A Thumb in Leviathan’s Eye

Pundits are still analyzing the outcome of last night’s elections, and it will take months to figure out what Americans’ votes will mean in terms of policy. Myself, I’m actually relieved that Republicans didn’t win both houses of Congress; since the economy (corrupted by bad investments encouraged by cheap money from the Fed) isn’t likely to magically revive in the next two years, a solidly Republican Congress would have made an easy scapegoat for President Barack Obama to flog right up to the next presidential race.

Still, the election of more pro-life members to both the House and the Senate will help us to stymie further anti-life initiatives on the part of the most pro-abortion president in history. Of course, the fundamental issue — that the “right” to abortion is now anchored in the “liberty” clause of the 14th Amendment — has been frozen in amber by the courts, and it will remain there until we elect a pro-life president and pro-life Senate that will confirm his reliable nominees to the Supreme Court. We shouldn’t hold our breath.

Open-borders Catholics will mourn the fact that this election yielded gains for immigration reformers who wish to tighten border security and force employers to verify whether the workers they are hiring have the right to work in our country. It’s certain now that no immigration amnesty will be passed in the next two years; what remains to be seen is whether serious border security and workplace enforcement can be secured against the will of a hostile president, and order restored to the increasingly lawless border regions of our country. Perhaps, once the border really has been secured and the numbers of legal migrants reduced so they don’t drive down the wages of our homegrown poor and undereducated, conservatives will consider a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens who have long lived in America. But since that’s a huge concession, a massive and unpopular reward for illegal activity, reformers won’t trade away this trump card for anything short of real and permanent border security and workplace enforcement. This week’s election gives us some hope we might be able to make a fair compromise down the road.

Leftists are running scared that three significant races have been won by conservative “minority” candidates: In the founding state of the Confederacy, South Carolina, Tim Scott won a House seat, making him the first black Republican congressman elected there since Reconstruction; in the same state, Indian-American Nikki Haley was elected governor; and in Florida, Hispanic conservative Marco Rubio was elected to the Senate. Indeed, according to our friends at National Public Radio, national Democrats were so worried at the prospect of Rubio’s possible future as a vice-presidential candidate that former President Bill Clinton tried to strong-arm black Democrat Kendrick Meek out of the race — hoping to throw it to ex-Republican incumbent Charlie Crist. These wins, and others like them, will help conservatives fight off the false charge that the Republican Party solely represents white male corporate executives and angry “rednecks” polishing their firearms inside their double-wide trailers. Indeed, The New York Times worried on election night at the trend of independents and women (!) voting for more conservative candidates.

The very overreach of President Obama’s aspirations has broadened the base of his opposition; most Americans, increasingly of every color, bristle at the idea of remaking America along the failed lines of European social democracy. It certainly hasn’t helped the cause of Europhile, big-government advocates that (35-working-hours-per-week) Frenchmen have been throwing a national tantrum at the prospect of their retirement age being jacked up all the way to . . . 62. Great Britain, the mother of Fabian socialism, is being forced to slash its public sector to stave off national bankruptcy, and governments are panicking at deficits all across Europe. Is this really the time to be building a national health-care bureaucracy? Sounds to me like snagging a stand-by seat aboard the Hindenburg.

More important is the victory of Rand Paul in Kentucky, because this newly elected U.S. senator represents a strain of principled politics such as Republicans haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan — who ran as a vigorous opponent of Communism abroad and high-tax, bureaucratic overreach at home. Who would have thought, in the dark days of the 2008 campaign when “conservative” commentators were openly snickering during Rep. Ron Paul’s answers in presidential debates, that Paul’s son and intellectual heir would be the face of the Republican sweep in 2010? Throughout the Bush administration, Karl Rove was funneling GOP money to squelch the primary candidacies of real (Tea Party-style) conservatives; who’d have thunk that, just a few years later, Rove would be trying to clamber onto their bandwagon? Let’s hope that no one is fooled.

 

As Catholics living in secular America — and not in some benevolent, pro-clerical Catholic monarchy, or a de facto Catholic state like De Valera’s Ireland — we should recognize what our Church and our families need from the government: to be left alone. By its very nature, by virtue of our country’s Constitution, national government in America is secular. In the past, when Protestant culture and faith were stronger, this secularism was heavily tinged with the old certitudes that were common to Christendom. You didn’t need a confessional Catholic or Protestant state to forbid gay “marriage” or adoption, to protect unborn lives, or keep prurient sex education out of public school kindergartens. Government charity, even as set up as part of FDR’s New Deal, was designed to help keep families intact — not to underwrite and perpetuate fatherless households.

None of this is true anymore. As the logic of secularism has advanced through the courts, all the residues of the old pan-Christian consensus, and indeed of natural law, have been erased. Now the State recognizes no intermediate associations of any kind; the individual asserts his “rights,” which he holds in stark isolation, at the sufferance of government, with no institutions to back his claim. The State protects the “right” of minor girls to abort their children and of spouses to break their marriage contracts on a whim. (Imagine if we could repudiate credit card debts that easily — that shows you what our society holds sacred.) The social pathology that results from the atomization of the family creates the very problems that big government generously steps in to “solve,” and the process repeats itself — grinding down every institution that is not directly subsidized and controlled by the State. Or do you think it’s an accident that Catholic hospitals and schools are going bankrupt, even as the secular government expands?

While the Church might, in other contexts, support the State’s providing education and even health care — I could imagine this in Habsburg Austria, the Philippines, or maybe Malta — in secular America, the State will follow the dictates of its governing ideology: Utilitarianism, the promise of the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of voters. There is zero prospect of bending the State to our will, of restoring to our public institutions the ancient Christian certitudes. Even in deeply conservative communities, the will of localities will always be tortured by the courts to accord with the legal philosophy that dominates New England law schools and New York law firms; hence, school prayer enacted in Alabama will always be struck down in Washington, and so on. Atomize, homogenize — then tyrannize. That’s the cultural program of the Left throughout the West.

The only hope for Christians of any sort — and Catholics in particular — to carry on our mission of evangelization and social charity is to shrink the secular State. We must claw back the taxes that make it so hard to afford to raise a decent-sized family, to pay for Catholic schooling, to support works of charity that are not value-neutral but truly Christian. We must push back, hard, against the ever-expanding, Utilitarian Leviathan. We do so not because we are secret Randians, who shrug off any moral obligation toward the weak — but rather because we see the family as the basic unit of society, churches and families as the primary educators of children, and the godless modern State as a monster that must be killed.

John Zmirak

By

John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • Nick Palmer

    Thanks, Dr. Z, for a well-balanced take on the election results. As an adult-lifelong conservative, I, too, find significant upside in the failure of the Republican Party to capture the Senate. First, as noted, it inoculates the party from blame for what is likely to be a painfully slow recovery.

    Second, however, it helps folks of my persuasion to continue to challenge the Republicans to govern more as conservatives than as Democrats with an elephant tattoo. Yes, a number of Tea Party favorites lost in high profile races. And, several of them ousted career Republican sycophants in the primaries. Would the “traditional Republican” have won in Delaware? Likely so. The real winner was the Tea Party, which stands as a challenge to the Republicans. Of 129 “Tea Party” candidates in House races, 113 won. Quite the batting average. John Boehner knows, and seems to be telegraphing, the implication as regards the national mood. This mood is not a passing thing, it represents a large and growing swathe of the country — people who are basically God fearing and center right in outlook. People who wish to run their own lives. People who resent being typecast and sneered at by an arrogant, overeducated, self-appointed ruling class (see: John Kerry, anyone Kennedy, et. al.).

    Of course, there is sadness in my Massachusetts. Yet, in such events as Barney Frank’s humble and classy victory speech, we can still find hope.

    Finally, a quick “thank you” to you and to Mark Shea. In my time “hanging around” Crisis and then IC you have each pushed me in some new directions. Mark’s sometimes annoying, but thoughtful and deeply felt commentary on torture has led me to reconsider and refine my thoughts on the topic. Not an easy change for me. Your writing, Dr. Z, has forced me to question some assumptions as well regarding the war and conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. While I may not have “done a 180,” you both have made me more intellectually humble, and, I hope, wiser.

    Oh, and your writing has captivated my 17-year-old daughter. She loved The Grand Inquisitor, and welcomes your articles. Any thoughts or advice for a high-school junior whose favorite subject is Latin looking to major in Classics with a minor either in Philosophy or Math? She’d take you a lot more seriously than dear-old dad!

  • Mother of Two Sons

    There is zero prospect of bending the State to our will, of restoring to our public institutions the ancient Christian certitudes. Even in deeply conservative communities, the will of localities will always be tortured by the courts to accord with the legal philosophy that dominates New England law schools and New York law firms; hence, school prayer enacted in Alabama will always be struck down in Washington, and so on. Atomize, homogenize — then tyrannize. That’s the cultural program of the Left throughout the West.

    If I understood you correctly I am quite shocked… this would be true if this was just the VISION of a bunch of “stuck in the past” people… but the VISION in my mind of Chrisianity is at a depth and breadth as of yet not known by this generation…. for I KNOW that if JESUS in the only prayer we pray in common across all Christian denominations, Jesus declared, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”, and it has as yet manifest! That is our mission and America still is one of the few places on the Earth where it could happen. I believe we have yet to understand/discover/utilize the power of our SOULs, filled with all of the creative lovingness that all of the universe was/is/will be created. We have yet to know true Community(as it is in heaven)… but I believe it is this next decade’s MISSION and once God opens the eyes, mind and heart of those who press into Him, it will manifest easily because it will come through His Grace. As easily as the grace came through Jesus and healed mind, bodies and souls, it shall come through all of us!! He promised this…. we just have not yet believed! When we bring solutions to the economy through Christian Business Networks, online and corporations; through collaborations that build community through collective genius, the divisions will be healed.

  • Rob

    “More important is the victory of Rand Paul in Kentucky, because this newly elected U.S. senator represents a strain of principled politics such as Republicans haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan”

    The same Reagan who appointed O’Conner and Kennedy to the Supreme Court?

    As long as Catholic conservatives such as Mr. Zmirak and Mr. Buchanan keep praising Reagan, we will continue to get lots of talk from Republicans–and no action.

  • RK

    I’m with Rob. We need to move on from the Reagan worship. Reagan, despite all the adoring rhetoric, was a massive taxer and spender.

  • Brian English

    “The same Reagan who appointed O’Conner and Kennedy to the Supreme Court?”

    The same Reagan who tried to get Robert Bork on the Court instead of Kennedy. The number of Republicans in the Senate directly impacts on the types of justices a Republican president can get on the Court.

  • Brian English

    “The only hope for Christians of any sort — and Catholics in particular — to carry on our mission of evangelization and social charity is to shrink the secular State. We must claw back the taxes that make it so hard to afford to raise a decent-sized family, to pay for Catholic schooling, to support works of charity that are not value-neutral but truly Christian. We must push back, hard, against the ever-expanding, Utilitarian Leviathan.”

    This point has to be raised as often as possible, because far too many Catholics do not appear to understand it.

  • thetimman

    I really, really enjoy your work. Thank you.

  • Tom

    Let’s not forget that conservatives opposed Douglas Ginsburg for smoking hemp, before his name was withdrawn and Kennedy nominated.

    John, this article is a masterpiece of political statement. We cannot beat it on its own terms, but we must starve it of money and recruits. The secular peoples are dying, aborting their future generations: abortion is evolutionarily suicidal. We do not need to do anything other than deny them our children and our money, and keep outbreeding them to replace them in short order. This is how pagan Rome was overwhelmed: a people who had lost faith in their (false) gods would not replace themselves, while those adhering to the true God did. Over 300 years, the murderers of our savior were conquered without a fight.

  • Ann

    Good article.

    We also have to be ready, as a church, to say, No Thanks to the tax-free status that is always dangled before us, making us conform.

  • Steve Newark

    Does the word, ‘Sociopath’ connote and denote the meaning of your thoughts?

  • Aaron B.

    Good stuff, but I wouldn’t be too sure that amnesty is dead. One thing I noticed about this election is how offended Democrats seemed that Americans objected to just letting them have their way. After all, they know what’s best for us. Obama still wont admit he brought this on himself by pushing his radical agenda too fast; it’s all because we just aren’t capable of understanding his great plans. Even at the local level we had incidents like a Democrat candidate throwing away a Republican’s campaign materials at a church event, and some supporters of our Democrat sheriff nearly starting a fight at a church picnic because they didn’t like what the opposition’s T-shirts said. They’ve really taken this rejection personally.

    So I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go for broke in this lame duck session, ramming through policies that they know will offend those average Americans who turned on them. Amnesty would be perfect for that purpose. It wouldn’t be much of a slap at the GOP, half of which would probably be on board anyway, but it’d be a great slap at the Tea Party types out in flyover country.

  • jacobus

    “We must push back, hard, against the ever-expanding, Utilitarian Leviathan.”

    I appreciate what you’re trying to get at here, JZ; the Democrats’ constant intrusion of the Federal Government into private life and institutions is frustrating, but I fail to see how electing the party that completely supports the wars on drugs and terrorism, has suspended Habeas Corpus, gave us waterboarding, un-person “enemy combatants” and warantless wiretapping is in any way a push back against the Leviathan.

    This party would cut down every law in the country to get at a few Muslims or illegal Mexicans, but when the last law is down, and it’s decided that our loyalty to the Roman man with the funny hat makes us a threat, where would we hide then, all the laws being flat?

    This is happening in the Middle East. We give the local governments the power to chase down terrorists within their borders by any means, and the Turks and Israelis, for example, are using these powers to cleanse their lands of their ancient Christians.

    Such things can happen here: they happened in the Christian countries of Britain and France and Spain within the last 400 years.

    By all means support those who would have us keep our civil liberties, but with few exceptions, they don’t exist within either party. We must not put our trust in princes.

  • Brian English

    “We also have to be ready, as a church, to say, No Thanks to the tax-free status that is always dangled before us, making us conform.”

    How about reducing taxes and reducing the scope of government so that the government doesn’t have the leverage in the first place?

  • JPZmirak

    What’s hopeful about the Tea Party is the prominence of men like Rand Paul in it–principled supporters of liberty who opposed all the Bush Administration’s excesses in the War on Terror, many of whom also questioned the ill-starred and counterproductive Iraq War. It’s critical that the anti-interventionist elements in the Tea Party fight HARD against those who still dream of a global democratic revolution, fought largely by National Guardsmen who thought they were signing up to protect their local communities from things like… hurricane damage–and soldiers who thought they were defending the United States from foreign enemies. “Transforming” whole regions of the world into the Upper West Side by military force is a neocon fantasy that is completely incompatible with a free and solvent society at home. I was writing about this at the height of the war hysteria. Check out my definitive piece on the neocon threat to liberty and peace: “America the Abstraction.”
    http://tinyurl.com/yaug8rg

  • Teri

    Is anyone paying attention to the economy? Since July, the dollar Index recorded at 86 cents/dollar and today it is 75 Cents as measured by the index, the US Dollar has lost 14% of its purchasing power. What does that mean? If this continues on an annualized basis, it means we have been subjected to an extra, hidden 28% tax increase. We are poorer if we’ve not gotten a 28% pay increase. Parsing Congressional activities over taxes seems ludricrous at this point.

    To say that the government should stay out of our lives is to miss Obama’s back door destruction of all Americans. He’s all over our lives whether you know it or not. As long as Obama has the tools of the Fed, the FCC, the EPA and others, Congress, laws, and the Courts are irrelevant.

    It’s time to make some noise and impeach the Leviathan and imprison him and his masters.

  • jacobus

    JPZmirak, I appreciate your response and am please to read your repudiation of neo-con-ism.

    I am also optimistic about Rand Paul (I have voted for his father), but not about a movement which clings to the likes of Palin. Hopefully his election will be a harbinger of domestic and foreign sanity. I’ll pray.

    Cheers.

  • Gail F

    Mother of Two Sons, Dr Z is right and you are not. The problem is not that we have not believed enough. It’s been 2000 years since the crucifixion, and people have believed fervently (more or less, depending on when and where). Of course we should try to build the best state we can, but His kingdom is not of this world. There is no perfect society short of heaven.

    I voted mostly Republican in this election, because right now the Republicans are the best we can get. But we mustn’t forget that the Republican party is not our friend either. Don’t confuse a political party for a religion. Do the best you can, pray, and look at ALL politicians and laws with a cold eye.

  • Brian English

    ” the Democrats’ constant intrusion of the Federal Government into private life and institutions is frustrating, but I fail to see how electing the party that completely supports the wars on drugs and terrorism, has suspended Habeas Corpus, gave us waterboarding, un-person “enemy combatants” and warantless wiretapping is in any way a push back against the Leviathan.”

    Well, I think most people agree that it is actually Leviathan’s job to fight wars and to try to stop people from blowing us up. You may disagree with some of the particulars of how those duties are carried out or if a certain war was necessary, but trying to equate those issues with what we have seen over the last two years is absurd.

  • Ryan

    How does the Republican Party fight secularism? Is the Republican banner sufficient to support institutional communities and overcome individualism and pluralism?

    Now the State recognizes no intermediate associations of any kind; the individual asserts his “rights,” which he holds in stark isolation, at the sufferance of government, with no institutions to back his claim.

  • Joe H

    Thanks for continuing on that theme that originally helped me to see the light over a year ago.

    I do however think it is important for us to strong assert the natural rights of individuals and families – and to draw a distinction between those rights, and the artificial rights invented arbitrarily by the courts.

    Or do you think the language of rights has truly and forever been usurped and made worthless?

  • GABRIEL

    HAS NO-ONE IN AMERICAN POLITICS SAID:

    We will feed the poor, because Christ said so.
    We protect the children, because Christ said so.
    We will take care of the sick, because Christ said so.
    We will provide food and shelter to the widows and the fatherless, because Christ said so.
    We will charge taxes, but not in vain.

    And rest assured that every dime we spend will be to further the will of God,
    and not the viles of men. And when you need us, we will be there for you as well.

    Why has this not come about?
    What seems to be the problem?

    Tell me for I am most curious, and eagerly awaiting an explanation.
    G. A. AA.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    The Pope has called for the abolition of national bishops’ conferences. The USCCB is still an arm of the Democratic Party. It was a primary actor in giving us ObamaCare–supporting it down to the finish line, providing cover for the “pro-life” Stupak , then pulling out at the last moment, then offering pro forma objections to the abortion funding that everyone knew all along would be included. The USCCB should be torn down, and replaced with a small shrine housing a stone tablet, on which is carved the Principle of Subsidiarity.

  • Susan

    “The secular peoples are dying, aborting their future generations: abortion is evolutionarily suicidal. We do not need to do anything other than deny them our children and our money, and keep outbreeding them to replace them in short order. This is how pagan Rome was overwhelmed: a people who had lost faith in their (false) gods would not replace themselves, while those adhering to the true God did. ”

    BUT! in this age of the Brave New World (and the “Tragedy of the Commons”), all that it takes is Big Papa Government to put forward its own artificial reproduction program on a massive basis, and on the negative side, coerced sterilization and abortions of the “wrong” sort of people, for us to be “outbred”.

    In this modern age, the one who wins is the one who controls the means of RE-production.

  • Bob G

    I think Mr. Zmirak is oblivious to the real issue: economics. Leviathan has been growing and will continue to grow to solve the problems of those in the lower half of the economy. Government now provides 50% of all U.S. incomes, so any party that tries to reduce Government, and its salaries and transfers, will be decimated at the polls. It’s all very well to be anti-Gummint until the consequences become clear. I share every one of Mr. Zmirak’s goals but none of them will be achieved until we come up with a better answer for the economic question, around which our whole society revolves. I do not expect the economy to recover. I believe the seers predicting recovery are blind. Government debt has become too big a drag on the market, and problems from the crash that are still hidden just below the surface will continue to drag us down. By 2012 Obama will be making the case that only Gummint can save us and he’ll have a strongly appealing, although illusory, case. Win there and we win the whole game (culture). Lose there and everything else goes as well.

  • Bob

    As a practicing, believing, Mass-attending, financially-contributing, committed Catholic, I am so incredibly glad (and proud) to live in what must be the “bluest” county in the USA – Howard County, Maryland. We re-elected our Democratic state governor, our Democratic US senator, our Democratic representive (with 75% of the vote!!!), our Democratic County Executive and all 6 Democrats in our representives to the Maryland state legislature.

    The Republican Party is the antithesis of everything the Catholic Church teaches. Any honest Catholic who supports the GOP should be ashamed of himself! It should be the first thing he brings up in Confession.

  • Ryan Haber

    I love G. K. Chesterton’s quote that goes something to the extent that, “Those who cannot see the problem with Capitalism will surely get the Bolshevik solution.”

    Capitalism and Utilitarianism are handmaids, one to the other, and these two sister witches have a third: Socialism, whose purpose is to make the first palatable and the second practicable. All three are materialist and reductionist. The point cannot be emphasized enough that capitalism and socialism are not opposites.

    When most of us say, “capitalism,” we do not mean what the name strictly entails. We mean something like “free markets, civil liberties, voting, consumer choice, supply and demand, apple pie, and all that stuff.” We mean, in other words, America as we used to idealize it. What we emphatically do not mean is what Capitalism is in fact: the materialist-reductionist ideology that sees all things in terms of the means of production (capital). Our culture is built of the stuff from the days of Adam Smith and we’ve believed the trite lies all the way up to the point allowing ourselves to be branded with number after number, managed like lumps of coal by bureaucratic departments of human resources, and more…

    In fact, ask any small business owner whether we have free markets. We do not. Where the mammoth oligopolies, cartels, and near-monopolies do not dominate and squish out start-up competition, government bureaucracy steps in to smother it in the name of fairness, social responsibility, or the common good. The bank bailouts are the best example: we are witnessing an unprecedented (God knows how overused our president has made that word) consolidation in the banking industry financed first by reckless lending and then by taxpayer-funded government bailouts. The effect: small, financially sound, local banks are disappearing like never before into the jaws of massive interests over which nobody apparently exercises authority.

    As economic and political power is consolidated into fewer hands, it will, as Zmirak notes, inevitably be used more and more tyrannically for the increasingly exclusive benefit of those who wield it.

    In this situation, one that increasingly mimics the autocracy of late 19th century Russia, it is easy to imagine Socialist revolution (either of a Bolshevik or of a Fabian variety) becoming increasingly attractive. It is also not hard to imagine why powerful interests rush to pick up the socialist banner to ameliorate the worst effects of their own predations in an effort to stabilize society firmly in their control. The process is described in Hillaire Belloc’s “The Servile State.” This is what Chesterton meant when he wrote that people who do not understand the capitalist problem will get the socialist solution.

    What is needed is a new political economy. Obviously we, individually or even as a Church, cannot establish a new political economy unilaterally or overnight. But we can use our influence, as Zmirak notes, to change what we are encountering – starve the beast, as he puts it. We can also begin to build one up among ourselves by the way we live our lives.

    We must not live like our neighbors. Consumerism, which is only Capitalism that has been snorting Keynes, is a materialist-reductionist ideology that views everything in terms of how much goodies they gobble up. We must not be gobblers of goodies, but stewards of the gifts of God. The sexual revolution, heavily financed by large corporations and the federal government, was intended to increase the labor force and decrease time away from work because of maternity, sick children, etc. It is a necessary corollary Consumerism and we must neither get sucked into it nor waste too much energy fighting it. Instead, simply have to live as Christians – men and women valuing and treating each other with respect, and protecting our dignity and honor. Consumerism is financed by debt, and we Christians must follow the scriptural and traditional injunctions against both debt and usury. Oh, the list goes on and on…

    I can really best advise those who find themselves nodding with Prof. Zmirak, as I happily often do, to read up on distributism, a political economy based on the value of families and of individuals, on local production and consumption, on the slow, steady building up of stable wealth by hard work, saving, and prudent investment, and most especially on each family owning the property, tools, and skills needed to provide for themselves and to contribute to the building up of society.

  • Dori

    Wow! I have seen a lot of thoughtful and intelligent comments here. I believe, strongly, that government is intended to be a tool for the populace. It must be controlled by the people. The bigger it gets, the more difficult it is to control. Government is never your friend. If you let it get big enough, it will eat you alive.

    It is incumbent upon us to do everything in our power to take back control of the “leviathan,” however hopeless it may seem.

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