Pope Leo’s Ideal Was Not State Control

Franz von Lenbach on LEO 001

Pope Leo XIII affirms that a well governed State will promote the material and moral prosperity of its citizens, will honor private property and free association, and will protect the poor from abuse or depredation by the rich.

How to do these things?  Leo lays down four principles.

The first is what I’ll call the Principle of Moral Health.  “A State,” he says, “chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life [family life directed from within by the moral law], respect for religion and justice, the moderation and equal allocation of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, [and] the abundant yield of the land.”  The emphasis is on direction from the objective moral law, and on a combination of self-restraint and industriousness.

This self-restraint, when practiced by the State, suggests a second principle, what I’ll call the Law of Sufficient Generality.  A well governed State will assist the poor primarily by establishing an environment wherein people of common decency and assiduousness can raise healthy children to become good citizens in their turn: “The more that is done for the benefit of the working classes by the general laws of the country, the less need will there be to seek for special means to relieve them.”

That leads to the third, what I’ll call the Principle of the Home.  It’s often called Subsidiarity.  We must never confuse a true beneficence, which honors the prime society of the family, with the false beneficence that barters goods in exchange for the family’s soul: “The State must not absorb the individual or the family; both should be allowed free and untrammeled action so far as is consistent with the common good and the interests of others.”  The same holds true of free associations.  The State must “not thrust itself into their peculiar concerns and their organization.”  There are practical reasons for this restraint.  It is absurd to suppose, for example, that a flock of bureaucrats two thousand miles away, or nine judges from Harvard, should have anything to say about the Order of the Moose in Anytown, when the members of that Order best know their needs and the needs of their community, and how to address them according to their neighbors’ sense of the common good.

But the more fundamental basis for the Principle of the Home is not utilitarian, but human: “To enter into a [free association] is the natural right of man; and the State is bound to protect natural rights, not to destroy them; and if it forbid its citizens to form associations, it contradicts the very principle of its own existence.”

Suppose—I’m dreaming wildly—that an arm of the government were to dictate to the Kiwanis Club that it must admit women as members.  There are plenty of free associations for men and women both; The Salvation Army, Alcoholics Anonymous, Common Cause, and so forth.  What’s at issue is not whether there may be associations of that kind, but whether there may not be associations of the other kind.  Pope Leo would find it appalling that any State should forbid men from coming together for the common good, or dictate the terms of their union.  We can say the same thing about the Boy Scouts.  Should the government compel the Scouts to organize themselves as the archons on the bench determine?  Should we live in tyranny?  Should we deny the fundamental right of free association?

I dwell upon the Principle of the Home because it helps to clarify the wisdom of the first two principles, and to show how they all work together.  Laws cannot, alone, make people good.  They do have an instructive value; they restrain vicious actions, and may, much less reliably, foster virtuous actions.  But the moral law requires a human face.  It’s in our human associations, and not by our subatomic status as citizens of a sprawling State, that we learn virtue.  The State can address a few specific troubles, with middling effectiveness, and at great strain—disaster relief, for instance.  Beyond that the State must not try to go, because the State should not usurp the roles of the family, the fraternity, and the town, even if the State could assume those roles effectively—which it cannot do: its arrogant attempts have wrought more harm than a hundred hurricanes ever could.  The State’s role is to observe the moral law, to promote by general laws the conditions wherein people of ordinary virtue and industry can thrive, providing assistance “in extreme cases,” and to restrain its ambitions, honoring the independence and the interdependence of human beings in families, parishes, churches, guilds, fraternities, sororities, and other unions created for mutual help and the common good.

All this implies the fourth principle, what I’ll call the Principle of the Human Person.  Man, made free, in the image of God, must not be subordinated to abstractions.  We accept no fatalisms.  We will not subsume human commerce under a law, whether Marxist or Benthamite, socialist or capitalistic, which “determines” what is good and bad.  We obey God, not man.

It is not right for the strong man to squeeze concessions from his weaker brother.  Mutual consent is insufficient.  A desperate man may accept ten dollars a day to go down a coal mine, but he has no moral right to do so, nor does the owner of the mine have a moral right to suggest it.  A desperate woman may offer her body for money, but she has no moral right to do so, nor does the bawd on the corner have the right to be her broker.  We must remember what people are, what (and Who) they are for.

Natural justice trumps consent:

Let it be taken for granted that workman and employer should, as a rule, make free agreements, and in particular should agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that remuneration ought to be sufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage earner.

That just wage implies an intricate set of human interchanges.  The worker and the employer must treat one another fairly; if the employer does not bow in homage to the labor market, the employee does not do as little as he can to preserve his job.  The employer must find worthwhile and feasible work for the workman to do—for he too must stay in business.  The employee must use those wages wisely.  They are meant for him in his capacity as a social being: for the family he is supporting or will someday support.  “If he be a sensible man,” says the Pope, he will not find it hard “to study economy; and he will not fail, by cutting down expenses, to put by some little savings and thus secure a small income.  Nature and reason alike would urge him to do this.”

Leo’s ideal is not State control, with individuals as wardens, but a society built up of societies; a culture truly social, based on human friendships and family ties and alliances.  “The law,” he says, “should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the humbler class to become owners.”  Again, we must resist the tendency to abstraction.  It will not do for the State to seize all property and parcel it out again according to some mathematical formula.  The virtue of ownership is akin to the virtue of the family, of the self-governing town, of the free association.  It arouses a love the State cannot command: “Men always work harder and more readily when they work on what belongs to them; nay, they learn to love the very soil that yields, in response to the labor of their hands, not only food to eat but an abundance of good things for themselves and for those that are dear to them.”

We Americans allow trade unions.  We protect workers from various forms of abuse.  Those battles were fought and won long before I was born.  What we’ve done lately, though, in the so-called “social” issues, is to violate every single tenet of Catholic Social Teaching as proclaimed by Pope Leo XIII.

Leo could not have foreseen that “the State” would become an interest in its own right, a new aristocracy, but utterly detached from locale and tradition and unknown to their subjects.  The true State thrives by moral rule.  But “the State,” the cancerous Metastate, thrives by immorality.  It helps to cause the chaos it then pretends to ameliorate.  Strong and self-reliant families hurt the Metastate, so the Metastate rewards profligacy and licentiousness, and promotes the easy severance of father from children.  The Metastate knows that if people but make an earnest attempt to govern themselves by the Ten Commandments and the Gospel, they will be free and prosperous, and the Metastate will shrivel.  Perish the thought.

Father-headed families?  Free associations?  I credit the Metastate with knowing its enemies.

Anthony Esolen

By

Professor Esolen teaches Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. He is a senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, 2010) and, most recently, Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). Professor Esolen has also translated Dante.

  • Vishal Mehra

    If the State should not do this or do that then why do we need a State in the first place?

    Aren’t libertarians or anarchists right when they say that all functions of State, even justice, can be privatized?

    This sentence is problematic

    “The virtue of ownership is akin to the virtue of the family, of the self-governing town, of the free association”

    Family is not a free association and neither is a town, self-governing or not and their virtues are not going to be same. This is so since one is born into a family and in a town. I do not get to freely choose my family and my town.

    Libertarians have a lot of problems with self-governing towns. They allow neighbors and busybodies to interfere with one and one’s property. Not all State intrusion comes from Washington.

    • AcceptingReality

      I think family is a free association. Husband and wife come together, hopefully, of their own volition. If they are blessed with children, when those children reach maturity they are free to continue associating with their parents and siblings or not. There is no law, save the natural moral law, that compels them to be in relation with their family of origin. A town, too, is a free association because one is not forced by state laws to abide in one town or another. Yes, we may be born into a family in a given town but we are not compelled by law to stay there. We are free to leave and go elsewhere.

      • Vishal Mehra

        It is very American to think of family as nothing but a husband with his wife and children. But the rest of the world does not limit family as such and if family is to act as a counterweight to the State, the extended family network is necessary. That is. the State must be balanced with the Clan.

        Read Chesterton-The Orthodoxy. He is explicit that the family and the neighbors are given. We do not choose them and we should not escape from them either.

      • Vishal Mehra

        Neighbors are not freely chosen, not unless one plans to move throughout the life.

        And while one choses one’s spouse freely, this choice is or should be irrevocable.

        Free associations are good but not the only good. Real challenges to love emerge within the context of unfree associations–one’s family, neighborhood and one’s State.

        • AcceptingReality

          If you don’t see the freedom in all you have described I can’t help it. And thanks for insulting Americans on my behalf and thanks for making assumptions about things I didn’t take the time to mention. And, by the way, I have read Chesterton including Orthodox.

    • msmischief

      Justice can not be privatized. What if I chose the Flaming Fists of Feminist Fury, which holds that men’s testimony is to be permitted only against a male opponent, or to support a woman’s, and the man I am disputing with has chosen the Order of the Golden Sunset which holds that non-initiates are not allowed to testify against initiates? At the very least, a public function would need to settle which law applies.

      • Vishal Mehra

        Libertarians have all sorted it out. Eg David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom where it is shown how private law could work. But it is all speculative.

  • Vishal Mehra

    A) It is not right for the strong man to squeeze concessions from his
    weaker brother.
    B) Mutual consent is insufficient.

    C) A desperate man may accept ten dollars a day to go down a coal mine, but he has no moral right to do so

    (A) and (B) I appreciate –particularly for selling one’s body but (C) I do not get at all.
    To go down a coal mine is not something wrong in itself and then how is another person to say that I must not go down for ten dollars or twenty. Who has given you the right to decide on my behalf?

    • Nvalid

      What is assumed in going down the coal mine, I believe, is that the man goes down unprepared. It is the right to risk one’s life or health for money which is fatally flawed, not harvesting the resource. Industry’s recklessness in production can put the material before the lives of the workers. Nothing against modern mining or exploring a cave, only unnecessary endangerment. Perhaps a more contemporary example would be the life-threatening conditions present in foreign factories. Man has no moral right to throw his life away in the pursit of the material any more than to sell his/her body.
      The difficulty is, as you said, having someone decide what is life-threatening and what comes with the nature of the job. When one cuts down trees, one needs an economically viable and yet safe way of performing the task. When one makes shoes, one should have a way to get int and out of the building. A certain amount of common-sense must be exercised, and your attitude is understandable due to the lack of common-sense in many modern regulators and regulations.

      • Vishal Mehra

        “only unnecessary endangerment”

        Well, this is for a man to judge for himself. Who are you to tell him so?

        If my family is starving, I would not take it nice for you to tell me that I must not endanger my life for ten dollars only.

        Prof Esolen, I believe, has written in past against minimum wage laws. That’s why I am mystified why he should condemn a poor man for going down a mine for ten dollars.

        • Robert Wolske

          No one is condemning the poor man for taking whatever work he can find at any wage that is offered. What’s immoral is taking advantage of a person’s desperation to extract work from him at woefully inadequate wages – wages insufficient to provide the worker with basic food, clothing and shelter. Think of the corporal works of mercy. If it’s immoral to offer such an unjust agreement, it’s immoral to accept it, for the same reason you cannot justly sell yourself into slavery or “rent” yourself as a prostitute. It’s understandable why desperate people do these things but it’s wrong.

  • Carl Albert

    Another excellent piece, Professor. Statists require citizens to yield to a beneficence that never comes. Man-made laws do not create the utopia they are purported to produce. And, the replacement of natural law with moral relativism is a wicked endeavor and a road to perdition. Personally, I am very happy to see your focus on subsidiarity. Too often today, we become distracted with the activities and machinations of the state – and we lose sight of our roles and responsibilities within the community of family. I have heard this recently stated as “living your life inside-out, rather than outside-in”. A timely reminder for us all.

  • Alecto

    My chief complaint about the Catholic hierarchy and intelligentsia involving themselves in prudential matters like these, is that whatever the level of erudition, or even the evident good intent in writing such material, these men are ill-qualified to instruct, or advise. In my view, it borders on a kind of religious demagoguery and ends up alienating many. There is little credibility: they haven’t taken an economic risks with their capital, or paid the business taxes or fought the onerous regulations they’re so fond of recommending for the rest of us in the name of “justice” or “fairness”. Pontificating from the ivory tower on topics about which one has no personal or intimate life experience, and for which there exists no economic or other consequence for being wrong diminishes the instructive effect. It’s presumptuous and arrogant given the battles we fight every single day for some pope, or cleric, or yes, even professors, to “remind” us what we should do. The business community understands in a way the Church will never comprehend.

    I wonder, when was the last time the Church listened, really listened to the business community? It seems clerics are more interested in lecturing it while simultaneously getting into bed with the bureaucrats who fund their programs, which are ultimately paid for by taxpayers. I cannot articulate how grating, and insulting that is. In their eminent wisdom, they above all people understand what is a “fair” wage? Fair wage is completely subjective, but prevailing wages are simple: they are the intersection of supply and demand and they vary by geographic location. The Catholic Church ought to be careful about lecturing anyone lest it be reminded of the massive corruption in Vatican contracts and banking practices! Don’t get me started on that! And on the topic of unions, anyone familiar with union practices understands they are not the “good” guys today. Or, what about the toll that public unions are taking on American taxpayers? They hurt the very people about whom the Catholic Church claims to care. Unions have perverted fair wages, collective bargaining tactics and are now no more than modern redistributive mechanisms who protect they guilty and attack the innocent. I notice no one discusses the impact on shareholders, those poor assaulted widows and orphans or workaday schlubs who depend on income from those rotten companies paying ever higher taxes, union wages and other costs of “fairness”.

    In fact, whenever the Catholic church issues a fatwah about business, economics, or social “justice”, I tune out. I understand how to apply the gospel to my economic life and have paid a very high price for that. So I’d appreciate a little respect, a little deference to the business community that is on the front lines of this war every day. I love the fact there is never a lecture for the “indigent” about the responsibility to one’s employer, to oneself or the responsibility of the indigent not to cheat, lie, defraud or steal.

    Finally, reading this essay it’s easier to understand why the Catholic church is so aggressively pushing Congress for a massive alien amnesty. Naturally, the Catholic church won’t be paying those bills. It’s all theoretical for them. It’s immune from the real economic consequences of its advocacy. No thanks, I ain’t buying what the Church is selling! This kind of unwelcome nonsense is yet another reason why the Catholic Church has lost not just credibility with the business community, but countless millions of its members. It would better serve its people by staying focused on the message of individual salvation people need to hear, and want to hear, instead of wandering into areas into which it has no realistic insight.

    • Carl

      Really Alecto?
      First Paragraph, most sports writers have never played
      sports on the professional level—some on no level. Does this make them unqualified to write about such topics? The vast majority would be
      fired.
      Second Paragraph, you have it backwards, the business
      community doesn’t heed Church Social Teachings—and neither does the vast
      majority of unions.
      Third Paragraph, the Church does not put out legal or
      political opinions. In fact, in my opinion, it goes far beyond this to handcuff themselves while allowing Church dissenters to appear to be the only voice of the Church.
      Forth, your “alien amnesty” is a perfect example of Church dissenters
      who appear to speak as Social Doctrine Experts—which they are not. So when
      Jesus turned the tables over at the Temple he wasn’t giving economic advice? Wasn’t he just a carpenter with no business training? I have neither
      business nor theological training so if you read to this point you wasted your time; I’m not qualified either—sorry….

      “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic
      Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be
      the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Bishop
      Sheen

      • Micha_Elyi

        “what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church”

        Trouble is then, lots of US bishops are teaching wrong belief.

        P.S. Bishop Sheen is dead. And when alive he was only 1 bishop out of hundreds in the US.

    • David

      I fear you have listen to leaders that interpreting the Church’s teaching far beyond what the church intended. May I suggest Fr. Siroco’s In Defense Of The Free Market and the sight Acton.org

      And I see myself in your displeasure with what some leaders of the church have espoused.

    • tomm

      Frankly you idealize too much the business community. You rightly condemn the Catholic Church in America for rooting for illegal immigration – thereby siding with lawbreaking invaders. Note that this is not done on Papal authority as far as I know. The business community, that you so esteem, is, more than the Catholic church in America even, supporting a full blown amnesty. It has no moral compass, unlike the Church, which, although flawed on immigration, and at times far too weak in rooting out paedophilia in its own ranks, is generally morally sound.

      Catholicity simply does not mean: unfettered and unrestrained Catholicism. If you want that, and want that foremost, join another religious organization. (this is not meant in a snide way – I hope you don’t leave!).

      Better to return to sound Christian principles – which comprises neither the worshipping of the Chamber of Commerce nor facilitating massive illegal immigration and de facto invasion.

      • tomm

        I meant to say: Catholicity simply does not mean: unfettered and unrestrained capitalism.

      • Alecto

        I hardly “worship” the Chamber of Commerce, which is nothing but a corporatist mouthpiece for Fortune 1000 companies wrecking the economic landscape with open borders nonsense and statist tax codes. My feet are more firmly planted in the NFIB camp.

        Business, in the aggregate, implies large, small and midsize; publicly and privately held, and labor or capital intensive. Ultimately, business is an association of individuals cooperating with one another to provide goods and services for a price. The diversity among American business is astounding and it’s hardly represented by the Chamber, the Business Roundtable or any other statist group that seeks advantages for itself while actively seeking to deny them to small business! Unfortunately, when the Church starts lecturing or even writing about what it thinks American business is, it tends to omit the vast majority of businesses and focuses only on what it views as “abuse”.

        Business people are like other people. If you want ethical business, you’d better raise ethical people. If you’re going to grant powers to government or church institutions to “restrain”, then you’re going to have the same issues with the individuals who run those institutions being corrupt and unethical. I still don’t get the whole “unfettered capitalism” thing. Frankly, that is a bugaboo which doesn’t exist in reality. We do not have a free enterprise system. We have a socialist system where 50% support the other 50%. When is the Catholic church going to wake up to that reality instead of pretending this is 1922 and Henry Ford is trying to bust unions? Hey Pope Francis, get with the program!

  • Carl

    These four principles were further refined by later Popes as:

    1. The Common Good (Principle of Moral Health)
    2. Solidarity (self-restraint and the Law of Sufficient Generality)
    3. Subsidiarity (Principle of the Home)
    4. Dignity (Principle of the Human Person)

    Notice Social Justice is NOT one of these pillars of Social Teaching. It’s only a subset of the Common Good.

  • ColdStanding

    Isn’t this exactly the same article as you published on Jan 22 2013 as Part IX?

  • hombre111

    Why all this yack about Pope Leo XIII, as if it is his teaching we should follow? Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI all said things that would leave Leo shaking in his boots. And they had very strong things to say about the role of the state in a society that has divided itself into a fraction of haves and a vast majority of have-nots.

    • Scott Waddell

      How is one article “all this yack”? I don’t see a reason to pit Leo against other popes as if they are contradicting one another. I’m not sure why this is goring anyone’s ox.

      • hombre111

        I regret the use of the word “yack.” I guess it was triggered by the fact that this is at least the third or fourth time an article on Pope Leo has appeared, each time used to justify the conservative approach to social justice favored by Crisis Magazine. I guess I wait to see a discussion of something one of the later popes wrote.

        • Kevin Tierney

          You might actually want to give a read to Leo XIII, you’ll find that classifying what he said as a “conservative” vision for social justice is kinda tough. Read Rerum Novarum, Diutrunum, Sapienta Christianiate, Immortale Dei, etc.
          If anything I think the author left out one of the most important aspects of Leo’s social magesterium, and it sorta neuters Leo’s message in doing so. Namely, that man is a creature who should be destined for heaven, and the temporal sphere (including the economic world) should be arranged to make it easier to get to heaven.
          A lot of people think this just means a Catholic confessional state, but its actually something way beyond a specific period of time.

          • tomm

            Exactly. Only someone with a totalitarian worldview could classify the writings of Leo as “consoirvateeve” (boo!)

          • hombre111

            Hola, Kevin. When I was in the seminary, we were required by our very progressive prof to read and discuss Rerum Novarum, which did stir up quite a stir when it was published and has things to teach us still. But subsequent popes have gone far beyond his thought.

            The Industrial Revolution had arrived long before with vicious force in Europe and especially England. It was the desperate world of Charles Dickens, another author we were asked to read. Under unbelievably harsh conditions, the life span of the English worker went down by ten years, and the average height of the English worker dropped by three inches.

            And so I was struck by this thought: Why did it take so long for a great moral leader like a pope to get around to defending the rights of those crushed by the predatory capitalism of that day. We compared the writings of Pope Leo–heavy, plodding, cast in the unemotional abstractions of neo-Thomist philosophy–with the anguished writing of Karl Marx, who, generations before, had outlined in blunt prose the plight of the poor. Who had the greatest impact on the mind of the world? Marx. We can pretend, today, the Leo made a difference. Maybe he did, to those liberal Catholics of that day who read him. Conservative Catholics ignored him. But to the rest of the world? His impact was minimal because his teaching was all intellect and no heart.

            • Carl

              You expose your ideology with your hatred for the Industrial
              Revolution and Capitalism.

              The Church has never condemned either per se! She teaches
              against the deadly sins of some who pervert and take advantage of the many good benefits these systems provide society. The sins of greed, pride, Sloth, gluttony,lust, wrath, and envy are the problem —not the human economic systems themselves.

              The socialist-nanny-state-parasitic-economy-ideology is replete
              with death, poverty, and Godless tyranny! And here the Church has condemned socialism and communism as intrinsically evil; CCC
              2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.”

              • hombre111

                There is a thick volume which summarizes Catholic Social teaching, published in the Vatican. Buy one on Amazon and give it a read.

            • jpaYMCA

              Querido Hombre, hola: you obviously skimmed Rerum novarum and anything else you claim to have read by Leo XIII if you can write “heavy, plodding, cast in the unemotional abstractions of neo-Thomist philosophy” and not immediately correct your former professor’s mistaken reading/interpretation – or is it yours?

              Regardless, it’s mistaken and it shows a misreading or NO-reading of Leo’s seminal works.

              • hombre111

                Compare his turgid Scholasticisms with Marx. If I didn’t read it deeply enough, it is because he put me to sleep.

            • Alecto

              You do realize Dickens was a writer of fiction? One could look at the French economy under Louis XVI and find much worse conditions for the citizenry. Would you use de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” as a realistic depiction of French society, or, Ilya Repin’s paintings as a accurate depiction of the conditions of 19th century Russian peasants? Do you believe Russian society was depicted with historical accuracy by Repin any more than Dickens novels accurately depicted the 19th century English economy? Art and literature are not interested in historical accuracy. I would be careful not to use Dickens as a substitute for the historical record.

              To call capitalism “predatory” indicates ignorance of the subject matter. Karl Marx never ran one business, never worked a day in his life. He was after all a slacker, a ne’er-do-well, a bounder. In fact, I personally view his writings as fiction, not serious study. Since when has that stopped clerics from using his looney ideas? They look like fools to more enlightened minds for doing so.

              That you haven’t mentioned even one, not one economic text is evidence that your seminary did you a terrible disservice. Can you name one school of economic thought such as Austrian or Keynesian? Did you read any of those texts? It amounts to blind ignorance of the subject matter. I wonder if any Catholic cleric has read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”? Or, “Understanding Wall Street” by Jeffrey Little? Or, classics such as Frederic Bastiat, Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises, Milton Friedman or my personal favorite, Dr. Thomas Sowell? It amount to intellectual neglect.

              • hombre111

                Art, including fiction and painting and film, is one of the most honest ways to portray truth, especially when people use words to explain reality away. For instance on today’s PBS, which compared,phrase by phrase, the propaganda film narrated by Milton Eisenhower about the internment of Japanese American citizens during WWII, with the stark memories of the survivors.

                • Alecto

                  If you’re interested in facts and honesty, PBS is not a reliable source for either of them. Film? Seriously? Is there a medium more subject to bias and subjectivity?

                  Read the Korematsu opinion and record. The record of FDR, your hero the Democrat, speaks for itself: he established those unconstitutional camps, turned away desperate Jews, ignored credible reports of the Holocaust. FDR perpetrated innumerable injustices against American citizens over the vociferous objections of Republicans and conservatives.

                  But most troubling to me, and one reason I continue to distrust and dislike American Catholics: they loved FDR; voted for him in record numbers. It’s shameful and embarrassing for them. They exchanged the cold clear voice of reason, truth and justice for a paltry sloganeering invalid promoting an unconstitutional New Deal. It is very difficult to defend stupid people who always seem to end up supporting the tyrants in American history. That gives me an idea for a film….

            • Alecto

              You do realize Dickens was a writer of fiction? One could look at the French economy under Louis XVI and find much worse conditions for the citizenry. Would you use de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” as a realistic depiction of French society, or, Ilya Repin’s paintings as a accurate depiction of the conditions of 19th century Russian peasants? Do you believe Russian society was depicted with historical accuracy by Repin any more than Dickens novels accurately depicted the 19th century English economy? Art and literature are not interested in historical accuracy. I would be careful not to use Dickens as a substitute for the historical record.

              To call capitalism “predatory” indicates ignorance of the subject matter. Karl Marx never ran one business, never worked a day in his life. He was after all a slacker, a ne’er-do-well, a bounder. In fact, I personally view his writings as fiction, not serious study. Since when has that stopped clerics from using his looney ideas? They look like fools to more enlightened minds for doing so.

              That you haven’t mentioned even one, not one economic text is evidence that your seminary did you a terrible disservice. Can you name one school of economic thought such as Austrian or Keynesian? Did you read any of those texts? It amounts to blind ignorance of the subject matter. I wonder if any Catholic cleric has read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”? Or, “Understanding Wall Street” by Jeffrey Little? Or, classics such as Frederic Bastiat, Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises, Milton Friedman or my personal favorite, Dr. Thomas Sowell? It amount to intellectual neglect.

            • Alecto

              You do realize Dickens was a writer of fiction? One could look at the French economy under Louis XVI and find much worse conditions for the citizenry. Would you use de Laclos’ “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” as a realistic depiction of French society, or, Ilya Repin’s paintings as a accurate depiction of the conditions of 19th century Russian peasants? Do you believe Russian society was depicted with historical accuracy by Repin any more than Dickens novels accurately depicted the 19th century English economy? Art and literature are not interested in historical accuracy. I would be careful not to use Dickens as a substitute for the historical record.

              To call capitalism “predatory” indicates ignorance of the subject matter. Karl Marx never ran one business, never worked a day in his life. He was after all a slacker, a ne’er-do-well, a bounder. In fact, I personally view his writings as fiction, not serious study. Since when has that stopped clerics from using his looney ideas? They look like fools to more enlightened minds for doing so.

              That you haven’t mentioned even one, not one economic text is evidence that your seminary did you a terrible disservice. Can you name one school of economic thought such as Austrian or Keynesian? Did you read any of those texts? It amounts to blind ignorance of the subject matter. I wonder if any Catholic cleric has read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”? Or, “Understanding Wall Street” by Jeffrey Little? Or, classics such as Frederic Bastiat, Adam Smith, Hayek, von Mises, Milton Friedman or my personal favorite, Dr. Thomas Sowell? It amount to intellectual neglect.

            • Kevin Tierney

              I would strongly disagree, considering how much of the Churches social justice teaching has come from Leo’s pontificate. You don’t think his warnings about communism didn’t influence Catholic thought?
              Perhaps in the secular world his teachings may have been ignored, but, let’s be honest, such happens with a lot of papal teachings.

              • hombre111

                Mostly, I agree. He was the root. I think it was Leo who said that the right to private property is not absolute, which was treated as a surrender to communism.

  • hombre111

    In a year when we are pondering the 50th. anniversary of Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris, you are harking back to Leo? But since this is Crisis Magazine, it must be hot news.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    Carl — Thank you! You live in the Lehigh Valley? One of these days we should have lunch. My father-in-law lives in Northampton County …

    • Carl

      You would be underwhelmed I’m sure! LOL, Northampton County is real close—I’m Moore Township

  • givelifeachance2

    The problem is that Leo XIII specified a “living wage” – and that really presumes one breadwinner per household. In our day and age, we’ve got doubledippers and so employers have no reasonable way to peg wages to a “living” level.

  • crakpot

    I rather like the abbreviated version of the truth on matters political:
    “..that to secure these [God-given, inalienable] rights (to Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness], governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..”

    It mentions an important enforcement right:
    “..that whenever ANY form of government BECOMES destructive of these ends, it it the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…”

    I see it as my duty as a parent to alter what the government has become, so that our children may not be forced with taking up arms to abolish it.

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