7.31.2008

politics can be like sports

Darwin has a great post up about political tribalism. Discussing his liberal friend's change of their opinion of John McCain, he writes
However, McCain has lost all his support from across the aisle because electoral politics is not just a matter of competing political philosophies -- it is also a matter of tribalism. While there are very real and important differences of political, moral and economic philosophy between the two major parties in America, the tribalism of party membership at times seems to have equal or greater force in fueling debate.
He's right - for politics is a human thing. When it comes down to it, we want our guys to win. It's very similar to sports. Yeah, you might like to see the underdog to put up a good fight, and you may even have limited respect for their particular virtues, but you still want your guys to win when it comes down to it. I would add to Darwin's point that this is something that is very human; it's not possible to create a society where this type of behavior does not, in some form, exist.

7.30.2008

philosophy football!

PBS had some hilarious Eric Idle stuff last night:



7.29.2008

BarackBook


The RNC has come out with this fun website to expose Barack Obama's record (lack-there-of).

Even if Facebook is evil, I love this method of advertising.

7.28.2008

high theology in Narnia

How does a servant of the devil (Tash) end up in heaven? One of Tash's servants tells his story..
"So I went over much grass and many flowers and among all kinds of wholesome and delectable trees till lo! in a narrow place between two rocks there came to meet me a great Lion. The speed of him was like the ostrich, and his size was an elephant's; his hair was like pure gold and the brightness of his eyes like gold that is liquid in the furnace. He was more terrible than the Flaming Mountain of Lagour, and in beauty he surpassed all that is in the world even as the rose in bloom surpasses the dust of the desert. Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek."

- C.S. Lewis, "The Last Battle"
The beauty of these words is heart-wrenching.

well?

http://www.isobamapresident.com

7.27.2008

Batman is not Machiavelli

The new Batman movie is excellent. Thomas Hibbs, writing for First Things, provides the most perceptive review I've read yet.

Contrary to Vox Nova's Morning's Minion, I do not think the film is an advertisement for the moral philosophy of consequentialism. Morning's Minion's desire to condemn evil is so great that it blinds him. He expects total perfection from his heroes. Batman is a good man, but like all other men, he is not God; he is not perfect. In his quest for justice, he makes mistakes - just like any other human being would. The director of this great film, Christopher Nolan, excels at portraying the great struggle a good man undergoes in facing off with evil. This does not justify the evil Batman does; rather, it makes Batman more human and more realistic. As a result, we can identify with him. More importantly, we are made aware of the dangers of pursuing justice with passion.

Thomas Hibbs gets it:
The title of the Nolan’s latest Batman film calls to mind medieval chivalry in a postmodern key. The dark knight embraces extraordinary tasks and fights against enormous odds; his quest is to restore what has been corrupted and to recover what has been lost. In so doing, he takes upon himself a suffering and loneliness that isolate him from his fellow citizens and inevitably court their misunderstanding and scorn. He is a dark knight, in part, because the world he inhabits is nearly void of hope and virtue, and, in part, because some of the darkness resides within him, in his internal conflicts between the good he aspires to restore and the means he deploys to fend off evil. Of the many filmmakers designing dark tales of quests for redemption, Christopher Nolan is currently making a serious claim to being the master craftsman.

7.24.2008

"Ask not"

George Will spoke today at the libertarian Cato Institute upon the event of the publication of his new book, One Man’s America. I was able to attend with my mother—it was a inspiring speech—and have a book signed for my father, who twice a week for as long as I can remember has chuckled as he read Will’s columns syndicated in the New York Post.

I don’t mind being a secondhand dealer in ideas, particularly being young and in the blogosphere, but it does seem a disservice to hack apart and reconstitute Will. Suffice to say he laid out differences between conservatism and libertarianism, had a great quip about Obama (“The rhetorical cotton candy, although fun to eat, is not nourishing”), and, at a time when personal responsibility, thrift and self-sufficiency—the stern virtues that are a prerequisite for democratic capitalism—are eroding in the face of the metastasizing entitlement mentality, offered an alternative. When JFK said ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ one sensible response is to “reserve a spacious portion of your own life for which you, not your country, are responsible.”

because latin looks more official

This is hilarious:



Note the Latin inscription in the center: Vero Possumus, which, I am to understand, roughly translates to "yes we can". It seems someone working for his campaign is exceedingly lame. Or maybe Obama is trying to recall America's Roman, republican roots?

7.22.2008

"mastermind of the neocons"

Leo Strauss' daughter defends her father:
Leo Strauss believed in the intrinsic dignity of the political. He believed in and defended liberal democracy; although he was not blind to its flaws, he felt it was the best form of government that could be realized, ''the last best hope.'' He was an enemy of any regime that aspired to global domination. He despised utopianism -- in our time, Nazism and Communism -- which is predicated on the denial of a fundamental and even noble feature of human nature: love of one's own. His heroes were Churchill and Lincoln. He was not an observant Jew, but he loved the Jewish people and he saw the establishment of Israel as essential to their survival.

...

The fact is that Leo Strauss also recognized a multiplicity of readers, but he had enough faith in his authors to assume that they, too, recognized that they would have a diverse readership. Some of their readers, the ancients realized, would want only to find their own views and prejudices confirmed; others might be willing to open themselves to new, perhaps unconventional or unpopular, ideas. I personally think my father's rediscovery of the art of writing for different kinds of readers will be his most lasting legacy.
Interesting!

7.21.2008

is it quote or quotation?

A rather random assortment of quotes concerning Christianity and Politics, from a book of the same name!
"We are all in some way aware that in this passing world it is not possible to realize the full measure of justice... Justice is, in a certain way, greater than man, than the dimensions of his earthly life. Every man lives and dies with a certain sense of insatiability for justice, because the world is not capable of satisfying fully a being created in the image of God."

- John Paul II, Pope, General Audience, Rome.
November 8, 1978

"What this really means, of course, is that political theory is not very 'evolutionary' at all. The ancients recognized quite clearly that corruption and decline were as much a part of its subject matter as growth and virtue. The very greatest thing the student today can be told is that we can be worse than our ancestors. We do not have to be better, nor are we necessarily so. If any generation of mankind does not at least know that, it is simply being deceived, or more properly, deceiving itself."

- Fr. James Schall, S.J., Christianity and Politics
1981

"No earthly pleasures, no kingdom of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the Earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire."

- St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr,
Letter to the Romans. 107 AD

"The Catholic Church, that imperishable handiwork of our all-merciful God, has for her immediate and natural purpose the saving of souls and securing our happiness in Heaven. Yet, in regard to things temporal, she is the source of benefits as manifold and great as if the chief end of her existence were to ensure the prospering of our earthly life."

- Leo XIII, Pope, Immortale Dei
All Souls' Day. 1885

Thanks, Father Schall.

7.18.2008

Howard Zinn and self-defeating pessimism

I am currently reading the ever-popular high school history text-book, "A People's History of the United States". The author, Howard Zinn, looks at American history through the lens of Marxist class-analysis, or class-warfare, as the case may be. So far, the history book has shown me that people have done, in word and deed, horrible things to each other. This is not a new idea to any Christian familiar with the doctrine of original sin, but perhaps it is shocking to secular humanists convinced by Rousseau and blinded by enlightenment confidence.

As interesting and depressing as Zinn's account can be, I cannot help but think something significant is lacking from Zinn's narrative. It is undoubtedly, doubt. Doubt that his narrative might be incomplete. A professor David Bobb of Hillsdale college hits the mark in his review for Claremont:
Zinn answers his own questions, of course, and he presents the Cold War as a struggle between "empires of influence." His interpretation is consistent with his ideology, in which moral and political differences (he berates Democrats almost as much as Republicans) are subsumed in class differences. In his tidy tale of how the rich hate everyone else, Zinn assumes the mantle of chief spokesman for the oppressed. He writes not so much from historical hindsight as from historical omniscience. A good historian will spur questions and prod his readers to investigate his claims. Zinn does neither, but instead makes students fearful, distrusting, and ultimately despondent about the possibility of patriotism. Instead of emboldening them to do noble things out of admiration for the great people and deeds they have studied, his book only serves to embitter them about America.
Has anyone else read this particular history? I think after reading a book like this, it is easy to adopt an attitude where you focus only on evil. A better attitude is one rejoices in what is good and rejects what is bad.

7.17.2008

Why do conservatives oppose "universal health care"?

Mr. Talbot asks the question.

I think it's easier to understand what conservatives think when our terms are more clearly defined. "Universal health care" is more properly defined as the governmental usurpation of the health care industry. Here are some of the reasons conservatives oppose this idea:
1. It will create a culture of dependency and entitlement that will hurt the already suffering spirit of charity.

2. It will take away our ability to choose our doctors - we will not be able to avoid going to bad ones.

3. It will remove all competition in the medical profession. No longer having to compete with each other, the quality of the health care doctors provide will decrease. There will be less innovation.

4. It won't work well - less people will receive the health care they need.

5. It will cost more money than we can afford, most likely seriously damaging our economy. It will increase our already progressive tax system to an insufferable point.

6. It will turn politics into more of a power grab than it already is. Politicians will control who gets care and who doesn't. This will create problems we cannot foresee.

7. It will further damage the natural bonds of the family by moving ultimate responsibility for medical care into the hands of irresponsible and uninterested bureaucrats.

8. It will necessarily result in the government paying for abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research, and even euthanasia.

9. It will undermine the rule of law. No where in the Constitution does it say the government should control the health care industry; such a policy is thus unconstitutional.
I know it's a sketchy, hastily written list, but I think it covers most of the basics. I would greatly appreciate additional reasons I may have missed or other corrections. Also, for those who would support such a policy: what's wrong with these reasons?

(I'd say a satisfactory conservative answer would require some serious political philosophy - most namely, a defense of the principle of federalism, mixed governments and separated powers. I also think the Catholic principle of subsidiarity applies. Decisions about health care ought to be made at a personal level. If the health care industry is taken over by the government, decisions will be made at the abstract and indifferent federal level. )
On education in New Hampshire:
TDR: You've done a lot to make school choice an issue in this campaign. Can you tell us a little about where you stand on this?

DC: I'm on the receiving end of the disaster known as the public education system in this state. Kids would come into my classroom at UNH, or when I taught at BU, fully unprepared to read and comment and think critically upon college-level texts. Every study that I've seen on testing kids K-12 shows they are becoming more and more dis-educated every year, and the argument has been they're becoming more and more dis-educated because there's not enough money spent on their education. When you look at per-pupil expenditure increases from 1973 to the present times, you see that, in real terms, per-pupil expenditures have increased 83.7%, and yet we're getting a worse product. I think the way we reverse that trend in education—and we'd better reverse that trend in education—is by understanding that there's no correlation between money spent and results achieved in education. We need to understand that the way that we're going to improve education is by allowing competition to find its way into the industry. Right now it's controlled by a monopoly of teacher unions and administrative unions and so forth, and we've got to bring power back to parents. The way that you do that is by allowing them to decide how their tax money is going to pay for their child's education.
Guess who?

7.16.2008

Nintendo's new gimmick

Nintendo has recently announced an accessory for their Wii console that significantly improves the motion control offered by the Wii remote. The accessory is basically a few extra accelerometers that attach to the bottom of the Wii remote. Via IGN:
The good news is that Nintendo is on the threshold of changing all of that once and for all thanks in whole to a little attachment that plugs into the bottom of your Wii remote. It's been coined MotionPlus, but we prefer to think of it as an integral ingredient -- that little something that's been missing from the Wii remote all along.

MotionPlus will come bundled with Nintendo's newly announced Wii Sports Resort, which ships next spring. No price point has been announced. The Big N pulled back the curtain on three games featured in the soon-to-be-gatrillion-seller, including Power Cruising (racing a jet ski a la Wave Race), Disc Dog, in which you throw a frisbee to a canine, and Sword Play, a sword-dueling component that has us excited for the future of the Zelda franchise. In short, MotionPlus is no joke and it's going to dramatically change the way Wii games are played. As an aside, Shigeru Miyamoto has already hinted that MotionPlus may be packed with all Wii remotes in the future.
My question is: why in the world was this not included with the Wii in the first place? It is unlikely the technology did not exist two years ago when the Wii was first released, and if they knew they could get the control response to be 1:1 (with your hand movements), why not do it right the first time around? This would have made the technology all the more impressive to the consumer and also allowed developers to produce higher quality games. Seems fishy to me.

That said, I think this accessory will make the Wii all the more successful.

the social market

An excellent lecture by the British philosopher Roger Scruton is available here. Titled "Röpke's Humane Economics: Lessons for the European Union," it deals with community, economy, the state and the common good - some of our favorite subjects around here.

Some samples to encourage you to listen:

On the concept of subsidiarity:
Pius XI intended this word, subsidiarity, as a description of the Church’s own organization, through the episcopate, according to which decisions are always taken at the subsidiary level, the lowest level compatible with unified government. But he also implied that economic and political life might be similarly organized, so that power was always passed up from the bottom and never imposed from above. All that might sound like a call for the empowerment of civil society rather than the state, and so it was interpreted by Röpke, who took the concept of subsidiarity as foundational for his doctrine of de-centrism.

However, it should be noted that Quadragesimo Anno marked the first inclusion of genuinely socialist ideas into the teachings of the Church. Economic freedom, the encyclical argued, does not lead of its own accord to the common good, but stands in need of true and directing principle. That principle, according to Pius XI, is social justice. Behind that phrase lurks the whole egalitarian agenda, which, in search for an equality of condition, looks eventually to the state to impose it.

(Interestingly enough, in the first draft of the encyclical was composed by Ausfeld von Broening, [sp] a professor of moral theology at the Jesuit school in Frankfurt, and a thinker deeply influenced by Marxist theory of exploitation.)
On the term social justice:
Many of those Röpke influenced were unaware of the poisonous nature of the weasel-word, social, as Hayek was later to call it. Weasel meaning a word which sucks the meaning from every word to which it is attached, as a weasel sucks eggs. Social justice, as now understood, is no more a form of justice than fool’s gold is a form of gold. It is not what justice was for Aristotle, a matter of giving to each his due, and taking account of rights, obligations and deserts; rather, social justice, as commonly understood, means the reorganization of society with the state in charge, there being no other agent with the requisite power or authority, and with equality as the ultimate goal.
On the social market:
For what the social market amounts to in practice is the intrusion in the economy of another big, anonymous entity, the state, which is quite as capable of externalizing its costs as any other. Not only that, but the state can silence its critics as no corporation can. Thus the social market as practiced in Europe requires the state to step in and provide for those without work, and to provide for the mothers of children who have no resident father. …These are inevitable results of transferring the responsibility for charity from the community to the state, which is itself an inevitable result of the attempt to make a humane economy rather than a humane society.
These selections do not adequately summarize his argument, but they give you a hint of the subject matter.

7.15.2008

The Thing we do not want to hear

The new issue of First Things contains an article by Hoover Institute fellow Mary Eberstadt on perhaps the most controversial (oddly enough, this beats out the Incarnation) Catholic teaching, Humanae Vitae. I just started reading through it and already it has proven itself to be the most insightful article I have read this year. The article details social science's empirical verification of the prophetic warnings given to the world by the Pope in 1968. She connects the dots and also gives us an analysis of the current moral climate; it may not be even necessary to say, but things do not look good.

I cannot recommend this article highly enough - readers of any mindset or worldview who care about our social well-being owe it to themselves to give this article serious consideration.

7.13.2008

Tony Snow - CPAC 2008

"shame on your ignorant soul"

a humorous exchange:

# Morning's Minion Says:
July 13, 2008 at 6:19 pm
The right to basic health care means different things in different circumstances. In the present day, it calls for universal access, irrespective of means to pay.
# Zach Says:
July 13, 2008 at 6:40 pm
I can’t wait to mooch off of MM’s health care system

Maybe I’ll quit my job!

Food surely can be considered a basic part of your health care?

I’ll just have to start going to the emergency room for my meals

# david Says:
July 13, 2008 at 7:02 pm
Charity demands noone[sic] is denied care. No debate there. If you interpret that as license to sloth, shame on you[sic] ignorant soul.

7.12.2008

rip tony snow

7.11.2008

the good fight

Father Neuhaus at his finest:
We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

...

The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed. I expect many of us here, perhaps most of us here, can remember when we were first encountered by the idea. For me, it was in the 1960s when I was pastor of a very poor, very black, inner city parish in Brooklyn, New York. I had read that week an article by Ashley Montagu of Princeton University on what he called “A Life Worth Living.” He listed the qualifications for a life worth living: good health, a stable family, economic security, educational opportunity, the prospect of a satisfying career to realize the fullness of one’s potential. These were among the measures of what was called “a life worth living.”

And I remember vividly, as though it were yesterday, looking out the next Sunday morning at the congregation of St. John the Evangelist and seeing all those older faces creased by hardship endured and injustice afflicted, and yet radiating hope undimmed and love unconquered. And I saw that day the younger faces of children deprived of most, if not all, of those qualifications on Prof. Montagu’s list. And it struck me then, like a bolt of lightning, a bolt of lightning that illuminated our moral and cultural moment, that Prof. Montagu and those of like mind believed that the people of St. John the Evangelist—people whom I knew and had come to love as people of faith and kindness and endurance and, by the grace of God, hope unvanquished—it struck me then that, by the criteria of the privileged and enlightened, none of these my people had a life worth living. In that moment, I knew that a great evil was afoot. The culture of death is an idea before it is a deed.

In that moment, I knew that I had been recruited to the cause of the culture of life. To be recruited to the cause of the culture of life is to be recruited for the duration; and there is no end in sight, except to the eyes of faith.
Please read the entirety of this powerful, sentimental piece.

7.10.2008

this is worth amplifying

It's amazing what you can find on the internet - here is Margaret Sanger, the Founder of Planned Parenthood, interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1957(according to the site). In this interview, she names the hierarchy of the Catholic Church as her #1 enemy:

In addition to the disturbing and illuminating discussion between the host and the guest, please see the hilarious old-timey cigarette advertisements.

HT: Southern Appeal

7.09.2008

The Birth of Freedom


The movie premiers one week from today at the Heritage Foundation. I'm going to try and make it, and will report back after I've seen it.

7.08.2008

Two from Tocqueville

"Among the new objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck my eye more vividly than the equality of conditions. I discovered without difficulty the enormous influence that this primary fact exerts on the course of society; it gives a certain direction to the public spirit, a certain turn to the laws, new maxims to those who govern, and particular habits to the governed. "
...Later on, in Volume Two, Part Two, Chapter 1, Tocqueville argues this equality of conditions produces a love of equality ("The first and most lively of the passions to which equality of conditions gives birth, I have no need to say, is the love of this same equality."); he argues this love of equality is greater than the love for freedom.

Why?
"Equality furnishes a multitude of little enjoyments daily to each man. The charms of equality are felt at all moments, and they are within the reach of all; the noblest hearts are not insensitive to them, and the most vulgar souls get their delights from them. The passion to which equality gives birth will therefore be both energetic and general.

Men cannot enjoy political freedom unless they purchase it with some sacrifices, and they never get possession of it except with many efforts. But the pleasures brought by equality offer themselves. Each little incident of private life seems to give birth to them, and to taste them, one only needs to be alive."
Also,
Do not ask what unique charm men in democratic ages find in living as equals, or the particular reasons that they can have for being so obstinately attached to equality rather than the other goods that society presents to them; equality forms the distinctive characterisitc of the period the live in; that alone is enough to explain why they prefer it to all the rest.
I find myself asking: do we (can we?) appreciate the vast and innumerable changes wrought by the free society? I think it is very difficult to do so. Society has changed immeasurably in the past 250 years. In many ways, for the better. And in many other ways for the worse.

But I think this general advance of equality is a deep reason conservatives(classically-minded liberals) do not favor policies such as socialized health care and other governmental administered welfare programs. Persons who desire these programs seem to ignore the tremendous progress we've made without these programs! Indeed, the great advances in the equality of conditions and conditions more generally have not been brought about by the action of a government - they have been brought about the by the actions of a free people under the rule of law.
Maureen Dowd on St. Paul:
“A therapist friend insists that ‘more marriages are killed by silence than by violence.’ The strong, silent type can be charming but ultimately destructive. That world-class misogynist, Paul of Tarsus, got it right when he said, ‘In all your dealings with one another, speak the truth to one another in love that you may grow up.’"
World-class, eh?

7.07.2008

True Freedom and the Economy

This Fourth of July weekend I had the privilege to finish reading William Cavanaugh’s latest book, “Being Consumed.” I am surprised and happy to say that I have good things to report. Professor Cavanaugh’s book is, in the first place, an illuminating discussion of what Christianity says to the free market. Namely, he takes the Christian teaching that the human person ought to be the central concern of our economic and political systems and draws out its consequences.

What does it mean for our central concern to be the human being? It means our economic and political systems ought to be conducive to proper human flourishing – to true human freedom. True human freedom is not maximized by a base libertarianism where we are free to choose rightly or wrongly without influence (as if such a condition could exist) - no, true human freedom is freedom for excellence, freedom to choose the good.

Cavanaugh’s first step is to apply this teaching to economics. He argues, rightly I think, that a market detached from any sense of purpose, or of the good, or of morality is not really a free market. This is another way of saying that human beings cannot and should not operate in a moral vacuum. In many ways, a persons in a free market economy acting without any sense of purpose become slaves – slaves to desire, to consumption – maybe the very act of shopping itself. This should be avoided. Cavanaugh reminds us that people need a sense of transcendent purpose. But a distinction must be made.

What Cavanaugh proposes may be revolutionary (in some sense), but he does not propose a revolution. His intention is primarily meliorative. Indeed, he forthrightly states he rejects the socialist solution:
“Even if Augustine is right about the need for objective ends to guide the will, the question remains: Who is to say what those ends are? There is no doubt that Augustine’s view can be taken in a very paternalistic direction: “We know what you really want, and we are going to organize society accordingly.” I do not wish to endorse such a view. This is the specter of a socialist command economy that free-market advocates rightly reject. Free-market advocates would prefer to have individuals make their own mistakes. That some will make bad choices is inevitable; but it is far better to give individuals the freedom to damn themselves than to subject everyone to a power that is no more guaranteed than any other individual to choose well.” (pp.15)
The issue is then the way individuals interact with each other on a personal basis, i.e., how individuals act with other individuals face to face. In Cavanaugh’s words “the direct embodiment” of free economic practices is most important. So in this way his book is not political at all; nor is it really concerned with economic systems. In fact, it assumes the free-market is here and ought to stay. His goal is to inform interested parties how to act with concern for the human person in all economic exchanges. I think this is a good goal.

I’m not technically qualified to offer criticism of his argument, but I’ll do it anyways because this is the internet. My only contention is that Professor Cavanaugh goes way out of his way to criticize defenders of the free-market economy. In this little book, he manages to take pot shots at Michael Novak and Milton Friedman. As we briefly talked about an example in an earlier post, I think he misunderstands the free-market economists. So much so that I think Michael Novak would find most of Prof. Cavanaugh’s book on target and perceptive (especially his discussion of the Eucharist and consuming rightly!). Where is the disagreement then? Cavanaugh errs in thinking that Michael Novak et al. defend a type of economics where morality plays no role, or where morality is subservient to market forces. I think this is quite simply false, and even a crude reading of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, for instance, serves to demonstrate. If Cavanaugh were to read Novak et al. as arguing specifically against socialism, (i.e. against governmental usurpation of property and the means of production) he might be willing to tolerate their use of the word freedom in a more limited, secular sense.

But anyways let me conclude by saying that this is a challenging, good, and thought-provoking book. I intend to post notable selections from it over the next few days. Aside from the cheap shots, Cavanaugh has great ideas about how we can work for greater justice and make our free-markets not only free of legal restrictions, but truly free.

'They were very up-to-date and advanced people.'

An enjoyable passage from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia:
THERE WAS A BOY CALLED EUSTACE Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and his masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none. He didn't call his Father and Mother "Father" and "Mother," but Harold and Alberta. They were very up-to-date and advanced people. They were vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotalers and wore a special kind of underclothes. In their house there was very little furniture and very few clothes on beds and the windows were always open.
Haha!

Yay Biofuels!

"Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian."

The Guardian goes on to allege that "the report, completed in April, has not been published to avoid embarrassing President George Bush."

Please, when has the World Bank tried to avoid embarrassing President Bush? (See this news article from last year on how Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign) Perhaps they are worried about embarrassing all of the leaders in the EU who are mandating biofuels (don't get me wrong, Bush is part to blame due to this Ethanol nonsense, which coincidently McCain has been on the other side...).

Read the whole thing from the Guardian.

7.04.2008

Happy Indepdence Day

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

7.03.2008

torture is evil

Another must read - Hitchens' chilling waterboarding experience.
You may have read by now the official lie about this treatment, which is that it “simulates” the feeling of drowning. This is not the case. You feel that you are drowning because you are drowning—or, rather, being drowned, albeit slowly and under controlled conditions and at the mercy (or otherwise) of those who are applying the pressure. The “board” is the instrument, not the method. You are not being boarded. You are being watered.

...

I fought down the first, and some of the second, wave of nausea and terror but soon found that I was an abject prisoner of my gag reflex. The interrogators would hardly have had time to ask me any questions, and I knew that I would quite readily have agreed to supply any answer. I still feel ashamed when I think about it. Also, in case it’s of interest, I have since woken up trying to push the bedcovers off my face, and if I do anything that makes me short of breath I find myself clawing at the air with a horrible sensation of smothering and claustrophobia. No doubt this will pass. As if detecting my misery and shame, one of my interrogators comfortingly said, “Any time is a long time when you’re breathing water.” I could have hugged him for saying so, and just then I was hit with a ghastly sense of the sadomasochistic dimension that underlies the relationship between the torturer and the tortured. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.
It horrifies me to think the U.S. government has done this to people. It is indefensible.

7.01.2008

quick note: Don't miss Hadley Arkes' take on District of Columbia v. Heller at First Things