Moral Capital

Let us suppose we are looking at people who are not going to Yale or Harvard, or even to the local state university. First, they can’t afford it, and second, they lack the capacity to immerse themselves in absurdity for the sake of a few courses here and there that will deepen their understanding of the world, or that will at least help them make a living. They are not going to write papers on Herbert Marcuse and Woodstock. Perhaps their intelligence lies elsewhere. Or perhaps their backs and their arms are stronger than their minds. What capital can we give them to help set them up in life?

Currently, we don’t give them any at all. We flush many billions of dollars into higher education, often of very dubious quality, so that our “best” students can afford to go to college. The colleges themselves count on that money, floating their sticker prices upward to take it all in. State schools milk the population quite well, taking in many thousands of students who have developed neither manual nor intellectual skills, squeezing them for what they are worth, and conferring upon them degrees that mean little more than that the graduate usually shows up to work on time and follows directions.

The net result, as I see it, is twofold. First, a skilled working man — let’s say a carpenter who has learned his trade well and has worked hard, who has a child with the intellectual capacity to attend one of the elite colleges — will be less able to afford it now than in 1940, when four years’ tuition at Harvard cost one and a half years of the national median household income. Second, that same man, if he does not have a child capable of going to one of those schools, will be rifled for all he is worth to send his children to lower-tier schools, or will watch helplessly as the children flit from service job to service job.

Again I ask, what capital can we give to people who are not going to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants, stock brokers, or business executives? Maybe I could put it this way instead: What capital of theirs have we rifled these last several generations?

I call to mind here my grandfathers, who were hard workers but not saints, not by a long shot. One worked for 15 years in the coal mines. That was brutally hard and dangerous work. Imagine swinging a pickax against a wall for nine hours a day, when the ceiling is so low you can’t straighten up. Then, one day, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had a nervous breakdown. He would collapse if he were away from his home for even a day. By then, he was well on his way toward middle age, and he and his wife had three boys and three girls. The state took pity on him and considered him permanently disabled. So they received a monthly check.

It wasn’t much. They lived poor enough — but they did not live in squalor. For poverty is one thing, and squalor is another. You’re poor when you don’t have money, but you’re squalid when you don’t have any decency, and that is primarily a moral condition, not a material one. They kept clean by taking the weekly bath, with hot water poured from buckets into a metal tub. The privy was outside. Each child had one or two changes of clothes, handed down from one to the next. My grandmother cooked and washed constantly. That meant scrubbing the clothes on a washboard, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry on the line, just as all the neighbor wives did. It also meant trooping up the hill to the coop every so often, grabbing a chicken, cracking its neck, and plucking out all the feathers, to get it ready for soup.

My grandfather should never have been a coal miner. He should have been a farmer. He didn’t stay idle at home. The house came with a sizable piece of property, so he cut it into terraces, just as they did in Calabria, where he was a boy, and he farmed it. He once told me that he could put a seed in the ground and spit on it, and it would grow. He tended that land, his garden, as well as any piece of land could be tended. They got from it all the vegetables they needed: beans, peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, corn, zucchini. They got plums, apples, peaches, and grapes. They got figs from a fig tree that had no business surviving so far north. They got eggs and chickens, and I believe he kept a pig or two for a while. They made do.

They had the advantage then, too, of no television, and so there was still a considerable sense of community. They knew all their neighbors. In fact, they knew their neighbors across the generations. That meant that they were never really alone. Italian was spoken up and down the street, though my grandfather did not want his children to speak it, and as they grew older they forgot what little they ever knew. When it came time to build a house, the men of the neighborhood would get together to do that. My grandfather himself had built the house his family lived in.


But there was much more. Here I dearly wish that Catholics would actually read the encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII, rather than rely upon commentators who reduce them to a single political position, as for instance that workers have the right to form unions. For Leo’s social vision was an intricate and coherent whole, with the church and the family at the heart of it. The family, he saw, was itself a society, with its own duties and rights, and its own sphere of governance, with the father as the head. He wrote quite movingly about the dignity of the wife and the mutual love that characterizes a true Christian marriage. But a society needs a head, and without any sense of being controversial, as at that time he was not, he affirmed that the head was the father. He saw, too, that the growing ambitions of the state — he was thinking particularly about socialism in its various forms — came at the expense of the father. That is, he saw that to weaken the father is to weaken the family, and that weak families are exactly what the enlightened wanted. And this has not changed.

But my grandfather, as debilitated as he was in his spirit, was not a weak father. He might have been too stern in his bearing; he grew up believing that it was not a father’s place to be overly affectionate with his children, that he would lose their respect, and that that would hurt the children in the end. I don’t believe he was right about that, but that is what both he and his wife took for granted. But he did more than tell his children he loved them: He did love them. He made sure that they grew up respectful of their elders. He made sure that they worked hard. The girls did not fall backward into shamelessness. The boys did not get other people’s daughters pregnant. They did not cheat or lie or steal, or even use foul language. My grandfather — one of those old Italian men with a great respect for religion, though he did not himself often attend Mass — made sure that they all went to church, the boys included.

They had, you see, a great fund of moral capital. All the children worked when they were old enough for it. All the money, too, went back to the family. Even when my mother was engaged, she worked as a seamstress in one of the many local dress factories and gave her whole paycheck to her parents. The boys lent themselves out in the summer as seasonal farm workers. All three of them entered the service, one of them lying about his age to try to enlist at the end of the Second World War. All six children were married, without any out of wedlock births, and without divorces. All six, with some straying here and there, remained in the Church. All had families that thrived in a material way, at least. All of them ended up living within a half mile of their parents. When their parents needed the house painted, the boys were there to do it. Same thing with paving the driveway, installing pipes for plumbing, and putting siding over the old asphalt shingles. They wanted for nothing. And the 19 grandchildren were at that house constantly, eating homemade cookies and pie, watching television, or playing in the backyard. Their stricture against showing affection didn’t apply to grandchildren, so we were made much of.

My grandmother was a saint. I could write a great deal about her unfailing charity and her cheerful deference to a man who was often difficult to get along with. I mean to take nothing from her when I say that she couldn’t have raised those children without him there as the head of the family. The boys were physically strong and active; the girls were stubborn. They would have been unmanageable if she had been alone. But she wasn’t alone: He was there, powerfully built and remarkably intelligent — he with his second-grade education could put many of my students to shame, with his general knowledge of the world. He and she made that family into a society that spanned several generations.


Through their example, we can see that the main fund of capital for people whose children are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs is moral. Now let us see how the well-to-do rob them of it.

The first thing to do is to cripple the family. That can be done most quickly by crippling the father, or removing him altogether. How do we accomplish that? We take aim at his authority. We say, for a while, that we merely wish that the marriage be egalitarian; but what we really want is that it should be egalitarian and weak. It’s not as if we are going to take some of the authority of the father and lend it to the mother. For the secret is that a good and strong father — not a patsy, and not a tyrant — enhances the authority of his wife, and a weak or absent father compromises it or destroys it altogether. So we look kindly upon single motherhood and invade the woman’s home with social workers. We embrace feminism. That always was a revolt of some women against other women: in our day, mainly well-to-do women, college graduates, against women whose husbands are not professionals and who might actually wish to raise their own children at home, with neither monetary assistance nor moral interference from the state.

I am thinking now of a family I know. The father is a manual laborer of considerable talent. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t go to the casino, and doesn’t sleep around. He works hard when he comes home, too, so the back yard is now half vegetable garden, half park. The children are bright but not the right fit for college. If this were a sane world, if the elites had not polluted the moral watershed upstream, there would be order in this household. That is, the family would exist as a zone of authority and law-abiding in its own right, and it would span the generations. It would not be truncated by divorces and made chaotic with out-of-wedlock births. The sons and daughters would be preparing themselves, in a clear and coherent way, for assuming the duties of fathers and mothers. It would resemble the family of my grandparents.

But though the mother and father are genuinely good people, they have no moral capital. It has been rifled. They cannot depend upon the local school to preach such difficult virtues as chastity, manly courage, and piety. The school preaches quite the opposite. The television is an open sewer. The local drug stores peddle porn. The churches have capitulated and preach niceness rather than holiness; and people, bored with niceness, turn instead to what is neither nice nor holy, but simply material — riches, if they can get them, and sexual thrills, in any case.

After we’ve crippled the family with no-fault divorce, easy sex, smiling upon unwed motherhood, abortion on demand, and perversion parades — after we have cut its muscles to ribbons, and made it a cringing ward of the state, hurting rich families somewhat, and devastating the poor and the working class — we go after the boys. Back during the potato famine in Ireland, a certain family named Harkins pooled its little money to send one boy, a “likely lad” of 14, alone to the United States, to keep the family alive there. He arrived in New York, worked hard, and raised a family. His grandson became the first bishop of the diocese of Providence and was the founder of the college where I teach.

He and thousands like him built bridges and skyscrapers, mined coal, farmed the land, paved roads, and raised churches, not with money in the collection plate, but with their own hands. Of course they had the inestimable assistance of their wives, who had to be strong, too, and far stronger and more skilled than most of our college graduates are today. But the Brooklyn Bridge was not going to be built by people named Mary. We have depreciated work that is done with back and hands, because we don’t have to do that work; we’re educated, you see, and can do such necessary things as come up with Five Year Plans for the teaching of gender diversity.

I have no quarrel with studying the humanities. It’s how I earn my living. But I know well that all that I’m privileged to do, I do upon the bent backs of thousands of men who sweated more than I ever will. I am reminded of it every time I take a walk; I see roads, and houses, and bridges, and stone walls, miles of stone walls that once were the boundaries of farms and pastures in my neighborhood, and I know that all those stones came from the acres and acres of fields cleared by man and horse, and all those walls were built up of stones either muscled into place by the men, or lifted to their place by winch and pulley.


My reasoning here is simple enough. Suppose your family is not going to do well or even survive if it places all its hope in academic study. Then your children have to make their way by skilled hands or strong back or both. But that means, as a brute practical fact, that you are going to have to raise boys and girls to be men and women. Those boys will have to learn a trade. They will have to be carpenters, roofers, road builders, plumbers, welders, auto mechanics. And they will have to be more, not less, traditional in their morals and in their view of manhood. The boy who is encouraged to be effeminate is not going to repair motorcycles.

Perhaps it’s easier to see these things by applying them to a specific family. Let’s say we have what my grandparents came to America with; not much schooling, not much money, and no real hope that the children would go to college. There are millions of such families in the United States now. Let’s also grant them an intact marriage, and no illegitimate children on the side. Let’s grant them both boys and girls. As I’ve said, these are not going to be doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs. What does this family need to do to ensure that, a hundred years hence, it will still be recognizable?

The boys have to be trained to be men. That is a sine qua non. They cannot be allowed to play around in effeminacy. The son of Lord Marchmain can do that, because he has a lot of money and a huge estate. The son of two college professors can do that, for the same reason. Not that the effeminacy will do those boys any good; it will hurt them, but they’ll still get by. But the working-class family has not that same margin for foolishness. They don’t get to pass their moral license along, hurting others more than themselves. They are at the base, not the top, of the watershed. If we are going to be depending upon Stan’s skilled hands and Sam’s strong back, then those hands had better soon be chapped and rough with calluses, and that back had better be straight and the shoulders broad.

In other words, if we really wanted to help the poor and the working class, we’d be preaching manliness and chivalry to the boys and training them up in hard but well-remunerated work. But if we didn’t care about them, we’d just continue in our own self-indulgent feminism, and let them go hang.

Next, we would cripple what was left of their neighborhood. Not much would be left; there isn’t much of a community once we’ve tossed the hand grenade into the family. But whatever is left would have to be dealt with. We remove their schools from their proximity and from their influence. We turn policemen into “safety officers,” who do not know the people they are charged with protecting, and who in some cases are no match for the boys now hanging about and delving into crime. Not satisfied with removing the father from the home, we remove the mother too, so that children spend most of their time with people who do not love them, and who move in and out of their lives as transients through a slum.

Finally, we would preach moral relativism, the rot that destroys the soul. If I have money, if I’ve graduated from Yale, if I teach at a nice college, I can indulge myself in intellectual nonsense, and perhaps my children will be eager enough for material comforts and worldly prestige that they too will go on to graduate from Yale. I can dump battery acid into the river with a carefree heart, knowing that I get my own water from somewhere else. But the virtues are sometimes the only thing a poor family has. The boy sent to America from Ireland had a few coins in his pocket but a great deal more in his soul. He had courage, perseverance, self-control, obedience to authority, and willingness to learn. My uncles had those same virtues. They were sufficient.

That, readers, is what Catholic social teaching builds upon. Outside of an integrated Catholic vision of life — outside of the virtues, and of family — it makes no sense. If we want to help the poor, we can begin by restoring some of the moral capital we have robbed.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Bob

    My Grandfather starter as a “breaker boy” in the coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania, specifically the Pittston/Wilkes Barre area. He rose through hard work to become president of of one of the mines, never getting past the sixth grade. My life today is easier due to his hard work.

    Young boys need a moral compass today more than ever. They are to be raised as true, virtuos men. My job is to instill in my sons a moral certainty that will guide them through this pornorgraphic, immorral, relativistic culture. Great article, Anthony.

  • Rob

    Great article, Professor. Makes me wish I could take a class of yours at Providence.

  • Jon D White

    The third to last and second to last paragraphs are out of place in the article – logically, they belong earlier in the article where the factors destroying the family are discussed.

  • Kevin

    Another excellent article by Esolen.

  • J

    Makes me wish I could teach with Professor Esolen at Providence.

  • Matthew

    To set up feminism and and the building of moral capital as hostile to one another is not logical. Not all manual laborers are noble beings who hold their families together. Some are abusive, drunken dipwads who need to be served restraining orders and possibly divorce papers. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that the wife of an unstable, manual-laboring flake and mother of two daughters had to divorce her husband because he was abusing the kids. If my daughter were in that situation, I would hope that her mother would be a feminist who would raise her to resist ill-treatment by men and to do her best to advance herself. I would want that mother raising that girl to be everything she could be. And if her intellectual potential meant she was going to be a cleaning lady, I would want her to be a cleaning lady with confidence and pride. Of course I would want her to be morally advanced, but that would mean having the moral courage to resist domination by men.

    • Cord Hamrick


      I think your comment does not necessarily disagree with Tony Esolen’s piece, except in its understanding of the definition of the word “feminism.” No great surprise: The word has a variety of definitions, even among its self-described adherents.

      For example, support for legal (and often unrestricted) abortion is a litmus test of feminism according to the persons most strongly publicly associated with feminism. Yet this is also antithetical to the building of moral capital.

      On the other hand, resistance to ill-treatment by bad men is of course supported by feminists, but by non-feminists as well. Between that and support of legal abortion, I myself would label the latter as being more strongly associated with feminism, and the former as mere universal common sense not unique to feminism at all.

      In fact, I happen to know a certain southern belle; a “steel magnolia” who sneers at “feminism” as a collective expression of fear by “weak women who think themselves unattractive.” Her view is that anyone who feels the need to make a big deal out of how strong and independent they are, doesn’t really believe it themselves. She would not, it is safe to say, label herself a feminist. But she owns a business with fifty or so employees (mostly male; it’s a building contractor supply business), and if you think she’d put up with anyone failing to show her respect and courtesy; well, you’d be quite mistaken!

      Anyhow, if resisting bad treatment is what you mean by feminism, then I suppose according to your definition, Esolen is a feminist. But I do not think that is what he meant by the word; and I suspect that if you were using his definition, you’d say that you were firmly not a feminist.

    • J

      Matthew, if I may, you’re pulling a little bit of a bait-and-switch here.

      •Suppose “having moral capital”, sc. kids playing together without profanity and father knowing best and mom sewing quilts, is Column B.

      •Suppose “drunken dipwads” are Column A.

      Professor Esolen is contrasting two worlds here, sc. “tradition-world” in which the amount of Column B is greater than it is in sc. “today-world”.

      One of your problems is that you are saying that one world’s having more of Column B is canceled out by that same world’s having an undetermined quantity of Column A.

      But you have not addressed the question of how much Column A we have in a Column B-less world.

      It’s a common, but dangerous (because irrational) inference: let’s ask an important question here:

      ***how many “drunken dipwads” does a morally bankrupt society produce, and how many “drunken dipwads” does a morally rich society produce?***

      That’s what you should be asking if you wanted to get at the truth, Matthew.

      Your second problem, which follows from the first, is that you’re implying that more of Column B implies more of Column A, and less of Column B implies less of Column B.

      This is of course nonsense.

      • J

        CORRECTION: Your second problem, which follows from the first, is that you’re implying that more of Column B implies more of Column A, and less of Column B implies less of Column B.

        SHOULD READ: Your second problem, which follows from the first, is that you’re implying that more of Column B implies more of Column A, and less of Column B implies less of *COLUMN A*.

        • Matthew

          OK, I think I have these relationships between columns A and B sorted out:-) You make a good point, but I don’t think we’re ever going back to column B. Women receive equal education now, which I have to believe is a good thing, so they’re no longer going to sit home and make quilts and accept that their husbands know best. My wife and daughter are so much smarter than I am that I feel my role is to support them in developing their scientific knowledge and skill in whatever way I can. It’s a kind of role reversal from the traditional era. I want to support their education and careers. I feel we need to develop moral capital in our Brave New World where men and women are equal. Maybe a lot of the problems men have today are because they’re not prepared to give up authority they haven’t earned and don’t deserve. Perhaps we men need not only to be chivalrous and manly, but humbler and better able to appreciate the gifts of the women in our lives.

          • I’m a college graduate, with honors, and I sit behind my husband and make quilts (well I knit afghans but that’s close enough!)

            I guess I would join the feminist movement if it was to make women and future women stronger. But if empowering women is at the expense of degrading my brothers in Christ, then no thanks. Maybe the feminist movement wouldn’t be so bad, if it weren’t for the women in it. Because all of the women I’ve met from this movement have, at best, wanted nothing to do with men, and, at worst, wanted a male’s head on their platter. No thanks.

            Empower women? To do what? Downgrade men as you have done to yourself in your comments? That’s what you would consider intelligence? It is men in our society who need affirmation and empowerment now more than ever. And I’m talking the men who still believe in Column B (and yes, I know a lot of them). Men have an important role to play in society, and it is specifically because they have relegated their role of leadership in society that we’re in the moral quagmire we’re in today. Being humble is not to downplay your gifts and strengths that are granted you based on your gender. My husband is forever grateful that I took on the role of birthing our 5 children. That was a gift that I humbly accept from my Maker, and one that my husband could never achieve. But he is the strength of our family, both morally and physically, as God intended. And that is a beautiful thing. It doesn’t take intelligence, or lack thereof, to recognize that we were created to have an order and place in society. Are some women created to be leaders in society? Yes. Are others created to be loving partners in marriage to their husbands, who they should uphold as “knowing best”? Yes. You can’t nurture that “feminine leadership”, as much as you’d like to pretend to be “teaching that to your daughters”. That is completely up to God to foster in a vocation.

            Most glaringly obvious though, if this feminine philosophy is the guiding principle you would want interjected in your home, and your wife has submitted to your will, then ultimately you should have that authority. Good for you for your sensitivities, and I’m glad that your children still respect your authority. At least I hope they do.

  • Thank you. I also teach at the college level, and frequently wonder why some of the students are there. Creative Minority report recently ran an article on marrying young. I think your thoughts pair nicely with theirs. Good honest work, at home or away. Our son knows we are a happier family when we work together.

  • Dave

    Some are abusive, drunken dipwads


    see section on a properly raised boy, such as you use as a straw man are juvenile poorly raised results of a low moral upbringing. Start raising MEN, not spoiled wispy twits with no moral centers, but a life of ME and MINE. It is damn hard to be a MAN these days when any authority is looked at with disdain. My 13 year old is proof that a boy needs a swift kick in the pants once in a while just to get his attention,

  • bill bannon

    While section 74 of Casti Conuubii from 1930 was firm on husband headship and wifely obedience as were 6 NT passages, I do not find the concept either in Vatican II in the sections on marriage….nor is husband headship in the catechism. It’s not in the first because perhaps all theologians at that time were rethinking women’s issues. It’s not in the catechism because John Paul II spoke of it twice in such a way (e.g. TOB,89) that when you’ve read him, you come away thinking a wife need not obey unless a husband is subjecting himself to her for sure simultaneously as he is making an imperative….thanks to seeing Eph.5:21 and 5:22 as not distinct at all but joined intimately. It was one of that moments of John Paul profound unclarity that probably left
    Ratzinger and others on the catechism board saying….let’s
    skip it as a topic. The result is that recent Catholic
    literature avoids it to….while Baptists years ago were front page NY Times for endorsing wifely obedience in exactly the way that section 74 of Casti Conuubii did in 1930.

  • Donna

    Of course, once the technology to make female cells act like sperm is perfected, we can simply eliminate the the need for males entirely. (It was accomplished in lab mice some years ago.)
    This is an extreme example of the factor that seems to be missing from all of this analysis: technological change. If each is unarmed, I’d take a male bodyguard over a female one. If the man has a spear and the woman has an Uzi, it’s not so clear cut.

  • Tim H

    Excellent. Reads like an essay from “I’ll Take My Stand.” I simply do not understand the inability by the chattering classes to see our descent into barbarism.

  • joe

    I really enjoyed reading this article and I could identify with it.

    For what it’s worth, I read the comments and it seems like everyone goes way out in left field from what the author is saying. Why can’t we read and appreciate what the author is trying to relate rather than split hairs over words or phrases when we know perfectly well what the author means. Political correctness drives me nuts!

  • John2

    “We say, for a while, that we merely wish that the marriage be egalitarian; but what we really want is that it should be egalitarian and weak.”

    Bingo! That is the driving principle. And it produces a cascade of weaknesses in marriage, in intermediating institutions, and in society as a whole.

    Might as well admit the pernicious effects on the next generation, too, eh? But that’s another article.

    Well done!

  • Edward Angelo

    This essay touched a chord. I’m 70 this year & I think of my immigrant parents. Dad started working for farmers in the early 1920’s when he was 12; long, long hours, with horse-drawn equipment. The stories we kids heard: the disasters of the Depression, with wages unable to be paid by penniless employers; overwork to try to hold a job, with my mother taking over the horses when he came home late & dog-tired, unharnessing & feeding them while he had his meal then bed. They became lease farmers in 1940 & our family of five lived in a concrete-floored, galvanized steel sheet-clad shack, no electricity, telephone, or running water. Yet we were a close-knit and happy family, surrounded by love, and stories of life in the shack figure prominently in our family reunions: the stout stick kept behind the door to dispatch invading snakes, my sister’s panic with swooping bats or lurking toads or scuttling rats.
    Then there is the story told of a broken disc from a farm implement that needed replacing. My mother sat that disc in the stroller (they were large in those days), placed pillows & baby me on top, and walked 6 miles to & from town for the replacement. Hard to believe, eh? And even harder to believe is that the merchant would not let her have the disc as she was 3 cents short.
    In time that farm was purchased, more land was bought, machinery sheds erected, full of tractors, bulldozers, trucks & farm equipment. Last to go, only after much persuasion by the children & grandchildren, was the tin shack (still a palace to my mother compared to other places she’d lived in), demolished in 1975 and a new brick home built.
    It is difficult to sum up the lessons learned except to say of the three children, only one went to university, but all three ranging in age from 78 to 70, are still enjoying working, as a realtor, farmer and architect. And when Dad died at 91, we were all surprised to find he was more than a millionaire – we’d just never though in those terms.

  • Edward Angelo

    By the way, I omitted to mention in my comment above that of the children, the university garaduate’s net worth is the lowest of the three.

  • Flamen

    I have known college professors who could not afford a plumber or electrician for repairs. Not all laborers are poor. Look at what auto mechanics charge.

    • You are dead on. This summer we are re-sodding our lawn, finishing a fence, repairing the deck, and painting the house. Someday I might get to afford the materials to do some repainting inside the house! All of this is great for our family. We work hard and well together, and appreciate intellectual pursuits more when the day is done.

  • Louise Helder

    All I can say is AMEN. If I start writing I’ll never get done.
    Great article professor. Thanks.

  • Laura

    I am sitting in tears reading this—this too is the story of my Italian ancestors who came to this country. Putting in a new flower bed today for “beauties sake” rather than a veggie garden for “survivals sake” I thought of how much tougher my grandparents and parents were–how spoiled I am, and how to make my sons tougher. This article is a magnum opus. Thank you. I am sending this on to all of my siblings.

    • yvette

      yes, a tear in my eye here too

  • Bill

    One entire aspect is missing from this piece-the “dual magisterium” of theologians which told Catholics in the wake of Vat. II which Church teachings to follow and which not. The main focus was on contraception and that is why that teaching is abandoned today. The feckless hierarchy could do nothing to silence/remove these theologians. It could not even remove Fr. Charles Curran from Cath. U. for nineteen years! The Vatican finally did. BTW, do you know why Curran is at Southern Methodist for years? Because a wealthy Catholic heiress told the Archbishop of (Baton Rouge?) she would discontinue aid to the archdiocese if Curran were allowed to teach at the Claretian university in Louisiana. The timid Vatican and bishops are the source of all these ills in the Church today. They will answer for the millions of contraceptors pouring into Hell daily (it is a Mortal Sin).

  • Wi

    Well, let’s see. My dad was a union man who got his head beat in trying to get better hours and better working conditions. They finally won an eight hour day and better wages and a father in the late ’40’s, the ’50’s, and the 60’s, working by himself, could support a family, buy a home, and buy a car. Moms could stay at home and be there for their kids. Productivity and wages went up together.

    Fast forward to the ’80’s, when Reagan began his revolution. Wages went flat. Productivity went up, but wages didn’t. The money earned by higher productivity went to the owners, breaking an informal social contract. Dad worked longer hours to keep up. Pretty soon, his wife had to go to work. Both worked longer hours. Then they maxed out their credit cards. Then they borrowed on their mortgages. Now their wages are dropping…while productivity goes up. My nephew nows does the work five other people did before and his wife does the same, putting in ten to twelve hours a day. They have a house but have never been able to afford a new car or nice furniture.

    I explain all this to you anti-birth control folks and all those who lament the situation of the family. It ain’t religion, its economics. Families break up under huge economic pressure. Some people practice birth-control because partners without children get rich. Others practice birth-control because they cannot afford one more child. The same with abortion in New York and New Jersey, among the poor. An abortion? 500 bucks. A new kid?

    • New cars and nice furniture are no summum bonum.

    • I hope these words never come back to haunt you when your life is considered a lot more expensive than 500 bucks.

  • IrishEddieOHara

    Wow! What an OUTSTANDING article. Professor Esolen absolutely nails it!

  • Great article! Great read! I have 5 children with my husband of 7 years and we are poor. But now, I know that our hard work and decency are not in vain, and I hold my head up for that. In line with my ancestors, I hope to pass on these traits to my descendants. Great read!

    (PS-Maybe we could get this article in the hands of Obama and Boehner before next week?)

  • Beth

    Since reading this article a couple of weeks ago, I have thought about or said “Moral Capital” every single day. It is shameful how we have failed SO MANY by allowing this loss.

    Thanks for the great article; much to think about and act upon.

  • Celine
  • Martin R. T. Mersch

    Great Article Professor. I’ve worked as a MBA educated banker for 21 years, then things changed, for the last 10 years I’ve been a union electrician as well as working in a few other crafts. Society looks down upon those who work with their hands. I want my children to have the skill set and knowledge of how to do things, but I also want them to have an education. The gift of being able to physically make something that you have designed from your own thoughts gives great satisfaction. To quote Will Rogers, ” …Common sense is not such a common thing anymore…”.