Ross Douthat’s utopia exists, in Haiti

If only "the government" would get out of the way, then private charities could step in, step up, and fix all of our problems. This is not a serious suggestion, but it's a popular one, perennially put forward by people who insist we should take them seriously. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat offers a recent version of this in a recent column titled, tellingly, "Government and Its Rivals." "Rivals," you see, because it's a competition. If X helps a poor person, then no one else can. … [Read more...]

Rick Santorum vs. Pope Pius XI — one candidate, two encyclicals

I read two recent items about former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum that both turned out to be, oddly, about former Pope Pius XI. First up is an excellent question from Mary at The Left Coaster, who notes that Republican presidential candidate Santorum opposes contraception, arguing that sex without the possibility of conception is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." Mary suggests a follow-up question for the candidate: Perhaps … [Read more...]

Do you want a big rock or a small rock?

Do you want a big rock or a small rock? You have to pick one or the other. A huge, heavy, substantial, unbreakable hunk of granite? Or a tiny, buoyant, crumbly piece of pumice? Which one do you want? I'm assuming you know what the rock is for. The question would be silly -- utterly stupid and pointless -- unless we all already agreed on what the rock is for. No point in asking about the proper size or weight of the rock unless we know that -- unless we all share a comprehensive, proper and … [Read more...]

Subsidiarity and the outline of your next novel

Noah Smith's post, "The liberty of local bullies," does a good job describing the inadequacy of contemporary libertarian ideology. The modern American libertarian ideology does not deal with the issue of local bullies. In the world envisioned by Nozick, Hayek, Rand, and other foundational thinkers of the movement, there are only two levels to society -- the government (the "big bully") and the individual. If your freedom is not being taken away by the biggest bully that exists, your freedom is … [Read more...]

“The moral rights corresponding to this obligation”

For a less snarky, clearer, and more compelling discussion of the rights that correspond -- necessarily -- from the obligation to work, see John Paul II's encyclical Laborem Exercens, or "On Human Labor." Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of this encyclical, due mainly to the forceful logic of its secular argument. But I'll also confess that I enjoy citing this sometimes because I like watching right-wing Catholics squirm. Here's one pertinent part of John Paul II's … [Read more...]

On the road to Weehawken

Or consider the role and duty of a ferry boat captain. Her job is to pilot a ferry boat from Point A to Point B and back again according to schedule while ensuring the safety of her passengers. That is her primary responsibility. It's what she was hired to do and what she is paid to do. That duty and responsibility means that she must not stray from her assigned route. Any such deviation will put her ferry and its passengers off schedule. It could also expose her passengers to added risk, … [Read more...]

Subsidiarity and Saddleback

My frustration was showing a couple of weeks ago in a post titled: "Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary, not exclusive, binary and competitive." That post consisted almost entirely of the sentence "Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive," repeated 10 times with each repetition linking to a different longer and deeper discussion of subsidiarity, "sphere sovereignty" or some other framework … [Read more...]

Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary, not exclusive, binary and competitive

One point, 10 reiterations, 10 links to longer, more thorough expressions of and arguments for that same one point: Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive. Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive. Responsibility is differentiated, mutual and complementary; responsibility is not exclusive, binary and competitive. Responsibility is … [Read more...]


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