Papal Teaching Warns Against Excessive Government

pope-pius-xi_1922

We are familiar enough with left-of-center Catholics, like Catholics United and the professors who publicly opposed House Speaker John Boehner’s honorary degree from The Catholic University of America in 2011, beating the drum for governmental—especially federal government—“solutions” to problems. We also witness it, however, from some Catholics known for being committed to the orthodox teaching of the Church. When someone is too insistent about reducing the role of government or even just raises questions about certain public policies, there are those who are quick to put him into such categories as “neoliberal” or “neoconservative.” There is a tendency to slip into the practice of absolutizing public policy approaches or other matters of prudential judgment and treating them like they are doctrinal mandates.

A reviewer of one of my books—apparently an orthodox scholar, although not well-known in those circles—is a case in point. He took me to task for asserting—after a considerable discussion about Catholic social teaching in a 700-page book—that legislation should be adopted only when “absolutely needed.” He insisted that such a view was not “magisterial” and collided with Aquinas’ argument that the legislator is needed to move a people to the common good. While Catholic social teaching holds that the securing of the common good is a main task of the state, it nowhere says that this means that legislation or enacting a new public policy or program is the singular way to do this. Sometimes—even frequently—government is best able to help fashion good social conditions by stepping back. If one can think of a scenario that might best depict what Catholic social teaching, in its essence, aims for it would be this: The building up of a moral culture and citizenry, a basic juridic framework to protect economic and other rights, and a healthy and vital civil society to carry on most economic and social welfare matters. The state’s role would be to enact appropriate legislation to head off likely problems—like the labor legislation Pope Leo XIII called for (Rerum Novarum #39)—and working with the private sector on such things as economic planning to head off unemployment problems (Laborem Exercens #18), and to always “oversee” things with an eye to the common good, ready to intervene to stop serious abuses such as the growth of destructive monopoly.

Moreover, a smug assurance about the value of more legislation and public policy in solving social problems is easily undermined by the repeated reality of unintended consequences and interest group government, where even failing policies cannot be dislodged because special interests begin to profit from them.

My phrase “absolutely needed” indicates the urgency today of restraining runaway government. In an era of 75,000 pages of federal regulations with their increasing complexity, vagueness, and contradictoriness and when enforcement people in government and authorities outside it can’t agree on what laws and regulations actually require, it’s hard to claim that we need more law. Should we really be legislating when it’s not clearly needed? While the reviewer may be correct in identifying the high calling of the legislator according to Aquinas and Aristotle before him, isn’t it clear that so many of them today don’t measure up? This is not an era marked by great statesmanship. Moreover, is the role of a legislator just to pass laws? Senator Howard Baker in the 1980s lamented the much-diminished role of the U.S. Senate as a great debating body, which had once helped to explore, clarify, and better understand great national questions. Isn’t that part of what the legislator does to further the common good?

To believe that government will necessarily act rightly—without looking at its track record or the context of a time—is simply foolish.

Before enlisting Aquinas in the cause of activist government, one should consider his admonitions that human law not try to repress all vices or prescribe all virtues. It should not be like Calvin’s Geneva, or our Calvinist-like secular state of today which increasing seeks to regiment so many areas of life. It certainly should be concerned about promoting virtue—the social teaching of the Church says that one of government’s roles, to be sure, is to make men better—but it must also be realistic and aware of other problems that could easily develop if it pushes too far. It’s not a question of government having either an activist or minimalist role, but a proper one. As the noted post-World War II American Catholic theologian Fr. Francis J. Connell said, “excessive legislation is very harmful to the welfare of a nation.”

To be sure, the role of government is not the same for all countries at all times. We can say there is perhaps a range of what is acceptable and expected depending on such considerations as a people’s history, tradition, and level of socio-political development. This is very much like Aristotle’s famous typology of good and perverted regimes; there can be more than one type of good or acceptable regime and what is best for one people may not be best for another. Fr. Connell said that “unnecessary legislation” is against the spirit of a country like the U.S. Maybe Obama and the left should be thinking about that as they try to import European social democracy to the U.S. Actually, the recent meltdowns, economic and otherwise, show that these social democracies have gone beyond what in absolute terms is the reasonable range. Among other things, their excessive taxation on the productive element of their populations have long since surpassed the level that Rerum Novarum would have considered immoral since it is essentially an infringement on the right of private property (#35).

Then there is the nagging question of subsidiarity. The book reviewer insisted that my claim that it means that activities ought to be carried on at the lowest possible level in society is not magisterial teaching. They should be done at their “proper places.” To be sure, some activities by nature go to the highest level. A local government could not carry out national defense. It is hard to claim, however, that Pope Pius XI’s classic definition of subsidiarity—“it is an injustice … a grave evil and a disturbance of right order, to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed … by lesser and subordinate bodies” (Quadragesimo Anno #79)—does not demand turning to the lower level whenever possible. As a leading current authority on subsidiarity, Professor John J. Schrems, says, “the burden of proof lies always on those who want to deprive a lower level of its function.” From her consistent stress on intermediary (civil society) groups to her high regard for the family farm and small-scale enterprise to Pope John Paul II’s call to turn away from the welfare state and take care of human needs at a level “closest to … those in need” (Centesimus Annus #48-49), the Church makes it abundantly clear that activities be done at the “local” level wherever possible and practicable.

Instead of government setting up more programs, political leaders should work to stimulate and cajole—using the bully-pulpit, if necessary—action by civil society. Again, not all that government should do is legislate.

Faithful Catholics should be careful about falling into the trap that government action and new public policies are the ready solution to all social problems. The Church’s social reaching suggests otherwise and, contrary to the prevailing view, in the nature of things government is often not capable of handling them.

Editor’s note: Pictured above is Pope Pius XI.

Stephen M. Krason

By

Stephen M. Krason's "Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic" column appears monthly (sometimes bi-monthly) in Crisis Magazine. He is Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville and co-founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists. His is the author of several books including The Transformation of the American Democratic Republic (Transaction Publishers, 2012), and most recently an edited volume entitled, Child Abuse, Family Rights, and the Child Protective System (Scarecrow Press, 2013).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Yet Populorum Progressio teaches, “33. Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” [John XXIII, Encyc.letter Mater et Magistra: AAS 53 (1961), 414.] the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

    It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

    This would seem to allow a wide margin of appreciation to the public authorities in striking the balance.

    • NormChouinard

      I agree with this but adding the caution that if subsidiarity and solidarity are to co-exist, then there will be always be a tension between when the solution is government intervention at the federal or worldwide level. Further permanent federal intervention will cause even more tension as the moral nature of man is set aside. While we can both quibble with the author, I can agree with him that good government ‘builds a moral nature and citizenry’. We have to care for each other but the solutions (from best to worst) are neighbor, local government, state government, federal government, world government,

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The phrase “public authorities” is wide enough to include every level of government, each playing its proper rôle. As you rightly note, even international authorities have their part to play – “As We told the United Nations General Assembly in New York: “Your vocation is to bring not just some peoples but all peoples together as brothers. . . Who can fail to see the need and importance of thus gradually coming to the establishment of a world authority capable of taking effective action on the juridical and political planes?” ( AAS 57 (1965), 880 [cf. TPS XI, 51].)”

        • Adam__Baum

          Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

        • Piusfan

          Too bad that Pope Paul VI apparently lost sight of the fact that Christ’s Holy Catholic Church that he was Supreme Pontiff of was the one that had the solemn obligation and vocation to bring together the peoples of the world under religious truth and unity.

          Instead of bringing the Church to the world, he brought the world into the Church. Within a few more years he would lament the smoke of Satan and preside over the early stages of the dissolution of the Church’s human piety and vitality, a spiral that has yet to cease to this day.

          • Adam Baum

            So sayeth Pope Piusfan I.

      • Adam__Baum

        The essential problem with federal intervention is that it assumes that there is a “solution” and only one. Often the “solution” is a tradeoff and one with unforeseen consequences-as when the temperance movement gave us the mob.

  • Piusfan

    One can only marvel at the author citing Aquinas, Fr. O’Connell, Pope Leo XIII, and Pope Pius XI for making a case for one faction of liberals dithering and arguing over tertiary issues against another faction of liberals.

    What is whitewashed from this whole treatment is that these thinkers all proclaimed, and the popes officially magisterially taught, the Reign of Christ and the obligations from divine law for government and government leaders to give public recognition, homage, and obedience to Christ and His One Holy Catholic Church. Cherry picking certain tenets of their teaching while shunting aside the core framework of their teaching is deplorable.

    One wonders if Mr. Krason considers government recoginizing the true faith to be excessive government.

    “We believe that the rulers of a Catholic country have the right to restrict the activity of those who would lead their people away from their allegiance to the Catholic Church. …They possess the right to prevent propaganda against the Catholic
    Church.” – Monsignor Francis J. Connell; American Roman Catholic theologian
    “American Ecclesiastical Review”, January 1946

    • Adam__Baum

      I wonder what “Catholic country”, he had in mind. Most have been busily ensuring allegience away from the Church and God.

      • Piusfan

        The situation was quite different in 1946.

        • Adam Baum

          No kidding. If they didn’t do it then, what makes you think they’ll do it now?

  • Grizzly Bear

    The Popes were talking about Tyrannical Governments that took advantage of the weakest… Bankster Monetary Mammon States that had no pity on their weakest citizens… The Pope recently made it clear that “Political Ethics to win Votes” are not what the church is about, and more so when Hypocrites get religious honorary degrees just to try to convince that the cover of the book is a bible… You cannot judge a book by its cover, especially when Mammon Greed is all around him…

    • TheodoreSeeber

      “Bankster Monetary Mammon States that had no pity on their weakest citizens”

      You mean, kind of like the United States of America?

      • Adam__Baum

        Like everywhere. Do you think the we are unique or do you think when Christ was shown all the Kingdoms in the desert-it was an indication of just how easily corrupted government is?

        The door swings both ways, don’t let it hit you on the backside as you make your way to the Kingdom of Saud.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I’d rather have the Kingdom of Christ, and his Vicar the Pope. In other words- a return to the 13th century and none of this freemasonic definition of liberty.

          • Adam Baum

            You need to stop romantacizing dead secular Kings and imputing virtues that they never had, they were no less avaricious and lecherous then than they are now. Of course since the 13th century gave rise to the 14th, perhaps it wasn’t that good at all.
            Of course I could point out you don’t really want to go to the 13th century, because you so freely indulge in this medium of the 20th.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              Working on it. Need to find a way to liberate enough land from the dictatorships of New York and Washington DC to declare independence.

              • Adam Baum

                Why don’t you try looking beyond these borders.

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  The rest of the world is also owned, mainly by the same people once you unwrap the puppet governments and banking shells.

                  • Adam Baum

                    Thanks for making my point that government is usually corrupt. It only varies by degree.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      It can be done without the corruption- but you need a strong state church first.
                      Without God, nothing is possible. With Him, everything is.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      - but you need a strong state church first.

                      Because that never goes astray. Henry Tudor ring a bell? Government is not your mediator to heaven on earth.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      No, but the Church should be Government’s mediator between Heaven and Earth.

                    • Adam Baum

                      THen look to the Church and stop looking to the state.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Exactly what I’ve been saying- look to the Church for our government.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      No, you aren’t.

                      Despite copius examples of the nature of government-some you acknowledge-you wrote .

                      “But government is the last line of defense for the common good in an ungenerous age”

                      You think the power of government is a complement to the authority of the Church or will be guided by it.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      The power of the government should be directly used by the Church to help defend the common good.

                      Where individuals are generous, that is for the best for the common good.

                      Where individuals are not generous, the Church should use government to force *enough* generosity to provide freedom from need, though not necessarily freedom from want.

                      Government should always be subservient to the Church. Secularism is anti-Christian.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Wake up and smell the coffee and ditch your dreamstate.

        • Grizzly Bear

          Breaking a sweat working is not the same as breaking a sweat conniving ways to steal peoples money without making it look like a sin… Work and Prayer is not Usury and Lie!

          • Grizzly Bear

            Even at the beginning, the Protestant work Heresy, was not this full blown Piracy…

  • lifeknight

    Because I know little about the topic and have heard much in private discussions, I am inserting a quote from our recent Pope Benedict from an excellent article written by Fr. McCloskey.
    “The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a Spirit of Solidarity.”

    It seems to me that voluntary “charity” is certainly better for everyone concerned, especially the “donor” of such charity. The above quote came from the article, “Private Charity Versus Government Welfare.” I found it very enlightening and it helped clarify my thoughts on too much government and the Catholic Church’s provision of charity to the world.

    • Diego Fernando Ramos Flor

      But we should add the encounters that Pope Francis is asking us to perform. That means that not every Private Charity is good, but the charity that actually cares on concrete persons with concrete needs, concrete names and concrete backgrounds. So far, it could also be performed by little instances not precisely private, as neigborhood boards, guilds or so. Anyway, big government social programs nationwide should be an exception, the last resort, and not the first place we look for help.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Which is where I have a tendency to shock libertarians. I propose, that if they truly want to end welfare and avoid taxes- they should first campaign to bring back the Philadelphia Nun’s Loophole and then emulate St. Katherine Drexel (who lived on $5/day and used the $995/day income from her inherited wealth to do great things indeed).

      Where generosity exists, government should bow out. But government is the last line of defense for the common good in an ungenerous age- and I would certainly call a culture that kills the unborn in return for material wealth, an ungenerous age.

      • Adam__Baum

        Abortion shows just how dedicated the state is to the “common good”, which is a concept that is so unworkable, so nebulus as to be putty in the hands of charismatic demogogues.

        • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

          With abortion the state is not forcing anyone to get one. Abortion is the application of the radical libertarian ethos that you hold dear.

          • Adam Baum

            Among the many things you speak freely about with little knowledge is your statement that I hold “the radical libertarian ethos” “dear”.

            Being against statist idolatry is not being a libertarian of any kind.
            Perhaps you can confess your impulsiveness.

            On the contrary, the superstate has been forcing me to finance the procurement of abortion, explicitly and implicitly for some time.
            Obamacare will simply make the financing automatic and remove the precious few hindrances that existed through the appropriayion process, when the government routinely passes multi-thousand page “omnibus” bills into law.

            • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

              You’re the one going around screaming about “statism.” Drawing the conclusion that you’re a libertarian is very reasonable.

              • AcceptingReality

                If I might interject….I don’t think recognizing the “Statist” reality under which we live means one is a libertarian. It means one is a realist.

              • Adam Baum

                No it’s not. First, you have don’t have any knowledge of my political philosophy other than an objection (and how would I be “screaming” in written form) to a powerful, intrusive central government, secondly, if you weren’t better informed you’d realize that to truly know an individual’s politics, you need to know them personally.

          • Mara319

            With Obamacare, the state will be forcing you to pay for other people’s abortions.

          • tom

            Abortion is murder….the murder of an innocent.

            • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

              i am not pro-abortion. Abortion is indeed mass murder.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I disagree with Mr. Est below- and yes, agreed that the liberal idea of the common good where the best way to deal with the poor is to decrease the surplus population through abortion, sterility, and euthanasia is really messed up.

          Which is why I suggested first a return to the Philadelphia Nun’s Loophole. Look it up.

          • tom

            Sister Drexel was a saintly person. Let’s remember, though, that $5 in 1910 (half way through her long life) was worth $25 today. I’ve been living the nun’s loophole for decades!

            • TheodoreSeeber

              VERY good point! Which is why the nun’s loophole should be legal again (it was closed in tax law in the Reagan reformation). I don’t believe anybody as charitable and generous as you should be paying taxes.

              $25×365=$9125. Extend that to a family of 4, is $36,500. Anybody generous enough to give away all wealth above that- is certainly somebody we want as a citizen and want to *reward*, not tax.

    • Adam__Baum

      That last paragraph indicates that you know a good deal more than you think.

  • ESG

    “The state’s role would be to enact appropriate legislation to head off likely problems—like the labor legislation Pope Leo XIII called for (Rerum Novarum#39)—and working with the private sector on such things as economic planning to head off unemployment problems (Laborem Exercens #18), and to always “oversee” things with an eye to the common good, ready to intervene to stop serious abuses such as the growth of destructive monopoly.”

    Leo’s basic moral principles — divinely revealed and known through the natural law — are sound, but his prescriptions in these areas are economically naive and violate the non-aggression principle. Monopolies are not destructive when they arise through the voluntary transactions of civil society — indeed, it’s the state itself that *is* a destructive monopoly! — and every sane person knows, or should know, that economies can’t be “planned.” Real prosperous economies provide for what real people on the ground want, not what their overlords want for them.

    The Church needs to see her moral principles and do for the free economy what she has come to do for religious freedom: Dignitatis Humanae got the ball rolling, and it’s time to see that these principles apply to economic transactions as much as they apply to religious practice.

    • Piusfan

      So your position is that Fr. O’Connell and those like him expressed their devout piety to the Catholic faith by engaging in assailable affronts and abridgements of man’s human dignity?

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      In Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI recognised wide powers of intervention, “24. If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation. Vatican II affirms this emphatically. (Gaudium et Spes, no. 71: AAS 58 (1966), 1093 [cf. TPS XI, 308].)

      • Adam__Baum

        Populorum Progressio, Pope Paul VI recognised wide powers of intervention, “24. If certain landed estates impede the general prosperity because they are extensive, unused or poorly used, or because they bring hardship to peoples or are detrimental to the interests of the country, the common good sometimes demands their expropriation.
        So, we should be demanding the massive landholdings of the government, being as they are extensive, unused and based on a rather lengthy list of audits and inspections, poorly used be expropriated to the people?

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          Most of the redistribution to which Tocqueville refers were made out of the royal demesne and the forest lands, as well as the Church lands and the confiscated estates of the émigrés and malignants

          • Adam Baum

            I didn’t address the quote from Tocqueville.

            • tom

              Tocqueville’s quotes about Islam are even more interesting. Nothing’s changed.

              • Adam Baum

                No, but it remains an excellent example of benevolent redistribution

                Then it’s a new topic, not a response.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              No, but it remains an excellent example of benevolent redistribution

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I have a problem with the non-aggression principle being applied to acts of economic aggression.

      Slavery is better than wages, when the wages fail to cover the basic needs of a human family.

      • Adam__Baum

        Is it slavery when I give the kid down the street twenty-five bucks to cut my grass with the instruction, cut it again in two weeks. Surely he can’t support himself on that, let alone a family?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          It’s actually a good starter job- if the kid is under 16.

          And it still isn’t slavery if it is a man trying to raise a family- it’s worse. It is not valuing the dignity of the individual; it is not paying the worker his due wage, it is one of the four sins that cries out to Heaven for Vengeance.

          • Adam Baum

            What I love about your idea of wages is that all work is equally valuable, except for starter jobs for kids “under 16″. Newflash: I’m not paying the kid more when he turns 17 or 18, unless he does more or demonstrates some reliability, skill, or some other desirable attribute.
            There’s a difference between a heart surgeon and a fast-food clerk-for that matter, there’s a difference between good fast food clerk (who greets you with enthusiasm, takes and fills your order promptly and accurately) and a lousy one (who takes his or her sweet time, screws up the order-and of course is tapping away on screen instead of working). You make no allowance for this disparity.
            You also make no allowance for the interests of the employer, no, you impose some indefinite burden on them, regardless of their ability to pay. Even if the burden isn’t so onerous as to shut down the business, it causes reduction in hour, changes in the capital labor mix (you pump your own gas, ring up your own groceries). In short, unless the value provided justifies the wage, the job might go away.
            You also make no demands of the employee in terms of even punctuality, let alone bringing attentiveness and skill to the job. It’s no longer an agrarian economy, where one man is indistinguishable from another.
            Of course anybody who thinks slavery is preferable to fast-food, as if McDonald’s had cages, hounds and the Fugitive Slave Act-well, there’s really no way to say this-it’s the product of cognitive infirmity, not fidelity to any Encyclical.
            A final thought -unless you run a business where you pay this wage-hint: it probably requires a minimum of 75K plus benefits (add another 45K) just to allow a family of five to “make it”, and you don’t evade the responsibility you freely impose by creating “starter” jobs, you probably shouldn’t be telling somebody else how to run theirs-much less telling them they are worse than slaveowners and calling upon Divine retribution.

            • TheodoreSeeber

              I’m saying that the minimum you should pay any human being, is enough for them to *be a human being*. If you want to pay somebody else more based on their own individual talents, that is perfectly reasonable, but if you’re expecting somebody to spend 8 hours a day with you and forgo any other employment, then the least you owe them is a living wage.

              Otherwise, maybe you should be doing the job yourself, instead of hiring somebody else to do your work for you?

              As for the Interests of the Employer- it is always in the employer’s best interests to treat their employees like fellow human beings.

              • Adam Baum

                What you are saying is nonsense, no other way to put it. Rube Goldberg made better planned contraptions than yours.
                By the way, did you make your own computer or do you just not consider buying the products of Chinese slave labor material cooperation with evil?

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  I make my own, using made-in-the-USA parts as much as possible, from businesses that have unions.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    businesses that have unions.

                    Like I said, slave labor. Union officials could easily be the pigs of Orwell’s Manor Farm.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      Except, they usually are not. Most unions actually operate *within* the workplace, and management isn’t allowed to be a part of unions.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Have you seen the salaries and perks they command? They may not be “part of management”, but why wouldthey want to be-it’s much easier to conscript your revenues than compete for them.

          • LarryCicero

            Do you have a right to the fruits of your labor?
            Are you paying a just price for the things you buy? Do you ask how much the laborer was paid to make your shoes? Do you shop on Sundays, forcing others to work on Sundays? Are you giving a just amount to charity?
            Do you have any clue how big Adam’s lawn is, who’s lawnmower is being used, or how long it takes to cut his grass? What if the person cutting the grass is a mother, trying to help the father make ends meet? Is she taking a job away from someone else?
            Does the consumer have rights? Duties? If every wage was a living wage, would there still be a need for charity?
            How much is the worker due? Who decides?

            • Adam__Baum

              As a matter of fact, I do make every effort not to shop on Sunday.

              • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

                Congratulations you’re such an inspiration.

                • Adam Baum

                  Do you have something intelligent to offer?

            • TheodoreSeeber

              This isn’t rocket science Larry- the worker is due enough to LIVE as a human being. The rest is additional. If you aren’t even providing the people who work for you enough to eat one meal a day, there is a problem.

  • Martin

    Stephen Schneck of The Catholic University of America in Washington, has some interesting commentary on Pope Francis’s approach to “savage capitalism” and the role of governments as “moral agents.” To quote Schneck:

    “In America, a very scary error confuses Adam Smith’s invisible hands with God’s plan, Pope Francis powerfully rejects that error. An autonomous market can never be moral in itself. Free market forces are faceless, are without conscience, are unrestrained by anything other than their own competitive materialist dynamics, and thus are incapable of bearing moral responsibility. Without regulation or guidance, market forces can easily work against the common good. … Pope Francis’ point is that governments — unlike free markets — really are moral agents, bear responsibility, and are obligated to work for the common good. Governments have a moral responsibility to regulate market forces for the common good. Many American conservatives are not going to like what the pope has been saying about market forces and government, but Pope Francis is holding fast to traditional church teachings, the provenance of which stretches to Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum [1891] and ultimately to the apostles.”

    • Adam__Baum

      File under talks much, says nothing. A nun on the bus with different plumbing. This quote is little for than ignorant caricature masquerading as informed commentary. That quote is a rant.

      He is a statist idolater and an agoraphobe (in the true meaning of the word, fear of markets, not crowds). Schneck’s body of “work” shows the pedigree of a partisan and a statist, eager to use the academic temple arts to force worship of his false god,state.

      He ascribes every manner of fearful evil to markets, creating a strawman in “unrestrained” markets, and ignoring the very real danger of unrestrained government. He’s a statomaniac, weilding government with the the same immature fascination of a four year holding a book of matches.

      Perhaps he needs to good swat across the side of the head with the Internal Revenue Code, if he wants to see something that’s “faceless” , “without conscience”, “unrestrained by anything other than their own competitive materialist dynamics” , and “incapable of bearing moral responsibility”. If that doesn’t work, perhaps a trip to Auschwitz might give him some pause for thought.

      As for regulation and guidance, I give you the innumerable laws regulating and guiding financial markets, starting with the Securities Act celebrating it’s 80th birthday this year, all the way to Dodd-Frank. How’s that working out for you, has the enlightened of government calmed the turbid capital markets yet?

      But then again, one might expect this kind of bloviate from one of the more prominent members of “Catholics for Obama”, you know, the clapping seals that gave us the HHS mandate, and the other abominations of Obamacare, not to mention the man who blasphemously invoked a divine blessing on Planned Parenthood. I wonder if he, unlike Nancy Pelosi bothered to read it before he supported it.

    • Larry

      Good point, Martin, and an excellent choice of quotations. We need government because society cannot be left to the tender mercies of profit-driven corporations. We need the corporations, but we also need to protect people from them. Catholicism is neither liberal nor conservative (or, at least, it shouldn’t be.) It is Catholic. The issue here is balance. I applaud Pope Francis (soon to be another Saint Francis!) for asserting the role of government as moral agent. Unlike corporations, democratically-elected governments reflect the moral will of the people. A moral people will elect a moral government to do moral things (like taking care of the needy.) Francis reminds us to be wary of “savage capitalism,” and who better to comment than one who lived through the economic and moral crisis caused by extreme capitalism in Argentina. “Savage capitalism,” devoid of the moral sense of the people as government, was a recipe for misery and disaster in Argentina. There are many moral issues — abortion, climate change, universal health care, etc., etc. — that are apparently (and I say “apparently” because this is a short-sighted view — corporations benefit from a healthy workforce, lack of climate disruptions, etc., even if they don’t want to pay for these things) immune to market forces. These are issues that “we, the people” (as represented by our government) need to take into our own hands.

      • Adam Baum

        Wow, the statist idolaters are out today.
        So now who protects me from my government, now that you maniacs have made it metastatic?

        • Brian

          What is government doing that you need to be protected from? In most first world nations, we enjoy tremendous freedoms and protections. Since democratic governments govern of, by, and for the people, you are really asking for “protection” from laws. If you disagree with a law, you have full freedom to try to change it. Maybe we should all worry about being protected from corporations that allow fertilizer plants to explode and kill us off, especially when those plants are run by profit-seekers who tried to save a buck by failing to get adequate safety inspections done? http://www.salon.com/2013/04/28/where_were_the_regulators_before_the_texas_fertilizer_plant_explosion_partner/
          Too many people still see “government” as Mad King George or Stalin when the reality is that it has become an expression of the public will and often a means of positive moral change.

          • Adam__Baum

            What is government doing that you need to be protected from?

            Well, pollyanna high on seventh-grade civics-does the IRS and NSA ring a bell?

            • Brian

              You could always go live with a militia so you can hang out with a bunch of other crazy, angry conspiracy theorists.

              • Adam__Baum

                Funny how when somebody questions to the moral and economic carnage caused by the left, they dispute facts with name-calling.

                You belong on an ostrich farm.

                • Brian

                  Flag for hypocrisy! Name calling? Dude, you’ve been calling people pagans, maniacs, etc. all over. Where do you get off whining about name calling???

                  • tom

                    Don’t Leftists invariably degenerate into paganism, often proclaiming themselves petty gods and goddesses? Don;t thye always prefer the collective, their Borg, to the individual created in the image of God?

                  • Adam Baum

                    Try reading. I said “they dispute facts with name-calling.” Put your pants on, go upstairs and ask your Mom to read it to you, slowly.

              • tom

                What about my tax dollars being used to murder babies, Brian?

                Do you endorse this government action and call yourself a Catholic? If so, you’re lying to yourself and to your God.

          • Phillip

            There are seven govt. agencies responsible for inspecting such plants. These agencies failed in their jobs. As corporations can fail (and engage in evil) so can governments.

    • Brian

      “Governments have a moral responsibility to regulate market forces for the common good. ”
      Yes! Nowadays, we are not usually talking about “government” being a one-party dictatorship. Instead we’re talking about government as an extension of the will of the people. Many of our modern democracies are based on constitutions that define our rights. WE are government, and it is up to each and every one of us as citizens to make sure that we as a nation are upholding human rights, not just in our own nations but globally. Larry makes an excellent point about the abject failure of unfettered capitalism in Argentina. It was both a moral and an economic disaster. Democratic government, as part of a mixed economy, has the role of an ethical rein on the energy and creativity of capitalism. Capitalism actually succeeds better in the long run when the voice of the people makes itself heard through government. We don’t need to go back to the days of 10-year–olds working themselves to death in factories that have no government oversight. The beauty of the balance between free markets and public oversight is that they maximize benefit to all. The child that might have died in the mines from black lung disease 140 years ago can grow up to be a healthy, well educated, productive citizen today, which means we all benefit. Mixed economies work best. By investing heavily in education over the past 50 years, China has become one of the most capitalist nations in the world today. “How China Became Capitalist” by Nobel prize-winning economist Ronald Coase and Prof. Ning Wang is a very instructive read.

      • Adam__Baum

        We aren’t government, I am, or have been. Unlike you pagan votaries dancing about the pyre to your false god, WE aren’t the government and haven’t been for at least a century-we are now subjects now, divided along race, class, income and wealth, sex and any number of other of inconsequential factors.

        I like your inane comment about government rescuing children from “death in factories”, but let’s talk about what government is doing with children these days-having them singing to lord Obama, suspending them for playing with unapproved toys (generally guns) and of course inciting them to a Huxley-esque sexualization under the banner of “safe sex”.

        Now I hate to interrupt your song, but as the descendent of Anthracite coal miners-get it right-children don’t die of Anthrasilicosis (black lung to you), it’s the result of decades of chronic exposure, and it’s not the carbon, but the silica, so the risk is far less in bituminous or lignite (soft coal to you) mines.

        Of course that doesn’t much matter, lord Obama has promised to “kill” coal and is well on the way.

        While you are reading Coase, pick up some James Buchanan. Both passed on this year, and Buchanan once described his “public choice” economics as politics without romance. It deserves no romance.

        After that Hayek’s 1974 Nobel Lecture and Angelo Codevilla’s “The Ruling Class”.

        • Brian

          Dude, take your Xanax and settle down. “Lord” Obama was democratically elected. Who do you think should be in charge? Oh yeah, of course you think it should be Adam Baum. Coal and oil have had their day and have been useful. It’s time to explore other technologies — for all sorts of reasons. And take a look at the relationship between comprehensive sex education and all sorts of outcomes like teen pregnancies and age of onset of sexual behavior, etc. As a community, we have to look at what works for our kids, not what some anti-government, wannabe dictator like you “thinks” should be prescribed to the majority of us (all the while whining about government being too intrusive.)

          • tom

            So, since China burns far more coal than the USA, you’ll support tariffs on their goods to force them to burn less carbon?

            I didn’t think so.

            • Taylor

              Who is “supporting” China. Someone above made the point that China is becoming more successful as a capitalist nation BECAUSE it publicly invested in education. This is an example of society and the private sector having a positive effect on one another.

          • Adam Baum

            “Dude”, don’t assume everybody has your intimate familiarity with psychotropic medication.
            So Obama was elected.So was Hitler. So was an opposition House.

            If you want to cut don’t on coal usage,stop trolling.
            So was Hitler. Don’t assume everybody has your level of familiarity with psychotropic substances, “dude”.

        • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

          Hayek? The friend of Pinochet? Libertardians like Adam, only like the state only when it protects property rights. Everything else they scream statist!

          • Adam Baum

            You much prefer economists when they lend cover to say the USSR over decades, like Samuelson? But hey any excuse to close your mind will do.

      • tom

        Red China is hardly a model of democracy, Brian. it’s a gulag that forces abortions on women and has killed some 50,000,000 born citizens who didn’t agree with the dictatorship of their proletariat. Do you live under a mushroom?

        • Adam Baum

          Based on his comments above, he might not live under a mushroom, but might consume a certain varirety of them.

      • michael susce

        Some assumptions have been made that are quite brutal. China as capitalist. Is this the savage capitalism that Pope Francis is talking about? Remember, the economy under Hitler’s Germany was very productive over a short period of time. China is extremely oppressive. As far as going back to the days of 10 year olds working themselves to death…as opposed to killing them in the womb by the millions thanks to government oversight? Oops, I forgot: I need to avoid focusing on abortion so much. Free markets and government oversight?? ‘That’s it!?What about the Church’s long standing responsibility to supply a foundational moral philosophy based on……what’s his name…oh yeah….Jesus Christ! What about savage government i.e. Hitler, Stalin and Mao? All three having an all encompassing centralized government. Ooops, sorry, there I go again; who am I to judge?
        “By heavily investing in education”!? How about heavily investing in a police state? A country that has a picture of Chairman Mao in Tiannemen (sp) square is to be called capitalist??. I heard an old preacher say that the only thing worse than atheistic communism is atheistic capitalism.
        Bottom line: both government and capitalism alone are insufficient for a just society.

    • Kristin

      The market–like money, like the Internet, etc.–is neither moral nor immoral in itself. It is a tool, and can be directed to moral or immoral purposes by the user.

  • Pingback: Papal Teaching Warns Against Excessive Government | Knights of Divine Mercy

  • Adam__Baum

    Bottom line: If you impute benevolence, incorruptability and omniscience to government, you are an idolater, no different than any ancient temple artisan fashioning a golden calf.

  • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

    Spare us the Whig-Catholic polemic Arguably the greatest crime in this country- abortion -is a crime that goes on without any “force” by the government. This monstrous crime is rather a working of the same radical individualist principles that have been at the heart of liberalism from the beginning.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Except, of course, for the massive fraud in suggesting that the best way to deal with the poor is to eliminate them.

      • http://itascriptaest.wordpress.com/ Ita Scripta Est

        I oppose eugenics in any form. But here again many of these initiatives are privately endowed (i.e. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). The government is not “forcing” anyone to have abortions in this country. You have to get out of the false libertarian dichotomy.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          There are also many that are publicly endowed- such as Planned Parenthood’s Teen Outreach Program, which is funded directly by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and targets non-white populations of teenagers for sterilization.

      • Adam Baum

        The massive fraud imposed on the poor is to make them subjects of the state and the politicians that use them as vote annuities. The moral debasement of the inner city is not unrelated to the actions of politicians.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Exactly right. Two sides of the same coin. First make it impossible to escape poverty with welfare, then make the rules appear to say that a woman who has a child in poverty will end up living in a cardboard box, then offer her the “choice” of abortion, with the game completely rigged.

    • Adam Baum

      And people have murdered since Cain. The only thing new about abortion is the misuse of medicine as a vehicle to it’s end, and a hyperactive state that can never be trusted made it a right, rather than a crime.

  • JMM

    “Slavery is better than wages. . .” and a return to the 13th Century reflect views that, with all due respect, are neither Christian, Catholic, nor appropriate to reaching people in the 21st Century with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    • Adam Baum

      Better tell that to Mr. Seeber, I think you’ll find him in the pew next to you.

      • Adam Baum

        JMM, my apologies. I misread your post as part of another flipping through the thread. That was a huge error on my part.

  • tom

    Leftists and other Trotskyites…called Democrats in America….erode the dignity of the individual. Thus, they can never be real Catholics. They are merely slugs in the collective. The minute they mention “choice”, you know they’re not Catholics at all…just Trotskyites.

    • Adam__Baum

      Twenty years ago, when Bill Clinton was seeking office, I had a rather large contingent of elderly relatives weaned on St. Franklin. So, they dutifully pulled the lever with the jack*ss on it, despite the his support for abortion, et al. They all could tell me how he cared for the poor and how he was really a new JFK, from a white trash background.

      I remember thinking so this is how we have strange gods in the 20th century.

  • tom

    The most recent seizure of private property is Obama’s education plan.
    1. The taxpayers are responsible for all student debt.
    2. After 10 years, a public employee is resolved of all student loan debt.
    3. Those college grads in private business have to pay for 25 years before the remaining debt is forgiven.
    4. Judgies and other dictators decide who get the public jobs with civil service tests ignored as “racist”.
    5. Obamaites get the goods, the white man pays…forever.

  • Pingback: PowerLinks 10.20.13 | Acton PowerBlog

  • Pingback: Papal Interview w/Atheist Coming - BigPulpit.com

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    The practical limits on the power of any government are obvious enough. As Talleyrand told Mirabeau, “Governing has never been anything other than postponing, by a thousand subterfuges, the moment when the mob will hang you from the nearest lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.”

    Thus, if we want to curtail welfare spending, are we ready for a repetition of les journées de juin 1848, following the closure of les Ateliers Nationaux? Then, the Liberals secured a victory over the Radical Republicans, but at the cost of 1,500 dead in combat and thousands of summary executions of prisoners. The Assembly, one recalls, welcomed the surrender of the last barricade with cries of “Long Live the Republic!” What they got, inevitably, was Napoleon III.

    Nowadays, when governments depend for their legitimacy on media coverage and the cult of personality, it is pretty generally recognised that welfare cheques, drug-dealing and cheap alcohol are indispensible guarantees of the political order.

    • Art Deco

      MPS, what that quotation reveals is that Tallyrand adhered to a lousy political sociology.

      Prior to 1930, welfare spending in this country was undertaken predominantly by provincial and local authorities, generally made use of public agency as a delivery vehicle, and most often had clientele in acute distress (injured war veterans, tuberculosis patients, lunatics). The place was not in a state of anarchy.

      We are not going to face a general insurrection if we ‘curtail’ welfare spending. The current regime in common provision requires restructuring to avoid secular increases in public committment and reduce perverse incentives and distortions in particular markets.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        That “lousy political sociology” made him one of the few deputies of 1789 (when he was bishop of Autun) to get out in time to avoid the September Massacres He became Foreign Minister under the Directory. One of the architects of Napoléon’s coup, under the Empire, he became Grand Chamberlain and Prince of Benevento. Having been in constant communication with the Royalists and their Austrian allies, on the Restoration of the Bourbons, he was appointed their chief negotiator at the Congress of Vienna. Then, when Louis-Philippe, with whom he had also been intriguing, overthrew the Bourbons in 1830, he was appointed ambassador to the Court of St James. This suggests a man of sound political instincts.

      • Adam__Baum

        We are not going to face a general insurrection if we ‘curtail’ welfare spending.

        We already have a “general insurrection”. There is an astounding covariance of the incidence of criminality and immorality where there is the most welfare-the violent kind where the welfare is focused on the individual-aka “the mean streets”. Of course where the welfare is of the corporate nature, we have a sanitized version-corruption, cronyism and the like.

  • AcceptingReality

    Good article, Mr. Krason. I like the way you think! I especially the way you express the aim of Catholic Social Teaching as being the building up of a moral culture and citizenry. We’ll be doing well if we can get that point across to more and more of those who have access to the pulpits in our churches.

  • Pingback: Mere Links 10.01.13 - Mere Comments

  • Thomas Storck

    But the genius of papal social teaching is that it on the one hand disapproves of the liberal
    (i.e., in American parlance, “conservative”), laissez-faire state, and at the same time is
    indeed concerned that the central government not overextend itself. How to accomplish this: via intermediary bodies, namely the much-maligned guilds which were to possess real
    social authority, and not be merely voluntary or exhortatory bodies, as they would necessarily be in a modern liberal state, which limits social authority to the government and abolishes true intermediary institutions. When Americans think about intermediary institutions they are apt to think of purely private organizations. Those obviously are good, but they were not what Pius XI was talking about.

  • Benjamin Warren

    The easiest way to condemn big government is by condemning the graduated income tax. St. Thomas does so implicitly in the Summa, I-II, Q. 96, Art. 4, when he writes that only laws that burden society proportionally are just. If the bishops taught this part of the Summa, the welfare state would wither on the vine. We can condemn a vote for a Democrat as intrinsically evil because of this.

    • Thomas Storck

      But why do you assume that a graduated income tax is not proportional? Does St.
      Thomas really mean that it must be mathematically proportionate, as in the same
      percentage from each income, 10% (say) from a pauper, 10% from someone taking
      in a million a year? I seriously doubt it.

      • Ben Warren

        Proportional, adjective.

        3. Mathematics Having the same or a constant ratio.

        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/proportional

        It’s as simple as that.

        • Ben Warren

          When it comes to rates of taxation, the mathematical sense is the only kind that makes any sense. If you disagree, it’s only because you’re spiritually blind.

          I want to tithe. I am concerned for the common good. I do not want politicians or voters to get an ounce of credit for plundering me. That is what you propose to do. There is nothing respectable or moral about your position. You are worse than a gangster.

          • Ben Warren

            Furthermore, the main reason for poverty in our country is the personal immorality of the parties involved. Any man in this country can become a welder and make $80,000 a year. In contrast, any woman can sleep around, have a child out of wedlock, and get herself in a heap of trouble. Your policy is a recipe for poverty.

            • Thomas Storck

              Wow, Mr. Warren, if I don’t agree with you it’s because I’m spiritually blind. Moreover, I’m “worse than a gangster.” Well, let’s let all that pass.
              You yourself show by your quote that the mathematical sense is only one definition of proportional, for you (unwittingly?) left in the number 3, showing that there were two prior definitions.
              Thirdly, what does Aquinas actually say? He’s speaking here of “onera.” burdens, not just taxation, which could include things like personal service rendered to the government, etc. I think we would need more specific evidence to conclude that the “aequalitatem proportionis” he speaks of would forbid a graduated income tax.

  • Pingback: Papal Teaching Warns Against Excessive Government - Christian Forums

MENU