Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

Wednesday, April 28, AD 2010

 

To follow up on my first installment of “Set Me Free (From Ideologies), I am going to draw again from the rich well of Pope Benedict’s powerful encyclical Caritas In Veritate.  In this case it would seem that in paragraph #25 the Pope is sounding kinda liberal if we would attempt to fit the views expressed into one or another of our American political ideologies.

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7 Responses to Set Me Free (From Ideologies) Part 2

  • It seems a greater threat to social security are underfunded public pensions including Social Security itself which all seem at risk of collapsing. Perhaps someone can comment on this.

  • We’d all do well to remember that we’re Catholic first & American second. We’re in the mess we’re in because we’ve reversed the order for the last 50 yrs.

  • “The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum[60], for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honoured today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level.”

    For me the key phrase is NEW forms.

    I believe the old social welfare state is a failure.

    I believe the old union model is a corrupt failure.

    And I think John Paul II made this point pretty clearly in Centesimus Annus.

    The new forms are worker ownership, or possibly even community/worker ownership of businesses. Most of them are jointly owned by workers and investors.

    The way forward, I believe, is localism and distributism. And in some places it is taking place already with good material results – but it is being guided by secular liberals who have no use for the moral teachings of the Church, by radical campus intellectuals and hippies who believe in the materialist community but reject the spiritual community in favor of atheism or spiritual anarchy.

    It is simply an empirical fact that welfare-statism doesn’t bring an end to poverty. Instead it creates the conditions and the precedents for a secular bureaucracy to further meddle in Christian families, in the education of children, even growing food on one’s own property.

    The dichotomy in politics and morality is not individualism vs. collectivism. Or rather, that is A dichotomy but not the decisive one. It is materialism vs. spirituality. The materialist community has an idea of “justice” that is based on economics and cares nothing for the corruption and pollution of souls. The spiritual community sometimes neglects the details of the material – but with the guidance of the Papal encyclicals there is no excuse for that negligence.

    The vital question is whether or not we ought to accept a full implementation of “material” or economic justice, brought to us by secular liberal hedonists who let the soul rot, who poison it with filth and perversion, or,

    whether we ought to reject it and continue to show those who understand a spiritual reality, who believe in God and especially Christ, that they also have to focus their attention on the material community.

    I opt for the latter. I want nothing from the secular liberal hedonists, from the communist revolutionaries, from the sexual perverts who staff Western governments and the United Nations. They’ve rejected God and they’ll never accept him.

    It’s easier to get good Christians to see the areas they’ve been neglecting than it is to get materialists to see the truth and reality of God and all that follows from him.

    And if you think I’ve gone off topic, you’re wrong, because its secular, atheistic, materialists who manage and administer the welfare bureaucracies of the West, whether they call themselves Democrats, Socialists, or Christian Democrats, or Labour, or whatever.

  • THERE IS NO SUCH ORGANIZATION AS THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC. YOU ARE A ROMAN CATHOLIC WHO JUST HAPPENS TO LIVE IN AMERICA. I REMEMBER ON MY FIRST COMMUNION DAY AND THE NUNS SAYING REMEMBER, YOU ARE A ROMAN CATHOLIC, A ROMAN CATHOLIC.

  • to gb- what I would say is what my favorite professor once said- “the best gift we can give America is our Catholic faith”- I don’t see my citizenship in the U.S. to be a detriment to my faith- America is my homeland, and America needs Catholicism to fulfill her potential as a truly great and lasting nation. We have religious liberty here in our country- that’s all we need- that means the onus is literally “on us”- I have seen first-hand as a candidate that the Catholic community is for the most part so divided up and rendered passive in the political arena- when I see how effective the pro-Israel Jewish community has been in getting organized and mobilizing and lobbying all sectors of our American society in getting their vision and agenda into play- all of this with such a small percentage of the population! And Catholics act as if there is no unifying social doctrine, and fall headlong into the same ideological traps that catch everyone else- and it makes me sick.

    It doesn’t have to be this way- we are our own worst enemy I’m convinced of that- my primary targets are politically-active Catholics who publicly identify themselves as die-hard liberals or conservatives- these folks are the ones who do the most damage- they make it impossible for the whole body of believers to unite under the direction of the entire social doctrine- they want to make every Catholic a narrow liberal or conservative- a Kennedy or a Hannity- and that is something I disagree with vehemently. I will continue to post my complaints- soon I will detail my fallout experience from my participation in an elite Catholic Democrats listserve- that is quite a story to be told another day- I am bent on taking on all loud and proud liberal and conservative Catholic political animals- for I am convinced that the way forward is one that must release the hold that ideologies have over our collective Catholic and American heads.

  • Joe H.- as always so intense and direct in your views- I don’t find your passion for disconnecting from States and Government in the Church’s actual documents such as the above Encyclical. I do think that we should go in every good direction all at once- translation- create more fair trade producer-consumer networks- drawing upon the Catholic Relief Services model, and also the worker-owned business models, and such as you describe above. But I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution. I really don’t think our system is rotten, I do think we have really rotten apples floating to the top- which is why I can’t relate to anyone who celebrates a Reagan or an Obama presidency.

    I do believe that Catholics have not yet begun to fight- from my own little campaign experience I saw how wide-open the door is for solid Catholic candidates if only the Catholic community was even a little bit organized to be of some service to her own. As it is we have two types of Catholic activists- the typical political liberal and the typical political conservative- they both seem to have one overriding passion- they hate like satan the Republican or Democratic party- and all that party stands for- pretty much across the board. This reality is something that is causing me to seriously consider dropping my formal affiliation as a Democrat to become an Indy with “Common Good” as my tag- there is just too much baggage associated with the two major parties- it is like a pavlov dog response for most political animals- Catholic or otherwise. What I know is that I am going to stay close to the Church’s actual teaching documents, and Hierarchical speeches/letters and commentary- I have found that the prudential judgments on socio-economic matters coming from the Catholic Hierarchy is truly awesome- it would figure that those who are charged with coming up with the principles that underpin the social doctrine would do well in helping to apply those principles to real life circumstances. I don’t think this is clericalism because I am open to other prudential points-of-view- I just don’t find many ideologically-transcendent points-of-view around town- so I’m sticking close to Mama Church- in my family when mama talks and gives counsel to the kids they better listen up because my wife and I are on the same page- I imagine that it works that way with Christ and His Church as well.

  • “I don’t think that abandoning the Government, Trade Unions, and Multinational Corporations to the current corrupt slate of big-wigs is the best solution”

    They aren’t ours to abandon. But they are ours to reject. We need to get our resources together, make our own proposals to banks and private investors, and build our own local economies. Some have tried, many have failed, few have succeeded – more will succeed if more people rally to the cause.

    Like you, I’m an independent. I don’t care about the Republicans. I don’t care about the Democrats. I’ll vote for the pro-life candidate. Otherwise change comes from us, not from Obama, not from a bureaucracy, not from a social worker.

    “I really don’t think our system is rotten”

    I suppose we’ll have to disagree on that.

Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

Monday, June 29, AD 2009

I am going to provide everyone with a nice blast from the past- everyone I know respects Pope John Paul II- most orthodox Catholics refer to him as John Paul the Great. So I think what he thought officially as Pope on the question of Capital/Labor/State as part of the tradition deriving from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum- is incredibly interesting and relevant. Here is Chapter One of Centesimus Annus with no personal commentary- let the “man” speak without any interference from me:

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7 Responses to Pope John Paul II Comments on Rerum Novarum

  • The very existence of Rerum Novarum puts to shame the thesis that industrial capitalism, all on its own, either did or would have addressed the problem of poverty.

    I have seen this argument, from Tom Woods Jr., Robert Novak, especially when they critique Distributism, that critiques of capitalism are entirely baseless. They take it as an unquestioned article of faith that any life under industrial capitalism is better than any life in a non industrial capitalist society, that prior to capitalism only one word could sum up the human condition: poverty, and perhaps another: oppression.

    In this particular case criticisms of modern conservatism as nothing but the guardian of Enlightenment liberalism ring true. To make this argument, one has to essentially say at the same time that Rerum Novarum was unnecessary, that workers movements in general were unnecessary. It is the same logic that the neo-Confederates make: slavery would have been abolished on its own, so there was no need for a civil war. Capitalism would have cleaned up its act, so there was no need for a labor movement, government intervention, or the moral condemnation of the excesses of the system by the Popes.

    The problem is that neither of these claims is substantiated by the historical record. They are made with a sort of “faith” in what could have been. Here and there you have a General Lee or a Teddy Roosevelt who argue against the worst aspects of the system, and this is dubiously stretched out as an argument that the system would have reformed itself without any outside interventions.

    Counter-factuals aside, the reality is that the Papacy believed that the problems of industrial capitalism were not “self corrective”, that the workers had every right to organize and make economic and political demands, and that the duties of businessmen were not just to meet the economic demands made by consumers but the moral demands made by society and those who worked for them. Time and time again the Popes implored Catholics and society at large to find ways to increase the share of ownership of the workers in businesses.

    So, we can all thank capitalism for technical progress. Even Marxists do that. But moral progress was the domain of thinkers and activists well outside the capitalist class, people who did not share its goals, and often opposed them in certain respects. It is easy to take for granted the rights of workers today but a read through of Rerum Novarum shows us that they were in some question 120 years ago. In many places, they are in question even today.

    In the 21st century I hope we can move beyond the words “capitalism” and “socialism”. They are outdated and useless. The kind of economy I want to see is one in which there are still markets, but in which wealth and decision making power are not excessively concentrated, which is unambiguously subordinated to a moral hierarchy of values oriented towards the common good, and generally accountable to the direct will of the people (the eventual pressure of market forces is not and never will be enough).

  • Does Modern Conservatism actually make all those arguments.

    I mean Does modern Conservatism and I am talking the mainstream actually want to abolish Unions? I mean they talk about the problems with Unions and their excesses and are against things like Card Check but I rarely here modern Conservatism wishing to abolish Unions.

    GOvernemnt Intervention? I don’t here modern Conservatism want to abolish in the Food and Drug administration and the testing of meat? Besides for some tweeking I don’t here many modern conservatives want to abolish all child labor laws. Most Conservatives think having common sense Govt regualtion is a good thing.

    I often think that Modern Conservatism or Movement Conservatism is being confused with some Libertarian economic viewpoint.

    It is true that the modern conservatives think Govt is better if its lesser but I would contend that those conservatives that want no Govt intervention is very very small

  • JH,

    The problem is that both sides are reactionary. Conservatives may be fine with some government intervention but set against liberals who want more, they end up sounding as if they want none.

    It is hard to avoid this. I can’t always avoid it myself on issues important to me. But we must always try.

  • Joe I think you have a point. I think the problem is the internet draws lets say the extremes. I am on several boards I meet people that call themselves Conservatives and ranting about how the GOP is not really conservative. Of course when you examine their post they are far beyond conservative and rant about getting the Govt out of public education and almost toeing the Club for Growth line

    They are are same folks that call McCain a “liberal”. Or as we saw incrdibily go on a huge campaign against Huckabee and call him a Christian Socialist. Yet despite the internet astroturfing, the massive emails sent to everyone it turns out the average GOP and conservative voter liked Huckabee and McCain despite the gnashing of teeth from groups that have their monetary self interest in organziations direct mail and caging companies

  • I read the excerpt from RN almost with dread; I feared perhaps I would be reading something which, startlingly, would shake my confidence in my conservative outlook on the role of government. Much to my surprise, that didn’t happen!

    I think you absolutely *destroyed* the straw man set up in the firat comment: those rascally Conservatives would have to Repudiate The Pope Himself in order to deny the obvious truths set forth in RN! And JPG only echoed and reinforced RN, spo there!

    The problem I see with that statement is this: there are few, if any, conservatives who advocate totally unregulated economic activity. You see…being *against* the federal government taking a controlling interest in GM, for example, does NOT equal being *in favor* of eliminating unions, child labor laws, and OSHA.

    There is a proper role of government (which, in my view, involves the use of force against malefactors inside and outside of the country, and facilitating commerce among its people, to include appropriate regulation of said commerce). The problem many conservatives have with Governmentalists (to coin a phrase) is that the Governmentalist looks to Government and the solution to ALL ills. And it just doesn’t work!

    JPG’s and Pius XI’s calls in their writings are for *appropriate* government intervention, in those areas suited to government intervention.this paragraph grabbed me in particular:

    “This should not however lead us to think that Pope Leo expected the State to solve every social problem. On the contrary, he frequently insists on necessary limits to the State’s intervention and on its instrumental character, inasmuch as the individual, the family and society are prior to the State, and inasmuch as the State exists in order to protect their rights and not stifle them.37”

    This is ther precise concern of the conservative: thatGovernment *never seems to know its legitimate limits*. Consequently, the potential *harm* from *too much* government intervention (all together now: “stimulus bill, GM takeover, Cap-and-Trade, Hah!). Government that *thinks* it knows better than the free market usually ends up trampling its people under the weight of bureaucratic poppycock.

    The government can lay the groundwork for a just functioning society; it cannot (and *should* not!) be in the business of trying to redistribute wealth! It will fail. Miserably! And all the while, we will create a set of conditions that stifle innovation (say, Soviet Union) and allow people to settle for far far less than that of which they would otherwise achieve for themselves and their companies.

  • Here’s the thing.

    I am not setting up strawmen. I understand full well that there ARE conservatives who DON’T oppose government regulations and interventions. You know how I know? I consider myself one. At the least I would call myself a social conservative.

    Pointing out that there ARE ALSO people who DO make these arguments, however, is not making a strawman. I am differentiating between different kinds of conservative. Tim and I and others have heard enough talk radio and engaged in enough discussions to know that there are plenty of conservatives and even Catholics out there who do hold extreme anti-government, anti-regulatory views.

    I cited Novak and Woods because they specifically seek to absolve early capitalism of practically any and all wrongdoing – not only that, they seek to give it the sole credit for whatever prosperity we enjoy today. You WOULD have to repudiate Rerum Novarum to hold onto THAT argument.

  • Right Joe- I base my own reaction to “liberals” and “conservatives” on the way the politicians/media figures/and some real average folks I know, and in fact ran into quite often when I ran for public office- they just don’t talk about issues like the popes- they don’t talk about common good, they talk about freedom from taxes (rarely pointing out that taxes are not all bad or even a good thing- the impression they give directly or indirectly is that tax = theft by government, or they talk about freedom to choose- choose what- well for liberals it’s ususally about abortion or gay marriage- not all but many-

    Again it isn’t everyone who claims the title liberal or conservative, but it seems that the politicians running for office and the media talking heads and the many very outspoken citizens at meetings- they are the ones who speak out very forcefully and polemically, and they don’t sound to me like the social doctrine and popes to my ear- I try to use the language of morality and balance- it’s hard- I’m not the Magisterium- but I definitely try to base my argumentation and beliefs on my studies of the official teachings and documents, along with my life experiences and intuitions- and I find it difficult to see how one would embrace any ideology too narrowly- be it liberal, conservative, whatever- I do believe it necessary to be part of a political party- but we should be very critical members of such, because no party really is based upon our Catholic social doctrine, and as such is clearly deficient- either in theory or practice. When asked if one is liberal or conservative, I think it is better just to say I’m Catholic- straight-up- that’s my goal anyway