Economic Rights: The Servile State

Recently, a theologian friend explained to me the “hurdle” he had to jump before he could accept the concept of “economic rights.” He had been raised to believe, he said, that if an able man doesn’t work, he shouldn’t be fed by others. He could not at first accept the concept that every person deserves income, food, shelter, and other necessities “just by virtue of being born,” just because each is a human being. Finally, though, my friend said, he came to accept that right, based upon a new and penetrating insight into human dignity.

It would have been better if this theologian had not made that leap. For if every human being has the right to be given income, and to be fed, sheltered and cared for by the human community, every person who without necessity exercises that right sells himself into dependency. In that way human dignity, far from being gained, is lost. Down that path is reached what anti-capitalist Hilaire Belloc called The Servile State.

It is easy enough to understand. Human dignity would seem to require that every human being should have the means necessary to human development. But millions of human beings do not. Therefore, someone should do something about this. This argument originates in the modern discovery of a new possibility and a new moral obligation. Given vast stretches of poverty and misery, then if humans can raise their standards, they must. Human development is a moral obligation.

Questions arise. (1) By what standards should the minimal necessities (“basic needs”) for human dignity be measured? (2) By what methods should they be fulfilled?

The standards of the most developed nations in the late twentieth century are far higher than the standards of preceding centuries. Standards as between nations and regions today vary enormously. So do standards among families and individuals. Is human dignity diminished by life at some standard lower than the highest? That would seem ridiculous. Is there any possible definition of a minimum standard? That would not be easy. In these two examples, though, the concept “human dignity” reveals itself to be equivocal.

In one sense, no human being under any earthly conditions loses the fundamental dignity inhering in every human person, made in the image of God and beloved of God. Human dignity, in this sense, is inalienable.

In a second sense, though, “human dignity” does not refer to the transcendent dignity of every human in the eyes of God, but to relative and changing standards of human expectation about what is normative, possible and desirable. Remote but contemporary primitive tribes, living in abominable conditions, may have lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, and lives more harsh, brutal and short than the better known migrants to the favelas of Sao Paulo. By some, the first may be assessed in the light of ancient, the second in the light of modern, standards. Standards of shelter, nutrition, longevity, dental care, hygiene, literacy, education and income have changed dramatically since the liberal project placed the world upon the path of “modern progress” and “development.” In the second sense, then, “human dignity”—described in the perspective of “basic needs”—is not a transcendental concept, pointing to the origin of human dignity in the Creator, but rather a goal-centered teleological concept, pointing toward an ideal state of society, which (it is either assumed or argued) human beings ought to strive to attain.

This systematic equivocation in the concept of “human dignity” deserves rigorous scholarly scrutiny. Lying hidden below most debate on the subject, this equivocation has often been employed uncritically.

In order to deal with this systematic equivocation, partisans of economic rights usually make three intellectual moves. Their aim is to include economic rights within the traditional framework of “human rights,” in order to gain for the former the prestige won by the latter through the horrors of World War II. Their first move is to weaken the concept of political rights (e.g., by reducing “rights” to “claims”), in order to make them seem analogous to economic rights. The second move is to invest economic goals with moral content, and to describe them in at least a loose sense as “rights.” The third move is a “preferential option for the state” as the final and normally the chief bearer of responsibility. Each of these three moves deserves intense intellectual scrutiny, which space here forbids. The first, in particular, represents a disappointing failure to grasp the full power of the American legacy.

(2) Granted that human development is a moral obligation, by what method ought it best to be realized? The partisans of economic rights typically perceive those whose “basic needs” are not being met as in need of outside assistance and, ultimately, as wards of the state. Although the elasticity of “needs” is a pitfall Marxist thought has never overcome, concede for a moment that “basic needs” can be defined. Who, then, has the responsibility for seeing to it that such needs can be fulfilled? There are at least three social solutions to this query. Human development and social justice are more likely to be achieved if: (1) The state has primary responsibility for protecting human rights, especially economic rights; (2) other social institutions such as families, churches, villages, neighborhoods, corporations, unions and other associations have primary responsibility; or (3) individuals, especially heads of households, have the primary responsibility. The last is sometimes described as if it represented an individualistic bias. It does not. It is a social theory, rooted both philosophically and pragmatically in the centrality of the human person in the human social project.

Obviously, these three models are not exclusive. In fact, it is the genius of the liberal society—the political economy of democratic capitalism—that it includes all three, although in the following order of priority. The primary responsibility for meeting his own/her own basic needs is invested in the individual person; secondly, in mediating human associations and social organizations; thirdly, only as a last resort and with a wary and critical eye, in the state. From human experience, the state is properly regarded as a principal source of abuse of human rights, not only in the political and civil order, but also in the economic order. To be sure, the state is a useful and a necessary human institution. It is far more than simply a “watchman”; its roles are many and indispensable. Its very purpose is to secure “natural rights.” Yet it is also a dangerous center of power.

Historically, tyrannies far outnumber genuine democracies; even today, regimes which regularly abuse human rights far outnumber the few that, far from perfect, are systematically restrained from such abuse. Similarly, regimes that stifle economic creativity—and, hence, punitively maintain their peoples far below their potential prosperity—far outnumber those that promote the general welfare through encouraging the creativity endowed in all persons by their Creator. Far from feeding the poor, many states have wantonly caused famine.

The American idea has been that both the political rights and material prosperity of citizens will be best served by a social organization that promotes individual liberty and creativity. This is a social vision. It is not a concession to egotism and self-interest run amok. It is a call to a civil, cooperative, republican community, rooted in the mutual respect of persons for each other’s liberty and creativity. According to Aquinas, for inert things life is attraction; for plants, growth and flowering; for animals, self-originating motion; for human beings, the liberty of autonomous per sons to conduct their affairs through civil conversation and rational persuasion. The liberal society is an experiment testing whether political and civil liberties, and the broadest possible fulfillment of basic (and not-so-basic) human needs, can be met through a constitutional order so defined: Novus ordo seclorum. Here is a brief synopsis given by Thomas Jefferson in his First Inaugural Address:

…entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

Catholic critics of the liberal society typically appeal to three alternative intellectual traditions. Historically, the most potent of these is traditionalism: the defense of the pre-liberal order. In Latin America and elsewhere, traditionalism is a potent force. (“Liberalismo es pecado” is a cry still heard.) Secondly, the liberal tradition is often opposed by Catholics in the name of the socialist and/or Marxist tradition. Finally, Catholic critics of liberalism frequently appeal, despite its youth, to the nascent Catholic discussion of human rights. As David Hollenbach, S.J., has often candidly pointed out, this Catholic tradition of human rights is barely twenty years old.

This new critical stance wishes to be ecumenical and open, to “forge a new synthesis,” and above all to be politically effective in poor countries desperately in need of help. Its attempts to be inclusive bear the signs of eagerness of will rather than of original and sustained intellectual inquiry. It is more syncretistic than distinctive. As a small body of work, its aspirations and sentiments stand out with greater clarity than does its own systematic conceptions.

Meanwhile, the extensive effort underway to commit the Church to “economic rights” has the potential to become an error of classic magnitude. It might well position the Catholic Church in a “preferential option for the state” that will more than rival that of the Constantinian period.


Toward Precision

A sound theory of human rights is properly rooted in human nature. That nature establishes as the law of human life that each human being is a person, endowed with capacities to inquire, judge, choose, and act. Sharing in such a common nature, under God, is humankind’s most powerful bond. This, at least, is the presupposition of both the philosophia perennis and what Walter Lippmann called “the public philosophy” of the liberal society. Pope John XXIII captured this consonance well when he wrote in Pacem in Terris:

Any human society, if it is to be well ordered and productive, must lay down as a foundation this principle, namely, that every human being is a person; that is, his nature is endowed with intelligence and free will. Indeed, precisely because he is a person he has rights and obligations flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature. And as these rights are universal and inviolable so they cannot in any way be surrendered (para. 9).

It is true that Pope John XXIII wrote, two paragraphs later and still under the heading of “rights and duties,” that human persons have a “right” to those things essential to the exercise of that human nature: to income, food, shelter, medical care, and social services. (He did not place these rights under “economic rights,” which he treated later, but under “the right to life”; “Welfare rights” might be a more exact name.) But he did not make these rights universal. He confined them explicitly to the person who cannot meet his own responsibilities to provide for these basic needs “through no fault of his own.” His clear implication is that human dignity requires that human persons be self-reliant, independent, and able to act out of their own proper intelligence and choice. As the longtime director of the Vatican’s Institute for Justice and Peace, Bishop Roger Heckel, made clear in the brilliant pamphlet, Self-Reliance, human dignity is not otherwise fully achieved. One would have thought that American theologians, above all, would be quick to see the importance of this point.

Faith itself is rooted in freedom. Freedom to inquire, to judge, to choose and to act is the capacity in humans that leads us to consider each of them, in the phrase of the poet, “immortal diamond,” and to treat each of them with that dignity properly called human. To humans, however, freedom to act is not given; it must be achieved through the appropriation of self-reliance and mature independence. The liberal society has been invented precisely to promote a form of community in which as many such persons may emerge as possible, and more than in any other. David Hollenbach, S.J., writes that “the restructuring of the social and economic order in a way that allows genuine communal participation in the corporate life of society is the program of socialist thought.” (He forgot the quip: “The problem with socialism is that it would take too many evenings.”) He ignores the immense associational energies released and daily at work in the freely chosen communal life of the liberal society. He makes too neat a division (liberal = personal freedom; socialism = communal participation in the corporate life of society). The former affords far more resources for associational life than the latter affords personal freedoms and self-reliance.

Consider again Pope John XXIII’s words: “through no fault of his own.” No doubt, every person has a right to eat, to find shelter and medical care, etc., at least in the sense that neither the state nor anyone else should prevent him from attaining such essential goods. To cause someone to die by so preventing them would be legally regarded as murder. But, supposing a society that allows human beings the freedom proper to their nature, who has the primary responsibility for caring for the basic needs of any free, competent and independent person? Why, that very person, of course. Any other arrangement is sheer dependency. Still, sometimes persons “through no fault of their own” cannot meet their own basic needs.

Three different sorts of cases may be distinguished: personal disability, circumstance, and an uncreative system. First, an injury, illness, nervous breakdown or disability may take away a person’s capacity for independence. It is self-evident that a person can be held accountable only up to the limits of his or her capacities. Those incapable of helping themselves need the help of others. In their humanity, they make a “claim” upon the community. Should such a claim be called a “right”? In what precise sense? We shall return to this point.

Second, in cases of “circumstances beyond one’s control,” the moral situation is similar. Flood, famine, fire or war may temporarily deprive even able, independent citizens of their normal means of self-reliance. In such cases, too, a “claim” is made upon (and typically felt by) the community. Here, again, whether this claim constitutes a “right,” and of what sort, is in question.

Third, the social system itself may prevent some (or all) citizens from attaining the autonomous self-reliance necessary to human dignity. By this measure, social systems need to be compared with one another, and held to the highest possible standard.

No one can deny that the papal tradition since Pacem in Terris does employ the word “rights” for claims of at least two, and probably all three, of these situations. What cannot be claimed, however, is that this word “rights” is unequivocal. Six senses of “right” must be distinguished: the rhetorical, the Catholic, the legal, the constitutional, the Anglo-American, and the Marxist/socialist.

(1) The rhetorical intensifier. Sometimes the word “right” is attached to a claim as a means of signaling its emotional intensity. “That’s not fair, you’ve violated my rights,” someone says at almost any sense of offense. “I have a right to do that if I want to,” another person says, claiming liberty to do whatever. Some dress up even egotistical desires by claiming them as “rights.”

(2) Catholic rights. During the past twenty years, especially since Pacem in Terris, the popes have begun to use the language of rights to designate claims that go beyond claims in charity; these are claims in justice. Thus, the Good Samaritan did not act precisely out of charity, but out of justice due a fellow human being in need, when he assisted the man injured by robbers. This sense of the word “right” goes beyond legal or constitutional senses of “right” and “obligation.” It might be called a moral right. No matter what the state of the law, this sense of “right” binds humans to care for one another through a sense of common humanity. If this were all that some Catholic authors meant by “economic rights,” concurrence might be swift, although some critics would worry that broadening the crucial word “rights” in this sense is but an instance of the rhetorical intensifier.

(3) Legal rights. These are rights enforceable in a court of law. In cases of competing rights, brought to a court, the judge (or other official agent) adjudicates. Thus, the “right to a minimum wage” is defined and enforced by the legal system. (This legal right is conceptually and institutionally distinct from the Catholic “right to a living wage.” The legal minimum wage may fall far short of the latter.) Some Catholic advocates of “economic rights” do mean claims that might be vindicated in a court of law. They have not yet calculated the quantity of litigation or the sheer political divisiveness such a system might inspire.

(4) Constitutional rights. These are limits placed upon the powers of government by the U.S. Constitution, with the consent of the governed, to protect certain specified rights deemed to inhere in persons transcendently (“endowed by their Creator”), by nature of their humanity. Constitutional rights are not created by the state; it is prohibited from infringing upon them. The state is formed among men precisely to protect such rights by ensuring that its own agencies do not impede them, and by coming to the defense of those whose rights are infringed by others. The role of the state is strictly circumscribed. Individuals are responsible for their own exercise of these rights. Although the first draft of the bishops’ pastoral letter on the U.S. economy was not clear on this point, one assumes that the bishops do not favor the recognition of “economic rights” by constitutional amendment.

(5) Anglo-American usage. Behind the rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence and institutionalized in the U.S. Constitution lies a great social achievement: a body of reflection (a) with high social purpose; viz., to inspire a new social order based upon limited government, the rule of law, and the consent of the governed; and (b) based upon a critical analysis of human nature. Against those who would malign this tradition as excessively individualistic, the high social purpose is expressly stated in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and ensure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity….” (Emphasis added.) This long tradition of critical reflection, designed to articulate precisely the special meaning of “natural rights,” has seldom been fully appropriated by Catholic theology. Few Americans have followed the initial clues pursued by John Courtney Murray, S.J., in this respect.

This Anglo-American tradition did not only see the state as a crucial threat to personal liberty and to economic prosperity. It also saw the necessity for states to protect natural rights (“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men….”). The natural rights, in a sense, define what it is to be human; they designate attributes without which human action is frustrated. The Virginia Declaration of Rights affirmed in 1776

that all men are by nature equally free and in dependent, and have certain inherent rights, of which, when they enter a state of society, they cannot by any compact deprive or divest their posterity; namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety.

Flowing from these “natural rights” are the “civil” and “political” rights, specifying the constitutional arrangements through which governments “secure” these “natural rights,” on the one hand, and by which governments are limited, on the other.

Natural rights, in practice, can be respected only in a properly constituted civil society; they must be embodied in institutions. Thence the civil, political, and economic rights articulated in the Constitution. That men are not angels, but embodied, is recognized by the care taken to defend the “free exercise” of natural powers of rational action, such as in the free exercise of religion, association, speech, and property. As G. K. Chesterton observed: “For the mass of men the idea of artistic creation can only be expressed by an idea unpopular in present discussions—the idea of property… Property is merely the art of democracy. It means that every man should have something that he can shape in his own image as he is shaped in the image of Heaven.” Property rights are the condition of economic dynamism because they alone defend personal creativity against the habitual aggrandizement of states and the lawlessness of mobs. By limiting the power of the state, the Anglo-American tradition paradoxically vindicates the state, i.e., the promise of government through the consent of the governed. It has evoked a remarkable love for the institutions of self-governance.

(6) Marxist and socialist rights. Both Marxist states and the Socialist International (in its Frankfurt Declaration of 1951) seek, by contrast, to limit individual rights and to cede important rights to the state (conceived of as the preferred expression of community). Here the focus is exactly the reverse of the Anglo-American tradition: to limit individuals, to empower the state. (They cannot be said to inhere in the community, for in that case the state would be limited; it is of the essence of Marxism to make the state supreme, and it is of the essence of the Socialist International to subordinate both individuals and communities to the authority of the democratic state.)

Some Catholic scholars aim to forge a new synthesis of the Anglo-American tradition and the Marxist and Socialist traditions. The intellectual and institutional hurdles faced by this project are insurmountable. The Marxist conception of the state is incompatible both with the Catholic tradition and with the Anglo-American tradition. The Socialist conception of the state, less easy to define, in practice minimizes individual rights and expands the powers of the state. The Socialist International sincerely desires a democratic rather than a totalitarian state. But it has no defense against “the tyranny of a majority,” and it has not yet worked out how to move from “the bureaucratic state” of the original socialist vision to the “decentralized state” of the current socialist vision.

Some Catholic scholars make the following argument. The first step is not in dispute: “Rights” (in the Catholic sense) to income, food, shelter, medical care, old-age security and social services flow necessarily from the dignity of the human person. Even absent such goods, the human person does not lose essential dignity. But the full exercise of dignity requires such goods.

The next step, though, is to argue that the Anglo-American concept of rights needs to be expanded from its constitutional declaration of civic, political, and economic rights (property, liberty, enterprise) to include a new table of economic—more exactly, welfare—rights (income, jobs, food, medical care, social services). The crux of the matter is an alleged parallelism between the classic Anglo-American rights and the new economic (i.e., welfare) rights. Proponents argue that, although economic rights are just being recognized, so also civil and political rights emerged late in human history. A public political process formulated the Bill of Rights, and governments are formed to protect such rights. Just so, the political process should now formulate economic (welfare) rights and the government should not only protect them but provide for their fulfillment.

Three major objections tell against this argument. First, the two sets of rights do not have a parallel substantive structure. Second, the classic rights limit the state, whereas the new rights tremendously increase the power of the state. Third, the new conception of economic rights confuses “goods” with “rights.” Two radically different conceptions of the state and of the human person are involved.

The two sets of rights are substantively disparate. The classic right to free speech does not empower the state to make a person speak. It has the form of a prohibition: “The state shall not…” As Joseph Califano, ex-Secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, wrote: “The Constitution guarantees many precious rights—to speak and publish, to travel, to worship—but it does not require that the exercise of those rights be publicly funded.” By contrast, the alleged new right to food empowers the state to see to it that every person does have food, and to establish conditions qualifying some persons for entitlement to food assistance. And so with other welfare rights.

The classic Anglo-American rights ensure personal liberties from state control. They assign responsibilities to individual persons. These rights and responsibilities are given to the individual directly by the Creator, independently of the state. They are rooted in the nature of the human person. Their exercise cannot legitimately be prevented by the state. By contrast, each of the alleged new economic rights meets the human need for income, food, shelter, and social services by transferring responsibility for its fulfillment from the human person to the state. Over time this conception is certain to alter the national ethos and daily practice in the direction of dependency. This would be the opposite of human dignity. Human dignity arises from human liberty and its responsibilities. Economic “duties” (as Pope John XXIII suggested) are prior to economic “rights.” Not all the duties of justice are properly defined with reference to rights.

(2) The alleged new rights alter the relation between the person and the state. They tremendously aggrandize the powers of the state and diminish the honor due to the self-reliant person. If, for example, a person is alleged to have a right to a job, which it is the responsibility of the state to provide, the state acquires immense power over the economy in four ways. First, the state must intervene in labor markets so as to create jobs. Second, the state must exact from other citizens sufficient fiscal resources to create jobs. Third, the state must establish conditions defining eligibility for jobs. Fourth, the state acquires the power to assign persons to jobs. In no field of the classical Anglo-American rights are equivalent powers granted to the state.

Further, the actual practice of nations which already recognize economic rights does not reveal admirable outcomes, neither in the Soviet Union and other Marxist states nor in non-Marxist socialist nations that have experimented in this direction. Effects upon personal liberties, upon enterprise and invention, and upon social dynamism are not attractive. The decline of Western European social democracies in recent years ought to sound a tocsin. The declaration of economic rights implies, although its proponents seldom carry their theory through to its practical implications, grave increments in state authority. From such implications serious consequences have followed in other states.

(3) To defend the rights of human persons is to defend their capacity for self-reliance. In making persons dependent upon the state, one diminishes their own sense of earned dignity. When through personal disability or circumstances beyond their control they are unable to fulfill their personal responsibilities, then, of course, others in the human community acquire an obligation in justice to assist them. This obligation may be fulfilled through programs administered through the state. It need not necessarily be fulfilled through the state. There are great human costs, moral and political as well as economic, in appointing the state to be the instrument of “economic justice.”

The American people of the present generation have apportioned more benefits to the poor, the needy, and the handicapped—largely but not solely administered through the state—than any prior generation in American history. They have done so without thinking of such works of justice in terms of “rights.” It is not necessary to employ the language of rights in order to assure the works of justice. Moreover, serious questions must be raised about the costs, inefficiencies, and counterproductive consequences of state action portrayed as justice.

Some Catholic thinkers are fond of saying that the Catholic tradition takes a positive view of the state, since the state is a natural institution. Although this is true, human experience has shown that the powers of the state must be strictly limited if the legitimate powers of other institutions rooted in human nature—the family, the church, free associations, economic institutions, labor unions, the press, etc.—are not to be violated. The Catholic tradition takes a positive view, not of the state simpliciter, but of the limited state. This implies that those who would aggrandize the power of the state must bear the burden of proof. They must show that every proposed increment to the powers of the state will not injure other basic natural institutions, and that each such increment will, on balance, do more good than harm. The mere assertion that the state is, in any such respect, an instrument of greater rather than lesser justice is not sufficient; consequences must be assessed.

In short, the true conceptual force of the argument in favor of economic rights (to income, food, shelter, a job, etc.) is not that the latter are truly “rights” inhering in the nature of human persons, but rather that they are “goods” indispensable to a full human life. Since at present levels of economic development such goods are within human power to provide, one can say unambiguously that they ought in justice to be provided. The bearers of the primary responsibility for providing them, however, are individuals in mature independence and self-reliance; secondarily, human communities and associations; and only in extremis, the state. Human persons ought not be wards of the state. They ought not to be dependent. They ought not to be servile. Nothing less than mature independence and self-reliance is becoming to the dignity of human persons.

Finally, the concept of economic rights (to income, food, shelter, a job, etc.) flies in the face of what John Courtney Murray, S.J., called telegraphically “the American Proposition.” That Proposition is in the form of a social experiment, boldly testing whether a system based upon mature independence and self-reliance will produce more in the way of social justice than any system based upon dependency upon the state. That experiment involves a social system rich in the reality of free association, civic responsibility, fellowship, and what Lincoln called the Union (which he conducted history’s bloodiest civil war to maintain).

Indeed, commenting on Proverbs 25:11 (“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver“), Lincoln called the Union the “picture of silver,” within which “liberty for all”—the “apple of gold”—was framed. And he brilliantly articulated the reason why American prosperity had been attained:

All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of “Liberty to all”—the principle that clears the path for all—gives hope to all—and, by consequence, enterprise, and industry to all.

…The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, “fitly spoken” which has proved an “apple of gold” to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it….

So let us act, that neither picture, nor apple, shall ever be blurred, or broken.

That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.

The points of danger are that, over time, a regime recognizing economic (welfare) rights as a matter of legal disputation will in practice become unable to protect civil, political, and genuinely economic rights. It may well dissolve the national sense of the common good by breeding interest groups attached to their own claims to goods, in a zero-sum competition for power and influence over state decision-making. It may well weaken the morale of those who strive for the dignity inherent in self-reliance, by making dependency upon the state seem to be the easier and more certain course. More profoundly, the deepest danger is that it will irretrievably alter the nature of the American Proposition, setting the United States upon a course foreign to her own originality and historic creativity, a course of tragic and ironical decline.

Michael Novak


Michael Novak held for many years the George Frederick Jewett Chair in Religion and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute and is now a trustee and visiting professor at Ave Maria University. He is a philosopher, theologian, and author, as well as the 1994 recipient of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He has been an emissary to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has written over twenty-seven books on the philosophy and theology of culture, especially the essential elements of a free society. He also founded Crisis Magazine with Ralph McInerny in 1982.