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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why Libertarianism is Stupid

Libertarians don't want "big government" interfering in private contracts. This creates certain problems for the libertarian.

Assume we have two people who wish to enter into a private contract. One of the two wants to sell himself into slavery to the other. According to libertarian principles, no one has a right to interfere in that contract.

Think I'm exaggerating? This is what the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy has to say about libertarianism
It wrongs an individual to subject her to non-consensual and unprovoked killing, maiming, enslavement, or forcible manipulation. (emphasis added)
Full-self ownership is sometimes thought to guarantee that the agent has a certain basic liberty of action, but this is not so. (emphasis in the original) For if the rest of the world (natural resources and artifacts) is fully (“maximally”) owned by others, one is not permitted to do anything without their consent—since that would involve the use of their property. For example, as a result of one's trespass on their land, one may become their slave. The protection that self-ownership affords is a basic protection against others doing certain things to one, but not a guarantee of liberty. (emphasis added) Even this protection, however, may be merely formal. A plausible thesis of self-ownership must allow that some rights (e.g., against imprisonment) may be lost if one violates the rights of others. Hence, if the rest of world is owned by others, then anything one does without their consent violates their property rights, and, as a result of such violations, one may lose some or all of one's rights of self-ownership. (emphasis added) This point shows that, because agents must use natural resources (occupy space, breathe air, etc.), self-ownership on its own has no substantive implications. It is only when combined with assumptions about how the rest of the world is owned (and the consequences of violating those property rights) that substantive implications follow.

Libertarianism is the philosophy of libertines and teenagers (but I repeat myself). It is incompatible with Catholic philosophy. Catholic philosophy views "ownership", in the strict sense, as an attribute of God - God owns all things because He created all things.

Libertiarianism directly contradicts the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The right to freedom is "unalienable" - I am not capable of entering into a contract of slavery, on either side. But libertarianism must allow such a contract, or it isn't libertarianism.

Every human individual is, at most, a steward of one or more created goods. Strictly speaking, in Catholic philosophy, we don't own anything.  Our lives revolve around the rights that flow from being appointed a steward and exercising stewardship, they do not flow from ownership. Thus, the core concept of libertarianism is fundamentally incompatible both with being an American and with being a Catholic.

Most libertarians can't even define the word.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Politics of Greed

Seen on the Web:

The "that guy has more than us" narrative is getting old. Stop adding up the wealth of the poor to "prove a point," because it's misleading. Here's why.
If you have a net worth of just $1, you have more wealth than 2,000,000,000 people COMBINED. How? Because "if you take the bottom 30% of the world’s population — the poorest 2 billion people in the world — their total aggregate net worth is not low, it’s not zero, it’s negative. To the tune of roughly half a trillion dollars. My niece, who just got her first 50 cents in pocket money, has more money than the poorest 2 billion people in the world combined."[1]
That same $1 makes you richer than 40% of Americans,[2] who combined have a net of $0. Between 20%-25% of Americans have negative net worth,[3] while the 2nd quintile's meager net worth offset the 1st's negative worth to a balance of $0.
Now consider this: of the global poorest decile (bottom 10%), Americans make up 10% of that, while less than 1% of the poorest are from China [4, Page 12, Figure 7], a country where the majority of the people could only dream of being as well off as the poorest Americans. That's right, 10% of Americans are worth less than a poor person from China! How could that be? Because while the poor in China have next to nothing, over 20% of Americans have LESS than nothing.
Why is that? Think about this: a typical 18 year old kid who is working for minimum wage at McDonald's has more wealth than a typical 27 year old doctor. Because that doctor is fresh out of medical school, with an average of $170,000 in student loans. Before his first paycheck, car payment, or rent, that doctor has a net worth of negative $170,000 [5]. Who would you rather be, a min-wage fast-food worker with $0 net worth, or a young doctor with negative net worth?
Point is, adding up the wealth of a large number of poor people for comparison is misleading. They should just come out and say it: "I'm jealous that someone else has more than me."
You know what they say about people living in glass houses. Yes, those 62 people live in really huge glass houses, but you live in one too. By you, I mean someone privileged enough to have access to a computer and/or mobile device to access Facebook. Because as you point to that 1-percenter, saying "that's excessive," 2,000,000,000 people in the world could do the same to you.

Monday, January 25, 2016

An Open Letter to Donald Trump Supporters

To Donald Trump supporters:

Donald Trump said you would be fine with him murdering someone in the street. He could shoot someone in the street, and you would still support him.

That's what Trump thinks you are.

And if you continue to support him after he says that...

...then that is, in fact, what you are.

Trump has been bought by his own money.

When he invests millions in the Clinton Foundation, he HAS to make sure the Clintons stay in power or he has lost millions on a bad investment.

He has invested millions in the Democrat party and its principles. He can't afford to lose that money.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pope Benedict vs. Traditional Catholics

Your Holiness, please at least acknowledge that the sacraments and discipline we adhere to was the universal norm of the Catholic Church for many, many centuries until the rupture of the Second Vatican Council.-- Kenneth Wolfe, Rorate Caeli contributor and "traditionalist"

... it must be stated that Vatican II is upheld by the same authority as Vatican I and the Council of Trent, namely, the Pope and the College of Bishops in communion with him, and that also with regard to its contents, Vatican II is in the strictest continuity with both previous councils and incorporates their texts word for word in decisive points.-- Benedict XVI as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Ratzinger Report
The Second Vatican Council was the product of the pre-Vatican II Church. It was called by, populated by and approved by essentially all the pre-Vatican II bishops in the world.

Thus, according to "traditionalists," the traditional Latin Mass leads to rupture in the Church. 
We certainly know it leads them to directly contradict Pope Benedict.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Income Inequality and Human Dignity

God bless the secularists, but they are completely at sea. They are trying to resolve the problem of human dignity and income inequality, but their solutions are, to put it nicely, just stupid.

Some of them recognize that work confers dignity, so they insist that we must get everyone working. While that is correct as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough. Why does work confer dignity? Because the Judeo-Christian God is unique in being the God Who Works. Out of all the gods of the ancient, only Yahweh works in the clay of the earth, only He forms things out of nothing. Only He institutes a day of rest after His labors. He is the God Who Work.  We are made in His image and likeness. Our work gives dignity to us precisely because our dignity is a splinter, a reflective shard of the divine dignity.

In the same way, God is rich and He gives freely of His riches to every person. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. But neither the just not the unjust can forcibly wrest the rain from the sky and redistribute it as they see fit. God gives freely from his own wealth, physical goods to care for physical needs, spiritual goods (grace) for spiritual needs. You will see why this matters later in the essay.

Economic conservatives understand that work confers dignity, but they don't understand why. Thus, these same economic conservatives tend to insist on two diametrically opposed ideas: everyone must have a job AND faith must be a private sphere practice, separated from the public sphere. What they don't realize is this: such a scheme doesn't result in dignity, it results in slavery.

If God is stripped from the public sphere, if we aren't allowed to place our public work into the context of a public faith, then our public work must, necessarily, be strictly utilitarian. And therein lies the problem. Talking about empowering the people is all nice and good, but by definition, 50% of the population has an IQ below 100. You can empower that half of the population all day long and twice on Sunday, and they still won't have anything meaningful, in a utilitarian sense, to contribute to society. All of their work skills have been taken over by machines. They are now superfluous. They have no dignity and work can never give them dignity because they can perform no physically useful work.

Remember, in a Christian society, work confers dignity because we, through our work, imitate God, and everyone can imitate God. In a utilitarian society, work only confers dignity if the work is useful. How does this play out in real life?

Well, take, for instance, suffering. In the Christian scheme, anyone who suffers is participating in the Cross of Christ. Jesus is the God Who Works. The Cross of Christ is the work that redeemed the world. Thus, every suffering person is materially contributing to the salvation of the world. Since everyone suffers at some time in their lives, no one can be considered unworthy of dignity, no one can ever be considered superfluous. In the Christian scheme, every person is important because every person can do meaningful work, even if that work is only to lie in a sickbed and endure the suffering that ultimately kills him. That work is important, meaningful, worthwhile, more important than the work of the doctors and nurses who try to save him.

But for utilitarians, it is not so. For utilitarians, the work of suffering is not considered work at all. It accomplishes no good, in fact, it is an evil that must be wiped out. The suffering of the man in the bed is useless suffering. The work of the doctors and nurses, if not successful in saving the man's life, is so much wasted effort. If we cannot end the suffering, then we should end the person who suffers, so as to wipe out the wasted effort and eliminate the unnecessary suffering. A person only has worth and dignity insofar as that person does not suffer. And, since everyone suffers, everyone is potentially a target for the ravening genocide of utilitarian society.

So, yes, the idea that work establishes dignity is the general point of Catholic teaching for millennia, and the concern enunciated by Pope Francis specifically since the beginning of his pontificate. But when he uses the word "work", he doesn't mean what utilitarians think he means.

The Pope understands that we live in a utilitarian age, where one's worth to society is largely measured by one's net worth. In such a society, income inequality is a huge concern. The lower a person's net worth, the less dignity that person has. Economic liberals resolve this by trying to give everyone an equal net worth (income redistribution). Economic conservatives resolve this by insisting that all people be given jobs, so they all have the potential to become rich (read "have dignity").

Both groups are fundamentally insane. Just as it is impossible to give everyone physically utilitarian work, so it is impossible to assign dignity by forcibly taking one person's wealth in order to reassign it to someone else. When we take someone's wealth, we also take away their ability to image the living God. God gives freely. He gives us resources so that we can also give freely, in imitation of Him. If our wealth is taken from us, so is our ability to imitate this aspect of God.

If we recognize that wealth is not a sign of dignity, then income inequality is actually not a problem at all. In 1800, everyone lived in the same box of low income and low health (see Hans Rosling's Youtube video, 200 Years in 4 Minutes). Now no one lives in that box. There was essentially no income inequality for most of human history, and for most of human history everyone died young and died poor. Now there is a lot of income inequality, but everyone dies old and - by comparison to 1800 - rich. The problem isn't income inequality, it is dignity inequality.

In the essentially religious endeavor of recognizing human dignity, work (defined as Catholics define it) has a role to play. When God is stripped from human existence, work (as anyone defines it) becomes utilitarian and can no longer be used as a gauge (see the IQ problem above).

If society won't allow religion in the marketplace, then we have to figure out some other way of recognizing the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. But, without religion in the marketplace, without a spiritual economy to balance the physical economy, monetary economics is never going to resolve the problem of dignity inequality. Not even close.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Why Homosexuals Are Poor

Because Andy Rooney doesn't know how to read Scripture?

First, the largest charitable organization in the world is the Catholic Church - it has fed more people than anyone in history, with the possible exception of Norman Borlaug. It has certainly housed and clothed more people in history, even including Mr. Borlaug.

Second, the two things are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to work towards treating mental illnesses, such as homosexual proclivities, while also feeding and clothing the poor. Thus, the Catholic Church has ALSO created and maintained more hospitals, nursing homes and hospices than any organization in history (e.g., the Catholic Church has more AIDS hospices than any other organization in the world).

Third, the physical works of mercy are paired with the SPIRITUAL works of mercy: instructing the ignorant, correcting the sinner, etc. From the Catholic perspective, it is absurd to do only one without doing the other.

Fourth, the physical works of mercy are interpreted by the Fathers of the Church as correlating to SPIRITUAL works of mercy. Thus, the command to "feed the hungry" doesn't JUST mean give them physical food, it ALSO means teaching them the Gospel in order to satisfy their spiritual hunger.

Fifth, by the Catholic definition of poor that obtained up through 1800, there ARE NO MORE POOR PEOPLE. No one is as poor today as EVERYONE was in 1800.

Sixth, God tells us that we ARE our brother's keeper, so we MUST not only feed the poor physically, but ALSO correct the sinner. Anyone who reads Scripture would know that.

So, Andy Rooney is wrong at least six different ways.