Abp. Chaput Gets It

Abp. Chaput Gets It November 28, 2014

“It isn’t possible to be prolife and simultaneously forget the cries of the poor.”

We can no longer afford to be merely anti-abortion. We have to be fully prolife.

The Preferential Option for the Poor and the Preferential Option for Life are not opposites but inextricably bound up with one another. The term for those who pit them against one another and demand that we choose one or the other is “heretic”.

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  • Alex

    Is it heresy to accept that the preferential option for the poor is essential to the exercise of Christian charity, and at the same time reject the claim that this option is best exercised through a centrally planned redistribution of wealth implemented by a managerial technocratic state?

    • Alma Peregrina

      What’s your alternative?

      • Alex

        Stop “dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good”.

        Acknowledge the Gods of the Copybook Headings.

        • Alma Peregrina

          Oh I forgot. I ackowledge that there are áreas of legitimate interventions of the State, so I must be a utopian marxist. Thanks for reminding me of those dreams I never had.

          • Alex

            I wasn’t having a jibe at you … and I doubt anyone here would deny there are areas of legitimate state intervention.

    • Dan C

      It is not heresy to claim that.

      A couple of things:

      1. It is factually untrue to suggest that only since FDR has the state been involved in welfare. From the Roman Imperial state to the Middle Ages, the state has been involved in welfare. (For which the only retort is “the modern nation-state makes all previous historical examples irrelevant” *cue eye roll*)
      2. It is operationally untrue that current welfare regimes are making the radical Catholic charity that will replace such welfare impossible.
      3. Welfare is a tiny tiny piece of the federal budget. Social security is not. But welfare and its related programs is very small
      4. There is no “right to charity” that current welfare schemes interrupt.
      5. Redistribution schemes today are far far weaker than during the right wing’s Paradiscial memory of the Eisenhower days. There is no effective redistribution. Hence we have enormous wealth inequity in this Gilded age.
      6. There is no heresy in supporting a wealth redistribution. It may be the best answer and just.

      • Gunnar Thalweg

        Welfare is not a tiny piece of the federal budget. It’s $600 billion.

        A preferential option for the poor does not mean supporting the Democratic Party, or left-wing causes, or forbid wishing to pare back the social welfare state. A preferential option for the poor means affirming their inherent dignity, giving people options, encouraging initiative, affirming Godly values, holding people accountable, and focusing on real education and real skills training (not creating a self-perpetuating bureaucracy that generates votes for the Democratic Party). The Democrats support a social agenda that glamorizes irresponsible and evil behavior that, when practiced by the poor, ensures continued poverty. Their politics discourage initiative, and are characterized by corrupt city machine politics.

        There are ways to reduce poverty … and there is a role for the social welfare state — but there are plenty of moral opinions about the size and nature of that state. I would argue, however, that there can be no moral support of the Democratic Party. It’s material cooperation with grave evil, always.

        That doesn’t mean that the GOP is OK. Far from it. But at least there’s some hope there.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Really? Some hope about your GOP? From my foreign perspective, it seems you are dreaming (or “rêvez en couleurs”, as we say in French-Canadian territory.

          • LFM

            At least the GOP has many adherents who sincerely believe abortion to be wrong. Although it has trouble actually turning this into law, many politicians do try, and sometimes against their own interests – because there are many hardcore businessmen out there who couldn’t care less about unborn babies but love low taxes and deregulation, and would like to drop the whole anti-abortion thing because it’s a bore and an embarrassment, and alienates potential voters. Whatever Mark may say about how being truly “pro-life” involves more than opposing abortion, opposing abortion is a necessary start – and NO other political party, anywhere in the “developed” world, is making an effort to do so. Not anywhere. In Canada, (and I’m a French-Canadian too, btw), our conservative party does not even offer us that option.

            I’m not one of those Canada-hating Canadian conservatives – more a liberal (or Whig!) in the original meaning of the term – but I do think you are somewhat too congratulatory about Canada’s successes in the realm of fighting poverty. In spite of all our efforts, we haven’t been able to do much to end aboriginal poverty; rather less, I’d say at a guess (I haven’t checked the figures) than Americans have succeeded in doing to end black poverty. The road to good intentions is paved with hell, and I say that as someone who spent 10 years researching the Indian residential schools system.

      • Stu

        Well, I think one can say that the Federal Government’s involvement isn’t working and serves to sour any notion of “state” involvement. I find it interesting that many will criticize defense spending by the Feds (and rightfully so) but then by on to that same entity managing large amounts of charity.

        Sure would be nice to bring some more distributist notions into this.

        • Dan C

          The federal response given its profoundly anemic investment has been remarkably successful. We can see the success as proportionate to the investment and again, I say look at NZ, Aus, and Sweden.

          The Medical Assistance program is very successful.

          Try again.

          • Stu

            Have you proven anything? Simply bringing up other nations, that are more like our individual states, doesn’t cut it.
            You try again.

            • Dan C

              Food stamp programs with rare corruption feed families.

              Medical assistance in states with decent services (think blue states) have vaccination, pregnant women care, infant mortality rates, and child health rates that are good.

              The whine from Republicans and conservatives is always “family breakdown.” Well, exactly who blocks welfare to families with male head of households who are unemployed? The conservatives.

              Fearing to actually see other successes outside the U.S. is a very standard conservative tactic in argumentation. Because the U.S. is so uniquely different.

              • Stu

                You haven’t proven anything. You have just made assertions. Further, one of your examples speaks to “states.” Indeed, let’s get more execution down to state and locality levels instead of making the Feds (“Holy Mother the State”) the first line of defense for everything.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                Well, exactly who blocks welfare to families with male head of households who are unemployed?

                FDR

                • Dan C

                  Name the Repubkican that would support that?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            NZ is about as populous as the San Francisco Metropolitan Area and in GDP slightly more than Denver Metro (between the GDPs of Alabama and Louisiana).

            If Aus. means Austria, the population is slightly smaller than metro Chicago and in GDP slightly more than the Commonwealth of Virginia (a bit less than Dallas-Ft.Worth metro).

            If Aus. instead means Australia, the population is slightly less than Texas or about equal to Pennsylvania plus Ohio. The GDP is slightly more than the metro NYC area.

            Sweden is about the size of metro Chicago in population and slightly less than metro Chicago in GDP (about the same as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).

            We know from mathematics that structures that work at smaller sizes do not scale up to larger sizes. That’s why Gothic cathedrals don’t look like Romanesque ones, and elephants don’t leap like gazelles. Square-cube and all that.
            http://irl.cs.ucla.edu/papers/right-size.html

            Size matters. Even Canada operates his health care system province-by-province and the largest such system, Ontario, is about the size of the State of Illinois. But what works at the scale of Ontario or Illinois or a consortium of New England states is not likely to work at the national size. Then, too, when a national program fails, it affects everyone in the country; but when a program fails in a federal system, the damage is contained within a single state (or set of states).

            Loading on the system also matters. A system that works well under normal loadings may fail catastrophically under overloads.

            • Dan C

              Prove local competence has such. Conservative Catholics appeal to the prudence of subsidiarity but do so in such vague lofty terms. Alabama is a mess because of local Alabama. As is Mississippi. Were it not for federal subsidies they would be even a more tragic mess.

              Subsidiarity is a prudential matter. And it has to work.

              Quite frankly, local competence sucks. Not only does it suck. But the pieces that suck are matters of local pride.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                So does federal competence. That precious commodity is in short supply across the board. At the federal level, the damage they do is more widespread; at the state or local level it is more contained.

                But see also here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/01/fifty-years-ago.html

              • Stu

                Do your town or home state “suck?” Have you fixed it? Start there and then begin to worry about everyone else. Your arrogance reminds me of US foreign policy that aims to recreate the World in our image. You are no different.

            • Dan C

              And hayseed populism has decades reviling education, expertise, and competence. It just is mainstreamed now in conservative thought. Your bottom has influenced your top.

              Local hayseed populism is the reason subsidiarity is a failure. It hates accountability and expertise.

              • Stu

                Your hate of rural people is really coming through. I had no idea you were so bigoted against a certain group of people. I’m actually a bit shocked.

            • Dan C

              Markets (such as book selling) can be international but welfare has to be run out of the back of the Hayseed Pump-YouR-Own-Gas station?

              When markets are restricted to local matter, I will start to pay attention to “subsidiarity” more closely.

        • Marthe Lépine

          It seems to me, from several previous stories I have read about some types of conservatives, and some people who seem to have taken libertarian “ideals” to heart, these claims against government involvement, at any levels, in more than your country, too often serve as arguments to simply, in real practice, justify ignoring the plight of the poor, as well as justifying a refusal to do one’s part and actually being responsible citizens by paying taxes…

          • Stu

            I don’t deny that some have indeed oversteered in the opposite direction and are just as wrong in doing so.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Good… because that was not what I was talking about! I was writing about excuses for people to just ignore the plight of the poor and the justice of a living wage by complaining against government involvement and refusing to pay their fair share of taxes.

              • Stu

                Yes, some have indeed oversteered in the opposite direction and are just as wrong in doing so.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            “The government will deal with it” is also a way to justify ignoring the plight of the poor.

            • kirtking

              Not just the plight of the poor, but everyone.

      • Ye Olde Statistician
        • Dan C

          Touching. Now, let’s discuss evidence. Corruption is a local and red state/red county matter. A land of brutal bullying in my neck of the woods.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Brutal bullying? Try “blue” New Jersey, where any of the city Machines will be glad to supply tutelage. “Corruption” in Thomistic usage means “decay”, as in “growth and corruption.” The problem discussed by Chastek is structural and has nothing to do with bullies necking in the woods or with bizarre notions that states are “blue” or “red.” (They are all purple.) The system sets up a co-evolutionary “arms race” between those trying to make the system more fair and more available and those trying to game the system. This leads inexorably to Byzantine complexity in regulations that ends up making things inaccessible to the common man. For a liberal’s perspective, see The Death of Common Sense.
            http://www.amazon.com/The-Death-Common-Sense-Suffocating/dp/0812982746

            • Dan C

              This needs better empiricism. Common sense from where I sit is nothing more than hayseed bigotry.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                You could try sitting somewhere else.

                You could also try reading the book mentioned. It’s not very long.

          • falstaff77

            “Corruption is a local and red state/red county matter. ”

            How many Illinois governors and Detroit mayors need to end up in jail before that dogma bends?

    • chezami

      It’s fascinating that the discussion *always* reflexively turns in this direction in conservative Catholic circles and *never* toward “Yes! We have to be consistently prolife!” The search is *always* for some way to avoid talking about what to do and hurries on in the direction of “What I refuse to do.”

      • Stu

        Not fascinating at all given that Big State Solution has been the choice for some time now. Some would simply like to see things done more locally and get the Feds back to doing what they do best and support localities instead of taking over.

        We are called distributists. You should look into it.

        • chezami

          Had something like distributism been proposed, I would have no quarrel. But nothing was proposed. All that was offered was a denial. Meanwhile, the Church teaches that the obvious duty of the state is to help provide for the common good. And the fantasy of libertarianism (which is rampant at St. Blog’s) is that if you make the state in a technological colossus like America small enough to drown in a bathtub, paradise will ensue and not income inequality and poverty on steroids. Proposing a house swept clean and empty is not Christian.

          • “if you make the state in a technological colossus like America small enough to drown in a bathtub, paradise will ensue”
            That’s what I don’t get — individual, voluntary charity has *never* been enough, so why would it be enough now? Even local, community-based charity won’t be enough for some communities, if not most. It seems to me we need to take multiple approaches if we are to truly make a dent in poverty.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Exactly, and more than one Pope has said so. In addition, individual, voluntary charity cannot take the place of justice, and it takes more than voluntary efforts to ensure that justice towards workers actually contributes to lifting the poor out of poverty.

              • HornOrSilk

                To continue with what you wrote, I remember reading from some of the saints saying, more or less, if you don’t want to make the situation just without charity, if it is possible, then your charity isn’t, because you don’t care about the people but only the pretense of charity:for true charity cares about those who are given charity, and so would rather them not in the need of charity than to be in that need. This is often forgotten!

                • Alex

                  And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, … and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

                  • HornOrSilk

                    And as I have said, if you don’t want to work for a just system, then you don’t have charity. That’s the thing which is forgotten. It’s not charity to just give out small alms from your vast storehouse you gathered through injustice. It’s not charity to support the exploitation of the poor, even if you give all you have to them. That’s the thing: charity is love. And love wants the best for the beloved. It gives, if necessary, but would prefer not even to need to give necessity and instead, to share in greatness.

                    • Charity includes the assumption that the ‘vast storehouse you gathered’ was not done via injustice. Honest labor can create enough surplus that honest investing can make that vast storehouse.

                      When you make the rules of a society you cannot have individuals in mind. You have to make scenarios for the thief and the honest man, the generous and the skinflint.

                      When a new innovation comes into being from the genius of one or a few, inequality comes into being and society is faced with a choice. Do you allow the inventors, the hustlers, the packagers to profit or do you take it all away so all that extra work they did leave them only a bit better off than before? If the innovations, the inventions come together fast enough, one after the other, a marvelous thing happens. Broad based prosperity becomes possible. If they don’t come fast enough, malthus ends up being proven right and you undergo an economic reversion to mean with all the misery that implies.

                      We have had enough societies through histories choosing all manner of systems that we know how this game turns out. Allow people to profit, to form those vast storehouses and the riches spread as enough of those who profit go on to invest in further enterprises that succeed to create an explosion of wealth that ends up lifting even the poorest a little.

                      A number of characteristics have to be present to make this happy scenario a reality. A free market and allowing the accumulation of wealth are only two of them but they do seem to be a necessary two.

                    • kirtking

                      And while government is capable of doing many things, “love” is nowhere present.

                • A rule of law state with opportunity for education and freedom of contract is about the best we’ve been able to figure out how to get the most number of people above the poverty line without charity. You find the advocacy of such a system strongest among the small government right in the US.

              • Ye Olde Statistician

                In the US, private charity is roughly equal to governmental programs, so you can also say that bureaucracy cannot take the place of justice and it takes more than impersonal programs to lift the poor out of poverty.

            • Ye Olde Statistician

              During the Great Depression, some folks in this part of town made it through by baking bread and selling it to their neighbors. Others took in laundry and ironing. Today, that kind of thing would be illegal. Maybe efforts to help the poor would be more successful if there weren’t so many other efforts to stifle them.

              • Newp Ort

                Oh, plz

                • Ye Olde Statistician

                  Plz wht? There are things people used to be able to do for themselves that they are no longer allowed to do. Cf. news stories of kids lemonade stands being shut down for lack of a food license and health dept inspection. Every regulation is another hurdle for the ordinary person to overleap. This is true even if the regulation was supposed to be “helpful.” They always seem to end up “helping” established interests.

              • Well, sure. The laws against feeding the homeless, for example, are reprehensible. But that doesn’t change the fact that poverty has always been with us, even when there was no “welfare state,” and that federal and state-level programs can also do quite a bit of good. Instead of discounting one or the other, we should be striving to make both work as well as possible. You know, another facet of that “both/and” Catholicism. 🙂

          • Stu

            Nothing was proposed because over the years we have simply had a binary debate on this. We are in full-in on the Feds doing everything or libertarianism. You often like to talk about opportunities to evangelize when the Pope says something that causes a stir. Well, these are your opportunities to do the same and show people who have seen a growing “Big Government” (along with a growing “Big Business”) and no real success that they don’t need to oversteer in the opposite direction. Step out of the binary debate.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Of course, first, we will need clear definitions. “Success”, for example can mean different things, that can even be contradictory. “Big” also needs to be defined, because it also can mean different things when looked at from different points of view. Too often, a binary debate is between people who mean totally different things with the words they use, and that tends to complicate the conclusions.

          • LFM

            Well, in fact what was offered in the first comment on this thread (by Mike) was a question: HOW (his capitals) do we help the poor? The large-scale projects attempted by governments to help both the poor at home and those abroad often fail catastrophically. That is not an excuse or a denial or anything else; it’s a fact. There are historians, not necessarily of “conservative” bent, who think that Roosevelt did more to prolong than to end the Depression with his various schemes.

            In any case, I thought religious people, Catholic or Protestant, were usually those most inclined to charitable giving to food banks, missions, the Salvation Army, and so on. At any rate I believe I’ve seen this fact presented on your blog. So whence the indignation, the suggestion that “conservative” Catholics don’t believe in giving to the poor?

            If you’re talking about how to help the poor politically, that’s precisely where it gets difficult. Helping the poor via large-scale changes of policy necessitates talking about what changes are most likely to be helpful, and this is never clear. Even when a needed change does seem clear, it may be difficult to bring about. I never thought the US would be able to pull off a single-payer health insurance system, for example, because there were too many vested interests, including an existing employer-based insurance system, working against it. So that’s another issue: you have to be realistic about what political changes you can achieve. Fulminating about the awfulness of people whose politics you disapprove of is not usually helpful either, especially as some of them may already be doing much to help the poor.

          • HornOrSilk

            The thing is, if it had been proposed, the Acton conservatives would have been screaming “socialism.”

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            the obvious duty of the state is to help provide for the common good

            It is in fact the duty of everyone. All this talk about vernier controls on the size of government misses the point. Capitalism does not work when the people lack Christian charity. Neither does socialism. Talk about changing the structure is bootless. In the end, whatever the structure, those in control of the organization will be those dedicated to the organization rather than to the purpose or mission of the organization.

            If the obvious duty of the State is to provide for the common good, then it had better darned well get busy on it, because what it is doing now doesn’t hack it. There is a difference between helping the poor and setting up a government bureau with a nice-sounding name.

            Liberal conservativism! How about programs that work?

            • Alex
            • chezami

              No argument from me that it is the duty of everyone. But the libertarian fantasy one hears all over St. Blog’s is that a technological and demographic colossus like the US can and should have a state mechanism to provide for the common good that can be drowned in a bathtub and that if market forces are simply allowed to run untrammeled without state interference, provision for the common good will be the natural fruit.

              I also agree that capitalism will, in a dechristianizing culture, naturally result in slavery since all pagan culture is bound to be a slave culture. But I still think we are bound to work, as Catholics, to fight that and I think Chaput gets that one of the things we have to recover, as Catholics, is the understanding that Catholic teaching is a whole weave. Cafeteria Catholicism, both left and right, is deeply hostile to that understanding of Catholic teaching, because the goal of both political ideologies is not surrender to the Church’s teaching, but cannibilization of the Church’s teaching for their own ends.

        • Dan C

          Distributists is now a refuge for libertarians. Libertarians who found out 25 years into their experiment that big corporations revel in deregulation.

          Distributism can only occur with aggressive ways to prevent accumulation of wealth over generations. In a Little House on the Prairie model of distributism two generations out, a Mr. Olsen’s General store becomes Lord Olsen’s fiefdom without constant redistribution. But the libertarians who run to Distributism hate to think of this.

          • Stu

            Well, I can’t speak about the mindset of a generalized group of libertarians, especially since I am not one. I can say that that in general, subsidiarity is way out of balance in our nation which ultimately means you won’t get solidarity either. The most important government in our lives should be our local government with higher levels supporting the lower levels, not overstepping them.

            • Marthe Lépine

              Unfortunately, I have too often seen the claims of “subsidiarity” by many conservatives as actually meaning “passing the buck”… so the poor can be ignored!

              • Stu

                And I have seen countless progressives/liberals or whatever they want to self-identify themselves as answer any call for “subsidiarity” with charges that one is a conservative who wants to the “pass the buck” and ignore the poor.

                Rinse and repeat.

                • Marthe Lépine

                  Thank you, but since I am from a different country I just don’t fit your labels of “progressive/liberal”, thus your comment about me just does not make any sense. As well, that kind of retort is very close to resorting to name-calling. I have read too many comments in several places by conservatives who also carry remnants of Calvinism in their opinions of the poor and claim “subsidiarity” in order to strip governments of their proper responsibilities for the common good.

                  • Stu

                    I didn’t call you anything. I also can’t speak to any comments you have read wherever you may have read them. I can only speak to what I speak. You seem to want to dismiss any talk of subsidiarity because you think it code from pseudo-Calvinists who want to ignore the poor. Seems just as convenient and excuse as those you rail against.

              • Dave G.

                That’s an interesting theory. What examples have you seen?

            • Dan C

              Local government must have the strong arm of a caudillo to be able at every generation to redistribute to prevent the development of a Lord Olsen. Conservatives who run to Distributism and scream “subsidiarity” fail to envision the mechanism that will need to be I place to prevent the inevitable social inequity my example provides: a strong embrace of redistribution which would need a strong powerful government.

              How would Distributism occur without constant redistribution? It won’t.

              • Stu

                Really? It won’t?

                The issue isn’t necessarily “redistribution.” The issue is who should be doing it. Unaccountable Washington politicians and bureaucrats or local government officials who are accountable to the people. I believe more folks would be willing to support higher local taxes with much lower Federal and State taxes to administer local programs that can be monitored with officials who you can hold accountable because they work right down the street from you.

                • Dan C

                  It is fashionable to bash federal bureaucrats.

                  Let me open up a new group of folks to insult then: I trust federal bureaucrats 100 times more than rural local yahoos.

                  There is no end to the possibility of reviling groups of people.

                  • Stu

                    I didn’t bash anyone. In fact, I have DC area civil servants in my family and friends who absolutely do their best. I’m simply recognizing that command and control from afar by a growing bureaucracy doesn’t work. Just like we have businesses “too big to succeed” we are getting a Federal Government that is likewise “too big to succeed.” But they do manage to prop each other up.

                    So go revile who you want. My critique is of the system. We have built our own Tower of Babel and it won’t matter which political party is in power.

                    • Dan C

                      How did subsidiarity work for that Ebola bit in Texas?

                      Local competence is weak, talent is often limited, expertise derided and education reviled.

                    • Stu

                      Oh, so any minor misstep is grounds for Federal takeover? Maybe the Feds should have been more concerned with doing their part of monitoring who enters the country for overseas instead of trying to get in the knickers of very state and locality with tax monies aimed at expanding their reach.
                      And BTW, I don’t think you really understand the principal of subsidiarity. You seem to be making the same error as those who think it means “no government.” There is a place for the Feds, but we are grossly out of balance.

                    • Dan C

                      Local competence demands just that. Competence. I am exhausted by the fraudulent t appeals to “down-home” common sense which masks opinions based in a “way I see the world” unreality. No evidence is required. No accountability.

                      It’s been like this for decades.

                      Subsidiarity requires local competence. Time to see it rather than bigotry and small-Mindedness which has been de rigeur.

                    • Stu

                      Then fight for the competence in you locality. Fix your backyard and then maybe you can worry about everyone else. I think your appeal to “Holy Mother the State” to be futile.

                      All I want is balance.

                    • Jonk

                      Then we’d best figure out what the local yokels are good at then, eh?

                    • kirtking

                      Government is not like Major League Baseball, where the best and brightness wind up in the major league of Washington DC and the low levels are populated by the kids, the used up, and never-will-bes. The Feds just hire the same civil service way as the locals, but since they get to run a deficit, will little regard to paying Fed-yokels a 6-figure salary for their incompetence.

                  • kenofken

                    Anyone who thinks that local government is inherently more responsive and accountable should come to Chicago sometime.

                    • Stu

                      Off course local government can be broken. But unlike the Federal level, it is much easier for you to have a say or speak out.

                    • Joseph

                      Apologies. For a minute there I thought you were one of those idealists who thinks that bureaucracies can function positively for the common good (see above comments). Here you are admitting that they cannot. I had you pegged wrong.

                    • kirtking

                      Been to Chicago, and still think it is more responsive than the feds. Accountable? Elect a Republican (or a Socialist, or Libertarian, or Tea Partier, or anything else for that matter) once in a while.

                  • Jonk

                    Your proverbial “rural local yahoos” would be your neighbors. If you can’t trust your neighbor, that’s sort of a problem of Christian solidarity.

                • Dan C

                  Rural locals- every reason subsidiarity has failed.

              • Alex

                What’s so bad about a lord anyway?

              • Jonk

                Instead of a strong government that Lord Olsen can use to maintain his monopoly, like we have now.

              • Lord Olsen?

          • You really ought to hear libertarian opinion on big business. It tends not to be too favorable. The terms ‘regulatory capture’ and ‘crony capitalism’ are frequently used. They are not compliments.

        • Marthe Lépine

          Maybe the “Big State” has more exactly to do with a big population like the US. Suppose we looked at some other countries, added up their respective populations until we get a similar amount as the US population, and then threw together all the governments of those countries: It is not impossible that the total of those other governments might actually be larger than your US “Big government”.

          • Stu

            Then add central control and execution and you would have something.

            I find it funny that we “defeated” the Soviets in the Cold War and then adopted their method of Command and Control. Trickle Down isn’t just for economics, its for government too, apparently.

            • Marthe Lépine

              The EU have a certain amount of central control and execution… That’s the reason that grouping of countries exists!

              • Stu

                How is that working out for them?

                • Marthe Lépine

                  In what respect?

              • Alex

                (Lest we forget.)

                “There has been maturing in the wishes and expectations of all the seditious members of society the advent of a certain universal republic which should be founded on the absolute equality of men and on community of goods, and in which there should no longer be national distinction … All of which things, should they become actual, would cause tremendous social convulsion, such as is now being experienced …”

                – Pope Benedict XV, Bonum et Sane

              • Joseph

                The EU isn’t exactly a model of perfection. Practically every citizen not involved in politics (i.e. not receiving direct handouts from the masters in Brussels) hates being under the thumb of the EU. The EU is a dictatorship. A collection of officials not elected by the people making overreaching decisions for countries and cultures they are far removed from.

            • kenofken

              You’d say we adopted the Soviet economic model? Really? How many millions, in rough figures, have died in major famines in the U.S. since the end of the Cold War due to collectivized agriculture?

              • Stu

                I didn’t say that. Read closely.

              • It’s not quite as bad as Stu says but the ethanol politics of the US has probably had a measurable death toll world wide as we withdrew much of our farmland from food production.

          • There is something to what you say, perhaps 5-10% of the effect. My relatives that worked for the state in Romania say that the US version is more inhuman, harder to bribe, less intelligent than communist Romania was. An ethnically unified nation-state that is smaller than the US does have certain advantages. The dominant effect in both cases is the misalignment of incentives though.

            US government is something like EU government in that it is a dual sovereign system. For the UK, you should add the EU to the UK’s govt. size and for the US, you should add your individual state to the govt. size.

        • Mike

          I love his blog but these posts are really not fair to ppl who simply don’t want to see EVEN more money wasted on well paid gov. workers many of whom do nothing – i was one of those ppl.

          • kenofken

            Were your “do nothing” days in civil service an inevitable consequence of who signed your paycheck, or did your own work ethic or the culture of your particular agency contribute something to that? Let’s assume, uncharitably, that you did lots of nothing on the government clock and were well-paid for it.

            It put you in a far better position to raise a family and/or generate downstream jobs from your personal spending than if you had been among the vast armies of minimum-wage disposable retail and service workers (which are seen as a virtue of “free market” economics.

            • I can’t speak for Mike but I was actively counseled to stop working so hard, repeatedly. I had a summer temporary job for the state of Massachusetts.

              To keep myself from going stir crazy, I was reduced to rotating the paper supplies at the copy station.

              • Joseph

                This is a fact… only people who have never worked in a bureaucracy think that it can be successful. Lots of those types locked in the Ivory Towers of Universities. Idealists who have no idea how things work in the real world.

                Nothing gets done unless it means that it has potential to fill or enlarge the bucket.

            • Mike

              I did nothing bc we all did nothing except talk about the great things we were doing for “those” ppl; i had bosses who made $200k a year who couldn’t do a break even calculation! but were “connected” and said all the right politicaly correct things; i was wasting the money of hard working families whose kids couldn’t compete with me for the job as i was a trend lefty say the right thing liberal with those connections.

            • Joseph

              Wow… you don’t know how bureaucracies work, do you? Here is how they work in a nutshell: Internal politics is number one. To be successful (which means to keep your job and make sure you get your bonus’ when they exist), you have to be a master at navigating the internal politics. In fact, internal politics (e.g. THE BUCKET) is not only *number one*, it’s the only one.

              Internal politics works like this: get your bucket, protect your bucket by building political ramparts around your bucket. Make sure that you punch holes in the buckets positioned above your bucket through passive aggressive means or by making deals or convenient friendships with the owners of those buckets; make sure that none of the money leaking from those buckets splashes out of your own. If your bucket starts to fill up, hire more people so that you can justify getting a bigger bucket. Carefully manage emails and conversations between your staff and those that fill the buckets to ensure that your bucket never runs dry. When an internal audit of bucket justification comes up, it’s time to get creative and fabricate work or, if you’re feeling especially industrious, elaborate on the current work you’re doing, even if it’s very little, making sure to properly inflate it. If anyone attempts to take your bucket or criticise your team, make sure that you’ve stored all of your emails… of course, make sure that every email you send to anyone is prepared in a way to entrap their recipients and take care not to fall for the same trick from their side. Ambiguity is key. Always be ambiguous. This affords you enough *wiggle room* to get out of being nailed for anything that make shake up the political atmosphere.

              Examples of buckets: Statistical research; Climate change research; etc.

              Work? That’s pretty much it. This is not only in the public sector but is also in the private, to a lesser degree. I’ve never been a fan of ‘The Wire’, but it encapsulates this problem perfectly. True work always gets quashed in a bureaucracy. It’s all about the bucket.

              • kenofken

                I know a little something about bureaucracy and the problems of public policy. It was my first career and I spent a year covering the Illinois Legislature. I got to see the sausage being made. More like the Soylent Green in this state.

                All of what you say is true, but it’s also true of private industry and really every level of human endeavor down to the individual. The instincts of bureaucracy are really just the human self-preservation drive in the aggregate. Everyone and every organization plays internal (and external) politics to advance their own interests. Everyone plays the bucket game. The question becomes how to balance out the utter nonsense in the bucket from that which might be broadly beneficial despite it’s roots in self-interest.

                My only point is that private industry isn’t the magical fix to every problem many conservatives make it out to be, and neither is public spending the ultimate key to prosperity. Both have crucial roles.

      • Jonk

        How about “Yes! We have to be consistently pro-life! And massive, centrally-controlled bureaucracies are always consistently anti-life!”

    • kenofken

      I don’t know about heresy (I skipped over all that to apostasy). The binary model you pose is, however, a clever lie fabricated by the Koch brothers and their 1 percenter ilk. The paradigm which says A)Either you uncritically accept our brand of predatory capitalism OR B)You will have a Soviet style collectivist command economy, tomorrow.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        The Koch brothers? I thought it was Emmanuel Goldstein!

      • Alex

        I didn’t pose any such binary model or imply that predatory capitalism was hunky dory — I think you saw what you wanted to see.

  • Mike

    Agree 100% but ppl who argue that government very often wastes the money are not in the least being heretical; everyone agrees or should that we should help the poor but HOW is another topic isn’t it? I think there’s simply no point in denying that generally speaking free markets have helped billions out of poverty and are the only serious solution to the problem; sending even more money to well paid self serving office workers in gov. to doll out will many times not accomplish anything except a raise for said gov. worker and his buddies, this i know from personal experience having spent 6 years in gov. paid work – very very well paid work, doing almost nothing but going from meeting to meeting and writing report after report.

    • kenofken

      There is no question that you can’t build a vibrant economy by giving everyone a government job in lieu of all other economic activity, as Greece did. On the other hand, the meme that goverment work=always equals waste is way out of sync with reality. Essentially everything we take for granted in our modern way of life and economy arose from government funded research. Anything you have that is digital, virtually all of your medicines, every major technology behind transportation, communication, would not exist but for government workers or government funded workers.

      All of them were the product of men and women who, for all appearances at the time, were getting paid to “do nothing” but write reports. Private industry does many things well, but it virtually never does basic research or works out speculative new technologies from first principles. It gets done by strategic public investment in people to do what they do best and what interests them, even at the substantial risk/virtual guarantee that much of it will not pan out into any big economic payoff or may only do so in 25 years.

      • sez

        Xerox PARC would be to differ, as would Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, 3M, and many others. While you are correct that many good things come out of gov’t research, there are still those who are driven by their own creativity and the hope of profit that develop new things w/o gov’t help. So I think your “virtually never” is quite an overstatement.

        • kenofken

          Jobs, Gates etc. did develop some wonderful things on their own, but they did not do so in isolation of government investment. They were born into a world where computers were thousands of vacuum tubes. They could never have conceived of any realistic personal computer without the very difficult development of integrated circuits, which was funded very heavily by public money via the space race.

      • Mike

        I see your point but i’ve actually worked in gov for 6 years and i can tell you i had a very cushy job in a high rise with prestige and a cool title i went to meetings in big board room got paid very well and did almost nothing in those 6 years…this is true prob for at least 50% of all office workers not the front line but the back office trendy young cool “analysts” types which is what i was.

  • Elmwood

    The church says it’s the arms race which inflicts harm on the poor and is the greatest curse, not middle class government workers and poor immigrants who “conservatives” are brainwashed enough to think are the enemy rather than the ruling elite and oligarchs who rob them of decent paying jobs and pollute their environment.

    for all the right-wing ideologues who think we need to deregulate everything beginning with the epa, remember why this agency was created to begin with: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/superfund/.

    • The argument for deregulation is not necessarily that there is nothing that need be done but rather often it is that there is something that does need to be done and the government is not the best agent of society to get the job done.

      As is all too often par for the course, Congressional action leads to early funding that is at high levels and as the problem fades from the headlines, funding gets whittled away piece by piece until it becomes inadequate.

      Having some sort of mechanism to pay for cleanup when the polluting entity is bankrupt makes good sense. That government have that job instead of a number of insurance entities is not something I’d be confident debating.

      • Elmwood

        at least in my line of work: oil exploration, the bond (insurance if you will) is determined by the mineral owner or regulator. in my experience, these bond rates are set ridiculously low–like maybe $25,000–which could never completely cover the expenses of a costly accident.

        it’s very simple, the system is set up to benefit the producers through lazy and incompetent land management. they, the operators, typically pay 2X what could me earned as a regulator. they don’t want competent regulators because that would cost them money. instead, companies don’t clean up their mess and 1,000s of wells go orphan and are now the responsibility of the tax payer.

        i work daily with industry, they generally are always trying to save money. they don’t like regulation because it generally costs them money. hence my absolute cynicism with the whole GOP deregulation mantra.

        deregulation and subsidiarity has its limits. small town/big city regulators are likely to be more manipulated and dominated by greed and power than federal regulators. but this isn’t always the case and it isn’t a simple problem either, like the GOP tells us it is with Big Gov bad, corporations good.

        • Industry wanting to save money is a feature, not a bug. How do you think we create the surplus economic value to fund everything else? It’s a combination of solving new problems and saving money on solving old ones.

          We abandoned strict liability at the dawn of the information age. I think that it’s an open question whether restoring strict liability would provide better results today than the current system of permitting pollution.

          The upcoming web 3.0 technologies, including the internet of things is going to put us on a whole new level in terms of the ability to police drillers. I believe that this should impact our regulatory regime.

          The difference between government problem solving and private problem solving tends to be on the order of 0.5-1.5% per year, cumulative. Over the course of a century, that’s the difference between the 1st world and the 3rd world. As a matter of stewardship, I think we should take the more efficient, private course wherever we’ve figured out how to do so.

          Note, this is not an absolute preference. Adopted wholesale, we still would have a government. It just would be significantly smaller, economic growth would be bigger, and we would be on the pathway to getting an actual, sustainable living wage.

          Incumbent interests, both government and large corporations do not want to do this. They are happy with the crony capitalist system we have that lines their pockets.

          You might be surprised to read that I agree that subsidiarity does have its limits. The limits are a snapshot in time. They change and due to better technology, the limits are getting bigger and look to be getting bigger for at least the next few decades.

  • Dave G.

    Why can’t there be a compromise? Why can’t we admit that just giving a blank check to corporate interests and expecting the Market to solve the problems doesn’t always work? Why can’t we admit that it’s not always prudent to put your eggs in the government basket, and that the government doesn’t always do the best at solving these issues compared to the resources it can muster? Does it have to be an either/or?

    • WORD. Both/and!

    • HornOrSilk

      The problem is, if anyone suggests any actions of the government, the response is “government intrusion” “you are for big government” “government can’t solve it.” No one says it is by government alone, but nonetheless, it is not without it either.

      • Jonk

        The problem is, if someone suggests that government “solutions” are quite often unjust acts that result in greater capture, they’re quickly branded heretics who hate the common good.

      • Dave G.

        I don’t think it has to be the government alone or not. I think it has to be looking at the government – like looking at the market – and seeing when it works and when it doesn’t. I can’t help but think it isn’t that hard. We all know plenty of examples of both having issues. And, of course, both can have their benefits.

      • I would wager that I could quickly suggest 5 actions of the government that small government types would not view as government intrusion and are not being done today. Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list.

        1. Government should create a series of justice systems reforms to allow the poor better access to the civil justice system.
        2. Government should have better property protection systems for the poor.
        3. Government should encourage the poor through the public schools to view themselves not only as consumers but also as producers and teach them how to be capitalists and not just workers.
        4. Government should act to value its lands properly and generously allow use leases.
        5. Government should act to set reasonable rules of the road to allow for property beyond orbit.

        That took about 10 minutes. It’s all positive government action and three of the items are explicitly pro poor. Aside from outright anarchocapitalists, the other 99% of the small government types in the US will be in favor.

      • kenofken

        Small government conservatives tend to have some curious accounting rules for gauging how and when government spending is bad. The Fortune 500 crowd believes government can do nothing right and should just stay out of their business entirely. Until they run things into the ground and need a trillion dollar bailout. Then government spending is a sound investment in America. Libertarian politicians and individuals thing government is all a vicious scam to steal their money through taxes, but you’ll never catch one of them walking away from that money when it flows their way.

        The general algorithm of American politics since the 1980s determines that government spending is sound policy or an earned investment if you’re the beneficiary. If the money is going to someone who is darker and/or of a lower net worth than yourself, it’s welfare and evil nation-sapping socialism.

    • Elmwood

      Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies were $409 billion in 2010. but these same fossil-fuel funded interests cry big crocodile tears over renewable energy incentives, which are in the long run cheap and benefit the common good.

      we know democrats are worthless, but the GOP are no less worthless IMO. Frequently the national catholic register, acton institute, and EWTN promote this party uncritically. i remember vividly raymond arroyo gushing over romney in one of his “world over” interviews the weeks leading up to the election. i thought raymond was going to ask romney to marry him.

      this nonsense together with the one issue anti-abortion voting machine really is the heresy of “americanism”.

    • The market is far more severe with corporate interests than the system that we have today.

      I would be ecstatic to have an actual compromise regime where we actually tabulated what we did as a civilization and decided on a case by case basis whether to go market or government or a hybrid for each separate thing we did. We would end up with a far smaller government than we have today.

      Instead we don’t compromise at all. You can’t compromise without understanding the issues. We rarely do that anymore. Instead we draw broad ideological lines and implement blindly according to our prejudice.

  • Alex
  • Dave G.

    Wow. Some serious rural dissing going on down there. You know, morons, as the Waco Kid would say. Ah, the Catholic blogosphere.

  • Jassuz8

    In response to the same question from that interview, Archbishop Chaput also said “But I would add one more thought: Evangelium Vitae – “the Gospel of Life” – is every bit as much a social encyclical as Quadragesimo Anno. Defending the unborn child is a vital part of the social doctrine of the Church. And the social doctrine of the Church is incomplete without actively working to defend the unborn child legally and to support women and families materially. The unborn child is also part of the poor, and often the poorest and most exploited of the poor.”

    • Elmwood

      i think what our Holy Father has rightly pointed out was that we as catholics must be holistic in our fight for life. we can’t obsess over abortion and gay marriage by ignoring other important pro-life issues like working for peace, defending the poor and the environment and ending capital punishment. otherwise you come across as hypocritical and politically motivated and become a el rush-ball.

      • Jassuz8

        Our Holy Father has never asked the pro-life community to discontinue their efforts in any way. I’m sure that you would agree that they should do everything possible to combat abortion. Catholics in both parties could do more to bring an end to abortion. There is a long list of social programs designed to combat poverty, and none of those program would exist without bi-partisan efforts…many Catholics (pro-lifers included) do support those programs. They support private efforts as well, in a number of ways. The CRS and the CCHD have gone through some tough times and scrutiny because pro-life people will not fund them if they in any way contribute to abortion (and Catholics opposed to the distribution of contraception feel the same). For that reason, some are upset with the pro-lifers and have since begun referring to their beliefs as “merely anti-abortion,” which I personally believe to be a very sick and misguided phrase. However, the fact is that the pro-lifers WERE funding those programs, until they were given a reason to be concerned. They WERE demonstrating their commitment to the poor. The WILL fund other anti-poverty programs as long as they are dedicated to life as a whole, and not simply trying to eliminate children by way of contraception and abortion. If pro-life people need to defend themselves to people such as Mark Shea, and others…well then, this is effort at doing so. In my opinion, Mark Shea should not quote Archbishop Chaput out of context, when clearly – if you read all of his response to that question in the interview – the Archbishop defends the efforts of the pro-life community. It seems to me that Mr. Shea is quite hypocritical and politically motivated himself – he does seem to have some very strong views, and sort of suggests that he is one the few who has a truly Catholic political set of beliefs. He makes his living pointing fingers at anyone he feels has failed to meet his political standard. Mr. Shea needs to take his own advice…do the things he thinks others should…and find a way to teach the faith without constantly pointing that finger.

        • chezami

          I have said not a word against prolife people. Not one word. What I object to is being anti-abortion but not prolife; using prolife rhetoric to make war on the rest of the Church’s teaching on behalf of the poor, the weak, the oppressed and, ironically, the unborn of the “undeserving” poor. And that happens far too often.

          • Jassuz8

            It seems that before people can engage in conversation, they first need to define their terms. Historically, “pro-life” meant that they believed that life began at conception and, yes, that they were opposed to abortion. That term has evolved over time and, indeed, it does include all issues concerning the sanctity of life (which is good). However, I will not refer to anyone as being “anti-abortion,” because THAT is the derogatory term that the pro-choice political opponents have used in their description of people who believe that life begins at conception (people who referred to themselves as pro-life). In my opinion, using “anti-abortion” rhetoric contributes to the cause of the pro-choice crowd. Worse than “anti-abortion,” is the new phrase “merely anti-abortion.” As though defending babies is somehow wrong – um, no it’s not. Pro-life people who are fighting against abortion should keep doing what they are doing and Catholic doctrine supports them in full. Pope Francis had this to say recently:

            “Among the vulnerable for whom the Church wishes to care with particular love and concern are unborn children, the most defenceless and innocent among us. Nowadays efforts are made to deny them their human dignity and to do with them whatever one pleases, taking their lives and passing laws preventing anyone from standing in the way of this. Frequently, as a way of ridiculing the Church’s effort to defend their lives, attempts are made to present her position as ideological, obscurantist and conservative. Yet this defence of unborn life is closely linked to the defence of each and every other human right.” (EvangelII Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis)

            The efforts on the part of the pro-life community (yes, I do mean those opposed to abortion) are not “merely” anything – they are significant. The efforts should not be belittled regardless of whatever other political perspectives those individuals have.

            This business of pointing out the hypocrites is not constructive – it’s just mean. We are all hypocrites. I think that the point that Jesus was trying to make when he warned Peter that he would deny him 3 times…is just that. Peter wouldn’t believe at the time that he was capable of denying Christ – but we are all guilty of this. So, lets get behind the fight against abortion and stop with trashing the “self-identified pro-life” people. It is counter-productive, and it will not eliminate hypocrisy.

            If you want to persuade them to your broader pro-life perspective – make a strong (constructive) argument and pray for them.