it would all just stop. You summed up the situation very well. : )

  • Philip & Slainté

    Aristotle famously called Man a ζῷον πολιτικόν – a political animal, For him, it is as blindingly obvious that people everywhere live in communities as that bees live in hives or wolves in packs. The root of the human community, the polis is the family or household: διὸ ἐν οἰκίᾳ πρῶτον ἀρχαὶ καὶ πηγαὶ φιλίας καὶ πολιτείας καὶ δικαίου – Hence in the household are first found the origins and springs of friendship, of political organization and of justice (My translation)

    This is why Yves Simon says that Man, taken as an isolated individual is “no longer unequivocally real” and that the highest activity/being in the natural order is the free arrangement of men about what is good, brought together in an actual polity, where it is no longer a mere abstraction.

    Now, the Enlightenment denied this. It was a fundamental principle of the Enlightenment that the nature of the human person can be adequately described without mention of social relationships. A person’s relations with others, even if important, are not essential and describe nothing that is, strictly speaking, necessary to one’s being what one is. This principle underlies all their talk about the “state of nature” and the “social contract,” and from it is derived the notion that the only obligations are those voluntarily assumed. It was in this spirit that Bentham says that “the community is a fictitious body,” and it is but “the sum of the interests of the several members who compose it.” The contrast with Aristotle could not be more complete.

    Grace perfects nature. As VII reminds us, we are redeemed in and through our membership of the People of God. Our nature demands community.

  • “radical individualism with Catholic concern for the common good”

    It is not clear to me that the Enlightenment philosophers were all supportive of the concept of radical individualism. There are so many different brands of philosophy from the Enlightenment that ultimately take their most distilled form in the pure materialist philosophy of Marxism. This last is at its core pure collectivism. So in reality there is no one Enlightenment understanding of the person and his relationship to society.

    I think Locke in part captures what is true of Catholic theology (though he is quite off with his epistemology and this corrupts his work.) But he does understand that we are individual persons and that the common good itself cannot compromise the good of individual persons. This because individuals do possess rights. (JPII in Memory and Rememberance commented on the concept of individual rights being an accomplishment of the Enlightenment.) Catholic social teaching does teach the primacy of the person and the ultimate good of the person in ordering society.

    Of course this Catholic position is not a radical individualism as the person is by his very nature called to be in communion with others. As MPS notes from Aristotle, we are political animals. Not that we are to argue policies but that we are to live in society and order it to the good of all persons. This is where some philosophers from the Enlightenment do get things right. That is, we are persons in society and we must order that society that respects the good of all. (By the same token, as MPS notes, there are those Enlightenment philosophers who get things very wrong and as noted, not necessarily from a radical individual perspective but from a radical collectivist perspective also.)

  • This from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church on this tension (if you will) between the person and the common good:

    125. The human person may never be thought of only as an absolute individual being, built up by himself and on himself, as if his characteristic traits depended on no one else but himself. Nor can the person be thought of as a mere cell of an organism that is inclined at most to grant it recognition in its functional role within the overall system. Reductionist conceptions of the full truth of men and women have already been the object of the Church’s social concern many times, and she has not failed to raise her voice against these, as against other drastically reductive perspectives, taking care to proclaim instead that “individuals do not feel themselves isolated units, like grains of sand, but united by the very force of their nature and by their internal destiny, into an organic, harmonious mutual relationship”[234]. She has affirmed instead that man cannot be understood “simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism”[235], and is therefore attentive that the affirmation of the primacy of the person is not seen as corresponding to an individualistic or mass vision.

  • Then there is this:

    “The Church’s social doctrine strives to indicate the different dimensions of the mystery of man, who must be approached “in the full truth of his existence, of his personal being and also of his community and social being”[237], with special attention so that the value of the human person may be readily perceived.”

    Thus we are not radical individuals. Nor are we social beings only. We are persons in community.

  • Finally (at least for now) this on the uniqueness of the person in relation to society:

    “131. Man exists as a unique and unrepeatable being, he exists as an “I” capable of self-understanding, self-possession and self-determination. The human person is an intelligent and conscious being, capable of reflecting on himself and therefore of being aware of himself and his actions. However, it is not intellect, consciousness and freedom that define the person, rather it is the person who is the basis of the acts of intellect, consciousness and freedom. These acts can even be absent, for even without them man does not cease to be a person.

    The human person, must always be understood in his unrepeatable and inviolable uniqueness. In fact, man exists above all as a subjective entity, as a centre of consciousness and freedom, whose unique life experiences, comparable to those of no one else, underlie the inadmissibility of any attempt to reduce his status by forcing him into preconceived categories or power systems, whether ideological or otherwise. This entails above all the requirement not only of simple respect on the part of others, especially political and social institutions and their leaders with regard to every man and woman on the earth, but even more, this means that the primary commitment of each person towards others, and particularly of these same institutions, must be for the promotion and integral development of the person.”

  • Philip

    Marx fully embraces the Enlightenment view of the individual. For Marx, the individual –the basic unit of the social sphere – is, quite simply, the biological entity. In other words, individuals are the “atoms” (in the Greek sense) of which society is composed. He utterly rejects the organic concept of society and the state. He rejects precisely those elements on which Mazzini laid such stress in the constitution of the national community: “They speak the same language, they bear about them the impress of consanguinity, they kneel beside the same tombs, and they glory in the same tradition.” Hence Marx’s hostility to the family.

    Yves Simon, by contrast, whilst acknowledging that “the polity, at its best, is designed so that men bring forth the perfection of their knowing and artistic capacities within an order that allowed them to pass individual lives benefiting from the temporal and spiritual goods made possible by different persons bringing forth differing accomplishments and perfections, yet making them available to each other,” nevertheless insists that ““Beyond the satisfaction of individual needs, the association of men serves a good unique in plenitude and duration, the common good of the human community.”

    This would have been unintelligible to Marx, although his master, Hegel, grasped it very well.

  • The Supreme Court decision of Roe versus Wade made property of the sovereign individual substance of a rational nature carried in a woman’s womb. The finite court took possession of the newly begotten sovereign soul as chattel. The legal and moral innocence of the human soul at conception impacted Justice as less than nothing and imposed atheism on America’s moral law.
    The Supreme Court decision of Roe versus Wade emasculated every man and father in America as well as every woman and mother in America. The constitutional posterity brought forth in fertilization as a son or daughter ordains a woman as a mother and a man as a father.
    The innocent sovereignty of our constitutional posterity constitutes our nation from the very first moment of his existence. His virtue and purity is the standard of Justice for the nation and the Supreme Court.
    Roe versus Wade is Justice aborted.

  • This is by far one of the best discussions I have ever encountered on this sight. Ok people now I know how the ultimate confusion of “democracy” and “republic” has been churned and churned throughout history but never in such readable explainable scholarly vocabulary. Thank You All! I have been trying to educate my adult children in these matters, as to the “what’s why’s when’s and who’s. Some of them get it some of them don’t want to. That’s what’s scary and why we should be being taught the truth’s and not just a bunch of sappy stories. Anyway “what people don’t know won’t hurt them”, right? Like in this little quote from a “devout” Catholic I once knew, “If it doesn’t say in 50 pages or less what I need to know, then I don’t need to know it!” I rest my case(again)

  • “…For Marx, the individual –the basic unit of the social sphere – is, quite simply, the biological entity. In other words, individuals are the “atoms” (in the Greek sense) of which society is composed.”

    But this is the point of calling Marxism a rejection of the individual in favor of radical collectivism. A person does not have dignity apart from his being part of the collective (an atom making up the molecule if you will.) This is what the Church refers to (and as I cited above) in the Compendium as “simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism”. For Marxism is not about radical individualism, but the individual reduced to a part of the organism.

  • Philip wrote, “For Marxism is not about radical individualism, but the individual reduced to a part of the organism.”

    But for Marx, there is no organism, merely constructs; there is no”self” or “individual” greater than the human individual. Families, corporations, nations are not real, in the sense that a man is real. They are, at best, “artificial persons,” not, as they were for the Civilians, “moral persons.”

  • There is no organism in the Aristotelian or Thomistic sense. There is the state though, which is all encompassing and which substitutes for all those other intermediary organisms. And it is the “atom” of the individual who is part of the state in Marixism rather that a person living in community which is the Christian sense. Thus not individualism but collectivism in Marxism.

  • MPS and Philip,
    Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived the majority of his life under Soviet Communism. In 1978, Solzhenitsyn acknowledged that Marxism is a fruit of the Enlightenment precisely because it involves man’s rejection of God in favor of an individualism which insists upon its own self sufficiency and denies man’s true nature as rooted in and oriented toward the supernatural. He also draws conclusions about the likelihood of success for the West in light of its rejection of man’s reliance on God.
    For your consideration, I refer you to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “A World Split Apart”, a Commencement Speech delivered 8 June 1978 at Harvard University,; see also,
    “……This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.
    The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historical. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man’s physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.
    However, in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were — State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.
    As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation by socialism and then by communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say that “communism is naturalized humanism.”
    This statement turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorships; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. This is typical of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century and of Marxism. Not by coincidence all of communism’s meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today’s West and today’s East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.
    The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is most to the left always ends up by being stronger, more attractive, and victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process in the past centuries and especially in the past decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism; radicalism had to surrender to socialism; and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism’s crimes. And when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.
    I am not examining here the case of a world war disaster and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a de-spiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.
    To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging everything on earth — imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible — The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.
    If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.
    It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?
    If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.
    This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.”

    Source for above:; see also,

  • Sorry folks I come to this conversation late. Not sure how it got by me lol

    I have read through the comments and they are vast but perhaps I can offer just a few thoughts

    1) The Enlightenment was ‘the second Reformation’. As the Reformation was a revolution against the Church while keeping Christ, Christian morality etc in the name of faith alone, the Enlightenment was a revolution against Christ (and revelation; and therefore revealed morality) in the name of ‘reason alone’ [‘reason alone’ is an actual quote of Descartes] What was left was the Deist concept (construct) of God and a ‘natural morality’ This led to the third, less widely known revolution in the 1800’s in which Deism, Victorianism, all Appolonian principles were overthrown by the Dionysian revolution led by Marx, Nietzche, and others-even into the arts in such peoples as Wagner etc.

    2) I used to believe that the American revolution was the good revolution and the French revolution the bad one based on the principles which they espoused etc. I am beginning to realize what we are witnessing now in what seems to be the overthrowing of the principles of the Founding Fathers in favor of the French Revolution;s principles is actually simply-the Enlightenment really coming home to roost in America and claiming us as its own-completely

    3.The problem with this is-the whole Modern Age is not only coming to an end, it is all but completely gone-and the Reformation and Enlightenment are manifestations of the Modern Age. Countries etc built on ‘the Enlightenment’ are in for a lot of trouble as are the religious communities founded in the Reformation because if it has not yet happened, their foundations are about to begin rumbling like they never have before
    We are now in the first decades of the Post-Modern Age (which will eventually get a real name for itself)

    4.Because precisely VII is not a break with Tradition etc but is based on the whole of Divine Revelation manifested in Catholic Tradition, it is a sure way of moving toward the future into the post-modernist age. Its optimism is time-bound, but its faith is ever ancient, ever-new. We need to work at really correctly interpreting then receiving the Council if we are to prevent dissipation (aka the spirit of VII crowd) or endless fragmentation (aka ultra-traditionalist side)

  • Slainte,

    FYI – I’m going to be publishing a lengthy essay on Deeneen’s piece and the conflict between liberals and illiberals on Monday.

  • Bonchamps,
    Thank you; I will look for your article. If it is not being published at this forum, either a link or a notice about the publication site would be appreciated.

  • “…Solzhenitsyn acknowledged that Marxism is a fruit of the Enlightenment precisely because it involves man’s rejection of God in favor of an individualism which insists upon its own self sufficiency and denies man’s true nature as rooted in and oriented toward the supernatural.”

    I might say from reading the speech that he does link Marxism and the Enlightenment but that that link is in materialistic humanism (the separation from man of his end in God – something not present in all Enlightenment philosophies.) However, I do not believe he is saying that Marxism is necessarily individualism. In fact from the links of the Compendium I believe we see one of the errors of the recent past in ordering society is a disordered sense the collective (Marxism). One can be a radical individualist or a radical collectivist as both can be the fruits of materialistic humanism.

    In fact the need for such a collectivist impulse in materialistic humanism is the need for something greater than the self. In an authentic Christian humanism this is God. In materialistic humanism it is the collective – at least for some.

  • Phillip,
    When an individual, by voluntary exercise of his free will, completely liberates himself from all Authority, in particular by denying Christ’s kingship through the Church, choosing instead to rely upon his own capabilities, he ends up standing naked and defenseless, first against the barons of industry and capitalism who view him as a factor of production, and then, before the state which views him as a source of tax revenue. Neither entity assigns the rugged individualist any sense of dignity or value beyond his perceived utility at that present moment.
    The individual who pursues liberty to its natural end finds shackles awaiting him. He is consensually bound to accept the shackles because he has rendered himself powerless by casting off the natural protective buffers which are the family, the church, and/or the community. Having freed himself from the latter buffers, he creates his own destiny by denying his membership as a social being.
    The Enlightenment convinces man that through his own capabilities, and without God, he can negotiate and thus perfect himself in and through nature…the reality though is that the natural end of a fallen world is enslavement to that world. It is only through man’s supernatural destiny that he may enjoy true freedom and equal worth before and in Christ.
    Solzhenitsyn describes a humanism which is divorced from Christ, and which is thus an empty promise leading to the inevitable natural end of communism. Catholic humanism conversely exalts man as made in Imago Dei and leads him to a supernatural end which is a share in the divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Men who are enslaved to communism are in that state because they exercised their individual free will to cast off the very forces (family, church, community) which existed to protect them from that state. When man freely chooses to reclaim Christ in his life, and subordinates his will to that of Christ’s. only then does he have the ability to free himself self imposed shackles.
    Indeed “man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains.” Jean Jacques Rousseau

  • I am not sure that all Enlightenment philosophers see man as capable of perfecting themselves. Perhaps the Continental Enlightenment but certainly not the English.

    Its not clear to me that those who fell under Communism did so by rejecting intermediary groups. Rather, Communism was generally imposed by those with a disordered sense of the human person – including individual rights.

    I will defer to my sense of Marxism as being a radical collectivism to this:

    “…we have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is thus reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decision disappears, the very subject whose decisions build the social order. From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property. A person who is deprived of something he can call “his own”, and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.”

  • Phillip,
    When man chooses to reject or subordinate God in his life, something will appear to fill the vacuum. As the Church, the family, and the community represent God’s plan to make Himself known to man on earth, man’s choice to set aside or maginalize these things creates within man a privation. To fill the privation, man looks to the things of the earth…materialism, consumerism, new age spiritualism….yet over time it becomes apparent that none of these things fulfill man’s core desire to know and be united with Truth. Man experiences the emptiness of the lack of connection with his source and loses joy in his life; there can be no beauty, truth, or goodness absent the presence of God in our lives.
    On a societal level, when many men reject or subordinate God in favor of assigning primacy to the ways and morality of the world, a progressive devolution occurs within that community of men. I would suggest that the natural end of this devolution is communism. When communism emerges, it is the malignant consequence of a steady and willful refusal to love, honor, and obey God by a pivotal number of people within society. Those who pay the greatest price are the innocent citizens who remain faithful to God and yet are forced to live within a communist society that has been degraded because of its rejection of Christ.
    Phillip, please consider Pope John Paul II’s visit in June 1979 to his beloved Poland.
    Peggy Noonan wrote a piece entitled “We Want God” which provided, in part:
    “….It was the first week in June 1979. Europe was split in two between east and west, the democracies and the communist bloc–police states controlled by the Soviet Union and run by local communist parties and secret police.
    John Paul was a new pope, raised to the papacy just eight months before. The day after he became pope he made it clear he would like to return as pope to his native Poland to see his people.
    The communists who ran the Polish regime faced a quandary. If they didn’t allow the new Pope to return to his homeland, they would look defensive and frightened, as if they feared that he had more power than they. To rebuff him would seem an admission of their weakness. On the other hand, if they let him return, the people might rise up against the government, which might in turn trigger an invasion by the Soviet Union.
    The Polish government decided that it would be too great an embarrassment to refuse the pope. So they invited him, gambling that John Paul–whom they knew when he was cardinal of Krakow, who they were sure would not want his presence to inspire bloodshed–would be prudent. They wagered that he would understand he was fortunate to be given permission to come, and understand what he owed the government in turn was deportment that would not threaten the reigning reality. They announced the pope would be welcome to come home on a “religious pilgrimage.”
    John Paul quickly accepted the invitation. He went to Poland.
    And from the day he arrived, the boundaries of the world began to shift.
    Two months before the pope’s arrival, the Polish communist apparatus took steps to restrain the enthusiasm of the people. They sent a secret directive to schoolteachers explaining how they should understand and explain the pope’s visit. “The pope is our enemy,” it said. “Due to his uncommon skills and great sense of humor he is dangerous, because he charms everyone, especially journalists. Besides, he goes for cheap gestures in his relations with the crowd, for instance, puts on a highlander’s hat, shakes all hands, kisses children. . . . It is modeled on American presidential campaigns. . . Because of the activation of the Church in Poland our activities designed to atheize the youth not only cannot diminish but must intensely develop. . . In this respect all means are allowed and we cannot afford any sentiments.”
    The government also issued instructions to Polish media to censor and limit the pope’s comments and appearances.
    On June 2, 1979, the pope arrived in Poland. What followed will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it.
    He knelt and kissed the ground, the dull gray tarmac of the airport outside Warsaw. The silent churches of Poland at that moment began to ring their bells. The pope traveled by motorcade from the airport to the Old City of Warsaw.
    The government had feared hundreds or thousands or even tens of thousands would line the streets and highways.
    By the end of the day, with the people lining the streets and highways plus the people massed outside Warsaw and then inside it–all of them cheering and throwing flowers and applauding and singing–more than a million had come.
    In Victory Square in the Old City the pope gave a mass. Communist officials watched from the windows of nearby hotels. The pope gave what papal biographer George Weigel called the greatest sermon of John Paul’s life.
    Why, the pope asked, had God lifted a Pole to the papacy? Perhaps it was because of how Poland had suffered for centuries, and through the 20th century had become “the land of a particularly responsible witness” to God. The people of Poland, he suggested, had been chosen for a great role, to understand, humbly but surely, that they were the repository of a special “witness of His cross and His resurrection.” He asked then if the people of Poland accepted the obligations of such a role in history.
    The crowd responded with thunder.
    “We want God!” they shouted, together. “We want God!”
    What a moment in modern history: We want God. From the mouths of modern men and women living in a modern atheistic dictatorship.
    The pope was speaking on the Vigil of Pentecost, that moment in the New Testament when the Holy Spirit came down to Christ’s apostles, who had been hiding in fear after his crucifixion, filling them with courage and joy. John Paul picked up this theme. What was the greatest of the works of God? Man. Who redeemed man? Christ.
    Therefore, he declared, “Christ cannot be kept out of the history of man in any part of the globe, at any longitude or latitude. . . . The exclusion of Christ from the history of man is an act against man! Without Christ it is impossible to understand the history of Poland.” Those who oppose Christ, he said, still live within the Christian context of history.
    Christ, the pope declared, was not only the past of Poland–he was “the future . . . our Polish future.”
    The massed crowd thundered its response. “We want God!” it roared.
    That is what the communist apparatchiks watching the mass from the hotels that rimmed Victory Square heard. Perhaps at this point they understood that they had made a strategic mistake. Perhaps as John Paul spoke they heard the sound careen off the hard buildings that ringed the square; perhaps the echo sounded like a wall falling.
    The pope had not directly challenged the government. He had not called for an uprising. He had not told the people of Catholic Poland to push back against their atheist masters. He simply stated the obvious.
    In Mr. Weigel’s words: “Poland was not a communist country; Poland was a Catholic nation saddled with a communist state.”
    The next day, June 3, 1979, John Paul stood outside the cathedral in Gniezno, a small city with a population of 50,000 or so. Again there was an outdoor mass, and again he said an amazing thing.
    He did not speak of what governments want, nor directly of what a growing freedom movement wants, nor of what the struggling Polish worker’s union, Solidarity, wanted.
    He spokeof what God wants.
    “Does not Christ want, does not the Holy Spirit demand, that the pope, himself a Pole, the pope, himself a Slav, here and now should bring out into the open the spiritual unity of Christian Europe . . .?” Yes, he said, Christ wants that. “The Holy Spirit demands that it be said aloud, here, now. . . . Your countryman comes to you, the pope, so as to speak before the whole Church, Europe and the world. . . . He comes to cry out with a mighty cry.”
    What John Paul was saying was remarkable. He was telling Poland: See the reality around you differently. See your situation in a new way. Do not see the division of Europe; see the wholeness that exists and that not even communism can take away. Rhetorically his approach was not to declare or assert but merely, again, to point out the obvious: We are Christians, we are here, we are united, no matter what the communists and their map-makers say…..”

    Source: “We Want God” by Peggy Noonan published by The Wall Street Journal.
    So I would suggest Phillip that we can head off and defeat communism locally and globally one man and one woman at a time by freely willing and then renewing our Catholicism and inviting God back into our society.
    Where Christ lives, communism and the privation it seeks to fill perishes.

  • I have no doubt that when one substitutes any god for God, evil will result. Those gods include the individual, sex, money, power or the State. This does not prove that radical individualism is the root of all evil in the World. In fact, from the comments I posted above from the Compendium, the Church cites a disordered sense of the individual (either as radically isolated or as radically collectivist) as the source of social evil. There reference to the latter is to Marxism.

    I also agree with your citing John Paul II. The quote I give immediately above about disordered anthropology that reduces the individual to the communal is his, from Centesimus Annus. He above all of the past century, understood the destructiveness of the person of the collectivism of Communism.

  • Phillip wrote, “…I have no doubt that when one substitutes any god for God, evil will result. Those gods include the individual, sex, money, power or the State…”
    But Phillip, of the things you cite…”the individual, sex, money, power or the State”…only the individual who is made in the image of God has the free will to choose to accept or reject Him, to obey or disobey Him, and/or to place Him above all other things…and that is the ultimate trial we all face in this vale of tears. Will we choose Him no matter the circumstances or the trials we encounter on this earth?
    From the time of the Garden of Eden, woman and man, individually, have answered God’s question mostly in the negative….choosing to obey and rely upon themselves first and relegating God to a distant second. Hence, Original Sin is the manifestation of a inverted radical individualism which causes us to be turned in on ourselves and away from God.
    The Enlightenment encourages the individual to divorce himself from God and to rely upon and look to himself first, not God. Its roots which are grounded in dissent are also found in the revolt that is the Reformation.
    Enlightenment thought perverts what the compendium and John Paul II properly qualify as a well ordered God centered man.
    I think we agree on some points…I just believe that we are not always victims of things being imposed on us…sometimes we contribute to our own maladies by failing to choose properly.

  • Philip and Slainte,

    It is commonly accepted that the Enlightenment begins with Renee Descartes. He is to the Enlightenment what Luther was to the Reformation. While Luther called for ‘faith alone’, Decartes called for “reason alone”. In order to overcome the devastating doubt and uncertainty that followed the Renaissance/Reformation, Descartes sought to establish the firm foundation on the ‘subject’: “Cogito ergo sum”=”I think therefore I am”. In doing so he turned philosophy on its head, making epistemology [what I know] as the foundation rather than metaphysics [what is] as the foundation. Philip, here is the beginning of radical individualism which cuts across all of the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophers/philosophies. It is true, some have a softer version, may I use the phrase, but all have this in common. Further Descartes called for the leveling of all ‘tradition’ by the one using ‘reason alone’. This was done by radically doubting anything ‘received’, traditionally held, or backed by authority etc. The isolated ego (“I”) searched for the truth, reality, or whatever they wanted to do.

    Philip, while I recognize that Anglo-saxon [Locke, Burke] (and American) Enlightenment [Founding Fathers] was not initially as radical as say, the French or German versions, I have slowly grown aware that much of what we see now going on here in America is not imported (as I once thought) from ‘the French Revolution” but is the natural progression of the Enlightenment principles set in place by the Enlightenment Founding Fathers. The major difference between America and say, France, is that the American Enlightenment has never waged a culture war against the Judaeo-Christian culture and civilization established here already in the thirteen colonies (and future states)-it has not ‘waged a culture war’-until now.
    I believe it is going to get pretty intense [and by the way, America has indeed changed so much it will not go back to the way things were-when Obama ends his term in office. There are many out there to take his place and are just as committed to this ‘culture war’ against Judaeo-Christian culture in America

    What is really a complicating issue however, is these progressive forces, arising from the Enlightenment have not yet grasped that we are no longer in the Modern Age (of which the Enlightenment was a very key part). We have moved into a new era, as I have mentioned before-we can call it ‘the post-modern era’ for the time being. With the Post-modern era, the foundations of the Enlightenment are being radically called into question-and with it the Enlightenment-secularist interpretations of our Founding Documents etc. It is only but Americans digging deep into the rich fertile soil of the Judaeo-Christian Western Culture that America has a chance of surviving.

    It is even more ironic, that in this new era, the Church might be the only major force to uphold ‘reason’ [although never isolated] against not only the winds of change, but the forces of anti-reason, anti-logos that are rising

  • No. It is original sin that corrupts all social action. Some in the form of radical individualism and some in the form of radical collectivism which the Church, and most profoundly in the recent past, JP II, saw when it pointed out the errors of both anthropological positions.

    Though I think at some level we are talking of different things. The state of pure nature is not merely an Enlightenment one. It has a profoundly Catholic status also. This was confirmed in Humani Generis. This encyclical sidelined De Lubac and his position for a while. But that is an aside.

    But that is an aside. My point is, that Marxism is a disordered understanding of the proper nature of the human person in favor of a radical collectivism. This disordered perspective is properly diagnosed by the Compendium. One may argue that as all sin is personal, all is the result of a radical individualism. But this does not reach to the reasons for this personal sin – that of a disordered anthropology.

  • Phillip,
    I agree with your observation that the temporal effect of original sin affects everything in nature, including man’s free will, thus promoting an inclination in man toward concupiscence or sin.

  • It is often overlooked that the atheism that has become dominant in the West is not the atheism of Marx or Feuerbach, still less of Nietzsche (although these certainly exist among old-fashioned thinkers like the “New Atheists); it is the atheism of Auguste Comte.

    Maritain described it perfectly: “Iit is neither militant nor argumentative, nor wishful of self-proof — so surely and comfortably installed that it is not even conscious of an adversary (its Adversary has disappeared). It has a quality of ease and naturalness, of proud tranquillity, which makes it unique in its kind. It has no need for Prometheus, it does not insult the gods, and does not raise against God the claim of the enslaved or alienated man — the old slavery and the “long minority of mankind” have spontaneously come to an end with “the irrevocable exhaustion of the reign of God.”

    This atheism does not want an eschatological effort of history, thanks to which the human species will finally reach its divinity… [O]riginally, in the generative movement of Comtian atheism, it is not mankind that is the concern, but Comte himself. And Comte does not feel the need of being God; it is enough for him to be Comte. What happened in him when he became conscious of himself was a simple phenomenon of internal shiftings. He “spontaneously” and “naturally” recognized that the central place which God was thought to occupy really belonged to himself, Comte, and he slipped into that place as into the hollow of his bed, never to move from it.”

    Comte never argued against God’s existence, “because it was already resolved, not by way of rational inquiry and philosophical examination, but in virtue of an ethical private option — in virtue of the wholly personal and incommunicable act of non-faith accomplished at the moment when he deliberated about his own life.”

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour: Auguste Comte and Maritain both came before the imposition of atheism as a religion in the public square by the Supreme Court. Next came abortion, that would have been impossible if God did occupy the culture. And all the rest: pornography, the legalization of pedophilia, sodomy, the removal of all sanctions against vice, the disregard for minor children and parental authority and the contempt for Divine Providence.
    Co-existence until atheism could subjugate the people. In the trenches of Pro-Life movement, the atheist will tear one to shreds and leave your cold bloody body on the floor.
    Comfortable atheism?…for the atheist.
    Atheism is a lie, perjury in a court of law. God is existence; the atheist exists, God exists. Now, if the atheist will stop being a public scandal and go quietly back into his comfort zone, himself, the world will be a place of freedom.

  • Botolph, slainte, and Philip (In God We Trust, Philip): “It is commonly accepted that the Enlightenment begins with Renee Descartes. He is to the Enlightenment what Luther was to the Reformation. While Luther called for ‘faith alone’, Decartes called for “reason alone”. In order to overcome the devastating doubt and uncertainty that followed the Renaissance/Reformation, Descartes sought to establish the firm foundation on the ‘subject’: “Cogito ergo sum”=”I think therefore I am”. .
    I hope I get this right. Again, in God we trust.
    Luther’s “faith alone” requires a free will act of man to accept faith. The free will act is the work of man for his salvation, the iota of work required is the free will act to the acceptance of faith and salvation for salvation.
    “Cogito ergo sum”=”I think therefore I am”. . Again, man must make a free will act and consent to thinking, to reason… as a verb. In the use of his free will, man is evidence of man’s immortal, rational human soul, the transcendent human being, making of the atheist a liar of himself to himself.
    In every moment of his existence from fertilization to natural death, man must give consent, the free will act to live. This free will act of consent from one instance to the next, to live, life itself, in the individual, is evidence and proof that man is an individual substance of a rational nature, Thomas Aquinas’ definition for the person.
    Man is proof of the existence of God.
    Atheism has no place, in or our of any comfort zone, that Lucifer gained his own kingdom by refusing God as Saul Alinsky said cannot be, since annihilation is not a kingdom. Annihilation is nowhere. Annihilation is annihilation, constant and forever.

  • “Atheism has no place, in or out of any comfort zone,” In God We Trust. for perfection, not in the computer.

  • Mary de Voe wrote, “Auguste Comte and Maritain both came before the imposition of atheism as a religion in the public square.”

    Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) certainly saw just that: « La République ne reconnaît, ne salarie ni ne subventionne aucun culte » [The Republic does not recognise, nor salary, nor subsidise any religion] – Law of 9 December 1905.

  • Mary,

    Descartes is generally considered the beginning of Modern Philosophy. This as he took a radical departure from Scholasticism and sought to establish a basis for knowledge that was as certain as Mathematics;

    Descartes views human nature as consisting of the dual substances of mind and body. He begins this analysis by noting that that which comes through the senses can deceive. Through Meditation One and Two from the Meditations, he comes to realize that he is a thinking thing. He then begins to develop an understanding of sensory knowledge, first by proving that God exists and does not deceive. From this he concludes that sensory information, while not without the ability to deceive, nonetheless does exist in itself. As it exists and God will not deceive, this sensory, and thus corporeal, reality has a true existence.

    Descartes further argues that those things, which can be conceived of separately, do truly exist separately. Minds are pure spirits without extension. On the other hand bodies are extended in space. Therefore, because of this distinction, they are truly separate substances. There is not an intermingling of these substances though Descartes sees them as intimately united, producing a certain unity. He uses the analogy of a sailor and a ship (Meditation 6). When part of the ship is damaged, the sailor can see this though there is no formal union between them. Likewise, the mind may perceive pain, etc. though there is no union between the substances of mind and body.

    Knowledge for Descartes seems to begin in the self. I doubt all things but since I doubt I am certain that I am thinking. Therefore I can at least be sure I am thinking that I am deceived. So if all other knowledge is in doubt, this at least cannot be doubted, that I am a thinking and as such am a thinking thing.

    Then Descartes goes on to show that there is other certain knowledge – specifically the knowledge of the existence of a benevolent God who does not deceive (Meditation 3). By this proof, which is evident according to Descartes only through mental operations, he can then build upon what can be known. Since this God cannot deceive, then those things that are clearly and distinctly known by the mind are also true. This does not mean that there is no possibility of error as man, because of their finite abilities can produce error even in their mental images when one assents to what is not clear and distinct knowledge. But, that which is clearly and distinctly known is true (Meditation 5).

    Now, he can then proceed to conclude that sensory knowledge itself exists. First there exist faculties for understanding material things. God will not give us such attributes if such things do not exist. We then conceive of such things as objects extended in space such as geometric figures. There are also those images that come to me apart from mental thoughts (i.e. pain). Therefore, since we conceive these things, there must be existing material things. While this knowledge is less certain than mental knowledge, it nonetheless exists apart from my mind.

    Descartes aims to show that science rests on that which is clearly and distinctly known. This foundation is in what is known in the mind and not the senses. He begins by bringing into doubt all the beliefs that come to us from the senses (1st Meditation) He withholds assent from those things that he cannot completely assent to with certainty. As the senses can deceive, as in dreams, they must be rejected as helping us understand what a man is. Ultimately the aim is not to prove that nothing exists or that it is impossible for us to know if anything exists but to show that all our knowledge of these things through the senses is open to doubt. Since we do know that external objects exist, this knowledge cannot come to us through the senses, but through the mind.
    How then do we know things? Again, he starts from the assumption that there is a God who deliberately seeks to deceive. But the very fact that I am deceived it follows that I exist for while I can be deceived about the content of any thought, I cannot be deceived about the fact that I am thinking. But since I only can be certain of the existence of myself as I am thinking, I have knowledge of my existence only as a thinking thing. It remains possible that all knowledge of external objects, including my body, could be false as the result of the actions of a deceiving God. It is not, however, possible that I could be deceived about my existence or my nature as a thinking thing.

    Descartes still has no knowledge of anything outside of his mind. He still has to argue that things exist outside of his mind. He must do this, however, strictly on the basis of the contents of his own mind again as he doubts his own senses.

    He first does this by proving that God exists and possess those attributes that prohibit his deceiving. As God created humans and gave them reason which tells one that ideas come from external corporeal things. If they do not come from external objects, then God must be a deceiver, but he is not. Therefore, material objects exist.
    He now needs to reconcile these two aspects of our nature – mind and body. He does this by separating us into two distinct substances: mind and body. Descartes shows two ways in which mind and body seem to have different properties and as such they must be different things. I can be certain that my mind exists. I cannot be sure that my body exists. As things can be conceived distinctly are different substances the mind and body are separate substance.

    The problem now becomes, if mind and body are separate substances, and what is sensed is less certain knowledge, this would to call into question whether that which exists outside the mind is truly real. As Descartes himself points out, that which is sensed that is not the object of mathematics is questionable. This being so, so much of the world is ultimately called into doubt, and with it, much of what we understand of the world that comes to us through our senses. Can we then really relate to it? How can we go beyond what is merely formed in our mind? And what of social relationships founded on an understanding of another person as sensed and related to through language as a sensed form of communication. Ultimately, we become prisoners of mind, unable to relate truly to that which exists outside of mental states.

    In this way, Enlightenment philosophy can reduce one to the radical individual through a distorted epistomology. However, once this was established, then other disorders of anthropology (the false collectivism of Marxism) emerged

  • MPS wrote regarding Comte: “….Comte never argued against God’s existence, “because it was already resolved, not by way of rational inquiry and philosophical examination, but in virtue of an ethical private option — in virtue of the wholly personal and incommunicable act of non-faith accomplished at the moment when he deliberated about his own life.”
    But didn’t Comte craft a “Religion of Humanity”?
    And what did Science teach him about nature?

  • Phillip wrote: “…Descartes aims to show that science rests on that which is clearly and distinctly known. Since we do know that external objects exist, this knowledge cannot come to us through the senses, but through the mind…”
    Science informed the world, after accumulating its medical data, that Terry Schiavo could no longer think, and therefore in its estimation she no longer “is”. The Courts, in reliance upon scientific findings purporting to measure one’s humanity, permitted Schiavo’s husband to terminate a life deemed no longer to exist.
    Descartes’ elevation of subjective truth over objective truth marginalizes man by assigning him value only if he can perform or think. Man’s humanity as a person with an immortal soul does not factor into this equation.
    Woe to the unborn infant in utero, or the handicapped child, or the elderly stroke victim who might find him or herself unable to be proven to think or perform to the satisfaction of the medical establishment.
    “Cogito Ergo Sum” is the measure of life to Descartes’ progeny…but not to the Catholic Church which recognizes the humaniry of the person from the moment of conception through and including natural death regardless of whether that person can think, or know, or perform.

  • I don’t think that was Descartes’ aim, though that is what moderns made of it. Again, and perhaps strangely, he was seeking for a more certain basis for knowledge. Unfortunately, others took off from his ideas and undermined his purpose. Though this was predictable given his faulty epistomology.

    This to point out, as Bonchamps does in his most recent excellent post, that the Enlightenment project, while flawed, is not uniform in its approaches or errors. Doing so really does no justice to truth.

  • Phillip,
    I am not a philosopher or an academic. My knowledge of Descartes is from my university days years ago and living with the present manifestation of Enlightenment ideas as they play out in the American culture. I am not trying to undermine or mock truth; I am trying to understand how we got to where we are today with the Church being attacked by secularists. The answer I suspect is in philosophical thought and perhaps, as you have suggested, its subversion.
    Do you know whether Descartes had a good relationship with the Church…was he a faithful Catholic?
    Also …you write very well and communicate esoteric ideas in a very comprehensible way…. not an easy thing to do. Are you a philosopher or an academic?

  • Slainté asked, “But didn’t Comte craft a “Religion of Humanity”?

    He did, indeed, with himself as the High Priest of Humanity, with feast days for heroes of Humanism &c

    As for the knowledge of nature, he posits his famous « la loi des trois états » or “law of the three stages,” In the theological state the human mind explained phenomena by “supernatural agents” and by arbitrary wills conceived in the image of man. In the metaphysical state it explained them by abstract entities and hidden causes (“abstract forces inhering in bodies, but distinct and heterogeneous,” and everything was referred to vital forces, substantial forms, natural essences &c). In the positive state it does not seek to explain them, it observes them as facts and unifies them by laws, and so makes itself capable of rational prediction (it restricts itself to “considering them as subjected to a certain number of invariable natural laws which are nothing else than the general expression of the relations observed in their development”).

    To repeat, in this third stage, everything is to be understood in the light of sense-verified science, with both “wills” and “causes” being replaced by “laws” or invariable relations between phenomena.

    Now, many people today, especially those with a scientific background, who have never heard the name of Comte would treat his “law of the three stages” as a common-place, as a statement of the obvious. They are, thus, completely immune to any metaphysical argument, for their criterion of truth excludes them a priori.

  • Philip

    The problem with the Cogito is this: it only guarantees the thinking that thinks this thought. . In his “I think,” I” is no more a referring expression than “it” is a referring expression in “it is raining.”

    Locke exposed this when he asked, “might not the thinking substance which thought the thought “I did it” — the genuine thought of agent-memory — nevertheless be a different thinking substance from the one that could have had the thought: “I am doing it” when the act was done?” Thus, as Miss Anscombe points out, Locke detached the identity of the self or ‘person’ from the identity even of the thinking being which does the actual thinking of the I-thoughts.

    In other words, the “I” has to be constantly re-identified in every act of thinking and Descartes has no way of doing this

  • “Also …you write very well and communicate esoteric ideas in a very comprehensible way…. not an easy thing to do. Are you a philosopher or an academic?”

    Thanks. I have never been accused of writing well. I have a Masters in Philosophy but am not an academic.

    As far as I know, Descartes was a faithful son of the Church. He just got his epistomology wrong.

  • MPS writes, “…In the theological state the human mind explained phenomena by “supernatural agents” and by arbitrary wills..”
    What sort of theology might a humanist like Comte manufacture and what were its “supernatural agents”? Does this in our times as “Ethical Humanism”?
    When we discussed “Natura Pura”, we wrote about “Natural Law existing separately from Revelation” and “Positive Law existing separately from Divine Providence.
    Pre-Enlightenment and the introduction of “positive law”, were the laws that governed men in western christendom rooted in either/or Biblical Revelation or Natural Law? Were they codified and recognized as such?

  • What Maritain says may ring true. It’s passive men unwilling to believe in anything or, God forbid, act on belief. However, it may be a bit digressive to focus on the Comté as if he sprang from the head of Zeus himself! If we are to put the Comté-Atheist, the Enlightenment and the all that follows to the test, shouldn’t we start by questioning and investigating what came before the Enlightenment and Comté? I believe the first thing that we should take a look at is the one European institute (or corporation) that has not appeared to fail Europeans in the last 1000 years. The one self-perpetuating system that has outlasted all other European authorities and remains unquestioned and uncontested because of its successes.

    Where else do you start but the European universities? What else could have birthed a man like Comté or an age like the Enlightenment? Taken to exaggerations and stripped of practical interests; do not the habits, customs and dogmas of this self-perpetuating system track rather closely with those tendencies found in the post-Enlightenment mind?

    – a rigorous individuation
    -a preference for internationalism
    -an unerotic universalism
    -an acquired taste for novelty
    – a fetish for scientific and quantifiable inquiry
    -a unique (and wildly successful) and easily imitative pedagogy, influenced by non-parental adults and weaker social bonds that are, in some ways, more tenacious and fulfilling than any blood bonds you find in traditional kinships and societies.

    And this is the crux of the problem. The University system created in Europe has been resilient through religious wars and political turmoil; it has survived all sorts of poor hypothesis and fashions; it is malleable, adaptable and constantly expanding into more minute areas of human experience, and has bred success both directly and indirectly to the point anyone who questions this system is at best eccentric and more likely the product of a jaundiced Abecedarian-like mind- rightfully so in many regards.

    Yet, since the nations were given representation in running the medieval universities, our intellectual movements have been ever more fashioned and in agreement with the prejudices that arise from the very habits and methods that make the university system so beneficial. That they perpetually shed anything too provincial, intrinsic or relational is a primary feature in making them successful as centers of higher education as well as harmful to quasi-reactionaries in our Enlightened age.

    So without truly confronting our learning institutions, dark-enlightenment enthusiasts are like flounders swimming up stream insisting to any trout that’ll listen that if they do it hard enough, they may actually catch up to and depredate the salmon population. All the while, the schools of Comté-salmon happily spawn over and over again with nary a thought or discomfort. Yet at the same time, the very notion of an educational confrontation from the D.E. crowd is preposterous. 1) There is nothing that could sensibly (and successfully) replace the university from scratch. 2) Chances are any replacement will end up with the same values and tendencies of today’s corporate universities. 3) Opposition to universities would merely attract the very few specific classes, groups and milieus that gravitate towards inchoate rebelliousness and anti-intellectualism. These groups are woefully unhelpful as they either tend to implode quickly or metastasize into something real unsavory and wicked. 4) Most importantly, it is simply not in the character of a conservative or reactionary to overthrow institutions, much less Christians of those stripes!

    Where does that leave you?

  • Hmmmmm writes, “….Where does that leave you?”
    Interested in your thesis and wondering how you would respond to your own queries?
    Welcome to the discussion.

  • As a layperson. Theology and philosophy are bound up inseparably in the human soul. All mention is paid to the mind, as a thinking brain? Free will and intellect, as I know them are attributes of the human soul. The intellect perceives God and the free will assents to knowing, to loving and believing God. And it was to God Descartes turned.
    Terry Schiavo had her will to live destroyed because some people placed her free will to live in her mind, but not in her soul. Terry Schiavo’s will to live, free will, intellect and sovereign personhood inhere in her human soul. The human soul being immortal cannot be destroyed, therefore, Terry Schiavo’s will to live was denied to her, as was her body and all nourishment. Homocide.
    The unborn, the comatose, the alzheimers all will to live, created equal with those who conspire to deny these persons their will to live.
    Philosophy itself is based on the assumption of man’s human soul. The greatest Philosopher, our brother, Jesus Christ, came to earth to save our souls, and in the Resurrection, our minds, wills, intellects, senses and bodies.
    Thank you for letting me give you a piece of my mind.

  • Mary De Voe,

    Actually Mary, not a piece of your mind but something quite profound

  • Botolph: All for God through Jesus.

  • Mary De Voe said, “….Terry Schiavo had her will to live destroyed because some people placed her free will to live in her mind, but not in her soul. Terry Schiavo’s will to live, free will, intellect and sovereign personhood inhere in her human soul. The human soul being immortal cannot be destroyed, therefore, Terry Schiavo’s will to live was denied to her, as was her body and all nourishment. ..”
    Thank you for your wisdom Mary. We must protect the vulnerable against those who would measure a person’s value by their usefullness to society. All people notwithstanding their ability to think or know or perform are valuable and loved; no exceptions ever.

  • Slainté

    For Comte, the “theological stage” in the knowledge of nature was what anthropologists call “animism.” Thus, Bl John Henry Newman says, “It is the notion of power combined with a purpose and an end …. Accordingly, wherever the world is young, the movements and changes of physical nature have been and are spontaneously ascribed by its people to the presence and will of hidden agents, who haunt every part of it, the woods, the mountains and the streams, the air and the stars, for good or for evil.”

    As to Pre-Enlightenment law, the Roman jurists talk a good deal about the “jus gentium,” the laws common to all peoples and therefore rooted in human nature. One can see how this would chime in with Stoic notions of Natural Law, which was influential at the time they wrote (1st – 2nd century AD) Of course, the focus of their interest was private law – the relations between private citizens.

  • Hmmmmm

    The Universities adopted and popularised the Enlightenment, but none of its leaders operated outside the Universities – Voltaire, Diderot, D’Alembert and the Encyclopédistes, Bacon, Hobbes, Rousseau, Descartes, Hume were none of them academics

  • MPS writes, “….For Comte, the “theological stage” in the knowledge of nature was what anthropologists call “animism.”…”
    So the philosopher Comte wasn’t so much an atheist as he was a worshipper of nature not unlike the pagan Druids?
    The philosopher Kant argued that the essence of religion was leading a virtuous life, and everything else was superstition and delusion. Our Lord Jesus Christ then would be counted as merely a figure of superstition and delusion?

  • Slainté wrote, “So the philosopher Comte wasn’t so much an atheist as he was a worshipper of nature not unlike the pagan Druids?”

    No, the “theological” and the “metaphysical” stages are, precisely, stages through which the human mind has to pass, before arriving at the positive stage, which alone is knowledge.

    For Comte, the only real knowledge is reached in the “positive” stage; In which man does not seek to explain nature, he observes the phenomena – the evidence of the senses – as facts and unifies them by laws, and so makes himself capable of rational prediction (the mind restricts itself to “considering them as subject to a certain number of invariable natural laws which are nothing else than the general expression of the relations observed in their development”). He abandons the quest for “causes,” (a notion that belongs to the “metaphysical” stage. Instead, he says, “I burned 2 g of hydrogen in 16 g of Oxygen and I got 18 g of water and I find that this ratio is constant.” From this, he can predict the result of burning any given quantity of hydrogen in any given quantity of oxygen and he can even go on to generalise this, by trying the experiment with other elements and discover “laws” of atomic weight, valence numbers and the like. Whether these “laws” are necessary, or mere statistical generalisations are metaphysical questions and, for Comte, meaningless questions, for the answer cannot possibly be verified by observation.

    Comte certainly recognised the practical and emotional value of religion; he simply insisted that it could not provide us with knowledge. The popular fact/value distinction goes straight back to Comte.

    As for Kant, he would have distinguished the “Christ of faith” from the “Jesus of history,” rejecting the one and revering the other.

  • MPS writes,
    “…the “theological” and the “metaphysical” stages are, precisely, stages through which the human mind has to pass, before arriving at the positive stage, which alone is knowledge.”
    And is there a correlation between Comte’s evolving mind and Hegel’s evolving spirit?

  • Slainté

    The Romantic Movement was under way and historicism was in the air, but that is the only connection. Comte would have rejected any sort of Absolute; for him, only the empirically verifiable was real. He is remarkably modern and with myriad followers who have never heard of him.

  • Michael PS and Slainte,

    Comte is the “father of positivism”. Am I correct in saying this?

  • Botolph asks, “Comte is the “father of positivism”. Am I correct in saying this?”


    Of course, the idea that truth consists in either relations of ideas (logic and mathematics) or matters of fact (empirical science) goes back to David Hume.

    The Vienna Circle, the Logical Positivists and the early Wittgenstein (with reservations) are his modern philosophical descendants, but his ideas have taken hold outside the academy and are simply taken for granted by many who have never opened a work of philosophy. It is part of the Zeitgeist.

    As an heuristic principle, a methodology, in the physical sciences, there is a good deal to be said for it.

  • Mr.Paterson-Seymour,

    Indeed, those you mention may not have been professors in universities. Yet as prominent as those names are, they do not contain the whole era; and with due respect to the French, the Scottish Enlightenment may have been more trans-formative. Were not the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen its biggest proponents? Didn’t Joseph Black, Dugald Stewart, James Playfair, Adam Ferguson, Francis Hutchenson, Hugh Blair, Thomas Brown, Adam Smith, and even Thomas Reid; among others, hold professorships in Scottish universities?

    Of course if we go to the previous age, I imagine the argument could be made that the universities were even more influential.

    Where is the person who not been affected by the teaching of Eramus, Luther, Mair or Bodin?

    I’m aware of your point: in the scheme of grand narratives, how can one point to the universities as the cause when so many prominent individuals (such as the ones mentioned) throughout history were not faculty; were not working for the benefit, progress or furthering the university system; and in some cases, had nothing to do with the communities? Furthermore, it may be faulty thinking to attribute the success of some to their teaching. There are plenty of cases where the thinker was brilliant and came to prominence through the written word but were lousy teachers, completely forgotten and overlooked, stuck in small and remote colleges or taught subjects that were not within their range of genius. These are good objections to my earlier post and one I do not have a ready rebuttal .

    However, many listed were educated through the university system and are not wholly separate from that environment. I do not believe it unreasonable to suggest that we factor in that universities operate like any successful and healthy human organization, developing traits to aid its own preservation and dropping any notions nonessential or harmful to its organizing principles.

July, Springfield and Lincoln

Wednesday, July 20, AD 2011


Well, it is time again in the McClarey household for our mini three day July vacation.  (We take a week off in June and August.)  Today we make our annual pilgrimage down to Springfield to the Lincoln sites.  We say a prayer at the tomb of Mr. Lincoln for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and children.  All of Lincoln’s immediate family are buried there except Robert Lincoln, a Civil War veteran, who is buried in Arlington.

We also go to the Lincoln Museum, which is first rate.  For those of you with time to kill, go here to watch a CSpan two and a half hour (!) tour from 2005 of the Lincoln Museum.

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12 Responses to July, Springfield and Lincoln

  • Hope you have a great time today, Don — but take it easy. The forecast for today: Sunny and hot, high of 98 with heat indexes as high as 116. Time to hunker down in the A/C as much as possible!

  • How true Elaine! Back in the days of the British Raj in India the Brits went on and on about how terrible the summer was in India. I have had Indians tell me that some days in summer in Illinois, with both temperature and humidity soaring, are worse than summer in India!

  • You can blame all the corn for that. Really. Moisture transpiration from all the corn and bean fields is making the humidity worse, but it’s also holding the actual air temperature down a few degrees. Actual triple digit high temps seem to be relatively rare in downstate Illinois. (The last official 100 degree high in Springfield was about 15 years ago.)

  • Ah Illinois, land of temperature extremes. Highest temperature recorded in the state was 117, and the lowest was -36.

  • We’ll be headed to Manassas this weekend to see the 150th anniversary reenactment of where the war almost all went bad for Mr. Lincoln and his picnicking Yankee cohort.

  • I will have commemorative posts for First Bull Run Jay, a name that I have always found more evocative than First Manassas, up both here and at Almost Chosen People. The battle was fascinating for what it predicted about the fighting in the rest of the Civil War.

  • It’s “First Manassas”. You can give the Yankee names to the battles y’all won.


  • Don,
    It is very nice to reflect on the past and all the good that Abe Lincoln did. It makes me think about our present day cowardice on behalf of our Catholic bishops and political leaders and the 1.3 million unborn humans being murdered every year.

  • It is hard to attack a well-established evil in a society that enjoys the support of powerful forces. The only way to win such a struggle is to fight it out until the struggle is won. Never despair, never stop fighting and never stop focusing on the humanity of the unborn. Like the slaves of yesteryear they are people being treated as property. Ultimately, as in the case of slavery, we will win this struggle, no matter how long it takes or how great the cost.

  • It seems to me that many of the political figures whom we end up revering for their honesty and integrity are NOT necessarily those who enjoy “rock star” status or have cults of personality built up around them. More often than not they seem to be second choice or compromise candidates chosen to split the difference between two wings of the party, or to satisfy a desire for “balance” on the national ticket.

    Lincoln wasn’t the front runner for the 1860 Republican nomination; William Seward was, and the convention more or less “settled” on Lincoln because Seward was seen as too radical on slavery. Abolitionists certainly wouldn’t have seen Lincoln as their political savior in 1860. Yet, it was on his watch that the slaves were finally freed (for the most part).

    Likewise I still believe that if Roe is ever overturned or legalized abortion on demand ever comes to an end, it could very well happen on the “watch” of a president who is NOT necessarily a hard core conservative, or a devout Catholic or evangelical Protestant, or even a Republican (he or she could belong to a political party that doesn’t yet exist, just as the Republican Party didn’t yet exist in 1850).

  • “Except for the politicians who infest it, Springfield is a lovely town. Filled with historical sites, it retains a small town feel. You can park on the street at very little cost, and life tends to move at a sedate Central Illinois pace most of the time.”

    I’d have to agree with that, which is one reason why hubby and I have stayed here longer (6 years and counting) than in any other community we have lived in since we got married almost 17 years ago. Actually, you don’t run into too many politicians on a regular basis unless you 1) work for certain state agencies or 2) frequent particular restaurants, hotels, bars and other hangouts favored by the political crowd during legislative session days.

40 Responses to Wisconsin Public Unions Defy The People’s Will

  • I’m very skeptical that they receive more than $44K in benefits.

  • I am ashamed that a site claiming to be Catholic would engage in such blatant misdirection. The average teacher’s salary in Wisconsin is not $100K. The article cited correctly states that total compensation, which includes, pension, salary, health benefits and probably other benefits, is over $100K. The average teacher makes $56K.

    Yes, the correct information is in the article cited, but the statement made in the post is wrong as stated and requires the reader to follow up to get the truth. A Catholic web site should put a higher standard on truth.

    In general, I am more often than not discouraged by the fact that American Catholic in general seems to be more interested in blogging about economically conservative (even though faithful (not cafeteria) catholics in the USA can disagree on those ideas) topics and even football than they are about issues of real substance to American Catholics.

    RR: With respect to the $44K in benefits, I can easily believe that figure. The cost of health insurance, particularly the relatively generous health plans state workers get, will probably top $15K per year for a family plan. In similar fashion, a generous pension that kicks in at 55 means the average teacher will be collecting their pension for almost as long as they actually spent working (Figure someone who makes it to 55 has better than even odds of making it to 80). Add other benefits like life insurance, sick pay, vacation pay (Though most teachers only get a few days of that per year), disability coverage, etc. and I can well see the figure hitting $44K.

  • MarylandBill,

    I would imagine that the mistake you point out is the result of mis-reading rather than malice. Assuming the contrary does not appear to get anyone anywhere.

    That said, most people prefer not to have to accept salary or benefit cuts. I don’t see the teachers are necessarily a “selfish bunch” for trying to keep their total compensation package the same as it is now. However, given that the public probably does not want to increase taxes further, they’re clearly going to have to end up accepting some sort of cuts, whether it’s some teachers getting laid off or all taking a benefit decrease.

    That, or the cuts get pushed off onto some other budget item and teacher compensation remains the same while some other program gets cut.

  • Bill, if the State Gov’t didn’t pay for those items for the teachers, they’d need to pay the teachers more money so that they could afford those items. It’s not so much a “blatant misdirection” as a “understanding finances differently than you” type of thing.

    I also believe you, Bill, are missing out on a lot of posts if you think that these guys only post about football and economics.

  • Bill,

    Total compensation equates to everything the teachers receive.

    It’s interesting how you read into what I typed as malice.


    100% of what you say is untrue.

    See, if I wanted to, I can make stuff up like you.

  • My wife worked for the diocese as a school teacher. Made 29K after being a teacher for 12 years. Health and dental benefits were minimal and required a huge contribution. NO retirement benefits. Also no union allowed. If it was social justice for the Church…

  • Phillip,

    Your wife will be rewarded in Heaven. She is an excellent example of selflessness and self-giving.

    Wisconsin teachers are the diametric opposite.

  • I wonder if vacation time is included as part of the benefits calculation. If so, then it’s easy to see how the average teacher would be getting more than $44k in benefits.

  • Tito,

    I’d tell her that but she might use it the next time she wants that trip to Florida. 🙂

    I like Jonah Goldberg’s take:,0,4678423.column

  • You can’t include unpaid vacation as part of total monetary compensation. If we did that, the unemployed are very well off.

    One of the biggest benefits of the union busting bill, IMO, is that it allows collective bargaining only for wages. That should result in less non-wage compensation. We’ll get a better idea of the total compensation.

    Tito, what did I make up?

  • Fire them all. Replace them with non-union teachers. Charge them with fraud and derilection of duty. Suspend the licenses of the doctors who gave them fake excuse slips. Use the videos and pictures as evidence. This must not be allowed to prevail.

  • RR,

    I don’t think I understand your point, or I think you may just be missing Tito’s (and mine) about teacher pay (and no, not maliciously):

    Let’s say a public school teacher works 200 days/year (including school-year holidays off and summer vacations)–I don’t know if that figure is too high, but let’s just use it for comparison’s sake. Then let’s take a private-sector employee who works 260 days/year (with the usual holidays off and two weeks paid vacation). if Jane teacher makes $56K in salary for those 200 days, while Joan private-sector employee makes $60K/year for her 260 days of work, then who gets the better salary, annual work time considered? That’s why many economic writers, when discussing salaries for teachers and professors, will perform a simple equivalency calculation to those in the private sector who receive far less time off. It doesn’t matter if one considers the summer vacation of teachers “paid time off” or “unpaid time off” if their salaries for their actual work time are considerably higher than those for the equivalent work time of private-sector employees.

    To all of the above, the usual caveats apply: no, not all teachers are so well-compensated, nor are all private employees badly compensated. And yes, for now I am a professor, although at a Catholic college whose pay rates for professors are 40% below the state average for public-college professors here in Texas. I only wish I made $56K/year plus generous benefits!

  • Some more perspective on public unions’ power. Again, contrary to CST? Probably.

  • You can’t include unpaid vacation as part of total monetary compensation.

    I don’t know whether summer vacation is included in the benefits calculation. But it seems reasonable to do something to take account of the fact that a teacher’s yearly salary represents pay for nine months work, as opposed to twelve months for most everyone else.

  • BA,

    I’m sure someone will rebut that it’s not a 9-month job, that there are many unpaid hours that go into teaching. Maybe so, but I think the unpaid hours vary by the commitment of the individual teacher. I think it’s entirely possible to do the bare minimum and keep the job.

  • From “On Human Work” regarding unions.

    “20. Importance of Unions

    All these rights, together with the need for the workers themselves to secure them, give rise to yet another right: the right of association, that is to form associations for the purpose of defending the vital interests of those employed in the various professions. These associations are called labour or trade unions. The vital interests of the workers are to a certain extent common for all of them; at the same time however each type of work, each profession, has its own specific character which should find a particular reflection in these organizations.

    In a sense, unions go back to the mediaeval guilds of artisans, insofar as those organizations brought together people belonging to the same craft and thus on the basis of their work. However, unions differ from the guilds on this essential point: the modern unions grew up from the struggle of the workers-workers in general but especially the industrial workers-to protect their just rights vis-a-vis the entrepreneurs and the owners of the means of production. Their task is to defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors in which their rights are concerned. The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies. Obviously, this does not mean that only industrial workers can set up associations of this type. Representatives of every profession can use them to ensure their own rights. Thus there are unions of agricultural workers and of white-collar workers; there are also employers’ associations. All, as has been said above, are further divided into groups or subgroups according to particular professional specializations.

    Catholic social teaching does not hold that unions are no more than a reflection of the “class” structure of society and that they are a mouthpiece for a class struggle which inevitably governs social life. They are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions. However, this struggle should be seen as a normal endeavour “for” the just good: in the present case, for the good which corresponds to the needs and merits of working people associated by profession; but it is not a struggle “against” others. Even if in controversial questions the struggle takes on a character of opposition towards others, this is because it aims at the good of social justice, not for the sake of “struggle” or in order to eliminate the opponent. It is characteristic of work that it first and foremost unites people. In this consists its social power: the power to build a community. In the final analysis, both those who work and those who manage the means of production or who own them must in some way be united in this community. In the light of this fundamental structure of all work-in the light of the fact that, in the final analysis, labour and capital are indispensable components of the process of production in any social system-it is clear that, even if it is because of their work needs that people unite to secure their rights, their union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it.

    Just efforts to secure the rights of workers who are united by the same profession should always take into account the limitations imposed by the general economic situation of the country. Union demands cannot be turned into a kind of group or class “egoism”, although they can and should also aim at correcting-with a view to the common good of the whole of society- everything defective in the system of ownership of the means of production or in the way these are managed. Social and socioeconomic life is certainly like a system of “connected vessels”, and every social activity directed towards safeguarding the rights of particular groups should adapt itself to this system.

    In this sense, union activity undoubtedly enters the field of politics, understood as prudent concern for the common good. However, the role of unions is not to “play politics” in the sense that the expression is commonly understood today. Unions do not have the character of political parties struggling for power; they should not be subjected to the decision of political parties or have too close links with them. In fact, in such a situation they easily lose contact with their specific role, which is to secure the just rights of workers within the £ramework of the common good of the whole of society; instead they become an instrument used for other purposes.

    Speaking of the protection of the just rights of workers according to their individual professions, we must of course always keep in mind that which determines the subjective character of work in each profession, but at the same time, indeed before all else, we must keep in mind that which conditions the specific dignity of the subject of the work. The activity of union organizations opens up many possibilities in this respect, including their efforts to instruct and educate the workers and to foster their selfeducation. Praise is due to the work of the schools, what are known as workers’ or people’s universities and the training programmes and courses which have developed and are still developing this field of activity. It is always to be hoped that, thanks to the work of their unions, workers will not only have more, but above all be more: in other words, that they will realize their humanity more fully in every respect.

    One method used by unions in pursuing the just rights of their members is the strike or work stoppage, as a kind of ultimatum to the competent bodies, especially the employers. This method is recognized by Catholic social teaching as legitimate in the proper conditions and within just limits. In this connection workers should be assured the right to strike, without being subjected to personal penal sanctions for taking part in a strike. While admitting that it is a legitimate means, we must at the same time emphasize that a strike remains, in a sense, an extreme means. It must not be abused; it must not be abused especially for “political” purposes. Furthermore it must never be forgotten that, when essential community services are in question, they must in every case be ensured, if necessary by means of appropriate legislation. Abuse of the strike weapon can lead to the paralysis of the whole of socioeconomic life, and this is contrary to the requirements of the common good of society, which also corresponds to the properly understood nature of work itself. “

  • My skepticism is directed only at the $100K+ figure. Maybe public school teachers are very well compensated per hour of work but that doesn’t mean you can extrapolate from high hourly income to high annual income.

  • I know where my sentiments lie on this issue. But with regard to the cartoon, why shouldn’t the state senators take every procedural step for their cause, even including “quorum-busting”?

  • Here are my emotions on the issue: I hated school and I hate taxes.

    Some times the achievements of government programs do not justify the expenses.

    Pinky: One, two can play that game; Two, elections and the consent of the governed matter. Pinkoes term that “dictatorship of the majority.”

  • In Milwaukee, the average TOTAL COMPENSATION package tops $100k.

    I’m sure someone will rebut that it’s not a 9-month job, that there are many unpaid hours that go into teaching.
    Sounds like a salaried position. This sort of thing abounds outside the realm of education. It’s not unique (and I don’t think you were asserting so) to teachers.

    My gut feeling is that teachers in WI don’t realize how well they have it comparatively. I see that in my own job (unionized engineers). Those that have not worked elsewhere don’t seem to realize that their benefits package is better than most.

  • Big Tex,

    No kidding. Their benefits package is better because they’re unionized. Don’t worry, though. Soon we’ll all be scraping by on $40,000, paying the majority of taxes, and our health costs will rise and rise. Fun times ahead!

    And then the richest 1% might get to own 30% of all actual wealth in the country!!

  • Actually WJ public employee unions did well because they hired their bosses through massive political donations and providing bodies for campaigns. Then the bosses paid back the unions through lucrative benefits packages and salaries, with the tab picked up by the taxpayers. It was a sweet deal for all concerned, except for the taxpayers. Now the money has run out and the public employee unions will soon be one with amalgamated buggy whip manufacturers. Of course, any members of the public employee unions who do not like the new economic reality are free to join the rest of us in the private sector!

  • Here is a link to a list of top political donors 1989-2010. It is astonishing that the Republicans are competitive politically in this country with the way the Democrats dominate big money donors, mostly, but not exclusively, labor unions, with most corporate donors giving similar amounts to Democrats and Republicans.

  • RR,

    “Total compensation” reflects the amount of money it takes to employ someone – and as these are government employees, that is how much of the taxpayer’s money it takes to keep one teacher on the job for a year: $100,000.00. It doesn’t mean the teacher takes all that home, but it is the total cost. The average total compensation of a private sector worker in the United States is about 40% less – it is absurd that any public sector worker should, on average, have a higher total compensation than the taxpayers who pay the bills.

    More important than the benefit package – that issue the Democrats are willing to surrender on – is the fact that Walker and the GOP are going for the liberal jugular – if unions cannot negotiate back room deals with politicians bought via campaign contributions, then the whole liberal power structure collapses. There is no public constituency for Big Government other than public sector unions…no one who will go to the mat for spending increases on other people. While a majority might, in theory, be in favor of, say, spending more money on government education, hardly anyone who doesn’t have a kid in school or employment with government will bestir themselves to ensure that such spending happens. So, too, with spending on the EPA, the Department of Energy, Commerce, etc…only those who are directly concerned with the government actions will organize and agitate for increased spending…taking the unions out of the equation means that there simply won’t be the “oomph” behind such efforts necessary…and that means that small government people will gain the whip hand in debates.

    This action, whether it was intended or not, is a new, American liberation…freeing us from the baleful and destructive hand of Big Government…and the unions who depend upon it know it, and will fight it tooth and nail with their Big Government allies among the Democrat and RINO parts of the Ruling Class.

  • Noonan, I’m aware what “total compensation” is, though some others seem to be confused. I’d love to see proof of this $100K figure. It’s possible but an average of $44K in benefits seems high so I’d like to see proof.

  • I really don’t know who to believe when it comes to the degree of public support, or opposition for Walker. On the one hand I can see where these protests and the Democratic legislators are doing more harm than good for their cause. On the other hand, there are still plenty of people out there who see unions as their best or last line of defense against the extinction of the middle class. I agree that the disproportionate power of public employee unions needs to be curbed, but Walker is taking a huge gamble here. He may succeed in breaking the union stranglehold on government, but it could still prove to be a Pyrrhic victory that costs the GOP far more goodwill than it gains.

  • there are still plenty of people out there who see unions as their best or last line of defense against the extinction of the middle class.

    Business proprietors are never union members and salaried employees very seldom are outside the public sector. How does one suppose that union membership will prevent the ‘extinction’ of a social stratum they never included? Given that only about 15% of wage earners in the private sector are members of unions, it is difficult to see how more than incremental modifications in income distribution are effected by union contracts.

    Unions in our time are first and foremost a crooked lobby for the interest of public employees as public employees.

  • RR,

    People in the video within this link ( plainly state it. They appear to be school board members of some government functionary… and not some sort of budget cutting crusader.

  • Perhaps I’m the only one who sees Americans protesting–expressing their concerns and making demands of their government–as a wonderful thing. It is a reminder that this country was founded on the principles of a representative government, so for Americans to finally stand up for their needs and make their voice heard speaks volumes about the system that we have inherited. I don’t care if it’s people protesting their second amendment right or their right to collective bargaining–it is indeed that something to embrace as citizens.

    That being said, I’m not a teacher nor a resident of Wisconsin, so for me to say that these teachers have enough money and have no reason to protest, would be overreaching. We have to be careful when we say to people “you have enough benefits–enough money to live on.” Last time I checked, that is what Hugo Chávez does all the time to our middle class back in Venezuela.

  • It took at lot of clicking through links but I think I got to the bottom of it. The $44K in benefits is arrived at by dividing total expenditure on benefits (including Social Security and Medicare) by the number of active teachers. It includes benefits for current retirees. It doesn’t include unfunded obligations. So there’s significant over and under inclusion. I couldn’t find which predominates.

  • Perhaps I’m the only one who sees Americans protesting–expressing their concerns and making demands of their government–as a wonderful thing.

    You mean the Tea Party? 🙂

  • “Last time I checked, that is what Hugo Chávez does all the time to our middle class back in Venezuela.”

    And what the teachers union is trying to do to the middle class in Wisconsin.

  • Actually, the claim that a group of people have enough money so we can tax them is quite a leftist thing.

  • Perhaps I’m the only one who sees Americans protesting–expressing their concerns and making demands of their government–as a wonderful thing.

    You’re not the only one.

    I think it’s great that what is happening in Wisconsin (just as long as it isn’t violent).

    What I don’t sympathize with is that, with benefits included, these teachers make on average $100,000/year, more than most Americans take in.

  • “How does one suppose that union membership will prevent the ‘extinction’ of a social stratum they never included? Given that only about 15% of wage earners in the private sector are members of unions..”

    I find it hard to believe that union membership “never included” the middle class. Union membership peaked at about 35 percent of the U.S. workforce during the postwar industrial boom of the late ’40s and early ’50s. I would guess that a lot of them were, or became, middle class, if you define middle class as being able to buy a home and at least one vehicle, being able to purchase TV sets and most major appliances, take vacations, etc. They couldn’t all have been dirt poor or filthy rich.

    According to Wikipedia, from 1953 to the late 1980s union membership in construction fell from 84% to 22%, manufacturing from 42% to 25%, mining from 65% to 15%, and transportation from 80% to 37%.

    The question is, was this decline in union membership seen as a good thing or a bad thing by the workers themselves? Is it something that workers were by and large happy to see — were they eager to rid themselves of oppressive union bosses — or is it merely something they have learned to live with as a result of globalization, NAFTA, and other forces beyond their control, but would prefer had not happened? How many people blame union greed for driving manufacturing and other industries out of their states or overseas, vs. how many blame corporate greed? And how many blame both?

    My guess is that among those who think unions, while prone to abuses, are basically a good thing; who attribute the relative prosperity of the WWII and Baby Boom generations to unionism; and who wish they could still enjoy the benefits of union membership, are not going to be easily convinced that public employee unions are THE enemy.

    Yes, they will grouse about public employees being overpaid, lazy, and leeching off the taxpayers, and they will agree that concessions need to be made. But when push comes to shove, if they are forced to choose sides, they will side with the unions. And I suspect that certain elements of the GOP may have seriously underestimated how much residual goodwill remains toward the labor movement, and how much the public regards corporate greed (accurately or not), not union greed, as the real enemy of prosperity.

    That is why I believe that the best approach to this issue is NOT to unnecessarily stir up class warfare and pit public employees against private ones but to emphasize that it is in EVERYONE’s interest, no matter who they work for, to have a government that lives within its means and does not make promises that can’t be kept.

    Speaking of which, I predict (you heard it here first) that regardless of the outcome in Wisconsin, Ohio, et. al., the next big battle over public employee benefits may be between competing factions of Democrats, right here in Illinois. Our Democratic governor recently proposed a budget that leaves public employee unions pretty much untouched — in fact ADDS more employees in some areas like prisons — but makes drastic cuts in many human service programs, in Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes, etc. And this is even AFTER approving the infamous tax increase.

    Just wait till those factions start fighting over the crumbs of the budget. If every vendor, service provider, doctor, pharmacist, nursing home, etc. who had ever been stiffed by the State of Illinois decided to stage their own protest march on Springfield, it would probably dwarf the one in Madison!

  • Check out this statement by Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison concerning the labor situation:

    This is linked to also over at Fr. Z’s blog. (The note about the statement only being intended for distribution within the diocese doesn’t mean no one else is supposed to read it; it means that it is particularly addressed to Catholics of that diocese.)

  • Mr Talbot’s comments are ludicrous. Pope Pius the Tenth and Cardinal Mannig of England two of the most faithful resolute Catholics in many years SUPPORTED unions throughout their lives. It is sad so many arrogant Republicans from the General Jaruselski wing of the GOP such as Pence of Indiana, the fool govenor of Wisconsin and the late Ronald Reagan who had so much to say about Lech Walensa’s struggle to win benefits, bargaining rights, union reps. and wages are so much like General Jaruselski (Red Poland) when it comes to workers in this country. The Governor of Wisconsin is the height of Arrogance like Gen Jaruselski when he tries to use fiscal problems in Wisconsin to treat workers like the way Lech Walenska and the Solidarity union workers were treated by Red Poland., Pius the tenth and cardinal Manning fought their whole conservative lives against this while remaining true to the morals and faith of Catholicism. Manning (English Cardinal and Pope Pius the tenth urged people to form unions. ALL benefits such as the minimum wage, 40 hour work week, defined benefits pension, sick leave were given to workers by unions forcing bosses and their shills in the government(Poland, Wisconsin-USa etc.) to give this to all USA Americans and the Polish workers after Years of oppositions to every single one of these. Non union workers often almost NEVER have a 40 hour work week, pensions ,either Defined benefit or IRA, any kind of sick leave whatsoever, let alone senority or job security. Sad to say Mr. talbot is a sorry excuse for a Catholic and like the arrogant sorry excuse for a Wisconsin govenor never read the Catholic faith conservatives like Cardinal Manning and Pope Pius the tenth,& JP the second teaching- urgeing and supporting of Catholic to join unions. This is also why the very conservative pro life John Paul the second, openly and in monetary-secret terms supported Lech Walensa in Poland trying to achieve in Poland what the unions are defending against Jaruselski’s govenor clone in Wisconsin. Manning(Cardinal) and two Popes ,Pius the tenth and JP-2nd knew and preached that without unions collective barginning for wages-benfits you have Red, China, Poland etc. and NOT a free let alone a Christian Catholic society. Shame on Mr. Talbot for claiming his anti union jargon is even remotely Catholic, Cardinal Manning, and Pope John the second and Pius the tenth said and believed otherwise. Sincerely.Ed ,Pro Life, Pro family-Pro union for everybody from Poland to Wisconsin

  • It was Pope JP the second that should be the pope in my last paragraph of a previous post , Sincerely, Ed M. waterbury, Ct.

  • if you define middle class as being able to buy a home and at least one vehicle, being able to purchase TV sets and most major appliances, take vacations, etc. They couldn’t all have been dirt poor or filthy rich.

    I would not define ‘middle-class’ that way.

    About 65% of the population lives in owner-occupied housing. This figure has changed little in the last several decades. About 85% of the adult population own motor vehicles. Many of the remainder are college students and old folks who are unsafe behind the wheel. Television sets were (by 1970) found in 96% of American homes. Most of the remainder were accounted for by country people out of range of broadcast signals and by members of the intelligentsia. I doubt there are too many people younger than the two of us who remember apartments with shared kitchens. The last time I was in one was around about 1974.

    The foregoing improvements in consumption are attributable to improvements in productivity. Very little can be attributed to the re-distribution (from the salaried ranks to wage-earners and between strata of wage-earners) that accompanies the formation of labor cartels. The per capita income of the United States has trebled during the post war period. That is not going to magically evaporate if the extant unions are re-chartered as benevolent associations for the purchase of insurance and the provision of portable pensions.

    As for the ‘dirt poor’, a comfortable majority of the 20% or so whose personal income from other than public benefits lies below a statutory baseline are so because they are alienated from the workforce for a variety of reasons (age, disability, or learned helplessness). Unions are no help to them. As for the ‘filthy rich’, people with sufficient assets to live in modest comfort from a private income amount to about 4% of the population. Somehow, I do not see the strata which comprehend 3/4ths of the popuation evaporating and being redistributed to these other strata because the labor cartels which organize 15% of the workforce are dissolved.

The Lure of Authoritarianism

Wednesday, March 31, AD 2010

61 Responses to The Lure of Authoritarianism

  • That’s a very poor measure. China is starting from a lower base. Even if it does everything right, the U.S. will have a higher standard of living for a while.

  • “There seems an odd attraction towards Chinese-style authoritarianism among certain more technocratic/elitist segments of the left-leaning political elite.”

    An excellent post as usual Darwin but I disagree that it is odd. Most Leftists since the time of the Russian Revolution have had an attraction towards totalitarian regimes of the Left. Orwell was very much the exception to this rule. China, although it has strayed in many ways from the days of Mao and his little red book which thrilled so many contemporary Leftists in the days of their youth in the Sixties, still is officially a Communist regime and antagonistic usually to the policies of the US, and thus something to be mentioned in praiseworthy terms by the herd of independent minds on the Left, another typical example being linked below.

  • (it is, after all, rather easy to dislike the US for a number of reasons — we are, as the saying goes, over-paid, over-sexed, and over here)

    The phrase was supposedly common in Britain during the Second World War. The trouble with this thesis is that the overwhelming majority of American soldiers and sailors billeted overseas are in one of seven countries where reside about 5% of the world’s population (Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Korea, Japan, Germany, and Britain). I do not think social contact with the American military explains much of the generic hostility to the United States you find abroad.

    Orwell was very much the exception to this rule.

    Prof. Paul Hollander has said this was true among the subset of chatterati who went on guided tours of communist countries (“for every Andre Gide there were ten G.B. Shaw’s”). In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).

  • “In fairness to our leftoid intelligentsia, there has always been a vigorous and at times modal strain which had no time for this sort of thing (Reinhold Neibuhr, Irving Howe, Michael Walzer, and Robert Leiken being examples).”

    Quite right, although they usually were regarded as heretics by a fair amount of the Left.

  • Art Deco,

    I was perhaps being too clever by half in using the “overpaid, oversexed, and over here” phase, but to clarify: My intent was not at all to convey it was contact with members of the US military which turned people off the US, but rather that:

    1) We are the richest country in the world (and thus its easy for people to claim we’re spoiled, out of touch, greedy, etc. (thus overpaid)

    2) Our popular culture (which is widely exported) is fairly degraded from the point of view of many traditional cultures. (thus oversexed)

    3) Our cultural, financial and political influence per pervasive throughout the world. (thus over here)

    Restrained Radical,

    It seems to me that people general emigrate to a country based on the degree of opportunity they believe they’ll experience there. It would seem pretty clear then, that people see more opportunity in the US than in China. I suppose one could claim that the rapidity of change in China suggests that at some point in the future there will be more opportunity for people there than in the US — but I don’t think you’d actually find many people who believe that.

  • Discussions of net immigration are of passing interest. What is most unsettling in all of this is the admiration of authoritarianism. Although the American Left has always flirted with authoritarianism, and I have no objective historical measure of it, my personal sense is that there’s a growing impatience with democratic processes, a growing desire to use executive and judicial powers to force unpopular or controversial policies, and a growing feeling that we can no longer abide politics as usual.

    I’m not sure why I have this personal opinion, except for perhaps the kinds of stories linked to by Darwin. Even a casual reading of news headlines today gives one the impression that there’s a sense of urgency to the progressive agenda like never before. The previous president was such a bogeyman in the Left’s imagination, they believed that the only way to counter his “disastrous” administration was to have a strong executive of their own. And whatever faults Bush had — one might argue he was at the vanguard of the “strong executive” model — there’s no comparison to the breakneck speed with which the Left wants to take that ball and run with it.

  • Friedman’s Lincoln Steffens-ish cheerleading for China is well past embarrassing.

    Otherwise bright people have the strangest blind spots.

  • Our current cultural elites go on pilgrimages to Cuba and Venezuela. It’s the same thing.

  • Its perhaps human to believe that what you know is perfectly right and it must be implemented. This seems to be more a problem of the left than of the right though both are possessed of it. of course one can say that it is in the nature of the left to want to change society into their “progressive” vision (of course not realizing their progress may be over the edge of a cliff) as opposed to the right which seeks to be skeptical of change.

    It doesn’t help that this country handed those on the left the means to enact a radical agenda (the most liberal president in history, a fillibuster proof Senate and a solid House majority with an ultra-liberal Speaker.) It doesn’t help that most Americans were not informed enough to vote against this.

    One can then understand the impatience of the left when members of Congress didn’t toe the line and enact all of the ultra liberal agenda. The answer then begins to reject the democratic process.

  • Of course all of this in the context of some who believe the “right” to pump breast milk in a special room is a right to life issue.

  • Phillip:


    While I find the overall illogic of the argument risible (a few sops in a bill that vastly expands abortion funding and access does not make it palatable), I think a good case can be made that provisions which make pregnancy and motherhood more reconcilable with work are in and of themselves pro-life.

  • Though it is quuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiitttttteeeeeeee a stretch to say that mandating a separate, private room for pumping breast milk vs. using a the current, private bathroom for pumping breast milk is a major pro-life move and a major advance for pregnancy and motherhood. Sorry, it really isn’t.

  • And thus the silliness of much current thought on social justice.

  • Maybe some will consider this to label me some sort of knuckle dragger, but I’m not clear how cementing the normality of women going back to full time, in-office work while their children are still nursing age if necessarily a pro-life victory.

    Which is not to say that no women should be working outside the home shortly after giving birth, but it would seem that from a point of view of upholding the natural family, situations that involve putting a child under 12 months in daycare are less than ideal. Not everyone can pull off being a single income family, and perhaps some don’t want to, but I don’t see that pumping breast milk in one’s cube or in the bathroom or in some other private place is a major anti-life problem. And I do see the increasing societal pressure that all mothers should work full time, and do so outside the home starting at most 2-3 months after birth, as being a serious negative from a pro-family point of view.

  • I’m sympathetic to the argument that another mandate from our increasingly intrusive current government is onerous.

    But forcing the mother into the crapper presents its own problems. As my wife (who used a breast pump in the toilet back when she was in the wage-earning workforce) pointed out: “Who else has to prepare their meals in the bathroom?”

  • Even beyond that, there is the silliness of saying that it is a “pro-life” issue. This while the real probability that abortions will be paid for and probably increased as a result is ignored. But heck, we get special breast pump rooms in the workplace.

  • Sure, Darwin, it’s a problem. Ideally, Mom would be able to stay home. That’s what *we’ve* been able to do, all thanks to God.

    But that doesn’t work for everyone, and there are good (as well as not good) reasons for the mom to work. Starting with an absent dad, and going from there.

    I’m not saying it’s ideal, nor should I be construed as regarding it as a pro-life victory for the ages. But we have to meet people where they are, and any reasonable incentive supporting, or removal of stigma from, motherhood in the workplace should be welcome and seen as pro-life.

  • Actually it really isn’t much of a pro-life victory. Not at all. Such thinking belongs in the crapper.

  • Phillip, I said that at the outset. I said it’s an abortion funder. It’s not to be celebrated. In fact, from the perspective of the blog poster in question, it’s as ludicrous as a pro-Iraq War blogger calling the War pro-life because of the reconstruction funds given to Iraqs.

    Bracketing all of that, as I expressly did from the outset, I think those provisions which support pregnancy and motherhood are helpful from a pro-life perspective. Not that any can counterbalance the great evils stemming therefrom, but helpful.

  • Again, pointing out that I do not believe it is a pro-life issue. It is really morally neutral. Some may be in favor. Less bacteria in a separate room (perhaps if it is kept very clean. Though of course there are about as many bacteria in a nursery room as a bathroom and women pump there.) But some may see it as not much of an issue at all from a pro-life perspective. That it really isn’t pro-lefe. And it really isn’t.

  • May you and yours have a blessed Triduum, Phillip.

  • And to yours also as we disagree on this small, prudential point.

  • I guess it’s something that goes both ways. Within the modern context, it is a slight concession towards parenthood, and in that context thus good. On the other hand, it strikes me as upholding a modern, individualized lifestyle over a traditional one, and in that sense strikes me as a negative.

    One thing that sometimes strikes me when progressive pro-lifers list these kind of things as pro-life victories is that things like subsidized child care, extra working-mom mandatory concessions, etc. end up increasing the marginal cost of being a more traditional family. Essentially, I as a single income end up making less (both because of taxes and because my company devotes more money to offering benefits I have no use for rather than to wages) in order to subsidize people who due to their two-income households make twice what I do in order to support fewer kids. (These same people, around the office, often express wonder as to how one could possibly afford to have four kids rather than their own one or two — despite the fact their household incomes are twice mine.)

    So there’s a sense in which pushing these benefits too hard (as, for example, with the amount of subsidized childcare, leave, etc. in Western Europe) makes it even harder to break with the system and have a more traditional family structure instead.

    On the other hand, moves which reduce the “my world will end if I carry this pregnancy to term” factor are clearly a good thing from the pro-life point of view.

  • Phillip:

    Agreed. And I wanted to remind myself that I was speaking with a Catholic brother in Christ. It wasn’t one of those passive-aggressive “I’ll pray for you” digs-drenched-in-piety.

  • Darwin:

    Good points, all. Recognition of “unintended consequences” doesn’t pop up often enough in evaluating these sorts of things.

  • Thanks Dale. I have been brusque and apologize if offense was taken. I will say that I tire of those (not saying you) that will take minor provisions (that often in fact are prudential judgments) and ignore massive support for intrinsic evils. Part of the problem I think with the USCCB Faithful Citizenship document. Seen some use that document to say that so and so is pro-abortion, but is in favor of increased food stamp funding and gun control so he is pro-life on two out of three issues – vote for him.

  • Well, Darwin, there is a considerable degree of antagonism to the United States in Western Europe, which approaches or exceeds us in its level of affluence and in the prevalence of bastardy, among other metrics of cultural degradation. One might also note that the bulge bracket banks in Britain and Spain are actually larger and more inclined toward international business than their American counterparts.

    Maybe the characters at Vox Nova

  • Well, nowhere did I say the breast pump law was a “major pro-life victory.” But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

  • DarwinCatholic, there’s greater economic opportunity in the US because of the higher standard of living. Compare the earnings of a restaurant employee in China to one in the US and you’ll see why they come here. There are large immigrant populations in Singapore and Dubai, very authoritarian countries with very high standards of living. Authoritarianism is usually opposed to economic development but there are plenty of exceptions (China today, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, pre-1990’s South Korea).

    There’s also the lure of excellent higher education. An internationally respected university takes many decades, perhaps centuries, to build so the US is safe in that department for a while.

    Ethnic diversity also helps. Pretty much any citizen of the world can move to the US and find an ethnic enclave to live in, making the move much easier.

  • Good to see you here Michael. Actually as Darwin points out and as Dale agrees, there may be unintended consequences to this “pro-life” measure that wind up being anti-life. That as opposed to the actual,intrinsically anti-life reality of the health care bill.

  • Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?

    Hmmm. That’s an interesting theory, Michael. Maybe you could flesh it out a bit. You’ve been a parent for how long, Michael? You have how many children? You have spent how many years, as a parent, working in offices consisting of 50 employees or more and understanding the financial and personal pressures that apply to single and double income families respectively?

    To help ground our discussion, I can provide the following answers to the above questions:

    Eight years. Five. Six years (during my first two years of parenthood I was working for a company with only ~30 employees.)

    Doubltess your longer years being a parent, larger number of children, and more extensive workplace experience as a parent gives you a deeper and broader understanding of all this. Surely you wouldn’t simply be praising this as a “significant and praiseworthy bit of progress” simply because it’s a progressive point-score and you enjoy tweeking the noses of people who actually vote against abortion and support more traditional family structures…

  • Now Darwin, you know our betters know more about parenting and business even though they are not parents and have never been in business. Even as our betters know more about minorities even though they are white Europeans while we are Hispanics.

  • As for authoritarianism being a leftist philosophy, I mentioned above, Pinochet’s Chile, Chiang Kai-shek’s Taiwan, and pre-1990’s South Korea. Add Batista’s Cuba. On civil liberties, Bush was very authoritarian for a US president.

  • RestrainedRadical,

    Agreed that there can be fairly rapid economic growth for a while even under an authoritarian regime, but for Friedman and Meyerson’s concerns to pan it, it seems to me that one would have to argue that the combination of authoritarianism and development seem in such examples is in danger of being a more attractive model to the peoples of the world than the US model. And I’m not seeing why one would think that to be the case.

    Certainly, authoritarian and developing rapidly may be more attractive than authoritarian and povety-stricken (thus making China more attractive than North Korea) but I fail to see the danger that Meyerson in particular is concerned about that developing nations will look at the US and China and conclude, “Wow, we really better have a technocratic dictatorship rather than a democratic republic.”

    That’s the sense in which I think that immigration direction of the US relative to China is indicative. Given the choice, people voting with their feet seem to clearly prefer the US over China.

  • I don’t think anyone was actually dismissive of the provision; in fact, I thought Darwin gave a very balanced view of the matter. (Rarely are matters of public policy win-win situations, anyway. There’s always a cost to every benefit.)

    All of this is beside the point of the article. Even the point about immigration patterns is a side issue. What’s more at issue is our willingness to circumvent the political process and flirt with authoritarianism.

  • This is certainly a wide-ranging thread. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

    I agree, j. christian, that this is a disturbing trend — one more pronounced on the left in that they have many more things that they positively want to do, while conservatives are currently mostly engaged in resisting change. On a number of issues (perhaps most notably environmentalism) there seems to be a waning patience with actually persuading the public to support “the right thing” and an increasing frustration that technocrats cannot simply impose new regulations and structures without consulting the troublesome electorate and their representatives.

  • But it is certainly a pro-life victory. How strange that some ostensibly “pro-life” Catholics can’t see that. Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood? Good to see that not everyone in this thread is so dismissive of a pretty significant and praiseworthy bit of progress.

    I don’t really think so, even though I think the existence of a comfortable place for a woman to pump is a good thing – but it’s more of a plain ol’ decency thing. Then again, having six kids, two of whom have special needs, I’m out of touch. Oh, and one of those special needs kids was born with a cleft palate and therefore couldn’t suck. My wife pumped exclusively for over a year – we even had to rent a medical grade pump that was so heavy and awkward that it brought on excessive scrutiny from airline security.

    Yeah, out of touch…

  • Technocrats grow impatient because they “know” what is best for us. They have the knowledge that we don’t have even if they haven’t the experience. Thus someone who is not a parent or business person can know what is good for parents and business. Why someone who is a white European can know what racial programs are good for ethnic minorities even if those minorities disagree.

  • While I see the breast-pumping rooms as something beneficial to working mothers, I still can’t help but see it as an oddity.

  • It seems the briefly aired Firefly series was rather prophetic. The (Sino-American) Alliance exercising galactic totalitarianism in the name of peace, efficiency and happiness. Could it be the Tea Party are the Browncoats?

    The elite financiers and their academic lackeys have always sought to merge the USA with a Communist regime to use capitalism to fund a global totalitarian oligarchy. Used to be think tanks (foundations) were preparing us to merge with the USSR. However, Reagan, Thatcher and Blessed John Paul II put a stop to the attraction for that horror. So now they are working on merging us with China. China is the future model of world government and many people are willing to make a deal with the Devil so they can have the comfort of security (slavery) rather than living in fear of failure (freedom).

    Ai ya women wanle!

  • Darwin, your tactics and “arguments” (bullying) are boring.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    Well, we aim to please. 😉

  • Darwin, you might be interested in a post I wrote today for Rock and Theology on children. Pay close attention to the seventh paragraph.

  • Let me chime in here as a full-time working mother who pumped milk for over a year for my daughter and plan to do it again for my forthcoming baby (I think MrsDarwin and I are due about a week apart).

    My family is a little unusual because my husband stays home with our children while I work. This decision was not made because of an unexpected unemployment situation but something we deliberately chose. We felt strongly about not sending the children to daycare and having a stranger raise them. One of us was going to stay home and, since the economic potential in my field is much greater than his, we decided it would be my husband. Over time, I think we have made the right decision, but, in these child-bearing years, it can be very hard.

    Now, in a lot of ways, we get the worst of both worlds. We live far out from the city and I have a long commute because we cannot afford to live near the city on one income. Pricing of many things seems dependent on two incomes and the assumption that everyone has a paying job. So I am not in favor of anything that reinforces the “necessity” of a dual income household and that it is proper to outsource the raising of one’s children.

    On the other hand, there is very little corporate support for working mothers beyond pats on the head. I get zero paid maternity leave. All the time I take off of work for childbirth comes from my accumulated sick and vacation time. What that means in reality is that our family just doesn’t go on vacation beyond a handful of days around major holidays to visit nearby family. Taking a week off to go to Florida (or go visit family across the country) is just not feasible. I am relatively healthy and don’t get sick that often, but am fearful of ever getting put on pregnancy bedrest. We can’t afford unpaid leave because I am our only income. And I know that I am lucky in that I actually get sick and vacation time to bank and can actually take time off after childbirth. So it would be nice if working mothers had more concrete support.

    Now the law in my state (Tennessee) already required employers to offer a private, non-bathroom area to pump. So while it is nice thought that federal law now requires everyone to be decent to pumping mothers, I’m not sure it is that great of a pro-life victory. If even pro-business, low tax, redstate Tennessee has this law, it must not be that controversial and could be passed state by state respecting our federal system.

  • bullying = pointing out when someone claims authority/experience he lacks

    This is a great line to remember the next time you pontificate about, say, liberation theology.

  • Or the next time you give an opinion on breast pumping, I suppose. If you want to claim you have more experience at breast pumping than I do, go right ahead.

  • Michael,

    Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

  • Michael,

    The reason I called you on your “Perhaps they are out-of-touch with actual parenthood?” line is because you were using it on people some of whom you knew very well to have much more experience being working parents than you do. If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter. Next time I suggest to you in a condescending fashion that you are perhaps out of touch with actual liberation theology, or suggest to a mother that she is out of touch with actual breast pumping, I strongly encourage you to parrot the line back to me. I’ll deserve it.

    As it happens, I read your Rock & Theology post even before you linked to it here (it was a slow day, so I read it when you linked to it at Vox Nova) and I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragaph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them. I’ll see about leaving a comment there with more detail, if you’d like.

  • “I did indeed crack an amused smile at that seventh paragraph, since it seemed like such a classic example of choosing to characterize others rather than understand them.”

    ..Sort of like treating people as objects rather than subjects, wouldn’t you agree? That passage was pure argument by assertion. He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

  • Jenny,

    Fair points. You’ve definitely taken the harder road, and I have a lot of respect for you and your husband on that.

    Certainly, the extra burden to large companies in having a room somewhere which can be used for nursing mothings is not large — I wouldn’t consider it to have nearly the kind of blowback for those of us (like you and me) who are slogging through the single-income lifestyle that mandating company-paid or taxpayer-subsidized childcare would.

    The concern about being forced to subsidize the two-income lifestyle does, I guess, spring to mind for me since the very large company I work for does provide a fair number of benefits clearly designed to help out the two-incomes-two-kids-in-daycare set. And on various teams I’ve been on over the years, it often seems like as someone who doesn’t have to rush out right at 5pm in order to pick the kid up from daycare on “my day to pick the baby up”, I would often get extra tasks dumped on my by my two-income-household co-workers at the end of the day. The combination of working later so they can rush out to daycare on time (and thus getting home later to my own wife and kids), while hearing them talk about how they can’t imagine affording a “large family” like mine, gets to rankle a bit. (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

  • (Though clearly, excess cynicism isn’t the right response.)

    Ah, but sometimes it can be a satisfying one. Rather like when I am dealing with a client who is on bankruptcy number three and who is complaining to me about a bank which, for some unfathomable reason, does not wish to extend a loan to him.

  • I also find Jenny’s insight good. She is struggling but still finds that a breast-feeding room is not a “pro-life” issue. Rather, as others have pointed out, it is a decent issue for a mother’s sake where appropriate.

  • Perhaps you should rely on Jenny’s experience noted above.

    My wife’s experience is key for me, as well as women in my family.

    If I’m out of touch with actual parenthood, then you clearly don’t have standing to even possess an opinion on the matter.

    Um, I didn’t say you were out of touch with parenthood.

    He might’ve just as easily claimed that parents in big families don’t love their children — it would be just as factually correct, and just as devoid of substance.

    Why? It’s a completely different, unrelated claim than the claim that I made.

  • So what are your wife’s experiences on breast feeding in the workplace?

  • Phillip,

    I didn’t say the breast pump rooms were *not* pro-life. It is just that they are more in the “children deserve the best nutrition that can be given” vein of pro-life, as opposed to the “it should be illegal for your mother to kill you” vein. But I don’t think it is a grand victory or a significant gain for the pro-life position. If Tennessee has laws protecting public nursing, extended (albeit unpaid) maternity leave, and pumping at work, these issues must not be that great of a battle and could be passed in all the states.


    My company doesn’t really offer benefits that only apply to dual-income households beyond the flex account for daycare, but I view that as more a federal issue than a company one. And amazingly none of my coworkers have kids in day care, so getting work dumped on me is not really a problem.

    What does set my teeth on edge is the federal tax credit for daycare. I find the provision to be anti-family and discriminatory against one income, two parent households. While it is true that the direct cost of our “day care” was zero dollars, the actual cost of this free service was an entire year’s salary.

    If we, as a society, have decided to subsidize the cost of daycare, then every child’s family should have the cost subsidized, not just the families that have decided to outsource the job. The best way to do this is to increase the child tax credit and abolish the day care credit.

  • Agreed on the federal daycare tax credit.

    Actually, it comes into play far less frequently that some of the child care related programs and policies at my company, but the thing which perhaps galls the most is a policy which was adopted after a PR snafu a few years back that in any layoff, if both spouses work for the company they will never lay both off, even if both would otherwise have been targeted, because they don’t want to wipe a family’s entire income.

    Of course, for those of us who already are our family’s only source of income, no such promises…

  • Actually Jenny then we disagree. I think there is an abuse of language to claim that such an issue is pro-life. Sure there is a charity to allow women a private room to breast feed. But is this a fundamental issue of justice? Is justice violated in a basic sense if a woman has to breast pump in a bathroom? Is it really? Not at all. And the trivialization of what is pro-life is part of the problem with such arguments.

  • While a private pumping room may be a charity for the woman, I *do* believe it is an issue of justice for the baby.

    The problem with pumping in the bathroom is not necessarily that it is a bathroom. It is that the bathroom is a public place. Breast pumping requires a loud machine, an electrical outlet, partially disrobing, attaching two largish suction pumps to a private area of the body and relaxing enough to let the milk flow. Next time you are in a public bathroom at work (or wherever), take notice of the electrical outlets. They probably are not in the stalls, so the pumping would have to be out in the open. Imagine standing in this vulnerable position next to that outlet while your boss, your coworkers, and who knows who else comes in and out of that bathroom.

    Most women will not endure that type of humiliation three or four times a day for however long the child needs breastmilk. They will simply choose to formula feed and some children will pay with their lives. The pro-life angle of the policy is that it allows women better opportunities to feed their children the best possible nutrition and may save lives.

    Now all that being said, I do agree that the language can be (and often is) co-opted to justify all manner of minor pro-life policies while allowing the one major pro-life issue to go unchecked. Do these minor victories redeem a monstrous bill? No. And I do agree that it is a trivialization to label a bill “pro-life” because it federally mandates private pumping rooms, but allows funding for abortion.

  • I guess we will still disagree. A benefit perhaps. But an issue of fundamental justice no.

Fiscal Health Care Reform: The Publics Option

Friday, December 11, AD 2009

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

Kick the bums out.

I love democracy.

(Biretta Tip: Glenn Foden of NewsBusters)

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13 Responses to Fiscal Health Care Reform: The Publics Option

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • “Name the political party …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I am not making any concessions, Todd.

    Counter-factual speculation is usually idle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Have Democracy?

Saturday, February 28, AD 2009

I was somewhat fascinated the other day, when participating in a discussion of school vouchers on another blog, to hear someone make the assertion that public schools are “more democratic” than vouchers because everyone must use the curriculum which is decided via “the democratic process” in public schools, whereas with vouchers someone might attend a religious (or otherwise flaky school) teaching things you do not believe to be true.

This strikes me as interesting because it suggests to me a view of democracy rather different from my own. Thinking on it further, I think there are basically three reasons why one would consider deciding things democratically (defining that broadly here as “by majority vote, either directly or via elected officials”) to be a good thing:

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3 Responses to Why Have Democracy?

  • Whether public schools are more democratic or not is certainly a question. When a small group of despots (judges, the head of the NEA, etc) control the curriculum of practically every student in the country, that’s not really democratic.

    In any event, being more or less democratic is not the key principle, a leaderless rabble is democratic isn’t it, but I prefer an organized authoritarian style army myself.

    The point is that when it comes to educating children the natural law principle is not what is most democratic, it is what the parents want their children to be taught. It is not for the state to infringe on this right in any case without good reason. The good reasons may not be general, but only in specific instances where the parents have seriously neglected their obligations. School choice very precisely follows this natural law requirement, and I don’t see how a Catholic could stand against it.

    Even aside from the Catholic sensibility, there is an American principle of self-determination which may be exercised not solely at the collective level, when we vote, but in individual freedoms, such as the right to educate your children as you see fit.

  • “then it seems to me that our respect for individual determination naturally should stretch to enabling people to make decisions themselves wherever possible rather than being served by centralized institutions.”

    Especially when one considers the track record of big government bureaucracies. The fact that so many people still have faith in government to solve problems across a broad spectrum of human activity is the triumph of hope over experience.

  • Vouchers.

    Just like the old Soviet Union where everybody had a “say” in their local village communist party committee, just as long as they agreed on the party line.

    It’s a joke to think that the public school system is the better form of a democracy than a voucher.

    ‘Nuff sed.

3 Responses to The Case For Not Voting?

  • “So vote, or don’t, but either way, don’t agonize over it, don’t raise an eyebrow at your friends and neighbors if they stay home, and don’t worry if the other side wins.”

    Do you believe that, Chris? — “don’t worry if the other side wins”?

    Do you intend to vote? If so, why?

  • Sorry, Chris, I should’ve given more of my own commentary… I don’t agree with everything Suderman says, but there is an underlying sentiment which harmonizes with my own, which is summarized by the pithy little saying that “politics is downstream from culture”.

    Do I intend to vote? Absolutely, because it’s my responsibility at a faithful citizen. Will I be disappointed if Obama wins, as expected? Of course; I think his policies are worse, all in all, particularly on the life issues. But I don’t think it’ll spell the end of our country, as some of my conservative compatriots seem to think (or at least say).

    But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    That’s my sentiment, and as noted above, it harmonizes with aspects of Suderman’s piece, which I why I drew attention to it.

    Thoughts, Chris?

  • But I’m more concerned by the fact that we’re focusing almost exclusively on politics, to the point that everything hinges on what happens Tuesday every 2 or 4 years. Is there a feedback loop in the culture/politics relationship? Is the law a teacher in its own right? Yes to both. But I still think we need to rebalance our focus to ensure that we’re not neglecting the culture.

    I concur: I would say it’s our culture that shapes much of our behavior; the law’s chief function is a deterrent to our vices. With respect to the predominant issue of abortion, as the Bishops stress it’s a “both / and” — pro-life legislation must be pursued but is not the end-all; rather operating in conjunction with the building of a culture that values life (and, for instance, that won’t perceive a child as merely an impediment to individual ambitions: college, career, etc.).

    Culture shapes economics as well. You know my sympathy for Michael Novak’s observation that a healthy market economy is contingent on the health of a nation’s culture and its institutions. Witness the present crisis — one can blame the “predatory lending” of “Wall Street”;
    but one cannot overlook the inclination of many on “Main Street” to commit mortage fraud, falsifying their histories to obtain houses they couldn’t reasonably afford otherwise. Plenty of blame to go around. Case in point:

    BasePoint Analytics took a look at millions of subprime loans and found that in 70 percent of cases where mortgages go bad quickly (exactly the kinds of mortgages that account for a chunk of today’s rising default rates), there was some misrepresentation by the borrower, broker or appraiser, or some combination of the three

    The health of our economy is only so good as the moral virtue of its participants.

    Likewise, a culture that sees the solution to poverty as starting with one’s self and not governmetn handouts for forced “redistribution” from the rich. We can justifiably oppose the latter (remote, abstract attempts at charity) — but our protests are in vain if we neglect to take the local and most immediate route, beginning with ourselves.

    Quick thoughts but yes, I agree.

    My main criticism of Suderman is the dismissal “don’t worry if the other side wins” — there’s a good case that a Democratic majority in Congress coupled with a ready and willing presidential administration could do a lot of damage in four years, especially on the pro-life front, that would be irreversible.