Abortion, Human Trafficking, and the Left’s Double Standard

Every social problem we face today — from racial discrimination to abortion — is tied to other underlying root causes. It makes sense, then, for society not to neglect long-term proposals when trying to check these matters. But such strategies are never a ready substitute for fighting social problems in the near term. And that’s because root causes are so intractable that they can never be wholly eliminated.
As a result, the sensible way to handle social problems is to pursue a two-track policy simultaneously: Use law enforcement to yield immediate gains, and use creative social policies to reduce their incidence in the future. (The only exceptions are those social problems that might best be addressed through regulation, such as gambling.) That’s what we have done about racial discrimination: Not only have we made it illegal, we have used the schools to educate young people about this issue. But when it comes to abortion, many Catholics, especially Democrats, opt only to use long-term approaches.
The Democratic Party platform, which will be voted on shortly, lists all kinds of issues, but nowhere in its table of contents is abortion mentioned. But the subject is addressed; to find it, one must repair to the section labeled “Choice.” The reluctance — nervousness would be more accurate — on the part of the Party’s hierarchy to even use the word “abortion” is itself a telling commentary on the way they think about the issue.
So what do they want to do about abortion? “The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right.” In other words, they flatly refuse to use the law as a short-term strategy. What they favor are long-term approaches.
The platform on “Choice” lists things like
affordable family planning services and comprehensive age-appropriate sex education which empowers people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions.
Democrats would at least be consistent if they said that the only way to treat social problems is to take the long-term approach — but they don’t. For example, here is what the Democratic platform says about human trafficking:
We address human trafficking — both labor and sex trafficking — through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure that trafficking victims are protected and traffickers are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of human trafficking, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for prostitution.
Now, if the Democrats used the same logic about abortion, the platform would read something like this:
We address abortion through strong legislation and enforcement to ensure abortion victims are protected and abortionists are brought to justice. We will also address the root causes of abortion, including poverty, discrimination, and gender inequality, as well as the demand for sexual promiscuity.
The fact of the matter is that neither abortion nor human trafficking will ever be eradicated altogether, but both can be substantially reduced by doing what the Democrats recommend for the latter issue: focus on a two-pronged approach that uses the law as a short-term weapon and social policy as a long-term solution. The shame of it is that the Democrats have absolutely nothing to offer regarding short-term answers to abortion.
Dealing exclusively with vague and untested policy prescriptions for alleviating poverty is not a way to combat abortion. It’s ironic, too, that the one proven vehicle of upward social mobility for inner-city youths — Catholic education — is made all the more elusive given the Democrats steadfast opposition to school choice. Moreover, poverty has nothing to do with abortions obtained by the affluent.
When and if the day comes that the Democratic platform treats abortion the way it treats human trafficking, that will be the day the Democrats win back Catholics. That day, however, is not on the horizon. It’s not even close.
William A. Donohue

By

William A. Donohue is the president and CEO of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. His most recent book is Why Catholicism Matters: How Catholic Virtues Can Reshape Society in the 21st Century (2012).

  • SWP

    That’s why the work of campaigns like Silent No More is so important– Catholic Democrats and the party in general and society in general need to see women as victims rather than beneficiaries. Until that campaign succeeds, the pro-life campaign will continue to be seen as the defenders of only the unborn victims.

  • tim shipe

    I have been highly critical of Bill Donohue of late because of my feeling that he has been giving over to the conservative political ideology at the expense of a truer rendering of the complete social doctrine of the Church. It is my belief that there is a lot to criticize in both political parties and both liberal and conservative Catholics have a lot of explaining to do, if they are going to call themselves “faithful” or “orthodox” Catholics especially if they aren’t much interested in the complete Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, and all of the papal social encyclicals dating back to Rerum Novarum.

    But with this article, I think Bill has got a good and thoughtful argument. As one who serves on the board of Florida Democrats for Life, and sometime political candidate myself, I feel it is my duty as a wanna-be orthodox Catholic (we all have some blind spots), I feel I must publicly take candidates of my Party to task for taking immoral public issue positions. I am also highly critical of Republican politicians- especially when Republican Catholics try hard to convince me that prudential matter issues like war, economics, public health, and environment, are not actually issues related to the more obvious Life issues. In my view, there may be more room for honest debate on prudential issues, but there is a pretty clear Catholic teaching worldview, and it just doesn’t gel with what passes for liberal or conservative in American political circles. And real people do suffer and die as a result of public policies in the prudential issue realm, so I take them as seriously as I do the Life issue.

    As a Catholic Democrat I accept Bill’s challenge to remake the Democratic Party into a pro-life both/and political entity. I publicly urge Barack Obama to come to the realization that abortion is in fact the killing of an innocent human life, and for obvious reasons that should be outlawed in all cases short of ‘life for a life’ medical emergencies. It should also be the immediate legislative action on the part of the Federal and all State governments to ensure that every woman has ample recourse to public assistance in securing the economic contributions of any child’s father. As well, every state college/university should have a free or sliding-scale affordable 24 hour quality day care facility- with state options for faith based organizational involvement. I call upon Barack to step up his use of the public bully pulpit to encourage strong traditional moral beliefs on sexual expression/activity. Young American need chivalrous public male role-models- men who love their wives, and adore their children, and aren’t shy about promoting this to young males of all races.

    Continued at next post*

  • tim shipe

    And, of course, the whole area of public assistance for single-mothers and parents who are staying at home while raising their children- these are areas where there needs to be a lot more state sponsored activity- not to encourage welfare dependency, but to take into account the reality that children don’t raise themselves, they require a parent to be home with them during the formative years- sorry to say- Republican social Darwinists are wrong to suggest that only unsavory types find themselves in need of financial help from the larger community- domestic work is indeed work- please read your Catholic social doctrine in the chapter on “Families” in the Compendium.

    So let’s get going on the Catholic both/and promotion of Life- outlaw the killing of the unborn, and get serious about public investment in children’s rights to a good, healthy life- no matter the circumstances of how, when, or to whom, he or she is born into. Let every child live, and let us as a society open every door of opportunity for these children, not just leveling the playing field, but raising the bar of living standards for each and every child in our community. Good parenting, good and merciful economics, solid ethical preparation and promotion- Hey Barack Obama and John McCain- are you listening?

  • Adriana

    Tim it is a good point. I do not know if you read the article early this month about whether or not we are truly pro-life, and you can read chilling comments of Catholics, who while decrying artificial birth control and abortion spew venom at the “parasites” who raise children on government assistance and call them imprudent for having more children that they can afford – saying that they are too lustful, or sinful, or stupid, to do NFP right, and that they have a duty to limit their families so as not to be a burden on them.

    I try to tell them that they are more than halfway gone to PP, that they have bought their arguments, and only their reliance on NFP keeps them going completely over. But it is hard.

    As for abortion, I am afraid that Pro-life position is in the same position of the gun banning lobby. Taking away precious constitutional rights.

    Education is needed, first. Until people are educated and consider it evil, any attempt to ban it by law will fail. We can do it with human trafficking because our society considers it evil, and societies which do not consider it evil need the goodwill of societies who do, so they grudgingly comply.

    Remember that slavery could not be abolished at the founding of the Republic, though there were pious hopes that one day it might. It took enough of the populaition to consider it evil (and a lot of blood, mixed with other factors) for it to be outlawed.

    Also, even after the Roman Empire went Christian, there were still gladiatorial games. Eventually the Church managed to abolish them, but it took time and patience – since they were depriving the Roman populace of their right to enjoy the spectacles they have been enjoying.

    LIke it or not, abortion is something that most people think they are entitled to. Even if they do not want to have one, they resist having a right taken away. Call it wrong, or sinful, but it is a fact of life.

    When you try to ban by Goverment something that society at large does not consider wrong, then you get things like Prohibition, and the empire of Al Capone. You have to reach society and Government will follow.

  • Mary

    Adriana,

    You write that “when you try to ban by Goverment something that society at large does not consider wrong, then you get things like Prohibition, and the empire of Al Capone. You have to reach society and Government will follow.”

    I think that argument may work with behaviors that are not inherently evil like alcohol consumption and gun ownership but not with inherently evil behaviors such as murder.

    Prior to Roe, there were approximately 100,000 abortions per year in the US (that may even be a high estimate). Once Roe was enacted, the number of abortions quickly and steadily rose to well over a million. Americans did not believe in abortion on demand prior to Roe. States made their own laws regarding abortion and while states like NY were relatively permissive, in most states abortion was quite restricted. Once Roe became the law of the land, the general public began to accept it as an option so that within a few years what was considered abhorrent became acceptable. Certainly women in crisis pregnancies who may never even have considered abortion or who would have quickly dismissed it as an option could now make an appt at PP and have an abortion soon after finding out they were pregnant. Roe took a temptation and made it a right.

    I think most people accept that whatever is legal is okay. It is frequently a change in the laws which helps to foster a change in hearts. That is certainly what happened with civil rights. When the government started demanding desegregation, the nation was engulfed, but eventually integration became the law of the land and, more importantly, was accepted in people’s hearts. There is much evidence to support the notion that this is also the case with abortion. Obviously changing people’s hearts is the surest and most effective way to curtailing abortions, but when it comes to immoral behavior laws help. God didn’t wait until the Israelites had a change of heart before he gave Moses the Ten Commandments.

  • Tim Shipe

    Here are some direct quotes from the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church- taken from the all-important section on Family Life- free market, anti-tax, anti-public subsidy politicos please take note- remember your criticism on this is a criticism of the thinking of our Church’s Magisterium- so really think about your response to the following two-part quotation:

    The family, economic life and work
    248. The relationship existing between the family and economic life is particularly significant. On one hand, in fact, the economy (

  • Tim Shipe

    Continuing on with the official social doctrine quotations:

    250. In order to protect this relationship between family and work, an element that must be appreciated and safeguarded is that of a family wage, a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently[564]. Such a wage must also allow for savings that will permit the acquisition of property as a guarantee of freedom. The right to property is closely connected with the existence of families, which protect themselves from need thanks also to savings and to the building up of family property[565]. There can be several different ways to make a family wage a concrete reality. Various forms of important social provisions help to bring it about, for example, family subsidies and other contributions for dependent family members, and also remuneration for the domestic work done in the home by one of the parents[566].
    251. In the relationship between the family and work, particular attention must be given to the issue of the work of women in the family, more generally to the recognition of the so-called work of

  • Pansy Moss

    Whether you manage to get the laws changed or not, a cultural change needs to take place. When Margaret Sanger wanted birth control, (and later PP with abortion) to become mainstream and acceptable, she worked hard at getting the culture to change. She took on ministers to further her cause, she managed to convince black leaders to help exterminate their own people. She managed to get her agenda and perspective taught in public schools. She managed to get millions of tax dollars to promote her evil. I mean what she had on her side was they were willing to use lies and deceit and whatever else to get her point across and quickly. But she was persistent. Waiting to have sex until marriage used to be the norm. Now it is a ridiculous notion. How do we take back our culture? I’m not sure when many of our priests are afraid to speak up from the pulpit about abortion and birth control. When we have Catholics stating they would rather see the poor on birth control rather than have tax money used for their assistance. Why are we not as persistent as MS? Why do we accept bits and pieces of this culture instead of standing firm and out and out rejecting it? I don’t know, but we need to use their tactics and start fighting back.

    I think there are so many even minuscule things we can do. For example, do you know how many times people tell me they “are done” having kids. Two is more than enough! They tell me this because I “get it”, this is the normal, right way to do things. Well, maybe I should start declaring “I’m not done”…actually I wouldn’t do that because I think that is too personal a statement and kind of obnoxious and tacky. But maybe I should go out more with my 6 1/2 kids. Maybe when people tell they are done I should give them blank stares like I have no idea what the heck they are talking about. Maybe I should stop and tell people more they have beautiful families…I don’t know, but I think these are things we should consider.

  • Tim Shipe

    I want to make the case that for all those who blog about the destructive use of tax revenues that go for “Entitlements” and “Welfare”- consider that according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) U.S. military expenditures accounts for nearly one-half the world’s total- which according to mulitiple sources translates into the fact that the U.S. spends as much on military related expenses as the next 20 plus nations combined!

    We do have a military-industrial complex as President Eisenhower warned about- and reading Tim Wiener’s History of the CIA, I am very, very worried- there is a pressure on the Industry and it’s political “yes men” to constantly justify such over-the-top budgeting-

    What I would like to see is a genuine Catholic Family Movement- to apply pressure to re-direct American resources away from global military maintenance of an predictably unteneable empire- and start building up America from within- use public monies once directed at the militarization of a superpower empire- over to fighting the good fight for children- here and abroad. Remember the Saddleback forum where Mccain was asked about a US programme directed at the 140 million global orphans- he didn’t even get the question, he was too busy fantasizing about chasing Bin Laden up to the “Gates of Hell!”.

    A real Catholic family movement would study the Catholic social doctrine’s directions for building a national and global civilization of Love. No one is saying that we should do away with the military- but deep cuts will be possible if and when we collectively decide to rein in the imperialist impulse that has plagued all powerful nations from the beginning of human history. Public subsidies for the critical domestic work in the home, raising children properly, with more monies for public and private school options, more policing and weed and seed programs for disadvantaged and dangerous neighborhoods, more faith-based organizational support at the grassroots level and so forth- I’m sorry but the Market-Only Guys are off the Catholic Reservation- there isn’t any such thing as a truly “free” market- economies don’t operate in a vacuum- raw power for good or bad always plays a role in real-life economics. Just look at the power of the defense industry. It is time for Catholic Family Power to assert itself in economics, culture and political policies- across-the-board!

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    Mr. Donohue:

    Please let me focus two quotes. From you, and Rome:

    1)

  • Ben

    Regarding the military expenditure – the US has taken on many jobs that should be more equitably distributed around the world, but which nobody else is willing to do. This includes large amounts of public health – the CDC, the Uniformed Public Health Service, the Army and the Navy all work on this. The Army and Navy also happen to be at the cutting edge of deployable engineers (the Army Corps of Engineers are the leading environmental engineers), search and rescue, international law enforcement, surveillance, etc. They also lead the world in propulsion research, logistics, law enforcement in conflict zones, and a variety of other roles.

    Partly this is because they have uniformed persons – in large numbers – who can be ordered anywhere, any time, for no personal benefit outside of their commitment to the military. These people are trained, as doctors, nurses, medics, scientists, lawyers, chaplains, engineers, and with many other skills – including, yes, combat, force protection, security, transport and logistics, etc.

    This, and the comprehensive benefits required to compensate such service, accounts for much of the enormous expense of the military. On the industrial side, high standards for the equipment these people use leads not only to high costs, but also to high oversight expenses. When these things fail, the public gets very angry and for good reason.

    But as to your larger contention – that we should be building a global civilization of love – you are looking past the parousia to something we should earnestly look forward to, but in the meantime, the only place that can possibly occur is the church, and we should all expect that anywhere else, it won’t. So, in the church we need strong discipline to try to make a global church in which all people love all the people in its communion – complete unity, orthodoxy and orthopraxis, drawing in all the people whose ancestors left for various good (and not so good) reasons and casting out those who would destroy.

    But we must assume largely the worst of the rest of civilization and make sure that the forces of justice are supported, encouraged, and armed to the teeth.

  • Sam

    Adriana wrote:

    As for abortion, I am afraid that Pro-life position is in the same position of the gun banning lobby. Taking away precious constitutional rights.

    LIke it or not, abortion is something that most people think they are entitled to. Even if they do not want to have one, they resist having a right taken away. Call it wrong, or sinful, but it is a fact of life.

    When you try to ban by Goverment something that society at large does not consider wrong, then you get things like Prohibition, and the empire of Al Capone. You have to reach society and Government will follow.

    Adriana,

    From your posts on other articles, you are undoubtedly a passionate and thoughtful woman. I have to disagree with you on your “abortion = a constitutional right such as gun ownership” logic above. Unlike the right to keep and bear arms explicitly stated in the 2nd Amendment and backed by the natural law right to self-defense, nowhere in the Constitution is a right to abortion expressed or intended by the Founding Fathers. Jurists of many ideological stripes agree that the Roe v Wade decision was fundamentally bad law — there is no penumbra of an emanation of a right to privacy in the Constitution and therefore no basis for a right to an abortion. The positivistic legal approach is ultimately just an arbitrary usurpation of the natural and divine laws. Catholics of good conscience are not only bound to change it but also bound to fight it.

    There are many good ways to fight the overall societal acceptance of the faux “right to choose/abortion” (call it what you want). One way is the legal way — appoint more justices who have an original intent, constructionist approach to interpreting the Constitution. Another way is the economic approach — find ways to make Planned Parenthood and abortion industry unprofitable by drying up their customer base and tying up their assets in lawsuits. A final and in my opinion most effective way is to win the hearts and minds of the young toward the compellingly beautiful, ever ancient ever new, truth that human life is precious and sacred and therefore must be protected. Because the hearts and minds approach is most effective, I also believe it is winning and that the tide is slowly turning away from vast societal acceptance of abortion. Call me optimistic, but I believe that more and more people are willing to revisit the so-called “right to abortion,” especially as the radical feminists who came of age in the 1960s start to age and the younger generations replace them in prominence and power.

  • Adriana

    Sam:

    Of course, there is not Constitutional right to abortion, as there is to bearing arms.

    But it is enough that people believe it is. The result is the same. And they do not want to have the Government to take their rights away (insert proper Libertarian rant at this point “,blah, blah, blah, those bureaucrats think that they can make better decisions than you about what is yours, blah, blah, blah..”). The facts of the matter get lost in the shouting.

    That’s why I say that the Right-to-Life is basically in the same position as anti-gun zealots, seen as people bent on ruining other people’s fuan. Dour puritans who do not want people to enjoy themselves.

    One warning, no matter how useful the temporary alliance might be, Catholics cannot trust Libertarians. I know that there is a number of Libertarian Catholics, but it is only a matter of time when they will have to choose between the two. The moment when the Libertarian movement gets up and says “The Pope has no right to tell me how to live my life!” It is closer than you think. Check the latest issue of Reason Magazine. On page 15 there is an interview of a Libertarian hero: one John Stagliano, producer of pornography, who sees his trade as one advancing liberty.

  • Adriana

    By the way, on the subject of abortion, let me recommend a fantasy book which is the most pro-life you can find, without being a bit preachy about it, and being quite funny to bit.
    “Sing the Four Quarters” by Tanya Huff

    It involves the ultimate unwanted pregnancy: the bard Annelise has gotten pregnant from a casual liasion. She is already in a committed relationship (it is same-sex, but no one is perfect). The father and her clash (they are both incredibly pigheaded – they are described thus “the inmovable conceit meeting the irrelsitible opinion). Furthermore, she is commanded by the King not to have any children (she used to be a princess who gave up her rigths to become a bard) on pain of being accused of treason. And the father has just been condemned to death by treason.

    Talk about reasons not to have a child…

    So, our heroine does the only logical thing: help the fahter of the baby to escape, and trudge with him up to his home to try to prove his innocence. So, with her pregnancy advancing, and arguing all the time they do get there, and they do prove his innocence, and she makes her brother then King. The baby has healing powers, and she actually heals her half-brother *while still in the womb*. In the meantime we are promenaded by some medieval-like world full of families who are devoted to their children and happy marriages (one of the villains is a man who would rather let his daughter die than to have her saved in ways that go against his ideology).

    It is from the same author of the Blood Books, about the vampire son of Henry the VIII (who turns out to be a decent sort, in spite of his father).

  • Joe H

    Keep bringing the social doctrine to the masses! I always enjoy what you have to say, and you know I’m with you 100%.

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    My post in the California Catholic Daily, should clarify this overspent false dilemma on Social Encyclicals:

    Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 11:30 AM By Guillermo Bustamante

    Thanks Father M.P. That was precisely my point, to the wolf-protestantizers in sheep-social teaching skins.

    Make a poll on your mentioned FACTS, if you dislike them… woe to you cafeteria-protestantizers! Write them 100 times in your notebooks!

    There are no worse blind, than who don’t want to see.

    What facts? (experiences to be polled)

    Posted Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:38 PM By Fr. M.P.
    A real Catholic supports all the teachings of the Church. Those who pick and choose – cafeteria style – are not Catholic at all, in spite of their claim otherwise. What seems to be in practice is that those teachings which are non-compromisable, pro-life, are populated by solid fully believing Catholics.

    I do not find pro-lifers rejecting other teachings in my experience.

    What is also all too common is the dissenters, who hide behind the label of social justice, populate much of the “justice” named ministries…All organization leaders need to be real Catholics, not these cafeteria heretics”.

    In short: if gently asked to choose other denomination, and the so called Catholic pro-abortion lawmakers refuse, the USCCB duty is to excommunicate them (already are in theory)PUBLICLY.

    Or the Auschwitz debate club roots will grow… endlessly.

  • Tim Shipe

    More bad news for the military-industrial complex advocates from the Compendium of Social Doctrine- any Republican Catholics want to lobby McCain on this one?

    e. Disarmament

    508. The Church’s social teaching proposes the goal of

  • Tim Shipe

    I hope and pray that Deal Hudson and Bill Donahue are basing their dialogue with our separated brethren in the political realm on the actual social doctrine, the whole social doctrine as applied to realms beyond just the Life issues. From the Compendium- I offer more wise advice:

    Promoting dialogue

    534. The Church’s social doctrine is a privileged instrument of dialogue between Christian communities and the civil and political community. It is an appropriate tool for promoting and cultivating attitudes of authentic and productive cooperation in ways adapted to the circumstances. The commitment of civil and political authorities, called to serve the personal and social vocation of mankind according to their own areas of competence and with the means available to them, can find in the social teaching of the Church an important support and a rich source of inspiration.

    535. The social teaching of the Church is also fertile soil for dialogue and collaboration in the ecumenical sphere. This is already happening in various places on a broad scale concerning the defence of the dignity of the human person, the promotion of peace, the concrete and effective struggle against the miseries of today’s world, such as hunger and poverty, illiteracy, the unequal distribution of the goods of the earth and the lack of housing. This multifaceted cooperation increases awareness that all are brothers and sisters in Christ, and makes the journey along the path of ecumenism easier.

  • Tim Shipe

    Building a civilization of love is not something confined within the Church only- it is a duty we Catholics have to the community- to the world-

    . Building the

  • Tim Shipe

    The last words of the Compendium are a fitting conclusion here:

    583. Only love can completely transform the human person[1229]. Such a transformation does not mean eliminating the earthly dimension in a disembodied spirituality[1230]. Those who think they can live the supernatural virtue of love without taking into account its corresponding natural foundations, which include duties of justice, deceive themselves.

  • Joe H

    Guillermo wrote,

    “What is also all too common is the dissenters, who hide behind the label of social justice, populate much of the “justice” named ministries…All organization leaders need to be real Catholics, not these cafeteria heretics”

    I agree. It is too common and it discredits those of us who take the social doctrine seriously.

    It truly bothers me that my positions on economics, for instance, will instantly cause all sorts of suspicion or outright accusations of being soft on abortion or other moral issues. Never mind that I don’t take a position that differs in anything but perhaps emphasis from what Popes have written for over 100 years.

    I haven’t really made an issue of it since I’ve posted here, but I do consider myself a “trad”. I don’t think demanding a just and moral economy is inherently linked up with the sort of obscenities and profanities that SOME “progressive” Catholics have attempted to normalize. On the same note, I would criticize any of my fellow trads who were ignoring and disregarding the social teaching, uncritically swallowing and parroting the economic agendas of big business and corporatism and forgetting everything that has been written about the dignity of workers.

    The social teaching, after all, pre-dates Vatican II by a century. The Church was challenging unbridled capitalism long before the 1960s, it was doing so from a position of orthodoxy, not liberal innovation. I will never cease reminding traditionalists of this.

  • Adriana

    Joe:

    You might turn it around, and say that those Catholics who rant about abortion, but then denounce the Social Doctrine of the Church, are cafeteria Catholics. They take what they like, and reject what they do not.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    I know of:

    (1.) Some Catholics who assert strongly pro-life opinions (the term “rant” makes it sound devoid of reasoning, which I know wasn’t your intent) while being ignorant of the Social Doctrine of the Church;

    (2.) Some Catholics who assert strongly pro-life opinions while informedly disagreeing with left-leaning Catholics (and perhaps you? I don’t know your views) about what that Doctrine entails;

    (3.) Some Catholics who assert strongly pro-life opinions while informedly disagreeing with those parts of the Doctrine which are not about faith or morals and therefore not part of the Catholic church’s infallible teaching authority.

    Your post makes it sound like you’re accusing as “cafeteria Catholics” a large group of persons who:

    (a.) Are loudly pro-life;
    (b.) Are entirely informed about the Social Doctrine;
    (c.) Agree entirely with you about what the Social Doctrine makes obligatory; and,
    (d.) Disagree with or ignore that Doctrine, including portions thereof which they know to be infallibly taught.

    I hope you’ll forgive my skepticism, Adriana…but I don’t think that’s a particularly large group at all! (Fifty such Catholics in the United States? Twenty-five?)

  • R.C.

    I don’t understand your assertion that classical liberals, libertarians, free-market conservatives, et cetera, are at odds with the Social Doctrine of the Church.

    Thus far in this thread, have you yet listed a quote in which the Church required that governments use force, or the threat thereof, to achieve the desired ends of the Doctrine (which all good persons of any political stripe desire)?

    Have you yet listed a quote in which the Church required that Employees of the People violate their Contract of Employment (the Constitution) and the principle of Subsidiarity to achieve the desired ends of the Doctrine?

    Have you yet listed any activity, declared by the Church to be a moral obligation not of individuals but of some larger organization of persons, which cannot be better and more morally achieved by an organization which does not use or threaten force in order to achieve its ends?

    Perhaps you have, and I missed it amid the long train of posts in this thread. Or, perhaps I didn’t miss it, but misunderstood some quote, which the Church intends requires Federal involvement, as being one in which the Church permits action at the State, City, or Community government level …or by community organizations, or charitable organizations, or ecumenical organizations, or individual parishes, or individual families, or individual persons.

    Finally, perhaps you’ll help me understand this quotation from Quadragesimo Anno:

    41. …Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed “the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns”; however, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. [emphasis mine]

    Social Doctrine, Social Doctrine, Social Doctrine. “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

    Inconceivable?

  • R.C.

    In my preceding post, I said,

    I don’t understand your assertion that classical liberals, libertarians, free-market conservatives, et cetera, are at odds with the Social Doctrine of the Church.

    I am referring, of course, to those libertarians, et al, who do not oppose Church teaching on matters outside the topic of the Social Doctrine; e.g., abortion.

    A sizable minority of libertarians, Catholic or non-, Christian or non-, are pro-life. They regard an abortion as a violent assault on a person, and as such, acknowledge the duty of the government to intervene, to prevent, to prosecute and punish, et cetera.

    I did not, in that quote, intend by any means to suggest that the majority opinion about abortion of Libertarian Party members in the U.S., which is pro-choice, is correct or in agreement with Church teaching.

  • R.C.

    And, of course, I’m thinking of Catholics, or at least Christians, who vote for libertarians and conservatives. I’m not including, say, Ayn Rand, who obviously is in opposition to more than just the Church’s Social Doctrines!

  • Joe H

    Adriana wrote:
    Joe:

    You might turn it around, and say that those Catholics who rant about abortion, but then denounce the Social Doctrine of the Church, are cafeteria Catholics. They take what they like, and reject what they do not.

    Absolutely, yes. I thought I suggested as much when I said I would criticize fellow trads, who presumably would be orthodox on abortion, but may be ignoring the social doctrine.

  • Joe H

    RC,

    There is a flaw in your criticism of Tim, and its not just the strawman you made (more on that below).

    You write,

    “Thus far in this thread, have you yet listed a quote in which the Church required that governments use force, or the threat thereof, to achieve the desired ends of the Doctrine (which all good persons of any political stripe desire)?”

    Why should he have to do that? You make it seem as if we are faced with an either/or: either we are libertarians and against coercion, or we are statists and for it.

    I think what Tim is calling for libertarians to do is voluntarily reject their current ideas in favor of ones that are, in his view, more appropriate for Catholics – or at the least, to make at least SOME effort to square their beliefs with the social doctrine, which I’ve yet to see.

    For instance, Thomas Woods is perhaps one of the leading spokesmen for libertarian economics and Catholicism, and I don’t think he referenced the social doctrine even once in his several page defense of free markets from a Catholic perspective that is featured here at IC. I would have to go back and read again to be sure.

    I don’t think libertarianism needs to be chucked entirely overboard, but I do think it needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of distributism and the better side of collectivism. After all, there is libertarianism, and then there is AMERICAN libertarianism which is individualistic to the point of near-blindness at times. Yet our social doctrine states that man is to be the subject of the economy and not the object of blind economic forces, and that this is important for human dignity. The market does not know all and see all, let alone fix all – it is not God.

    Being a Catholic to me means you can’t wholly embrace any secular ideology, whether it is libertarianism or socialism or modern liberalism; it means you have to find those elements that are compatible with Christian love, meld them together if you can, and dispose of the rest.

    Next you write,

    “Have you yet listed a quote in which the Church required that Employees of the People violate their Contract of Employment (the Constitution) and the principle of Subsidiarity to achieve the desired ends of the Doctrine?”

    Are you serious man?

    Aside from the fact that contracts can and should be change, and that I don’t believe for one second that the Founding Fathers were themselves legalistic pharisees who intended to bind the will of one generation on all subsequent generations (with their “intent”)…

    There is a moral law higher than secular law. Constitutions are not sacred documents but secular documents and it is entirely appropriate that they should change with the times. They do not embody eternal truths. They are meant to cope with temporal and present realities – the Constitution was drafted in a rural-agrarian economy where family self-sufficiency was a given; we are now a highly mechanized, globally connected society facing a set of problems that the founders couldn’t even imagine. To blindly apply concepts for the governing of one to the other is unreasonable, it is a long walk in a deep darkness that can only lead to catastrophe.

    To the extent that this country’s founding is based on an eternal truth, it is to be found in the legally irrelevant Declaration of Independence. The Constitution, as is often said, is a “godless document.”

    And you haven’t demonstrated at all that Tim was calling for anything that would violate the principle of Subsidiarity. You simply asserted it. Where did he do it?

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Great to “see” you, as always; I’ve been almost ticking off the seconds until you’d post that reply!

    You write,

    Why should [Tim need to indicate compulsion?] You make it seem as if we are faced with an either/or: either we are libertarians and against coercion, or we are statists and for it.

    Not at all, or that wasn’t my intent. My intent is to indicate that libertarians who are Christians (and therefore not, say, Social Darwinists or Randian Objectivists) agree with 100% of what Tim, and the Social Doctrines, propose as ends and only disagree when compulsion is proposed as means.

    Since that is the only thing they disagree with, and since Tim claims they disagree with the Social Doctrine, it follows that Tim believes the Social Doctrine requires compulsion.

    I, however, am not convinced the Church has or would teach such a thing, so I requested a quote where such a doctrine was plainly taught, with a claim to infallibility.

    I think what Tim is calling for libertarians to do is voluntarily reject [ideas they hold which are in conflict with Catholic teaching]…

    Exactly: But I’m not sure that among Catholic libertarians, there are any.

    For instance…I don’t think [Thomas Woods] referenced the social doctrine even once in his several page defense of free markets from a Catholic perspective that is featured here at IC.

    Sad, that; I suspect there’s a very Catholic argument to be made along those lines.

    I don’t think libertarianism needs to be chucked entirely overboard, but I do think it needs to be balanced with a healthy dose of distributism and the better side of collectivism.

    Hmm. I quite agree: But for libertarians who are Christian, the question is always “which techniques are used to achieve the goals,” whereas for collectivists and distributivists who are Christian, the question is more like “what are the goals?”

    Provided, then, that the collectivists and distributivists don’t embrace communism/socialism as their technique, and libertarians don’t embrace income equality or the “weeding out of unfit persons” as their goal, there is no reason one could not be a collectivist libertarian.

    And (to refer to our earlier conversations) when one’s idea of “individualism” is all about moral responsibility (including responsibility for charity to others) and not about making a virtue of selfishness, there’s no reason one could not be a collectivist individualist libertarian.

    Yet our social doctrine states that man is to be the subject of the economy and not the object of blind economic forces, and that this is important for human dignity. The market does not know all and see all, let alone fix all – it is not God.

    Absolutely. But then Christian free-marketers never argue that it is; they argue that, as a practical matter, the free-market usually produces human dignity far better than alternatives, provided it is enacted in a system of the Rule of Law (including Property Rights, Contract Enforcement, Equal Protection, and the like).

    You can disagree with them about whether that is a true empirical observation. But it’d be a straw-man to claim that they care nothing for human dignity when they loudly proclaim that very thing as one of the best arguments for their system!

    Being a Catholic to me means you can’t wholly embrace any secular ideology, whether it is libertarianism or socialism or modern liberalism; it means you have to find those elements that are compatible with Christian love, meld them together if you can, and dispose of the rest.

    Absolutely. Or, you could put “political party” in place of “secular ideology.”

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    …continued…

    In reply to your question “Are you serious man?” I answer: Yes, and no.

    Do I seriously think Tim would argue that the Church teaches a violation of Subsidiarity, when Subsidiarity is her own principle? No; and the suggestion that he would argue as much is facetious, on my part.

    And of course I don’t argue that contracts are inviolable or always advisable. The Church would not dissuade a man who’d ordered a “hit” on his wife, if he decided to renege.

    But I do argue that:
    (a.) The Federal Constitution of the United States cannot be honestly construed to authorize Congress to enact any of the larger social-assistance programs it has enacted. It explicitly reserves such powers “to the states, or to the people”;
    (b.) If any government should be involved in such activity, it should be the lower levels thereof, which is exactly the intent of the authors of that Constitution, and is in accord with Subsidiarity, besides.
    (c.) That the U.S.Constitution is currently construed to permit such activity is one of the lingering wounds of F.D.R.’s court-packing threat, and represents exactly the same kind of inattention to “framer’s intent” as those folks who say that David and Jonathan (or Jesus and the Apostle John) were gay, or that Jesus made grape juice at Cana, not wine, or any of a hundred other dishonest readings of historical texts.

    The Founding Fathers [weren't] themselves legalistic pharisees who intended to bind the will of one generation on all subsequent generations…

    You’ll need to let them know that, then. It was common argument — and usually won the day — as late as the 1850′s whether the U.S.Constitution even permitted Congress to create a national bank, a library system, disaster relief for regions hurt by storms, et cetera. Even when those who were there at the Convention disagreed, it was about what meaning they’d agreed upon in 1789. (Look up the other founders’ debate with Alexander Hamilton re: his desire for a national bank, and see for yourself.)

    Constitutions are not sacred documents but secular documents and it is entirely appropriate that they should change with the times.

    Absolutely: Hence the Amendment Process.

    To blindly apply concepts for the governing of one to the other is unreasonable, it is a long walk in a deep darkness that can only lead to catastrophe.

    I am not saying that the U.S.Constitution could not be amended when needed to meet modern contingencies. I am only pointing out the plain fact that it has not, in fact, been amended in such a way as to permit what has been going on for some time. I would add that much poverty has resulted (I argue) which we’d have been spared had the authors’ intent been adhered to on this point. But even if the authors’ intent would have caused poverty, it is still safer for us all if we formally amend the Constitution rather than saying, “Well, it means what we need it to mean.” That leads to catastrophe.

    And you haven’t demonstrated at all that Tim was calling for anything that would violate the principle of Subsidiarity.

    Well, as I stated above, I don’t think that.

    I only worry that Tim favors national legislation to compel alms, when the proper level for the lion’s share of such work would be the parish, the city, the county, or in extremis the state.

  • Adriana

    Of course Goverment coerces us.

    The question, is does it have the right to do so?

    It must have it, or else it is not Goverment at all. Laws are not suggestions, they are meant to be obeyed, and if they are not obeyed, then those who do not are law-breakers and should be treated as such.

    I think that Saint Thomas has something to say about obedience to legitmate authority. You may argue what is “legitimate”, but not against the principle of obedience, and the power of the legitimate authority to punish those who disobey it.

    As for Catholic libertarians, they sound too much of a chimera, with two halves battling against each other, the libertarian half rejectin any form of coercion, and the catholic half bowing before the will of the Pope, and accepting not to use birth control, and abstaining from activities which are fun, or else people would not want to do them – that is, putting another man’s judgement over his own. Something is got to give.

    As for cafeteria catholics, I think that the title applies very well to those who accept Chruch doctrine, except those portions of the social doctrine which actually might cost them money. They are very happy outlawing abortion, because they know they will not be asked to support the babies that are not aborted (sometime in the eighties a State tried to put the requirement that parents of pregnant teens should be responsible for their granchildren – and there was an outcry from the Right to Life organizations who said that it constituted an incentive for the grandparents to abort the grandchild). They agree that raising children is the highest calling a woman can have, until they are confronted by a woman on goverment assistance who wants to stay home to raise her children. Then it is no longer a high calling but a desire to sponge off the taxpayers…

    Of course, I undestand people disagreeing with parts of the doctrines, but I get suspicious that the parts they disagree with are the ones that cost them money…

  • Tim Shipe

    Sorry- I’ve been dealing with a little flooding here in Melbourne, FL- little distracted except very early in the morning when I should be sleeping-

    Joe has been acting like my guardian angel- giving more detailed responses to legit gripes from RC.

    RC- in a nutshell- I keep coming back to extensive quotes from the official social doctrine and major social encyclicals- rather than proof texting one or two sentence quotes- because it is my goal not to convert fellow Catholics over to being liberals, conservatives or libertarians- but to see more clearly that we have to keep testing our assumptions out up against the official Church- If our goal is to be little Christs- it is pretty obvious that Jesus was not a textbook liberal or conservative- and even though He didn’t spend a lot of time on direct political commentary- given that He was making it clear that zealotry was not the ultimate solution to the temporal problems- in fact He was the solution- and He founded a Church which would fulfill through her developing doctrines, the role of public prophet- and it is Christ’s Church that chose to take ‘citizenship status’ and begin directly laying out the blueprint for a global civilization of Love. So, I believe it is a minimalist position to say that the ordinary Magisterium carries no significant moral weight when this authority speaks out on matters that involve prudential judgments- if we are to jettison all the papal encyclical wisdom on the natural laws relationship to economics, political life, stewardship of the earth, and the just war criteria to boot- well I think we end up with a very hollow Church- with the Magisterium reduced down to a few infallible statements, and is pretty much useless after that. I find this to be a liberal undermining of what the Magisterium is, and what role Christ has ordained for this Authority to play in the life of Christians.

    The reason I am harsh with respect to Free Market Absolutists, is that I don’t think you can read seriously the Papal Encyclicals and the Compendium of Social Doctrine, and come away with the idea that the Free Market is so compelling- to be on par with the reality of Gravity- that is calls forth absolute submission to the free exercise of local, national, and international economic transactions- with no allowance for governing authorities to regulate, or intervene in meaningful terms- lest the whole system turns suddenly socialistic.

  • Tim Shipe

    It is my firm conviction that the Church teaches that political authority has a duty to ensure the common good, and that has to include enough power to intervene in the economy when the common good is being harmed by some business/industry practice- be it an abuse of workers due to their lack of political power, or say to protect the environment from undue waste of finite resources or unnecessary pollution.

    I also conclude that the Church is saying that market economics, or a business economy is in general a good thing- preferred over strict socialism- but the Church is equally clear that there is a need to have a just juridical framework for the economy- and (take note RC) – The Church does call for such things as public subsidies for such things as child raising, and educational choices and the like- see the quotations I took from the very important section of the compendium on Family Life.

    I am not an automatic Statist, but I believe that when the economic forces have grown into global entities with huge international clout- it is imperative that there be national and international political authorities who are empowered to meet the power of multinational business interests so that the just juridical framework that must govern all economies, is able to be enforced. I don’t believe you can conclude from reading the Church social doctrine that national governments are inherently evil, and then claim that international businesses are going to somehow provide for the common good by following a self-interested programme of returning maximum profits to all of their investors. Recall that it is Scripture that warns that the Love of Money is the root of many evils-.

    The Church overall takes a very positive approach to the role of political authority- but it is not a blind faith in such authorities- which is why the Church also is clear in preaching that the laity have an absolute duty to participate in the temporal ordering of society- we need to be more effective witnesses to the full weight of our social doctrine to the community- we need to be social doctrine maximalists, not minimalists, and we won’t get it done by ignoring or piecemealing the social teachings into comfortable fits with obvious religious-like substitutes like political parties and economic/political ideologies. I am a strong critic of every major party- even as I belong to one- because I am Catholic First- I don’t try to force the social doctrine into a little box of ever-changing political policies of any party- I try to let the social doctrine speak for itself, and attempt to make the best possible application into the real world- this is why I try to connect my views as directly as I can to inspirational sections of the official Church teachings/advice. My personality and polemics can work against my arguments sometimes- but I am clearly trying to express that our only chance to unite as Catholics politically is going to be around the official social doctrine- not any political party or ideology- I don’t think the Lord intends for us to be divided up so radically as political liberals v. political conservatives- this is a scandal which must be corrected sooner rather than later.

  • Joe H

    RC,

    You write,

    “Since that is the only thing they disagree with, and since Tim claims they disagree with the Social Doctrine, it follows that Tim believes the Social Doctrine requires compulsion.”

    I suppose I can see the logic here, but I’m not sure it is the “only thing they disagree with.” I’ve seen more than one conservo-libertarian attempt to justify or at least display indifference towards massive inequalities in wealth as long as no coercion is involved; the social doctrine on the other hand says that society must find away to address these imbalances and correct them.

    Social instability is a great concern to the Church, and great imbalances in wealth, even if they are the result of allegedly “non-coercive” economic activity (a claim I wholly disagree with), lead to social instability. The vast majority of poor and working people do not accept and will not accept that their lot in life is to be a) poor, and b) the passive objects of economic forces beyond their control, and the Church agrees.

    Of course we can’t have perfect equality, but all too often even mentioning equality causes some people to leap directly into “perfect equality”, everyone is exactly the same, etc. So it may be safer to say that there is a range that everyone ought to fall into, and you know, political theorists since Aristotle have all made the same argument.

    “You can disagree with them about whether that is a true empirical observation. But it’d be a straw-man to claim that they care nothing for human dignity when they loudly proclaim that very thing as one of the best arguments for their system!”

    Well, I do disagree with their methodology, which leads to a distorted picture of reality. But that is besides the point, as you suggest.

    I do think they care about human dignity but I also think that the real meaning of human dignity gets distorted or obscured under the theoretical assumptions and expectations of both government interventionists and free marketeers. We need theoretical frameworks to interpret data but when they become straight-jackets the best intentions can crumble to dust.

  • Joe H

    Next,

    “(b.) If any government should be involved in such activity, it should be the lower levels thereof, which is exactly the intent of the authors of that Constitution, and is in accord with Subsidiarity, besides.”

    This would be ideal, but it isn’t practical at this moment. We don’t just live in a national economy, but a global economy. We are as much the objects of global forces as we are the dictates of Washington. The level of economic interdependence, coupled with the fact that real economic power lies in the hands of a small minority, means that local governments are far less able to meet people’s needs than they once were. I remember it wasn’t too long ago that 38 – 38! – states were in a state of total financial crisis.

    Believe me I want to get back to local power and local control, but I can’t justify cutting people off from the aid they need today, right now, in the name of some abstract principle of political philosophy. Even if it is wrong in theory for these federal programs to exist, they do exist, and until we can gently and humanely wean off of them we have to deal with them as best we can. I don’t think the Church would support the immediate dissolution of social services upon which millions of families depend.

    “Well, it means what we need it to mean.” That leads to catastrophe.”

    Heh, well I feel that way about the liturgy of the Church, but I draw a line between spiritual matters and politics because they serve the same end in very different ways.

    I just think that there is a higher moral law we always have to keep in mind, and if the Constitution is unable to cope with some of the moral crises unleashed by new social forces that didn’t exist when it was written, then are we to suffer for that?

    “I only worry that Tim favors national legislation to compel alms, when the proper level for the lion’s share of such work would be the parish, the city, the county, or in extremis the state.”

    If these were immediately viable alternatives, I agree. Would you settle for gradually increasing their wealth and power and hence their role in addressing these problems while gradually decreasing that of federal governments?

    If so, then I think we all have to get on board with the basic ideas of distributism.

  • Tim Shipe

    From the Compendium of Social Doctrine- please read the whole section re: Morality and the Economy- here is a concluding bit which affirms both the business economy and the juridical framework necessary for the just functions of such market-based economies- with economics of scale like we have today- how can we not have a strong national government able to enforce the juridical framework? The social doctrine even says that national governments have to keep the universal common good in their policy decisions- so American “interests” cannot be ones that oppose global solidarity in a Catholic worldview. Lot’s of implications for advocates of Real Politicks/Pragmatism in this.:

    335. In the perspective of an integral and solidary development, it is possible to arrive at a proper appreciation of the moral evaluation that the Church’s social doctrine offers in regard to the market economy or, more simply, of the free economy:

  • Teri

    Dear Bill,

    Great article here. Interesting.

    After seeing the Olympics from China I think that most of the anti-God, abortion, and “elite intelligensia” crowd would be happier and better served if they emigrated to Beijing. Of course in China they wouldn’t have those old logs to saw on. Who would listen if they tried?

    American greatness is severely limited, cheapened even, when the sole guiding principle is economic greatness; that’s China where abortionists are the highest public servant.

    The American experiment, its greatness, is successful, at its best, when human freedom tied with truth, human rights, and human dignity are the guiding principles. It is about the Gospel of Life that JP II spoke about.

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    In today

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    Is King instead of Kink, and Speaker instead of President.

  • Joe H

    I pretty much agree with you, I just don’t see remaining faithful to the social doctrine and taking on the menace of legalized abortion as mutually exclusive tasks. They are instead complimentary, since the civilization of love and the culture of life cannot merely be implemented by legal decrees, but must be deeply rooted in the foundations of social life itself.

  • Marie

    R.C. God Bless you! I’m glad you showed up.

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    Indeed they not only complement each other, buy are mutually impulsive. The point I clarified in my second post here, is that this issue was pumped up as a false dilemma.

    Cordially

  • Adriana

    Guillermo and Joe:

    Indeed there is not an “either or” stance when it comes to the social doctrine and oppostion to abortion. Once we recognize that each human creature has in himself or herself a spark of the Divine, that he or she has been created in the image of God, then we have the obligation to treat this image of God with true respect.

    When you lack such true respect then you are tempted to separate the two, either seeking to enforce the social doctrine through marxist revolution, or opposing abortion without wondering looking at the many injustices that you condone when they are committed against the already born. Without it, any opposition to abortion is merely squeamishness at the sight of blood, and any cries for social justice an excuse to take violent action.

    This is what is meant by a “seamless garment”.

  • Guillermo Bustamante

    Adriana:

    ‘Indeed there is not an “either or” stance when it comes to the social doctrine and oppostion to abortion’.

    Exactly what I called an overspent false dilemma.

    Cordially

  • Castellanus

    Education is needed, first. Until people are educated and consider it evil, any attempt to ban it by law will fail. We can do it with human trafficking because our society considers it evil, and societies which do not consider it evil need the goodwill of societies who do, so they grudgingly comply.

    As someone who has spent several years in public safety education the successful approach to changing negative behaviors is through a combination of efforts, i.e., education, legislationm, incentives etc. No amount of education or incentives will convince some people to do the right thing whether it be giving up smoking, wearing seatbelts or requiring car seats for youngsters. For some, making it illegal will be the only answer.
    Pro-abortionists criticize the pro-lifers for only caring about making abortion illegal and punishing the poor woman who is often left to make this decision on her own or worse yet forced by a boyfriend or husband. But making it illegal does not mean you lock everyone up. For example we have laws requiring children be placed in car seats. Now there are many poor families unable to buy a car seat or they come from a different cultural background which does not see the need for them.
    Regardless, for the safety of their children we have laws requiring their use. If someone doesn’t have one and gets pulled over, they aren’t arrested but that is an educational opportunity as well. People who can’t afford a car seat are directed toward community resources that can provide one and they can be given information on why they are needed. But to simply seek to educate in this instance without having legislation would be foolish.

    Furthermore as stated earlier making something illegal will keep some people from doing it simply for that reason. There was a young artist in the U.K. pregnant with twins who because the system failed her had an abortion. Then a year later in her grief she killed herself after realizing what she had done. This woman would be alive today if abortion were illegal. The doctors who the pro-abortion lobby are always telling us should be the only ones involved in this decision making process neglected or ignored the obvious warning signs, that she was reluctant to have an abortion.

    Education is necessary but the legislation buys you time to reach those who aren’t listening or haven’t heard. I sit on the board of an inner-city crisis pregnancy center and from personal experience, and that of others, know that some women even after being presented with ultrasounds, and alternatives will still have an abortion simply because it is easier and they have the voices of Planned Parenthood or others encouraging them to do so.

  • R.C.

    There are a lot of thoughtful and gracious posts to which I need to reply; have patience, folks, I’ll try to get to every point you raised!

    Adriana:

    You state,

    Of course Government coerces us…The question, is does it have the right to do so? It must have it, or else it is not Government at all.

    Exactly. This is something with which libertarians heartily agree: Government is that organization to which we grant a near-monopoly on our coercive power. You continue…

    As for Catholic libertarians, they sound too much of a chimera, with two halves battling against each other, the libertarian half rejecting any form of coercion, and the catholic half bowing before the will of the Pope…[various examples thereof]…that is, putting another man’s judgment over his own. Something [has] got to give.

    Here I think you make an error — understandably because less clear-headed libertarians make it themselves if they’re not careful. The error is to confuse I am being compelled, by threats to my person or property, to act in a way which violates my understanding of what is good and true with I will voluntarily submit to the judgment of another, because I myself judge that act of submission to be, itself, good and true.

    Stated that way, one can see that they are two entirely different scenarios: In the former, freedom has been injured and judgment overridden; in the latter, judgment has been exercised, in perfect freedom.

    I said that “less clear-headed” libertarians could confuse the two. Now, most human beings (clear-headed or not) are prone to that sin of pride which makes us grit our teeth when someone inconveniently exhorts us to good conduct or the acceptance of unwelcome truth. But only muddle-headed libertarians would make a liberty issue out of it.

    For of course the Pope compels no one. He asserts some teaching; they may accept it or reject it; if it is a matter of dogma or papal infallibility he may excommunicate himself by rejecting it. But one can obtain food or shelter without being Catholic, so one can’t even argue the dissenter is being compelled indirectly through privation.

    Even were dissenters barred by force of arms from entering Church buildings, one could not say force had been used against them (those buildings are private property and private organizations have broad rights to say who comes and goes)…but in fact, not only does that never happen, but some of the most public dissenters in the world (pro-choice pols) are not only not barred from the buildings, but given the Body and the Blood nearly every time!

    So while a libertarian (or statist) might have pride problems with obedience to the Pope, there is no compulsion issue. A libertarian Catholic sees no “chimera,” no cognitive dissonance, at all.

    In fact many folk are libertarians not because they resent all authority, but rather because they feel authority is too important to be exercised by the wrong parties. The demarcation implied in “Render unto Caesar…” is both very Christian and very libertarian, for only a Statist would think that “all which is God’s, is also Caesar’s.”

    (This feeling, that “authority is too important to be exercised by the wrong parties,” is roughly analogous to the feeling that “sex is too important to be exercised with anyone but your spouse.” If the first phrase is anti-authority, then I guess the latter phrase is anti-sex! …but in fact the reverse is true, in both cases: The importance of the thing is underscored by the insistence on its correct usage.)

  • R.C.

    Adriana, Joe, Tim, et alia:

    In defending the libertarian perspective here and in other threads, I find that some of those who are concerned about libertarianism, or find it incompatible with Catholicism, make a particular error.

    That error is to assume that libertarians never approve of the use of coercive power by government.

    Adriana stated the libertarian view perfectly when she said that government must have the right to coerce, “or else it is not Government at all.”

    The libertarian view loudly acknowledges this, and goes on to say that:

    (1.) Because government is, by its nature, coercive, it has a sphere of core competency; namely, situations which inescapably require or involve coercion.

    (2.) There are many social ills; but many of them ought to be solved by individuals or voluntary organizations of individuals (including churches).

    (3.) Social ills which involve force or fraud initiated by one party against another, innocent party fall within the core competency of government action because they are, themselves, coercive, and coercion is the proper response to them. (Force, e.g. a violent assault, is obviously coercive; Fraud is “intellectual coercion” because it overrides the judgment of another by deceit.)

    (4.) Government coercion comes in both direct and indirect forms, and may be strong or weak or somewhere in-between.

    (5.) When a social ill involves strong coercion against an innocent party (e.g. murder) the government is within its rights to initiate strong coercion against the perpetrator (e.g. the death penalty). This is appropriate for a reason akin to the childhood excuse: “But he started it!” The murderer initiated compulsion; government escalates its response to a matching level, but does not over-escalate.

    (6.) When a social ill involves weak coercion against an innocent party (e.g. deceptive advertising) the government may only rightfully exert weak coercion in response (e.g. fines or short jail terms, not execution). As before, government escalates its response to a matching level, but does not over-escalate.

    (7.) When a social ill involves no coercion against an innocent party, then to the extent government uses coercion to fix it, the government over-escalates in its response. Such situations fall outside government’s area of core competence, and the introduction of compulsion into such a situation often creates more ills than it solves (e.g. Prohibition). But even when it does not, government’s right to “shoot first” (i.e., be the first to use compulsion) is dubious.

    To speak more clearly about Item #7, I’d like to pause to discuss the truth embodied in two quotes:

    (a.) Government derives its just powers from “the consent of the governed”; and,

    (b.) All powers not “delegated” to the U.S. Federal government are “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    …continuing…

    TWO QUOTATIONS:

    (a.) Government derives its just powers from “the consent of the governed” (from The Declaration of Independence); and,

    (b.) All powers not “delegated” to the U.S. Federal government are “reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” (from Amendment X of the Constitution of the United States).

    What is assumed to be understood in these two famous quotes is the heart of the libertarian understanding of government; namely, that:

    - Governments are instituted among men for the protection of their rights;

    - Government is a collection of employees of the people, to whom the people delegate certain of their own just powers, but not all (the remainder being reserved to themselves, or delegated to other governments; e.g., state and local);

    - Government may only justly exercise a power which it has been delegated by the people, and if the people have not delegated a power, and the government attempts to wield that power anyway, it is a usurpation;

    - The people may only delegate a power to government which they themselves may justly wield; if they purport to delegate a power they do not themselves rightly possess, it is a usurpation;

    JUST USE OF FORCE

    Let us say, in a wilderness, two men encounter each other. One eyes the possessions of the other and decides he’d like to have them. So he attacks the other man, intending to rob him.

    Does the intended victim have a right to use force to defend himself? Even to disable the would-be attacker, to thereby prevent future attack? To frighten the would-be attacker, to thereby deter future attack?

    The answer to all three questions, of course, is YES.

    There are some qualifications, however. If the attacker is an unarmed seven-year-old child, and the intended victim a linebacker with a machine-gun, the “victim” may not defend himself with the machine-gun.

    And, if the intended victim only suspects a possible attack, with minimal or no justifying evidence, he is not within his rights to preemptively disable the would-be attacker.

    (Such considerations, writ large, inform the Church’s “just war” doctrine, so I know I am on very Catholic grounds here.)

    Now in each of the cases where a man may justifiably use force, he may also justifiably delegate the use of force to an employee. And when he is not justified, his use of force does not become any more just if he asks an employee to do it on his behalf. (A mafia don is no less a murderer, even if he has “Rocco” perform the actual “hit.”)

    We are compelled, then, to accept this conclusion:

    The use of force by “the employees of the people” (government) is just if, and only if, use of force by an individual in an analogous/approximate situation would have been equally just.

    The Just War doctrine, no less than America’s Founding Documents, acknowledge this truth. It is a moral truth founded in Natural Law, and thus accessible apart from Divine Revelation. Hence the Founding Fathers’ assertion that it is “self-evident”: Not that it is obvious, but that it proves itself.

  • R.C.

    …continuing…

    Returning now to the seven-item list from part 2 of this series, I reiterate item 7:

    (7.) When a social ill involves no coercion against an innocent party, then to the extent government uses coercion to fix it, the government over-escalates in its response. Such situations fall outside government’s area of core competence, and the introduction of compulsion into such a situation often creates more ills than it solves (e.g. Prohibition). But even when it does not, government’s right to “shoot first” (i.e., be the first to use compulsion) is dubious.

    I first wish to emphasize that government has an “area of core competence”: It uses compulsion. It always does so, and (please note!) libertarians are happy for it to do so, when the situation is within its area of core competence.

    Prosecuting murderers: Core competence; the murderer uses force. Prosecuting thieves: Core competence; the thief compels me to give him my property by simply not asking! Prosecuting perjurers: Core competence; the perjurer overwhelms the judgment of others by deceiving them just as much as he would were he to point a gun at them and say, “Do this or else.” Fraud is “intellectual compulsion.”

    But what about income redistribution?

    Hmm. Not really an area of core competence, is it? If the poor man had actually been robbed by the rich man, that would be one thing.

    But what if the rich man already gives a quarter of his income to charity? Has created foundations for educating and training the poor? May government come and take yet more, to give to the poor man?

    No. It may not justly do so, in any country. And in the United States, it especially may not do so.

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    A Thought Experiment:

    Take three men: Tom, Dick, and Harry. They live in neighboring houses on a quiet street.

    Tom observes that Dick’s having a rough time of it, barely keeping his family fed. Tom’s a good sort, so he digs deep in his pocket and provides Dick with some extra cash to help out.

    What a guy!

    But Dick’s still not doing so well. We needn’t specify why: He could be hitting very hard times. And Tom’s a bit of a “community organizer,” so he goes to Harry and says, “Hey, Dick here’s got barely a penny to his name. Can you chip in a bit to help?”

    Now Harry’s already helped Dick out before now — or maybe he hasn’t. Maybe Harry’s got a daughter he needs to put through college — or maybe he’s afraid he’s about to be laid off and wants to save against a “rainy day.” But for whatever reason, Harry says, “Gee, Tom, I feel bad for Dick, but my answer is no, not at this time.”

    At this point, Tom pulls out a gun, points it at Harry, and says, “No, Harry, you are going to contribute, because in my judgment Dick really needs it…and I’ll tell you how much.”

    Was Tom within his rights?

    Obviously, no. And even if the reason Harry had withheld his money was, “I really want to use it buy a new car,” the answer would still be “no.” (Although whether Harry would thereby be sinning against God is a separate question altogether!)

    But look at the civic implications of our decision:

    We cannot delegate to our employees any power we don’t ourselves justly possess.

    We cannot, as individuals, justly use force to compel one man to give alms to another.

    Government are our employees.

    Ergo, we cannot justly delegate to government the right to compel one man to give alms to another. We ourselves lack that right; we cannot delegate it.

    This much is true of all societies.

    However, in the United States, when tax monies are collected under threat of imprisonment for redistribution, the usurpation is doubly unjust.

    For in the United States, the “employment contract” of our government employees is the United States Constitution. That Constitution clearly states that powers not delegated to the Federal government in it, are reserved to the states and the people.

    And a power which would justify redistribution programs is nowhere present in the Constitution. It just isn’t there at all.

    Even if people had just authority to compel arms, and could have delegated that authority to the Federal government, they did not, in fact, do so.

    So when the U.S. Federal government engages in such a program, it is not like an employee staying late to do extra tasks which his employer wants done, and will be happy to see done, and which fall within the spheres of authority his employer already delegated to him.

    No, it is a usurpation. It is much more like an employee neglecting the duties his employer delegated to him (e.g. enforcing the criminal code) and instead improperly acting on duties his employer never delegated…say, paying the “marriage debt” with his employer’s wife.

    As with almsgiving, this duty may be one which the employer is not performing. And as with almsgiving, it would be better if he were. But whether it is compelling almsgiving from a neighbor, or sleeping with one’s wife, in neither case may one justly delegate that duty to an employee. And if the employee usurps that role, for whatever altruistic reason, it is a grave evil.

  • Joe H

    But I think I’ll go ahead and start responding anyway, at least to the parts of this that pertain to our discussion.

    My fundamental problem with your approach, and with that of many libertarians I have met (but certainly not all, so I am not generalizing here), is that structural and historical problems are all but ignored.

    If we leave the realm of abstraction and look at real history, modern market societies, capitalist societies, are based on coercion. In England the peasants didn’t consent to the enclosure movement, yet without that movement there would have been no capitalism in England. The Native Americans didn’t consent to being slaughtered and run off their land, but without it, no capitalism in America.

    As for this “government as employees” argument, I don’t accept it. I didn’t consent to this government. I was born here long after it was established. Only the revolutionaries consented to it. I suppose we can have a debate about tacit consent. But I’m not going to accept that I am theoretically obedient to this government because it is allegedly “my government”. There are other reasons to be obedient, some of which are found in Scripture, others which are just practical – you do what the men with the guns say, or rather, don’t do what they don’t want you to do.

    It is still built on coercion because the super-rich today gain their wealth from doing business with countries like China, which oppresses its workers, and which is exactly why the wealthy want to do business there.

    I don’t have a problem with heavily taxing the super-wealthy or their corporations because “their” wealth is really a social product. It is made possible by the actions of thousands, if not millions of people across the entire globe, many of whom are living in poor conditions. It is an injustice that a small group of people can appropriate the wealth created by such a vast group in the first place. This, as much as any government program, is a gross violation of Subsidiarity.

    To me taxation at this level, at the level of massive corporate profits and shareholder dividends, and the personal fortunes they create, is not a “redistribution” – it is an attempt to justly allocate wealth. Justice consists of people getting what they are due. Those who work to create wealth are entitled to some of it.

    That said, I think taxation is a poor substitute for direct ownership. People should not have to depend upon a government bureaucracy to give them what is theirs by right. They should be able to directly appropriate it at the point of production and exchange. But our communities are broken, our local governments are largely powerless, and our culture is in an advanced state of decay.

    I think I can agree with libertarians if they support the goal of more local power and the voluntary establishment of cooperatives and other economic organizations that give more economic power directly to workers and members of the community, as opposed to capitalists and distant stockholders.

  • stephen

    Very good article by Chuck Baldwin, pastor and running under the Constituion Party…makes you think really who is the real pro-life candidate among all the 5 candidates.

    http://tinyurl.com/635rv6

    JOHN McCAIN PRO LIFE? WHAT A JOKE

    By Chuck Baldwin
    August 22, 2008
    NewsWithViews.com

    Once again, “pro-life” Christians are doing back flips to try and justify their compromise of the life issue by trying to convince everyone (including themselves) that John McCain is truly pro-life. However, these same people know in their hearts that John McCain shares no fidelity to the life issue in any significant or meaningful way. Like many in the Republican Party, McCain’s commitment to life is about as deep as a mud puddle.

    Dare I remind everyone that the “pro-life” GOP controlled the entire federal government from 2000 to 2006 and nothing was done to overturn Roe v. Wade or end legal abortion-on-demand? When George W. Bush took the oath of office in January of 2001, over one million innocent unborn babies were being murdered in the wombs of their mothers every year via legal abortions in this country. And when George W. Bush leaves office in January of 2009, over one million innocent unborn babies would still be murdered in the wombs of their mothers every year via legal abortions in this country. Eight years of a “pro-life” President and six years of the “pro-life” GOP in charge of the entire federal government and not one unborn baby’s life has been saved. Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land, and abortion-on-demand is still legal in America.

    Had John McCain and his fellow Republicans truly wanted to end legal abortion, they could have passed Congressman Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act. Year after year, Dr. Paul introduced this bill, and year after year, it sat and collected dust in the document room on Capitol Hill.

    What would Congressman Paul’s bill do? It would do two things: 1) It would define life as beginning at conception and, thus, declare the personhood of every pre-born child. 2) Under Article. III. Section. 2. of the U.S. Constitution, it would remove abortion from the jurisdiction of the Court. In practical terms, Dr. Paul’s bill would overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortion-on-demand. So, where was John McCain? Why did he not support Ron Paul’s bill and introduce a companion bill in the U.S. Senate?

    How can John McCain, and his fellow Republicans in Washington, D.C., look pro-life Christians and conservatives in the eye in 2008 and expect that we take them seriously when they say that they are “pro-life”? If the GOP had truly wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade and end legal abortion-on-demand, they could have already done it. They controlled the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the House of Representatives for six long years, for goodness sake. The reason they did not do it is because they did not want to do it. They merely want to use “pro-life” rhetoric as a campaign tool to dupe gullible Christian voters every election year. And the disgusting thing about it is–it works.

    check the link for the rest of the article…..
    http://tinyurl.com/635rv6

  • Adriana

    RC: Forgive me if I sound cynical, but I find it curious that your attacks against Government tyranny have to do with the Government taking money through taxes for ends that you assume are unworthy.

    I keep thinking on the people on the Underground Railroad, who fought againt the Goverment insistence on returning escaping slaves to their owners, or the resisters to Nazi or Communist tyranny, or more recently the Civil Rights movement, fighitng against unjust State laws. How curious that the only thing that you seem to object is their taking some of your money.

    The love of money is indeed the root of all evil, for it blinds us to other things. I know how John Lukacs felt at the banquet of NR where everyone was fawning on Henry Kissinger, while at the same time they had not bothered to mention the recent passing of Dorothy Day. The Servant of God threatened their idea of what property is, while Henry Kissinger, with all his sins, gray areas, and even crimes (I can say crimes, because he asked the Argentinian military to “speed up” the cleaning of “subversives”), did not.

    By the way, if the Chruch did not use force to collect charity, it was because it had the more powerful weapon of community pressure. In intanct, vibrant communities – such as they have been destroyed by the capitalist insistence that workers move where the work is, never mind where their roots, family, and friends are – community pressure is such a powerful weapon that those have to endure it them would gladly exchange it for Goverment coercion.

    I am bemused by your distinction between the authority of the State and that of the Pope, based on your opinion of whether their commands are worth obeying. Somehow an authority is legitimate if you approve of it? Or commands are to be obeyed if you feel like it?

    And while in these past centuries the commands of the Pope are worthier than those of the State, such was not the case for too many centuries – those Dark Ages of the Church that began in the Renaissance and ended only at the French Revolution.

  • Scott Hebert

    Well, I think that RC brings up the ‘tax’ issue because it is the heart of the disagreement. It really has very little to do with ‘taking _my money_’ and very much to do with the rights of the government vs. the individual.

    I say this when currently I could gain a lot of money from wealth redistribution. I have no income, and probably will have little to none for the next year and a half. However, I find myself more and more persuaded by such Libertarian arguments, as they make quite a lot of sense, and properly understood do not undermine Catholic teaching.

    Let us take one example, that of the ‘living wage’ that Mr. Shipe detailed in one of his first posts. I fully agree that a living wage should be able to be received by anyone who wishes such. (Note: This means that the person wishing this needs to do what is required to procure it.)

    However, I have not seen anything as of yet in Catholic Social Teaching that states how we are to achieve this living wage. And indeed, the ‘how’ I don’t believe should be stated, as that does not fall within the clerical realm. Therefore, I am forced to go to economics to find the answer.

    Well, one clear way would be to impose a minimum wage. This is a simple way of ensuring a minimum salary. However, basic economics tell us what will be the unforeseen consequences. In a free market society (which Catholic teaching says can be preferable to a non-free market society), the labor market is a market like any other. A minimum wage, from the pespective of the labor market, is an artificial price floor. If the minimum wage is actually in effect (that is, if the wage would be below the minimum wage without the law), then economics states that the result will not be higher wages, but instead a shortage of the commodity in question. With a labor market, this equates to unemployment.

    Now, I’m not saying anyone here advocates a minimum wage law, but I only use this as an example of the unintended consequences a law can bring.

    Finally, Mr. Shipe, I would be very interested in making your acquaintance. I live in Titusville, and so I find that not only do I live in your state, I live in your county. May I ask what church you attend?

  • R.C.

    Adriana, Joe, Tim:

    Sorry I sort of stopped in mid-stride there, and never really replied directly to your objections except for Adriana’s.

    It was 4 AM, and I knew Mass was at 8.

    I had to get some sleep.

    Now, on the following day, I find myself less energized for such a verbose exposition.

    Instead, some quick replies are in order:

    Adriana: To respond to your cynicism:

    (1.) I am not wealthy; I feed a wife and two (soon to be three) children on an income which is less than the price of a middlin’ BMW. Yet I tithe-and-above, on pre-tax income; on good years I may double tithe when gifts to missionaries and third world assistance are included…though I admit it’s been several years since I last managed that. I’ve helped the Roma (gypsies) in Sighisoara, Romania build a clinic and a school building, and worked with their often-naked children in the villages of Soard and Albesti. I hate saying this to you because I feel I’m giving up treasures in heaven…but I feel you’re asking me to prove my bona fides; I’m not here trying to justify a personal hoard or deny assistance to the poor. (Though I’d hold the principles I espoused above to be equally true if I were: Even the devils believe in God — and shudder — and a person could be a damned soul, yet still speak the truth.)

    (2.) You state,

    Your attacks against Government tyranny have to do with the Government taking money through taxes for ends that you assume are unworthy.

    This is a bit off-the-mark for three reasons:
    (a.) I hold the ends to be EXTREMELY worthy, but the means to be unworthy;
    (b.) I do not, I think, assume those means to be unworthy, but I rather try to demonstrate and prove them unworthy by the arguments stated above; and,
    (c.) I oppose government usurpation of power in any form it may take, in the U.S. or abroad…but not all such usurpations are pertinent to threads at InsideCatholic.

    To expand on that last statement:

    Were Catholics likely to encourage the People’s Republic of China to kill, torture, and imprison members of house-churches, you’d find me railing against that. As it happens, I’m aware of no such misguided Catholics here, so there’s no point in my railing against folk who agree with me about Chinese oppression.

    Were Catholics here at InsideCatholic generally predisposed to vote for pro-choice politicians, you’d find me railing against that (as I occasionally have when such folk showed up in comment threads about Obama). But the most frequent commenters here (you, Joe, Tim, David, Brian, others) are not of that sort.

    Ah, but get on the topic of encouraging the Federal Government to redistribute income, and there we have an error which is rampant. Several folks (Tim, Joe, Todd, you) either support this error, or else their words are written in such a way as to lead even an attentive reader to think they may do so. And corrections or even objections to that error seem comparatively rare.

    So naturally, in the war for truth, I pick up my crossbow and bolts and run to the part of the wall which is least defended.

    I do that even though, when compared to Chinese oppression of churches or pro-abortion Congresscritters, the oppression (!!!) of entitlement spending is hilariously less important, less severe. In such a context, the word “oppression” sounds out-and-out silly. And we Americans are so very wealthy; surely we can afford having some of our tax bill enlarged, even if it is through unworthy means, for the sake of some worthy end?

    So I hope you’ll understand, Adriana, that my focus on this topic is not reflective of my thinking it the worst evil in the world…but neither is it random. Were folk here at InsideCatholic already saying such things as I am, I wouldn’t bother saying them myself.

  • Adriana

    Scott: about the labor market and economics, it is good to remember that the relationship between employer and employee is a *human* relation primarily, not an ecomonic one, and to reduce it to an economic issue is to reduce a fellow human being, made in the Image of God, to an economic factor.

    I can give you a good argument for trying to achieve a living wage. Every December our Church participates in bell ringing to raise money for a fund that is used by the working poor to tide them over in winter months, or in emergencies like needing car repair, or a thousand other thing. I can undestand that the motels and other industires that rely on cheap labor have their own economic needs, but I wonder why I have to freeze my toes so that they can keep their labor force around. I mean, if we can keep the maid from having to go to the emergency room with hypothermia, thus saving them the trouble of finding someone else in a hurry, why aren’t they more grateful to us and our frozen toes? I have yet to see any employers who use us to make their employees wages to be livable one show their appreciation to us. They are just freeloaders, in my opinion.

    Some people say that you should not have children if you cannot provide for them, making them depend on charity. In this case, the employers can make their employees not depend on charity, but they choose not to.

    There is also the issue of workplace safety, highlighted in the worst cases: a poultry plant which goes up in flames and the employees inside burn because the doors are locked, cave ins in mines that break safety standards, a produce picker left to die of heatstroke in the field instead of being rushed to the hospital. This is that happens when employees are not fellow human beings but units of production. It is cheaper not to provide safety than to provide, and they know the risks. Either that or be hungry.

  • Scott Hebert

    Adriana:

    You make some good points, but you seem to have missed the fact that I do indeed believe a living wage is important, even crucial. However, I disagree with the interventionist attitude that many people seem to express.

    Economics tells us that, under ideal* conditions, the free market provides the most prosperity to all concerned. (Ideal generally means here ‘everyone makes perfectly rational decisions based on increasing their worth’.) I will note that the ideal is not necessarily the ‘best’ situation, but it is preferable to many alternatives.

    You seem to operating from the standpoint of late 19th century issues with your speaking of safety issues and concerns. You also seem to avoid the fundamental issue for those who do not share your viewpoint.

    The main issue is one of force. If nothing else, I think you can agree that if someone forces me to do X, I am less likely to do X of my own choice, and if I do, it will not be to the same degree. You ask why employers do not pay higher wages. They could respond, “I am forced to pay so much in taxes, and for their future security, that I cannot pay them any more now.”

    I sometimes get the feeling that people see employers as nothing more than a place to gain a paycheck. THey have their own concerns and needs, and the restrictions placed on them seem to only be increasing.

    I find the issue of safety to be a curious one, as my job in a year or two could be easily designing such safety concerns. I find your assertion that management does the absolute least it needs to in order to protect its workers… distasteful.

  • Joe H

    I agree with the principle behind living wages – that workers are not making enough to support their families and should be making more. I don’t blame the prominent Catholics who have advocated for the living wage because it is a just demand.

    But I don’t think wages are the way to do it.

    Scott writes,

    “In a free market society (which Catholic teaching says can be preferable to a non-free market society), the labor market is a market like any other.”

    It doesn’t have to be, though. Not everyone is on the labor market; owners of productive property are not (they may work for themselves but it isn’t the same as selling labor to live).

    What is unjust is that social production and distribution processes that require the input of thousands of workers are autocratically or oligarchically owned and controlled. It is unnecessary as well.

    We wouldn’t need to discuss wages at all if everyone who was a worker was also part-owner. True, there would be a different set of problems to contend with, it wouldn’t be skipping and whistling towards utopia. But they would be the problems that dignified individuals face, not desperate and worn-out individuals. And the problems could be handled humanely by all those involved, instead of as they are now, with dictates handed down from top shareholders and CEOs to workers miles away who have no control over their own fate.

    This is what the Church really prefers, from what I have read. It has insisted that man is not a passive object of social and economic forces, but an active subject. It has insisted that the dignity of the worker is the highest moral priority in economics. This adds up to property ownership within the context of community and cooperation. It means the gradual abolition of the labor market, the distinction between worker and owner, laborer and investor.

  • R.C.

    A bit more for Adriana:

    I keep thinking on the people on the Underground Railroad, who fought against the Government insistence on returning escaping slaves to their owners, or the resisters to Nazi or Communist tyranny, or more recently the Civil Rights movement, fighting against unjust State laws. How curious that the only thing that you seem to object is their taking some of your money.

    Well, as I said above, perhaps not so much of my money. In my present circumstances, I’m in one of the lower tax brackets. And, also as I said above, there are far worse errors in the world: But this is the one I felt needed to be addressed here at InsideCatholic. Were folks here at InsideCatholic supporting slavery or Nazism, you’d find me comparatively silent about unconstitutional usurpations in the area of the entitlements budget…and rather louder about other things!

    I am bemused by your distinction between the authority of the State and that of the Pope, based on your opinion of whether their commands are worth obeying. Somehow an authority is legitimate if you approve of it? Or commands are to be obeyed if you feel like it?

    I think you must have read that part of my argument only glancingly, to have so misunderstood it. Give it another look-see.

    By the way, if the Church did not use force to collect charity, it was because it had the more powerful weapon of community pressure.

    You say, “did” as if you refer here to some past time frame, not the present; I’m not sure how to respond because I don’t know exactly what pressure you’re thinking about. Are we talking about the use of perfectly legitimate guilt? Or sending people into starvation if they disobeyed? Or something in between? Depending on this distinction, such “pressure” might be a thing we should criticize as a past error of Churchmen, or laud it as a past glory of the Church, or something in-between!

  • R.C.

    Premise

    It is certain that the Church has sometimes seen an evil and yet failed to decry it precisely…only to speak more clearly about it decades or centuries later?

    Slavery is an example. Christ established a Church, which carried a worldview, that was (in the end) the death-knell of slavery. Once His truth had percolated through society and all the implications were worked out, it was clear: Slavery is impermissible.

    Yet in Apostolic times, few saw that evil with such clarity as we have today. In fact, some Church teachings (“pay your debts”) could be construed as supporting slavery (debt slavery) and the case of Onesimus is at best vague.

    And there is the Spanish Inquisition. Was Tom

  • Joe H

    RC,

    I think you’ve asked for what you know doesn’t exist, and what I never claimed existed (I can’t speak for the others).

    You haven’t replied to me yet, so I’m waiting on that. My position is simply that taxation of super-wealth, of wealth derived exclusively from corporate profits, is just because that wealth is a social product.

    I would differentiate that from your personal income tied to your actual work. There I would be willing to accept your arguments, though I would voluntarily contribute to treasuries I knew were supporting schools and roads, not imperialist wars and corporate subsidies.

    And all of this aside, I will reiterate that I am basically a distributist, that I don’t think taxes or government are a permanent solution to any of the serious problems humanity faces or are even the best option in accordance with Catholic social doctrine.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Well, yes, I strongly suspect that what I’m asking for doesn’t exist…though I acknowledge that I (a.) am imperfectly informed, (b.) have a bad memory, and (c.) could have misunderstood a passage which, had I correctly understood it, would have blown my argument to smithereens.

    So it’s only fair that I give others — others with far more time considering the Church’s teachings than my paltry couple of years! — a chance to correct whatever ignorance, forgetfulness, or misunderstanding might have led me to error.

    And although I run a risk by offering my argument up for a coup de grace in this fashion, it’s only a risk to my pride…something which could use a lot more mortification anyhow.

    Should, however, there be no available evidence to undermine my hypothesis, then I would get confirmation, not that it was absolutely true, but at least that I could hold such a view without thereby excommunicating myself…no small thing, that!

    And you’re right of course: I’ve not given your earlier posts anywhere near the direct response they deserve. It’ll have to be later to-night, though: My wife and kids are waiting for me to join them on an errand and I can’t be late. Sorry for the delay.

    Respectfully,

    R.C.

  • Joe H

    I look forward to your reply! It will be fun :)

  • Adriana

    Scott:

    Those safety issues were not from the XIX century. They all happened in recent years – the mine cave ins just last year if I recall, the poulty plant fire during George W. presidency, same thing with the produce picker. It happens still, as it happens that in some plants bathroom breaks were restricted, to the extent that workers peed in their pants, and in spite of padding some of it leaked on the floor (and they were packing food..). Issues that show the complete lack of respect for human beings from the employers.

    As for *ideal* conditions, I do not see them anywhere. As for the time that Adam Smith made his observations, I wonder how he integrated into his scheme the sugar trade, based on slavery, and the slave trade that supported it. Somehow I do not think that such activities could be called the working of the free market.

    Anyway, the free market is never the first choice in human societies. The first choice is always to take what you want, and when you can’t steal, trade, and trade dishonestly if you can get away with it. The reason why the free market is an ideal condition is because it takes a lot of time and effort to keep it free.

  • Adriana

    RC:

    About compulsion of alms.

    First, Charity is one of the three Virtues, along with Faith and Hope, and we are enjoined to practice them – though charity tends to have more external manifestations.

    So, it is proper for the Chruch to enjoin the faithful to practice the Virtues.

    As for compulsion, tell me, was there a law forbidding to wear white shoes after Labor Day? And yet people did not do it.

    Refusing to give alms was something that was “not done”.

    It is an index of how far has community been destroyed, that you cannot even imagine the kind of society pressure that can be exterted in a place where everyone knows every one else,and everyone knows everyone else’s business – and feels free to comment on it (one of the reasons so many chose the State was that they found its yoke easier than that of their neighbors’)

    So, yes, not giving alms was very much frowned upon. Slack on that, and you risked Saint Anthony of Padua speak at your funeral telling the mourners that the corpse’s heart was not in the body, but in the treasury room – and finidng it there, all rotten and stinking up the place. Very embarrasing for the family, and an incentive on other families to keep their members generous.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    Everything you said in your last post, I agree with entirely, and entirely supports my thesis.

    First, Charity is one of the three [Theological] Virtues, along with Faith and Hope, and we are enjoined to practice them – though charity tends to have more external manifestations.

    Yes. And, note: When someone voluntarily exhibits charity, we can be far more certain that his motives are charitable. If we were to learn, after the fact, that a person’s actions might have been influenced by self-interest (for example, that he would have been fined, imprisoned, or killed had he done otherwise), we look back on his external marks of charity and ask, “Gee, was that really an act of love, or an act of fearful self-preservation?”

    This is the meaning of the assertion that, “While there may be as many as one decent, moral person in Saudi Arabia, there may not be, and we have no way to know.” For in Saudi Arabia, following the Mohammedian logic, goodness is compelled: It’s modesty or else, pay the zakat or jizya or else, stay away from opposite-gendered persons or else. Perhaps some of these folks would have been modest anyway out of a desire to please God. But many of them will never be tested in that way, for they’re too busy placating the morality police with burkhas. We cannot certainly credit a single woman in that whole country with the virtue of modesty: Not one has ever had an opportunity to publicly exercise it.

    So, it is proper for the Church to enjoin the faithful to practice the Virtues.

    Exactly. No libertarian (indeed, no anarchist) would say anything different. For to “enjoin” or “exhort” someone is to appeal to their reason and their virtue: Their sense of goodness and truth. If, in that way, the person is convinced, then they do the right thing for the right reason, and act virtuously.

    Had we held a sword at their throats the whole time, and they reacted by acting “virtuously,” we’d have known that they quite likely were acting un-virtuously.

    For, in addition to the three “Theological” virtues, there are the four “Cardinal” virtues (Prudence, Temperance, Justice, Fortitude). “Courage,” including the courage to resist oppression even at the price of martyrdom, falls under “Fortitude.” And if a person acts in such-and-such a way, not because they’ve been convinced it’s right, but rather because they’ve convinced that resisting oppression isn’t worth the risk to life-and-limb, then they’ve not exercised any virtue; they’ve only failed to exercise Fortitude. Far from a good act, it could very easily be a sin.

  • R.C.

    …continued…

    As for compulsion, tell me, was there a law forbidding to wear white shoes after Labor Day? And yet people did not do it.

    I don’t see any way that example is helpful, as it involves a morally neutral and arbitrary cultural practice. When I make a point of not mixing plaid with prints, I doubt God credits it to me as a meritorious act.

    Refusing to give alms was something that was “not done”.

    When? I’m sure there are times when this was true. The only reason it isn’t so true today is because (following Christ’s words about “storing up treasure in heaven” and not doing your good works “before men”) most of the charitable giving in the U.S. is kept secret from everyone except the church accountant and the IRS. If such alms were more public, you can bet there’d be marked social pressure on those of the wealthy that don’t give generously.

    It is an index of how far has community been destroyed, that you cannot even imagine the kind of society pressure that can be exerted in a place where everyone knows every one else,and everyone knows everyone else’s business – and feels free to comment on it.

    Well, I can, but that’s a matter of my own biography, and comparatively rare in the modern West.

    One of the reasons so many chose the State was that they found its yoke easier than that of their neighbors’!

    I can’t figure out what you’re conveying in this sentence. Are you saying that a large number of people who lived in a place where there were no taxpayer-funded alms, but where there was large community pressure for almsgiving, pulled up stakes and immigrated to a country where they knew there’d be no community pressure, but a tax-mandatory welfare state? …and for that reason?

    So, yes, not giving alms was very much frowned upon.

    Again, when? To what former time/place do you refer? But let’s keep in mind that Jesus bid our almsgiving be secret that we have treasures in heaven. If my confessor or my IRS auditor is also my eulogist I run the risk you describe…or else, if I am virtuous, I gain funerary praise from these two men who’re in the know. But if I follow Jesus’ injunction, I will hopefully spend a lifetime being frowned at by others who think I’m a Scrooge, only to find after I am gone that all my giving was both generous and secret. (It’s rather like St. Thomas

  • R.C.

    A pertinent interview:

    http://tinyurl.com/5kmzol

    Amity Shlaes and Peter Robinson (part 1 of 5, but not all the parts have been yet posted on the site) discuss the “Forgotten Man” whose travails under FDR’s “New Deal” are the reason that the “New Deal” not only prolonged the Great Depression, but made it “great” rather than just another recession.

    This is, sadly, not as much common knowledge as it ought to be. But it has been understood by economists for decades: That FDR’s winning personality and public show of “doing something about the problem” increased Americans’ feeling of confidence that “something was being done,” but that his actual policies were much of what turned a two-year downturn into a decade-long worldwide disaster (especially for the poor).

    It’s something to think about, as we flirt with an Obama presidency. His rhetoric and biography make many feel hopeful that good things are afoot and that the United States might yet enter a golden age of post-racial good will, international comity, generous communities, environmental salvation, and abundance for even the poorest of the poor. A powerful personality can have that effect. But the actual policies, when examined, look to be likely to produce increased poverty, increased stress on the medical system, increased environmental damage, reduced charitable giving, increased racial tensions, and increased international warfare.

    I myself would not only not trust Obama’s policy team with custody of America’s future; I would not trust them with custody of my dog.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Here I begin my belated replies:

    I’ve seen more than one conservo-libertarian attempt to justify or at least display indifference towards massive inequalities in wealth as long as no coercion is involved; the social doctrine on the other hand says that society must find away to address these imbalances and correct them.

    Two responses:

    (1.) Are you confident that they were “attempting to justify” or that they were indifferent? Perhaps you’ve had the misfortune to converse with some real scumbags; I have no way to know.

    But I had to go to what (for me) are uncomfortable extremes to assure Adriana of my bona fides. Her inclination, on hearing my political views, was to suspect me of evil motives. (It helps me understand what conversations must be like for Republicans in Hollywood, or Catholics in the Protestant parts of Ireland!)

    Perhaps the persons with whom you were speaking were in the habit of giving 20% of a small income, or 40% of a large income, to charity…but wished for their left hand not to know what their right hand had done, and, like me, felt that they could not in good conscience support compelling their fellow man to do likewise?

    (2.) You’re correct to say that, “The social doctrine on the other hand says that society must find away to address these imbalances and correct them.” But notice that word “must.” Is it unqualified? We could assure every man a job by forcibly aborting every child after a couple’s first (a la China), thus creating a labor scarcity. Does the Social Teaching, within that word “must,” support such methods?

    The answer of course is NO, and I don’t for a moment think you’d say otherwise. But the example is pertinent because it demonstrates that this “must” is not a license to use evil means to achieve this (admittedly) noble end.

    So when we evaluate a technique for wealth equality, we must ensure it is not an evil means. The more certain we become that compulsory alms are an evil means, then the more certain we become that they’re not only not mandated by Church teaching, but will probably some day be prohibited.

    I am already fairly confident of this; you, Tim, and Adriana aren’t, and perhaps think instead that the Church will one day explicitly teach in favor of government-compelled alms. Or that they’ll never be explicit, regarding technique as outside the scope of their Magisterium. Time will tell.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Here’s another response to the same quote.

    I begin with a question: Do you think that, if Church teaching (or where Church teaching is vague, Christ’s intent) were correctly followed by the government of a society, there would be no differences in wealth between persons? (And, why or why not?)

    You might say, “Well, not no differences.” So let me change the question: Do you think there would be no large differences? (And, why or why not?)

    Well, you might ask, What do I mean by a “large difference?”

    So here’s a “third draft”:

    If Christ’s intent were correctly followed by the government of a society, what kind of disparities of wealth between persons would vanish, and what kind would remain? (And, why?)

    I’ll give my own answer to that question, in my next post.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Here is my own answer to the question, “If Christ’s intent were correctly followed by the government of a society, what kind of disparities of wealth between persons would vanish, and what kind would remain? (And, why?)”

    (1.) Disparities of wealth would (practically) continue to exist;
    (2.) Disparities of wealth should (morally) continue to exist;
    (3.) Such disparities would remain large enough (a.) to be used by politicians to justify class envy and covetousness; (b.) to allow some persons to regularly afford luxuries and charities completely inaccessible to others except with outside assistance.

    As for “why?” …there are many reasons:

    (a.) It’s a fallen world with fallen people. Even if we postulate an unfallen government perfectly following Christ’s intent, it would not be sufficient to overcome the net impact of the lazy, the workaholic, the covetous, and the unwise.

    (b.) Persons are not equal in the sense of having identical skills, or even skills of identical value to others. If even unfallen persons were to use and sell their skills, over time some of them would earn more money than others.

    (c.) Persons don’t have identical needs/expenses. Two families, even if unfallen, will burn through the same income at different rates if there’s a hemophiliac, or a violinist, or a teenage son with a large appetite, in one of them.

    (d.) Persons are not equal in the lifestyle they voluntarily choose, even when all options are available. (If this were not true, there’d be no monks or nuns.) The communist dream of wealth equality, would, if achieved, require St. Francis of Assisi to prudently manage his retirement portfolio of stocks.

    We should keep these truths in mind, because we are tempted to observe the wealth inequalities around us, and conclude that:

    (a.) They are all, only, the result of evil; (false)
    (b.) They are of great magnitude; (measured how? relative to what?)
    (c.) The system in which we live must therefore be greatly evil; (doesn’t follow even if (a-b) are true)
    (d.) Very great changes to the system in which we live must be called for to correct the evil; (wouldn’t necessarily follow from (a-c) even if (a-c) were unreservedly true)

    Such unclear thinking could lead to that wholesale “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” which characterized the French Revolution of 1789. (If we think (falsely) that where we should be would “look” radically different from where we are, we’re apt to overcompensate policy-wise, and do more harm than good.)

    I think a truer, holier, humbler perspective is to remember the comparatively few differences between where we are, and where we should be:

    (1.) There should be less conspicuous luxury-consumption, so as to avoid putting a stumbling-block before the feet of our fellow-men by tempting them to envy.

    (2.) There should be more charity which is recognized as personal, even if it is anonymous, so that more persons would experience that attitude of humility which comes from one’s needs being met by the gracious intervention of others.

    (3.) There should be more wisdom exercised in the use of income by all persons, but especially those with the least income. Since such persons are themselves often not well-informed, the sound counsel of others should be freely accessible to those who need it. But it should be sound counsel, and the person who receives it should be free to follow it, or not.

    I can imagine a government role in all this. But it would be a role to gently encourage or incentivize. That way we don’t “over-escalate” in our use of force.

  • Joe H

    Is that it?

    Forgive me for saying so but I don’t think you really addressed most of my points. You just made more of your own.

    I still want to know – do you agree or disagree with my contention that corporate wealth is social wealth, that fortunes derived from corporate profits are social wealth, and can be justly taxed and justly distributed to the society that created them? Given how you still question the “technique” and whether or not it is evil – did you even see the question as it was posed, twice?

    I still want to know – do you recognize the role that labor plays in creating wealth, that there is a difference between the price of maintaining labor (wages) and what labor creates (wages + profits), and that workers are justly entitled to it in some form, hence justifying “redistribution”?

    “Are you confident that they were “attempting to justify” or that they were indifferent? Perhaps you’ve had the misfortune to converse with some real scumbags; I have no way to know.”

    Notice my conditions – justified “as long as no coercion is involved”, meaning, as long as no one physically forced anyone to give them money or committed a an illegal fraud, whatever state of affairs results is just, even massive disparities in wealth. I’ve seen that here on this website. I can’t go back tracking through hundreds of posts to find it but it has been said.

    As for the total indifference, yes, I’ve seen that too – of course they aren’t indifferent to the plight of individuals they happen to know but to disparities in wealth? Of course! After all the wealthy “worked hard” for their money while the poor haven’t “worked hard enough”.

    You go on to ask me about what the Church would say about inequality.

    I specifically said that there ought to be a range into which everyone falls. It should go without saying that the Church does not endorse “evil means”, and I already said why I don’t think taxing corporate wealth is “evil”, but rather just, even though it is not my first choice. Certainly my preference for the voluntary formation of cooperatives and locally run community services is not an “evil” means.

    As for your lists, what’s missing from them is direct ownership and control of the products of labor. No, I have no problem with inequalities based SOLELY on talent (neither did Marx!), a true meritocracy. It is massive inequalities between people as owners and workers that need to be addressed.

    Workers create wealth. Owners appropriate it. But there is no eternal law that prevents a human being from being both at the same time, and for most of human history and in plenty of places in the world today, people still are. It’s just not enough.

  • R.C.

    Joe, you also say:

    Social instability is a great concern to the Church, and great imbalances in wealth, even if they are the result of allegedly “non-coercive” economic activity (a claim I wholly disagree with), lead to social instability. The vast majority of poor and working people do not accept and will not accept that their lot in life is to be a) poor, and b) the passive objects of economic forces beyond their control, and the Church agrees.

    Well, okay. Let’s break that down:

    Social instability is a great concern to the Church.

    Yes, and to even non-Christian and doctrinaire libertarians. So, no contradiction there.

    Great imbalances in wealth, even if they are the result of allegedly “non-coercive” economic activity (a claim I wholly disagree with), lead to social instability.

    Okay, I’m curious about your aside alleging that some economic activity which seems non-coercive actually is coercive. But since you pass over it without comment, I will also, and go on to address the central point of the quote: That wealth disparities can cause social instability. You even go on to state why, after a fashion:

    The vast majority of poor and working people do not accept and will not accept that their lot in life is to be a) poor, and b) the passive objects of economic forces beyond their control.

    Ah, there it is: The threat. In diplomacy one can “deplore” this or “frown upon” that, but when you say something is unacceptable, you’re declaring it a causus belli.

    But there are just wars, and unjust wars. What kind of actions are the poor going to take? Of those actions, which are morally right, and which are morally wrong? For of course the role of the Church is to assist with their physical needs, but also to counsel them not to take morally wrong action.

    And, how ought those who are wealthy respond to morally right action by the poor? How ought they respond to morally wrong action by the poor?

    One potential for great evil which I see here is the “protection racket,” brilliantly described by Tom Wolfe in his Mau-mauing the Flak-Catchers. In this scheme the representatives (elected or otherwise) of the poor and dispossessed go to the rich and say, “If you don’t pay off the poor, they’ll riot, vandalize, and loot.” The rich don’t want that, and (because they lack the virtues of Justice and Fortitude) they care more about convenience than principle, so they pay up. The representative takes a little (read: a lot) “off the top” and give the rest to the poor. The poor, in turn, learn that their representative delivers the goods, so they further empower him.

    This system of extortion involves a law of diminishing returns. The rich eventually tire of paying. To keep them paying, the poor have to make the threat visceral: An actual riot or two. And if any long-term rapprochement is reached (e.g., the poor actually reach the middle class), the representative will be fresh out of a job…so he has strong incentive to keep the poor poor, but not too poor (lest they conclude he’s not making enough progress, and replace him with someone else). He also has strong incentive to whip up the poor into a riotous mood (else his negotiating power is reduced), and to vilify and depersonalize the rich man in their eyes.

    This “protection racket” system is common enough; indeed the whole goal of the modern Democratic party appears to be to put and keep itself in the “representative” role described above.

    It goes without saying that I oppose this; and the Church ought to firmly oppose it also.

    All this does not mean that I think, when the poor are frustrated with their lot, they should just “sit there and take it” and that the rich have no responsibility to avoid this situation. More on that, later….

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Whoa, there, hang on a minute.

    Thus far I’ve replied to about two paragraphs of your last twenty (though not all of them require separate responses).

    So, no, “that’s not it.”

    But I’ve got a day job, and there’s only so quickly I can cover it all!

    You say,

    I still want to know – do you agree or disagree with my contention that corporate wealth is social wealth, that fortunes derived from corporate profits are social wealth, and can be justly taxed and justly distributed to the society that created them? Given how you still question the “technique” and whether or not it is evil – did you even see the question as it was posed, twice?

    I haven’t gotten to the first instance of that question yet, but since you raise it now, let me ask for clarification: What do you mean by “corporate?” …belonging to corporations (as opposed to partnerships)? Or belonging to some other person or persons? Ownership of a thing means authority to make decisions regarding it, and only individuals may do that. Even the property “owned” by a legal fiction (a corporation or trust) is actually owned by its owners.

    I still want to know – do you recognize the role that labor plays in creating wealth,

    Of course!

    …that there is a difference between the price of maintaining labor (wages) and what labor creates (wages + profits)

    Of course!

    …and that workers are justly entitled to it in some form, hence justifying “redistribution”?

    Possibly not, but the vagueness of whether you mean “entitled to all of it”, and of the phrase “in some form,” make me unsure. But we’ll also have to examine both what is meant by “redistribution” and “entitled.”

  • Joe H

    I thought you were done because you usually write, “continued” when you have more to say.

    My apologies.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Here’s a quickie I can provide. You say,

    So it may be safer to say that there is a range that everyone ought to fall into, and you know, political theorists since Aristotle have all made the same argument.

    Yes, exactly.

    Now, in a society where the individual decisions are very free, those decisions will produce widely-differing wealth. (In a less-free society, any decision produces the same amount of wealth, unless it is a decision which makes one part of the controlling class — such as the Central Committee in the old Soviet Union — in which case it produces wealth and power in abundance. But that’s a system which incentivizes ruthlessness and we don’t wish to emulate it, so let’s talk about the freer societies.)

    And I’ve already stated that, when confronting a social ill involving no direct use of force (no criminal attack or fraud), society is best served when either no force, or minimal, indirect force is used in response to it.

    “No force” means, of course, a non-governmental solution. “Minimal, indirect force” means some kind of incentives program.

    I (and, I think, all but the most doctrinaire anarcho-capitalists) could comfortably get behind a system which does the following:

    (1.) Strongly incentivizes charitable giving and progressively disincentivizes mere consumption as income and wealth rise;
    (2.) Disincentivizes conspicuous consumption for the wealthy;
    (3.) Disincentivizes taking on debt, especially excessive debt, for the poor; and,
    (4.) Incentivizes budgeting / saving advice services, with the incentives only fully applied when the person being advised measurably follows the advice;

    An example policy for Items 1 & 2 might be, “Calculate your wealth percentile and income percentile, and average them; call the resulting percentage X (expressed as a number between zero and one). Calculate your annual charitable giving divided by your annual consumption, and call that Y. A number of percentage points will be added to your income tax rate which is equal to 10 * (X – Y).” The math is a bit tricky, but here are some test cases:

    - A person with a wealth/income percentile of 99 (that is to say, he’s wealthier or higher-income than 99 percent of all other persons), who gives 99% as much as he consumes, would have no change.
    - If he gives only 49% as much as he consumes, his tax rate will go up by (10 * (.99 – .49)) percentage points, or five percent.
    - If he gives 150% as much as he consumes, his tax rate will go down since the amount is negative (10 * (.99 – 1.50)) = -5.1 points.
    - Meanwhile, a poor person (wealth/income percentile of 10%) who tithes (10%) would see his taxes unaffected.
    - And even if he gives nothing, he’ll still see only a small tax increase of 1% (10 * (.10 – 0)).

    An anarcho-capitalist would say, “Wait a sec; the purpose of taxes is to raise revenue, period; why all this behavior modification?”

    My answer is: We incentivize charity and disincentivize conspicuous consumption because they reduce the temptation to social unrest among the poor, thus removing that stumbling block. But we do it with a “feather touch” so as to (a.) avoid over-escalating the use of force; (b.) prevent the “protection racket” effect (and its benefits for the “representative”); (c.) help the poor experience assistance not from government but from persons (thus undermining the temptation to envy and class resentment).

    This method is more moral than brute redistribution, it is less prone to corruption, it rewards charity without punishing productivity, and it perhaps even helps save the souls of poor folk who might have been prone to covetousness, class-hatred, and rioting.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Another quick one:

    I do think they care about human dignity but I also think that the real meaning of human dignity gets distorted or obscured under the theoretical assumptions and expectations of both government interventionists and free marketeers.

    I agree, as a generality.

    But whether you and I agree about whether any particular measurement is true, or distorted, will probably depend on one or the other of us citing a measurement and how it is measured, and then reasoning our way through the details. Might take a while.

    I will say that the effects of currency devaluation, changes in cultural perceptions of “normal” consumption, the change in income-bracket over a person’s life-span, and the impact of state or local policies on economies are four things insufficiently accounted for in most folks’ perceptions of the economic health of the country.

    As a result, a person who says, “My folks lived on one $10,000 income and kept the family fed, but my family can’t manage it on two $70,000 incomes” needs first to ask:

    - “How much is $10,000 annually, in today’s dollars?”
    - “How much ancillary stuff do I have which my parents didn’t?”
    - “What am I trying to afford at my age, that my parents didn’t try to afford until decades later in life (if ever)?”
    - “Were my parents living in a relatively well-run, low-tax, business-friendly state or city, whereas I’m living in a place that businesses are fleeing for friendlier climes, resulting in retarded job growth?”

    You see that last item in the news, as well. I saw a national report on the “struggling economy” back three years ago, using interviews with people in Detroit about how awful life was. Well, that’s because Detroit keeps doing everything possible to turn the few silk purses they have into sow’s ears. Living as I was in Atlanta where to this day things are going along fine (and they were positively booming three years back), I could scarcely recognize the Detroit interviewees as living in the same country as me. Local policies matter.

    …more later, but not right away…

  • R.C.

    Aw, well, heck, I take it back. There’s one more thing I can reply to right away:

    Believe me I want to get back to local power and local control, but I can’t justify cutting people off from the aid they need today, right now, in the name of some abstract principle of political philosophy. Even if it is wrong in theory for these federal programs to exist, they do exist, and until we can gently and humanely wean off of them we have to deal with them as best we can. I don’t think the Church would support the immediate dissolution of social services upon which millions of families depend.

    Well, I wouldn’t want an immediate changeover, either. A “weaning” period is important, both to allow the Church to ramp up services (and adjust to the new influx of cash) and to prevent localized market disruptions.

    But this is why I say that, even if he were just as pro-life as John McCain, I wouldn’t vote for Obama, for fear of the harm he’d do to the poor. I think his policies would move in the wrong direction, away from a gradual weaning, and toward an increasing dependency. Since government programs are notoriously harder to reduce than to expand, it’s important to prevent such counter-productive entitlement increases. And since existing government programs are nigh-on impossible to kill, it’s vital to prevent new programs from getting that first “foot in the door.”

    Heck, the way our currency keeps getting devalued, I could almost live with eliminating entitlement increases based on inflation, and just let benefits become progressively less valuable until eventually nobody cared enough to bother with it any more. But of course, the currency devaluation bothers me, too, so that won’t fly!

  • Adriana

    RC:

    You seem to be a bit bemused about “communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business”, though it was the standard arrangement if Middle Ages villages. And in Middle Age towns, too. Our political roots are there.

    And one of the reasons the State grew out of that is that it was seen as less invasive than your neighbors, more willing to overlook what it seemed like trifles (after all,the State was for the most time far away, while your neighbors were right there – and the State probably had less time and resources to chase after trifles than your neigbors. I mean the State might do it if it thought it a good source of revenue, but your neighbors did it on general principle – and for the entertainment value).

    To give you an illustration, think that **all** the Nazi spies dropped in Ireland were caught within hours of being parachuted. Not because the Irish Intelligence Service was all-knowing, but because anyone who saw a stranger commented it in the pub, anda before long the police heard the gossip and acted on it.

    Believe me, if you prize your privacy, you’d prefer the yoke of the State to that of your neighbors enforcing community standards. After all, the State does no care if you put a Christmas display, but your neighbors will let you know that your house looks out of place when everyone lights up and you don’t (there is a novel by Charlotte McLeod (God rest her soul) whith that theme). Nowadays you can afford to ignore your neighbors – then you could not. The only social life you could have was with them.

    So if the Church did not use force, it was because it had a much more powerful weapon – but at the last resort, there was always an appeal to the “secular arm” which, the Church always maintained had the right to use force to achieve just ends.

    RC, I suspect that you start from a theoretical idea of how people should live, and go on from there, while I have a more historical approach. I know that there were no Golden Ages in the past, though at times things were better and then got worse (like when the Plague almost wiped out all that the Medieval Civilization had achieved). You see the State and Goverment power as a necessary evil at best, but do not have an inkling *why* it got to be where it is. I suspect that the State and Government came to be because there were worse alternatives out there.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    I’m sorry if I misled you about the source of my bemusement. I am actually a bit more well-read on the Middle Ages than the average citizen (which is admittedly not saying much).

    My bemusement derived not from a lack of knowledge of the period which you now specify, or even from any disagreement with how you describe it, but rather from the fact that:
    (1.) Until now, in this thread, you failed to specify which historical period or part of the world you were describing. You could as easily have been talking about Ming Dynasty China or 19th Century Middle America. (Hence my questions about “when and where”); and,
    (2.) As yet you haven’t stated explicitly any argument linking your observations about this formerly-unnamed period to the discussion at hand. The Irish could recognize Nazi spies…and? Yes? The Church, for lack of the Jesus-recommended secrecy about voluntary contributions, had the benefit of “guilting” people into contributing. Yes? And?

    Nothing you’ve said about either historical period (Middle Ages or WWII-era Britain) contradicts anything I’ve asserted in this thread, or anything I believe but haven’t asserted in this thread. If I’d sometime said, “The Irish couldn’t recognize Nazis in WWII” …well then we’d have something to discuss!

    Likewise, if you were to assert an actual policy recommendation for assistance to the poor, or even a philosophy out of which policy recommendations might be derived, I could either agree with it or rebut it. But at this time, your posts have the tone of a disagreement, sans the disagreement.

    In high-school and college debate teams they call it a “lack of clash.” Not that persons who disagree need be rude or abusive! (Joe and I seem to get along despite having differences of opinion.) But if two opinions aren’t stated in a way that (a.) clarifies their exact meaning; (b.) clarifies the points on which they are irreconcilable; and furthermore (c.) advances reasons to prefer one opinion over the other, then there’s no debate in progress at all. For all I know I could be vociferously agreeing with you.

    There has been one point where you made what was, if not quite a concrete and explicit argument, still, something out of which an argument could be inferred: Namely, when you say my view sounds “theoretical,” one can infer that you mean it is “unrealistic and not useful for actual moral calculations.”

    If that’s your argument, let me know and I’ll attempt to refute it.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    Now that I’ve explained the source of my earlier bemusement, I’m going to try to derive some concrete assertions from your last note, say them back to you, and ask if that’s what you intended to argue.

    And one of the reasons the State grew out of that is that it was seen as less invasive than your neighbors, more willing to overlook what it seemed like trifles…I mean the State might do it if it thought it a good source of revenue, but your neighbors did it on general principle – and for the entertainment value).

    Okay, so you’re saying that when the State compels alms at gunpoint, it’s preferable to your neighbors “compelling” alms with dirty looks and gossip…is that right?

    To give you an illustration, think that **all** the Nazi spies dropped in Ireland were caught within hours of being parachuted. Not because the Irish Intelligence Service was all-knowing, but because anyone who saw a stranger commented it in the pub, and before long the police heard the gossip and acted on it.

    Okay, so now you’re recommending the gossip-loving nature of the community because, even though its methods of incentivizing alms are more intrusive than the guns of the State, it’s better for national security. Is that right?

    Believe me, if you prize your privacy, you’d prefer the yoke of the State to that of your neighbors enforcing community standards.

    Hmm, I don’t know about that. Every April 15th, I tell the State more about myself than I tell some of my family members ’round the Thanksgiving table. But even if this is true, so what? I don’t see how the observation that “neighbors are gossipy in small towns” leads to the observation that “State compulsion of alms is more moral than all other alternatives.”

    After all, the State does no care if you put a Christmas display, but your neighbors will let you know that your house looks out of place when everyone lights up and you don’t

    To the contrary, some small towns have ordinances against excessive or tacky use of lights. And you bring up one way that the community pressure effect still exists: Neighborhood covenants.

    So if the Church did not use force, it was because it had a much more powerful weapon

    Debatable. But it doesn’t matter to the argument. Perhaps both force and gossip are evil methods and the Church is wrong to rely on either.

    …at the last resort, there was always an appeal to the “secular arm” which, the Church always maintained had the right to use force to achieve just ends.

    Ah, but never through unjust methods. And the Church has previously mistaken unjust methods for just ones (the Inquisition Example again, tho’ it’s oft exaggerated). For me to assert that, here also, the Church may have mistaken an unjust method for a just one, is perfectly in accord with what the Church says about herself.

    You see the State and Goverment power as a necessary evil at best

    On the contrary, I think government service is one of the noblest vocations in this fallen world. I fear you’re falling back on libelous caricatures of libertarians in place of argument.

    …but [you] do not have an inkling *why* it got to be where it is.

    Unless all of what I know about the history of government is mistaken, I have more than an inkling.

    I suspect that the State and Government came to be because there were worse alternatives out there.

    I don’t just suspect that, I firmly assert it. (Another “lack of clash”: You’re saying things, in a tone of disagreement, with which I vociferously agree.)

  • Adriana

    I was having a nice nap when the phone rang, soliciting for a charity.

    It is at moments like this that I appreciate the fact that the tax money they take from me does not involve annoyances like this…

    RC, I did not praise the gossipy nature of small towns, but I wanted you to undestand how pervasive social control can be in them, and that they indeed can be far more oppresive than the State. While being able to stop Nazi spies immediately is a plus, somehow the drawbacks make it not worth it.

    Specially if you are a woman. When children show their disapproval of a woman riding a bicycle by throwing stones at them, you can be that it is not the State that orders them to, but to enforce the social norms. When young girls are pulled from schools to be given as wives to old men, it is not the State doing the oppressing. When a young girl is having her genitals mutilated so that she will not be “loose”, it is not the State oppresing her. It is just community standars.

    Compared to what oppresion can be found in small communities,the State is literally liberating.

    But you are a man, you see, so you not need to worry. You can afford to be libertarian, because you know that if you have sex on the side, you will not be drowned like an unwanted dog. I *know* that I *need* the State.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    As a libertarian, allow me to wholeheartedly agree with you. I’ll even offer a libertarian truism: It is the role and duty of the State to liberate you (a word I won’t put in scare quotes, but will simply use without qualification) from such violations of your rights as you describe.

    Males and females alike have rights, and “to secure these rights governments are instituted among men.”

    Specially if you are a woman. When children show their disapproval of a woman riding a bicycle by throwing stones at them, you can be that it is not the State that orders them to, but to enforce the social norms. When young girls are pulled from schools to be given as wives to old men, it is not the State doing the oppressing. When a young girl is having her genitals mutilated so that she will not be “loose”, it is not the State oppressing her. It is just community standards.

    All of what you describe are violent assaults. The libertarian view is that the children in the first example, after repeated offenses, should be in juvenile detention. The “marriages” in the first example are not held valid either by a libertarian government, or by the Church, because both parties must enter a marriage freely (also implying they’re both above a certain age of consent) for an actual marriage to occur. In a libertarian society, not only would the girl be free to return to school, but anyone (parents or otherwise) who participated in such a scheme might be subject to arrest for statutory rape. In the third example, the violent assault needs no further explanation; a government which will not prosecute such a crime would presumably also not prosecute a man who chopped off his son’s fingers to prevent him from picking his nose.

    Please don’t confuse libertarianism with anarchism. The latter argues that the State is entirely unnecessary, and elicits huge guffaws from libertarians as a result. The former argues (speaking very generally) that the State is needed for a specific duty: To protect the rights of individuals (men, women, children). States which expend all their resources to transfer wealth from one class or interest group to another are notoriously ineffective at performing that duty; Libertarians argue it would be more moral for them to not exhaust themselves on such ancillary concerns (no matter how noble the intent) and instead focus on preserving the life, security, liberty, and property of the people.

    Libertarians, then, agree with you wholeheartedly: As a woman (or, frankly, as any individual who isn’t the strongest strong-man around!), you *need* the State. It is in this capacity (as protector) that libertarians say that government service is a noble vocation.

  • R.C.

    Adriana:

    The purpose of my preceding note was to respond to your (entirely correct!) concerns about the oppression which results from a society in which the State does not protect the rights of individuals, and communities are permitted to use force against their members in perverse ways.

    I wished to agree to that first, especially since you seemed to feel it keenly.

    Of secondary importance is the relationship between the evils which can be perpetrated by communities when there is little or no State protection of individuals, and almsgiving in the Middle Ages and now.

    In some Middle Ages community (say, a 10th-century German village, or a 20th-century rural Arabian one) a person’s generosity in tithing and charity might be generally known in exact detail, less generally known and only in rough detail, or secret.

    If it is known, and persons in the community think it too small, and they frown at him, my reaction is: Good.

    If it is known, and persons in the community think it is too small, and they assault him, my reaction is: Arrest them.

    If it is secret, then how can they know he is not the most generous person in the village? Their only recourse is to judge by his possessions…and as I’ve already stated, I support incentives to discourage conspicuous consumption (because it so often leads those without into sin).

    In any case, if the Church (or the State, or persons in the Community) relies (then or now) upon frowns and gossip and other kinds of non-forcible means to exhort individuals toward almsgiving, I’m okay with that.

    I only argue that if the Church (or the State, or persons in the Community) uses force (or the threat thereof) to take property from one man and give it to another, on the basis of no other justification than the second man will thereby benefit, then that’s an immoral and unjust act. Neither the Church, nor persons in the Community, should do such things.

    And while the State has the best case for doing such things, that case is insufficient to justify the use of such unjust means (a.) at the U.S. Federal level, where it is unconstitutional, (b.) as a norm, rather than in cases of dire national emergency, and (c.) in heavy-handed, direct ways, when indirect or “lighter” means are available.

    Which takes us back to my ongoing discussion with Joe, who’ll probably chip in his opinion before long!

  • Joe H

    Well at this point I’m not sure what to do because I don’t know if you’re still working on a reply to me or what. You let me know if you’ve said all you want to say, and then we’ll go from there. Don’t want any more misunderstandings :)

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Yeah, I’m sorry about that; it’s so much to reply to: And as my replies are even longer, you’ve got it even worse.

    Tell ya’ what. I’ll stop here, and you take your pick between two options:

    1. Just start replying to what I’ve said, or…
    2. If there are particular points in your earlier posts that I never got to, which to your mind are critical (and therefore there’s not much point going forward until I’ve addressed them) then mention them. I will in response post one reply-note on each of those. And then I’ll have finished my duty with regards to your earlier notes, and you can go on replying to my replies, per Option 1.

    Fair ’nuff?

  • Joe H

    I can go ahead and respond at this point. There is only one point you didn’t get to, and I’ll simply raise it again and you can get it next time.

    Look for it later tonight :)

  • Joe H

    My internet connection has been horrible since last night so I wasn’t able to do a reply :(

    Looks like its working now, but its in and out, so… stay tuned.

  • Joe H

    Now I can give the reply the attention it deserves.

    Redistribution of Wealth:

    You said,

    “Possibly not, but the vagueness of whether you mean “entitled to all of it”, and of the phrase “in some form,” make me unsure. But we’ll also have to examine both what is meant by “redistribution” and “entitled.””

    I put “redistribution” in scare quotes because to me it is redistribution in a different sense; labor plays a role in creating profit (I won’t say the only role since I don’t want to debate theories of value right now) – when profits are taxed and those revenues fund programs that help workers, that is a just “redistribution”. It is not, in my view, theft. Nor is it anywhere close to the optimal solution. So saying it isn’t theft shouldn’t be taken as some kind of endorsement of it. It simply isn’t theft.

    Nor do I say that capitalism as we know it is theft; it is just disadvantageous for the workers. They agree to give up their just claims to profit in order for an opportunity to do any work at all, because they (generally) cannot work for themselves, due to the way that economies have transformed since the Industrial revolution.

    This is what I mean by “entitled” – the labor theory of property to which both libertarians and, yes I’ll say it, “true” Marxists hold to, that through labor a thing becomes “properly mine”, my property. Marx did not reject this basic idea which goes back to Locke and even further back in some forms, but updated it for an industrial economy.

    So I am for a sort of “collective capitalism” where the whole collectivity of workers acts as a capitalist. I do not support command economies, or welfare bureaucracies as a rule, so I hope we’re clear on that. I am for de-centralization and local control of the economy.

    (His Russian heirs, on the other hand, modified him and I would be happy to explain how “Marxism-Leninism” is about 90% Lenin and 10% Marx, and why we never hear about Paul Mattick, Anton Pannekoek, or Karl Korsch.

    And, I have to say in my defense, if we can have so many contributors and readers of Inside Catholic defending the Austrian economist/philosophers such as Murray Rothbard, who wrote in defense of abortion on demand in the name of property rights, or borrowing nuggets of wisdom from the rabidly pro-abortion Ayn Rand, surely I can talk about Marx and use his ideas where they don’t conflict with the faith.)

  • Joe H

    Obama policies:

    “I think his policies would move in the wrong direction, away from a gradual weaning, and toward an increasing dependency.”

    Well, I think they will both take us in the wrong direction, but if abortion (and gun rights, and gay marriage) were not an issue Obama would have my vote, because he will take us there at a slower pace, giving us more time to do what we need to do. McCain on the other hand will take us to hell straight away.

    But you should also keep in mind that like Bill Clinton – who slashed welfare, don’t forget – Obama is pretty much a “New Democrat”, meaning tough left posturing on “social issues” such as abortion, while only mild disagreements with the GOP on the economy. Like Clinton he may try to pass a modest tax hike on the extremely wealthy, but, as I said, that is social wealth and I have no issue with it being taxed. What I seriously doubt is that there is going to be some massive expansion in social services. There is always a Washington consensus from which neither party can stray too far on economic matters. From FDR to Carter the consensus was welfare state and the GOP played along for the most part. Since Reagen it has been “downsize government” and the Democrats have not radically opposed it. They have gone along as the GOP did after FDR.

    Of course some people take even the token, perfunctory opposition and the remarks made for public consumption for far more than what it is – not realizing that this is the game the major parties play, of placating the electoral base while not upsetting the status quo preferred by the elite. If you look at what the Democrats have actually done, as opposed to their rhetoric, they’ve towed this consensus line for the last 30 years. And I don’t think conservatives and libertarians realize just how deeply the far-left hates the Democratic Party and especially the New Democrats for this reason. Having once associated with that milieu, I do know.

    More to come later.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    No time tonight to reply to your whole post; just the very first bit:

    …labor plays a role in creating profit (I won’t say the only role since I don’t want to debate theories of value right now) – when profits are taxed and those revenues fund programs that help workers, that is a just “redistribution”

    You judge that this is “not theft.” So I am forced to ask myself, do I agree with Joe that it’s “not theft?”

    Hmm. I said earlier that while taxation was often legitimate, it could be problematic in one (or more) of three ways: either it was robbery by proxy, or a usurpation, or it could fund a venture into areas where government tends by nature to be inept.

    Now, I said that John taking by force from Peter to give to Paul was robbery when done by individuals, even if John delegated the act to his employees. This would hold true at a government level, as the government are just the employees of the people. So I might a tax-and-redistribute plan like yours to be robbery-by-proxy.

    But it also might not, if all of the citizens agreed on the amount of the tax and its intended usage. For men can legitimately form civic organizations and pay their dues to fund charitable programs; why then could they not enter a polity and do the same? (They could even make it a condition of citizenship or voting rights or whatever.)

    But that begs the question: Was this part of the agreement in forming that polity we call “The United States?” As I’m sure you expect, I state firmly that it was not (not at the Federal level, anyway).

    So if it isn’t robbery-by-proxy for the Federal Government to implement what you describe, it’s kinda close, and kinda dubious. And since it represents a role which the People did not delegate to the Federal Government, it represents a usurpation.

    I also think it’s also outside government’s natural area of competence. Now, sometimes we must attempt, individually or collectively, things for which we aren’t well-suited. (Moses as spokesman and Male as “head of household” come to mind!) But I’m not yet convinced we “must” attempt this thing to begin with. So the robbery-ish look of it, and the lack of Federal Constitutional sanction, and the fact it’s outside government’s core competence, all weigh heavily against it in my mind.

    Now, individual States are a different matter. (You’ll note that some of them take pride that they’re “Commonwealths,” not mere “States.” I think some of them have redistributive provisions in their Constitutions.

    My own state (Georgia) doesn’t, so if this kind of thing were attempted there at the state level, my same objections would apply. But if the policy did well in other states, and amended Georgia’s Constitution to allow it, I wouldn’t be too upset. (So long as it was a real amendment, not a sneaky anachronistic interpretation.)

    “What about amending the Federal Constitution?” you may ask. Well, were it amended to allow this, the robbery-by-proxy and usurpation objections would go away. The question of competence would stand, but look less compelling by itself.

    But at the Federal level, another objection would arise: The lack of Subsidiarity. Such stuff should be experimented with by States, first. If it meets with glorious and consistent success in several States, we could then propose extending it at the Federal level. Starting at the Federal level defeats the advantage of Federalism; it is anti-Subsidiary.

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    I have one other comment about that very first bit of your reply. Here it is again:

    …labor plays a role in creating profit (I won’t say the only role since I don’t want to debate theories of value right now) – when profits are taxed and those revenues fund programs that help workers, that is a just “redistribution”

    It sounds like you judge some part of the profit, in the production of goods, to rightfully belong to the laborers. Okay, fair enough: How much. 100% of the profit? 50%?

    But even if we establish a percentage, we run into a second problem: What do you mean by profit?

    Say a small assembly line business makes 10,000 widgets per year and sells them for $12 each. It’s a $50,000 factory, of which the bank owns $40,000 and the business owner chipped in $10,000 equity. The utility and other fixed costs are $20,000 per year; the per-unit materials and fabrication costs are $2 per unit excluding labor. There are two employees, each making $30,000 per year.

    So the factory sells $120,000 worth of widgets each year. Of that, $20,000 goes to fixed cost, and $20,000 to per-unit variable costs. Of the remaining $80,000, we’re paying our two employees $60,000. That leaves $20,000 each year with which to make payments on the note (for the building and equipment), and to pay the business owner.

    That’s small change (especially after the note payment is removed) for a guy who put down $10,000 to begin with, but he’s a long-term guy: He hopes the business will increase in value, and that some time after he pays off the note (in 10-15 years), he’ll be able to sell the whole business for a tidy amount (say, $2 million).

    Here’s my question to you, Joe: Which part of that equation is the “profit” to which you think the employees are entitled to get more than they already have?

    Is it the $80,000 (revenue minus non-labor costs)? They’re already getting $60,000 of that as wages. Why is 75% not enough?

    Is it the $20,000 after wages? Well, the bank’s getting some of that. I didn’t say how long the note was for, so who knows what the payment is, but let’s say it’s a $500 monthly payment ($6000 per year). That leaves $14,000 to the business owner each year.

    Now if all the owner did was put up $10,000, that’d be a very nice return! But that’s unlikely; small businesses require attention! Chances are, running the business is at least a part-time job for the owner (very conservatively 20 hours a week).

    So here are three people: two forty-hour-per-week folks making $30,000 a year, and one twenty-hour-per-week owner making $14,000 a year, who’ll sell the business 10-15 years from now for $2 million dollars.

    Which part is the “profit” that the employees ought to get more of? The $2 million? The $80,000? The $14,000?

    How much more of it? Why? Justified how?

    And, upon what theory can you be certain that the wages they’re already being paid aren’t their “fair” share of the profit?

  • Joe H

    All good and necessary questions, and its a discussion we need to have (hopefully someone is watching).

    I’ll respond to some points in your first post before getting more into the second post, which I think deserves plenty of attention.

    You write,

    “But that begs the question: Was [redistribution of wealth] part of the agreement in forming that polity we call “The United States?” As I’m sure you expect, I state firmly that it was not (not at the Federal level, anyway).

    So if it isn’t robbery-by-proxy for the Federal Government to implement what you describe, it’s kinda close, and kinda dubious. And since it represents a role which the People did not delegate to the Federal Government, it represents a usurpation.”

    Well, I’m going to have to make the point again that I don’t believe we must be eternally bound to what was agreed upon by generations that have been dead for two centuries, especially when the entire economic basis of the nation shifted quite radically from rural-agrarian to urban-industrial throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Constitutions do not merely reflect abstract ideas, after all, but are meant to cope with existing historical realities.

    Strictly speaking, “we the people” delegated nothing to the federal government. We were born here, we live here, but we didn’t create this nation. I don’t remember being consulted about the tax plan, or asked if I even wanted to be a citizen of the US. So this argument just doesn’t mean much to me. I see the practical reasons for simply accepting the society I am born into but I’m not going to play make-believe.

    But, for the future, lets just assume that that I am talking about state taxes and state programs as opposed to federal ones. I’ve said it 100 times – I am for more local power, not less. I have no major problem with the federal government doing it if it can do it well, but I think local communities can do it better. Frankly I don’t care if the federal government falls apart tomorrow and we go back to city-states, provided it could happen without bloodshed.

  • Joe H

    “It sounds like you judge some part of the profit, in the production of goods, to rightfully belong to the laborers. Okay, fair enough: How much. 100% of the profit? 50%?”

    Well, first, I’m wondering, do you agree or are you just going along with a hypothetical for the sake of argument?

    Now, as to how much – that depends. It depends on a number of things, but I do believe that the contribution of labor to the productive process can be quantified.

    However, the most important thing I am saying here is that it should be the workers together, with the input of professional economists who work with an objective theory and not subjective ideology, that figure out how the product is to be distributed amongst themselves. The claim is that labor creates property; in what ratios and quantities relative to the other factors of production is an important but secondary consideration.

    Please note – please! – that I am NOT suggesting that businesses as they are currently established should just start handing out shares of profit to workers. I am suggesting that workers directly own, and directly appropriate, their share, in newly formed enterprises based on new principles, or businesses that they are able to buy out and reorganize. And it must be done as a community of labor, not simply as an aggregate of individual laborers collecting their share from the trough and going on their merry way.

  • Joe H

    Now, as to your scenario:

    I don’t say this to be combative but can we please “get real”? This is what I dislike about these abstractions – they can go real wrong, real fast. I understand what you are trying to say on the one hand, but on the other, you’ve fabricated a scenario that favorably illustrates your point.

    I’m going to follow it as best I can, with the caveat that I do not think it is a realistic scenario. You ask,

    “Which part of that equation is the “profit” to which you think the employees are entitled to get more than they already have?”

    Why is “profit” in scare quotes, as if it is this concept I invented that you don’t acknowledge? My understanding of it is likely no different than yours.

    Wages are set by the market – they are not the product of labor, they are the cost of labor. Wage levels are independent of profit; if we are both business owners, the cost of a widget worker is the same for me as it is for you regardless of how much profit I make or you make.

    That is because labor is regarded as a production input which is to be bought on the market – not some sort of equal partner that we pay an arbitrary sum. That may be how some small businesses function (where a person is hired to do all sorts of jobs in one setting) but it is not how the large-scale economy with an established division of labor functions, and that is what I am interested in.

    Your question “why is 75% not enough” misses the point. In the very first place, this is not about what is enough but what is just. As far as I am concerned, only labor, a living force, creates wealth. That is why I think workers should be owners (and I will remind you, the Church fully supports this), instead of fighting for higher wages (an exercise in futility) or redistribution of wealth through taxes. That way the percentage, for the workers as a whole, is 100%, as it should be.

    And please understand that I include managers and even executives up to the CEO as workers – they are necessary workers too, but there is no reason they should function as an oligarchy, have disproportionate shares and decision making power, etc. They should be accountable to the rest of the workers directly, and this can only happen when ownership is more evenly distributed throughout the firm. The income ratio between top CEOs and average workers is over 500:1; this is unjustifiable and inexcusable.

    Secondly, you ask this question as if many or most individual workers do or can earn this percentage, 75% or rather 37.5, of their firms revenues. You can’t take a fantastic outlier such as this, one of your own making no less, and then present it as the norm to be accepted or rejected.

    You picked these numbers out of a hat – 60,000 in wages, divided between only two employees. What if in your scenario it was, say, 60,000 in wages between 1000 employees? Then should I ask you, “why is .75% not enough?”

    How I would calculate what individual labor is owed is by time, which is interchangeable with value. But this assumes we are talking about social labor in the abstract, which is another concept that is perhaps one of the most poorly understood in the history of political economy, and which I don’t want to write a treatise on now. Perhaps we can discuss it in email because I don’t think the readers are going to be interested in a lecture on this.

    [FYI: Wal-Mart's last quarter revenues were 104 billion, while the average Wal-Mart sales clerk takes home a little under 14,000 a year in wages. Shall I calculate what percent of 104,000,000,00 is 14,000? How about Wal-Mart's Chinese workers?]

  • Joe H

    Wal-Mart’s revenue last quarter was around 107 billion.

    And I did calculate the percentage. It’s 0.000013%.

    Meanwhile CEO H. Lee Scott, when you add up his salary, stock options, bonuses, etc., took home $22,991,599 in 2004.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    No time to respond just now, but I wanted to give you a clarification.

    When I put “profit” in quotes, they weren’t “scare quotes.” Rather, they reflect that I didn’t understand precisely which part of the “revenue minus expenses” part of business operations you were calling profits (including wages? excluding? accounting for debt? part of the sale of the firm at exit? what?).

    So, by putting it quotes, I was basically saying, “the thing that you, Joe, called profits.” I was just quoting you, and indicating a reference to your use of the term, as opposed to outsider’s definition.

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Another quick clarification:

    “It sounds like you judge some part of the profit, in the production of goods, to rightfully belong to the laborers. Okay, fair enough: How much. 100% of the profit? 50%?”

    Well, first, I’m wondering, do you agree or are you just going along with a hypothetical for the sake of argument?

    Both.

    Which is to say, I agree generally that “the servant is worth his hire” and that if a man has been productive with the prior understanding that he’d be justly compensated, and hasn’t been justly compensated, then he should receive whatever portion of “just compensation” he hasn’t already received.

    So in that sense, whatever “rightfully” belongs to the laborers should be theirs to dispose with as they wish, not taken by someone else.

    But that’s a generality. Do I agree with your whole argument and proposal? No…or at least I suspect not, though we haven’t yet talked it all through! So I guess you could say I’m just going along with the hypothetical, phrased this way:

    (1.) If we can agree upon some single (or best among many) objective standard by which to judge whether compensation for a given bit of labor is just; and,
    (2.) If we find that workers are not being justly compensated by that standard; and,
    (3.) If we determine this injustice is not best handled by criminal prosecution or civil litigation; and,
    (4.) If, of all legislative options, yours is best; and,
    (5.) If your legislative option is superior to doing nothing; and,
    (6.) If it is not unconstitutional in the realm (Federal, State, Local) in which it is legislated (or an amendment can be drawn and passed to permit it); then,
    (7.) I’ll agree to it.

    So that’s pretty hypothetical, still. The “operative” part of what I said is the follow-up question: How much? 100%? 50%? (And from what part of the ledger? And on what justification?)

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    I now turn to what I think is the “meat” of your argument:

    Wages are set by the market – they are not the product of labor, they are the cost of labor. Wage levels are independent of profit; if we are both business owners, the cost of a widget worker is the same for me as it is for you regardless of how much profit I make or you make.

    Generally, I agree with this: If the job is the same, market forces dictate that the pay will be roughly the same.

    That is because labor is regarded as a production input which is to be bought on the market – not some sort of equal partner that we pay an arbitrary sum.

    I’m still in agreement, except for the word “arbitrary”; partnerships are paid from profits on the basis of one’s percentage ownership, usually through precise formulae. But that nitpick doesn’t seem relevant to the discussion, so lets proceed….

    That may be how some small businesses function (where a person is hired to do all sorts of jobs in one setting) but it is not how the large-scale economy with an established division of labor functions, and that is what I am interested in.

    Well, keep in mind that the majority — I think the number is 65%, but I don’t recall exactly — of American workers work for firms with fewer than 100 employees. Big companies employ the most folks, but most folk work for small companies.

    Your question “why is 75% not enough” misses the point. In the very first place, this is not about what is enough but what is just.

    A rare instance of excessive brevity on my part: When I say “enough,” please read, “enough to meet your requirements of justice.”

    As far as I am concerned, only labor, a living force, creates wealth.

    True: And to be even more precise, only sentience or knowledge or intellect or mind or soul or creativity creates wealth. For of course anything a man’s muscles can do without direction, a robot (or, 500 years ago, a water-wheel) can do more efficiently. But to design the robot, or for jobs involving decisions and creativity and relationships, you need people.

    …continued…

  • Joe H

    Regarding the specific question as to “how much”, the short answer doesn’t make sense without a much longer explanation behind it, not because I enjoy being needlessly complicated but because we are probably working with such different concepts that it is going to take a lot of work to make sure we are on the same page. Perhaps I’ll write a new essay on it and blog it.

    There’s also another issue, and it can seem confusing also, regarding WHAT the injustice is.

    As I said, I don’t think capitalism as we know it is theft, so I don’t think it is in an injustice in terms of contract violation. It is an injustice because most people have no choice but to accept an unfavorable contract which they are then bound to (nearly all employers except, of course, cooperatives offer the same basic contract, all other things being equal).

    I want to be absolutely clear again: I do NOT think that justice lies in forcible expropriation, in violent revolutions, or command economies, nor do I think it can be achieved through taxes (but as I said, I don’t think taxes are unjust on corporate profits, as distinct from salaries).

    I think it is achieved by creating alternatives to the labor market, to the standard contract between wage-worker and capitalist where the latter agrees, voluntarily but under a degree of economic duress, to give up any and all claims to the profit they make possible through their labor. The cooperative is the alternative to this – the contract is that you become part-owner and therefore retain your just and rightful claim to the product of your labor, instead of giving it up.

  • Joe H

    Where I said “latter”, I obviously meant former. I’m typing too fast today :)

    Also, I didn’t realize you were still posting – I didn’t mean to interrupt.

  • R.C.

    That is why I think workers should be owners (and I will remind you, the Church fully supports this), instead of fighting for higher wages (an exercise in futility) or redistribution of wealth through taxes. That way the percentage, for the workers as a whole, is 100%, as it should be.

    Hmm. Okay. If by “should” you mean ideally should in much the same way that a man might say “parents should be kind to their children,” then I’m all in agreement.

    And, if by “owners” you mean they should own assets rather than liabilities, and that among those assets should be shares in the firm where they are employed, and that their total ownership in the firm where they are employed should be enough for them to measurably benefit when the company benefits and measurably be injured when the company is injured…if that’s what you mean by “owners,” then of course I agree. Who doesn’t?

    But…,

    If by “should” you mean that we are morally required to legislate a wealth-transfer system…well, there I’m not convinced. I would seek almost any incentive system imaginable before going that route. And I think that unless such a system were implemented, not nationwide, but worldwide without any shirkers, the results might be the opposite of what was intended.

    And…,

    If by “owners” you mean that each worker’s entire asset portfolio — or even most of it — should be in one company, whether his own or some other, then I’m opposed. It especially should not be his own, for then if the company folds, he loses both job and savings; he becomes both unemployed and penniless (as happened to those poor saps who put all their savings in Enron against all the advice of every wise saying on such matters).

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    And please understand that I include managers and even executives up to the CEO as workers – they are necessary workers too, but there is no reason they should function as an oligarchy, have disproportionate shares and decision making power, etc. They should be accountable to the rest of the workers directly, and this can only happen when ownership is more evenly distributed throughout the firm.

    Something troubles me about that.

    There are people who’re competent to make decisions for a business, and there are people who aren’t. There are people who’re competent to lead men, and there are people who can’t lead men to the crapper. I don’t want folks in that latter category having suddenly-inflated decision-making authority.

    Firstly, businesses can not be run day-to-day by vote, any more than the FBI or the FCC could be run day-to-day by Congress. Even Congress creates regulatory bodies, approves appointees, and such.

    Now if a business were run in such a way as to allow every employee some amount of voting power in making decisions, then it seems reasonable to me that their voting power should be somewhat proportional to the number of persons who “report” to them. Perhaps each person should have voting power equal to one vote representing himself, plus one half-vote for each person who “reports” directly to him, one-quarter vote for each person who “reports” to someone who reports to him, one-eighth vote for each person who “reports-to-reports-to-reports-to,” et cetera.

    So, as a CASE STUDY: Take a firm with a President/C.E.O., two V.P.’s, four upper-managers reporting to each of the two V.P.’s, eight lower-managers reporting to each of the upper-managers, and sixteen workers reporting to each of the lower managers.

    Each worker would have 1 vote (his own);

    Each lower manager would have 9 votes (his own, plus half-votes for the 16 people who report to him);

    Each upper manager would have 37 votes (his own, plus 8 half-votes for the 8 lower managers who report to him, plus 128 quarter-votes for the 128 workers who report to those lower managers);

    Each V.P. would have 75 votes (his own, plus 4 half-votes for the 4 upper managers who report to him, plus 32 quarter-votes for the 32 lower managers who report to those upper managers, plus 512 eighth-votes for the 512 workers reporting to those lower managers);

    Take a firm with a President/C.E.O., two V.P.’s, four upper-managers reporting to each of the two V.P.’s, eight lower-managers reporting to each of the upper-managers, and sixteen workers reporting to each of the lower managers.

    The C.E.O./President would have 76 votes (his own, plus 2 half-votes for the two V.P.’s, plus 8 quarter-votes for the 8 upper managers, plus 64 eighth-votes for the 64 lower managers, plus 1024 sixteenth-votes for the workers);

    This system represents a compromise between a one-man-one-vote system and a system where the managers have too much clout to ever be overridden. I avoid the latter because sometimes stupid management decisions should be overridden, and I avoid the former because I don’t want the decision about whether to use Windows or Linux Servers being subject to the judgment of people whom nobody had ever thought to hire for their decision-making abilities.

    But that’s all if businesses could be run in such a way. If tried, one might find it to be an impossible, unwieldy mess: A well-intentioned triumph of noble-sentiment over what actually works.

  • R.C.

    Some other topics:

    You picked those numbers out of a hat…you ask this question as if many or most individual workers do or can earn this percentage, 75% or rather 37.5, of their firms revenues. You can’t take a fantastic outlier such as this, one of your own making no less, and then present it as the norm to be accepted or rejected.

    No, actually, I didn’t pick numbers out of a hat. I picked them as a sort of compromise between two businesses with which I’m rather familiar. They’re entirely realistic, except that I simplified the numbers for easier math. And keep in mind, those kinds of businesses (with 1-100 employees) represent the majority of the American work force.

    How I would calculate what individual labor is owed is by time, which is interchangeable with value…

    Whoa! The h*** it is! Do I understand you to be asserting that an hour’s time by Steve Jobs is of equal value to an hour’s time by Homer Simpson (or his real-world counterpart)? Heck, the value of my own hours varies according what I’m doing with them. But I apologize if I’ve misunderstood what you’re asserting.

    …continued…

  • R.C.

    Here’s a biggie, Joe:

    The income ratio between top CEOs and average workers is over 500:1; this is unjustifiable and inexcusable. …[Wal-Mart]CEO H. Lee Scott, when you add up his salary, stock options, bonuses, etc., took home $22,991,599 in 2004…while the average Wal-Mart sales clerk takes home a little under 14,000 a year in wages.

    Well. There we go. I fear this is the motivating factor for the urgent tone, even the aggrieved tone, in your pursuit of a legislative “solution.”

    I myself look at those numbers and think that, while it’s plausible they might represent something unjust, it’s equally plausible they might be not far from morally perfect. The phrase “unjustified and inexcusable” seems nonsensical to me in that sentence: If you had said the ratio was “unbatterfried and ineffable,” my emotional reaction would have been no less blankly bemused.

    Which is to say: I see absolutely no reason to think that accepting — or offering — a gigantic salary is necessarily a sin. I think it represents a wealth of temptation (to bad stewardship, to abuse of the power that sometimes comes with wealth, to not give as much to charity as one ought, et cetera), but one which is not irresistible. (There are tens of thousands of multi-millionaires who’re hugely generous, careful stewards, and drive battered pickup trucks, a la Sam Walton. Ever read The Millionaire Next Door?)

    You tell me about H. Lee Scott, and I think, “Cool, good for him!” I’m neither shocked nor annoyed nor much of anything else. Of course I also think he ought to be giving 75% of his income to charity…and perhaps he does, for all I know. (C.S.Lewis, with far less income, was giving away over 50% of his income later in life.)

    If I learned Scott was a crook, why then, I’d be outraged…but only because he was a crook who deserved prison rather than an (exceptionally) easy life. But Truett Cathy’s (Chick-Fil-A founder) is extremely wealthy, and presumably has an easy life. I don’t resent that in the slightest.

    The Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, et alia, were among the greatest individual charitable benefactors in recent human history. Many wealthy folks aren’t that way (Trump and Hefner come to mind!). But if they fail in almsgiving, I don’t begrudge them the original wealth (except when ill-gotten, of course, as in Hefner’s case); I just think they need to have had “from he to whom much is given, much is expected” rammed into their heads more assiduously in Sunday-School. And, as I’ve already indicated, I don’t mind the tax-system having even more incentive along those lines than it already has.

    Anyway, I thought I should let you know that, far from strengthening your argument in my eyes, those references have either a null impact, or perhaps weaken it: For even if you yourself aren’t driven by any kind of wealth-envy or resentment, your words could be construed so as to inculcate such deadly sins in others who’re weaker. One wouldn’t want to be a stumbling-block to such folk; indeed, it’d be better if a millstone…you know the rest!

  • Joe H

    RC,

    Thank you for your responses. I’ll start with what I think are two biggest problems/misunderstandings with them.

    First, is your criticism of the cooperative model of the firm. I begin by pointing out that cooperatives actually do exist in the manner I have described, and are able to function perfectly well on a democratic model. Since the Industrial Revolution critics of concentrated wealth and power have been able to point to the success of cooperative enterprises as proof that, contrary to your belief, the responsibilities of running a major economic enterprise can be shared with even the workers on the shop floor.

    Now, there are many reasons why this model has not proliferated and I am not blind to them – but it is not necessarily or exclusively related to this particular decision-making structure. This is in fact one of the strengths of the cooperative firm; when people are given responsibility, expected to use it, treated as competent members of the team and recognized as people instead of repositories of labor, they actually are more productive and more interested in the success of their firm.

    I don’t have access to the empirical studies right at this moment but I can always find them for you if you like. Part of my long-term goal is to expand this research.

    You write,

    “Firstly, businesses can not be run day-to-day by vote, any more than the FBI or the FCC could be run day-to-day by Congress. Even Congress creates regulatory bodies, approves appointees, and such.”

    Why would you assume “day to day” vote? Even on the model you go on to propose, it would be a dramatic increase from the level of democracy existing within most firms today, which is absolutely none. I would structure a firm, if it were my firm, as some governments are structured; workers elect supervisors, who elect their supervisors, and so on up the line – but with accountability going all the way to the bottom.

    The best candidates can compete for the job. This would be no more disruptive than union politics are today, which is to say, hardly at all. Only instead of electing mediators between workers and owners, it is one level of workers electing mediators between themselves and the managers who are accountable to them. So I am not proposing anything entirely new in a procedural sense, just a shift in focus and purpose.

    So, to conclude this part of my reply, this system has been proven to “actually work”; there are other reasons why it is not widely used, not the least of which is widespread ignorance about it actually having worked! So my goal is not necessarily to create something out of nothing, but to take a model which is both economically sound and the most preferable with respect to human dignity, and promote it and propagate it on a wider scale.

  • Joe H

    My next major problem is, as you may already suspect, the suggestion that I am somewhere in the neighborhood of the politics of envy.

    Now, you say there are thousands of millionaires who are hugely generous. I don’t disagree. But that isn’t the issue. All of that generosity hasn’t done a thing to change the foundations of a system that keeps people in a cycle of dependency and economic insecurity. At best this sort of charity, just like government programs, are band-aids, and not cures. And I don’t think it is radical to suggest that we can address the problem structurally, provided we do so in a peaceful and voluntary way.

    For me the question is not what a person does with the million they have but how they get that million to begin with. There is no job that is worth a million dollars on the labor market because no one requires a million dollars for their maintenance as a worker. To illustrate this point, remember that the president of the United States – the most powerful position in the entire world, and undoubtedly among those requiring the most work and personal sacrifice – makes only 400,000 a year, and I believe that is before taxes.

    Now, anyone who suggests to me that the President of the USA isn’t working as hard as Bill Gates or the CEO of Wal-Mart, that, in fact, the disparity between the value of their labor is 400,000:22,000,000 – I’m going to have a very hard time taking that argument seriously. Clearly the vast majority of this wealth is not based on either a) the value of their labor or b) the contribution of their individual labor to the total profits, but c) derived exclusively from ownership.

    I’m not saying that no income should ever be derived from ownership, but that this ratio is completely out of whack; it is the result of a historical and largely chaotic concentration of wealth and power. In my view it is a problem to be addressed and solved, not a reality to be glorified or defended. I think we solve it by propagating new business models, new ownership structures, new understandings of the relationship between labor and wealth – and we do it peacefully, voluntarily, with injustice to none.

    Accordingly, I do not suggest ANY legislative effort to confiscate property or transform it; the most I would ever support is the creation of funds to help start up such companies, to help coordinate their efforts, but I don’t see that as absolutely necessary either. It would be a great help but it can be done without any legislation whatsoever. A community of like-minded individuals, united in charity, with some start up capital, can accomplish this.

  • Joe H

    1) “If by “owners” you mean that each worker’s entire asset portfolio — or even most of it — should be in one company, whether his own or some other, then I’m opposed. It especially should not be his own, for then if the company folds, he loses both job and savings; he becomes both unemployed and penniless (as happened to those poor saps who put all their savings in Enron against all the advice of every wise saying on such matters).”

    Right, well, there are those who say diversify, and others who do advise going all out on risks and gambles. The point of bringing ownership and control back to the ground floor is so that economic challenges can be met in a cooperative and humane way. I think under these conditions you won’t just have companies “folding” and everyone scattering to the winds; there will have to be contingency plans that everyone can agree to, and society will have to play a role in helping those who have fallen on hard times. Given that I think the productive enterprise is only the cornerstone of the community, but still dependent upon it, I don’t think it is unjust for the community to ask the cooperatives to contribute to a social fund that will help workers in times of dire economic crisis.

    Enron collapsed because of criminal behavior at the top – I think collapses of that magnitude and speed are less likely to happen when you have a structure based on accountability, transparency and rough equality. Most of the big collapses we are seeing today result from problems, in other words, that I think are addressed by the cooperative structure, if not totally resolved. I hope that makes sense.

    2) “I’m still in agreement, except for the word “arbitrary”; partnerships are paid from profits on the basis of one’s percentage ownership, usually through precise formulae. But that nitpick doesn’t seem relevant to the discussion, so lets proceed….”

    Well, this is another case of wires crossed; I mean, arbitrarily paying a hired employee you bring on to do this or that job, not arbitrarily establishing the terms of partnership in a business. I’m not saying that this is how most businesses work, but in your hypothetical business of three guys, I can imagine it going down that way.

    3) “Whoa! The h*** it is! Do I understand you to be asserting that an hour’s time by Steve Jobs is of equal value to an hour’s time by Homer Simpson (or his real-world counterpart)? Heck, the value of my own hours varies according what I’m doing with them. But I apologize if I’ve misunderstood what you’re asserting.”

    This is why I didn’t want to talk about it here :(

    There is a misunderstanding but it is my fault because I shouldn’t have even said that much without committing myself to explaining in full what I mean. If you are interested in emailing over this, let me know.

    Of course I know that nitpickers and naysayers will say, “look how confusing and complicated this all is! It can’t be worth anything!” Unfortunately you can’t appreciate the degree of detail I must go into until you see from the inside what a complete mess we are dealing with. But I will be more than happy to explain myself in full to you if you so desire.

  • Joe H

    4) I also want to be clear about Mr. Scott – his actual salary is only a little over 1 million. The rest is from stock options and bonuses. That may not make a difference to you, but it does to me.

    5) Finally,

    “And, if by “owners” you mean they should own assets rather than liabilities, and that among those assets should be shares in the firm where they are employed, and that their total ownership in the firm where they are employed should be enough for them to measurably benefit when the company benefits and measurably be injured when the company is injured…if that’s what you mean by “owners,” then of course I agree. Who doesn’t?”

    For starters, the people who accept simply what they see and have absolutely no vision with regards to how much better we could be doing. There are too many of those, the majority of the people I meet.

    You yourself have objected to the decision-making structure that should accompany this wider sharing of ownership. I don’t think it is reasonable to just hand out more shares or greater shares but then not expect people to have a greater say in how the company is run. Ownership does not simply mean more income, but responsibility too. It isn’t universal but there are a lot of people who perform better in any area of life when they are simply expected to and encouraged to. Not everyone, I am not a utopian idealist, but enough to make the idea work I think.

    Beyond that, I think it is mostly a matter of people not knowing about this alternative, or knowing about it but lacking any means whatsoever to become involved with it. So I will say again that my goal is to spread the message far and wide, and try to figure out practical ways to build entire communities based upon this model.

    For, as I said, there are actually many cooperatives in the US, mostly rural, mostly agrarian, but not all – what is missing is the integrated approach they have at the Mondragon, which is really the model I look too.

  • Doug Moore

    The Left long ago captured completely the controls of the Democratic Party. There is simply a very remote possibilty of a change of mind or of heart in the area of abortion.

    What we are witnessing from Mr.Obama and others is an improvement in in the way that they speak about it only.

  • R.C.

    True enough…but with respect to posting in this thread, I believe your train has long ago left the station!

  • R.C.

    Joe:

    Thank you for your replies; and thank you yet more for not getting hot under the collar at mine; I realize on second-reading that a couple of points in what I posted could have been interpreted as less cordial than they ought. (I’m glad that when I exclaimed, “Whoa! The h*** it is!” I still had the presence of mind to add, “But I apologize if I’ve misunderstood what you’re asserting.”)

    Don’t be afraid (or, rather, don’t worry that I’m afraid) of the level of complexity: Reality is complex. While one ought not over-complicate something needlessly, detailed understanding is a messy thing, to the point that such messiness has a certain flavor, a “tang” to it, which alerts the attentive mind that we’re dealing with reality rather than someone’s fantasy.

    I think one sees this in all things: Planets, not in circular orbits, but elliptical; objects which don’t pass through each other, not because they’re actually “solid,” but because their outer surfaces repel each other by the same-charged electron-clouds of atoms strewn through mostly-empty space; a Deity who is not monolithic, but a Trinity; not polytheistic, but One God, not part of the Universe, but outside it; not detached from it, but upholding its existence at every moment; not half good and half evil, but opposed to evil and abounding with relational love.

    It is why the best scientists, philosophers, and theologians are always saying to us, “Well, yes, that’s almost it, but not quite; and remember that’s just a loose analogy, with the following limitations and provisos…” until we’re sick of their lawyerly hemming and hawing and long for a Universe of nested Crystal Spheres, or Pythagorean Solids, ruled over either by Allah, or Nothing.

    But reality’s never that simple.

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