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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Christie's problems - further thoughts vs Obama

Christie is accused of - horrors! - being political! And using his power to punish political rivals - not that some mayor of Fort Lee, NJ, is any kind of real rival. Note that I am not defending Christie, but he is a politician, and it is fairly traditional in human history to use one's political power in such ways. It's not good - but it's not really unexpected. Would that our politicians were all decent, ethical people.

Yet, compare what he did to the way Obama has used the IRS. We are talking about the virtually all-powerful money collecting arm of the US government, on which depends the financial solvency of the nation and the collection of TRILLIONS of dollars.

The IRS has systematically targeted political rivals and organizations that are at odds with the Obama administration.

This has gone one for YEARS, lots of Obama's political rivals have suffered, it involves politics at the highest levels and political punishments of the most insidious kind.

Christie's state officials closed a lane of the George Washington Bridge.

Let me tell you, I commuted from NJ to NY for virtually the entire Clinton administration and for part of Obama's. Whenever either of those guys was in NY, traffic got snarled. Every time. It didn't matter where in NY they were or if they used the Hudson River crossings or even when.

Also, NJ representives in Washington are "auditing" the Christie administration and their use of federal money after hurricane Sandy. The timing is noteworthy. Is not Democrat Representative Frank Pallone engaging in activities that could be called political punishment? Don't kid yourself - they moan about how terrible Christie is for punishing political rivals and engange in that very activity themselves in retaliation. Maybe it's justice in a certain sense - but I would say it's kind of like playground justice and not anything becoming our civil "leaders."

Oh, and let's not forget that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, former Obama Chief of Staff, banned any new Chick-Fil-A stores from opening in his fifedom. That's not a political reprisal?

This is all modern ethics in action. It's not bioethics per se. But it reflects the state of our society's capacity for ethical thinking.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Obama vs Christie, or Benghazi vs the GW Bridge

I am only a lukewarm fan of Gov. Christie, and I speak as a resident of the governor's state. What I mean is, I am not going to defend the guy with any kind of vigor if he gets himself into trouble. In fact, I'm actually somewhat relieved that heir-apparent Hillary Clinton may have to face someone else in 2016.

I do find it strange, though, that lane closures and snarled traffic - I hear there may have been a death related to it on account of traffic delaying emergency medical services - as a political punishment is causing him so much difficulty. And this after he basically ensured NJ would vote for Obama after hurricane Sandy - not that NJ would have voted otherwise, but I believe it would have been way closer. This scandal may END his political career!

Within days of this news coming out, the Federal Prosecutor (read: Obama lackey - or perhaps a Hillary lackey!) has launched an investigation. Heads are beginning to roll already, with Christie firing the staff member behind the lane closures.

In constrast, our consulate in Benghazi - legally the equivalent of US territory - was attacked and burned and our citizens killed, with evidence suggesting the knowledge and intentional inaction by our State Department and perhaps even our president. He paraded the Ambassador to the UN - as if that's the person who would know - to float the bogus story that it was due to a ridiculous video that was "insulting" to Islam. At any rate, the response by our government was to do virtually NOTHING.

Our nation gets attacked, people are murdered by our enemies, there's a clear cover-up, and Obama gets re-elected.

Then, when Gen. Petraeus is set to testify, he suddenly gets embroiled in a sex scandal and for personal reasons cannot testify.

Then, when Sec. Clinton is set to testify, she suddenly "falls" and "hits her head" right behind one of her ears - fairly severely it seems, almost as if someone hit her with a blunt instrument - and has to delay her testimony. And then she gives the party line.

And now, a year and a half later, there still hasn't been any kind of real investigation into these affairs.

And Obama's career hasn't ended.

Bad traffic versus an attack on our territory. No way does someone who punishes a local politician deserve to become president! But, allow a hostile force to attack our country? Sure! Elect the guy!

It's interesting. I may just be a little paranoid by nature, but I believe what we are witnessing is a classic example of "discredit your rivals by accusing them of the exact thing you're doing." Politically punish your rivals by accusing them of the dishonorable act of punishing their political rivals. Use Nazi tactics to accuse them of being Nazis. Bully them through accusing them of bullying others.

We as a nation have lost our ability to think clearly and ethically.

If Christie is guilty, then shame on him, and his career should probably end. But what of Obama? Where's our nation's ethical compass with regard to him?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Gifts for Atheists?

At Fox News, William Lane Craig has an article titled, "A Christmas Gift for Atheists: Five Reasons Why God Exists." While as a Catholic theologian I agree with Mr Craig's reasoning, I disagree with him that these arguments will well received by atheists.

Let me summarize his arguments.

The first reason is, "God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe." This argument relates well to St Thomas' famous First Cause, Prime Mover, and Necessary Agent arguments. A universe full of things and motion that do not need to exist of themselves, and indeed cannot, suggests that there is a transcendent, all powerful Creator. Science cannot offer a better explanation. Prominent and brilliant atheists will respond, "Yet." That is, science cannot offer a better explanation yet. And such atheists already propose a kind of circularity of time and space that they believe circumvents the need for a First Cause (a la Stephen Hawking in A Brief History of Time).

The second reason is, "God provides the best reason for the fine-tuning of the universe," which relates to St Thomas' Fifth Way, pertaining to the governance of the universe. In addition to harmony, St Thomas adds that things both sentient and non-living act towards ends that are reasonable, as if there were some intelligent participant in the events of the universe. Atheists poo-poo this and reduce it to obedience to physical laws and evolution.

The third is, "God provides the best explanation of objective moral values and duties," which I basically agree with. Without God, there is no objective morality possible - it all reduces to subjective goals and judgments of "good." I have argued this many times; just search "atheism" or "atheist" on this blog to see. To a certain extent, this third reason relates to St Thomas' Fourth Way, that of the gradation of things - we see goodness in everything, but there must be something that is perfectly good, goodness itself, in which all good things participate in some way. But the atheist could say that there doesn't have to be an objective moral order or an objective perfect good, as long as we have laws and we all try to get along. And therein, for me, lies the problem. Because "law" is malleable by those in power, and so it becomes a matter of might making right and tyranny. Atheism ends in tyranny - or at best, anarchy.

The fourth reason is, "God provides the best explanation of the historical facts concerning Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection." While I agree with this statement, I don't think I'd find it especially compelling if I were an atheist. After all, only if the apostles had a firm conviction of the resurrection of Jesus would they do what they did - no one invites persecution and poverty, torture and death, unless one holds firmly as true the thing that is ticking people off. But the atheist could say, "Maybe they were just insane." It's convenient and it also explains the facts, and since they hold as a premise that God does not exist, it is the only explanation that actually fits the facts.

The fifth reason is, "God can be personally known and experienced." Yes, but unless an atheist personally experiences God, he will not give any credence to those who claim to have personally experienced God. And if he does personally experience God, he is likely to attribute some other cause to the experience, something that could be explained by science, if science had the right instruments and knowledge to figure it out.

So although I agree with Mr. Craig and hope and pray he has good results with this approach, I think it may not really work as well as he believes it may. After all, atheists have been dealing with St Thomas' Five Ways for about 800 years now, and Mr. Craig doesn't really advance the argument in a compelling way.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

More on the economic - and ethical - consistency between Francis and his predecssors

It turns out I was right - here's something from Ethica Politica that quotes Benedict XVI, writing while he was Cardinal prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Nothing particularly new here. I missed it because it wasn't a papal document while he was pope, and so it didn't show up in my search of the Vatican website for "capitalism."

The writings of Cardinal Ratzinger appeared as a 1985 symposium titled, Church and Economy in Dialogue. It features other cardinals and a speech by John Paul II to the symposium participants.

You can find it here: http://ordosocialis.de/pdf/lroos/K%20u%20W%20in%20Dialog/dialoenga4neu.pdf

It is worth reading by anyone who wants clarity as to whether the Church supports any particular economic theory. In short: Without the participants in an economy acting morally - with virtue and ethical standards that consider the big picture of "we're all human beings and we're all in this together" - ANY economic system will be fraught with injustice and exploitation.

And that is the common thread of magisterial texts on the subject, and with which Pope Francis is very much in line.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pope Francis vs His Predecessors on Capitalism, Part 2

So yesterday we saw that ever since the birth of capitalism, the Popes and also the bishops (in the documents of Vatican II), have not ceased to point out the deficiencies of that economic philosophy. We heard from Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum - which is a long document only tiny parts of which were presented. There is much in there of relevance, cited by succeeding popes. We also heard from Pius XI, John XXIII, Vatican II, and Paul VI. Unbridled capitalism was understood as liberalism, not conservativism, and seen as the equally defective but opposite error as marxism/communism/socialism.

Now let us hear from John Paul II. 1991 was the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, and the occasion of him writing an encyclical on the topic, Centesimus Annus. Referring to Rerum Novarum, John Paul II writes:
[9]... A workman's wages should be sufficient to enable him to support himself, his wife and his children. "If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice". [The quote is from Rerum Novarum n.131.]
Would that these words, written at a time when what has been called "unbridled capitalism" was pressing forward, should not have to be repeated today with the same severity. Unfortunately, even today one finds instances of contracts between employers and employees which lack reference to the most elementary justice regarding the employment of children or women, working hours, the hygienic condition of the work-place and fair pay; and this is the case despite the International Declarations and Conventions on the subject and the internal laws of States. The Pope attributed to the "public authority" the "strict duty" of providing properly for the welfare of the workers, because a failure to do so violates justice; indeed, he did not hesitate to speak of "distributive justice".
John Paul II, the victim and enemy of Soviet Bloc communism, sounds a little Marxist himself in endorsing and reapplying this 100-year-old observations of one of his predecessors, doesn't he? Well, it would be a liberal error to say that if he criticizes capitalism, he must be a commie.
[33]... Many other people, while not completely marginalized, live in situations in which the struggle for a bare minimum is uppermost. These are situations in which the rules of the earliest period of capitalism still flourish in conditions of "ruthlessness" in no way inferior to the darkest moments of the first phase of industrialization. In other cases the land is still the central element in the economic process, but those who cultivate it are excluded from ownership and are reduced to a state of quasi-servitude. In these cases, it is still possible today, as in the days of Rerum novarum, to speak of inhuman exploitation. In spite of the great changes which have taken place in the more advanced societies, the human inadequacies of capitalism and the resulting domination of things over people are far from disappearing. In fact, for the poor, to the lack of material goods has been added a lack of knowledge and training which prevents them from escaping their state of humiliating subjection.
[35]...In this sense, it is right to speak of a struggle against an economic system, if the latter is understood as a method of upholding the absolute predominance of capital, the possession of the means of production and of the land, in contrast to the free and personal nature of human work. In the struggle against such a system, what is being proposed as an alternative is not the socialist system, which in fact turns out to be State capitalism, but rather a society of free work, of enterprise and of participation. [STATE CAPITALISM. You know, the people on the very top of the global economic food chain are capitalists. State capitalism is simply economic forces controlling the government, or vice-versa, but it amounts to the same. How many harsh capitalistic organizations - corporations - are run internally like communist dictatorships? An awful lot. What if every major industry in the US was privately held, but all held by one corporation and it dominated the government, what would the country be like? Probably a lot like Soviet communism. And consider that the US government is totally dependent upon the capitalistic Federal Reserve - you think the Fed cares if the government is socialist or not? Does it run on principles of free enterprise or on what is ultimately in its own best interest? Socialism is just "state capitalism" - a brilliant observation.] Such a society [the society of free work, etc., mentioned just before] is not directed against the market, but demands that the market be appropriately controlled by the forces of society and by the State, so as to guarantee that the basic needs of the whole of society are satisfied.
The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. [So the Church is not Marxist or against free enterprise.] When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. But profitability is not the only indicator of a firm's condition. It is possible for the financial accounts to be in order, and yet for the people — who make up the firm's most valuable asset — to be humiliated and their dignity offended. Besides being morally inadmissible, this will eventually have negative repercussions on the firm's economic efficiency. In fact, the purpose of a business firm is not simply to make a profit, but is to be found in its very existence as a community of persons who in various ways are endeavouring to satisfy their basic needs, and who form a particular group at the service of the whole of society. Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business.
We have seen that it is unacceptable to say that the defeat of so-called "Real Socialism" leaves capitalism as the only model of economic organization. It is necessary to break down the barriers and monopolies which leave so many countries on the margins of development, and to provide all individuals and nations with the basic conditions which will enable them to share in development. This goal calls for programmed and responsible efforts on the part of the entire international community. Stronger nations must offer weaker ones opportunities for taking their place in international life, and the latter must learn how to use these opportunities by making the necessary efforts and sacrifices and by ensuring political and economic stability, the certainty of better prospects for the future, the improvement of workers' skills, and the training of competent business leaders who are conscious of their responsibilities. ...
[39]... All of this can be summed up by repeating once more that economic freedom is only one element of human freedom. When it becomes autonomous, when man is seen more as a producer or consumer of goods than as a subject who produces and consumes in order to live, then economic freedom loses its necessary relationship to the human person and ends up by alienating and oppressing him.
40. It is the task of the State to provide for the defence and preservation of common goods such as the natural and human environments, which cannot be safeguarded simply by market forces. Just as in the time of primitive capitalism the State had the duty of defending the basic rights of workers, so now, with the new capitalism, the State and all of society have the duty of defending those collective goods which, among others, constitute the essential framework for the legitimate pursuit of personal goals on the part of each individual.
Here we find a new limit on the market: there are collective and qualitative needs which cannot be satisfied by market mechanisms. There are important human needs which escape its logic. There are goods which by their very nature cannot and must not be bought or sold. Certainly the mechanisms of the market offer secure advantages: they help to utilize resources better; they promote the exchange of products; above all they give central place to the person's desires and preferences, which, in a contract, meet the desires and preferences of another person. Nevertheless, these mechanisms carry the risk of an "idolatry" of the market, an idolatry which ignores the existence of goods which by their nature are not and cannot be mere commodities.
That's enough from Centesimus Annus. John Paul II makes his point pretty clearly. Economic activity must be at the service of authentic human goods, of which economic freedom - that is, the ability to engage in free enterprise - is only one, and not necessarily the most important. The profit motive has advantages - but it also has pitfalls that are dangerous. In being subordinate to other important goals of enterprise - that is to say, authentic human goods that can limit profitability - the desire for profits often sees these authentic human goods as unjust hindrances.

In Sollicitude Rei Socialis of 1987, he said, "The Church's social doctrine is not a "third way" between liberal capitalism and Marxist collectivism, nor even a possible alternative to other solutions less radically opposed to one another: rather, it constitutes a category of its own. Nor is it an ideology, but rather the accurate formulation of the results of a careful reflection on the complex realities of human existence, in society and in the international order, in the light of faith and of the Church's tradition. Its main aim is to interpret these realities, determining their conformity with or divergence from the lines of the Gospel teaching on man and his vocation, a vocation which is at once earthly and transcendent; its aim is thus to guide Christian behavior."

So, the Church looks at the Gospel, the authentic anthropology that situates man at the center of God's creation as His image, but a fallen image and prone to sin, and applies these to what she sees around her. Sin can affect economic activities and philosophies and whole systems. Capitalism and socialism both suffer from the effects of sin. The solution is not a third "economic system" but a moral, virtuous approach to human freedom in economic matters. This presupposes moral, virtuous persons as players in free economic activities. If economies and governments are to be just and virtuous, the people must be, too. Atheism - be it Ayn Rand capitalism or Marxist communism - cannot ensure anything but tyranny of those in power and exploitation of those without it.

You can find similar expressions of JP-II's thought in 1991's Laborem Exercens (sec.7; written for the 90th anniversary of Rerum Novarum); and in his address to the participants in the colloquium "Capitalism and Ethics" in 1992. He probably addresses the topic without using the term "capitalism" on many other occasions, but I searched for this particular term at the Vatican website.

Now let us turn to Benedict XVI. The Pope Emeritus has not addressed the term "capitalism" directly in a major doctrinal or pastoral document. He does say briefly the same sort of things as JP-II in a message for the World Day of Peace on January 1 of this year, in the midst of dealing with financial and banking troubles at the Vatican: "In effect, our times, marked by globalization with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man. It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism."

You can also find a very interesting paragraph that mentions a "reckless capitalism" in the context of a "technological Prometheanism" and an "atheistic anthropology" in an address to the participants in the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

So now has Pope Francis, as The Atlantic seems to think, identified a "new enemy" of the Church in capitalism? Francis definitely has a more emphatic style, he speaks more from and to the heart as opposed to the head, and I think he could use some help picking the right words. But it is clear that the substance is very much in line with the Church's perennial critique of capitalism.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pope Francis vs His Predecessors on Capitalism, Part 1

I am getting sick of all the so-called "conservative" Catholics and their dimwitted supporters in the comboxes lambasting Pope Francis for what he said in his recent Apostolic Exhortation.

If any of them read this blog and those words, they will undoubtedly think I'm a liberal. Well, all I can say is search the term "Obama" on this blog and see what turns up. Search "abortion." Search "tyranny." Go ahead, read them words, too.

I say "so-called" and "dimwitted" because they seem to think that John Paul II and Benedict XVI were capitalists. JP-II, OF COURSE, was a capitalist, they would say, because he grew up under and worked against the Communists in Poland! But it is a liberal fallacy that if you oppose one thing you must therefore support its direct opposite. If you oppose Social Security, you want to push Grandpa off a cliff in his wheelchair. If you oppose Obamacare, you want poor people to get sick and die. So here come "conservatives" saying that if JP-II opposed Polish Communism, he must therefore love capitalism.

Bull. JP-II did grow up under Communism and he did fight hard against it. His role in bringing down the Iron Curtain is underappreciated by the media. But what has he SAID about capitalism? Could it be, as I mentioned the other day, that capitalism, too, has its problems? That communism and capitalism stand as opposite extremes? One overemphasizes community and the other freedom, both of which are Christian values, but each when it is destructive of the other becomes destructive of human goods generally.

So I thought it might be useful to do what these brilliant pundits have failed to do, and conduct a little research. Here's what I did - and I suggest you do it, too. I went to the Vatican website and searched for the term "capitalism."

Let's start with Leo XIII and Rerum Novarum of 1891. EIGHTEEN NINETY ONE. That's the height of the industrial revolution, and 122 years ago. Old Man Potter was a bright young thing at the time. Communism and socialism was on the rise. And this document is contrary to socialism. The word "capital" appears only 5 times, and two of them are in the title and first heading. So, it condemns socialism in no uncertain terms - does it thereby endorse capitalism? Let Leo XIII speak for himself:
19. The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity. [He will go on to suggest that the perpetual conflict may be the fault of the bosses.] Now, in preventing such strife as this, and in uprooting it, the efficacy of Christian institutions is marvellous and manifold. First of all, there is no intermediary more powerful than religion (whereof the Church is the interpreter and guardian) in drawing the rich and the working class together, by reminding each of its duties to the other, and especially of the obligations of justice.

20. Of these duties, the following bind the proletarian and the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property, nor to outrage the person, of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles, who work upon the people with artful promises of great results, and excite foolish hopes which usually end in useless regrets and grievous loss. The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers - that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age. His great and principal duty is to give every one what is just. Doubtless, before deciding whether wages are fair, many things have to be considered; but wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this - that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain [what he means is pay people squat because you can, because they're poor and are desperate for work - they should be paid a living wage regardless of "market conditions"], and to gather one's profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. "Behold, the hire of the laborers... which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth."(6) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen's earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes? [In other words, greedy capitalists have only themselves to blame if they makeselves the adversaries of their workers, who are thereby driven to unionize and become socialists to be treated fairly.]

21. But the Church, with Jesus Christ as her Master and Guide, aims higher still. She lays down precepts yet more perfect, and tries to bind class to class in friendliness and good feeling. The things of earth cannot be understood or valued aright without taking into consideration the life to come, the life that will know no death. [In other words, there are eternal consequences to being an Old Man Potter.]
Let us move on to Pius XI and Quadragessimo Anno, published on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Rerum Novarum. Perhaps Pius XI has come to his senses, and endorsed capitalism? After all, it is now 1931, and Russia has been demonstrating the wondrous benefits of atheist socialism on a national scale for 14 years. Speak, O Pius XI:
[53. He cites Rerum Novarum on the interdependency of capital and labor.] Wherefore it is wholly false to ascribe to property [i.e., capital] alone or to labor alone whatever has been obtained through the combined effort of both, and it is wholly unjust for either, denying the efficacy of the other, to arrogate to itself whatever has been produced. [He thus condemns both extremes: unbridled capitalism and socialism/communism.]

54. Property, that is, "capital," has undoubtedly long been able to appropriate too much to itself. Whatever was produced, whatever returns accrued, capital claimed for itself, hardly leaving to the worker enough to restore and renew his strength. For the doctrine was preached that all accumulation of capital falls by an absolutely insuperable economic law to the rich, and that by the same law the workers are given over and bound to perpetual want, to the scantiest of livelihoods. It is true, indeed, that things have not always and everywhere corresponded with this sort of teaching of the so-called Manchesterian Liberals [HAH! Unbridled capitalism is LIBERAL!!!]; yet it cannot be denied that economic social institutions have moved steadily in that direction. That these false ideas, these erroneous suppositions, have been vigorously assailed, and not by those alone who through them were being deprived of their innate right to obtain better conditions, will surprise no one.

55. And therefore, to the harassed workers there have come "intellectuals," as they are called, setting up in opposition to a fictitious law the equally fictitious moral principle that all products and profits, save only enough to repair and renew capital, belong by very right to the workers. [Capitalism and communism--opposite errors, but equally errors, both of them. AND, if workers become marxists, it's because they have not been treated justly by the capitalists.] This error [communism], much more specious than that of certain of the Socialists who hold that whatever serves to produce goods ought to be transferred to the State, or, as they say "socialized," is consequently all the more dangerous and the more apt to deceive the unwary. It is an alluring poison which many have eagerly drunk whom open Socialism had not been able to deceive. ... 
58. To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice.

OK, so it's only 1931, we've only taken a look at one document from each of two popes, and so far, Francis seems to be in perfect alignment with them. Indeed, if Pius XI had said paragraph 58 today instead of in 1931, he'd be called a Marxist and Rush Limbaugh would be ripping what little hair he has out.

Let us skip over a few popes and decades to Blessed John XXIII and Mater et Magistra of 1961. Commenting on the economic conditions under which Leo XIII wrote Rerum Novarum, he said the following:
11. As is well known, the outlook that prevailed on economic matters was for the most part a purely naturalistic one, which denied any correlation between economics and morality. Personal gain was considered the only valid motive for economic activity. In business the main operative principle was that of free and unrestricted competition. Interest on capital, prices—whether of goods or of services—profits and wages, were to be determined by the purely mechanical application of the laws of the market place. Every precaution was to be taken to prevent the civil authority from intervening in any way in economic matters. The status of trade unions varied in different countries. They were either forbidden, tolerated, or recognized as having private legal personality only. 

12. In an economic world of this character, it was the might of the strongest which not only arrogated to itself the force of law, but also dominated the ordinary business relationships between individuals, and thereby undermined the whole economic structure

13. Enormous riches accumulated in the hands of a few, while large numbers of workingmen found themselves in conditions of ever-increasing hardship. Wages were insufficient even to the point of reaching starvation level, and working conditions were often of such a nature as to be injurious alike to health, morality and religious faith. Especially inhuman were the working conditions to which women and children were sometimes subjected. There was also the constant spectre of unemployment and the progressive disruption of family life. 

14. The natural consequence of all this was a spirit of indignation and open protest on the part of the workingman, and a widespread tendency to subscribe to extremist theories far worse in their effects than the evils they purported to remedy. ...
18. They concern first of all the question of work, which must be regarded not merely as a commodity, but as a specifically human activity. In the majority of cases a man's work is his sole means of livelihood. Its remuneration, therefore, cannot be made to depend on the state of the market. It must be determined by the laws of justice and equity. [Workers should be paid justly--not based solely on market forces. It would be exploitive to underpay people because they are desperate for work and income.] Any other procedure would be a clear violation of justice, even supposing the contract of work to have been freely entered into by both parties.
19. Secondly, private ownership of property, including that of productive goods, is a natural right which the State cannot suppress. But it naturally entails a social obligation as well. It is a right which must be exercised not only for one's own personal benefit but also for the benefit of others. [Your own property is not simply speaking your own--beause you simply speaking are not entirely autonomous. Your moral obligation is to use your property well--it's not so much that others have a legitmate say in what you do with it, as much as what your duty is. Just because it is left to your prudential judgment, that doesn't mean anything you choose to do is equally moral or equally satisfies that duty.]

20. As for the State, its whole raison d'etre is the realization of the common good in the temporal order. It cannot, therefore, hold aloof from economic matters. On the contrary, it must do all in its power to promote the production of a sufficient supply of material goods, "the use of which is necessary for the practice of virtue."
Now let's go to 1964 and the document from Vatical II called Gaudium et Spes:
[67]...Since economic activity for the most part implies the associated work of human beings, any way of organizing and directing it which may be detrimental to any working men and women would be wrong and inhuman. [this covers "any way" that dehumanizes the workers--that would include socialism as well as capitalism.] It happens too often, however, even in our days, that workers are reduced to the level of being slaves to their own work. This is by no means justified by the so-called economic laws. The entire process of productive work, therefore, must be adapted to the needs of the person and to his way of life, above all to his domestic life, especially in respect to mothers of families, always with due regard for sex and age. The opportunity, moreover, should be granted to workers to unfold their own abilities and personality through the performance of their work. Applying their time and strength to their employment with a due sense of responsibility, they should also all enjoy sufficient rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social and religious life. They should also have the opportunity freely to develop the energies and potentialities which perhaps they cannot bring to much fruition in their professional work. [Workers in justice deserve a living wage--and the opportunity to actually live outside the workplace. Now, it should be clear that capitalism gave us the 35-hour work week and 4 weeks of vacation for those high enough up the ladder--but it was also capitalism that has taken my 35-hour work week and made it 40 hours again, and which makes it 8.5 hours a day to get half a day off every other Friday during the summer months. Pretty much the whole world has an 8-hour day and a 40-hour week, and not the whole world is capitalistic.]

68. In economic enterprises it is persons who are joined together, that is, free and independent human beings created to the image of God. Therefore, with attention to the functions of each—owners or employers, management or labor—and without doing harm to the necessary unity of management, the active sharing of all in the administration and profits of these enterprises in ways to be properly determined is to be promoted. Since more often, however, decisions concerning economic and social conditions, on which the future lot of the workers and of their children depends, are made not within the business itself but by institutions on a higher level, the workers themselves should have a share also in determining these conditions.
A few years later, Paul VI published Populorum Progressio.  Under the heading "Unbridled Liberalism" (yes LIBERALISM!), he says:
26. However, certain concepts have somehow arisen out of these new conditions and insinuated themselves into the fabric of human society. These concepts present profit as the chief spur to economic progress, free competition as the guiding norm of economics, and private ownership of the means of production as an absolute right, having no limits nor concomitant social obligations.

This unbridled liberalism [!!!!] paves the way for a particular type of tyranny, rightly condemned by Our predecessor Pius XI, for it results in the "international imperialism of money."

Such improper manipulations of economic forces can never be condemned enough; let it be said once again that economics is supposed to be in the service of man.

But if it is true that a type of capitalism, as it is commonly called, has given rise to hardships, unjust practices, and fratricidal conflicts that persist to this day, it would be a mistake to attribute these evils to the rise of industrialization itself, for they really derive from the pernicious economic concepts that grew up along with it. We must in all fairness acknowledge the vital role played by labor systemization and industrial organization in the task of development.
OK, I'm gonna stop there for now. I'll get to JP-II and B-XVI in a future post, hopefully tomorrow.

But -- check this out -- unbridled capitalism in the minds of the mid-20th Century people who were living it -- is LIBERALISM. So what idea of liberalism is at work here? Only this: That "I" get to decide what is right and wrong, good and evil, and no one has the right to tell me otherwise. What is conservativism then? Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Overpopulation, schmoverpopulation

Check out this picture:


The majority of the people in the world live in a small section of it. Having lived in Wyoming for a few years and now living in the most densly populated state in the US, I have to say that people who live in cities have a distorted view of the population of the planet.

Source of the pic: http://twistedsifter.com/2013/08/maps-that-will-help-you-make-sense-of-the-world/