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Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is probably the most popular center-left leader in the world, with an approval rating hovering near 75 percent. Elected in 2007, Rudd is more popular among Australians today than President Obama is here, despite taking office prior to the current economic collapse. He also ran a very different kind of campaign, one that was sharply ideological compared to Obama’s message of pragmatic change. For faith-based defenders of the family and community values, this contrast is worth looking at more closely.

While Obama’s impressive electoral victory was driven in part by certain clear demographic trends away from Republican Party positions and appeal, it is hard to imagine a worse set of conditions for an incumbent party seeking a third consecutive White House term, or a more ready-made opportunity for an appealing opposition leader. For that reason and others, I don’t compute this mostly pragmatic victory as inaugurating a new era of center-left dominance in the United States, as some are suggesting. Too much historical complexity and uncertainty and too many independent swing-voters make any such lasting power unlikely in the future. For example, the progressive voting and public opinion trends we see today were already clear, on a long-term path, by the late 1990s, but two singular events, Bush v. Gore and the 9/11 terrorist attacks, derailed the progressive trend to the point where leading experts instead began predicting the consolidation of an “enduring conservative majority.” It is laughably unhistorical to extrapolate future results from current political numbers as if there won’t be any scandals or crises that disrupt already fragile party loyalties and independent-voter trends. The potentially inflationary repercussions of President Obama’s deficit-spending, coupled with, say, scandalous revelations about the financial bailout, could knock Obama out of office in 2012, particularly if he faces a certain kind of conservative opponent. My best guess in that regard is Mike Huckabee, which leads me back to Kevin Rudd.

Rudd may be the first politician since Franklin Roosevelt to win national power for a center-left party by attacking the conservative establishment from the right, in the name of family security and family values. Uncharacteristically forthcoming about his religious convictions (uncharacteristic for Australia, that is), Rudd successfully painted the John Howard-led Liberal-National coalition government as the anti-family party, the party of commercial values and business predation against the things we hold most dear.

Raised in Queensland and fatherless from a young age, Rudd was shaped by the rural Catholic faith of his mother. He is sometimes described as a “Christian social democrat.” In a widely discussed essay on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, published in 2006, he defined the theology and scriptural basis of his Christian commitment and contrasted this with the hypocritical “culture war” waged by John Howard. In another widely discussed pre-campaign essay, drawing heavily on David McKnight’s book Beyond Right and Left, Rudd mounted a savage attack on the neoliberal model Howard borrowed from Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Singling out the influence of Friedrich von Hayek, which was particularly strong in Australia, Rudd argued that a fundamental conflict between capitalism and family life has been unleashed in the neoliberal era. Two different value systems are at war, he argued, the commercial value system and the family and community value system–the  former gaining unprecedented power while the latter loses even basic protections. In Hayek’s view, Rudd explained to a national magazine audience, family values are nearly vestigial to the kind of development promoted by efficient markets. Efforts to protect vestigial social structures like the family must be considered sentimental errors of an atavistic worldview. As Rudd explained:

[Hayek] explicitly repudiated solidarity and altruism in favour of private property and contract: “An order in which everyone treated his neighbour as himself would be one where comparatively few could be fruitful and multiply.”

McKnight notes that the only domains in which Hayek allows for the “primitive” feelings of solidarity and altruism are the family and voluntary associations. In Hayek’s words, “If we were always to apply rules of the extended order [of capitalism and the market] to our more intimate groupings we would crush them.” (The emphasis is Hayek’s own.) In his analysis, McKnight rightly concentrates on the central vulnerability in this philosophy: the problem that arises from the commodification of all things, that is, “the transformation of obligations based on love and altruism into those of commodity-based economic values (i.e. money).

He describes the central dilemma: Hayek recognised this paradoxical inconstancy, and proposed that we must simply learn to “live simultaneously within different kinds of orders within different rules – those of the markets and those of the family. We must be ruthlessly self-interested in the market and sweetly caring in the family; greedy at work and selfless at home…”

Herein lies the core challenge for conservatives, as the impact of neo-liberalism cannot be effectively quarantined from its effect on the family—and beyond the family to other sub-economic, reciprocal relationships within communities, and other social and spiritual associations. Once again, McKnight distils it best:

Rather than the two worlds existing simultaneously, one world is slowly crushing the other. Hayek’s intellectual paradigm has turbo-charged the privatised, marketised economy, which is relentlessly encroaching on the life-world of family, friends and community. The invisible hand is clutching at the invisible heart and slowly choking it. Thus the story of New Capitalism’s effect on the family is just part of a wider story of what is happening to all non-market relations between people. Bonds of respect, civility and trust between people are being weakened, and relations based on competition, self-interest and suspicion are growing.

Rudd’s reframing of Labor politics around a protective family-centered vision of the common good, a new “social economy,” may be reinforced in the comingweeks by Papal decree. As I noted in a comment added to my last post, Pope Benedict XVI is about to release his major economic encyclical, Caritas in veritate, and rumors about its content abound. The most significant background rumblings include E. W. Böckenförde’s recent publication, in Germany and Italy, of an explosive article on capitalism. The eminent German jurist, an important influence on Benedict XVI, argues that the market foundations of society must be replaced with a production and distribution model regulated by natural law principles of the common good:

So what is capitalism suffering from? It is not suffering only from its excesses and from the greed and egoism of the men operating in it. It suffers from its point of departure, from its functional principle and the power that creates the system. For this reason, it is impossible to heal this illness with marginal remedies; it can be healed only by changing the point of departure.

The extensive individualism in matters of property, which takes as its point of departure and structuring principle the potentially unlimited profit of the individual, considered a natural right not subject to any content guidelines, must be replaced with a normative framework and a strategy of action based on the principle according to which the goods of the earth, meaning nature and the environment, the products of the soil, water and raw materials do not belong to those who are the first to take possession of them and exploit them, but are destined for all men, for the satisfaction of their vital necessities and for the attainment of well-being.

Böckenförde’s explicitly defines this new social economy in light of Thomistic Catholic tradition, obviously referencing the principle of the universal destination of goods. Unfortunately, he ignores the need to properly define the subsidiary role of the state in such a model of distributional change, something likely to be a major focus of Caritas in veritate. As Bishop Crepaldi (secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace) described it in a recent radio interview, the encyclical “can be an instrument to help politics recover its function: that of designing the architectural structures of our social life in the way of justice, freedom, truth and solidarity.” Under the principle of subsidiarity, of course, the notion of “designing” social structures can only refer to the need for certain kinds of protection and support for the prior natural order of families and communities, the formative structures of human belonging and well-being. To be a “Christian” social democrat one must embrace a structurally limited, but fiscally supportive, role for the state, providing the help families need to protect themselves and their communities from the inhuman market powers that, increasingly, control the world.

One cornerstone of a subsidiary architecture of social support is paid parental leave for care of newborns. Until recently, the United States and Australia were the only two OECD countries without any policy of paid parental leave. Kevin Rudd campaigned on the issue, and paid parental leave was recently passed in Australia’s federal budget. The policy gives an eligible working parent payments equal to the federal minimum wage, approximately $543 weekly, for a maximum of eighteen weeks. All primary caregivers in Australia already receive a “baby bonus” of approximately $5,000 per child plus other benefits.

A small sign of life for such support in the United States has also appeared. Just last week, the House of Representatives passed a very modest paid parental leave bill for federal employees, the country’s largest single workforce. Should the bill become law, we might move up one or two slots from our dismal global ranking alongside Lesotho, Swaziland, and a few other countries with no paid maternity leave of any kind (in a recent study of 173 countries conducted by McGill University researchers). Federal employee paid leave could be expanded to the private sector, undoubtedly a huge fight, but one that right and left should wage as one family movement, bringing working and non-working mothers together under a single child-centered benefit scheme. Call it welfare, an expansion of the “nanny state”–choose your Tocquevillian epithet–but in my life, certainly, and millions of others’, the lack of such support has made it harder, distressingly and sometimes tragically harder, to be the mothers and fathers, the providers and nurturers, God made us to be.

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Lew Daly is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at Dēmos in New York City (www.demos.org). A writer on religion, political development, and economic thought, Daly's recent books include (with Gar Alperovitz) Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance (The New Press 2008), which proposes a new theory of distributive justice based on the collective nature of wealth creation; and God’s Economy (University of Chicago Press, 2009), a comparative study of church-state law and welfare governance in Europe and the United States. He is also the author of God and the Welfare State (The MIT Press, 2006), and has published articles, reviews, and commentary in many publications, including Dissent, Commonweal, Newsweek.com, The Boston Review, Theoria, The Journal of Markets & Morality, Sightings, and Church & Society. Daly was previously a fellow of the Schumann Center for Media & Democracy, where he worked closely with then-president Bill Moyers on special projects. He formerly worked as a research fellow with the Democracy Collaborative of the University of Maryland, and as a researcher and strategist on religious advocacy. In the mid-1990s, Daly did pastoral work in a federal prison as well as community organizing on labor issues. With a B.A. degree from Oberlin College, he holds advanced degrees from Brown University, the University at Buffalo, and Union Theological Seminary. Raised in central New York, he has lived in New York City with his family since 1996.

58 COMMENTS

  1. Indeed, I do “call it welfare”. A handout from remote technocrats, when convenient, is part of the Front Porch philosophy?

  2. All I can say is, “Wow!” If only half of these ideas find their way into the new encyclical, it will be the most important document since Rerum Novarum. The most important element would be getting away from Lockean notions of property rights, which completely individualized property, to the more traditional view which balanced both the personal and social claims of property. This is also necessary for placing the family–and especailly the property-owning family–at the center of economic life.

    I have to confess that I was somewhat suspicious of Benedict because of his friendship with Wiegel; I had visions of the Acton Institute running the Vatican. But his first two encyclicals were masterpieces (and they were also social encyclicals). Spe Salvi in particular was surprising, with its praise for the Frankfurt School.

  3. Good post, Lew.

    Two quick questions, however — (1) What, if anything, distinguishes Rudd as a “Christian Social Democrat” from a plain-old Christian Democrat of the European or Latin American sort? (2) Where does Rudd stand in relation of secularists and/or moral libertarians on the Australian left?

    Rudd’s sort of politics sound very attractive to me, but it also seems to me that the Christian part of his message would be at least as hard a sell on the conventional American left as the Social Democrat part would be on the conventional American right … and possibly an even harder sell.

  4. I’ve often found myself nodding in agreement as I read these essays, until specific policies are suggested which seem to me to run counter to the principles espoused in the essay. I want to tell myself that it’s because philosophers are writing who don’t grasp the critical concrete details of reality.

    The fact that someone could suggest that a national policy concerning a nation with a population of less than 22 million people should be applied on a federal level in the United States–while invoking subsidiarity, puzzlingly–which has over 300 million people and a bloated federal government and simply dismiss criticism of the inevitable bureaucracy as Tocquevillian epithets suggests strongly that one isn’t serious.

    The same principles of subsidiarity and localism which condemn too big, too powerful corporations so rightly despised do not give the federal government a pass, as if somehow the largest institution of modernity is made of wise angels who could not possibly fall prey the moral defects accompanying the inhuman scale of corporations a fraction of the size of the largest multinational corporations.

    Until the fetish for federal bureaucracy accompanies the fetish for corporate bureaucracy to the grave, I think we will find this movement is dead in the water.

  5. I fail to see how further state involvement and regulation of our lives is somehow connected to the principle of subsidiarity. Having government offering financial incentives to new parents to take time off to raise their family sounds really swell, until you realize that the money is coming from families, minus the administrative charge of government oversight of course. Addition by subtraction doesn’t work.

    Government needs to respect its sphere of sovereignty by reducing its reach into the family. I would be greatly surprised to see Caritas in Veritate advocating more government involvement in the life of the family.

    Yes, corporations are too big and too powerful and are crushing humanely scaled business, however, the answer is not larger and more powerful government. Corporations have already slipped the bonds of the nation state that tries to control them. They will slip the bonds of any new restraints as well. Change must come from within the culture, and even within the corporation by a conversion from the social contract basis of economics, to a social covenant based one. This can only take place from the bottom up, not the top down.

    The revolution will not be legislated.

  6. Yes, I too would like to hear how federal stipends for families are “subsidiarist.” Couldn’t more local government handle that kind of social support?

    Regardless, I look forward to the Pope’s next encyclical. Given the economic confusion of today, I hope and pray that it might become a touchstone for future sanity.

    Oh, and thanks for the article on Rudd. I didn’t know anything about him, but I’m in the middle of Allan Carlson’s chapter on Christian Democrats in “Third Ways” and it’s encouraging to see some similar ideas churning in contemporary politics.

  7. Several comments question me on whether a public policy of paid parental leave conforms to the principles of subsidiarity. In fact it does: subsidiarity is not a doctrine of government retreat or private self-help, as neoliberal Catholics like Novak have taught; subsidiarity is a doctrine of political order requiring public protection of and support for the natural social structures of human belonging and well-being, most importantly the family. It is “bottom up” because it vests primary authority and purpose in the natural social structures; but where the resources internal to society do not adequately support the family, it is “top down” in requiring the state to support the family in its natural functions. The key is to support, not distort or replace, the family structure. Paid parental leave is a policy of subsidiarity precisely because it helps parents fulfill their natural responsibilities. The lack of such a policy, which in many cases simply leaves the market to determine whether a mother can care for her newborn at home, is gravely immoral from a “subsidiary” point of view.

  8. Lew, No offense, but the gates of Hell will freeze shut before I enlist with the “Christian” Democrats!
    Dude, this “subsidiarity” thing (and I’m not very familiar with the concept and thanks for the explanation) gives off the strong odor of socialism and having lived through Truman, JFK, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Clinton, and now The Great Provider, not to mention a whole platoon of worthless as warm spit statist Republicans I’ve had a lifetime of socialism shooved down my throat and I sure don’t need anymore.
    This subsidiarity system ignores human nature and doesn’t take into account good old St. Augustine’s libido dominandi: create the beauracracy, federal or otherwise, no matter the good-hearted reason, and bingo-bango you’ve got yourself a whole lotta graft, corruption,
    theft, oppression, and waste.
    No sir, give me corrupt businessmen anytime, because if a businessman/woman steals from you and the law screws you (not that that would ever happen) you can always, personally, fulfill the demands of honor! Try getting even with any federal beauracracy!
    Subsidiarity is just another method for empowering the state, albiet with a pseudo-Christian twist that fails to make me feel “warm and fuzzy”.

  9. Lew,
    Your use of the term “subsidiarity” strikes me as odd or at least incomplete. Writing in “Quadragesimo Anno” Pius XI argues that individualism arises with the destruction or attenuation of “that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds.” In such a circumstance “there remain virtually only individuals and the State.” While this situation is surely harmful to individuals, Pius argues that the State is harmed as well, for “with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore, the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties.” Pius argues that a healthy society consists of “a graduated order” of secondary associations in accordance with the “principle of subsidiarity.” He frames the principle in moral (and ultimately metaphysical) terms.

    “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do. For every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social and never destroy and absorb it.”

    The State, then, has functions particular to it, such as defense. Additionally, it properly acts as a facilitator that ensures the various secondary associations enjoy the freedom to operate according to their internal principles. In this light, direct payments to parents would be, at best, a prudential decision, but surely not one demanded by the principles of subsidiarity. But perhaps it would be better to consider ways to help ensure that one parent can stay home with the kids for the duration of their dependency rather than champion the rather paltry notion of paid parental leave. For my money, the whole notion of parental leave rests on the faulty idea that children really need their parents for those crucial first three months but then they are old enough to turn over to the state daycare system.

  10. Lew,
    Based on your explanation of what subsidiarity means to you, I can understand your position better, even if I do not agree. Thanks for the clarification.

    Bob,

    Before you throw out the principle of subsidiarity entirely, I would encourage you to look at some other explanations of it. It most definitely is not socialism. The one that I find the most clear and compelling is from Pius XI’s encyclical Quadregismo Anno.

    “Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own initiative and industry and give it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher association what lesser and subordinate organizations can do.”

    Clearly this is not socialism.

    However, since subsidiarity is just a principle, it’s interpretation as to how best apply it to government and business is left for us to figure out. Hence, disagreements like this one.

    Great discussion guys.

  11. Mark,
    Glad to see I am not the only one with that quote taped up next to my monitor. I guess you type faster than me at this early hour. I must need another cup of coffee.

  12. Lew,

    Thanks for the excellent post, and even more so for your trenchant comment above. I have long been confused by the inability of many who recognize the value to supporting families, neighborhoods and community to allow that government–local, state and national–obviously does and should fit into the subsidiarian model….or to acknowledge that a defense of government doesn’t necessarily obviate common sense and prevent one from criticizing government excesses and intrusions into areas of life that should be kept free from regulation. This weirdly libertarian, all-or-nothing, anti-government streak is, in my view at least, one of the biggest obstacles to a better conservatism, a conservatism that recognizes and makes possible the values of a Front Porch republic, ever flourishing in the United States.

    Bob,

    …having lived through Truman, JFK, LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Clinton, and now The Great Provider…

    So, you’ve lived through significant declines in old-age poverty and infant mortality and food poisoning and air and water pollution, have you? Not a bad record, there. Hey, I’ll be the first to condemn the “money liberalism” (that’s Mickey Kaus’s phrase) of the Great Society liberals and those who came after them, for having created an anti-family and morally corrupting dole system which wasted the populist and family-supportive potential of the New Deal and earlier progressive reforms, but to reduce the efforts of every Democratic president since FDR to a crude “socialism” is a little one-sided, don’t you think?

  13. Mark,

    But perhaps it would be better to consider ways to help ensure that one parent can stay home with the kids for the duration of their dependency rather than champion the rather paltry notion of paid parental leave. For my money, the whole notion of parental leave rests on the faulty idea that children really need their parents for those crucial first three months but then they are old enough to turn over to the state daycare system.

    But shouldn’t that make you a supporter of significant wage controls and supports, such as are in existence in many socially democratic European countries, or perhaps much more extensive parental leave policies (Canada’s is a full year; in some Scandinavian countries it is close to three years) than America has been able to accomplish?

  14. Russell,
    I’m not sure that the logic of my position leads to wage controls. There are, of course, many families who require two working parents to survive. But I would venture that our material expectations drive a whole lot of decisions. If we, as a culture, valued parental care (over day care) I suspect plenty of families could learn to make do on one income by restructuring their lives, perhaps radically. Before I jump on the “let the government do it” bandwagon, I’d like to see a lot more of the hard work and hard choices that indicate the recognition that raising children is the priority not the new car, the big house, the meals out, the new clothes, the gizmoes, etc. I find it distressingly easy (and tempting) to say “the government should do this.” I think it is a serious danger (for it empowers an already too powerful entity) and I don’t think this is necessarily what is meant by subsidiarity.

  15. A few prudential questions:

    Is the problem so great that individuals, families, churches, and communities cannot address with direct action and mutual aid?

    Is it wise to craft and implement new entitlement programs when running historic deficits?

    Is it wise to create new or expand existing entitlements when all indications are that our current entitlement programs are unsustainable (See Social Security and Medicare)?

  16. Mark, hear! hear!

    100% out of the home wage servitude is the scheme of our corporate masters. Any alleged family values legislation designed to foster that end is a sham.

  17. Mark (and, I guess, Caleb),

    I’d like to see a lot more of the hard work and hard choices that indicate the recognition that raising children is the priority not the new car, the big house, the meals out, the new clothes, the gizmoes, etc.

    I couldn’t agree more, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be seen as suggesting that entitlement programs or wage controls are sufficient so as to make unnecessary the sort of lifestyle changes–the movements away from consumerism and expansion–that in many ways is the whole point of FPR. I do think you’re a little too quick to assume what I up above called an “all or nothing” attitude, an assumption that either there are lifestyle changes or the government does it for us. It seems to me that, often, the latter has a role in complementing, even encouraging, the former.

  18. “… an assumption that either there are lifestyle changes or the government does it for us.”

    Arben, what in heaven’s name do you think The Most Merciful Messiah is all about?

    “It seems to me that, often, the latter has a role in complementing, even encouraging, the former.”

    Arben, that’s the problem!
    More later, there’s blood squirting outta my eyes!

  19. One thing that must be kept in mind through all the facile but deserved critiques of American political liberalism is that my generation has lived through what might be the longest period of sustained peace and prosperity in the modern era. Yes, the critiques are valid, but they also should be accompanied by a sense of gratitude. As part of the “baby-boomer” generation (and all that generations that followed) I experienced no great depression (which were common before the war) and all our wars were small.

    Yes, it is all coming apart. Nevertheless, we escaped many of the tribulations which were a “normal” part of life for most of the generations that preceded us, and will likely be part and parcel of life for the generation that follows.

    All real patriotism is founded on gratitude, the recognition of the gift received, and the gift that must be passed on. We were ungrateful (or at least, I was) and hence we have not passed on the gift. Our children may not, therefore, hold us in such high regard. Who can blame them?

    I don’t get the point that associates subsidiarity with socialism; they seem to be polar opposites. What have I missed?

  20. “I don’t get the point that associates subsidiarity with socialism; they seem to be polar opposites. What have I missed?”

    I’m no expert on Catholic social doctrine, however, subsidiarity, as I understand it is” “…the organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest, or least centralized commpetent authority.”

    Now there’s no problem with the outline until we consider the word “matters.” We all agree that the least centralized is the best but the fly in the ointment is the “matters,” i.e. the issue being considered. If, for example, its the re-distribution of state confiscated wealth or some other Marxist principle, then I really don’t care on what level it’s administered, it’s simpley wrong or immoral.

    Now that’s my criticism of the association of subsidiarity to socialism. But, again, I’m no expert and I may be entirely wrong and I do look forward to being straightened out on the matter.

  21. Many interesting questions that I’ll try to get to. Thank you. But first let me address Mark’s response, reinforced by Tom G:

    You cite the famous formulation from Quadragesimo anno, but miss a critical nuance in the meaning. I agree with you and with Pius XI that (using a different translation) it is a “disturbance of right order for a larger and higher organization to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies.” The problem is that many critical social functions (not just “national” functions like defense)CANNOT be performed by smaller and lower bodies anymore—primarily because the resources of our economy are too unequally distributed for households and communities, in their natural state, to function adequately and fulfill their responsibilities without public supports.

    Subsidiarity as applied to the state is not an absolute principle of limitation and withdrawal. It implies a large role for public interventions where these are needed to help families and communities fulfill their responsibilities and flourish in their purposes. Such intervention is subsidiary when it helps the family be what a family should be. When pubic intervention distorts or replaces the natural functions of the family (by establishing universal public child care in contrast with paid parental leave, for example), it violates the principle of subsidiarity.

    I think it’s important, too, to recognize the sequential logic of the “Leonine” theory of the subsidiary state. As Polanyi and Nisbet likewise understood, the welfare state is an inevitable “counter-movement” to the rise of capitalism, which long preceded any forms of social legislation. The root of the problem of the modern state is economic liberalism—the ascendancy of a new political worldview and legal system designed to promote, protect, and utterly sanctify private control and accumulation of productive resources, unregulated by custom, need, or the common good. The “blame” for government expansion, Nell-Breuning wrote in his great commentary on Quadragesimo anno (he was of course the primary author of the encyclical),

    “cannot be laid upon the state alone….Pius XI states this clearly. The decomposing influence of atomist-individualist thought destroyed all smaller communities of life; the family itself was hardly able to withstand these influences. The state has neither created nor called forth this spirit of disintegration which was present even before modern states entered into history. The state found that great emptiness that had been produced by the destruction of these institutions….Nothing was more natural for the state than to try to grasp this mass, and to treat it as a whole.”

    I agree with Mark and other commentators that we need a moral reformation of household consumption as well: hedonistic consumption is a significant part of the reason why families are increasingly unable to fulfill their natural responsibilities. But it is also clear that we have permitted (and government has encouraged) far too much inequality of wealth and wages in recent years. From 1945 until the late 1970s, wages and productivity rose together. Since then, productivity continued to rise (less rapidly but still significantly) while average wages stagnated. For three decades, virtually all of the gains in our economy flowed to the top 20 percent or even the top 5 percent. If wages had kept pace with productivity, as in the past, the average household today could afford to insure itself and care for its own children and elders. Concomitantly, the responsibilities of the state would diminish.

    I also agree that a new federal entitlement is not the best policy for paid parental leave. Instead, we should require paid parental leave under labor law, putting the costs on employers (at least on larger employers). One obvious source of private revenue for this is executive pay, which now equals 10 percent of corporate earnings, nearly double what it was 15 years ago and probably triple what it should be by performance standards or any reasonable ratio to average worker pay. Arguably, it does not violate subsidiarity for the state to divert private revenues from a wasteful, unjustified condition (vastly unequal pay structures) to a beneficial natural purpose (paid parental leave). In short, I’d argue that the state, in its various kinds of social support, cannot be counted as “arrogating” power from the “smaller and lower bodies” simply because it provides social support. Social legislation is not a “disturbance of right order” until our economy becomes sufficiently balanced to provide the “smallest and lowest bodies,” most importantly traditional working households, with the resources they need to fulfill their natural responsibilities and flourish in their God-given purposes.

  22. Bob Cheeks says, If, for example, its the re-distribution of state confiscated wealth or some other Marxist principle, then I really don’t care on what level it’s administered, it’s simpley wrong or immoral.

    Wow. There is some heavy ideological baggage in that statement. It is of the “taxes are theft” sort. But are they? I do wish people who claim to believe this would refrain from using public streets, calling the police when they are assaulted or the fire department when their homes are on fire. Taxes are not necessarily theft; they are paying for what you use. That is to say, they are the sign of an adult and a citizen.

    Taxes might be theft if everything you had was your own product produced from your own resources. But this is true of nothing that you have, or at least of nothing that I have. Every morsel of food, every scrap of clothing, is a social product and has a social cost. Those who refuse to pay the cost refuse to act like adults; they view the goods of life as a child views them, as something due them.

    That being said, it is true that most taxes are theft, especially to the extent that they fall on labor, and constitute a transfer to the rich, which is the common situation. And in the current situation, it is both just and necessary to confiscate from the rich. In both paleo-libertarian and neoclassical economic theory, free market wages and profits are normalized to each other; the Austrian alone permits outsized, non-normalized profits to continue. Of course, most neoclassicals don’t know their own theory, because they don’t know their own sources. They never read them. Rather, they read textbooks from people with no knowledge of the sources, who footnote other textbooks with no knowledge of the sources. Has one in 10 economists read Smith, or Ricardo, or Marx, or Mill? 1 in 100? I doubt it. That is why the theories these men espoused (right or wrong) come out so distorted in the modern literature; it is a case of professional comment by the terminally ignorant. I do believe that poor Adam Smith is the most often cited but least actually read of all the modern philosophers. And Smith had some very definite views on taxes, and who should pay them.

    But the economic truth (let’s set the moral question aside) is that non-normalized profits and wages distort an economy to the degree that it cannot possibly function, and hence some political “re-normalization” is necessary. I do not like the situation that makes the political involvement necessary, but a necessary thing is still necessary, even if I dislike it. The solution is not to rail against the size of government, but to remove the conditions which make that size both necessary and inevitable.

    The “taxes are theft” crowd puts the question in “all or nothing” terms, but this always works out to the advantage of the “all,” since there are never enough nihilists to vote for the nothing.

  23. Lew — I won’t pretend to be as conversant in the social encyclicals as I’d like to be, but it seems to me that this is the contention you have to defend:

    “The problem is that many critical social functions (not just “national” functions like defense)CANNOT be performed by smaller and lower bodies anymore—primarily because the resources of our economy are too unequally distributed for households and communities, in their natural state, to function adequately and fulfill their responsibilities without public supports.”

    Why is it that local government can’t provide for, say, parental leave? If need be, how about state government? You seem to say that if a family or small community can’t manage something on its own, then the next step is the federal government. That doesn’t sound like how I understand subsidiarity. Lower levels of government are preferable to higher levels, right?

  24. Chris, to have local gov’ts provide parental leave would pit communities and cities against each other. This already happens with such things as tax rebates (and it ought to be illegal), but in this particular case, local gov’ts would be powerless.

  25. “And in the current situation, it is both just and necessary to confiscate from the rich.”

    I have enjoyed Medaille’s distributism pieces a great deal, and there is great insight in them, but in the end, it turns out to be the same old centralizing statist succotash.

  26. As Mr. Stegall points out Medaille’s arguments are, indeed, “the same old centralizing statist succotash” not to mention rather puerile. While Mr. Daly entertain’s his readers with the Marxist fantasy, “Instead, we should require paid parental leave under labor law, putting the costs on employers (at least on larger employers). One obvious source of private revenue for this is executive pay…”
    What these men fail to understand is that the failure of our culture is not an economic failure, rather it is a moral failure and no amount of statist machinations can change that.

  27. Caleb is of course right:
    Wanting everybody to have their own property is precisely the same as wanting the state to have all property.
    Wanting to have local authorities is precisely the same as wanting the central state to control everything.
    And war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and Front Porch Republics are just the same as 1984.

    Mr. Cheeks exhibits the same tired Austrian debating technique: Scream “Socialist!” at anyone who asks him to pay for what he consumes, and exhibit great resentment for the peace and prosperity that his generation enjoys.

    • Russell,
      Nothing I wrote suggested an “all or nothing” approach. I do think, though, that there is a priority. The hard work of restructuring our personal lives must come first. If the government programs comes first, what incentive would there be to change? Government programs become the enabler of bad choices. If, after the hard personal/cultural choices have been made there are still some who can’t get by on one income, well then let’s talk about prudential ways to help.

      Lew,
      As for subsidiarity, if economic conditions are such that only the federal government is capable of acting effectively, then we are in a bad way. It may be that you are right. I then wonder, though, if the subsidiary functions of the federal government that you describe will not serve further to increase the power at the center ever further and thus continue to exacerbate the problems you identify. I guess I am still attached to the notion that localism is generally preferable to centralization, and if the conditions on the ground make it prudentially necessary to turn to the centralized authority to serve the subsidiary functions, then the long term solution is not to cede more power and responsibility to the center. Again, my impulse in this context is to ask what cultural changes can be made to create a situation whereby the subsidiary functions you champion can be more naturally and effectively carried out on local and state levels rather than national ones. How those cultural changes can be made is, of course, a difficult and vexing question.

  28. Caleb, I have no way to answer your question because I have no way to know what you could possibly mean. How does does everybody owning property equate to nobody owning property? How does local control equate to centralized control? I really feel caught in some sort of Orwellian use of language here. What, precisely, are the grounds of your objection? I have five posts on the subject; that ought to be ample grounds to find evidence of “socialism” if any existed.

    I can only guess that you object to property ever being confiscated. But then, after the civil war, not only was a lot of “property” confiscated, it was given citizenship. Do you object to that? If so, then there is nothing more to say, but if you don’t, then you must concede that in certain cases, the title to property may indeed be questioned. The truth is that gov’t is an enabler of the vast concentrations of wealth, concentrations which now control the gov’t. The only solution is either for the gov’t to reverse course and break up the concentrations, or to have a revolution. I prefer the former path rather than the later. But I know the current system cannot continue; it is simply unsustainable. The results of revolution are unpredictable, to say the least. We should at least give rational action a go.

  29. John, I agree with the bulk of your diagnostic work. Which is why I find it so suprising that you could put faith in a redistributive solution. Have you ever known the central state to voluntarily relinquish power? If there is any point of departure for me from economic distributism, it is that I hold that the wide distribution of power is prior to and politically more basic that the wide distribution of property. Distribution of property is, to my mind, a means to the end of distribution of power. If we live at the pleasure of a redistributive state, we cede all power to a central state, even if they are doling out property in a more or less egalitarian manner. I don’t agree with your two solution binary, at least not if you are using revolution in its most literal, violent sense.

    It is still possible for men of spunk to acheive their share of distributive power and property in this country, throwing off the various yokes of the management classes and becoming defenders of thier places of belonging and membership. As a witness to this, I can testify that the biggest obstacle to this remains the central state. Turning this project over to the enemy is what strikes me as truly Orwellian.

  30. Caleb, that’s an argument about means, not ends. I do object to a redistributive state, but in a capitalist society, that’s the only state that works, which is why every capitalist state has become Keynesian; the capitalist system simply cannot distribute enough purchasing power to keep the economy going for another season. That’s simply the history of capitalism, which has always been unstable without intervention from the state.

    The point of distributism is to make the redistributive state unnecessary. Power follows property, as Daniel Webster noted. That is why I think you are working at the wrong end: the political power will be responsive to the propertied power, not the other way around. Real political democracy requires real economic democracy. We have put our faith in the ballot box, but that has resulted in an oligarchy, not a democracy.

    Can gov’t do it? Unlikely, but possible. They did it in Taiwan, where the gov’t deliberately eroded its own power base by distributing property. Starting with economic democracy, they achieved (more or less) political democracy.

  31. I agree that power follows property. The rub is, I suppose, what you mean by property. A federal stipend for family leave is not property proper, but yet another leash keeping one trained to the leash holder through a cash nexus and keeping one incapable of growth into a free man morally capable of being a property holder. If people are fools and morally incapable of being property holders, no system of distribution will help as power and property will be siphoned and arrogated one way or another to the swindlers and ambitious marauders and razzle-dazzle men. It appears to me that you and many distributists have not taken adequate stock of the insight of the anarcho-capitalists that these men have coopted the language of distributism to strengthen a central state which keeps men in their state of foolishness.

  32. You know, Stegall’s point here is good, old-fashioned common sense. Why Medaille can not see it is beyond me. I will never understand the liberal mind!
    Businessmen may have stolen, cheated, or defrauded me but no businessman will ever put me in the Gulag or a concentration camp! Hello!!

  33. Caleb, I agree that it is not a property; it is an income. But the question is what do you do today to strengthen the family within the confines of a capitalist/statist system? We cannot make the best the enemy of the good. While working for the ultimate best, we must also address the immediate good. We cannot tell families “parental care must wait until the revolution!” No, we have to deal with the problem in the short-term as well as the long. I would assert that the needs of families are superior to the needs of business, whether in the short or long term.

    Bob, the gov’t may put you in jail, but the gov’t is controlled by big business. For example, Monsanto claims a “property right” even in natural products, and should you use those products, even if they propagate naturally on your own land, they will put you in jail for the crime of picking your own fruit and planting your own seed. Of course, Monstanto’s name won’t be on the jail, but it might as well be.

  34. Can someone talk more about Taiwan? I’ve heard it cited before an an example of successfully achieving a propertied state.

    Belloc said in “The Restoration of Property” that at this late stage of the game, the government had done such damage that the only hope is to harness the power of the government reverse the damages. As I recall, he thought property could be restored by virtue of a tax structure that favors property and discourages consolidation of same. I think it is true that a better tax system could help on the fringes. Given the current climate, in which the big concerns are so deeply vested influential in the political system, this solution doesn’t appear likely. Again, we are back to a) a radical cultural shift in which the people change their lives and commit to a different way of doing things, or b) pushing for the powers that be to exercise and even expand their power to better realize some of the ideals that are in concert with church teachings or distributist principles, etc. But option b will never be enough to bring about a propertied state because those in charge would have to cede too much real power and property. This bring us back to Taiwan. How did they do it, if in fact they did?

  35. Mark: The epigraph to my forthcoming book “God’s Economy” is from Lacordaire: “Between the strong and the weak, it is liberty that oppresses and the law that brings freedom.” He was referring to the battle to protect laws against work on the Sabbath. We will never have a minimal state without social laws until people are protected in some other way. I don’t see how individual moral reform (of consumption and the like) can achieve that for people–the majority–who have no real property or other economic independence.
    Until we broaden the productive property base (perhaps impinging on the “natural rights” of the strong,in Lacordaire’s terms) we will have (and people will vote for) a comprehensive welfare state. Lacking protection through their own resources and bargaining power, people will naturally seek protection by joining with others in the same condition to establish basic forms of regulation and compensatory relief. Consuming less or making other “hard choices” can improve household conditions in the margins, but surely you don’t think there is so much excess and decadence in ordinary American life that simply curtailing the excess is enough to create a whole new world of economic independence. You are right to argue that personal reform is essential, but I think you underestimate why it is not sufficient. What would you have had people do to protect themselves before we had labor laws?

  36. For what it’s worth — which may not be much — I’d have to say, as an observer open to both general views being argued, that (1) Lew and (2) John got the better of (1) Mark and (2) Bob and Caleb respectively in this exchange. My two cents is that we’re never going to get the political changes that John and Bob would like to see without the cultural changes that Mark and Bob and Caleb (and Lew and John) would like to see, and that we’re not going to see the cultural changes that everyone would like to see without the political changes that Lew and John would like to see. Lew and John’s political changes will never reach critical mass without a cultural sea-change accompanying them (to mix metaphors). But it’s also true that the cultural changes we’d all like to see will never reach critical mass without political sea-change accompanying them. Maybe the problem here is that everyone involved is making arbitrary and unsupportable distinctions among culture, politics, and economics.

  37. A fine comment, Lew. I think you are building into Lacordaire’s quote a distinction between “liberty” and “freedom” that reflects your preferred usage, but which isn’t necessarily there, but that’s a small point. What you have to say overall makes great sense. Benjamin’s gloss on the whole discussion, however, is a trenchant one: in the mix of culture, politics, and economics, is there any true, single starting point for reform? I doubt it, and I assume the very fact of this web site disputes it, since the Front Porch Republic is can tolerate, so long as they have a localist bent, Christian socialists and anarcho-capitalists alike.

  38. I was reluctant to dive into this save a couple of questions. I come at this from a very pragmatic angle. There is no way in which, in principle, I am opposed to any of this. People getting paid parental leave is a good thing, so is watching minor league baseball, or the Outlaw Josie Wales. Now the question is this: The entitlement system we have today,is unsustainable. We will not have enough funds within a generation to sustain social security and medicare. We have a soaring national debt that will take more and more of the budget to maintain. How will new programs be paid for? In what sense does proposing new entitlements work against the very concept of restraint and limits? (In the here and now in the good ol’ U.S.A.)

    I think Russell is right that there must be space for reform politically even though reform cannot be successful solely on a political level. The problem is the manner of reform. What many here advocate is really no more than social democracy in overalls (Not necessarily a bad thing, I have a respect for both), and not the “third way” many others had hopped for. There is no “third way”, in the real world we are always living and advocating messy mixed economic systems to meet human needs.

    It seems, given the Front Porch crowds proclivities, that the mix out to be sustainable and mindful of existing obligations and yet there has not been any discussion of the possible ways that this proposal would be problematic given those criteria. Instead we have abstract philosophical debate on the nature of the state. This liberal is bemused.

  39. To tie up some loose ends raised by Benjamin, Russell, and Dan:

    Benjamin asked about Prime Minister Rudd and social conservatism. Actually, Rudd got in a lot of hot water with the left in Australia for at least one stance he took–against nude photography of adolescents (which became an issue several times in 2008). I don’t know all the details, but Australia being a very secular country, the left is probably quite a bit more secular than our Democrats. Nevertheless, Rudd, Labor’s leader, said he was “revolted” by such photography and he was attacked for censorship by Cate Blanchett and other artists.

    I’ll also add this: of the many Republicans I know who voted for Obama, the turning point for virtually all of them was his speech on fatherhood, the one he gave in a Chicago church. In a sense it was a turning point for me as well, giving me hope about this work of developing a new cultural politics of family support. And for all the power Democrats have built up in Washington since 2006, I don’t see a powerful secular tide sweeping across the government and certainly not the courts. Many on the cultural left are somewhat vexed by Obama, to say the least.

    Russell, I completely agree that the struggle for family and community does not begin with one kind of change more than another–political vs. cultural, etc. I am neither a materialist nor an idealist when it comes to social change. Culture, politics, and the economic system shape our lives multi-dimensionally, and not always in the same direction. France has an abundance of family-friendly policies but a highly secular, even anti-religious culture. The U.S. public has a strong cultural protectiveness toward young children, yet our children generally fare worse on basic welfare indicators than children in other advanced countries.

    Dan raises the problem of new entitlements, even for family support. As I stated in an earlier comment, I do not necessarily want a new entitlement for family leave, and, in general, I agree that we cannot continue on the course of adding new public benefits to compensate for every market failure and degradation. Instead, family leave should be part of labor law, like wage and hour rules. We have huge inequalities in our private pay structures that could be flattened painlessly to finance such an employee benefit. Does our upper class of large shareholders and executives really need to live in exorbitant, often grotesque material luxury, while only affluent mothers can afford the apparent “luxury” of staying home to care for a newborn baby? There is no economic evidence suggesting that such inequality of income is necessary, and much evidence suggesting that, in fact, it is extremely harmful (for the ratchet effects it exerts on others’ consumption). More importantly, on Christian principles, such inequality does not even register on the spectrum of normal sin and possible virtue. It is gravely, even demonically, wrong.

  40. “…I agree that we cannot continue on the course of adding new public benefits to compensate for every market failure and degradation. Instead, family leave should be part of labor law, like wage and hour rules. We have huge inequalities in our private pay structures that could be flattened painlessly to finance such an employee benefit. Does our upper class of large shareholders and executives really need to live in exorbitant, often grotesque material luxury, while only affluent mothers can afford the apparent “luxury” of staying home to care for a newborn baby? There is no economic evidence suggesting that such inequality of income is necessary, and much evidence suggesting that, in fact, it is extremely harmful (for the ratchet effects it exerts on others’ consumption). More importantly, on Christian principles, such inequality does not even register on the spectrum of normal sin and possible virtue. It is gravely, even demonically, wrong.”

    A tip of the hat to the FPR editorial board. By publishing the above expression of radical statist doctrine, they’ve indicated their belief in the concept of free speech. That’s a good thing!
    My question centers on the variety of political ‘visions’ that the contributors have for the FPR. What is to be the form of gov’t: the republic? A Social-Democracy?
    Who’s advocating what? We need essay/blogs on this theme, what will be the form of gov’t?

  41. “I agree that we cannot continue on the course of adding new public benefits to compensate for every market failure and degradation. Instead, family leave should be part of labor law, like wage and hour rules.”

    If we can’t continue adding new benefits why can we continue to add labor regulations? The only guarantee we get from changing labor law is that expenses will be cut (Including jobs in an economy that is hemorrhaging them already) or prices will be raised (Which will effect the unemployed and elderly on fixed incomes the worst).

    “We have huge inequalities in our private pay structures that could be flattened painlessly to finance such an employee benefit.”

    If this is how you want it financed why not just raise the top income tax rate to finance it? Why risk harming workers and the poor with labor regulations when we have a perfectly good graduated income tax with which to redistribute wealth?

  42. Dear Bob: I ask you directly: “Does our upper class of large shareholders and executives really need to live in exorbitant, often grotesque material luxury, while only affluent mothers can afford the apparent “luxury” of staying home to care for a newborn baby?”

    If not, what do you propose to do about it?

    Let me end my comments by quoting one of our few middle class Founders, Benjamin Franklin, on the question of property and public obligation (what Bob calls “statism.”)

    “All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”

  43. Dear Lew:

    In response to the following:“Does our upper class of large shareholders and executives really need to live in exorbitant, often grotesque material luxury, while only affluent mothers can afford the apparent “luxury” of staying home to care for a newborn baby?”

    “If not, what do you propose to do about it?”
    Very simply, how much a person earns, whether he/she is blue collar or corporate ceo, is none of my business, nor is it the business of the state, at least a state that advocaters republican virtues.
    Lew, do you really think the state should be sticking its nose into the question of wages…er, The Grand Thugee is doing that with Government Motors, but then he’s a epigonic Marxist.

    “Let me end my comments by quoting one of our few middle class Founders, Benjamin Franklin, on the question of property and public obligation (what Bob calls “statism.”)”
    Lew, I know you have a weak argument and you’re trying to frame the debate in your favor, but I really do resent it when ‘you people (you Arben,and John)’ try to speak for me. I think all of you are more intelligent than that, and it’s something of a disappointment.

    The definition for statism: “Concentration of economic controls and planning in the hands of a highly centralized government often extending to government ownership of industry (can you say, Government Motors?).” This definition is why I referred to you and John as epigonic Marxists.

    Re: the quote from Ben, that’s good! Old Ben can blow that out his ear, as far as I’m concerned; he was also a reprobate. However, my guess is you really don’t want to start quoting the founders in terms of supporting your Marxist principles on property ownership.

    For example, brother Madison, from the Virginia Convention:
    “It is sufficiently obvious, that persons and property are the two great subjects on which Governments are to act; and that the rights of persons, and the rights of property, are the objects, for the protection of which Government was instituted. These rights cannot well be separated. The personal right to acquire property, which is a natural right, gives to property, when acquired, a right to protection, as a social right.”

    “The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the law of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence.”
    -John Adams.

    “The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend on God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”
    -George Washington

    “Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.”
    -Samuel Adams

    “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death.”
    -James Madison

    “… whenever the Legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience … [Power then] devolves to the People, who have a Right to resume their original Liberty, and, by the Establishment of a new Legislative (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own Safety and Security, which is the end for which they are in Society.”
    -John Locke

    “All men are created equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights, of which they cannot, by any compact, deprive or divest their posterity; among which are the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing the obtaining of happiness and safety.”
    -George Mason
    and so on.

    Lew, I have not doubt that, or at least I want to think, that you, Arben, and John are ‘liberals’ because you each share a concern for the downtroddened. What you fellows fail to understand is history! Statism is a grotesque, observable, failure!
    If you want to help people the very best way is through voluntary and religious orgainizations that operate in the community. This act of voluntarism, of freely acting on our Christian obligation, will actually strengthen the FPR.

    I trust I’ve answered your query and please, feel free to join me in defending the virtues of the American republic.

  44. Mr. Daly,

    Thank you for a fine post and for your willingness to follow up in the comments section. Perhaps Franklin, when he wrote that bit, had recently been reading some scholastic theologians on public and economic ethics. Unlikely, I suppose, though the similarities are remarkable.

    Mr. Cheeks,

    Speaking as one who has a good deal of sympathy for your positions, I can say that your consistent and, alas, frequent refusal, in this and other postings, to engage your interlocutors’ arguments according to the dictates of rational dialogue and common courtesy is poisoning the well. Again–for emphasis–I speak as one sympathetic to many of your…impulses (I will not say arguments), and I do wish you would take the trouble to explain yourself rationally. Your habit of replacing clear and ordered discourse with “prophetic speech”–i.e. unqualified and un-defended labeling, name-calling, condescension and presumption–has taught me that I am now better off skipping over your comments in the hopes that someone else will explicate a position similar to yours with a greater measure of logic and courtesy.

    You have, of course, contributed worthwhile insights on occasion, but your circuits seem to fry when you run up against certain opinions you consider anathema. When this happens, please do everyone a favor by withholding comments that do nothing to advance the dialogue.

  45. Mr. Ford,

    Yes, I think it would be better for you to bypass any comments of mine. It is not my desire to upset you.

  46. Mr. Cheeks, I think the problem is that you do not distinguish between the immediate good and the ultimate one, and accuse of marxism those who seek to do what good they can under the system that exists. One may of course dispute what immediate steps ought to be taken; this is a prudential matter and there is ample room for disagreement. But, if you insist on labeling as a “Marxist” people who disagree with means you haven’t yet proposed, then there is indeed likely to be some resentment. Perhaps your answer is that in the short term, we should do nothing, and continue to let families labor under their corporate burden as best they can. I don’t know if that is your position; you haven’t shared it with us. All I do know is that anyone who disagrees in anyway with a position you haven’t stated is to be labeled a Marxist. Oddly enough, that tactic is less persuasive than you seem to think.

    Yet I wonder, once again, whether you are not making the perfect the enemy of the good, albeit a limited good. I do know that families need some help today, and shouting “commie” at anyone who tries to help may not be the help they need.

  47. John,

    In case you haven’t noticed, we’re on page two now! Perhaps, we should move on to future arguments.
    BTW, you might want to read my response to Lew, above,…slowly.
    And, I do apologize for referring to you, Lew, and Arben as “commies, Marxists, socialists, and liberals.” I’m not sure why this offends but in the future I’ll try the word “statist.” And, you may refer to me as an “anti-statist.” That should serve well and no one’s tender sensibilities will be offended.

    “All I do know is that anyone who disagrees in anyway with a position you haven’t stated is to be labeled a Marxist. Oddly enough, that tactic is less persuasive than you seem to think.”
    Actually, I’m not trying to be persuasive, rather I’m mocking a self righteousness and pomposity that I would not bother with at all if it weren’t for the fact that the result of the pernicious ideology advocated is social disorder and the loss of liberty.

    “Yet I wonder, once again, whether you are not making the perfect the enemy of the good, albeit a limited good.”
    John, I loved this. Good stuff, like philosophy and all (actually, I’m not quite sure what you mean). You might want to pursue this and I’ll respond with my observations on the psycho-pneumopathological breakdowns, disorders, and derailments related to statism.

    In all seriousness, I think “socialism, Marxism, ect” is a spiritual disorder. I’ll pray for you.

  48. “Actually, I’m not trying to be persuasive, rather I’m mocking a self righteousness and pomposity….”

    In my comment yesterday, I nearly included a preemptive warning against the inevitable “I’m not responding rationally because your arguments are so stupid they don’t deserve a rational response” response. God bless him–every party has to have at least one Mr. Cheeks.

    (As you can see, my morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I failed to follow my own advice about skipping over Mr. Cheeks’ comments.)

  49. Patrick,

    You read my comments because in your heart you are a seeker of the truth of things and you know I’m….well, you know. I understand, and welcome aboard. But hang on because when you get to a certain age you weary of all the lying, propaganda, and bullshit and it becomes a matter of just demanding the truth. If that troubles you, please bypass my comments, but I don’t think you’re going to be able to do that.

  50. And now, Mr. Cheeks, you have characterized your interlocutors as liars, propagandists, and bullshitters. Do you honestly think that such is the respect due any of the gentlemen who have written and dialogued so thoughtfully and honestly on this website?

    You are right about one thing, though: this discussion has gone terribly off course, and it is time to move on.

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