An inescapable network of mutuality

So Franklin Graham says that churches, rather than governments, are responsible for meeting the needs of the poor. Either one or the other, zero-sum, in competition, etc. This is not the view of most Christians or of most Christian churches. Nor is it an easy view to reconcile with the Christian Bible, which is full of admonitions to both the community of believers and to those in government that they are responsible for caring for the poor, the powerless, widows, orphans, strangers, aliens, … [Read more...]

"Pro-Family" means anti-families

It's a new year, so it's a new chance to harp again on one of my pet peeves -- the evasive abstraction of the so-called "pro-family" agenda of the so-called "pro-family" groups. These groups sometimes announce their "pro-family" stance by stating their allegiance to "The Family" right there in their name -- Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, American Family Association, etc. But there are also dozens more such groups without that word … [Read more...]

Subsidiarity: Where responsibility begins

Some simple equations: Subsidiarity + Solidarity = Democracy Subsidiarity - Solidarity = Tyranny It really is that stark and that simple. The good news -- at least for those of us who don't favor tyranny -- is that these two things are not easily separable. Subsidiarity clarifies solidarity, but it cannot exist apart from it. And solidarity without the focus provided by subsidiarity is too amorphous and overwhelming to provide useful guidance. Both principles share the same premise: … [Read more...]

More on subsidiarity

The previous post was intended as red meat for a Thursday, but it prompted some good discussion in comments and I want to respond to a bit of that Specifically, I want to follow up on this comment from josh, which is thoughtful and well-stated, but hits a sour note at the end: "It's once you recognize government as being generally inefficient, and less responsive to the needs of its constituents the further it is removed from them, that you start to think that governmental interference should be … [Read more...]

The barrel of a gun

The United States has a massive nuclear arsenal and the best-equipped, best-trained military the world has ever seen. It is an awesome, fearsome machine that can rain down inexorable death from the heavens. But that's not why I drive on the right side of the road. I drive on the right side of the road for a whole host of reasons -- practical, prudential, even moral I suppose. (Prudential and moral often overlap where safety is concerned. Plus Not Being an Asshole is a kind of moral reason.) All … [Read more...]

Mission Trips & AmeriCorps

Matt Yglesias discusses Sen. Chris Dodd's national service plan, and in doing so touches on something that often arises in church regarding the practice of mission trips. Here's Matt: There's nothing wrong, generically, with such programs but they really need to be looked at one-by-one on the merits primarily through the lens of whether or not they're cost-effective methods of achieving the public purpose in question. Does appropriating more money to the Peace Corps make … [Read more...]

Quine’s landlady

Let's go back to our hypothetical old man sleeping in the doorway and to our non-hypthetical old man trapped in a submerged pickup truck. (Who is, police report, in stable condition.) This is a free country. Each of us is free to see a stranger trapped or abandoned and to do nothing. We are free to put our own interests ahead of the interests of others. We are free to be selfish. But that selfishness can, ultimately, erode our freedom. The more we choose to ignore and avoid the concerns of … [Read more...]

Who is you?

The previous post tells the story of three ordinary people who acted as citizens and neighbors when confronted with a drowning man. Their actions were heroic, yet this is very much a textbook case. This was an ethics professor's hypothetical in real life. (Ethics profs love hypthetical drowning victims almost as much as they love hypothetical Nazis. They even like to confront their students with hypothetical drowning Nazis.) The problem with many of the hypothetical predicaments posed by … [Read more...]