welfare state

The Tyranny of Tolerance

When the Supreme Court re-defined marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision to include same-sex relationships, it was immediately clear that this sea change would create a conflict between this newly-discovered constitutional right, and the first freedom listed in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: the right of religious liberty. Everyone from pundits [...]

Has Government Become Too Big?

Thomas Jefferson is said to have quipped, "a government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take away everything that you have." While history does not support the Jeffersonian attribution, it does support the conclusion—witness Soviet Russia, Communist China, and North Korea. But how big is too big? [...]

A Role for Government that Nobody Thinks About

A few years ago, as Obamacare was being put in place, Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio suggested that the Christian obligation to assist the poor was a reason for expanding Medicaid in the state. Catholic social teaching does indeed make clear that the state has a role in assisting the needy, but only—in line [...]

What Catholic Social Thought Teaches About Conservatism

The popular view—encouraged at every turn by left-leaning analysts and commentators—is that the conservative view on economics is essentially laissez-faire and that conservatives want to eliminate government social welfare programs, even if the needy have to suffer. As a result, some Catholics say that conservatism is at odds with the Church on this. Is this [...]

The Perils of Utopian Overreach

With his usual erudition, C.S. Lewis sums up an important aspect of the human condition: The Christian says, "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. [...]

What’s Wrong with Guaranteeing a Free College Education?

Bernie Sanders failed in his bid for the presidency, but one of his major policy proposals—which helped to garner his much-discussed college student support—of guaranteeing free tuition at public universities and colleges is likely to continue to be pushed. It’s not surprising that this notion has gained traction, in light of the deepening student debt [...]

The New Literalism and Fundamentalism

Catholics—even more so liberal Catholics—are usually quick to criticize anyone who seems to interpret Scripture too literally. Indeed, liberal Catholics often don’t even want to view a lot of it as historical. Liberal Catholics and leftists generally are also ready to rebuke people who adhere to aspects of traditional Christian morality, especially sexual matters, as [...]

Owing Our Souls to the New Company Store

There is a scene in one of my favorite movies, John Ford's How Green Was My Valley, that I find myself recalling as I survey the moral soot that has descended and thickened upon the land of my birth. The patriarch of the family, Gwilym Morgan, has come home from a day in the coal [...]

Can a Catholic be a Collectivist?

Should Catholics today work, as a matter of conscience, toward ever broader bureaucratic responsibility for human well-being in general? That result seems to follow from current ways of thinking. “Love thy neighbor” implies an ethic of mutual assistance. The democratic view that we act through government, together with the industrial approach to getting things done [...]

Perpetuating Ineffective Anti-Poverty Programs

The Obama presidency has been distinguished for unprecedented levels of federal social welfare spending. In his second term, President Obama is pursuing new and expanded federal anti-poverty initiatives. There has been a sharp increase in the food-stamp and Children’s Health Insurance programs. Obama has proposed more federal funding for Head Start and pre-school education generally, [...]

Ending Charitable Deductions to Feed the Leviathan State

Indiana University professor Fran Quigley urges, in the progressive Catholic magazine Commonweal, an end to deductibility of charitable contributions against federal income taxes. His argument rests primarily upon the twin beliefs that the U.S. social safety net is too thin and that lost revenues from charitable contribution deductibility would be better spent on governmental social welfare programs. His [...]

Obamacare Architect Says Abortion is a Social Good

Over the last three weeks, MIT professor and Affordable Care Act (ACA) architect Jonathan Gruber has gone from being an academic, known mostly in policy circles, to the face of political dishonesty and manipulation. Gruber, who helped create and sell the ACA to the American people, has been caught on tape admitting—on multiple occasions—that the [...]

The Real Lessons of Prohibition

In October, 1919, a heavily “progressive” Congress passed the Volstead Act enforcing the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting, for almost all purposes, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages. There are two things everybody has learned from Prohibition. First, it is wrong to try to legislate morality. Second, you cannot do it, for Prohibition failed. But [...]

Papal Teaching Warns Against Excessive Government

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 [...]

“Subdue the Earth” and “Till It and Keep It”: Responding to God’s Cultural Commands

In the middle of our cultural crisis, issues such as politics, economics, and education may come immediately to mind. Though these issues are vital to our culture, the crisis stems in part from something even more fundamental. We’ve lost touch with the most basic aspects of culture. An important answer to our crisis can be [...]

The Virtuous Rich

If anyone out there should happen to have a small fortune to dispose of, I would urge them to consider entrusting it to the Lu family. As philosophers, my husband and I can debate almost anything, but on this we have always agreed: we would make excellent rich people. As of yet, the theory is [...]

The Cost Of Being Catholic

Nowadays, “charity” conjures up various images, some of which are quite distant from everyday life. Consider the “nonprofit sector”—or government welfare programs. Others images are more immediate—soup kitchens, or Salvation Army kettles. But charity—caritas—is actually a supernatural virtue. As Saint Paul puts it, “now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [...]

The Dorothy Day Few of Us Know

She lamented the encroachment of the state and the perils of the welfare system. She once compared abortion to genocide and the U.S. government to Nazi Germany. She cheered on income tax resisters, dismissed the benefits of the minimum wage, and worried about the decline of freedom in an increasingly bureaucratic society. But this was [...]

On State Culpability for Social Problems

In Philadelphia, about half of all students in ninth grade will graduate from high school. The dropout rate is especially high among black and Hispanic boys. President Obama’s answer to this problem is typical of the left: compulsion. Make dropping out illegal. In other words, force boys who are learning nothing to remain where they [...]

The Modern State Causes the Problems it Pretends to Fix

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 [...]

Why the Liberal Welfare State Denies Catholic Freedom

A couple of months ago I wrote that the Church generally supports and cooperates with political authorities. She interprets their efforts charitably, supports whatever can be justified, and, when some particular measure is undeniably bad, tries to show what would be better. All that’s obvious good sense when Christian or natural law principles are generally [...]

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