Laudato Si’: Surprise! They Don’t Get It

The Editors of the National Review, et al., don’t get Pope Francis’ encyclical. There is much accusation that Francis employs a simplistic approach to economic matters — a “pot calling the kettle black” scenario if ever there were one — since the writers are guilty of doing the very same thing (i.e., asserting without basis that the surest way for developing countries to improve living conditions is to increase their economies).

The Invisible Hand is an economic theory. It is not, in practice, infallible, any more than any other theory can be infallible. Something even greater than economic theory is the anthropological reality that people act chiefly out of self-interest. Christianity is the only true remedy to this reality.

It is not a given to state that the market is “self-correcting” and therefore any and all regulation is superfluous. Rather, that particular argument is a red herring now that we have examples of how unrestrained capitalism (read consumerism) AND communism — at their respective extreme polarities — are both capable of enslavement. Self-correction is not the same as “self-preservation”.

While there are now thousands of billionaires, there are billions of nothingaires. But stop counting. What resonates clearly in this encyclical, and what is desperately needed to respond to threats of a New Economic World Order, is that humanity is at the center of creation, and any economic or political system that intentionally violates the rights and dignity of even a single human being is not fully tenable in its current form.

Universal recognition of this clearly-defined principle (which is not at all novel when viewed through the lens of Church teaching) would actually solve the problem, in which case, no need for any other “Power” or “Authority”, and therefore no need for scary music or harsh lighting to emphasize the point. “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

There’s far more at stake than global warming. The “science” on that issue can be easily set aside for now. What about (a) pesticides harming people (and honeybees!), (b) hormones in municipal water supplies, (c) devastations to animal populations, (d) people living atop landfills, (e) “food” being sold, primarily to the poor, that isn’t really food, and (f) toxic pollutants in the air that people breathe? Are these not important to life and health?

Humans are chiefly responsible for these symptoms, even if climate itself is a far more tenuous connection. We are reminded by Pope Francis that to “fill the earth and subdue it” is not license to destroy and ruin for posterity. We are stewards, not masters.

Wealthy Ain’t Automatically Classy (or Smart) and Class Warfare in China

Son of a Chinese real estate tycoon buys two Apple Watches (total value, $26,000) for his dog. The dog is shown in the article wearing a watch on each of his two forelegs. 

Let’s skip the obvious. Bigger issues:

First, it can hardly be said that China is communist. It isn’t. Private ownership is hallmark number one of a non-communist system. China has a single-party controlled government that is totalitarian. It can control who gets what and who does what. But it clearly is tolerating a semi-free market, which demands incentive and reward for investment. 

Second, China is already in the midst of class warfare. Apple products are Chinese-made goods, and while China is most recently a serious consumer of these goods in its own right, there are fewer such consumers than in the U.S., despite China’s vastly larger overall population. So a few can buy everything, some can buy something, but many (most?) can buy nothing. China is in the market because “few” is still a lot of people when total population is one billion.

Third, in addition to Coke products, fast food, designer labels (not the garments themselves though) and Napa wine, we’re also importing an unsavory cultural attitude to the East: avarice.

Pay attention. This clash between Western attitudes about consumerism and the burgeoning groundswell of Christianity is going to be fireworks soon.

The Age of Euphemism: Claiming Religious Liberty as Latest Victim

Apparently Indiana broke the Interwebs by passing legislation which some are calling an “anti-gay law”. Opponents of the law have taken to Twitter, social media, and banner carried by blimp to declare that anyone who cares about religious liberty is, in fact, a “bigot” and “hater” who has no right drawing oxygen or consuming resources on our planet.

Apparently bigots are not worthy of toleration, but to the extent that bigotry is synonymous with Catholicism, we’ve known that for a while.

Individuals like the reigning CEO of Apple have lambasted the Indiana law, while various politicians and moguls have indicated that they (and the mammon they control) will “boycott” the state for having the temerity to pass a law that mirrors federal legislation and the laws of at least 17 other states.

Nevermind that Apple continues to do business with countries that will execute outed gay people (Nigeria, Uganda, Qatar, Saudi Arabia). No mention of those nations on Mr. Cook’s Twitter feed. So there’s a strong dose of political theater as an admixture to this whole thing, and it’s creating noxious odors.

Lest you think my position can be reduced to talking points, and before you object to my characterization that the Indiana law “mirrors” the federal and other states’ legislation, let me clarify that the big distinction claimed by opponents of the Indiana law is that the Indiana law provides a defense (not an automatic protection from prosecution) to instances where the government is not a party in the claimed violation of religious liberty.

That means that where, for example, the state is not involved in forcing a Christian florist to make floral arrangements for a gay wedding, the Indiana law would provide the business-owner with a defense against private civil liability for any “discrimination” claims brought by the aggrieved “victim”.

However, this argument entirely ignores the fact that the federal law does the very same thing as the Indiana law (provide a defense against private actions) in a number of federal appellate circuits where the issue has been decided by the federal appellate courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to address the split in the appellate circuits on this issue, but it is simply untrue to say that the Indiana law does something novel that is unlike legislation elsewhere.

The more primary issue is that religious liberty (and conscience protections) are no longer closely held rights considered sacred by a majority of American voters, even though religious liberty is enshrined as one of our fundamental constitutional protections. Religious liberty is simply no longer relevant in today’s society.

Far more important — and relevant — to the average American “voter” (now “consumer”) is whether every claimed “public accommodation” must cater to every conceivable type of deviancy. One must not be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed when one tries to check into the Hilton Garden Inn with a bevy of goats for an evening that even satyrs would envy.

Because being precluded from spending money where I wish is the most gross and egregious violation of commercial liberty, and we all know that in today’s Western culture, commercial liberty trumps every other form of liberty, including free speech and religious liberty.

The only barrier to entry for commercial libertines is whether one has money or not. Having money means you play by the All-Important Rule Above All Other Rules: you cannot tell anyone else what to do with their money. Because that’s de facto bigotry.

Have a same-sex partner and want to manufacture a baby in a test tube implanted in the womb of your partner’s mother? If you can write the check it’s not a problem. Suffering from one of the “socially-conscious” diseases and need life-saving experimental treatment derived from stem cells lines from aborted fetuses? As soon as the credit transaction comes back “approved” we are good to go. Writing a “travel” book about the best places in southeast Asia to obtain the “services” of prostitutes (including underage victims of human trafficking)? Sure, here’s a list of interested publishers.

The poor, who lack money for things like “smart watches”, aren’t really people at all. If they were, they’d have commercial liberty. Since they don’t, they aren’t. So we can ignore them and continue as before.

After all, who I love is no one’s business, whereas who I engage in commerce with is everyone’s business, even if it offends the rational sensibility of social conscience held for the last 5,000 years, forces others to sanction the unsanctionable, or leads to offending the decency of the social order.

Anyone who disagrees will be destroyedi.e., separated from their moneyremoved from their property, position, and possessions, and sentenced to poverty, thus becoming non-human and entirely forgotten, where they can rot with the rest of the bigots while the Great Progression marches onward.

On Poverty, Bread Bags on Feet, and Hating Eggs

On a Bloomberg site, there is a good article entitled “When Bread Bag’s Weren’t Funny“. Despite the fact that we definitely have a sizable number of people living below the poverty line in the United States, whose basic needs are often unmet, the article suggests that modern day America no longer knows true poverty as it once did:

In 1901, the average “urban wage earner” spent about 46 percent of their household budget on food and another 15 percent on apparel — that’s 61 percent of their annual income just to feed and clothe the family. That does not include shelter, or fuel to heat your home and cook your food. By 1987, that same household spent less than 20 percent on food and a little over 5 percent of their budget on apparel. Since then, these numbers have fallen even further: Today, families with incomes of less than $5,000 a year still spend only 16 percent of the family budget on food and 3.5 percent on apparel. And that’s not because we’re eating less and wearing fewer clothes; in fact, it’s the reverse.

The anecdotes in the article are interesting, and reminded me of a few stories that I heard from my grandmother, who lived through the Great Depression as a young girl in Tennessee.

One time, her mother scrimped enough money to afford to buy my grandmother a pair of new stockings for Easter. But my grandmother lost the money on the way to the store ($.05, I think), and alas, she went without a precious pair of new stockings that year; there wasn’t another nickel in the house to pay for them.

Shortly before she died, while we were caring for her at home, I offered to make my grandmother an egg salad sandwich for lunch, and — delightful, sweet woman that she was — she appreciatively accepted the sandwich. After she ate it, she wistfully told me that the sandwich was good, and she was sorry it had been over fifty years since she ate one.

14780587614_e1c5e6bfc0_oI asked her why she hadn’t had an egg salad sandwich for so long, and she told me that she had grown to “hate them” as a girl. I don’t think I’d ever heard her use the word “hate” before, especially when it came to food; she was always so genteel, and never picky. She explained that during the Depression one of her uncles — a bachelor — was a traveling salesman who had a customer — an egg farmer — who would pay for purchases with eggs, which the uncle would bring to my grandmother’s family. There was a lot of barter and trading what you had in those days.

The eggs her uncle brought the family were a large part of their diet for a number of years, and egg salad was a daily staple at lunchtime. She was grateful that they had healthy food, but honest that even good things become tiresome after a while. She said that it was fairly common for the pantry to be bare, and that her mother would not know how or what she would feed her children for their next meal, since there was no food or money in the house.

But my grandmother also said that “God always provided, and we never went hungry or actually missed a meal. She [my great-grandmother] always came up with something. We knew a lot of families who weren’t as fortunate as us.”

My grandmother vowed that after the Depression (and war that followed) she’d never eat another egg salad sandwich for the rest of her life. But — loving woman that she was — she made an exception for me before she died, even though (had I known) I’d have made her anything she wanted.

My “Black Friday” Shopping List:

Another turkey; we nearly ate the entire bird from yesterday. And some butter.

As for that perennial pastime where greed perverts Advent, making it the season of goading sheeple into buying crap they don’t need, all while avarice and coercion fuels the fire of abuses heaped upon low-income workers, I will buy nothing.

God willing, I will buy nothing or as close to nothing as possible through the weekend, and (largely due to my tendency to avoid spending money until the last minute) past “Cyber Monday”.

And I will point out that these brief momentary opportunities to rest and take some time to be with family are priceless and scarce. Solidarity suggests that we not consume in ways that deprive others of the same enjoyment.

Sloth, Greed, and Avarice on Offer *Outside*, Nevermind the Store

For the annual post-Thanksgiving gluttonyfest known as “Black Friday”, and it is truly black indeed for the craven souls who worship at Mammon’s altar on this high unholy day, there are already shoppers camping outside a Best Buy store here in California, who will have waited 22 days before November 28, in order to be “first in line” for “deals” on….. who knows? They don’t know what’s for sale and how good the deals are because the promotion fliers haven’t even been printed yet! In other words, they don’t even know what they’re waiting in line to purchase. Make no mistake: this isn’t a bread line. It isn’t even a line for a thing. It’s a line where people partake in a lie, and not a particularly good one, i.e., getting a “deal” is really important and will fulfill that which is empty.

“’Some people say we’re crazy,’… adding that such comments don’t bother her in the least.”

Not crazy. Sad.

Where were you when…..

olchina490784bnm4China overtook the United States to become the World’s Largest Economy? According to the International Monetary Fund, it’s happening right now, and by the end of the year it’ll all be in the rear-view mirror. Meanwhile, when will China become the World’s Largest Christian nation? That’s in progress too.