If We Oppose Abortion *and* Social Safety Nets

If We Oppose Abortion *and* Social Safety Nets July 8, 2014

we don’t really oppose abortion:

Women with incomes at less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level accounted for 42.4 percent of abortions between 2000 and 2008, while only roughly 15 percent of people total live under the federal poverty line.

It is challenging to say how many of these women would not have elected to have abortions had their financial circumstances been different, but a 2011 Gallup poll suggests pro-life sentiment is far more common among poorer people, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats making under $30,000 a year identifying as “pro-life.” Couple the data with anecdotal reports like those cited in “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion,” and it seems fair to conclude that financial privation pushes a considerable number of women into electing abortion who would, in different economic arrangements, decide instead to give birth.

With this in mind, it’s unclear why so much of pro-life policy seems to center on bans and fines and scans and threats. If a woman considers herself too destitute to care for a child, there is no transvaginal ultrasound demoralizing enough and no accompanying narration excoriating enough to make her decision seem any less plausible. The specter of criminalization in some pro-life discourse is equally disturbing: surely the penal carceral system is the very last structure we would relegate poor mothers to. Even pro-life picketers seem to recognize as much. Fortunately, if the goal really is reducing abortion and supporting the ability of mothers to care for their infants, the data directs us to a very intuitive solution: give would-be moms, especially the poorest, the financial boost they need to give birth while maintaining financial security. A child allowance program fits the bill neatly.

It’s good to see an essay like this showing up in The American Conservative–and to see it coming from the rising generation.  The strange disconnect between being opposed to abortion and the urge to punish the poor that often accompanies conservative rhetoric (see, for instance, this), like the weirdness of listening to Catholics talk about being “open to life” (under pain of mortal sin) and then complaining (I have heard it myself) that poor families that are large have “too many kids” and are trying to “game the system” has to end. So too does the absurdity of dollar-in-the-plate Catholics pretending that when the state helps poor people, it is somehow robbing us of the chance to be generous.  It’s not all about us.  Nobody’s stopping us from being generous.  Usually we stop ourselves just fine. Here, for example, is a letter from a committed, prolife Catholic who has tried to be as obedient as she knows how to the Church’s teaching, but has (in the view of other Catholics under the spell of libertarian ideology) committed the unforgivable crime of being poor and disabled while making the attempt:

I’ve been running into the writings of some “conservative and traditional” Catholics that proudly display their utter hatred of anything government related by attacking the poor. 

A few months ago, I was reading the blog of a fairly popular Catholic mom homeschooling blogger. I’d rather not say her name. She put up a post where she said, in effect, the poor shouldn’t have children, unless they reject and quit any and all government programs, even if they’re being used temporarily. She doesn’t want to use her tax dollars to pay for the children of “irresponsible” parents. 

So I emailed her and told her I’m permanently disabled and unable to work, without some government help, I would not be able to afford treatment. My husband is my caretaker, and can’t work outside the home. We are poor. We are Catholic and we take the “open to children” thing very seriously. What’s her solution, then?

She told me I SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO MARRY IN THE FIRST PLACE, my marriage is probably invalid, and I should have been unselfish and lived a celibate life. Now, all my husband and I can do is live in complete continence until I hit menopause. 

I was stunned. This is a woman who’s prayed in front of abortion clinics. She’s done volunteer work for CPCs and counseled women in crisis pregnancies. She talks about children being a blessing – but apparently, only for the worthy. 

What do you think about what she says? Is she right? Should I have never have married and never had my son? Should we never have sex again?

The most terrible part of that letter, for me, is that last paragraph. It makes me want to weep. The traditional vows of marriage said “For richer, for poorer”.  But many American Catholics under the influence of libertarian ideology have so internalized the vinegar of our post-Calvinist sense of the person as only having value when he is productive that  even the victims of such an outrageous assault have to be re-assured that they are precious in the eyes of God and that poverty is no bar to their right to marry and have children.  For the truth, of course, is that my correspondent and her husband are the profoundly generous people and the “prolife” woman spewing the Margaret Sanger eugenics garbage at her is the deeply selfish one.  Exactly like Francis Galton, the founder of the Eugenics movement, this mommy blogger, for the sake of her commitment to some theory about the destruction of all state aid to the poor, is saying we must make it our goal to better the race by selective breeding and the weeding out of the “unfit.” Inferiors, Galton thought (just like this “prolife” woman), should be treated “with all kindness” so long as they complied with the demand of their betters for celibacy. But if they dared to breed, “such persons would be considered as enemies to the State, and to have forfeited all claims to kindness.”

A short while  ago, I argued that all of Catholic social teaching snaps into focus when we forget about categories of left and right and realize that it is focused and founded on the good of the family, and that our worship of individualism, the state, the corporation, society, mammon, etc. must take a back seat to that since the family is the icon of the Holy Trinity.  This mommy blogger is, as much as any communist, an enemy of the family.  She and those like her have exalted some semi-anarchist theory of the abolition of the state and the primacy of private property over the good of the family just as much as communists have exalted  the primacy of the state over the good of the family and corporatists have exalted their great money machines over the good of the family.  But the family, the icon of the Blessed Trinity, remains prior.  The state, the law, our money were made for man, not man for the state, the law, and our money.  This courageous woman who wrote me, her brave husband, and the child they have loved into being under the blessing of God Almighty are what is right and any theory, communist or libertarian or corporatist, that stands against them is evil.  Chesterton saw this:

I begin with a little girl’s hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization.

Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.

That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict’s; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.

– What’s Wrong with the World (1910).

"No idea what that means, but "Delenda Est" was the name of a Harry Potter ..."

Where Peter Is on the Death ..."
"So you don't acknowledge that a pope CANNOT teach error in the first place, according ..."

Where Peter Is on the Death ..."
"I looked at some Youtube videos of Homeboy Industries. Amazing."

Some books and a video about ..."
"So what? It's just one far-right Catholic squabbling about a particular teaching he thinks he ..."

Where Peter Is on the Death ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • asecularfranciscan

    Strongly seconded, thanks Mark

  • Andy

    For Catholic Social Teaching, the current structure of American political
    parties bisects the common good. The Republican Party better
    reflects the commitment to protect unborn life, reject euthanasia and promote
    religious liberty. The Democratic Party witnesses more effectively to Catholic
    teaching on the issues of poverty and inequality, immigration reform,
    restorative justice and the environment. On the critical question
    of family life, each party reflects certain key elements of the core common
    good, while on the issues of the radical need to address global poverty
    and the fundamental question of the role of warfare in American foreign policy,
    neither party embodies even an acceptable threshold commitment to achieving the Catholic vision of justice and peace in the world. The commitment
    to the protection of human life from conception to natural death and the option
    for the poor have become particularly important principles in the present
    moment, not only because of their centrality to the defense of human
    dignity, but also because the rejection of the first has become a virtual
    litmus test for democratic leadership, while a rejection of the second is
    increasingly becoming a litmus test for republican allegiance. For these
    reasons, voters guided by Catholic Social Teaching are left with a deeply
    conflicted attachment to particular parties today. These remarks were part of an address at Georgetown University in April of 2014 by Bishop Robert McElroy. Of equal interest was http://bishopflores.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-unborn-and-immigrant-catholics-and.html
    – an interesting commentary on American politics and the Catholic voter.

    Some of the comments following this article seemed to reinforce what both
    Bishops were saying and what Pope Francis is saying. We are not in an either-or place we are in a both place. We must meet the needs of
    the unborn and allow them to be born, but we must also recognize the dignity of
    all people and not put them to shame because of their level of socio-economic
    success or lack of success. As the current Holy Father has said – we are becoming throwaway society – we keep only those things that give us something –and the poor and the unborn don’t do that. This is not new St. John Paul and Benedict have said the same. It seems that it is time for Catholics to recognize what is being taught instead of bemoaning what isn’t taught. Isn’t it time for Catholics to value all people for being children of God instead of removing them from what God has created and willed?

  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    Well said on all counts, Mr. Shea. Couldn’t agree more.

  • Peggy

    It’s fine to have a basic safety net. There’s no need to keep moving the goalposts and say we must do more and more. That’s the problem….And we’re not encouraging chastity and marriage it seems. That’s the missing piece.

    • Kristen inDallas

      in my life… I find moving goalposts are the only ones worth having. Striving to always do better than we previously did seems like a pretty good rule, in fact.

    • cfae

      There is no adequate safety net. The rate of homelessness is rising for women and children. Far and away the reason for their homelessness is domestic abuse, so marriage hasn’t saved them and chastity isn’t possible when husbands have so little regard for their wives. Something else that bothers me greatly in Catholic circles is the presumption that women seeking abortion have been promiscuous. The amount of rape and coercion is higher than we wish to acknowledge. We are commissioned by scripture to care for the widows and orphans. In the original Greek “widows and orphans” refers to those without the protection of a man and could certainly include mothers who are married. We need to insure that protection more than we need to throw stones.

      • Peggy

        It’s never enough…never enough. We need to have policies that discourage unmarried sex. Yeah, I know. Good luck with that. I know several women (including in my family) who became pregnant before marriage. I refused to attend showers for these women. Later the babies received needed items from me. I am tired of lionizing women who had sex with men who are not their husbands and don’t take responsibility for the child they created. Go hunt down those men and make them support the kids. It;s not ideal to allow a 40% illegitimacy rate to continue. The wide availability of abortion and birth control have not abated that trend. All such trends have increased in general for 40 years now.

        We need to take on the sexual mores of today and promote chastity and marriage. Helping women through private charity is better than an ever widening public safety net. Working with young men is very important too. The ever widening safety net has merely allowed the problem to continue and worsen.

        I think the original compassion and mercy we’ve had for abandoned or unwise girls/women has morphed into normalization and approval of their choices. Unwed births are no longer a big deal. Just like divorce and shacking up. [Sr. Joan CHittister wants the bishops’ synod to have blessings for these kind of relationships.]

        • Peggy

          P.S. We should return to encouraging these women to adopt out their children. That way the children can be raised in a by a stable married couple (unless the state forces her to give her child to homosexuals!).

          • chezami

            Or perhaps, instead of robbing families of their children for the crime of being poor, we could consider strengthening the social safety net to help them.

            • Peggy

              If they marry they aren’t usually eligible for public aid. Encourage the young people to marry first and do what they want. I don’t care how many kids married people have. God bless them. Isn’t that what our Church teaches? A married couple could once have half a dozen+ children and give them all a Catholic education. Can’t any more.

              We can’t continue to throw more and more money at the situation to enable it to continue. We need to teach the young people about adult responsibilities and real-life consequences of sex, why sexual relations are for man and wife. People can have as many kids as they want. We don’t have to encourage illegitimacy through ever-expanding public safety nets. We need to focus on personal responsibility. Now, young people know there are plenty of “outs” if a baby is created–from Plan B, an abortion, adoption or going on public aid. There are quarters in society where teacher friends are discouraged from telling girls about careers and college. Their mission/goal (?) is to have a baby and bring in a check that way. Sorry, but it does happen in some quarters. That poorly serves the girl and her children.

          • Chris

            Peggy, your naked contempt for both single mothers and homosexuals really puts the lie to your attempt to appear compassionate.

      • Decades of survey data say that you’re mistaken regarding abortion. In terms of actual women, I generally refrain from having an opinion unless I know the particulars of a case. Presumptions in any direction are a fool’s game.

      • Ladasha Smithson

        According to this study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, married women actually suffer the least amount of domestic violence. Sounds to me your just trying to demonize marriage and men.


    • Dan C

      Sure. We are called to do more. Our hardly functional safety net pales in comparison to Europe.

      • That Greek safety net was really great, except for that whole economic fraud and unsustainability piece. We are not called to give so much to the poor that we impoverish the nation which seems to be the trend in the EU these days.

  • Becky

    I agree with you — I grew up fairly poor, and numerous people in my family have benefited from the safety net — but I feel there must be a way to provide a safety net that isn’t so destructive to families. I worked until my first child was a bit over a year old, but I had a long lunch break and was able to visit the baby at daycare every day. One of the women who worked in the baby room had a baby a couple of months older than mine; the father was a guy who also worked at the daycare (with older kids) and was obviously wild about the baby and his mom. They were a cute couple. She commented offhand one day that she was never going to marry him, because if she did, she’d lose her (state-provided) health insurance.

    I think that’s the sort of thing that those on the right are opposed to. This woman had an active disincentive to marrying a guy who was, by all appearances, a hard worker and and good citizen. It is a tragedy for that baby that his parents aren’t going to get married; it greatly increases the odds he’ll be raised in an unstable, single-parent home. However, I do not, under any circumstances, want that family to lose their health insurance. I just feel like there has to be a better way than the status quo to provide help for who need it without making it financially stupid for them to create married households.

    I guess I feel like our current benefits regime pits being pro-life and pro-family in opposition to one another, and I don’t think it has to be that way. I hope it doesn’t have to be that way.

    • Dan C

      The trouble is that we must punish poor men. Giving poor men support would be unAmerican. As a consequence of our parsimoniousness, we do not support families.

      Want to help? Expand unemployment benefits. Sweden seems to do just fine.

      • Dave G.

        Giving poor men support would be unAmerican? Except for one study after another survey that continually finds Americans near the top, if not at the top, of the generous list in the world;

        “The United States is the world’s most generous nation, according to a global index of giving, as a higher proportion of Americans helped a stranger than any other country in the world.

        The 2013 World Giving Index – published annually by international nonprofit organization Charities Aid Foundation – looks at three measures: monetary giving, volunteering and helping of strangers in a typical month. The survey, published on Tuesday, was carried out in 2012 across 135 countries.”

        If that was a fluke then maybe. But for ages, Americans are always near the top in one study after another. So, it actually seems rather American to help a poor man. And most folks I know who call themselves conservative also seem to think its a very American thing to do. They just don’t think the answer lies in higher taxes to build government programs.

        • Dan C

          1. Believe in your Kirkian intermediary organizations then. But the folks who ran them until 1980 do not have stable or consistent employment now to run them. Your K of C or Boy Scouts or Lions, etc, were run by folks who had stable jobs that were laborers like cashiers in a grocery store and had decent pay. The decently paid stable individuals in a community now are professionals who work too many hours to be able to run those intermediary institutions. The “Follow me boys” era of Fred McMurrays are gone forever in this economy.

          2. The “giving” index is not just for giving to charities and is dwarfed by the actual support required from the government for the big things that the “giving index” covers.
          The giving index covers poor- charity, University donations, health care organization donation, and medical research donation. Private donations in each category are dwarfed by US federal government support. In no area is a leader in any of these organizations even going to contemplate that the small charitable donations will cover the communal support from government entities.

          3. The case as to “why government support is a problem” is actually ruled by mythology rather than fact.

          • Dave G.

            I wasn’t discussing a comparison of this or that. You had suggested that some would think helping a poor man to be unAmerican. I merely pointed out that Americans are, on the whole, among the most charitable and giving people on the planet. Time and again, no matter who does the study, the results are the same. And there is nothing to suggest conservatives are any less giving. And my own experience dealing with people who would call themselves conservative attests to the fact that they are not exceptions to the charitable American rule. Therefore I merely responded to the notion of helping a poor man being unAmerican with the facts that suggest helping a poor man might be a very American thing indeed. And conservatives might very well agree (assuming we don’t define charitable or helping poor men only one way).

            • For private charity giving, conservatives tend to rate as more giving than liberals.

              • chezami

                It’s not about a horse race for the generosity gold star. It’s about poor people getting the help they need. If private charity doesn’t cut it the state has the obligation to supply the needs of the poor.

                • Dave G.

                  Of course. But these comments are in response to Dan’s assertion that there are people who thinking helping a poor man is unAmerican. Stats were appealed to in order to show that for all their flaws, Americans consistently rank near, if not at, the top of charitable givers in the world. And conservatives are no less giving – which for me is attested to by my own experience working with charitable ministries. So it’s refuting Dan’s statement, not jockeying for the gold star.

                  • The Deuce

                    Notice, no comment on Dan trying to assign the black star, but if you defend against that libel to speak the truth, then you get jumped on for “jockeying for the gold star.” Reality shall not be allowed to intrude on feelings.

                • The reality is that the state is not cutting it. Why are you cheerleading for a failed solution that has known efficiency problems?

                  The end state that we should be aiming for is an economy that generates few poor and enough wealth that Pope Francis’ vision of radical involvement with the poor actually happens. That’s not going to come from the state. Ever. Any state that has the right to involve itself in your life that deeply is a state that can crush the family and when it is convenient, it will.

            • Dan C

              We have the John C. wright cheering squad in other places on this thread rubbing their hands with glee over such lines as “No able-bodied man will receive and support,” and you at the same time are trying to tell me that John C. Wright is not enunciating a very American position. Is this correct? Mr. Wright’s clear assertion is not an American position and we have no trouble (despite no evidence that there is support for extending welfare benefits to men or even extending unemployment benefits) as a nation in providing welfare for poor men.

              This is your proposition: John C. Wright expresses a statement expresses a statement that is not reflective of American culture. That is what you want me to believe?

              • Dave G.

                It’s entirely possible, I think, to not see things the way liberals see them and still care about the poor. The stats suggest that is true. My point.

                • Dan C

                  That is true. I think many conservatives do care about the poor. I think Paul Ryan is trying to learn to do so, but did not do so prior to recent matters in any real way. I think NYC changed R. Reno and his approach to poverty has changed, as I think it changed Cardinal O’Connor. Both are public conservatives who care about the poor and do so in ways that are not liberal solutions. That is not my point.

                  Conservatives have gotten away with broadly hating on welfare programs because they do not promote families at the same time they retain the “able- bodied men should not get support” line of thinking.

                  I maintain poor men are treated differently for political reasons that are cultural. You tried to say otherwise by very very indirect arguments. But won’t address the matter of poor men directly. This becomes the reason for the consequence of systems that do not support marriage.

                  • Dave G.

                    Then I’m not sure what you’re meaning by poor men or who would think it is unAmerican. In fact, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say. I think a lot of people simply say ‘how can I help’ and then do so. They don’t divide things down into micro-groupings and interpret them based on political ideologies, despite what the media narrative might suggest.

                    I think most conservatives are suspicious of giving too much control to the government, which in hindsight isn’t always a foolish thing. And most also see the government as a less than efficient way of helping. That government programs may help, but maybe not as many and as efficiently as other ways. And given the increased power that a government can have when it comes to wealth concentrated in the state, the risks aren’t worth it. That’s the gist of the conservative argument, if I’m getting it right.

                    Now that’s not to say that things can’t be improved, or other solutions than ‘let business have a blank check’ could be better. But again, unAmerican helping the poor man, in a basic dinner table conservation, doesn’t match the stats. If it’s meant to be something other than a statement used in a basic dinner table conservation, then I’d need to know more about what you specifically mean.

        • The Deuce

          Begone with your hatefacts, Dave G! We need to get beyond categories of left and right, which can only happen when we parrot the left’s propagandistic slander about the right uncritically!

  • Allison Grace

    I’m a political mess, thanks to your writing (!). Ten years we’ve been Catholic and I’m only just now realizing that I’m not really a Republican and that maybe the Democrats have some good ideas. I have no idea for whom to vote. It’s always a long story, isn’t it? My husband works in the mental health field after resigning his pentecostal church (he was a pastor), which makes just a tiny bit above the poverty line for a family with seven children. We use state medicaid for the kids (some have cystic fibrosis which is so, so expensive to keep healthy) and our 19 year old, one of the ones with CF, has a healthcare plan partially subsidized under the federal marketplace, for which we are all thankful. I hear things like the lady wrote all the time (don’t have any more children, get a different job, you get a job). My husband’s job is for the good of humanity. Our city needs him, a solid family man, to run that program. Yeah, the money’s not great, but – but – state healthcare keeps us OK financially. “American Catholics under the influence of libertarian theology” ~ we (my husband and I both, thank God) are just beginning to recognize that in ourselves and reading the CCC sections about social justice have been amazing (an overused word, I know, but really, it’s been amazing!). Thank you for writing.

    • chezami

      Thank you! God bless you and your family! You are what’s right with the world.

    • Dan C

      I recommend going to the vatican website and reading the social encyclicals, like Caritas in Veritate. The pre-chewed versions in the CCC are good footnotes, but the libertarian Catholics have hidden enormous treasures from you by pretending these encyclicals do not exist, or were written by Marxists in some Vatican basement.

      • Allison Grace

        I will; thank you.

  • Mark – did you follow any of those links in the stories you quote from? You might want to check them out, not so much for the ritualistically unclean source as for the rhetorical hyperbole of using them to try to make the case the author thinks she’s making. For example, the Utah case used as an example of incarcerating a women for trying to get an abortion – it does not say, even in the hands of the people trying hard to make their pro-abortion case, what the author seems to think it says.

    In fact, a pall of unreality hangs over this whole discussion. Are there pro-lifers who want to throw any woman who tries to have an abortion in jail? Sure! A tiny percentage, I suspect. Does this represent the main thrust of the pro-life movement? Hardly. Do pro-lifers in general oppose all government programs to aid the poor? I suspect not. But does not your title suggests that opposition to *any* social program for the poor renders a Pro-life person a hypocrite? Seems to. How about programs proven to be ineffective or logically impossible? Can we oppose those and still keep our pro-life t-shirts? The way the article you quote frames the issues reeks of straw men and cherry-picking. It’s a diversion, it seems to me.

    Sometimes, it is not a cop-out to say that something is complicated, because some things really are complicated.

    • Becky


    • Dan C

      The number of programs are few and far between so good luck finding one that does not provide relief.

  • Brent

    “…exalted some semi-anarchist theory of the abolition of the state and the primacy of private property over the good of the family”

    This is extremely complicated from a law perspective. At least for me. Of course I agree with everything regarding the family, the Trinity, taking care of the poor and giving women the means to birth their children. The problem I keep coming up with is…lots of people disagree. I have a problem passing a law, and enforced under threat of violence, to do just about anything beyond protecting an individual’s liberty. The view of lawmakers “common good” is very different from ours. I don’t want to give them any more power to enforce their viewpoint on us.
    So I guess what I’m saying is, voluntary organizations and associations should be formed to provide for these women and children, and for the poor in general. I just don’t want the “State” to do much of anything. I see it as 1. inefficienct (though sometimes effective), 2. Frequently on the opposite viewpoint of Christianity., 3. All things are enforced through violence.

    What I believe you are advocating Mark is the State should enforce the “common good” according to what Catholicsm views as the “common good.” I would go along with that if the common good was based on the Catholic viewpoint, but since it is not, I would rather the State not enforce anything and have non-State Catholic groups form to do the common good.

    Is that not a tolerated Catholic viewpoint?

    • Dan C

      The encyclicals of CST absolutely affirm the role of government in supporting the poor.

      There is no question. As one approaches modern popes, the recommendations become clearer and there is little question that European entitlement is a specific model. That is the most honest read of the encyclicals.

      • Brent

        Documentation, please?

        • Dan C

          There is no chapter and verse, but C in V is pretty clear that governments are important in alleviating social concerns. John 23rd’s encylcical is clear on this. And of course, the pope who wrote HV also wrote PP which is euphoric in its central government approach to assisting the poor.

          PP and even C in V refer to supra-governmental juridical bodies guiding international economic relations.

          If you want chapter and verse, I will disappoint.

      • The proper role of government stops when it crowds out private, more efficient efforts. When the government is involved and its involvement leads to fewer poor being helped, CST should, and does, condemn government involvement.

        In the end, it’s about seeking the best way to help the poor. As we get more evidence about comparative efficiency rates, our attitude towards government aid for the poor should shift.

    • Dan C

      All these anti-violent conservatives have such a potent voice when rallying against entitlements, but seem quiet when rallying against, for example, the Iraq War.

      • Brent

        Not germane to the point.

  • Kate Cousino

    As an olive branch to the “too many entitlements” crowd, the Canadian Child Tax Benefit (which is awarded after a return is filed, but paid July-July in monthly direct deposit or mailed check payments) was passed as an *alternative* to expanding systems of subsidy for child care centers and individual grants for child care supplements.

    Ontario, the province in which I live, is phasing out its systems of child care subsidy entirely, because the child care allowances are just a more efficient way of supporting working parents…and then there’s the side benefit that they also benefit families with a stay-at-home parent.

    The irony of this fear in some circles of trusting the poor with direct benefits–instead loading down greatly begrudged poverty programs with conditions, inspections, assessments, and various other sorts of costly and intrusive government interference–is that it takes a heck of a lot more government and money to force or ensure people are “worthy” of your tax support than it does to treat families in need as people with dignity and worth who are best suited to judge how best to use extra support.

  • sbark

    I think there are a couple major issues with government poverty programs. The first is that anything the government does it tends to do poorly. The second is the issue of subsidiarity. The further the government poverty program is removed from the people it is trying to help, the less effective it tends to be. A federal program tends to be wrapped up in so much bureaucracy that too little of its funds go to help people.

    I think too much of discussion is people talking past each other. There may be some people who think that there shouldn’t be any safety net. That group is exceedingly small though. On the other side, too much of the discussion is geared toward increasing the government bureaucracy. IMO, it would be better to talk about ways to move the programs away from a federal bureaucracy and more to locally administered programs. One approach might be to replace some of the federal spending with tax credits that would encourage donations to charities who can help the poor. Charities can have far more flexibility to offer the help that is actually needed. In addition, charities tend to operate with far less overhead than the federal government.

    I’m not sure what the answer is. I don’t think it is either eliminating the safety net or increasing the federal bureaucracy though.

    • Dan C

      How does Sweden get away with it?

      • Daniel Plainview

        For the present? Oil

        • Dan C

          What about the past? Or Gernany? Pretending there are no examples of entitlement structures in other countries is promoting ignorance.

          • Pete the Greek

            It is my understanding that Sweden is beginning to trim back on their welfare state a bit due to economic realities.

            for the past, it is my understanding that they had the same massive
            boost in wealth and prosperity as we did for a similar reason: an
            industrial nation at the end of the second world war that wasn’t

            It is also to be noticed that the Swedes are, by
            nature it seems, a very industrious and hardworking people in general,
            as are the Germans. This is not true universally in all European
            nations, which is one reason (among others) why some can have a larger
            welfare state and others can’t seem to support it at all.

            I would
            be careful drawing direct comparisons of the US with other countries in
            this regard for the same reason that I don’t think it’s a good idea to
            directly compare crime stats across various dissimilar countries: it
            tends to ignore very important cultural, social and other realities.

            • Chase

              I think you’re right.

              One I noticed living in Germany was that social spending “felt” local. What I mean is that there was a strong sense that you pay into the system and take out of the system, and you don’t take more than you need. For Germans, both cheating on taxes and abuse of social welfare are considered abominable. Yet, they freely and gratefully make use of the social system when they need it — for example, it’s not uncommon fro someone in their 30s or 40s or even 50s to change careers, and not work for a stretch while they are in school being retrained. They take money for this time, but then once they’re done, they go back to work and pay back into the system. IOW they like their system because it seems to work.

              Contrast that with other European cultures where tax cheating and gaming the system are the norm, and you see why a one-size fits all solution doesn’t work.

              Hell, a family, a monastery, and other groupings operate on an essentially communistic model, but it only works because of the people involved.

            • falstaff77

              “…it is my understanding that they had the same massive boost in wealth and prosperity as we did …”

              Indeed Sweden was easily the wealthiest country in Europe after WWII, but it was also extraordinarily successful before the war. It seems Sweden’s decline in the 60’s-80’s corresponds strongly with the advent of its massive welfare state of that time, a trend now reversed there.

              “As a result of its free market policies, the resourcefulness of its people, and its successful avoidance of war, Sweden had the highest per-capita income growth in the world between 1870 and 1950, by which time Sweden had become one of the world’s richest countries.”

      • Sweden does not get away with it. They have been trimming their safety nets because they ran out of money.

        • Dan C

          Sweden, Australia, and Germany do get away with it.

          They have trimmed some aspects of their safety nets, but still have a far far more intense net. One cultural aspect promoting this is they approach such safety nets as “of course” while you and many others denigrate the existence of safety nets.

          In Sweden, maintaining material concerns of its people is important for civil society. In the US, if the person fails to support their material concerns, we seek to reject them from civil society, sending them to underclass societies.

          • Whatever bogus standard for ‘get away with it’ helps you sleep at night. The free market critique of economic sustainability remains unaffected.

          • I denigrate the efficacy of politically controlled safety nets. There’s a difference.

          • falstaff77

            “Sweden, … do get away with it.
            They have trimmed some aspects of their safety nets, but still have a far far more intense net.”

            Is it? In the last 15 years Sweden increased the retirement age to 67, made all eligible for school vouchers to private, for-profit schools, and has privatized much of its health service. link. Sweden has no taxes on inheritance, the corporate tax rate is 22% (vs 35% in the US), and has a flat rate on investment income.

            Sweden has a population of 9.5 million so it would be better compared to, say, Florida or E. Texas than the US as a whole.

            • Dan C

              The personal tax structure is not described. Australia too provides state support for private schools. That just increases expenses not decreases expenses for education though and education and social service and pension and health care in all these countries are enormous expenses but…in the US such is supposed to be super awful. Even evil.

              The retirement age in the US for full social security- not pensions is higher than 67.

              I would be cool comparing the health outcomes and educational outcomes of Texas and Sweden.

              • falstaff77

                From the SSA:

                “* Full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954 and will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1960 or later.

                ** Normal retirement age is 65 for both males and females.”

                Also, per last year (link):
                Swedes should be prepared to work until they are 75 and to change careers in the middle of their work life if they are to keep the welfare standards they expect, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said.

    • J

      Actually, if you look at statistical data, your supposition is incorrect. The fact is, the government does a far better job than charities when it comes to the percentage of each dollar that actually makes it to the recipients’ hands, and also, in regards to distribution of those resources. This is why we moved to this model. During the the Depression, charities and other organizations were failing. Local groups could not keep up with demand, deliver the goods with economy, nor could they reach many needy communities.

      • You are simply mistaken that government does a better job than private charity in terms of operating at lower overhead percentages. I give you an IG report, one in a series apparently on the problems of program administration.


        There are likely individual charities who are worse than the government but they tend to die out over time.

  • Superb post, Mark. The Chesterton excerpt had me weeping, and I’m not a weeper. 🙂

  • Pete the Greek

    I tend to lean toward the approach touched upon by that horrible, neocon, poor-hating, money grubbing reactionary (yes, sarcasm) John C. Wright.

    • Dan C

      I would choose someone other than the author of this line:

      “Third, the payments to bastard children must be less than to legitimate children; likewise payment to married couples greater than each would get separately on the dole.”

      • Dave G.

        That’s probably a throw back to the notion that if we reward bad behavior, we’ll get more bad behavior, rather than the view today that if you just treat everyone the same no matter what, people will eventually turn things around Another clash of opinions.

        • Dan C

          Your attempt to honorably interpret a professional writer who uses a denigrating term for a certain type of child is charitable. But you missed the clear categorization of a child as being “lessor” both with a shitty name attached as well as attaching a lessor price tag to that already demeaned child.

          Why defend a grown man? Why not choose to defend the children demeaned? Because they are “bastards?” And he is an honorable man because… He is a harsh culture warrior?

          Mr. Wright is as much an offender of civil discourse as any of the other media personnel you abhor and have complained about.

          • Pete the Greek

            It’s not a matter of interpretation. Wright, being trained as a lawyer, uses words with their intended meanings. He doesn’t shy away from a proper word just because some people may get their feelings hurt over its (proper) usage.

            “Mr. Wright is as much an offender of civil discourse”
            – I think you confuse ‘offender of civil discourse’ with ‘failure to conform to politically correct terminology.’ There actually is a difference.

            • orual’s kindred

              He doesn’t shy away from a proper word just because some people may get their feelings hurt over its (proper) usage.

              It seems to me that the question was not simply about terminologies that are potentially hurtful to feelings to some people. The above statement also maintains that bastard children are to be granted lesser financial aid than legitimate children, and I don’t think anyone is contesting the practice of using terms properly. With regards to the statement, I grant that there may be qualifications that follow, that it may have been taken beyond context. Taken by itself, however, I do think that it puts the overall value of bastard children open to risk (and by extension legitimate children as well). As such I would hope that qualifications have indeed been made, otherwise I would wonder if (the whole) statement may perhaps be somewhat irresponsible at least.

              • Chase

                I realize much of this is tongue in cheek, but much of it is also stupid, and some of it is good:

                “Second, no payment to an able bodied man.”

                And if there are no jobs to be had?

                “Third, the payments to bastard children must be less than to legitimate children; likewise payment to married couples greater than each would get separately on the dole.”

                The first part of this is truly abhorrent, and I do not see how it can be squared at all with Christian morality (though it certainly was attempted in the past) — how do we punish the *child* for his parent’s irresponsibility? The second part is common sense.

                “Fourth, no payment to any man or woman unable to pass a drug test or a sobriety test.”

                Eh, this assumes that addicts can just stop whenever they want to, and that the best way to help them quit their addiction is to make them starve until they’re clean. I cannot imagine any existing Catholic charity doing. “Quit drugs or starve to death, all the same to us!”

                “Sixth, all stores and restaurants are required to donate any unused food at the end of each day or week to a local soup kitchen or charity.”

                This is actually a great suggestion — I work in a restaurant and it’s amazing how much food is wasted, even food which never hits the table.

                “Seventh, all payment of welfare is in kind rather than in currency. The government hands out bread, not cash.”

                Good luck with that.

                “Ninth, no Leftist will ever be allowed to complain about racism again, or call anyone racist, on the penalty of having his tongue slit by the Lord High Executioner. The black poor in America acted the same as the Irish poor in America, even spoke the same lingo and beat their women and fornicated and showed up drunk to work.

                The middle class morality of the shop-owners and factory owner and hellfire preachers squeezed and beat those bad habits out of the undeserving poor Irish, and made them into the deserving poor, and the deserving poor worked their way out of poverty by the honest sweat of their brow and a godfearing chastity, thrift and temperance, and a sharp decline in the number of bastard children…”

                This is unconscionable. Please let’s not praise the middle-class morality of shop owners and factory owners in the early 20th century. Or suggest that their often naked cruelty towards their workers was “good for them”. My dad got cancer and it really improved his spiritual life, but I don’t recommend more people get cancer. Sometimes good comes of objective evil, sometimes even from moral evil, but it doesn’t mean we should *promote* those evils. This is also a caricature of hat actually happened and leaves out the bloody fights for fair working conditions.

                Because working an 80 hr week and living on company property and having to buy form the company store is the best way to solve irresponsible behavior.

                And as for “middle class morality” — I think we assume the middle and upper classes were so well behaved, but in reality a lot of times it was simply because they had the means to absorb the results of their mistakes in ways the poor did not.

                • The Deuce

                  The first part of this is truly abhorrent, and I do not see how it can be squared at all with Christian morality (though it certainly was attempted in the past) — how do we punish the *child* for his parent’s irresponsibility? The second part is common sense.

                  Not sure how you can endorse one and condemn the other. In both cases, we’re actually talking about payments to the *parents* rather than directly to the children, so in both cases the effect on the children is pretty much the same (ie more or less handouts for their parents based on their behavior). We either acknowledge the reality of cause and effect and moral hazard and react accordingly, or we declare it to be too mean on account of the immediate side-effects and so deny reality when formulating our actions.

                  • Chase

                    “We either acknowledge the reality of cause and effect and moral hazard and react accordingly, or we declare it to be too mean on account of the immediate side-effects and so deny reality when formulating our actions.”

                    Here’s a novel idea: can we actually prove (not by post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning) that the current way payments are distributed actually *causes* a decline in people choosing to marry, or could it be that there are other factors at play?

                    Granted, I think people should in fact be incentivized to marry. I have no beef with the idea that payments for recipients of public welfare should not make LESS money upon marrying, or even that married people should receive some kind of credit.

                    But tying this to children punishes the children and it’s also stupid for various reasons:

                    A.) What of those situations where a single mother would actually be making a bad decision for her and her child by marrying the man who go her pregnant? Many unwed mothers I know would be putting their children in danger by marrying the men who fathered them — and while many grieve their stupidity for sleeping with a deadbeat in the first place, we shouldn’t incentivize them to make one bad decision after another.

                    B.) What of the not at all uncommon case where the man up and “drops” the woman? Of cases of rape and coercion, which are less uncommon than most people think?

                    C.) It actually costs about the same to raise a child when single or married. The reality is that if one is single and has a child and has a job, one might be in need of more assistance than someone who is married to someone with another income. And do we really want to suggest unmarried mothers work two or three jobs, thereby exacerbating the problem of fatherlessness by having a situation where a child’s *mother* is also mostly absent?

                    Finally, what of Mr. Wright’s disgusting suggestion that the harsh work conditions of the early 20th century be brought back? Oh yeah, it’s a riot, until you realize that there really WERE people with their “middle class morality” who argued against the 40-hour work week, paid vacation time, health benefits, and all manner of thins we take for granted nowadays on the “Christian” notion that to provide these things would encourage idleness, and they therefore could not do it “in good conscience” because they had to teach these people thrift and discipline. Or they were just greedy bastards who didn’t give a shit about their workers or whether they ever got a chance to rest or spend time with their families, and who actively thwarted attempts at social mobility.

                    This position of Mr. Wright actually offended me most, as it is pure poisonous, good ol’ ‘Murcan Calvinism, and no Catholic should even begin to entertain the idea that this is good.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      “Finally, what of Mr. Wright’s disgusting suggestion that the harsh work conditions of the early 20th century be brought back?”
                      – Not actually what he said.

                      I honestly wonder how much of Shea’s readership actually READS links, as opposed to simply skimming through looking for something to be offended at.

                      I would suggest also that you read the associated comment section at the link itself.

                    • Chase

                      I like Wright, but I think this statement is horrible.

                      And yes, he did suggest that the Irish were *helped* out of their situation by the working conditions of the early 20th century. And my point is tht those conditions were evil, that “middle class morality” was often a cover for darker things, and that just because something evil can have good results does not mean we should praise or promote the evil.

                      This is reminiscent of those thrifty American Protestant do-gooders who believed that the best way to promote good behavior was to make poverty so unbearably horrible that their behavior would change. I say this is nonsense, and the changes in behavior had many different causes, but that the harsh conditions of work in those days probably did more to exacerbate the problem rather than alleviate it.

                      I read the comments section too. I actually read Wright’s blog often, and tend to agree with him for the most part. Not here, though.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      I think you still missed the point.

                      From the article:
                      ” The black poor in America acted the same as the Irish poor in
                      America, even spoke the same lingo and beat their women and fornicated
                      and showed up drunk to work.
                      The middle class morality of the shop-owners and factory owner and
                      hellfire preachers squeezed and beat those bad habits out of the
                      undeserving poor Irish, and made them into the deserving poor, and the
                      deserving poor worked their way out of poverty by the honest sweat of
                      their brow and a goodfearing chastity, thrift and temperance, and a
                      sharp decline in the number of bastard children.”

                      This is a call for hard work, thrift, stable marriage and temperance (things that Church actually approves of, BTW), not a call to reintroduce lead into paint, remove safety features on equipment and flood factory floors with asbestos. There is a difference.

                    • Chase

                      “The middle class morality of the shop-owners and factory owner and hellfire preachers squeezed and beat those bad habits out of the
                      undeserving poor Irish, and made them into the deserving poor, and the
                      deserving poor worked their way out of poverty by the honest sweat of
                      their brow …”

                      What the hell do you THINK the “factory owner” did to “beat those habits” out of them? In fact, I’d argue the opposite — that the disgusting conditions of early laissez-faire did more to exacerbate these habits than alleviate them. And also, I don’t think we should romanticize “working one’s way” out of poverty. Yes, it’s great, but it’s the Calvinist, not the Catholic, who demands that charity towards to basic needs of the poor needs to be “earned”.

                      Should people have to work hard to have creature comforts like TVs and trips to Florida? Yes. Should people have to struggle in Dickensian squalor in order to earn food on their plate? Not if it can be avoided. Can such an experience be spiritually beneficial? Yep. So can having cancer. So can losing a child.

                      And nowhere in Catholic Social Teaching does it say that *basic* needs have to be earned.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      “And nowhere in Catholic Social Teaching does it say that *basic* needs have to be earned.”
                      – On your recommendation I have clipped Genesis 3:19 out of my Bible. Now it can officially be called a Catholic Bible again!

                      “Should people have to struggle in Dickensian squalor”
                      – Oh get over yourself and stop being a drama queen. You purposfully confuse ‘hard work’ with ‘Dickensian squalor’, ignoring the last paragraph of my last response. If you REALLY believe that you must have a VERY cushy job indeed.

                      I had thought for a brief time you were perhaps arguing honestly. I now see I was mistaken. Your posts are all heat and emotion with no common sense or logic. I think we’ve wasted enough time.

                    • Chase

                      Nice job proof-texting. Now give me a magisterial teaching based on the *Church*’s interpretation of scripture that says people have to earn their right to basic necessities.

                      No, I am not confusing hard work with Dickensian squalor, only pointing out that the “middle class morality of the factory owner” is not the same thing. And also that the working conditions of Irish immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries were intolerable, and not something to be pined for, even if they did happen to have some positive effects, in addition to many negative ones.

                      Please tell me where I’m misreading this. Because as I read it, he’s saying the experience of those immigrants was a good thing that should be emulated.

                    • Chase

                      Oh yes, and if you have a problem with overwrought theatrics and over-the-too comparisons, why do you read John C. Wright, or Mark Shea for that matter?

                    • Chris

                      I find Pete the Greek’s suggestion that if people just knew John C. Wright’s other writing better, we’d know that he couldn’t possibly have had any malicious intentions in describing a class of children as “bastards” undeserving of the same support as “legitimate” children, because then we’d see how totally non-bigoted and compassionate he is.

                      This, about the guy who is perhaps most well-known in the blogosphere for this bit of wisdom:

                      “Is an irrational lust and longing to mimic the mating act with a sex
                      with which one cannot mate, at its root, any more or less disconnected
                      to reality than an irrational fear and hatred of a Negro? How do we know
                      race-hate is not genetic? Look at how scorned and put-upon racists are!
                      Can we spare them no cheap Leftist pity? Why don’t we simply call
                      racism an alternate anti-ethnic orientation, similar to
                      hetero-toleration, but different?”

                      Also adorable: the constant suggestions that others can’t read or interpret words and statements clearly, all while denying the only clear, rational interpretations of words and statements which reflect badly on Wright. It’s a case study in willful obtusity.

                    • Chase

                      Also, I did read the lat paragraph. I don’t object to hard work, temperance, and thrift. What I object to is the holding up of early 20th century factory owners as examples to be emulated, and the notion that such people advanced, rather than retarded, moral progress among the poor.

                    • The Deuce

                      EDIT: Let me say, for the record, that the following does NOT apply to Chase, who I’m pretty sure read Wright’s piece, though I think he partly misinterpreted it, or just disagreed with it.

                      I honestly wonder how much of Shea’s readership actually READS links, as opposed to simply skimming through looking for something to be offended at.

                      I think Mark himself has that problem in spades. Especially on Facebook, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen him engaged in loud, accusatory arguments where it became clear that he hadn’t even read the points made or linked to by an opposing party, and so had no idea what facts they were using to support their arguments.

                      He’s also got an unfortunate habit of posting nasty, inflammatory claims about an article by someone, only to quietly erase it without apology when enough commenters notice that he obviously hadn’t read it, but had apparently relied on some tendentious, dishonest slander some liberal friend made up about it.

                      So in one case, he posted this piece by Matt Walsh, with a comment like “Don’t worry gents, Matt Walsh says you may treat your wife as pigishly as you please, and she just has to take it without complaining!”

                      Another time, he posted this piece by Ben Stein, only he did it indirectly by posting this piece in RawStory, only he actually one-upped RawStory’s tendentious libel by also accusing Ben Stein of advocating eugenics!

                      In each case, he quietly disappeared the post from his Wall, no doubt when enough commenters complained to get him to actually read the stuff he was slandering, and only after affording his left-wing readers opportunity to sneer and slander and double-down on their accusations when people who actually read the articles protested. And he didn’t apologize and apparently didn’t learn anything from it, because he didn’t stop doing it nor did the self-righteous sneering tone decrease one iota.

                      So yeah, a lot of his commenters have that problem, and I think their host encourages it.

                • orual’s kindred

                  I realize much of this is tongue in cheek

                  I guess that provides a hint as to how “Second, no payment to an able bodied man” should be read, then.

                  I’m not quite sure how to read this: ‘The middle class morality of the shop-owners and factory owner and hellfire preachers squeezed and beat those bad habits out of the undeserving poor Irish, and made them into the deserving poor, and the deserving poor worked their way out of poverty by the honest sweat of their brow and a godfearing chastity, thrift and temperance, and a sharp decline in the number of bastard children…’

                  And also this: ‘the thing that actually saved the lives of real Oliver Twists, those not fortunate enough to be landed in luxury by a Dickensian coincidence, was laissez faire capitalism, and factory work’. The last paragraph describes Socialism and the Green Movement as ‘ideologies, which means, ersatz substitutes for Christianity, cults which are part of the culture of death, and which exist to give vent to the dark, vile impulses of man by masking those impulses in legitimate-sounding ideals.’ I suppose I’m mistaken to wonder if this means that laissez faire capitalism, and factory work are interchangeable with Christianity. After all it would seem that these are what saved the lives of real Oliver Twists. Or I may just have a problem reading links 🙂

                  • Chase

                    I must have missed all that about how factory work “saved” the real-life Oliver Twists … really? Um, this sounds like Robert Fink from Bioshock: Infinite, but I thought that was a caricature.

                    It’s the factory and industrialization that drove the poor from their villages and small towns to be lumped into the hungry masses in the cities in the first place. Check out the romantic view of factories and industrialization that Tolkien and Lewis had … and of course I mean that with utter sarcasm.

                    Laissez-faire capitalism — which ITSELF can be just as much a heartless ideology as Socialism and the Green movement, is what drove British inaction in the Irish Famine, and what songs like “16 Tons” are all about. I daresay the life of an agrarian peasant in the 18th century was in many ways superior to that of a factory worker in the early 19th or 20th century.

              • Dan C

                The term bastard is a term that is used as an insult. Nany pretense it has any meani other than a denigrating one is stupid.

                Mr. Wright intends to deliberately create and promote an underclass of children.

                • Pete the Greek

                  No, that is not the correct use of the term. You should consider investing in a dictionary.

                  Secondarily, you are engaging in a truly vigorous exercise of missing the point. No one pays children anything. We are taking about benefits given to parents, and doing it in such a way as to promote marriage as opposed to the socially caustic practice of casual bastardy.

                  • Dan C

                    The use of the term in this instance is two fold- to choose a term to separate out children and their mothers who sin sin sin sin sin! Sin by sex. And then need help. And we get to call those children a name that 100% of the time is used in a derogatory way, which, by the way, is in the dictionary. There are two separate definitions which both are part of the way Wright heartlessly choose to label these folks who are the street urchins that should be delighted to get the spat-upon crumbs he leaves them. One of them is to identify something inferior, and the other describes a despicable person.

                    Wright chose the word for those meanings also. Especially the inferior aspect, because Mr. Wright, in an attempt to feign noblesse oblige, describes programs that really approach social Darwinism.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      “The use of the term in this instance is two fold- to choose a term to separate out children and their mothers who sin sin sin sin sin! Sin by sex.”
                      – Uhm… No, actually. Perhaps you should try reading a little more of what he writes.

                      If you become so incensed at the correct use of a term (def: a person born of unmarried parents; an illegitimate child ) perhaps you don’t belong in this discussion.

                    • Dan C

                      The dictionary, and the snotty advice you have to me I give back- perhaps you should use one, has multiple definitions, not just one.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      And yet you assume he is using it as an attack upon children. No, he is not. You simply insist that he must because you have taken offense at it.

                      This is more about you than anything else.

                    • Dan C

                      The point of using the term was two-fold- shock value and to “separate ” this class of unworthy urchins who like Oliver Twist should be grateful for the spat-upon crumbs such worthy luminaries as himself can offer. This term is a term to indignify specifically, to make these children less, so we can justify doing less for these children born of sin.

                      The context is clear and the use is evident in the context of how he has described poor children. Pretending otherwise is foolish and just propaganda white-washing this evil tract.

                    • Pete the Greek

                      ” Pretending otherwise is foolish and just propaganda white-washing this evil tract.”
                      – No, it’s having some familiarity with his other writings and not assuming the worst of someone because they use a word that offends you.

                • orual’s kindred

                  I’ve been thinking and reading up on this. And since I took account of the Liberal conspiracy to rob terms of their rightful meaning and replace everything with PC Niceness, it took quite a bit of time and digging 🙂 I’m afraid I have not the individual competence or intellect to see through all of it though, so I’m sure there are a lot of mistakes on my part.

                  So far I’ve seen the term described, in legal contexts, to specifically refer to a child which a nobleman acknowledges he has sired with a woman who is not his wife. It would seem that unacknowledged children, or illegitimate children of commoners, are not included. I also see these legal contexts connected with the laws of England around the 14th century.

                  I’ve also seen it described as a term referring to something impure or less than ideal, during or at least proximate to that time period. I have also seen it described as a term referring to an undesirable person, and specifically a term used for abuse.

                  This is my problem–the word ‘bastard’ is quite loaded, and even if more people were aware of the legal usage, the implications of something less than an ideal is at least as strong as simply ‘illegitimate child.’ I suppose that I could even, in theory, use ‘bastard’ to refer to describe ‘an impure, less than ideal child’ while claiming to eschew modern pieties.

                  And while I have a problem with links, I may have to post a few to support what I have said so far:

                  WARNING! DISCLAIMER! I do not claim the authority to verify the contents of these sites!

                  http://www.yourdictionary.com/bastard <–I find the tagline funny 😀

                  There is a quote in the first link, which describes how the Bishops proposed that all such as were born afore matrimony should be legitimate as well as they that be born after … as to the succession of inheritance, forasmuch as the Church accepteth such for legitimate. And all the Earls and Barons with one voice answered that they would not change the laws of the Realm, which hitherto have been used and approved. I don’t how if that’s verifiable but I do find it amusing 😀

                  • orual’s kindred

                    And apparently I wasn’t able to close the tag. I’m so sorry!

              • Pete the Greek

                “It seems to me that the question was not simply about terminologies that are potentially hurtful to feelings to some people.”
                – Reading Dan C’s replies, I think it IS about that, actually.

                “The above statement also maintains that bastard children are to be granted lesser financial aid than legitimate children”
                – Actually, no. No one is giving children anything in this point. It is the parents that receive the aid. Much as Dan C would prefer it to say so, it is not ‘LET THOSE CHILDREN STARVE!’, but rather, married people with children should receive greater aid per child than others. It is a way of promoting a stable family instead of the casual bastardy that is practiced so often.

                I don’t think many here actually read the link in full.

                • orual’s kindred

                  I did not realize that the line Dan C mentioned was included in the link. I thought I might have read it before, but was not sure, so I addressed the line as is. In reading the link now, I find the whole entry more problematic than I remember.

                  For instance, I think ‘married people with children should receive greater aid per child than others’ is simpler and more direct. The line the payments to bastard children must be less than to legitimate children rather invites the focus on the children; and in fact what follows makes that focus more pronounced, not less. And while the aim may be to promote ‘a stable family instead of the casual bastardy that is practiced so often’, I’m not sure how this provides help to single mothers who choose to raise their child instead of opting for an abortion.

                  Furthermore, as far as I can tell, ‘bastard’ is a loaded term. You mention using words with intended meanings; derision in a known intent for its use. Is that a mistake on my part? I have not been trained as a lawyer. Is is not used as a derrogatory term? Or is noting that such usage is a known practice an instance of political correctness?

                  • Pete the Greek

                    “Is that a mistake on my part?”

                    – Yes. You and the rest assume, quite wrongly, that he has the worst intent right away. If you have read John for long, then you know he is not attempting to be insulting toward children at all.

                    “Is is not used as a derrogatory term?”
                    – So does the term ‘b*tch’. However, reading on a dog breeding site recently they used the word quite often as it is meant to be used. Amazingly, I didn’t get angry and send out a string of comments demanding that they change it to ‘female dog’ because the word has negative connotations. I really find it astonishing that so many angry commentators have gotten their knickers in a twist over his use of the word ‘bastard’ here (a correct use of the term) to the point of ignoring most of the content.

                    “Or is noting that such usage is a known practice an instance of political correctness?”
                    – No, but doing what most here are doing, which is automatically assuming that a correctly used word, because in other contexts it could be used in an insulting manner, is meant as an insult (assuming malice on the part of the other person) and angrily demanding a softer, more PC phrase be used to satisfy their sensibilities IS.

                    “‘a stable family instead of the casual bastardy that is practiced so often’, I’m not sure how this provides help to single mothers who choose to raise their child instead of opting for an abortion.”
                    – You may not know how a lot of assistance programs work. Once married, you can actually LOSE assistance money and end up worse, financially, than before.

                    The poor are not dumb. If they see that they can get their needs met better by not getting married, then that’s what tends to happen. I know because I see it a LOT in my business. As a general rule, you get more of what you subsidize.

                    No one is saying, least of all Wright, that support should be stripped from single parents. The point is that MORE support should be given to married couples than any individual could get singly.

                    • orual’s kindred

                      If you have read John for long, then you know he is not attempting to be insulting toward children at all.

                      🙂 I’m afraid you’ll have to take me at my word when I say that I first came across his writings sometime in the previous decade (2006? I’m not sure anymore). I remember having to struggle with a few passages or so, as I am not well-versed in the legal turns of phrase he employs, as well as the economic framework that informs his writings. Nonetheless, I could say that I understood his import and agreed with most of what I read. However, I found myself saying (more often as time wore on), ‘I get what he’s saying, but he’s using a lot of words in ways that will be misunderstood, and not entirely unreasonably.’

                      You say that I ‘and the rest assume, quite wrongly, that he has the worst intent right away.’ I don’t think I have ever alluded to his intentions in this entire conversation; certainly not in the above paragraph. I have questioned certain phrases that he employs not only because of how they can be misunderstood but how they can be misapplied.

                      You say that he uses words according to their intended meaning, without any regard to any feelings that might be hurt in the process. You, however, are the one who made it the focus of your argument. Dan C objected to assigning prices to children, specifically bastard children, not just the use of that term. And when I asked …as far as I can tell, ‘bastard’ is a loaded term. You mention using words with intended meanings; derision in a known intent for its use. Is that a mistake on my part? I was asking if it was a mistake for me to assume that derision is a known intent for its use. I was not imputing any derisive meanings as it was used in the statement. If you thought so, then the person making assumptions is you.

                      And this I really find it astonishing that so many angry commentators have gotten their knickers in a twist over his use of the word ‘bastard’ here (a correct use of the term) to the point of ignoring most of the content demonstrates how much you have failed to understand what Dan C and I at least have said.

                      As for ‘bitch’, I’m sure it could be used outside of a dog site without being derogatory. I think you could even have spelled it out here.

                      Once married, you can actually LOSE assistance money and end up worse, financially, than before.

                      And when someone has a child to support while barely supporting himself, he is financially worse off than before. I note, however, this is what you choose to bring up next. The poor are not dumb. If they see that they can get their needs met better by not getting married, then that’s what tends to happen. I’m sure it happens a lot, and not just in your business. Nevertheless, this seems to veer off from matter of the statement being about married couples getting more assistance than non-married parents. You’ve turned the topic to the poor, and their ‘not being dumb’ enough to know how ‘they can get their needs met.’ I’m not sure what you’re getting at; and yes, that is an actual question.

                      And no, I’m actually not mad 😀 A little annoyed that you missed so many points, but not mad 🙂

            • Dan C

              One does not get to create a secondary less important class of children with a denigrating name for them and still claim to be supportive of “life.” Sorry.

              He is a man who in this sentence alone identifies a spiteful, hate-promoting soul.

              I defend every day for hours on end those inferior children you and Mr. Wright denigrate. They already get less in this Calvinist society. Mr. Wright proposes cutting their crumbs even more and you can’t help but giggle in glee with this. Nice.

              • Pete the Greek

                “He is a man who in this sentence alone identifies a spiteful, hate-promoting soul.”
                – As a member of the Shea/Wright mutual admiration society, I wonder if our host shares your wonderfully deep insight…

                No, you are still missing the point.

    • The Deuce

      I particularly like the idea of bringing back the community chest:

      Let each township and county have a welfare department to compel
      those who will not tithe to contribute to the poor. Use a system where
      the taxpayer may select which charity to give to, but he must give, and
      it must be a legitimate charity that helps some real person in his
      neighborhood. Counties and townships whose community chest rules got our
      of hand, or ate too many taxes, would provoke voters to flee to easier

      You could have as much charity as currently gets spent on government welfare, only it would actually go to the poor instead of to bureaucratic government middle-men.

  • BigBlueWave

    Mark, my problem is not your disagreement.

    My problem is the way you characterize the opposition.

    It’s reminiscent of the way feminists demonize pro-lifers. They use the most over the top rhetoric to make their points. (“This mommy blogger is, as much as any communist, an enemy of the family. “)

    “If we oppose abortion and social safety nets, we don’t really oppose abortion”?


    Is that an intellectually honest thing to say?

    Sidewalk counselors who support Republican policies don’t really oppose abortion?

    Give me a break.

    You’re using a second hand account to make your point. Is the person being indirectly accused– the Catholic homeschooling blogger– here to make her case? Is she here to confirm what she did?


    So is that fair? No.

    You’re taking this one example and generalizing it to all Republican-minded Catholics.

    Sorry, that really doesn’t fly.

    “She and those like her have exalted some semi-anarchist theory of the abolition of the state and the primacy of private property over the good of the family just as much as communists have exalted the primacy of the state over the good of the family and corporatists have exalted their great money machines over the good of the family.”

    You can’t reduce the Truth to one aspect of the Common Good. “The Family” can become as much an idol as anything else. Nobody is arguing for the abolition of the state; I have never heard of a pro-lifer who said private property was more important than the right to life.

    “The state, the law, our money were made for man, not man for the state, the law, and our money.”

    Here’s the thing, Mark.

    My husband earns money *for my family*.

    This welfare you’re proposing takes away money *from my family* for *someone else’s* family.

    Shouldn’t my family’s needs pass before some other family’s needs?

    I live in the glorious welfare state of Canada. It makes life unaffordable for many. Try raising a family in Toronto.

    Why do you think there’s so much revolt against the welfare state?

    Because those who try to provide for their families are penalized.

    That’s not pro-family.

    • freddy

      I was with you up to a point. Mark does sometime seem to demonize whom he deems opponents; lump them into large caricatures and heap withering scorn upon them.
      However, you lost me at, “This welfare you’re proposing….”
      When you ask, “Shouldn’t my family’s needs pass before some other family’s needs?” the answer is, for a Catholic; “Sometimes, no.”
      Sometimes the needs of other families outweigh even our own. Sometimes we are called to do without so that someone else will have a chance. We can argue over the best methods, but we cannot only give when it’s easy or convenient.

      • Brent

        Rephrase: “Should not the *basic* needs of my family pass before some other family’s *basic* needs”? And the answer is “yes.” You are primarily responsible for those that are primarily dependent on you.

        • Joe

          Since you didn’t include “for a Catholic” you mean this in some other context? And if so, what’s the point of commenting?

        • freddy

          1. Big Blue Wave didn’t *say* “basic” needs. I really doubt, even in Toronto, that her access to food, clothing, housing or basic health care are threatened by confiscatory taxes.
          2. While it is true that I am primarily responsible to those depending on me, it is also true that a Christian response is “Come, share what little we have,” not, “There isn’t enough for both of us, why should we all starve.”

    • chezami

      “If we oppose abortion and social safety nets, we don’t really oppose abortion”?


      Yes. Really.

      What “case” do you think can be made for telling this woman that she should not be allowed to be married because she is poor and disabled?


      • Elaine S.

        There is a big difference between “opposition to social safety nets” and “telling this woman she should not be allowed to marry because she is poor and disabled.” First of all, there are different levels of “opposition to social safety nets”. There are the hardcore Randian/libertarian types who insist that all taxation and social safety nets are “theft” and that there is no such thing as common good. There are those who believe in a safety net for the “truly needy” that keeps them from starving or freezing but doesn’t do much more than that.
        Still others (like myself) believe that social safety nets are necessary but that we cannot go on infinitely and indefinitely expanding them without eventually reaching a tipping point where they become unsustainable. Allowing these systems to reach the point of collapse and saddling future generations with gargantuan national debt does the poor no favors. To suggest that in SOME instances, instituting stricter means testing or reducing benefits might be preferable to a perpetual spiral of ever increasing taxation is not, in my opinion, inconsistent with being pro-life. Nor does it necessarily translate to forbidding or discouraging marriage or child-rearing by someone who is poor and disabled. A small business, for example, could hire her and/or her husband and pay them a living wage — which will be easier for the business to do if it is not crushed by taxes, fees, and mandates that force it to close down or move elsewhere.
        I personally do not believe there has to be an all-or-nothing choice between solving ALL social problems via government programs and solving NO social problems that way. The trick is finding the proper balance between the two and adjusting it as circumstances change.

        • Sam Schmitt

          “There is a big difference between ‘opposition to social safety nets’ and ‘telling this woman she should not be allowed to marry because she is poor and disabled.'”

          THANK YOU. For a long time I’ve wondered why Mark is unwilling or unable to make certain (obvious) distinctions. Some positions are absolute (e.g. torture), and I applaud Mark for taking an uncompromising stand, but absolutizing a position on which reasonable people can disagree helps no one.

      • BigBlueWave

        A sidewalk counselor who gets off her butt to stop abortion is against abortion no matter what her economic views are. To say anything less, especially when you don’t do the same, is pretty insulting.

    • Dan C

      Conservative opinion tolerates and promotes folks like Sam Gregg, lionized by more than one libertarian priest and now-Acton employee Joe Carter who led First Things discussions into libertarian messes. This man considered every the suggestion that one support welfare to be a sinful state. One patheos priests commented that when one gives to the poor, they expect more free things.

      I think the concern about making people feel bad is a novel new approach to conservative discussions. In 2004, conservatives routinely mocked suggestions of civility or more diplomatically approaching the culture war imperatives towards liberals. What has changed?

    • Dan C

      There is little public revolt against the welfare state in Sweden or Germany. I really am not privy to Canada, except some Canadians who complain about it like Mark Steyn, but in general, I hear only a minority complaining in Canada.

      In Australia, the conversation is barely about the broad extent- how much is too much, in a country that has not done away with pensions (and so many of the over 65 crowd receive pensions), has generous maternity leave, and very inexpensive, state-supported higher education.

      Stories that there is much complaint in Canada, England or Australia about what we deride as entitlements is perhaps, to put it politely, stretching the truth.

      • Sweden and Germany both elected several center-right governments in part as revolts against the extent of the welfare state. Like most countries, the public goes back and forth on this sort of thing.

    • Ryan

      A person who insists on hammering with a rock when a hammer is available opposes using a hammer more than hammering the nail.

  • Seems to me it’s more “resentment of out groups” than “libertarian ideology” (those folks often refrain from falling back on small-state principles when it comes to, say, drug policy or defense spending or zoning laws).

  • Jenne

    Thank you for the post! If we all practiced loving our neighbor better and less entrenchment into camps we can see better another’s worth and dignity. Let this poor family pray for that HS mom blogger. We need the prayers of the poor. Those of us better off need to be very careful we aren’t making a false paradise for our kids. We will not always understand poverty except in the person of Christ. It is a mystery and gift.

  • The Deuce

    The specter of criminalization in some pro-life discourse is equally disturbing

    Er, what? Is the specter of criminalization of killing babies after they’re born (eg. dumping them in a toilet, etc) “disturbing”? Does the necessity of helping young mothers in need, or with post-partum depression, render it intrinsically bad to punish them when their difficulties occasionally drive them to the unthinkable?

    Now, perhaps affording the unborn the same legal protections as the born would backfire as a practical matter, and would actually result in more abortions. There’s a practical discussion to be had there. But the idea that it’s somehow inherently “disturbing” or too mean to even be thought about is itself disturbing, since it implies the assumption that the unborn aren’t quite full humans with full rights (like a baby one minute after birth) after all.

    • The Deuce

      Oh, and in most of the world, abortion is criminalized beyond some time limit, generally the first trimester and with strict limits, or criminalized altogether. So is the “pro-life” thing for them to *decriminalize* it, and replace their laws with more welfare than they already have?

      • Andy

        I think the “pro-life” thing is to recognize the pressures that may drive a woman to an abortion. I think the “pro-life” thing is to work to remove/reduce those pressures. It is not to condemn a person because of pregnancy, whether in or out of wedlock, it is not to say you are poor and so shouldn’t have children. Pro-life must mean more than just get the kid born and then its up to the mother and father – for all of us. The “pro-life” thing should be about solidarity and support.
        I am not advocating more welfare – just a less toxic welfare – a welfare that recognizes the inherent dignity of each person, the inherent worth of each person. We must move away from the throw away culture and the worship of mammon that allows, actually I think encourages abortion.
        To make welfare less toxic – first remove the stigma – being eligible for public support should not be a shaming activity – it should be an educative activity. Tied to welfare should be not paperwork and drug tests; rather we should be spending money on teaching folks how to use the money wisely, how to care for children, how to find and maintain a job – even if it ends we send these folks for specific training. It means having childcare that is affordable and high quality and it means seeing Christ in each person.
        Just my idiotic thoughts before the start of summer school

        • The Deuce

          Okay, but that’s sort of off-topic to my comment, which was about the odd insinuation in the OP that criminalizing abortion is somehow non-kosher. There are pressures that help to drive all sorts of criminals to all sorts of crime that we should recognize and alleviate if possible, but does that mean that those crimes should be decriminalized?

          Outside of guys like Peter Singer and Steven Pinker, the answer to that is no for babies who have already been born, but when it comes to self-identified “pro-lifers” trying to convince people that the “real” pro-life cause is greater reliance on government welfare, it nearly always seems to come with some implicit or explicit attempt to undermine the actual gravity of abortion itself and deny the free will of those who engage in it.

          • Andy

            I was responding to how i interpreted your comment about it means to be pro-life. I am not trying to undermine the issue of abortion – I was commenting on how we have to view a woman who is considering abortion and how we have to deal weight she pressures that may lead to that consideration or action. I am not suggesting greater reliance – I am suggesting reconfiguration of the welfare provided.

  • SteveP

    Sure the mommy-Catholic-blogger took it out on her correspondent and the correspondent likewise took it out on the blogger. Perhaps our response, upon hearing the situation, ought to be prayer: Come O Holy Spirit and soften the hearts of the two that they may know they are sisters in Christ and come to love as Christ. Amen.

  • Morris

    Once again the silly fallacy rears its head. “Since you think X shouldn’t be done through force and the threat of aggression (i.e. government guns and cages), then you must not think it is to be done AT ALL.” It is a lazy thing, this fallacy. And again, the term “libertarian” is thrown around as though it were actually understood. No, your straw-man definition is not accurate. So once again, here is a nice summary of 6 myths Catholics perpetuate about libertarians.


    • Elmwood

      once again, the typical reactionary “straw man” canard is pulled when catholic teaching is shown to conflict with the “conservative” ideology.

      • Funny enough, Morris is pretty well aligned with Pope Francis though they’re approaching the problem using entirely different vocabularies. So no, not a straw man and not a canard unless you want to level the charge at Pope Francis as well.

      • Morris

        Which “conservative” ideology are you referring to?

    • Mary Alice

      Thank you for the article link. This is the best laying-out of libertarian principles I’ve read in such a short article. I’m so tired of being lumped with Ayn Rand when I say I’m libertarian.

  • A proper Catholic wants to care for the poor. If the state gets the job done better than private action, that’s fine. If the state doesn’t get the job done as well as private action or it doesn’t get the job done at all then it’s appropriate to oppose the state’s efforts.

    The stagnation and reversal of progress regarding poverty since the start of the “War on Poverty” is not anything that a faithful son of the Church can endorse. We’ve driven ourselves into a dead end with regard to political policy and we’re going to have to reverse ourselves quite a bit to get out of this policy trap.

    We are living in “the long run” that the big government opponents were warning about generations ago. It’s not a pretty picture.

    A child poverty credit would take exactly 0 children out of poverty because the poverty rate is calculated prior to transfer payments. Changing that calculation to be one after transfer payments would crater the poverty rate without doing a thing for the poor. You can’t switch calculation methods on the fly as it is politically convenient. That’s a form of lying.

    A government check is not going to solve this problem, though it might paper over the manifestation of the underlying spiritual illness. After all, most of these women could put their children up for adoption. Killing their unborn child is viewed as superior.

    • cfae

      “After all, most of these women could put their children up for adoption. Killing their unborn child is viewed as superior.” This is presumptuous. There are no laws to protect pregnant workers from being fired or even modest accommodations for expecting mothers. Pregnancy shouldn’t jeopardize economic survival, and pro-lifers should be working for a society that values people over profit. http://www.abetterbalance.org/web/ourissues/fairnessworkplace/293-pregnant-workers-at-walmart

      • Perhaps you could explain how a $300 check from uncle sam is going to stop people from getting fired? Or maybe you might ask my opinion of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act? Instead you jumped to conclusions.

        You also got the state of the law incorrect. Discriminating in employment on the basis of pregnancy is illegal under Title VII, Section 701 of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as amended. Pregnant workers are to be treated like anybody else.

        • cfae

          Actually, most workers can be fired at any time for any reason. Pregnant workers being treated like everybody else is a problem. Expectant mothers may need to sit, have more bathroom breaks, drink more water. Women get fired for requesting these simple accommodations. Speak up: get fired, don’t speak up: have complications you can’t pay for. This is real. Did you read my link?

          • I read the link, did you? This is the latest in a series. Walmart recognized deficiencies in its policy and corrected them. The link points out further deficiencies including not providing comparable accommodations for pregnancy related temporary medical conditions on par with other disability. In other words, they’re alleging activity that is against the law as it is written at the moment.

            You still haven’t explained how a $300 monthly check from the government is going to fix a law enforcement problem like Walmart’s previous policy.

            You’ve made two assertions that have been demonstrated to be false.

            1. “There are no laws to protect pregnant workers from being fired” – False, refuted with a citation to the law

            2. There are not “even modest accommodations for expecting mothers” – False, same law requires an equal level of pregnancy related accommodation as the disabled worker who broke a finger or wrenched a back gets, which is generally temporary assignment to light duty consistent with the injury/condition.

            It is really stupid if a company discriminates on the basis of pregnancy. Any company that is this kind of stupid deserves a slap upside the head until it stops. Whether the PDA is being violated at present is unclear. The newly improved policy has only been in place for a few months. What’s the right way to get them to stop the violations is too down in the weeds for me but that stuff needs to stop one way or the other.

            • cfae

              In most states you can fire a person for any or no reason. You just can’t “say” it’s for pregnancy, though that has been the case. Yes I read the series. Her baby died. I have family, friends in labor law. You should hear the stories.

              • You still haven’t explained how a $300 monthly check helps this situation. You also haven’t acknowledged your factual errors.

                Employers are very vulnerable to low intensity conflict techniques and leaderless resistance. Given modern tools, this is exactly the kind of conflict that they can and should lose. Just by circulating the resume of every high performer in an organization and increasing their labor turnover, you can make being a jerk boss not pay. No need to strike on most issues. You can just, legally, increase their friction until their balance sheets bleed red from your direct action.

                Employees are saddled with out of date labor organizations that have a history of violently breaking up competing labor groups. I have zero sympathies for ineffective labor organizations who intimidate people into not offering workers better alternatives.

    • I think you have the wrong spiritual illness. The real illness is men who don’t want to be fathers or support the women they have sex with.

      • When was it ever true that spiritual illness came only in one variety? I think the last time that was true was in Eden.

        • Never said it did. But the economic problem of women with respect to raising children mirrors completely the phenomenon of men having sex without responsibility.

          • If you actually recognized the multiplicity of problems we are facing, you would not have claimed I had the wrong one and justified that by naming a different problem.

            I do not dispute what you say about male irresponsibility is true. But that says nothing about whether the problem I raised is true or not.

  • The Deuce

    Okay, you all can quote me on this:

    Deuce’s Law: Whenever someone says we must “get beyond categories of left and right,” they always mean that the right must endorse the policies of the left without calling them the policies of the left, and without asking for any evidence that they work as advertised.

    • Ronald King

      So you can read people’s minds.

      • Archaeopteryx

        More just being capable of pattern recognition.

        • Ronald King

          Patterns can be determined by the beliefs of the observer without presenting any evidence that the pattern actually exists.

      • The Deuce

        I can observe actions. You see the same thing happen two or two-hundred times (and never the opposite), and you start to suspect a trend, you know?

        • Ronald King

          I don’t know what you saw referring to your statement above

          • The Deuce

            Er, I mean that I’ve seen people call for “getting beyond categories of left and right” many, many times in my life, and every single time I’ve seen it, it has been part of an argument for people on the right to adopt some policy from the left, and not vice-versa, without scrutinizing it or acknowledging that it’s a policy typically associated with left-wing ideology.

            • Ronald King

              Boehner made a statement today similar to what you’re talking about in that his choice to sue the president was not a Republican or Democratic issue

  • ivan_the_mad

    This reminds me strongly of the efforts of various Mary’s Shelter organizations, which provide housing and assistance to women during and after pregnancy. Give these women somewhere else to go besides the abortion clinic, and the means to care for their children!

    This idea is also very much in line with the preferential option for the poor: “More specifically, it is the responsibility of all citizens, acting through their government, to assist and empower the poor, the disadvantaged, the handicapped, and the unemployed. … The way society responds to the needs of the poor through its public policies is the litmus test of its justice or injustice.” Economic Justice for All, USCCB, §123

    • Morris

      What would one say about a society that cared well for its poor through channels other than public policy, even if public policies did not address the issue? Would it pass the litmus test? Is there a litmus test for the bureaucrats who populate the necessary parasitic structure that public policy demands?

      • Ronald King

        What are you talking about when you describe a “parasitic structure”? We are the designers of public policy. We have failed to provide the full spectrum of support for those who need it most.

        • Morris

          Who are you calling “we”? When were you involved in the creation of a new bureaucracy, or the hiring of the unfireable “civil servants” who must be paid above-market salaries to redistribute the wealth? I know I wasn’t. “We” is not applicable here. I am not a part of that “we” any more than the “we” used when people say “we are at war in Iraq”.

          • Ronald King

            It sounds like you are at war with some human beings who constructed and who work for what you describe as a “parasitic structure”. I personally know many “civil servants” and have been married to one for 39 years so watch what comes out of your mouth.

            • Morris

              Sorry you take offense to the use of “parasite” when used in reference to an organism who sustains itself on the productivity of others, but the shoe generally fits. Still, “we” are not the designers of public policy.

              • Ronald King

                I take offense to what comes out of your mouth that disregards the good work of many people. When you can do some good work helping others let me know

                • Morris

                  Do I have to work for the State in order for my work to be “good”? Likewise, is all work done by the State “good”?

                  • Ronald King

                    I didn’t say that

                    • Morris

                      Your implication is that I either do no good work helping others (so you can read minds?) or I can’t do good work helping others if I’m not a public “servant”. Thankfully I do not have to live with knowing that any good I do helping people through my job happens to be counterbalanced by the war and destruction that my employer also engages in with other monies extracted by threat of force.

                    • Ronald King

                      It is your interpretation.

                    • Morris

                      Really? What other interpretations would you offer for “When you can do some good work helping others let me know”?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Are you a parasite on Christ?

                    • Morris

                      Do your apples taste like oranges?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      You talked about parasites as those who sustain themselves on the productivity of others.

                      Christians sustain themselves on the productivity of Christ. Grace. The sacraments. The cross. The eucharist. We eat Christ to sustain us.

                      So again, are you a parasite on Christ?

                    • Ronald King

                      Silk, I am a parasite on Christ:) I never thought of it that way but it fits.

                    • Morris

                      Does that mean you don’t take offense at the term anymore?

                    • The Deuce

                      Don’t worry Morris, they never really took offense at the words “parasitic structure” in the first place. They’re simply trying to avoid any practical discussion of how to actually best help the poor the way that Leftists always do: by claiming that your words are offending them and hurting their feelings, so as to disqualify you and avoid the actual substance of your point. It’s the same basic strategy as this.

                      Now, it might not be very charitable to point out the implication which that suggests, which is that they don’t really care all that much about the poor actually being helped, so much as they care about feeling and being seen as morally superior for their political opinions, but they sure don’t hesitate to lay that accusation against those with whom they disagree sans evidence, do they?

                    • Morris

                      I was hoping to see some solid reasoning behind why a social safety net simply HAD to be rooted in the State as it is commonly experienced today…the same State that has shown itself to be fantastically inept and incompetent (except when it comes to killing wholesale, and they still spend more than it should cost even for that) and corrupt, where failure means a bigger budget (“it WILL work, I just know it, if only we had more funding…”), whose War on Poverty has actually stopped the decline in poverty, etc. For some reason, the same State that Mark can see clearly for what it is – is now the one and only channel for true, real, effective charity, and those who question this are narcissists?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      CST has all kinds of rooting for it. Called justice. Read what the Church teaches on the state and justice.

                    • Morris

                      Why must you pompously assume (as seems to be your wont on a regular basis) I have not read? Must we also assume that CST sees the same State we have in 2014, with its manifold failures and abuses, all of which come at the expense of those most in need?

                      Why don’t you read what Catholics who have done (most likely) at least as much reading as you have and end up with a different conclusion? Start here:


                    • HornOrSilk

                      Why do I “assume?” Because I give you the benefit of the doubt. If you had read, you will not say there is no “solid reasoning” behind the position of the Catholic Church in regards social justice. You will know that Catholics, from patristic time onward, have discussed it, and have promoted justice, following the Bible which suggests the state is to be involved with it. You have not demonstrated knowledge of the Catholic position but ridicule it with typical American ideology. So yes, I gave you benefit of the doubt. That’s why I assume you have not read. But it is quite clear, you have not read beyond ideologies and ignore the whole tradition. Read what the saints through the centuries, see how they write on Dives vs Lazarus, for example. Read medieval saints discuss the problems of the rich and you will see the same rhetoric of the rich then as now in regards their self-justification. Then you will begin to see it all in a Catholic perspective.

                    • Morris

                      Do you lump Thomas More in with “the rich” who justify themselves?

                    • Morris

                      As for “typical American ideology”, you couldn’t be more wrong. That phrase belongs to the left/right democrat/republican liberal/conservative adherents. My “ideology”, as you see it, is informed by years of living in Austria, Hungary, Poland, and Italy, as well as several American states. Again with your assumptions; it must be hard to be smarter and more well-read than everybody else; you bear quite the burden.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      St Thomas More:

                      “[how can anyone] be silly enough to think himself better than other people, because his clothes are made of finer woolen thread than theirs. After all, those fine clothes were once worn by a sheep, and they never turned it into anything better than a sheep.”

                      Thomas More,

                      “Instead of inflicting these horrible punishments, it would be far more to the point to provide everyone with some means of livelihood, so that nobody’s under the frightful necessity of becoming first a thief and then a corpse.”

                      Thomas More,

                      “Why do you suppose they made you king in the first place?’ I ask him. ‘Not for your benefit, but for theirs. They meant you to devote your energies to making their lives more comfortable, and protecting them from injustice. So your job is to see that they’re all right, not that you are – just as a shepherd’s job, strictly speaking, is to feed his sheep, not himself.”

                      Thomas More,

                      “If a king should fall under such contempt or envy that he could not keep his subjects in their duty but by oppression and ill usage, and by rendering them poor and miserable, it were certainly better for him to quit his kingdom than to retain it by such methods as make him, while he keeps the name of authority, lose the majesty due to it.”

                      Thomas More,

                      “(…) personal prejudice and financial greed are the two great evils that threaten courts of law, and once they get the upper hand they immediately hamstring society, by destroying all justice.”

                      Thomas More,

                      “But what they find most amazing and despicable is the insanity of those who all but worship the rich, to whom they owe nothing and who can do them no harm; they do so for no other reason except that they are rich, knowing full well that they are so mean and tightfisted that they will
                      certainly never give them one red cent during their whole lives.”

                      Thomas More,

                    • Morris

                      Your ability to copy and paste is impressive, but what is the point of these quotes? To show that More believes the State is the only true way to justice? That’s hardly to be gleaned from these quotes; if anything, he supports the point of view that the State, failing in this role, should abdicate power. He also points out how greed corrupts the power structure. So what’s your point? Are you implying I worship the rich? Why didn’t you quote More in his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation where he points out that redistribution only makes everyone worse off, and that it is necessary to have a system where some can become rich in order to help those who are not? Is it because that sounds a lot like what I’m saying? Not state-worshippy enough? Was he on the fringe there? Being a typical american ideologue?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      It points out the role of the state for justice, and for the rulers of the state to work for the welfare of the people, and not just rely upon “charity.” QED.

                    • Morris

                      This in no way means that the only and best way to achieve justice is through public policy. It does show that the State can become an obstacle to justice and a promoter of injustice. This has been my point; if the State shows itself to be a net contributor to injustice, it is absurd to tar those who say so as being “not pro-life” simply because a majority of people believe about the State what the State wants them to believe. A very strong case can be made from decades of data (and having eyes) that the War on Poverty not actually done much to curb poverty while taking trillions of dollars out of the productive economy which actually is the only engine of wealth production (which means jobs and helpful technology and lot of other things). The idea that social safety nets can only mean those provided by politicians is just stupid.

                    • Ronald King

                      Your comment has no basis in reality except within your beliefs and projections.

                    • The Deuce

                      You shall know them by their fruits. If you all were interested in a practical discussion over how to best help the poor, then you’d engage in one, rather than attempting to disqualify every opposing argument out of the gate without addressing the content. You don’t, because you aren’t. Whining about being called out for it won’t change that observable reality, only engaging will.

                    • Ronald King

                      I hope you read your comments again in the hope that you develop some insight into your thinking. I responded to your initial statement because it was not a statement of fact and was not supported by any evidence.

                    • Ronald King

                      I did address the content and what you see is the fruit of that content.

                    • Morris

                      Christ is infinite, physical resources are not. Charity is voluntary and meritorious; paying taxes which are demanded by threat of force is not charity. An intermediary State that confiscates wealth for waging aggressive wars and aborting babies and “compassionate” programs that discourage marriage is not the best way to help the poor. Your attempt to link bureaucrats to followers of Christ is silly and fails.

                    • chezami

                      So it’s not about seeing that the desperate have what they need, it about your narcissistic need to feel generous. Well, knock yourself out.

                    • Morris

                      That’s a bizarre interpretation, to be sure. Do you give any extra sheckles to the IRS, or do you give to a charity or directly to individuals? I’m guessing you trust yourself to make sure that little extra actually makes a difference and doesn’t get swallowed by the intermediary filter. What part brought out the charge of narcissism, pray tell?

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Justice is necessary. This is what you forget. Those who deny the poor justice so the can feel good about giving crumbs have no charity.

                    • Ronald King

                      You are the one who needs to work that out, not I.

                    • Morris

                      I’ve joined the IRS; now I can do good work helping people! Now I really understand…my good work before was so useless…

                    • Ronald King

                      I will not engage in this…

                    • Mike Blackadder

                      Not really Ronald. You should simply admit that you are out of line accusing Morris of not being able to ‘do good for others’. You have no idea who it is you are talking about, and it’s highly immature and anti-intellectual to fight arguments in this way.
                      In addressing the real needs of the poor and promoting social safety nets you have to be willing to address the effectiveness of these programs, including the huge inefficiencies associated with centralized government-run programs. Just because your wife is a civil servant it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that civil servants earn a living off of the system of redistribution.

                    • Ronald King

                      You do not know who you are writing to.

                    • Mike Blackadder

                      I am commenting based on WHAT YOU SAID. I don’t need to know WHO YOU ARE to do that.

                    • Ronald King

                      You wrote, “You should simply admit that you are out of line accusing Morris of not being able to ‘do good for others’. You have no idea who it is you are talking about, and it’s highly immature and anti-intellectual to fight arguments in this way.” I think you need to read what I wrote again. Your entire statement is based on what you think I wrote. Immature?

                    • Mike Blackadder

                      ‘I know you are, but what am I’ is also an immature way to argue a point. Once again, I don’t need to ‘know you’ to criticize you for what you actually said. This isn’t really a complex point that I’m making lol.

                    • Ronald King

                      You haven’t quoted me. You have distorted what I have written. Please read what I actually wrote and not what you think I wrote. I am tired of your subjective interpretation. Read the actual words instead of your projections

                    • Mike Blackadder

                      Well Ronald in that case when you can do some good work helping others like Morris and I do, then let us know. Until then enjoy the wife’s paycheck.

                    • Ronald King

                      I guess you do not want to admit your distorted perception of what I actually wrote and instead write something immature.

                    • Morris

                      That is your interpretation.

                    • Morris

                      I’ll quote you. “When you can do some good work helping others let me know.” I’m letting you know: I can do some good work helping others. In fact, I do do and have done good work helping others.

                      This good work, by the way, is in no way related to taking money that has been extracted by threat of force from people who might otherwise choose to do good work helping others with the money taken from them against their will. I’d love to write more, but my living is made by being productive in a market that requires success, not by legislative whim enforced with guns and cages, so I should get back to work. Failure in my world means a smaller budget, not a bigger one.

                      Did I quote you correctly?

              • Ronald King

                By the way you design without knowing just by the attitude you present

              • I can think of two such organizations in America.

                One is certainly the federal government.

                The other is investment bankers.

          • Hezekiah Garrett

            What prison are you incarcerated in, so that we might visit you?

            Or, what technology do you use to avoid surveillance and detection when using the internet, that we might adopt it also?

            Because if you aren’t part of the we above, you have been imprisoned, or driven underground for your efforts to oppose such, you are we.

            One step toward justice might to be the eradication of the noun”government”.

    • Mary Alice

      Why do the Bishops say that we have to do this through the government? Why not eliminate the middle man like a local tiny Baptist congregation I mention in my post above does?

      • ivan_the_mad

        They don’t say it must be done categorically by any entity:

        The primary norm for determining the scope and limits of governmental intervention is the “principle of subsidiarity” cited above. This principle states that, in order to protect basic justice, government should undertake only those initiatives which exceed the capacity of individuals or private groups acting independently. Government should not replace or destroy smaller communities and individual initiative. Rather it should help them to contribute more effectively to social well-being and supplement their activity when the demands of justice exceed their capacities. This does not mean, however, that the government that governs least governs best. Rather it defines good government intervention as that which truly “helps” other social groups contribute to the common good by directing, urging, restraining, and regulating economic activity as “the occasion requires and necessity demands.” This calls for cooperation and consensus building among the diverse agents in our economic life, including government. The precise form of government involvement in this process cannot be determined in the abstract. It will depend on an assessment of specific needs and the most effective ways to address them.

        ibid., §124

        N.B. – This is a pastoral letter of the USCCB. If you wish to review the primary sources on Catholic teaching regarding the nature and role of the state, subsidiarity, and other principles of the social doctrine, I would point you towards the Catholic Encyclopedia and the social encyclicals, of which this compendium and its footnotes serve as able guides.

      • cfae

        We couldn’t afford it, Mary Alice. My husband did the math and it would be about 50,000 per person if the Church picked up the tab on a national basis. We couldn’t afford it and a lot of people would go hungry.

      • They don’t always. In my state, Fr. Taffe homes are run as part of Catholic Community Services:

      • IRVCath

        Because in large part it is a matter of justice, and the sovereign has a natural interest, nay, indeed, a duty, to establish justice with the assistance of the subjects.

  • Ronald King

    If we do not do everything we can to make it safe for women to bring children into the world then what is our purpose for being here? Violence and fear of violence is the foundation of human relationships which influences each of us to act in ways which either enhance our sense of community with those who suffer or intensify our instincts for self protection. I have failed to give enough to create a safer place for women to bring their children into this violent world. The safety net needs to be more encompassing and more inviting than what already exists. I know this because I have worked with women and men who have suffered throughout their lives because they have been isolated in the pain of being told they are not good enough.

  • Mary Alice

    Mark, I would like to encourage you to write about the “dollar in the plate” Catholics a little more. I think that bears a lot more attention. We Americans are a generous people when there is a disaster anywhere–very generous. Yet each Sunday I cringe when I toss our check into the basket and see a few dollar bills and maybe one envelope after it has been passed to at least 50 people ahead of me.

    I am broken hearted by your reader’s letter but I hear that sentiment all the time among Christians of all stripes. What if we Christians decided that we could do better than government and really gave our “time, treasure and talents” to the poor in each of our neighborhoods and communities? Is it easier to say “I pay so much in taxes so my obligation is done?” Yes, I think that is what happens.

    A tiny, and I mean tiny as in a congregation of about 20 active regulars, Baptist congregation in a town near me bought an old elementary school, converted part into a church and is in the process of converting the rest to serve the community. 95% of the free meals offered in our whole county are offered by that church. They have a FREE shop where people can come and get clothing, bedding, dishes, pots and pans, etc. They are working on a free private library since their small town has no public library. They are renovating old classroom space to house a free dental clinic and a free medical clinic. They let folks use their gym free; it is the home gym for our local Christian homeschool group. This is what twenty middle class American Christians do. Despite government programs and safety nets, people need and use what this church offers. Their free meals each week are packed. Maybe one of the biggest negatives of government assistance is that Christians believe that since they pay high taxes, which they do, that they can’t do this kind of thing or that they don’t have to. Any thoughts about the giving angle, Mark?

    • cfae

      Mary Alice, I don’t give at my parish anymore. I’ve talked with my priest and let my archbishop know it’s because my diocese has squandered millions to defend child rapists and their enablers. I give at a shelter now. I don’t believe I pay high taxes. I just want to see more of it helping people and keeping up roads and bridges and less on stupid wars, but that’s another thread…

      • Chase

        In general, Americans pay pretty low taxes compared to other industrialized nations.

        • Don’t forget that the US is a dual sovereignty system. Most tax comparisons internationally don’t count state and local taxes because outside the US, they are usually small. In the US, they can be quite large.

      • BikeE2

        I give to church partly because I know the lights and heat and music is not free. That’s really not giving. I would do the same to go to a movie. If you are attending, you shouldn’t freeload. Beyond that, if you don’t like what the Church does with it’s money target your contributions.

        • cfae

          You make very good points, and I thought about those things too. My archdiocese is particularly egregious regarding abuse, etc., which is why I made a point of letting them know my reasons. It seems like the only way for lay people to be heard expressing our concern for the lack resolve in changing the status quo. My level of giving hasn’t changed, it’s just going elsewhere and to better stewards for the time being.

      • IRVCath

        OTOH, it is a matter of duty that we are to support our pastors. Even a dollar or two is better than nothing.

    • One other potential reason is the rise of GenX and below giving to their parish online, rather than in the collection basket. I would say how much I give, but I’d rather keep that private. Suffice to say when I signed up for online giving, the percentage of my tithe going to the parish and the Archdiocese went up about 200% (ok, it helps that I had just gotten a job the November my parish started doing this- but I’ve kept it up through times of unemployment and no income as well).

      • ucfengr

        That’s me for sure. My giving goes directly on my credit card. The parish and Archdiocese gets the money and I get the travel points. Win-win.

  • This is why the majority of the $2800 my Knights of Columbus Council gave to pro-life causes, went to Mother and Child Education Center:

  • BikeE2

    I had an epiphany a few years ago preparing for a confirmation class on charity. I figured I would get smart, whipped out my Catechism and found “Charity” in bold print in the index. It also said on the same line “(see also ‘Love’)”. The light bulb went on. Our God is Love. The devil HATES charity and designs mechanisms in our hearts to divert and obscure it. We must be in charity at all times, both giving and receiving. People would rather kill their own child than ask for help. People would rather recommend a couple go childless than help. So sad that we are deluded into thinking that when the government does it, we have somehow attained charity.

    • BT

      I share that concern about folks thinking that we’ve been charitable if government has taken care of it, but I also have the concern that folks feel that when the government takes care of a portion of it that some how that ISNT charity.

      It’s king of an “all hands on deck” approach that we need.

      • HornOrSilk

        Most people who look for the government to work for justice do not see the justice as charity. As Pope Benedict XVI pointed out, even if we got to the point where a state had perfect justice, we would not have begun with charity, because charity is about love, and we will still have ever-increasing charity in eternity, with the perfect justice around us. This is why many saints pointed out the avarice try to act like they have charity but show they have none when they oppose the needs of the poor.

        • BT

          Then again, the current conservative political climate here in the US can’t in any way be described as “charitable”, which the pope has also made abundantly clear.

  • That assumes that there is an amount in which people will decide to not abort. Give them an extra hundred dollars a month, and that won’t be enough to change their minds. Give them an extra hundred dollars a month on top of that, and that still is keeps them rather poor. The only enticement would be to give them a middle class standard of living as part of the dole. And we’ve gone down this road before. People have children just to collect a welfare stipend. And then why should anyone work if you get a welfare check that puts you in the middle class? Why indeed.
    The more things change, the more they remain the same. The cycles of history.

    • Let me be more precise. There already exists a safety net. No one is ever happy with the level. The amount you need to increase it to justify not aborting a child is unaffordable and creates terrible incentives. The problem is not the welfare amount; the problem is broken or fatherless families.

      • cfae

        http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/marriage-is-no-safe-haven-from-abuse/Content?oid=2846154 It’s not about a dollar amount to mothers, it’s about a society that values motherhood enough to create a safe working environment, access to adequate healthcare and safety. Read the article regarding the increase in domestic violence and homicide that accompanies pregnancy. Keeping these guys in the picture would be great for these women and kids, huh? We don’t have any adequate legal responses to this. We still have 29 states in the US that allow rapists to sue their victims for parental rights. Ponder the statistic that only 3% of rapists are convicted and most rapists are people the victim knows and perhaps you can get an idea of the kids of issues women are dealing with when the weight the choice of an abortion. Catholics say they are pro-life, but few take the time to look at the conditions that contribute to that choice or are willing to part of a process to change those conditions. I guess it’s just easy to condemn the women and pretend we have no culpability for the dog-eat-dog society we’ve created. Pope Francis is listening to people. We all need to have the humility to listen to women in these circumstances.

        • “it’s about a society that values motherhood” Yes. But I don’t expect that from a culture where contraceptive sex is normative.

          • Chris

            Huh? How is “a culture where contraceptive sex is normative” mutually exclusive with a culture that values motherhood? Allowing women the choice of when to become mothers means we won’t value them when they do make that choice? That doesn’t make any sense.

        • Oh please. I don’t eat any dogs, either metaphorically or not. A social safety net exists. It will never be enough. If we can lower the number of people on welfare, we can provide more to those that are on. Few people chose abortion because it will bite into their living allowances. Most people chose abortion because they don’t want the life changes that a child brings.

    • Mike Blackadder

      More money and taxation isn’t the only manner of supporting a social safety net, in fact it’s probably the most futile method. Barack Obama’s approach is only that, it is a manner in which we can strive to support the poor. The fact that Barack Obama’s approach doesn’t work is a whole other issue.

      • I hear you, and I’m open to doing more as Sen Lee wants to. I’m just skeptical it will make a difference.

  • captcrisis

    If you really oppose abortion, you will support ways to make it rarer. Most “pro-life” people have no interest in that conversation.

    • Morris

      Sweeping generalizations are awesome. This one is true; I’ve met most “pro-life” people. Took me a while, but I did it.

  • Mike Blackadder

    “This mommy blogger is, as much as any communist, an enemy of the family. She and those like her have exalted some semi-anarchist theory of the abolition of the state and the primacy of private property over the good of the family just as much as communists have exalted the primacy of the state over the good of the family and corporatists have exalted their great money machines over the good of the family. But the family, the icon of the Blessed Trinity, remains prior. The state, the law, our money were made for man, not man for the state, the law, and our money. ”
    Absolutely. And what better illustration of false allegiance than when a libertarian/ ‘Catholic’ starts preaching what amounts to eugenics! The point that Mark is making is that we get it from both sides. Political partisans need to be ready to abandon their pet ideologies to a higher calling of serving others, of human dignity and true freedom.

  • Julius

    Modern institutionalized “social safety nets” have existed for ~100
    years. So for 1900 years did the Catholic Church not really oppose

    • HornOrSilk

      Catholic Church has always had social safety nets, indeed, it was one of the ways it converted Rome.

  • Mike


  • Mike Blackadder

    I’m a conservative and a Catholic and I support both the institution of a social
    safety net and the unique opportunity that exists in a free country for people to freely move from one ‘class’ to another through their own initiative. The truth is that even under the apparent injustice of diverse and expanding income rates that the majority of people in the lower 25% of income rate in the US will enter the top 10% over the course of their lifetime. That’s evidence of a system that works.

    At the same time it’s an egregious injustice that there are families without enough to live on, that there are women who become trapped as single mothers without any good option besides welfare to sustain themselves, and not enough welfare to even sustain themselves. I also see that with opportunity and the benefits of risk-taking in free markets that there exists the real prospect of economic failure, and the real prospect of by-standers being victims of the failure of others. As human beings we must have MORE to offer as a society than the definitively dispassionate ‘invisible hand’. Failure must be an acceptable outcome for people to do ‘good work’ and for society to ‘progress’, but we ought to strive for a society where those who fail and those who are (due to circumstance or condition) unable to earn their own bread (even if for only a short time) that they can live with human dignity and as a normal part of greater society.

    Where I tend to diverge from some of my ‘progressive’ counterparts is in the manner in which we build up a social safety net and the manner in which we can encourage opportunity and dignity for the poor. What we’ve seen over the past 6 years (and probably also during the Great Depression) is that simply feeding welfare programs with money is not a solution to our deepest social and financial problems. We see that indiscriminately burdening taxpayers and employers and scapegoating them for all of our problems does not heal the real injustices of poverty nor do we further the cause of the less fortunate.

    It is true that the libertarian ‘conservative mommy blogger’ injures the dignity of the sacred poor family through a lack of Christian charity, but so does a system where only 30% of resources reach those in need, so does a system that locks able men and women into a cycle of dependence, and so does a system that is systematically ‘gamed’.

    I know that most people receiving welfare need it. I know that most people on welfare are not choosing laziness and leisure. However, the injustice of system abuse and overall dishonesty causes injury all around (not to mention the injustice of drug abuse and crime (including murder) which causes disproportionate harm among the poor). It takes from those who really need welfare to live, it creates the need of enormous bureaucracy, not to mention invasive treatment of welfare recipients, and it reflects upon the character of other deserving welfare recipients.

    On some level progressives must also admit that a system that gleans resources from other people’s earnings into a central depository to be redistributed back out through 1000 page regulations and fat bureaucrats from ‘generous magnanimous politicians’ has little more in the way of inherent charity and compassion than an ‘invisible hand’. We can strive for something better than that. The very foundation of human society is the family. The family is a center of love and service, but that is not the limit of human society it is only the smallest piece. The concept of subsidiarity doesn’t jump straight from the living room to the White House, and progressives (including some American Bishops) have mocked this important extension of fundamental human dignity (ie. subsidiarity) to the detriment of the poor and to the detriment of a healthy society.

    You can say that if you oppose pouring more money into safety nets or increasing taxation that this makes you a ‘promoter of abortion’, but that is no more true or evident than the suggestion that if you opposed Paul Ryan’s platform of social program reform then you are against the poor and a ‘promoter of abortion’.

    • Chris

      “The truth is that even under the apparent injustice of diverse and
      expanding income rates that the majority of people in the lower 25% of
      income rate in the US will enter the top 10% over the course of their
      lifetime. That’s evidence of a system that works.”

      Mike, do you have a source for this claim?

  • Stephen Skinner

    what a great article. One suggestion of the best ways to help poor single moms with young children is affordable day care. Thru experiences in my own family the main obsticle to work is day care. I believe the best thing we can do is help people work by breaking down barriers for them to work and day care is one of the biggest infact it may be THE BIGGEST. Just as a side note one other thing I do not understand is why pro-lifer and I am one stop only at the abortion issue. Where are they at state executions. Why is there not as much emphasis on ending the death penalty as there is on abortion. Both are pro-life issues whether we like to admit it or not.

    • Mike Blackadder

      Pro-lifers are there at state executions. Then again, there aren’t millions being killed at state executions (not probably ever in the history of state sponsored executions). If only a fraction of the effort and protections that went into opposition to the death penalty were also applied to the dignity of an innocent human life who is killed only because they are less developed and fully dependent on their mother, then abortion might be as rare as capital punishment.

  • Morris

    There are many ways of supporting people through “safety nets” that have nothing whatsoever to do with those coming out of the actions of elected stooges which often do not really do what they were ostensibly put in place to do. Opposing such counter-productive measures is not hating the poor but rather hating the mechanisms that often trap the poor and make it difficult for them to escape their condition. http://www.lewrockwell.com/2014/07/randy-england/can-a-catholic-be-a-libertarian/