are you now or have you ever...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Five for Friday 1

#1: Richard Rodriguez on Pope Francis & "the new atheism."

The self-identified Catholic gay Latino sometimes-conservative sometimes-liberal writer has a strong take on the "new atheist" movement, identifying its basic approach as a species of intellectual bullying: Richard Rodriguez: "New Atheism" has a distinctly neo-colonial aspect.

Read the entire interview, and not just for Rodriguez's insights about the "new atheist" crowd. There's lots of wisdom there -- about the nature of Latino identity in the United States, affirmative action, and the desert nature of the three main monotheistic religions. He has some very interesting comments about the Catholic Church and Pope Francis, and much of the Left's obsession with sexual issues. Rodriguez, unfortunately, falls into the trap of viewing Pope Francis as being outside of continuity with his predecessors, but perhaps such an interesting and unorthodox thinker can be forgiven for falling a bit for some of the MSM spin about the Pope?

#2:  the influence of John Locke on Catholic social teaching.

Joe Hargrave explores that topic in this piece, detailing the use of Locke in the formulation of Catholic teaching regarding private property. While Pope Francis' words in Evangelii Gaudium have gotten a great deal of attention since the publication of that apostolic exhortation, that work does not modify any of the principles of Catholic social teaching as it stands. And as Hargrave explains, that social teaching has powerful roots in the work of John Locke.

#3: human dignity & the problem of the post-work economy.

Mark Steyn addresses that topic in this piece archived over at National Review Online: The Post-Work Economy. As Steyn notes, one of the most socially-disruptive aspects of unemployment is the effect dependency has on human dignity and the sense of self-sufficiency that is a prime aspect of human well-being. This effects not only economic standing, but also the health & psychological vitality of the people affected by being on the dole. Complicating this is an approach to governing that views dependency as a here-to-stay fixture of American civic & economic life. As Steyn writes:
The assumption is that mass, multi-generational dependency is now a permanent feature of life. A coastal elite will devise ever smarter and slicker trinkets, and pretty much everyone else will be a member of either the dependency class or the vast bureaucracy that ministers to them. And, if you’re wondering why every Big Government program assumes you’re a feeble child, that’s because a citizenry without “work and purpose” is ultimately incompatible with liberty. The elites think a smart society will be wealthy enough to relieve the masses from the need to work. In reality, it would be neo-feudal, but with fatter, sicker peasants. It wouldn’t just be “economic inequality,” but a far more profound kind, and seething with resentments.
There is dignity in work and such dignity is necessary for human beings to flourish. Government policy should be oriented towards creating conditions that foster human flourishing, rather than putting roadblocks in the way towards people having the ability & incentive to be self-supporting citizens.

#4: the Founders & classical education -- it wasn't about Latin, it was about virtue. 

To a degree difficult for many modern Americans to grasp, the Founding generation was shaped by classical literature from ancient Greece & Rome.  Virtually every literate person had at least passing acquaintance with the stories, myths & literature of the ancient West, and a surprisingly large percentage of Americans could read those works in one or both of their original languages, Greek & Latin. Yet, classical education in colonial and early republican America wasn't primarily about learning ancient languages, it was about training people in virtue & civic responsibility. E. Christian Kopff explores this aspect of early American education over at The Imaginative Conservative:  Inspired by Liberty & Virtue: the Classical Education of the Founders of the American RepublicTolle, lege.

#5: what Abraham Lincoln can teach conservatives. 

Over at City Journal online, Jeremy Rozansky sketches out some thoughts on that topic: Honest Abe's Advice to Conservatives. Lincoln was no ideologue, but rather embraced a multi-faceted approach to politics that emphasized the need for balance between economic growth & innovation and the requirements of civil order & settled polity. As Rozansky writes, this is something from which Republicans of a conservative bent could learn:
Too often, Republicans have talked and acted as if the essence of conservatism is making budgets balance. It isn’t. American conservatism holds fast to a constellation of virtues: liberty, industriousness, and temperance, among others. Conservatives must emphasize these, and Lincoln provides unmatched instruction in how and why to do so. We should be wary of overemphasizing the pursuit of economic growth, or, as [writer Rich] Lowry calls it, the ethic of “work, work, work.” Growth is unsettling for many. The challenge is to formulate an economic agenda that balances innovation with social cohesion. If conservatives talk only about “opportunity,” they will overlook Americans’ other vital concerns about stability and everyday satisfaction. A conservatism that fails to speak to these sentiments won’t win—and won’t deserve to. Perhaps Lincoln can be of instruction here, too.
Bonus: some 80s music to get the weekend started!


Tim Kowal said...

#1. 'There is no God. And I hate him.'

#2. Ed Feser shows Locke's philosophy is a mess to the extent it strays from Aristotle & the scholastics. There's some good stuff in it, obviously, but he couldn't get the souffle to rise.

#3. How can Scandinavians tax so much? Short answer: No underclass.

Tom Van Dyke said...

#1 Never believe anything you hear in the media about Pope Francis or Rush Limbaugh.

#2. The effect of Catholic social teaching on John Locke!

As for Thomas Dolby, music used to be fun sometimes. I forgot.

Mark D. said...

Glad to help you remember fun music, Tom!

Yes, never believe what the media says about Francis. And also yes that it is obvious that the New Atheist crowd are haunted by God -- if you want to know where people itch, look where they scratch.

Locke is a mess (and he was a nasty anti-Catholic bigot), but for good or ill, he has had a tremendous influence on notions of property & rights. I think we would have been much better off to stick with the Aristotlean-Thomistic synthesis, though. There is coherence!

The Scandanavians have also been able to tax so much because their socieities have until recently been homogenous. As they have become more diverse in the last 20 years, the social consensus in favor of their welfare state has weakened. Diversity is not good for social democracy.

Scott McDermott said...

So much rich material here! I'll focus on Mark Steyn's article. It's always risky to venture comparisons between our society and the Roman this area the parallel is so obvious that I'll venture in. As the Roman Republic acquired foreign provinces, and the Italian middle class died out or were forced off the land as a result of its adult males spending years away from home at foreign wars, wealthy Romans imported slaves from abroad to do the work that the devastated middle class was no longer willing or able to do. The long-term result was the disappearance of the middle class and the emergence of an Italy stratified between wealthy Romans and slaves, with the former middle class dependent on "bread and circuses." Augustus tried to improve the middle-class birthrate through tax breaks and other incentives but failed miserably. The long-term result was the dilution of Rome's identity as residents of the provinces were made citizens. My students always see the parallel instantly because they are living it. I often wonder about the morality of my educating them for jobs that hardly exist.

Mark D. said...

Scott, it isn't just the parallel within Italy -- don't forget in the provinces the Romans were busy allowing Germanic settlers into the Empire, partly to keep the Roman legions staffed with personnel but also to populate western regions that were largely empty. Doing the jobs that Romans would no longer do and all that.