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    • Steve N.

      As usual, very well done. Now, if only the so called elected officials, you know whom I mean – the “elect”- could respond with meaning we’d begin again.

    • Robert Brennan

      Another excellent and thought provoking article from Mr. Weigel and further proof that being a collectivist/socialist doesn’t make one a good Catholic any more than being a free market capalist makes one a bad Catholic. Our faith teaches us that we have a moral responsibility to supply people with a safety net…But it’s a “safety” net, not a “cargo” net.

    • Martial Artist

      Mr. Weigel,

      First, I would suggest that your writing that “it is a serious distortion of the social doctrine to suggest that government has exclusive responsibility” is in itself a rather significant distortion of the social doctrine, as witness the citation from Centsisimus Annus” in the paragraph that immediately follows.

      If the “social assistance state” actually commits the evils attributed to it by Blessed John Paul II, which I firmly believe it does, then the role of the state, particularly at the federal level, is the more egregious dissenter from the Church’s teaching, both on the basis of subsidiarity and on the basis of government’s advocacy of policies which have been shown, repeatedly, to produce results counter to their stated aims.

      Secondarily, as a Catholic of distinctly Old Whig temperament (in the Hayekian sense), I would question the applicability and accuracy of your characterization of Ron Paul’s position as one of “libertarian minimalism” which I take to be, at best, a negative evaluation on your part. And I do so with a particular historical perspective in mind. When the U.S. government limited itself to its Constitutionally defined and authorized responsibilities, there was in much of this nation a strong sense of personal responsibility among those who had much to provide for their fellows who had little. The unconstitutional assumption of responsibilities and authority to provide the elements of the “social assistance state” by our government has contributed to the undermining of that inherent charitable impulse in our citizenry, in large part through the evils you enumerate in your paragraph (2). Insofar as I am aware, Libertarianism (of the small ‘l’ variety) is not inherently inconsistent with Catholic social teaching, nor any other Catholic teaching for that matter. It supports the dignity of the human person, the respect for the rights of owners of property and of subsidiarity as a proper means of approaching the resolution of social issues. I think you do a disservice to those of us who are of what is a basically libertarian disposition. I am of that disposition because of my faith, as most of the other approaches to politics involve the imposition of one group’s values upon everyone else, thereby demonstrating that group’s view that they have an understanding of their neighbors need than do their neighbors. It is inconsistent to be libertarian and to believe that I understand better than you what may be best for you in a given situation.

      Other than those two demurrers, I would wholeheartedly agree with what is expressed in your article.

      Pax et bonum,
      Keith Töpfer

      • Anonymous Seminarian

        I agree. Ron Paul deserves better credit. A constitutional libertarian (read pro-life) is exactly what we need at least at the federal level. If the good citizens of Taxachusetts want to pay for their own welfare state, I say, let ‘em, but leave the rest of us out of it.

    • Victor P

      I usually don’t comment but I MUST express my wholehearted agreement with Mr. Topfer and await Mr. Weigel’s response

    • Tony Esolen

      On libertarianism:

      If we mean by it that people are first of all individual agents, and that they owe nothing to the common good, then I can’t be a libertarian. For example, if being a libertarian prevents me from trying to outlaw pornography, or from trying to enact other laws having to do with the general moral tenor of the people, then I can’t be a libertarian. Catholic teaching does affirm that we are essentially and not just accidentally social beings.

      On the other hand, I do agree that the social-assistance state is destructive of both the individual and the community. That is, there are grounds on which to oppose the Leviathan other than those that spring from individual rights. For example, the social assistance state removes from people the authority to educate their children as they see fit, and that is an offense to human dignity. I’m not talking about individual parents here, but about whole communities, people getting together to see that a certain job gets done.

      I recall that during the presidency of Grover Cleveland a terrible hurricane hit Texas. Then there were calls for the federal government to send assistance. Cleveland – a bull-headed and unimpeachably honest man, who personally spent hours and hours reviewing claims for pensions from children of civil war veterans, many of them false – insisted that the Constitution gave him no authority to do that. Instead he called upon the people of the United States to help their countrymen, and himself contributed immediately. According to one account I’ve read, mountains of food and supplies reached Texas in very short order.

      One of the objections I hear to private charity is that the recipients would be embarrassed by it, whereas they’re not embarrassed by a check from the government, or even food stamps (which nowadays just come from a credit card, if I’m not mistaken). But that is exactly why private charity is superior. If I take a check from John, I have to look him in the eye. I know him. Or I know people like him. I feel bound to use the money wisely. I may feel a sense of shame; sometimes that’s unfortunate and undeserved, but sometimes it is deserved. In any case there’s a human interaction, not a bureaucratic one.

      A question I’d like to ask: how is it that people in our country, right now, come to be poor? Aside from those who have been battered by the recent recession, whence comes the poverty? It isn’t as if people have to know anything these days to make a decent living; look at journalists, for instance. I’m not saying that all people deserve to be poor. I am certainly saying that lawmakers cannot treat such poverty as we experience as itself the problem rather than the result of a deeper problem. If we started to ask, “Why is John poor?”, we might come up with some interesting answers that would discomfit everybody, as, for instance, “Because John grew up without a father,” or “Because John was never taught to work with his hands,” or “Because John got caught up with getting girls pregnant,” or “Because John hung around with cocaine sellers,” or “Because the unions have kept tradesmen out of teaching programs in the prisons,” or “Because he was never given an example of noble manhood to aspire to,” and so forth.

    • Luciano

      The reality is that the so called liberals don’t really care about the poor they just want a way to reduce all to wards of the state and then decide who lives or dies.