It may come as a shock…

but I tend to be idiosyncratic, colloquial and casual in my speech when I blog.  I know.  If you need to lie down for a while as that reality sinks in, I understand.

Anyway, because of this, I toss off little coinages for various ideas under the assumption that a regular reader will generally understand what I’m getting at. Murder Inc for Plannned Parenthood.  The God King to refer to Obama when he acts as a lawless emperor or is worshipped by his adorers (the latter phase seems pretty well dead and gone.  Most of the Lefties I hear from basically sound like Christian righties talking about Romney, “We held our nose and voted for him because the alternative terrified and disgusted us”). (By the way, I really think the rank and file of both parties should turn off FOX/MSNBC, go to a bar and get to know each other, because all y’all have an awful lot in common.)  Salvation Through Leviathan by Any Means Necessary refers to the Right’s–particularly the “prolife” Catholic Right’s–disgusting prostitution to the proposition of ushering in the kingdom of democratic capitalist heaven and national security by acting as court prophet for a right wing torture regime.  And so on.

One of the bits of shorthand I have used over the years is the Thing that Used to be Liberalism (which has passed from saying “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the State, but from hand of God” to “the government is the one thing we all belong to” and, of course, “you are human and get to live when we say so.”  The prostitution of the Left to the abortion license and the culture of death is the great bleeding unhealed wound on the Left that distorts, ruins, and twists all of their often good and noble efforts.  A Left that was authentically open to Life and the conscience of Christians would thrive and prosper, not barely eke out a victory against a moral void like Mitt Romney while treating the 30% of its ranks who are prolife like dung.

Similarly, I have coined the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism with the assumption that people got what I was saying.  One reader did not and asked me to explain the distinction between conservatism and the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism.  Here is what I dashed off in my combox reply.  It’s pretty quick and dirty, but somebody asked me to stick it on the blog, so here it is:

By “the Thing that Used to be Conservatism” I basically have in mind what is commonly referred to has Movement Conservatism. The sort of people who live in a media bubble of FOX, Limbaugh, Talk Radio, and National Review, augmented with stuff like the Blaze, Breitbart, and related propaganda organs. People who seriously believed that Tuesday would be a Romney landslide and who took seriously not merely the idea that Romney sucked less than Obama (intellectually defensible) but that he was a good candidate who was “prolife” and “conservative”. People who think the Bush years were not a catastrophe but a great thing, that the Iraq war was a good idea the Church never opposed, that the erection of a police state only became a bad thing when Obama took over the project, that Ayn Rand is a thinker to be reckoned with, that Sarah Palin was a serious stateswoman and thinker, who never saw an Obama conspiracy theory or denunciation they didn’t like, who believe devoutly in the Immaculate Conception of the State of Israel, who think Mitt Romney was the embodiment of Christian Values, and who never listen to news media outside the bubble just described (except for Christian radio and/or EWTN) lest they be defiled.

By “conservatism” I have in mind, basically, that which seeks to conserve (and intelligently develop) the best of the Western tradition. This means more than “Opposition to deliberately killing the right class of innocents”.  It means opposition to deliberately killing all innocents, including in unjust wars beloved by neocons or in injust actions such as the mass murders of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden.  It means opposition to torture and abuse of prisoners and indefinite detention and cool awesome drone strikes that blow up swarthy foreign children we don’t look at too closely but dismiss as “collateral damage” and ignore.  It includes the idea, not just of subsidiarity (the only part of Catholic social teaching the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism ever discusses–and misinterpets as a synonym for libertarianism), but solidarity and the common good.  It includes even the bits about the preferential option for the poor, peace as the default position for dealing with tension between nations, and the notion that innocent blood cannot be deliberately shed, even when it seems expedient to win a war or look tough on terror.  It is a thing that is intellectually curious and does not lionize figures like Sarah Palin.  It is sober and does not lionize figures like Glenn Beck.  It is morally consistent and does not lionize figures like Newt Gingrich.  It believes the truth is attractive and so does not try to win by lying or propagandizing, but by argument.  It thinks people can be persuaded by reason and should not be stampeded by fear. It governs by moral suasion and not by regarding citizens as beasts to be tempted or threatened. It takes seriously human dignity, even in criminals and terrorists.  It abhors so much as the whiff of racism because it takes seriously the imago Dei.  It rejects the entire consequentialist project that both left and right in this country totally embrace.  It believes we are fallen and that the state exists for the common good of human persons, not human persons for the state.  It puts the family at the center and sees human systems as existing to foster the family.  It is as skeptical of the corporation as of the state.  It lives in reality and realizes that part of what the state does is “redistribute wealth” (we call this “taxation” in English) and so does not fall for demagoguery about “socialism” and “communism”.  Conversely, it is skeptical of the perfectibility of man in this world and so reject all attempts, from utopian communism to utopian neocon dreams of “ending evil”, to immanentize the eschaton.  But unlike Randian class warfare, it does not say, “IF the poor be like to die, they had better do it and help decrease the surplus population.”  That is because it is rooted in the Tradition and recognizes the truth of Abp. Chaput’s words: “If you neglect the poor, you will go to hell.”  Finally, its hope is not in this earth, but in heaven.  So it does not act like the Thing that Used to bbe Conservatism and wrap itself in false prophecy, lies, denial, blame-shifting and despair in order to fend off the self-denying “death” required to practice real self-evaluation, repent, learn and grow.  It trusts that the truth will set you free.  The Thing that Used to be Conservatism fears the truth and prefers illusion.

  • Confederate Papist

    If I could, many conservatives I know do *not* want the poor to just “die off” in the light of Randism, but they actually want the poor to bring themselves out of poverty by self improvement. Isn’t that what we all want? Poverty doesn’t mean relying totally on government handouts..as you well know.

    Many people, conservatives, I suspect, are on the welfare roles due to necessity, and are awaiting the day the get off of it as soon as possible.

    Who these people are (the Randians that want the poor to die), I don’t know…I’ve not met one yet…sounds like I really don’t, either.

    • Ted Seeber

      Blessed are the poor- for if they brought themselves out of poverty, who would we have to give to?

      I’m trying Mark, I am really trying, to see some good left in those things that used to be liberalism and conservationism. My next attempt will come at 4pm tomorrow- maybe going to confession with a priest who is a canon lawyer will help.

      • Mark Shea

        There’s plenty of good left in both. They’re just klunky human systems afflicted by the fall. Realizing that is really true is a good step on the way toward clearing the veil of unreality they weave.

    • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

      People work and are still poor. Do you reject unions as a possible way to work and not be poor?

      What does Catholic social teaching have to say about unions?

      • Confederate Papist

        Depends on the union.

        Most of the major unions in America are corrupt, but you can blame the bosses and management of the companies for that.

        • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

          It doesn’t depend on the Union at all. A poorly run union is still a union. Help labor throw off their corrupt masters, don’t denigrate unions.

          Or you and Leo XIII are at odds. He wrote the St Micheal prayer after a vision. Really want to be at odds with him?

    • Mark Shea

      Rand’s entire point, in Atlas Shrugged, is that the rich “Makers” should rebel against the poor “looters” and let them all go hang. Whittaker Chambers had her number when he said her message to the weak was “To a gas chamber–go!” People who look to Rand as some sort of guiding light are–whether they realize it or not–embracing exactly the mindset which says that the weak, the unproductive, those who need state help, etc. should be abandoned and left exposed to the elements since they are useless Looters. She is a toxic and deadly enemy of God and the Thing That Used to be Conservatism–led by Paul Ryan as her chief cheerleader–is utterly foolish for glomming on to her. All the bullshit about her being a great pagan Aristotle to Ryan’s Aquinas was simply more illusion. Catholics need to learn actual Catholic teaching, not this social Darwinist bullshit on acid.

      • Confederate Papist

        To me, and to many others, I am sure, there is a *huge* difference between the “poor” and the “looters”. Poverty is a condition by which one may (or may not) be able to work out of through their employment and education (possibly); whereas “looters”, not necessarily poor, though most of the time they are, look for a way to “game” the system so as not to have to work. One can be poor and be a producer (work), but looters produce nothing. While I don’t believe they should “go to the gas chamber”, I also don’t think they should be coddled by the government either. The government made this, and broke it and will not fix it…in fact, has now made it worse since the administration has now taken the work requirement out of welfare. Do I believe in welfare? Yes…a safety net to help one get back on his/her feet…not as a lifestyle.

        • Ted Seeber

          My problem isn’t the looters that are poor by that standard. It is the looters who are RICH by that standard- who have learned to game the system so well that they live in lives of luxury at the expense of others.

          And most of them are not doing it by government welfare, but by good old fashioned Capitalist Rent Seeking.

        • ivan_the_mad

          At first I disagreed with Ayn Rand. Then I thought her a heretic. Then I saw Anton Levay praising her, and I learned where such ideas lead.

          • Will

            Then whatever-his-real-name-was did not understand Rand. If he resembles any Rand character, it is Cuffy Meigs, with “a revolver in one pocket and a rabbit’s foot in the other.”

            • ivan_the_mad

              Yes, clearly. Conservatives from Chambers and Buckley onward have rejected Rand and her philosophy, but nobody accuses such learned men of not understanding Rand. But when some terrible person asserts that he used, specifically, Nietzsche and Rand as a philosophical basis (notably not, say, Aristotle, Aquinas, or even Rousseau), it’s because he doesn’t understand her. Quid gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        Rand, ultimately, is wrong about some things, most prominently about the existence of God. Your misstating her point in Atlas Shrugged does not help in defeating where she goes wrong. Her main point in the book is that, when abused sufficiently, anyone can go on strike, but that a strike by the capitalist class (which is not all rich by the way) would look very different and unfold in quite different ways than a labor strike. I don’t think that you would disagree with that proposition in general.

        So by all means oppose the anti-Catholic Rand. She deserves every bit of your scorn for it. But if you continue to misstate her points, don’t expect to be persuasive.

        • J. H. M. Ortiz

          If Rand’s main point in Atlas Shrugged is as the comment here has stated, how is it anything other than a truism? Of course anyone can go on strike “when abused sufficiently”, and of course a strike by one class “would look very different and unfold in quite different ways” than a strike from the other class, since what either class would be ceasing from producing would differ considerably from what the other class would be ceasing from producing. Did Rand write a whole book whose main point was an obvious truism?

      • addison

        Way to curse, “Christian”!

        • Mark Shea

          One of the marks of delusion is the gnat/ camel inversion ratio. Paul used the term “Skubala” (bullshit or dung). Modern Christians are more upset by a good clean image from a barnyard than they are that millions of Christians think an enemy of God should be a guiding light for how to treat the weak.

      • tz

        The poor were NOT the looters. The poor have no power to loot. You have those in power (maybe because of a majority vote) that can use violence to loot those who are productive – there is no point in looting anyone else – to give the booty, or at least part of it, to the poor.

        Perhaps you mean the “moochers” which were “well intentioned” institutions that laid guilt trips so the unproductive could sit there and exist because the productive felt guilty.

        “Randian” Saint Paul said “you do not work, you do not eat”. Or worse, the landowner that actually paid people the same if they worked for 1 hour or the whole day.

        Goldman Sachs is the exemplar of the looter, but I can be persuaded otherwise.

        I have serious problems with Ayn Rand, but I do make distinctions about what she got wrong and what she got right. Other wise she is to you a “ritually impure source” that should be at best ignored, at worst condemned.

        I also don’t know if Ryan has grown out of his Rand phase or not. Or if he has grown, in which direction.

        The Church has two non-contradictory requirements – private property and the duty to help the poor (charity).

        Tell me, whatever happened to Usury particularly with making student loans harder to lose than a spouse of 30 years?

        • Mark Shea

          TZ: I’m talking about what Rand sez, not about what I believe.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            Since you misstate her position, you’re not doing either.

            • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

              Where?

              Where Where Where Oh Where?

        • Marthe Lépine

          It may be possible to find points on which Rand is correct – nobody is right all the time, or wrong all the time. After all, a stopped clock gives the correct time twice a day! But it seems to me that it is dangerous to use any of her ideas, knowing where she is coming from. A lot of equally correct things are being said by other, more reliable thinkers. It would be better to give priority attention to those who follow Catholic teaching in general.

        • J. H. M. Ortiz

          No, Saint Paul did NOT say, “you do not work, you do not eat”: he said, “if someone isn’t WILLING to work, may he not eat”, “ei tis ou THELEI ergazesthai, mēde esthietō” (2 Thess. 3.10). Being unempoyed because of disability or of economic conditions is something else.

          • Mark Shea

            And he was not proposing a Randian social program of neglect of the poor. He was talking “in house” to fellow Christians. The marching orders for beggars outside the household of faith was, “Give to him who asks of you.”

  • Confederate Papist

    Well…gotta go back the the “racism” thread to get beat up by ds and other “enlightened” readers of yours…ciao!

  • B.E. Ward

    What makes it worse is when people who should know better take the easy route down “Thing That Used To” road.

  • ivan_the_mad

    I am thoroughly satisfied with this.

    • Mark Shea

      Yes, but you are a demagogued sycophant. What do you know?

      • ivan_the_mad

        I know what you tell me, O Leading Dark Lord of the Intarwebz :D

  • NoahLuck

    Some of my family and friends think I’ve gone radical leftist or something in recent years, but I’d enthusiastically support *that* kind of conservatism.

    • MattyD

      Ditto what Noah said.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Ditto what MattyD dittoed.

        • http://stevenadunn.wordpress.com Steven Dunn

          What a lovely bunch of Dittoheads you all make.

          • ivan_the_mad

            Ditto’h! I Rushed into that one.

            • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

              I pee’d a liitle, I think! Too funny!

  • http://barryhudock.wordpress.com/ Barry

    I knew millions of faithful minnions could not all be wrong! A masterful explanation. Thanks.

  • Billy Bean

    It strikes me that Original Liberalism and Original Conservatism are totally compatible and even complementary political perspectives. Their transformation into “The Thing(s) That Used To Be…” probably explains the increasing mutual animosity and incivility between the two dominant political parties in America whenever we are forced to choose between Scoundrel A and Scoundrel B.

  • eln

    That is not conservatism. It is Catholic social thought. Conservatism is a movement that is place- and time-specific, ie there are as many different Conservatisms as countries. cultural spaces, regions, groups. None of them will perfectly fit CST. And, as you also suggested, Mark, that is what we need to remember – to always root ourselves in the Church/eternal verities, and judge these temporal realities based on that. And not the other way around.

  • rachel

    Your response was spot on. That is the kind of “conservatism” I strive to live by. The same is true of the original “liberalism”. I’m saddened by the response of well meaning Catholics. Just now on EWTN’s FB page there are people calling for the expulsion of 50% of the Catholics in this country because they voted for Obama. We are warned not to judge souls and yet I am seeing comments, a ton of them, doing exactly that. Telling people to get out and they aren’t “true” Catholics. Something is seriously wrong here and its wrong within the Church and I don’t necessarily mean (even though its a problem) those who support liberal policies. No, the problem I’m seeing is with this holier than thou, self-righteous attitude being exhibited. I’m not trying to judge them either but the vitriol screams from the screen :(.

    • Confederate Papist

      If you open up the bible, and the CCC and compare what the Church teaches versus what the current US government is applying, or trying to apply, how can one squarely say they are authentically Catholic? Take that number of Catholics that voted for Obama and analyse it for a second. Consider a percentage of them, say about 25~30% are not up to speech on what the Church teaches…that leave 70% of them that do know…and don’t care. The 25~30% may be able to be saved, if catechised correctly, what of the others?

      Just food for thought.

      • Ted Seeber

        After the last 40 years of what has passed for Catholic education in this country, I think you are being overly generous. I would say closer to 90% of American Catholics don’t have the first clue what the Church teaches and can’t be bothered to care. Especially looking at my “parents of kids in RE” class that looked at the head catechist trying to introduce us to the Catechism like she was from the moon or something.

        • Confederate Papist

          I was hoping that weren’t the case…I fear the intentionally un-catechised are the ones who have this agenda are are pushing hard. They are now hoping the POTUS will reward them by attacking the US Church leaders and faithful.

          Unfortunately this gives legitimacy to the “Nuns on the Bus” crowd who think they are the Magistrum.

      • MattyD

        I hear you CP. But your percentage breakdown of Catholics is missing what might be a sizable subset of Obama supporters. That is, Catholics who DO know what the Church teaches and, in a vast array of issues, find that it is the *Democratic* party that (just barely) better addresses those ideals: e.g. protections for the poor, environmental protections, serving the common good, capital punishment (and many others). It Now, before you freak out at me about grave intrinsic evils and non-negotiables, keep in mind that 1) the church has taught that *intermediate* policy efforts to reduce abortions are a morally defensible position. And 2) much evidence suggests that expanded access to health care (and contraception) has been shown to have a FAR greater impact on abortion rates than criminalization does (up to 75% reduction, in one study I saw, based out of St. Louis). Whereas criminalization of abortion definitely seems to correlate with an increase in dead mothers trying to self-abort. Which should also be a moral concern for Christians, no? In short, I’m not sure that the implications of Catholic teaching as it applies to presidential elections are as cut-and-dried as you (and so many others) seem to assume. Even if few left-leaning Catholics are actually reading studies on abortion, I suspect many of them intuit these complexities and are trying to respond to them best they can in an imperfect world.

  • Thomas DeFreitas

    Has Archbishop Chaput at last become a Cardinal? I hope it’s true, but I don’t recall his elevation.

    By the by, Mr Shea, this is a masterful post. I didn’t decide for whom to vote in the presidential race until I was in the voting cubicle, and I went (clothespin vote) for Mr Obama’s most feasible opponent. As Mr Romney was once my governor, I am fully aware of his tergiversations and “slippery-ness.” He was, as you say, less lousy than the incumbent, and does not seem to have a vendetta against the Ecclesia.

    But back to your point — the definitions of conservatism here provided, the true kind and the ersatz kind, should be graven on the tablets of the mind of anyone who cares deeply about our country and its statecraft. Many thanks.

    • http://stevenadunn.wordpress.com Steven Dunn

      I learned a new word today.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    THE THING I SAW THERE

    He hides me in the shadow of His garment
    On one side stands King Ahab, on the other Jezebel,
    They gaze into the sun, I am concealed

    If she were to see me, Jezebel would confiscate a vineyard
    Ahab would appoint me as a prophet
    But the Lord has scattered sunlight in their eyes

    Let me be more visible to them, for I am dwindled -
    No, He says, you will remain beside me,
    The eggs of pride are fertile but not candled

    But see within the dreadful embryo
    Calamity to come but not yet hatched,
    But then the beast of murder starts to run

    The good Lord held a candle up to look inside
    Then let me watch the shadow in the shell
    And friends, the thing I saw there made me want to hide

    Pavel
    November 9, 2012

    • Confederate Papist

      If there was a “like” button…..I’d mash it!

    • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

      OMG. And I thought, thought, I was a poet once…

  • MattyD

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’d rank that critique of contemporary conservatism somewhere between brilliant and inspired. Still impressive on the 3rd reading. Great source material for a book, methinks.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I guess in all of this, there is one thing that bothers me. I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. As far as I ever knew, this was always the Thing That Was Conservatism. With the exception of torture, which I can’t recall conservatives defending, or being accused of defending, they were always portrayed as what they are portrayed as today: bigots, ignorant, warmongers (I can so remember when Reagan was elected and the dire warnings of impending nuclear disaster); they worshiped money, were white, sexists, racists, hated homosexuals, were close minded, intolerant, uneducated, uncouth, boorish, rude, callous, and would nuke the world for the American Way; they were Alex Keaton, Archie Bunker, Frank Burns. So I’m wondering where the ‘used to be’ came from. It’s always been that way, at least as I saw them popularly portrayed. Or were those portraits wrong and unfair then, but right and fair today? Was it a self-fulfilling prophecy (tell people they are such, and watch them become such)? That’s what I wonder whenever I read the ‘thing that used to be…’.

    • Ted Seeber

      Here in Oregon, about 45 years ago, we had a real conservative as Governor. His name was Tom McCall.

      He is most famous in Oregon History for Vortex I- the way he dealt with a potential repeat of Kent State. Nixon was coming to Portland on a campaign stop at the same time a hippie music festival was planned. He convinced the organizers to move the music festival out 30 miles to McIver State Park; gave them free rent, free food to do so. He told the state police to watch- but they were NOT to interfere at all unless it appeared somebody was going to get hurt. He got the Navy to provide some WWII era surplus cooking pots and supplied the propane to run them.

      He succeeded in dragging most of the liberal teenagers out of Portland for 5 days. Nixon came and went in peace. And forever after, the legend of The Governor’s Pot Party has lived on in Oregon. Smartest thing I’ve ever heard a conservative do.

      Oh, and he was also the guy who conserved the environment by giving Oregon our infamous Bottle Bill, and used an ancient law preserving the beaches as a state highway to give us the Parks department, avoiding the “private beach, no access” problem that was already occurring in California.

      I miss that kind of Republican greatly.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        Go back to a newspaper morgue of the day and see how your beloved governor was described back then. Every retired/dead effective Republican acquires a patina of respect and greatness compared to the wretches that inhabit the party today. The criticism at the time tends to stay the same though.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        That’s why it’s best to beware of stereotypes. Then and now.

    • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

      Quit watching TV then, and feed your mind…

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        Uh huh. I’m sure most thinking people got what I was saying and didn’t assume my comment meant I only watched TV. Ironically I was giving a nod to a description Mark himself used some years ago (I added Alex Keaton since that was of my own generation) when describing how patriotism was once portrayed. I guess that must mean Mark only watched TV and never read anything because he referenced popular TV characters? How odd that you miss so many things.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    Just read a Russian joke that dates, I think, from the 90s.
    Three Jews are walking down the street. The first one says to the second: Do you have a dacha?
    The second one says: Of course.
    What about that one? he asks.
    No, he hasn’t got a dacha.
    OK, let’s buy him one. And they do.

    Three Georgians are walking down the street.
    The first one asks: Do you have a car?
    Yes, and a very good one.
    And what about him?
    No, he hasn’t got one.
    That’s too bad. Let’s buy him one. And they do.

    Three Russians are walking down the street.
    Have you ever been in prison? asks the first.
    Of course, says the second.
    And what about Misha? Has he ever been in prison?
    No, I don’t think so.
    Well then, let’s think of a way of putting him there.

  • Andy

    (By the way, I really think the rank and file of both parties should turn off FOX/MSNBC, go to a bar and get to know each other, because all y’all have an awful lot in common. Let me second that – tonight we got together at our local tavern to plan an “event” for a couple who have a newborn with a rare genetic disorder – seizures, visual problems, heart defects and most likely brain damage. At our get together were 3 very liberal folks, including my wife, four conservative gentlemen and three of us who are somewhere in the middle. Other than the debate about what should be on the pizza we ate – mushrooms and sausage won out, that was the only disagreement. We agreed on how to help the family and agreed that we were glad the election was over and wanted the NHL to get over its strike. If you were to look at our politics you would guess that we couldn’t even be in the same place.
    A quiet drink and recognizing that all of us want what is best for the US is what allows us to talk – we respect each other, except for TIm who likes the Kings in Ca. Tough when we live in the Northeast.

  • R.C.

    Look, the false accusations are flying here.

    Conservatives are statistically more generous to the poor than Left-Liberals. Look it up. They give twice as much of their pre-tax income, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of income, and this is true at all income brackets. They TYPICALLY CARE MORE. Yeah, Liberals talk and legislate and largely do whatever they can to keep the poor out of sight and out of mind, especially when they can use it to buy votes. Conservatives pick their butts out of their chairs and go donate blood (twice as often as left-liberals!) and take Thanksgiving turkeys to homeless people and send millions of privately-donated dollars to Samaritan’s Purse and stuff like that.

    Those Conservatives that agree with Ayn Rand’s big observation (that the corruptive nature of using force against someone necessarily morally taints any state activity except those where force is justly morally warranted) are therefore clearly not embracing her whole philosophy. They are rejecting Ayn Rand’s other ideas (e.g. “selfishness as a virtue”) and keeping the good stuff. “Test everything, hold to what is good” …hmm, where’ve I heard that before?

    How can Romney be a “moral void?” Dude, the guy’s something like 10 times more generous to the poor with his own money than his opponent has ever been. There are all kinds of stories about the guy’s epic generosity. The problem is that the mainstream media never publicized these.

    Yes, he isn’t against abortion in cases of rape and incest. This is either political positioning or stupid illogical thinking on his part. And yes, he doesn’t oppose the “enhanced interrogations.” So: He does support moral evil in those areas, and will likely go to hell for it, in proportion to the degree to which his ignorance is not invincible.

    But “moral void” means utterly amoral, through-and-through. It means “moral void.” And I wouldn’t say that about that epic failure Obama, let alone Romney!

    • tim

      At least someone hasn’t been mesmerized by the pied piper democratic propaganda machine, otherwise known as the MSM, who use the far right fringe to define the majority of conservatives and who believe the myth that the left actually cares about the plight of the “poor.” Fifty years and trillions of dollars and poverty is worse than ever with devestating “unintended” consequences. As far as racism, which side is killing the majority of minority babies? With the exception of the American Experiment, historical forms of government consist in some form of a ruler and his court who control the wealth, and then the minions. Obama and the demoncrats want to end the American Experiment. Let them eat cake!

    • Andy

      RC
      Don’t confuse donating to charity with caring – look at our tax code and see the deductions you can take by donating to charity. As far as Romney being 10 times more generous than his opponent he is probably 50 time richer.

      • http://janalynmarie.blogspot.com Beadgirl

        Not only that, but where is the money going? Lots of wealthy people donate tons of money to opera houses, PBS, arts programs, etc., all of which counts as charitable giving. Those organizations and causes are worthy, of course, and a vital part of society, but they are not the same as charities that directly help the poor.

        • Marthe Lépine

          My opinion too. Ms. Gates does give millions to help the poor in developing countries… by offering them contraception and abortion!

      • R.C.

        Andy, what you say about the tax code flies in the face of the relevant math.

        Let’s say you have all your income coming from capital gains, like the wealthy tend to do, and you’re getting taxed at 15% or thereabouts.

        And let’s say you have a million dollars income.

        And let’s say you give a tithe (that’s $100,000 pre-income-tax) to church and/or charity. (Wealthy conservatives typically do more than tithe; for Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney it went as high as 45%+ one year. And even wealthy left-liberals sometimes do more than tithe…though, again, at half the rates of their conservative counterparts. But let’s stick with the nice easy-math number: 10%.)

        Okay, so you just got a $100,000 deduction from your taxable income. Your taxable income prior to that deduction was $1 million. After, it’s $900K.

        15% of $1 million is $150,000. And 15% of $900,000 is $135,000. The difference between those two numbers is $15,000. That’s how much less he’ll have to pay in taxes, as a result of this gift of $100,000.

        So, our generous rich guy, by giving $100,000 to charity, “saved” himself $15,000. Does that bite him less in the wallet than it would have had there been no deductions? Sure! But it’s not like he can get rich by giving, since his tax breaks amount to no more than 15% of what he’s giving.

        Or, let’s say he’s being taxed on all that as “earned income” — rare for the very wealthy, but not uncommon for upper-middle-income folks who own a hardware/builder-supply store with 56 employees, like my grandfather before he died. In that case he would have saved himself $35K, by giving $100K. But he still feels the pinch of his gift to the tune of $65,000: A lot less than had there been no deduction, but it’s not as if you can argue that the act of giving is somehow a way to make money. Do the math, this is still an exercise in giving.

        Now, if you like, you can blame the rich guy for not experiencing the full force of his $100K gift. He will only feel like he gave $85,000. But the poor people who receive the benefit will receive $100,000 worth of benefit. Given that, why shouldn’t a man who wants to help the poor, and who decides he’s willing to sacrifice $85,000 of his income to do so…why shouldn’t he do it in a way that nets the poor a $100,000 advantage? If he gave in some other, non-deductible way, and felt he could only give $85K, then the poor would get…$85K. So the deduction doesn’t make it advantageous for him to give to charity (save when he stands before his Creator and Judge), but it does rather enhance the benefit to the poor.

        In short, your argument about tax codes meaning that gifts by wealthy folks somehow can’t be considered acts of generosity is false.

        By the way, were you under the illusion that the Obamas were not part of the 1%? They absolutely are, and good for them! The Obamas’ combined household income hasn’t been less than a million dollars in…I think it was 12 years? I’ll have to look it up. But that was before winning the White House and having bestselling books. That’ll up the ante quite a bit, going forward.

        The biggest gifting they’ve done in that time was that oh-so-shocking $23,000 to Jeremiah Wright’s church. So…lemme see here…carry the 1…ah, yes. Whoa, that Obama’s a big tither, giving one and a half percent of his pre-tax income! Whoo-eee! There’s nothing to be ashamed of, having a big income, so long as you came by it honestly and make use of it for good purposes. But while I can understand a low-income person not managing to tithe, it’s a little funny, isn’t it, for a million-dollar household with only two kids to squeak out a percentage-point or two of annual charity?

        The point is this: It is a statistical fact that conservatives on average, with exceptions, give double what leftists do. This is true at every income level, every tax bracket. It is true as a percentage of income and in dollar terms. For every Romney, there’s an Obama; for every poor red-state widow who puts in her two coins, there’s a poor blue-state widow putting in one. That’s what the aggregate data says, going back generations.

        Now, that flies in the face of everything the mainstream culture tells you about conservatives. But that’s the same culture which tells you that all generals are jingoistic psychopaths, all American soldiers are a hair away from a violent tower-sniping crackup, all Catholic clerics are pedophiles, all Anglican clerics are cool provided they’ve lost or relativized their faith away, all Evangelical Protestant ministers are either philanderers, frauds, bigots or idiots, all Christian laypersons are hypocrites or hopelessly naive, all wisdom comes from pratitioners of Eastern Religions, all businessmen are scheming lawbreaking profiteers, all scientists and environmental activists are good, honest, earnest folks, folks from the American South are more racially-bigoted than folks from the Northeast, and the Government Is Here To Help You.

        As to another point you raised: Do some conservatives give to “charitable causes” which are less-than-entirely oriented towards the poor? Certainly. Sometimes they’re oriented towards the sick. Sometimes they’re oriented towards the hungry. And sometimes it’s on less direct-to-the-needy causes like a local orchestra. I think these are worthy causes, too. But if you’re going to be dismissive of anything other than giving to the poor, sick, and hungry, then consider: Leftists fall more afoul of your standard in this area than right-wingers because the right-wingers are more likely to give to church-oriented ministries (which, as I’m sure you’re aware, tend to focus on helping the poor, sick, and hungry here and abroad) whereas the left-wingers are more likely to give to Planned Parenthood and environmental causes (which, as I’m sure you’re aware, tend to focus on helping the owls and the abortionists, here and abroad).

        Well, of course, there’s nothing wrong with preserving the environment: Earth Liberation Front needs your dollars too. But the point is that if you want people helping other people out of their own means, in the U.S., conservatives knock the left-liberals into a cocked hat. And even more so, if you prefer to have the poor associate that help with Jesus Christ, as opposed to secular or state-based aid.

        For that is one of the big problems: The state-based aid does not, in any given society, tend to supplement the voluntary alms to the poor, but rather to supplant it. People stop doing the latter because they’re forced to do the former.

        Leftists claim this is still advantageous, because if the state forcibly collects for the poor, it does so from all; but if the culture advocates voluntary alms, some folk will be stingy and not give, obligating others to give more to make up for it.

        And that much is true…but it leaves out all the overwhelming reasons arguing in the opposite direction; for example:

        1. Compulsory wealth redistribution is done on reported income; but criminals do not report ill-gotten gain. Thus even under a compulsory system those who earn income legally have to over pay, to make up for those who do not…and thus is criminal income given a systemic incentive and legal income, a systemic disincentive.

        2. When the giver gives voluntarily, he practices generosity towards his fellow man. This breaks down the divide between the classes. But when his fellow man’s vote puts people in office who take from him at gunpoint, no generosity is practiced; there is at best resignation and at worst, a feeling his pocket is being picked. This increases the mistrust of the needy.

        3. When the receiver receives from the voluntary generosity of his neighbors, he recognizes their voluntary choice to assist him. They are grateful, and mistrust of those who have more is reduced; also, they often develop an internal resolve that when their own circumstances are improved, they will “pay it forward,” aiding someone else as they were aided. Class conflict is thereby reduced, and a culture of generosity reinforced. But when they receive from a faceless government bureaucracy, they feel only entitled. And if they hear that some wish entitlement programs reduced — no matter how excellent the reasons — they resist the reduction through political means and become resentful of the persons whose taxes fund the assistance. Thus class conflict is increased, and the culture of generosity undermined.

        4. When an opportunity arises for generosity, the man who has extra will give if a culture of generosity (such as that in red states) exists around him. But if he has already had a hefty chunk taken forcibly, that sense of bighearted obligation is reduced. He says to himself “I gave already, last April 15th” …and thus is the culture of generosity further undermined.

        5. People tend to associate their gifts to charity and their gifts to the church in the same category of thought. Those who’re accustomed to give large percentages of pre-tax income to charity do likewise to the church…and often in the same moment, by donating specifically to church-associated charitable organizations. Thus does the culture of voluntary giving tend to produce a good stream of tithes and offerings to the Church and her ministries to the poor, sick, and needy. But when the culture of generosity breaks down, and people think they “gave at tax-time,” then they give less both to charity and to the Church. Parishes are ill-funded, and Church charities less able to assist the poor.

        6. When the poor and sick and needy see that their most reliable helps come from the Church and her ministries, and from Christians generally, they see God visibly ministering to their needs. But as taxes increase to pay for government entitlement programs, not only does the Church and Christian charities go without, but the needy see little impact of Christian charity in their lives. They begin to say, “What does God have to do with me? He has done nothing for me, that I recall. I do not see any special charity from Christians. All I know is that they hate gay people. I don’t know anything they’re for; I only know what they’re against. They are, of all segments of society, the most useless. We could do without them. As for help, I get all my help from the state. Big Brother is watching out for me, and all that God stuff is extraneous.”

        7. Politicians use entitlement programs to buy votes, and of course to alienate the population from whichever politicians oppose those programs. These latter, whether they are actually any wealthier or not, are inevitably identified with “the rich” and their motives identified as “greed.” There is a strong incentive to whip up class hatred and envy in order to win elections. Thus does distrust of one’s fellow-man increase.

        8. As entitlement programs grow, naturally someone must administer them. But because they are compulsory, it is the government who selects the administrators. Politicians just love handing out sweet cushy program-administering jobs to their cronies (or, in Barney Frank’s case, to his lover). There is an intrinsically corruptive influence from wealth redistribution programs.

        9. Wealth is not typically redistributed equally. Offices are set up in politicians’ home districts, and aid tends to wind up there, also. And sometimes it is ill-accounted for. More corruption.

        In short: When the devil wants to fragment a society, breaking down bonds of Solidarity into squabbling factions and class warfare, the welfare state is truly one of his best weapons. And he simultaneously gets to break down the habits of those with much of giving voluntarily to “the least of these,” thus increasing the likelihood that they will go to hell. And all the while he gets to impoverish the Church and her ministries, and make sure that the needy never associate their material helps with spiritual goodness. The devil gets to sideline the Church, shoving her to the periphery of society, and showing every poor man that he lives by bread alone.

        Well, bread and free contraceptives.

        But definitely none of that God stuff.

    • http://hezekiahgarrett.wordpress.com Hezekiah Garrett

      Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

      As though caritas and charitable giving were the same thing.

      Any (child of unwed parents) who thinks giving away money meets his obligations to the Lord and the poor deserves what he faces at the Eschaton.

      • R.C.

        Of course they aren’t the same thing.

        A man must do the one, and not neglect the other.

        A man who faces his Lord having neglected the spiritual life is in deep trouble, as is the man who faces his Lord having neglected caring for the physical needs of his fellow man. We are Christians, not Gnostics; our obligations are both spiritual and bodily.

        My own household plan is simple: Serve the Lord and love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love neighbor as ourselves, and go to confession weekly to cope with our failures in both areas…and give tithe plus one-fifth our (rough) income percentile on our pre-tax income. None of your business what that amounts to, and I’ll admit in this economy it’s been tough. I’m well under 50th percentile for income these days, so that part of the formula doesn’t account for much. But this economy is even tougher on others, so it makes sense to follow C.S.Lewis’ “only safe suggestion” when it comes to giving.

        At any rate, I said what I said not because I think almsgiving equals salvation. You can put a hat on that strawman and scare crows with it.

        No, the accusation to which I was responding was the general characterization of conservatives as rich (hah!) plutocratic Ebenezer Scrooge/Mr. Burns caricatures. And I’m pointing out that this is not only false, but that if it were true of anyone, it’d be the crowd who just got re-elected. Yes, conservatives support entitlement cuts…but not because of stinginess towards the needy. That possibility is disproven by their voluntary behavior towards the needy, so one can safely discount that wild conspiracy theory and consider the possiblity that (shock!) the reasons for reducing entitlements have to do with (a.) They’re Not Constitutional, If One Is An Originalist; (b.) They’re So Big They Damage Society (see my earlier post about this); (c.) They Don’t Help The Poor As Much As Subsidiarist And Voluntary Alternatives Do; and, (d.) At Their Current Rate Of Growth They Are Absolutely, Positively Unsustainable.

        And that last point should really end the discussion: Cuts are soon to become unavoidable. Military, entitlements, everything, and it doesn’t matter what any Paul Ryan types try to say about it.

        Entitlement spending is projected to hit 30%+ of GDP by mid-century, and Hauser’s Law suggests our long-term revenue prospects tend to allow us to convert no more than 20% of GDP to federal revenue. That’s not sustainable.

        Formerly, borrowing from the social-security trust fund could cover much of the gap, but with baby-boomers retiring, and the children they never had nonexistent in the workforce, that cashpile is gone. Formerly, the Chinese were willing to loan us money, but now that we look less like the world’s reserve currency and more like Weimar-In-The-Making, they’re not so interested.

        So what’ll we do? Well, if we did it all with cuts, we’d be cutting every last program 30% across the board. Not likely.

        So, we’ll print money, hand-over-fist. That way, grandma still gets her $400 Social Security Check, the number unaltered. Sure, those dollars will be of the freshly-minted variety…the variety that makes a gallon of milk cost $9.95, but good news! The second- and third-wave mortgage collapses are on the horizon, so the deflationary effect of that may balance out the inflationary effect of Quantitative Easing 4: The Return Of Ben Bernanke. (Or is it Michael Myers? I get the two confused.)

        At any rate, we’ll “increase taxes on the rich”…which, because they’re so few, will reduce the gap between spending and revenue by, oh, 1-5%.

        After that, since nobody’ll let us borrow any more, the problem will be only fixed by a mixture of cuts and inflationary money-printing.

        If you ever wanted to try living like the Desert Fathers, well, you may get your chance.

        • Andy

          First RC I am not advocating raising taxes on the rich. Second although the “studies” say conservatives give more than the “leftists” – self-identification of liberal vs. conservative does not really meet a quality looked for in studies. However, where in the constitution does it say entitlement programs are forbidden? The really large entitlements go to big business as well those in need – lets begin by asking do we need to subsidize big oil or GE. I think not. As far as the size goes – yes they are large however, if the sainted republicans had not borrowed from SOcial Security and made it part of federal government income we might not be in this sad shape. I know lets allow medicaid/medicare to negotiate for lower prices on drugs, but damn that would decrease the profits of the companies. I have yet to see proof that they don’t work – what I see are fevered statements that they do more harm – by the way the way don’t forget with subsidairty comes solidarity -something I seldom see talked about by conservatives. The current growth of the military-industiral complex is also unsustainable – so I want to see money go to those in need.
          What I see in many comments is not a commitment to what the gospel spoke to at todays celebration of the mass – rather I see a commitment to the wealthy know what to do with money and that we should be grateful for what they deign they bestow on us. That is bull.
          In a post above your disdain or perhaps hatred of Obama is both uncharitable and unchristian. It is folks like you that make me wonder why I remain Catholic. The tax code regardless of your math favors the rich – the deduction rates favor the rich. If there was no break in the tax code for giving to charity, I see no proof that the rich of today would do so.
          You make assumptions about behavior that have no support, despite your well written responses. You speak of whipping up class envy without proof other than your feelings. The statement that dems. byuy voters with entitlement programs – the reps buy votes by pretending to be pro-life. The problem is that in our country we have ceased to see a person for who s/he is and now value them for what they have. We look at Romney or Gates as the model for Americans and ignore the family with both parents working who are struggling to make ends meet yet still find a way to donate their time and/or of themselves. I wish you well in your fishbowl of conservative thought. For me I will face the world as it comes to me and do my best to do the will of God.

  • kim

    sounds like liberalism and conservatism are both victims of concupiscence…

    that’s best resolved by clinging to the bark of Peter. No, not personal feelings. Peter. As in Persona Christi.

  • Peter

    As a former follower of Rand’s, I can attest that her “philosophy” is in reality a poisonous and damnable false gospel. To go to Rand for political wisdom is to go to a broken Cistern rather than true Christian political philosophy. To try to find wisdom in Rand is sort of like looking to Marx and Engels or even Hitler for wisdom. (I admit her philosophy has its seemingly compelling aspects, but perhaps so does the Communist Manifesto). Rand was extremely pro-abortion; I believe she had one.

    Pro-Lifers, Pro-family values voters, should wake up and realize that we are not truly welcomed by many in the Republican party. Many Republicans are just as pro-choice and pro-gay as most Democrats. It should not surprise us that the leadership is willing to throw us under the bus for expressing our ideas on abortion being an intrinsic evil without exception.

    Remember, Governor Romney has no compassion to many people who have come here and contributed to society – he opposed any form of amnesty. Ever heard of oppression of the alien and the orphan, which, like abortion and homosexual behavior, cries to heaven for judgment? I also remember an event where the question was asked of a candidate, “What would you do if someone was in a tragic car accident, was on life support but had no way of paying for his treatment?” The answer was basically, “I would take him off of it.” There were cheers in the Republican crowd. Any good Catholic should have felt absolutely disgusted with this reaction.

    To sum it up, in the future, I am going to be much, much tougher on whoever I vote for. I do not appreciate being a pawn in the Republican political chess match. And I think all of us moral conservatives should really consider if we should support the Republican party any longer as long as it treats us as the crazy relatives whenever they have a setback.

  • Jennie

    As a catechist at my parish I had the privilege of leading a discussion on the parable of the weeds. If you don’t remember the admonishment to leave the weeds among the wheat I would recomend a re-read of Matthew because if a class of 8th graders in suburban MN can understand the message that it is NOT our place to judge souls of others, educated adults should be able to understand it as well. If not maybe I’m just a super sweet teacher but me thinks we all just choose to ignore the hard parts. As much as we disagree we are all, first and foremost children of God, created in His likeness and image, and should wish for communion with all of His children. The rest of the matter is between our Lord and them. That is it.

    • Mark Shea

      Who are you talking to? Who is judging souls?

  • Jennie

    I am sorry for not being clear. From some of what I am reading in comboxes both here and elsewhere it seems like there are many folks separating the “true” Catholics from the “fake Catholics in their eyes” and reading into intentions behind how people vote without even knowing what is going on in their minds. Some of what I read seems to move into making assumptions about who is “ok” and “not ok” as far as things go. Im not talking about your article because I think you are right and have already taken it to heart and begun to purge that which is taking my eyes of the Lord and leads me to judge the state of my fellow neighbor’s souls. sorry for the confusion. This is why I never comment. I never make sense and say things wrong.

    • Mark Shea

      God bless you, dear. You’re a good egg.

  • Ronald King

    Mark, I very much appreciate your analysis above. It seems that all of us must die to our illusions/delusions, either now or at death, which forms our identities attaching us to the things of this life. It can create some discomfort to admit error but we must do it sooner or later. Jennie, I also very much appreciate what you wrote. Very refreshing.

  • https://www.facebook.com/zaphod77 Gardner Ruggles Jr

    Moral void? You ACTUALLY think over the top ad hominems like that persuade? As for bubbles, how on earth does that work? Most of the culture and the MSM are opposed to conservatism. We’re swimming in their world view.

    • Mark Shea

      Prudence entails dealing with reality, not making perpetual blame-shifting excuses for failure. The media has always been biased. And yet conservatives have won. The reason people did not vote for Romney was because his sole core principle was that he should be president and he would say anything to anyone, no matter how morally inconsistent, in pursuit of that goal. Even conservatives (before his nomination and the push to make us ignore that) knew it. Living in reality (i.e prudence) means recognizing that, and recognizing that normal people are turned off by that. Prudence further dictates recognizing that Romney saw himself as a servant of money and power, not the 47%. Because of this, people in that 47%, plus people who care about that 47%, voted for somebody else. You can address that reality, rethink, use critical thought, and ask what the Thing that Used to Be Conservatism did wrong. Or you can be imprudent, pretend that an electorate unworthy of Romney was simply motivated by wanting Santa Claus. And you can continue to live in unreality. Prudence is a virtue. Imprudence is also known as stupidity.

      • https://www.facebook.com/zaphod77 Gardner Ruggles Jr

        In other words, you are doubling down on the ad hominems. GOOD for you!

  • Tim in Cleveland

    It’s not just FOX News and Rush Limbaugh that create a conservative bubble. I never watch FOX News and don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh, but on election day I had a very good feeling that Romney would sail through easily. That turned out to be completely wrong. I rely on the internet, mainly drudgereport, hotair, instapundit and the like. All those sites seemed to disregard polling data that suggested an Obama victory.

    I suspect that the “media bias” mentality is working against conservatives and creating their own bubble, shutting them off to any news or reports contrary to what they believe. True, the media is biased, but that doesn’t make everything (or even most of) what they report wrong. So whenever bad news is reported, just claiming “media bias” doesn’t make that news incorrect.

    • Mark Shea

      Exactly. Almost every time I post something from a ritually impure source on my blog, the response is not, “Is this true?” but “That is a ritually impure source! Why should I pay any attention to what *they* say!”

      • Tim in Cleveland

        I think the treatment of witnesses at a trial is a good example here.

        In law, bias is a way to impeach a witness. But even though a witness may be biased, his testimony is still considered. Ultimately it’s the factfinder (such as the jury) that determines the credibility of the witness and whether he should be believed. A biased witness may still be credible, but it requires an analysis of the facts to determine the significance that bias should be accorded… it requires prudence, as you’ve been saying, on behalf of the jury. But just because a witness is biased (say because it’s a defendant’s family member) doesn’t automatically exclude that witness’s testimony from all the evidence.


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