Tocqueville saw this coming

It seems that if despotism came to be established in the democratic nations of our day, it would have other characteristics: it would be more extensive and milder, and it would degrade men without tormenting them. .  .  .

When I think of the small passions of men of our day, the softness of their mores, the extent of their enlightenment, the purity of their religion, the mildness of their morality, their laborious and steady habits, the restraint that almost all preserve in vice as in virtue, I do not fear that in their chiefs they will find tyrants, but rather schoolmasters. .  .  .

I want to imagine with what new features despotism could be produced in the world: I see an innumerable crowd of like and equal men who revolve on themselves without repose, procuring the small and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. .  .  .

Above these an immense tutelary power is elevated, which alone takes charge of assuring their enjoyments and watching over their fate. It is absolute, detailed, regular, far-seeing, and mild. It would resemble paternal power if, like that, it had for its object to prepare men for manhood; but on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them fixed irrevocably in childhood; it likes citizens to enjoy themselves provided that they think only of enjoying themselves. It willingly works for their happiness; but it wants to be the unique agent and sole arbiter of that; it provides for their security, foresees and secures their needs, facilitates their pleasures, conducts their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their estates, divides their inheritances; can it not take away from them entirely the trouble of thinking and the pain of living?

So it is that every day it renders the employment of free will less useful and more rare; it confines the action of the will in a smaller space and little by little steals the very use of it from each citizen. .  .  .

Thus, after taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals of which government is the shepherd. .  .  .

I have always believed that this sort of regulated, mild, and peaceful servitude, whose picture I have just painted, could be combined better than one imagines with some of the external forms of freedom, and that it would not be impossible for it to be established in the very shadow of the sovereignty of the people.
--Alexis de Tocqueville

From Democracy in America, volume two, part four, chapter six: "What Kind of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear" (translated by Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop)



"Great things are done by those who no one would notice."

"The sign of the metaphysician is that he gets the joke (that is, he sees the relation of things)"

- James Schall


Pensees 905:

The easiest conditions to live in according to the world are the most difficult to live in according to God, and vice versa. Nothing is so difficult according to the world as the religious life; nothing is easier than to live it according to God. Nothing is easier, according to the world, than to live in high office and great wealth; nothing is more difficult than to live in them according to God, and without acquiring an interest in them and a liking for them.

the loss of political liberty

Two Claremont fellows deliver the philosophical case against the stimulus bill:
As President Obama chides Congress for its delay in passing a $900 billion stimulus bill, the largest lump-sum government expenditure in U.S. history, the country would do well to reflect on one of the basic lessons of human experience: Any excessive concentration of power in the hands of government—not just political or military, but also economic—is a threat to the precious and fragile liberty that we have so painstakingly achieved.
They continue,
Liberals insist on maintaining a wall in their minds between personal and economic liberties. Economic restrictions, however, can have a severe impact on personal freedom. Ballooning budgets and deficits must eventually be paid down by individuals in the private sector. Either we must pay higher taxes today or our children will have to pay higher taxes in the future. Both represent a restriction of private citizens’ freedom to earn and spend their money as they deem appropriate.

Remember Milton Friedman’s brilliant insight in Capitalism and Freedom: The decentralized production and accumulation of wealth in diffuse private hands counterbalances the power that the government wields over individual lives. The ability of the private sector to produce and allocate resources without any central control prevents any single authority from controlling many large and important spheres of human activity.
Actually almost the whole piece is worth quoting:
This is why a vibrant and independent private sector is vital to the flourishing of the personal freedoms that we all cherish, especially when it comes to free speech. In order to disseminate heterodox opinions, dissenting voices need access to resources to develop, print, and distribute their views. As the government becomes the main arbiter of wealth, exercising more and more control over the allocation of society’s resources, it becomes far more difficult for outsiders to obtain independent means to disseminate dissent.

This may seem a remote concern, but it is important to recognize the danger on the horizon. It is no accident that so many dissident movements in politics, culture, sexuality, and the arts have depended on private patrons, whose independent wealth has allowed them to blaze trails of human innovation that no government authority would have permitted.

But perhaps most disturbing of all is the poisonous psychological effect that an increasingly activist government inflicts on its citizenry. There is something profoundly wrong when the economy starts to sputter and immediately the national spotlight shifts to the federal government. Instead of engaging in private reflection and resolving to abandon old ways of individual irresponsibility, the nation quickly turns its frantic eyes to the hordes of technocrats and regulators in Washington, arrayed in suits behind a charismatic figurehead who struts onto the stage and promises an immediate rescue.


Limbaugh today

"Democrats are Judged by Their Intentions, Not by Results"

This seems true.

"[If] the economy rebounds despite the Porkulus bill, Obama will be hailed as a great president. If it makes matters worse, he'll be hailed because "at least he tried."


Faith in the government

Would you trust a politician to spend your hard earned money for the true good of other people?

"Maybe", you say. "Depending."

Would you trust them with spending $787 billion dollars?

Would you trust anyone? Nevermind a politician?


the highest standard

G.K. Chesterton once said that there was only one good argument against Christianity: Christians. He was right. After all, if God expects all Christians to be Saints, why should the world not be justified in the same expectation?

So: Christians are all called to be Saints. Sanctity is not optional, it is not just for some privileged few. We are "only human", but "only human[s]" can be saints. Accept no lower standards for yourself!



the New York Times on Catholicism

In short, they don't get it. The Church isn't "reopening" any doors. This story implies that the Church's teaching on indulgences has changed, when it simply has not:
In recent months, dioceses around the world have been offering Catholics a spiritual benefit that fell out of favor decades ago — the indulgence, a sort of amnesty from punishment in the afterlife — and reminding them of the church’s clout in mitigating the wages of sin.
They butcher the theology of indulgences too.
According to church teaching, even after sinners are absolved in the confessional and say their Our Fathers or Hail Marys as penance, they still face punishment after death, in Purgatory, before they can enter heaven. In exchange for certain prayers, devotions or pilgrimages in special years, a Catholic can receive an indulgence, which reduces or erases that punishment instantly, with no formal ceremony or sacrament.


Jim Manzi on the irony of youth for Obama

As I tried to get into at length in the prior post, once you get past all the mumbo jumbo, it seems to me that there is one thing we can know with confidence about deficit spending on stimulus: it will, in part, transfer wealth from future generations to our own. Of course, if you’re reading this, and you’re, say, 24 years old, then that should read as “transfer wealth from you to a bunch of Baby Boomers”.

This makes the incredible support of this age cohort for Obama seem pretty ironic, at least on this issue. You know all those rallies you went to, and how excited you were on election night? It turns out that the most important result of that, so far at least, is that you get work much, much harder over the next 40 years so that the overweight guy in the khaki pants down the hall from you at work who does nothing of much observable value doesn’t have to move to a smaller house or trade in his car.

What’s this we stuff Kimosabe? – Yes you can!
Manzi has been writing more and more frequently. More power to him, I say.


who knew?

The hip-hop artist Common is a Christian. He was (is?) a member of Jeremiah Wright's Church in Chicago.


Beck's CD "Modern Guilt" (and all his work after and including Sea Change), Fr. Thomas Dubay's "Saints: A Closer Look", anything with Freddie Hubbard as lead, James Schall's "Another Sort of Learning", pomegranate flavored Polar-seltzer water, Margaritas fresh salsa, Redhook IPA, Blaise Pascal's "Pensees" and Peter Kreeft's Barnes and Noble Lecture series on the history of ethics

two noteworthy stories

Here is the story of an abortion provider out of Tampa, FL:
The Board of Medicine has revoked the license of a Florida doctor accused of medical malpractice in a botched abortion case in which a live baby was delivered, but ended up dead in a cardboard box.

The board on Friday found Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique in violation of Florida statutes by committing medical malpractice, delegating responsibility to unlicensed personnel, and failing to keep an accurate medical record. Renelique and his attorney declined to comment after the hearing.

The Department of Health said Renelique was scheduled to perform an abortion on a teenager who was 23 weeks pregnant in 2006. Sycloria Williams had been given drugs in advance to dilate her cervix.

According to the complaint, she gave birth at a Hialeah clinic after waiting hours for Renelique to arrive. The complaint said one of the clinic owners put the baby in a bag that was thrown away.

Police found the infant’s decomposing remains a week later.
Difficult to see how this is not infanticide. Indeed, it's difficult to appreciate the gravity of this crime, how grotesque of an evil this actually is, because, hey, this is commonplace. The culture works to make our consciences numb.

And more happily, a story of forgiveness, brought to you by the magic of television:
Nearly half a century ago, in a very different America, Elwin Wilson and John Lewis met under a veil of violence and race-inspired hate.

Wilson, a young, white, Southern man, attacked Lewis, a freedom rider for Martin Luther King, in the “white” waiting room of a South Carolina bus station.

The men had not seen each other again until Tuesday when, with “Good Morning America’s” help, Wilson approached Lewis again—this time offering an apology and a chance to relieve a burden he’d carried for more than four decades.

“I’m so sorry about what happened back then,” Wilson said breathlessly.

“It’s OK. I forgive you,” Lewis responded before a long-awaited hug.

For Lewis, who in the intervening years became a U.S. representative from Georgia, the apology was an unexpected symbol of the change in time and hearts.

“I never thought this would happen,” he told “GMA.” “It says something about the power of love, of grace, the power of the people being able to say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and move on. And I deeply appreciate it. It’s very meaningful for me.”
Public expressions of forgiveness are occasions I find myself rejoicing.

Courtesy of First Things


James Schall

On Thomas Aquinas. A must read!


"The great moral force of true love lies precisely in this desire for the happiness, for the true good, of another person. This is what makes it possible for a man to be reborn because of love, makes him aware of the riches within him, his spiritual fertility and creativity: I am capable of desiring the good for another person, therefore I am capable of desiring the good. True love compels me to believe in my own spiritual powers. Even when I am 'bad', if true love awakens in me it bids me seek the true good where the object of my love is concerned. In this way, affirmation of the worth of another person is echoed in affirmation of the worth of one's own person - for it is awareness of the value of the person, not of sexual values, that makes a man desire the happiness of another 'I'. When love attains its full dimensions, it introduces into a relationship not only a 'climate' of honesty between persons but an awareness of the 'absolute', a sense of contact with the unconditional and the ultimate. Love is indeed the highest of the moral values."
Love and Responsibility, pp, 138. Karol Wojtyla