14 Responses to DC Metal

  • Thanks for the laugh! That video was funny.

    I don’t understand the problems the diarist has with building smaller cars, though. Does the Catholic Church have a problem with small cars? WWJD (What would Jesus Drive)?

  • It’s difficult to shoehorn four children into a Focus.

  • Then you must have less children!!!!!!!!

  • Clearly, Jesus would drive a beat up old pickup with the apostles all riding in the back. James and John’s mother would then show up and ask if one of them could ride shotgun.

    And lo, when you enter into the Chevy, who will sit at the right hand of the Son?

    I was always kind of charmed by those post-war German micro-cars, having a fondness for small cars. Still, there’s no point in making cars that people don’t want, it’s simply wasteful. The evidence doesn’t seem to point to a situation where everyone wants tiny cars but Detroit refuses to make them. Rather, the reason why they don’t make more small cars is because there’s a limitted market fo them.

    That may change, but in the meantime there’s the danger that the administration is pushing GM to make a car that will simply push them deeper into trouble.

  • What would Jesus drive?

    Let’s see. A guy with long hair and sandals who goes around preaching peace and love with a bunch of other dudes with long hair and sandals. I’m guessing he’d drive this:

    http://www.idcow.net/idcow/products/ym2032.jpg

  • Suffice it to say, Jesus would’ve needed to drive something large enough to accomodate 13 fully-grown men on numerous round trips between Gallilee and Judea.

    But then, I’m guessing those who ask the question in the first place are probably likely to peg Jesus as the sort who would’ve used public transportation to get him and his disciples from Point A to Point B.

  • “It’s difficult to shoehorn four children into a Focus.”

    Hell, it’s difficult to get four children into a minivan when each one of them is required by law to have his or her own car seat/booster seat. We could easily fit a 5th and maybe even a 6th kid into our minivan if it weren’t for the booster seat requirement for the older kids.

    It’s pretty much gotten to the point where larger families (i.e. more than 4 kids) have to take 2 cars to get where they’re going.

  • DarwinCatholic,
    When I visited Europe I loved seeing those teeny little cars, too! I would never buy one – it just wouldn’t be safe, and no room for kids, groceries, mutt!

    I do think more people want fuel efficient and safe cars. There is a concern that the smaller cars are not safe because there are so many large trucks and SUVs on the highway that upon impact would destroy the small car, regardless of how many airbags it has.

    For me, I want to see more people buy smaller, lighter cars so we don’t have those worries (being trampled by the Suburbans, etc), but it’s also like circumcision. I want more people to reject circumcision so that the boys who aren’t circumcised become the majority (disclosure: my son is not circumcised).

  • Jesus and his twelve comrades were all illegal immigrants engaging in border crossing protests to emphasize the sinful structures of society! They drove around Palestine in a low-rider pickup camel with flames painted on the side.

  • Viona,
    I do think more people want fuel efficient and safe cars. There is a concern that the smaller cars are not safe because there are so many large trucks and SUVs on the highway that upon impact would destroy the small car, regardless of how many airbags it has.

    When you have only 2 feet of steel in front of you a concrete wall is deadly too, not so much with 8 feet of American steel. Big and small cars can be fuel efficient, but small cars just can’t be made as safe as big cars can. I’ll stick with big, safe and efficient… with the emphasis on safe.

    For me, I want to see more people buy smaller, lighter cars so we don’t have those worries (being trampled by the Suburbans, etc), but it’s also like circumcision. I want more people to reject circumcision so that the boys who aren’t circumcised become the majority (disclosure: my son is not circumcised).

    I also want more people buy smaller, lighter cars so that my wife and child will be even safer in her truck. Thank you to all of those people buying smart cars for making the road safer for them.

    I’m with you on circumcision by the way, but we certainly don’t want the government to levy heavy taxes on those who chose to circumcise, right?

    Jay,

    VW van is dead on!

  • i,

    You’ve read Miguel Diaz.

  • Jay: I think you’re right. But the van needs a groovy paint job with gospel verses written in Day-Glo orange and purple.

    When my dad nagged my big brother to get a haircut back in the late ’60’s, my brother’s best argument was to point at the print of the “Last Supper” we had hanging in the kitchen and say “Dad, do you see any buzz cuts there?”

Spirit of '09

Thursday, April 16, AD 2009

tea-party-map

Yesterday Americans rallied in hundreds of tea party protests against high government spending and taxation.  In my state 3000 people turned out in Peoria alone.  Good coverage of the tea parties is at Instapundit.  Much more at Tea Party online HQ

Elements of the mainstream media were openly contemptuous of the tea parties, perhaps one of the more obvious examples being here at Hot Air.

Continue reading...

8 Responses to Spirit of '09

  • Pingback: Tea Parties, Principles and their Application « The American Catholic
  • While I think the idea for tea parties is great… they’ve been distorted since the Paul campaign in ’07 had their online tea party that raised millions in one day.

    There’s a lot of great rhetoric going around, but I don’t believe its substantive. Its just the GOP back to its old strategy- give the liberty-leaning, state rights, conservative crowed the speeches they want to hear- then when we get into office someday, we’ll be just like the Democrats.

    Governor Perry sudden turn towards Jeffersonian-style ideas speaks more of his political need to distinguish himself from the current administration than it does on any genuine concern for states rights, the constitution, or local authority.

  • Its just the GOP back to its old strategy-

    It must be emphasized that the tea parties had little to do with the GOP – in fact I think many if not most of the participants have been or are as furious with the GOP as with the Democrat party.

  • I can vouch for what Paul said. I received zero contacts from the GOP on any level regarding the tea parties.

  • I would have liked to attend, but yesterday was a very busy day at work and I couldn’t get away.

    I agree – the sense that I have is that the tea parties are conservative/liberatarian and most protesters are (understandably) as disgusted with the GOP as they are with the Democrats.

    Anthony, it is quite remarkable, I think, that these protests, as small as many of them were, took place across the country. (Also bear in mind that they were not centrally organized, there is no Soros or union money behind them, and protesters were not bussed in from other locales. The left is much more professional when it comes to planning and organizing rallies.) I might be wrong, but I don’t think that a bunch of people just blew off some steam for a couple of hours and now will vanish. The tea parties might just be the first baby steps of something much larger. We don’t know yet, but I wouldn’t dismiss them as insubstantive. In fact, I don’t really think CNN does – hence the blatant attempt to ridicule and marginalize them.

  • Pingback: Spirit of 2009-Part II « The American Catholic
  • Perry fits to a tea that old adage “there go the people; I must rush ahead to lead them”

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34 Responses to Socialism, Catholicism, & the Common Good

  • There is some confusion going on here. The Church says nothing about taxes, but only about the common good. and the poor [lege, needy]. Aquinas has stated this more clearly:

    “Whatever a man has in superabundance is owed, of natural right, to the poor for their sustenance” [Thomas Aquinas. S.Th. 2.ii.Q.66.art.7]

    Note: OWED. [Superabundance: more than you need].

    The problem with Socialism is the attempt to assume our moral obligations – by the government. We have done morally creditable by merely paying taxes.

  • I agree with John Henry, there is a legitimate area of discussion between the left and right of this question, but the principles are immutable.

    Gabriel hit the nail on the head, there is a grave obligation on all of us to see to the needs of the poor. Government ‘dole’ doesn’t fulfill this obligation, nor does it, dispel the evils of poverty, beyond a bare minimum to avoid starvation or exposure it only makes them permanent.

    Another question is the principal of subsidiarity. Where is the subsidiarity in putting all social welfare in the hands of the federal government, much worse, the “United Nations”?

  • Gabriel,

    Rerum Novarum refers to “the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes,” as one of the means through which a State “prospers and thrives,” and says that rulers should “promote to the utmost the interests of the poor.” (para. 32).

    With regard to socialism, it says the following:

    “These…benefits, however, can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man; and the State has the right to control its use in the interests of the public good alone, but by no means to absorb it altogether.”

    Notice, then, that the State 1) has the right to take taxes; 2) a duty to promote the interests of the poor, and 3) that socialism (absorbing all private property) is a violation of the right to possess private property.

    As far as I can tell, the post is consistent with the Church’s statements above. Could you clarify your objection?

  • “…there is a grave obligation on all of us to see to the needs of the poor. Government ‘dole’ doesn’t fulfill this obligation, nor does it, dispel the evils of poverty, beyond a bare minimum to avoid starvation or exposure it only makes them permanent.”

    I think this is a good point to make. And I certainly agree that we all have a grave obligation. Ideally private donations would be sufficient. But when we look out into the world we see people that do not in fact have money for shelter/health care/retirement. This raises the question of why these people don’t have necessities.

    I think there are two major reasons: 1) Private charitable donations are not in fact sufficient to cover these needs (whether because of information inefficiencies, selfishness, or a combination of factors); 2) The structural barriers to private donations reaching the neediest are too high (for instance, the poor and the wealth do not tend to live in close proximity). In these situations, it may be desirable for the government to step in to facilitate wealth transfers. This, admittedly, has its own drawbacks, but this is a case in which the ideal solution (private donations providing for the less fortunate) is unworkable, and so we have to select from other alternatives.

  • I wonder if we haven’t bought into a false premise, here, John Henry. I am not nearly old enough to remember the Great Depression, nor do I have more than anecdotes from he period before 1930. However, has it ever been true that lpeople in our country ever starved to death, or died of exposure, simply because the government *wasn’t* there to be the safety net?

    I have thought it axiomatic that the community of faith has always been the safety net for it’s community; it’s my theory that private charity has only begun to fail to reach people as the government usurped its role as preferred provider of charity. Tax policy interferes with the private transfer of wealth when it disincentivizes charity. Confiscatory taxes for the purpose of transferring wealth cannot help but fail to reduce the resources available for care of the poor: fewer dollars flow in, and government inevitably wastes dolars that a charitable organization would have put toward care of the poor.

    One of the biggest social justice failures of the mdern church has been, IMHO, it failure to maintain it’s ability to work exclusive of the government.

  • John Henry,

    the needs of the poor were seen to long before the welfare state began. The Catholic Church was a major facilitator of that, as were other religious organizations, as well secular ones. It seems to me that government could have easily stepped in to provide additional funding in times of emergency to fulfill this, but they don’t they push the charities out and take over control, thus permanently building government, to the detriment of all. You see, there is a fundamental difference between charitable assistance, and government assistance… the latter is commonly referred to an entitlement, and therein lies the problem.

    You crossed a line when you ADDED the phrase it may be desirable for the government to step in to facilitate wealth transfers I don’t see that wealth transfer is a legitimate role of government. Is there some basis for this suggestion? If the state, in light of subsidiarity, only has a role in preventing the poor from the deepest deprivation, then where does “transfer of wealth” (a socialist principle) come into place?

  • However, has it ever been true that people in our country ever starved to death, or died of exposure, simply because the government *wasn’t* there to be the safety net?

    Well, here I think we have two different standards in mind. I would venture to guess that very few people have starved to death in the U.S. over the last fifty years or so; but imo a country as wealthy as ours should aim higher than just preventing starvation as it “promotes to the utmost the interests of the poor.”

    “I have thought it axiomatic that the community of faith has always been the safety net for it’s community; it’s my theory that private charity has only begun to fail to reach people as the government usurped its role as preferred provider of charity. Tax policy interferes with the private transfer of wealth when it disincentivizes charity.”

    I agree with you that this is a real concern, and Darwin has written some great posts on this. There is a two-fold disincentive at work here: 1) citizens give less because they expect the government to provide services; and 2) they have less money to give after taxes. I’ll confess at the outset that I do not know of any great studies that quantify whether the increase in government taxation is a net loss or gain for the poor.

    As I discussed above, I suspect that the government is better positioned than private individuals in many cases to provide certain services, given the information and coordination costs involved. Additionally, I think it’s worth keeping in mind that the U.S. is not a Catholic culture; about 25% self-identify as Catholic, and that includes a lot of people of the Christmas/Easter/Baptism/Funeral variety. Individualism and self-reliance are the hallmark American character traits. The faith community is different than it would be in a heavily Catholic culture, and that may suggest a need for more government intervention to provide for the poor.

    As an aside, it is interesting to me that most of the countries that formerly were heavily Catholic in Western Europe have much more generous/onerous taxation and wealth-distribution systems in place. This suggests to me that maybe those countries agreed that the state was uniquely well-positioned to address certain types of poverty; granted, that doesn’t mean they were right. But it’s food for thought.

  • “I don’t see that wealth transfer is a legitimate role of government. Is there some basis for this suggestion? If the state, in light of subsidiarity, only has a role in preventing the poor from the deepest deprivation, then where does “transfer of wealth” (a socialist principle) come into place?”

    I agree that there are important differences between private transfers of wealth (particularly through faith communities) and government transfers of wealth. However, there are significant similarities as well. Why do governments like ours provide these benefits? Because, basically, their citizens demanded them through their elected representatives. In this way such transfers are in fact willed by the community as a whole. If citizens choose to re-distribute community resources through their governments, I am not sure that this raises ethical problems.

    The easiest response to this, I believe, is that such wealth transfers are the result of a type of demagoguery in which wealthier members of society are deprived of their possessions by the democratic mob. But I am skeptical that the wealthiest, most influential members of society are likely to be victimized in this way for very long. Elites shape the public debate in our country (and presumably most democracies/republics).

    Additionally, as I discussed above, government agencies may have real informational advantages. Furthermore, the government has significant financial advantages. Notice that in this economic climate, most private charities will struggle significantly with financing. Donations dry up while the demands on such charities increase substantially. Most private charities are not in a position to borrow significant amounts of money (at least at a reasonable interest rate) to provide services to individuals who, by definition, are bad credit risks. Here the government is able to obtain financing when private charities can not.

    You may reply that the government should provide financing only during these times; but once funding is obtained, its hard to let go of; and once there is funding, the government begins to exercise control over how the funding is spent. I don’t really see a way around this problem practically; and, as I said, I think it is interesting (and possibly instructive) that many of the countries that were previously the most heavily Catholic in Western Europe elected to provide fairly generous safety nets for the less fortunate. Certainly, pure socialism and pure property rights are in tension with Catholic Social Thought. But that does not mean that any gestures toward socialism or towards increased rights to private property are disallowed. And, in fact, I believe the Church’s emphasis on the universal destination of goods and the need for rulers to “promote to the utmost the interests of the poor'” suggests that some expansions of social welfare programs in the U.S. may better reflect the goals of Catholic Social Teaching.

  • Nicely said, John Henry. I’ve always felt the tension in Catholic social teaching when it comes to matters of political economy, and I think it’s a good thing our Church doesn’t prescribe policy. I only wish we could discuss differing policy viewpoints with more civil discourse, more resorting to facts and evidence, and less vilification of the other side’s motivations.

  • “I only wish we could discuss differing policy viewpoints with more civil discourse, more resorting to facts and evidence, and less vilification of the other side’s motivations.”

    Agreed. Everyone has there preferences, but we should try to evaluate policies on the merits, rather than assuming at the outset either that government intervention is the answer or that government intervention is a bad idea. Extending the presumption of good faith to those who disagree is an important step in that process.

  • I think it is interesting (and possibly instructive) that many of the countries that were previously the most heavily Catholic in Western Europe elected to provide fairly generous safety nets for the less fortunate.

    I think the major question that should be asked in regard to this statement is the following: did this nations move to more socialistic societies because of or in spite of their Catholic heritage? Consider that France, one of the heaviest socialistic nations for a time, threw off its Catholic mantle and yolked itself to the mantra of secularism, and then that in turn gave rise to a socialistic society.

    Though I’m no great student of history, it has seemed to me that as religious devotion waned, materialism stepped in to fill the gap, and with it came the notion that life simply isn’t worth living if one can’t have a TV, a car, health care, and a few other goodies that very few people actually enjoy world round. And with the heavy materialism, there came, on the one side, the idea that the economy is all important, and on the other side that the wealth should be redistributed so that everyone meets some “bare minimum” that coincidentally includes a TV, a car, health care, and a few other goodies.

    Now, I’ve said in previous posts that the government has the obligation to provide for those scant few that fall through the safety nets that should be in place at local levels. The problem isn’t that, though. As the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. Personally, the problem I have is that so few people turn to the church looking for assistance. So few people look for help from neighbors or the community, but especially from the Mystical Body of Christ that seeks to help anyone who comes through the door. People are looking first to the government, and the very real danger is that if this continues long enough (and long enough could be just a few more years to a couple of decades), then the government will bankrupt the nation, bankrupt its citizens, and still not be able to make good on its promises.

    But there’s another issue at stake, and that’s how socialism affects man’s obligation to work. Now, I understand there are those who simply cannot work, or those who can only work in ways that do not pay the bills. But I’m not considering them in this statement. Look at what happened in France under their heavily socialistic government. Unemployment skyrocketed (especially among college graduates, who faced similar rates as immigrants, around 40%), and industrial growth just about halted altogether. This means two things: people unable to work, and people who have jobs not working because their government mandated jobs are guaranteed whatever they do.

    Or consider the great Russian experiment with communism, where even today farmers don’t bother growing crops because they spent an entire generation under a government that subsidized their lack of industry. Consider the huge lines of people trying to purchase (at outrageous prices) a few scraps of food from the market.

    It isn’t that I have any problem with CST stating that our excesses rightfully belong to those who do not have enough. The problem I have is the effectiveness of the government trying to bridge the gap, which, in my very humble opinion (yes, that’s sarcasm for extreme hubris) is about as inefficient as it can be.

  • And the private sector has such a wonderful track record in bridging the gap…

    Remember: whenever local or private sectors are not sufficing in meeting a vital societal good, the principle of subsidiarity allows (if not actually encourages) that broader institutions step in…

  • I’m just going to recommend Thomas Wood’s “The Church and the Market”, which I”m reading now.

    Its been a great analysis of Catholicism and economics from a libertarian standpoint, arguing that the Church has much work to do in the area of economics.

  • Remember: whenever local or private sectors are not sufficing in meeting a vital societal good, the principle of subsidiarity allows (if not actually encourages) that broader institutions step in…

    Mark, exactly right. My point, though, is not that the government shouldn’t do anything, but that the real issue is trying to argue how much is too much, and what methods are or aren’t effective.

  • Are we not attempting to create heaven on earth? What of that terrifying statement of Our Lord’s “the poor you will always have with you”.

    I take this to mean that social [government] efforts to abolish poverty will never work. Rather the poor are a challenge to and an opportunity for us exercise charity.

  • “the poor you will always have with you”

    See, even Jesus knew that resources were scarce. By what right or moral would a government have to take those resources from one group and give it to another?

    Now, for a person to give the fruit of their labor willingly and with love…thats the kind of generosity and charity I’ve understood Christianity to stand for. For a government to coerce that charity would seem to remove the love from the act. De-christianizing it in a sense.

  • Rather the poor are a challenge to and an opportunity for us exercise charity.

    Your view is an instrumentalist reduction of the poor to mere “opportunities” for the rich to be “good Christians.” NO THANKS.

  • John Henry,

    I disagree with the statement that “[t]he alternative to a poorly run government program is often no assistance at all.” This is no more true than saying that the alternative to a poorly run government steel mill is no steel mill at all. In a country as wealthy as ours, there are lots of resources that are potentially available for charitable assistance programs. In many cases, however, such programs are crowded out by the presence of poorly run government alternatives.

  • What’s often missing in this discussion of public transfers vs. private charity is economic growth and job creation. Sometimes the argument against government intervention is not that the private sector will provide a replacement charitable program, but that private sector growth will provide greater job opportunities. There are concerns about getting people with the right skills into those jobs and the wages they pay, but for the most part, this is how an economy functions and would continue to function in the absence of any government.

    And of course, not everyone can get a job. Thankfully we do have social safety net programs and private charities to step in in those cases. The system is not perfect now, but we’re debating in the margins. To argue public vs. private sector endlessly isn’t very productive. The devil is in the details, and we have to be serious about looking at the real problems that real people face. “The poor” is flung around so wantonly that I don’t think it has any real meaning. What does it mean? Anyone who “feels” poor? Or are they poor by some objective standard? The reason I bring this up is that we make the mistake of forgetting the working poor, especially recent immigrants, who do have jobs but struggle from day to day. The homeless are of course a concern, but their poverty is very visible and has certain institutional processes in place to deal with it. What do we do about people who might have jobs but face day-to-day struggles with making ends meet? There’s a real issue there, and a lot of the policy prescriptions don’t measure up.

  • “Rather the poor are a challenge to and an opportunity for us exercise charity”.

    “Your view is an instrumentalist reduction of the poor to mere “opportunities” for the rich to be “good Christians.” NO THANKS”.

    Not for the rich, but for all of us, to exercise charity. I tend to avoid arguing with Our Lord.

    And consider His praise of the poor woman who gave what she could out of her meager resources, as compared to the rich man who could easily afford what he gave. Hers was the greater contribution. Even J D Rockefeller noted that the poor were the most generous of people.

    In these exchanges, there seems to be little confidence in God.

  • I tend to avoid arguing with Our Lord.

    Are you, then, a pacifist?

  • ‘Twas on a holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
    The children walking two and two, in red, and blue, and green:
    Grey-headed beadles walked before, with wands as white as snow,
    Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames waters flow.
    For those of you who want to have the poor around for your ‘Christian virtue’, let’s let Blake in:

    Holy Thursday

    O what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!
    Seated in companies they sit, with radiance all their own.
    The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
    Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

    Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
    Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among:
    Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor.
    Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

  • “I disagree with the statement that “[t]he alternative to a poorly run government program is often no assistance at all. This is no more true than saying that the alternative to a poorly run government steel mill is no steel mill at all. In a country as wealthy as ours, there are lots of resources that are potentially available for charitable assistance programs. In many cases, however, such programs are crowded out by the presence of poorly run government alternatives.”

    I agree there can be a crowding out effect, both because people now expect the government to meet certain needs, and because they have less to give after taxes. I also think higher taxes act as a drag on the economy, which can have subtler (but very real) effects over time. It is important to weigh these considerations against any advantages the government may have in providing services. These could include a more consistent stream of funding, more widespread coverage, the failure of existing private institutions, and possibly lower government information costs and economies of scale.

    These factors will vary significantly from issue to issue, and it is fine to have an abstract preference for either smaller or bigger government. In my opinion, however, determining the common good in a given situation requires an empirical examination of the pros and cons rather than a reference solely to ideological preferences. I am not sure that we have a fundamental disagreement here, as long as you acknowledge that sometimes people may be better served by government services, and I acknowledge that sometimes the government ‘cure’ is worse than the disease.

  • Henry,

    I seem to be confused. On the one hand you argue government can best deliver certain “services”. On the level of a “safety net”, which, with due regard to SUBSIDIARITY would be the obligation of every level of government after family, Church, and other charitable bodies have FAILED (read FAILED, not, are less efficient). Now, a safety net is an entirely different animal from “transfer of wealth”. So, let’s be clear and argue for and against these categories independently, and not use the unrelated arguments for one to further the ideological goals of the other.

    While there is an argument that government intervention can save people from starvation and/or living in the most dire of circumstances. I fail to see where government mandated “transfer of wealth” has provided an opportunity for the poor to actually lift themselves up, hard work is what it takes.

  • “Now, a safety net is an entirely different animal from “transfer of wealth”. So, let’s be clear and argue for and against these categories independently, and not use the unrelated arguments for one to further the ideological goals of the other.”

    Please explain the distinction you are making. At some level, any service provided by a government, whether it be for defense, transportation, etc. is a redistribution of wealth. Establishing a safety net is a transfer of wealth.

  • John Henry,

    Please explain the distinction you are making. At some level, any service provided by a government, whether it be for defense, transportation, etc. is a redistribution of wealth. Establishing a safety net is a transfer of wealth.

    Sorry, I wasn’t communicating it well. If you take money from me, and use it to supply food to someone who has no money to buy food. There is of course a taking of wealth from me, but I don’t think it’s fair to consider the food to be wealth being transferred. I’m making a distinction between wealth and subsistence. Frankly, providing much beyond subsistence implies something other than a compelling emergency, which is then a violation of subsidiarity.

    To be clear, I think the situation of limited resources is different from the modern economy in most countries (especially US). It doesn’t take money to make money here, so much as it takes hard work. In a more primitive agricultural system where land is the only “capital” and it is a fixed resource, there may be no other way than government action to provide an opportunity to the poor. Yet, it doesn’t serve the poor to have that as a free entitlement, but a due reward for hard work.

    When the government pays for services which the taxpayer uses (defense for example) that is no more “redistribution of wealth” than is my paying the lawnmower guy. When I speak of transfer or redistribution of wealth it means taking something from one person and giving it to another without any goods or services being provided.

  • Michael J. Iafrate Says:
    Monday, February 2, 2009 A.D. at 1:39 pm
    “I tend to avoid arguing with Our Lord”.

    Are you, then, a pacifist?

    Come again?

  • A few comments:
    1) In poor / less-devloped countries, a major problem is the governing class. Corrupt government officials essentially steal from their own people, using foreign aid money to build themselves palaces while their people starve. Thowing more money at the situation only makes the palaces bigger. Church (and other private) assistance makes much more difference because it goes direct to the poor.

    2) Government welfare tends to operate against the principle of subsidiarity; see my post Big Government vs. Subsidiarity. Further, the CCC says “the principle of subsidiarity is opposed to all forms of collectivism” — which would include socialism.

    3) It is extremely difficult to build, especially at the federal level, a government welfare scheme that does not harm the very people it is supposed to help. In particular, current and past welfare policy tends to discourage effort and perseverance, and create an unhealthy entitlement mentality. As old as it is, I think Murray’s Losing Ground is an excellent resource for understanding this dilemma.

    4) Chesterton was no fan of big government. He was a distributist — neither a capitalist nor a socialist. He would consider most of us to be “wage slaves”.

  • PS I am not by any means suggesting that we should not help the poor and needy. However, I think the current balance is wrong and even harmful to the poor themselves, primarily. I would like to see more private, Church-based charity (indeed the Church was the original charitable organization) and less governmental schemes, for reasons in my previous comment.

  • Come again?

    That’s what I figured.

  • Toll catholics and others:

    My name is Peter, who is going to be a candidate to convert to catholicism coming up in August. I’m also disabled and living off of your supposed sodcial welfare program that you go against all of the time. I live beneath the poverty line with the SSI you love to hate. Yes, I do mean hate by your ignorant rants against the needy and the people with the less wealth to have as many opportunities. Let’s look at history then shall we? Largely in a agricultural revolution or prior in the United States under mercantilism the following existed: slavery, indentant servitude, discrimination of minorities (e.g. people of color, disabiled or abled body poor), regulations non-existant, selective state powers with no accountability or transparency, etc. The greater good of the community by a large bureaucratic diversified nation like the U.S needs something to bridge the gap either between states with local governments to federal government or all faiths together both protestant and catholic to even half ass work. You don’t see protestants and catholics working in such a way and probably will ever see such on fundamental disagreements stretching back in the anals of history on their origins of thought.
    Secondly, I find it appalling by the apathy and lack of compasion on your guys part. I’d be ashamed of living in such a small bubble but this isn’t socialistic jargon I’m talking about. The general christian thinks everyone is lazy, gluttonous, or in general are sinners cause that is what they want. Perhaps it’s a perpetual cycle of lack of exposure in your precious neighborhoods? It’s time to desegregate all communities to intergrate resential zones more diversified and perhaps qith quotes on such and such class to expose you to harsh realities without government care. Perhaps you would give more than your little tithe to protect and shelter them from an excessive unregulated markeplace where their are no morals put in place in capitalism (e.g. lies, desceptions, back room deals, protectionalism, tarrifs, embargos, regional trade blocks, etc that affect the third world with subsedization thrown in there. What incentive do businesses have to regulate themselves? it’s no efficent so throw it out right? Seriously the FDA, EPA, EOC, ADA, Vocational Rehabilitation, NAACP, etc wouldn’t need to be in place prior to if those responsabilities were done correctly but they won’t be whether higher taxes or no taxes. For example, the shipping off of jobs under corporate Wal-Mart of 1970’s to 1980’s and lack of regulation resulting in Triangle Shirt Ways Fire 1911, Progressive Era reforms of the early 20th century, discrimination and other things.
    Thirdly, you say hard work right? Lots of americans right now of no fault of their own have lost jobs due to the international recession. What do you suggest them do? Buy a yhact or somehting with no money and very little to no credit if credit is doled out by wealthy business bank holders? This is ridiculous cause the opportunity cost isn’t there with the margain of profitability other than the feel good mentality that business care not about at all. The problem is that America has a GINI report of Russia, yet our poor don’t have adaquate funding in their own hands for essuch services of essentials for housing, clothing, food and etc like health care is a right not a privledge. It should be a last resort for anyone with dignity to take handouts but people need unemployment in the short time to live somewhat productive lives of a life worth living in a life without sinning. When the economy usually drops, crime riseses like the eighties especially the presedential attempted assassination or points of contention of our perpetual warfar like cult of a country like Spanish American war, Mexican-American War, WWI and WWII, Korean War, Vietnam, Iran-Contra Affair, supporting terrorist like the Taliban or Alqaeda, and other things that are at times human rights violations like the atom bombs. This point is usually often over looked cause they think it’s a human right to kill to save the opressed so what is the difference between the supression of the poor there than here other than some statistics and conditions in living conditions? They don’t have health care, adaquate households or pure foods like the maltrition to our children here. Look at other statistics like prenadial health care, capital punishment, GINI, pre-existing conditions, obesity levels, lead paint toys (e.g. China), mad cow disease, sodium levels in unregulated foods, lack of private transparency and accountability and other things that are appalling to name are not worth defending.
    Finally, the two major questions of our day need to be address between secular and church. What is considered a right or a privledge? Secondly, what is sustainable and unstainable or efficient for the long haul? The other is do you describe yourself as a business or a christian tycoon more/? There is an an interesting split in how people who claim to be christian using a cafeteria style approach picking some moral issues and throwing others under the table like the 2nd commandment. Greed, gluttony, lust, etc are also things to steer away from like envy on the other side. I used to feel envy for rich people but now I’m turning toward pity cause they sadly think that all things must have physical worth to put a number in front of somethng like life, which according to the Vatican prolife is the right choice? We care more about a baby being born than we do about making an indusive environment for those children to live fulfilling lives of prosperity like education, health care, shelter, clothing and adaquate nutritional food with relatively as low as possible crime rates in their given area. We should have systems in place with preferentual placement of section 8 housing closer to areas with lower incidents and lock out as much as possible their generational struggle to make them more productive citizens. Sadly this won’t happen in this current limelight for the uneducated supposed enlightened clergy think that is socialism the evil doer of all forms of evil. For the record, I believe in equal cooperation and work unions on the moderate end to address issues in conjunction between christian nonprofits and public sector shared responsabilities. The other issue with your arguments is that not all americans are christian because we live with atheist, pagans, hindis, muslims, taost, etc as well and because you might not like it you shouldn’t biasedly tell others and hence the separation of church and state even if impractical is needed in the 21st century of diversity of thought and of body with the soul as well for good measure. On a closing note, I think it could be better if the coggs of inefficient behavior by block grants to churches with experience could install such facilities like nurse shops and hospitals to take care of the poor better just in a proportional bases to feel the pain directly rather than unobjectively to see where your precious tax dollars go not to waste a majority of the time rather to the needs of the people. Surely though there is some waste and room for improvement but not out right destruction of essential programs.
    note: I’m currently in college looking forward to getting a computer science degree to open my own company in the future.
    note 2: my sister owns a major construction firm not to far away, yet stays away from me and still she claims to be religious when she has over 100k a year and neglects me and my debelatated brother in a mental institui9on? This is fairly common by the way.

    sincerely,
    Peter

  • A thoughtful opinion and ideas I will use on my own article. You’ve obviously spent a lot of time on this site. Congratulations!!

Is Obama a Socialist? You be the Judge.

Monday, October 27, AD 2008

“If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court. I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order as long as I could pay for it I’d be o.k. But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.

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6 Responses to Is Obama a Socialist? You be the Judge.

  • David Bernstein at Volokh has a fairly balanced take on Obama’s remarks:
    http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2008_10_26-2008_11_01.shtml#1225104785

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  • I think the post fus01 links to nails it pretty well, especially with its closing:

    It’s true that most Americans, when asked by pollsters, think that it’s emphatically not the government’s job to redistribute wealth. But are people so stupid as to not recognize that when politicians talk about a “right to health care,” or “equalizing educational opportunities,” or “making the rich pay a fair share of taxes,” or “ensuring that all Americans have the means to go to college,” and so forth and so on, that they are advocating the redistribution of wealth? Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don’t actually use phrases such as “redistribution” or “spreading the wealth,” in which case he suddenly becomes “socialist”? If so, then American political discourse, which I never thought to be especially elevated, is in even a worse state than I thought.

    Not to sound like an elitist, but it’s one of the odd contradictions of the American voting public that although many essentially socialist (as in European stype social democrat) ideas are moderately popular with voters, and yet the concept of socialism is seriously unpopular.

    Or more cynically, perhaps it’s that Americans like free stuff, but don’t like the idea that their earnings might actually be taxed in order to give others free stuff.

  • Well said — DarwinCatholic and David Bernstein.

  • My opinion resembles the Volokh writer’s. Obama’s mention of redistribution is too vague to be scared or excited about. I’m not sure why Drudge got so excited about this. Why would he think it to be a bombshell?

    Government always redistributes wealth. This is most obvious in the case of, say, Social Security. But military spending, foreign aid, and domestic improvements channels wealth to government employees and contractors.

    I guess it’s the redistribution from private citizen to other private citizen *without pretense* that gets some people nervous.

  • Of course, the Christian Democrats in Germany accepted many of the same principles as Clement Atlee regarding the state’s duties to enforce positive rights and not just negative ones. I would agree with you that Obama is a social democrat, but on economic issues he shares a lot of ground with at least one branch Christian democrats as well.

Calling a Spade an Earth-Destroying Instrument of Destruction

Tuesday, October 21, AD 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Good post though.

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

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

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

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

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

  • Gerard,

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

  • Gerard E.,

    You’re referring to Philadelphia right?

    I believe Detroit has had similar problems.

  • Ryan- above post stands. Get clearer.

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

  • Chris Burgweld,

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

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

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

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

  • Gerard,

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

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

  • “socialism never works”

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

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

  • Gerard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Shoot–that was actually me.

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

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

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

  • Micha,

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

    Thanks,

    Tito

  • What a load of crap!

  • d,

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

We're All Socialists Now

Monday, October 20, AD 2008

One of the things that quickly tires me is overblown political rhetoric; although it’s easy to give in to the temptation (I sure have a time or ninety), it simply serves no good purpose in advancing a civil and constructive political discourse. I’m all for making arguments for and against candidates (see the post below), but demonization is practically the standard, not the exception these days.

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21 Responses to We're All Socialists Now

  • Well,

    It does not help the argument that the Democratic Socialists of America endorsed him as did the Communist Party of United States. Plus that idea of Universal Heathcare does not help either.

    Hopefully, we will not get to see how much the government will own the means of production under his administration.

  • Maybe proto-socialists would be more accurate. Though Distributists do come to mind.

  • For an exploration of Obama’s ties to the socialist New Party, Stanley Kurtz has a good overview:

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=OTc3NzZkZDYxODZiZjE2OTg5YWRmNDkzM2U0YTIwZGQ=&w=MA==

  • FDR ran as a fiscal conservative in 1932 believe it or not. If you want to see what a candidate will do after he wins, check his past and who he currently has around him in his inner circle of advisors.

  • Maybe it ain’t socialism … but whatever it is, it inserts the government more and more and more into our lives. Maybe, as spelled out by Jonah Goldberg in his book, it smacks more of Liberal Fascism.

  • I think one of the most key ways in which Obama’s agenda is not socialist is that his patchwork of political proposals lacks a coherent theory for the structure of society or the economy. Socialism, communism and even fascism have all had a certain kind of personal ascetic value in which the individual accepts owning less or controlling less for the glorification of the state. I suppose there’s a little bit of this in Obama’s early rhetoric, but it’s virtually disappeared since the convention.

    Instead, Obama seems to focus on a “what can the state do for you” approach for what he sees as the broad center of America. His tax proposals effectively establish government handouts for the middle class. His health care proposal involves a similar promise. And his other proposals ranging from subsidized daycare to subsidized college tuition amount to: “You shouldn’t have to pay for whatever it is that you think you need in order to achieve your lifestyle ambitions.”

    The thing is: previous attempts at collectivization have always been made in the context of lifting up a large working/peasant class while leveling the professional middle class and upper classes. Obama makes fairly little effort to level the upper classes (taxing those making over 250k about 3% more is a dumb idea in a recession, but it won’t ruin anyone’s social standing) and the “working families” he wants to help are clearly bourgeois by any historical standard. So his vision is much more consumerist than a socialist one.

    The best historical parallel I can think of is in the late Roman Republic (before the Roman mob of lower classes became a politically useful enough force to buy off) when leaders tried to buy themselves power by confiscating land and money from the largest land owners and build a political base through a combination of cash distributions to every Roman citizen and granting extra land to small farmers throughout Italy.

    It wasn’t a good idea then, and I’m quite sure it isn’t now either, but it’s something different, I think, from Socialism.

  • So his vision is much more consumerist than a socialist one.

    Precisely. But people don’t get fired up about a candidate who is “consumerist” like they do about an alleged “socialist”.

    Listen, I’m not going to deny that Obama is the most liberal Presidential nominee we’ve ever had in this country… that’s certainly true. But that doesn’t mean he’s a socialist… the word means something, and what it means doesn’t obtain in this instance. As Stanley Kurtz notes, we can just bracket the socialist issue and focus on the fact that he’s to the left of Ted Kennedy (the latter are my words, not Kurtz’s). I think it *hurts* our argument by making the socialist claim, because it reduces our credibility. Better to just emphasize what he actually *is*… it’s bad enough.

  • Chris Burgwald,

    You make an excellent point about hurting our argument.

    Emphasizing Obama’s tax & redistribute strategy can be emphasize through other rhetorical means. ‘Distributist’ or ‘Welfare State’ are words that come to mind.

    We don’t want to be hyperbolic and turn potential converts are those straddeling the fence away from a possible vote for a pro-life candidate or maybe a more socially-conscious capitalist.

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  • It is not distributist.

    Welfare spending is welfare spending, period.
    Taxation is taxation, period.

    Socialism is a scheme for the collective ownership of the means of production.
    Corporatism is a scheme for the control of the means of production by an elite. This is what we have in the States. Fascism is the authoritarian version of Corporatism.
    Distributism is a scheme whereby ownership is predominantly noted by use. There are variations, but the controlling idea is that capital cannot be independent from use.
    Capitalism is a scheme that seperates capital from use. It’s most common form is corporatism.
    Democratic Socialism is a scheme for placing the mutual aid provisions of society in control of government. This would invite a fairly long discussion, but the primary reason for the strength of democratic socialism is that democracy destablizes other institutions. For example, very few democratic countries give the Church the right to tax. Without the right to tax, providing mutual aid becomes impossible in the long run.

  • M.Z.,

    You are correct it’s not distributist. I did a little research on Chesterton and Belloc and it doesn’t cut the mustard.

    Distributism looks like a good idea on paper, I just need to learn more about it. I’m reading Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum a second time around to get a handle on it.

  • for what its worth: I live in Ireland, and I saw a sign this morning advertising a meeting of the socialists, and the topic was ‘Will Obama bring real social change?’ Evidently some socialists think its a possibility worth discussing–with the audacity of hope that he will, I suspect.

  • I would have to disagree.

    In the United States we have moved from a production economy, one where we take the raw materials from the land that is availiable to us and make things with it and sell it for a profit, to a service economy, where our skills and labor are the primary means of income. so when you talk of “means of production” what you are talking about is my labor, and since labor has no profit, what you put in is what you get out, then when you take my income ( in the forms of taxes for whatever reason) you take my labor… my only “means of production.”

    sounds like socialism to me.

  • I’d love it if someone feels they’ve got a strong enough grasp of what Chesterton and Belloc were going for with Distributism to present it cogently in a modern context on the site here — but I’ve got to admit that from what I’ve read of it (which is not nearly as much as some, I’m sure) Distributism does not strike me as something which can be taken seriously as an economic system, especially in a modern economy.

    I do think it draws from some very real ideals (localism, subsidiarity) which can and should be applied in the modern context, but I’ve yet to see anything that leads me to take Distributism seriously. Though as I say, if someone feels up to presenting it, I’d love to find that I’m wrong.

  • “I’d love it if someone feels they’ve got a strong enough grasp of what Chesterton and Belloc were going for with Distributism to present it cogently in a modern context on the site here”

    Perhaps a guest post from our former classmate, Mr. Powell? http://pennyjustice.com/about

    He is an entertaining and inventive writer, even when unpersuasive. And, as a practical proposal for economic reform, distributism is very unpersuasive.

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist. It just means that those policies are merely a step on the way to socialism. Marx never advocated a one-step transition to socialism.

    Marx did, however, declare three obstacles to socialist utopia:

    1. Private property. Again, while Obama’s proposals aren’t strictly socialist, they would cause incalculable damange to an ownership society.
    2. Religion. Obama has done a great deal to bastardize Christ’s teachings. The second chapter of B16’s Jesus of Nazereth speaks of exactly what Obama is doing: using Christianity to advance a political agenda until Christianity consists of a political or social movement completely devoid of Christ.
    3. Family. We’re slowly seeing schools replace families as the foremost institution for socializing children. It’s nothing short of an effort to eliminate any pre-political societies until all you have left is the state.

    I understand what you’re saying here. But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin. What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren. What, might I ask, is overblown about calling that demonic?!

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist.

    So how else do we judge that he’s a socialist then by his policies & statements, Steve?

    But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    Can you elaborate?

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin.

    Another request for elaboration. 🙂

    What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren.

    Plenty of people have been convinced of the error of their ways with regard to abortion (cf. Nathanson, Bernard), and it’s often because someone persuaded them. I’ll always go back to the bees & honey vs. vinegar thing in terms of approach to those who are wrong.

    BTW, Steve, what about McCain’s position on ESCR? It certainly isn’t *as* bad as Obama’s, but I think it could be likewise considered demonic, agreed?

  • Fus01 & Brendan/Darwin,

    Yes, if someone is able to present distributism applicable to a modern economy I would also welcome a guest post.

  • Just because the specific proposals being advocated aren’t textbook socialism, it doesn’t mean that Obama and his friends aren’t socialist.

    So how else do we judge that he’s a socialist then by his policies & statements, Steve?

    I would say by the following:
    1. His proposals do seek to eliminate or at least make inroads to eliminating the three obstacles to socialism: Private property, family, religion (Bitterly clinging to religion sounds a lot to me like “opiate of the masses”).
    2. Unabashed support for hallmark causes of the socialist movement: socialized medicine, abortion, same-sex marriage
    3. His commitment to philosophical materialism
    4. Commitment to class warfare
    5. The company he kept before hitting the campaign trail

    Just a start

    But just as militaries have a tendency to “fight the last war,” it seems you’re trying to fight the last Cold War.

    Can you elaborate?

    I can concede this point, but it seemed to me as though you were indicating that because Obama policies weren’t identical to a Soviet 5-year plan, that he was automatically vindicated.

    And I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but this post sounds a lot like the elitist attacks on Sarah Palin.

    Another request for elaboration.

    There are a lot of valid reasons for harsh critiques on the Obama-Biden ticket. Valid reasons for “demonizing” the candidates. I wonder how one can overblow infanticide?

    What sort of civil constructive discourse can there be when one candidate has pledged his support for killing the unborn, the born, the disabled, and even his own grandchildren.

    Plenty of people have been convinced of the error of their ways with regard to abortion (cf. Nathanson, Bernard), and it’s often because someone persuaded them. I’ll always go back to the bees & honey vs. vinegar thing in terms of approach to those who are wrong.

    Point taken. I don’t dispute that at all. But too many of us are willing to administer honey without defending the truth. It’s trendy to take the middle ground or be a moderate or renounce ideology in favor of “pragmatism.” And that leaves us with the bunch of unprincipled Republicans we have in the Senate. I’m not saying you fit into this category, but whenever I hear pro-lifers criticized for not being nuanced enough or demonizing opponents, my red flags go up.

    BTW, Steve, what about McCain’s position on ESCR? It certainly isn’t *as* bad as Obama’s, but I think it could be likewise considered demonic, agreed?

    What about it? I am not here to defend McCain. I don’t even like McCain. That said, I’m voting for him because I believe that ESCR is less evil than ESCR, unrestricted abortion, execution of abortion survivors, same-sex “marriage,” execution of the disabled, etc.

    Would I characterize McCain’s stance on ESCR as demonic? Sure. But there’s a reason that I’m, perhaps, willing to give ESCR proponents the benefit of the doubt. We live in a materialistic culture. Without a decent working knowledge of philosophy and theology, it is difficult for people to see a petri dish of undifferentiated cells as human life. As such, I think it’s possible for pro-lifers like McCain to mistakenly, but in good faith, support ESCR. It is in no way possible to make a good faith endorsement of cutting off a baby’s head and sucking out her brains as Obama does.

    I’m not equivocating on ESCR–I simply think it’s less obvious to the lay man that it’s an evil act.

  • Evidently I used the wrong HTML tags here…sorry for the confusion.

    [NP… I fixed them for you.]

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Joe the Plumber?

Thursday, October 16, AD 2008

For those of you who were wondering during the debate last night, who the heck is Joe the Plumber?, here is a video of his encounter with Senator Obama.

Here is Joe’s reaction to the encounter:

I have run a small business, my law firm, since 1985.  It provides the entire livelihood for my family.  The first decade of the business we scraped by.  Now it provides a pretty good living, and, God willing, will allow me to pay for college for my kids.

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18 Responses to Joe the Plumber?

  • Of course Obama is going to view any successful business as a cash cow. His very words implied as much when he says, “When you spread the wealth around, it helps everyone.”

    What Obama does not realize, fundamentally, is that having successful businesses that create jobs IS spreading the wealth around. Everyone who has ever attempted the experiment of heavily taxing the rich to “spread the wealth around” has discovered that there is far less wealth to spread around in the end. I don’t know what they think people do with profits. I guess they think rich people hide all their money under the bed, because:

    1) Spending profits on necessities and peripherals helps support jobs that are existing

    2) Reinvesting profits in the business helps the business grow, offering more jobs

    3) Lending the money to banks for long term investments allows banks to then in turn lend money to other people to start up new businesses.

    When you place huge taxes on the wealthy, what is the result? Less money going to existing jobs, which means people laid off. Businesses stagnating, which means no new jobs. Less money for loans to start up businesses, which means fewer jobs created.

    Where do new jobs come from, then? Well, maybe a bunch of private citizens come together to start up a new business, or someone starts a business really small, already within his financial means, and that is a hard climb up. We certainly cannot expect the government to provide new jobs (except for those jobs created to feed the ever-expanding bureaucracy) with the money it receives in taxes. Maybe the fact that we’re running a $400 billion/yr deficit escaped Obama’s attention, and that all those taxes he raises are going to have to go to cover that deficit if he’s at all serious about balancing the budget.

  • This is where Obama’s complete lack of understanding of the private sector shows through.

    Obama’s take is simply, “Joe used to be middle class, but now he’s saved up a lot of money and can afford to buy a business, and so we need to tax him and give the money to those ‘behind him’ who haven’t yet got as far.” What he doesn’t seem to understand is that if he taxes Joe sufficiently heavily, Joe won’t be able to buy and run that business, which means other people won’t have jobs. Getting a $500 tax credit at the end of the year is no substitute for having a job all year round.

  • The guy lacks a professional license…

    He was probably a plant; the McCain campaign needs all the help it can get.

    Also, it turns out–as the major networks have ably reported–that Samuel (His real name) would not be affected by Obama’s plan.

    G-I-M-M-I-C-K!

  • A plant! Give me a break! Yeah, the Republicans must have used mind control to cause Obama to have a conversation with him.

    Plenty of unlicensed plumbers work for plumbers who have licenses.

    The Obama plan will hurt him if he buys his bosses’ business.

    The Senator made a potentially fatal mistake with his “spread the wealth” meme.

  • Mark’s comment perfectly encapsulates what is wrong with this electorate. He takes at completely face value a media report, and completely apes it because, well, it confirms his preconceived notions of who Joe must be. He sits there watching CNN, and decides that he doesn’t actually have to do any research, but instead will just parrot the media talking points. And of course Mark will turn around and say that I am the one who is narrow-mindedly ideological. No, I am just intellectually curious enough not to snookered by the MSM.

  • crankycon,

    How mavericky of you…

  • He was probably a plant

    I hear he’s an illegal immigrant.

  • Mark, speaking of tools and potted plants. It sounds like you are one for the Socialist Utopia. Obviously, if the state says you aren’t a plumber you aren’t one. I am sure Marx would be proud of you. Not far from me, Amish men build homes and women set up to sell their crafts and food stuffs. Perhaps, I will remind them that according to you they don’t know what they are doing, because the “state” doesn’t sanction them.

  • Mark,

    I hear he was on special leave from Guantanamo for good behavior.

  • Mark should read the relevant Ohio law instead of parroting Obama talking points. Amazing. This man asks a POLICY-RELATED question of a candidate, and the Mark Ds of the world feel the need to try to destroy him.

  • Hey Mark, I’m a plumber. Guess what? Any decent Dad can who remember righty-tighty, lefty-loosy is a beginner plumber. I can cut and weld pipes without any government functionary sanctioning my actions. The real definition of a plumber to Obama is someone dumb enough to give money to a corrupt union that will funnel money to the Dem party coffers.

    Bottom line: I’ve gotten help from plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. I don’t get help from politicians.

    Also, Mark please tell us you are not so foolish as to think we plant people in their own front yard to trick Obama into saying ridiculous socialist BS.

  • Mark DeFrancisis’ World: Ask an unloaded, straightforward question about Obama’s policies and get the politics of personal destruction visited upon you. We’ve had more media investigations into Joe in the past 36 hours than we have about Obama during the entire campaign.

    Moral of the Story: Only ask questions that lead to a scripted moment with Obama. Got it.

    That’s change you can believe in!

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  • Have any of you read the Obama tax plan?

    If there is a one-man or two-man plumbing business whose owner ( and worker) are each clearing a quarter million dollars in net profits per year (or taxable income for the employee), then I have to wonder how much that plumber is charging his customers per hour. That plumber also must not have many business expenses (business expenses are not taxed as income.)

    $250,000 / 2080 hours = $120/hr
    note: the nominal work week is 40 hours x 52 weeks per year = 2080 hours) So, this is 40 billable hours of work per week (i.e. no travel time to the job sites) with no vacations, no expenses, no sick days, no vehicle costs, no gasoline, no tools, no holidays at all (ie. can’t take a break for Christmas day unless it falls on Saturday or Sunday), no plumbing supplies, no phone bill, no advertising costs, no insurance premiums, no state taxes, no sales taxes, no office supplies, no utilities expenses, no FICA expenses, no half-days off to meet with the children’s teachers, no business expenses on any sort etc.

    In the real world, a plumber netting $250,000 per year, probably has to bill, at a minimum, somewhere between $250 – $300 per hour, and probably more likely $400 per hour. (I know that I won’t hire a plumber at that rate.)

    Then, only the income /profit above that level will be taxed at the higher marginal rate.

    I hope this clarifies the impact that the Obama tax plan will have on Joe the plumber in Toledo, OH

    (note: many small businesses don’t turn any profit for the first couple/few years of existence and only after time begin to show small profits. The tax code is set up to allow this in order to give small businesses a chance to grow and improve their bottom line as they become established.)

  • Larry, a plumbing business often has several plumbers as employees. One of my plumbing clients has seven other plumbers working for him. Last year he netted over half a million.

  • Donald, I think that is great. And, if he (or she) is truly clearing over a half a million a year, I don’t have a problem with that. I also think that the marginal increase on the second quarter million of their net is not going to cause them to lay off one of their employees. (But if they do, I guess that is on them.) If, the seven other plumbers all have taxable income over $250,000, then I also don’t have a problem with each of them paying an increased rate on the amount of taxable income above that quarter million. Let’s not conflate small business revenues with profits or with taxable income.

    I was writing about Joe the Plumber and the Obama tax plan effect on his hopes to own a one-man or two-man business.

    By the way, what was the gross for that 8-man business?

  • The gross I don’t recall. I remember his net only because of a legal matter where that fact was rather important. I also don’t recall Joe the Plumber indicating to Senator Obama how many plumbers he ultimately hoped to have working for him. As for the 250,000 threshhold, I suspect that would vanish as quickly as did the middle class tax cut in the Clinton administration in 1993. Some members of Congress are now calling for a second New Deal, and even confiscatory tax rates on earners making over a quarter of a million dollars a year wouldn’t raise enough revenue for spending of that magnitude, assuming that a President Obama would agree with such an agenda.

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