Capitalism and the Welfare State

How can free-market capitalism be made less inimical to democracy? America's editors raised this question last week:

The future of democratic government requires greater distance between finance and government, not an easy task given the modern expectation that government manages the economy. It also requires a rebirth of social responsibility and concern for the common good on the part of corporations and their leaders, and a renewed sense of moderation on the part of the public at large. But since government and the public continue to measure well-being almost solely in terms of economic growth, such moderation too may be out of reach‹until the markets bring on a collapse too great for even a government rescue.

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Now an important follow-up and corollary to this question is, "How can capitalism and democracy become less inimical--or even partners with--the kind of Catholic social justice pioneered by Leo XII and now extended by B16 in his call for universal health coverage?" Jim Manzi, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, tackles this question in the cover story, "Unbundle The Welfare State: the Next Step in Capitalism's Evolution." Writing in the December 20, 2010 print edition of National Review, Manzi sets out to find a workable answer to this question. Thanks to NR for making this article available to America readers:

The fundamental issue of political economy in the Western world has been the same for at least the past 200 years: drawing the right lines between government authority and individual initiative. In the broadest terms, freedom has been winning. What the West has invented through Burkean trial and error has not been a libertarian utopia, however, but a workable hybrid that emphasizes freedom while creating a significant role for the government in domestic politics.

Certain aspects of capitalism accord with our commonsense understanding of evolved human nature. One important example is the right to property, which in the primitive sense of "mine, not yours" appears in legal codes, myths and stories as far back as we have writings...Capitalism can channel potentially destructive human characteristics--including greed, envy, and the need to establish personal and group dominance over others--into benign and socially productive work.

The welfare state appears to be concomitant with the growth that capitalism creates. As far as can be determined from history, the idea of an advanced capitalist society without a welfare system is misplaced nostalgia--or more accurately, an anachronism. It is like wishing for a commercial jet aircraft without wing stabilizers.

I am uncertain if either Adam Smith or Karl Marx imagined how their systems would be changed by an evolving universe. Manci addresses this very situation, and his delineation of the welfare system as including pensions, healthcare, education and welfare payments certainly suggests that the Welfare State has a strong role in governmental practice and supports the beatitudes once  proclaimed on a small mountain top in Galilee, as well as in various papal encyclicals and statements including the most recent  comments by B16 suggesting basic health care as a human right.

Jim Manzi does us all a favor, first by clearly stating the four major activities of a welfare state, then by unbundling the five elements that undergird the working welfare state. He argues that welfare programs provide a safety net; they incorporate varying levels of risk; they may require prudent behavior on the part of beneficiaries; they may redistribute wealth beyond the theoretical dimensions of an Adam Smith capitalism; and they may provide goods and services directly to recipients.

A careful reading of Manzi, I suspect, can help us to a common ground discussion rather than either/or arguments based on dogmatism or restatements of past ideologies. What do you think? Some possible questions for discussion: How much of a safety net should the state provide in pensions? Should state sponsored healthcare cover the smallers things or just emergencies? How do we determine who deserves welfare payments? What consitutes an adequate level of investment in public education?

I look forward to your responses.

William Van Ornum

 

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Marie Rehbein
7 years ago
If we feed the hungry, they do not come begging or, worse, stealing.  If we clothe and shelter people, then they are not dressed in rags and living in boxes in front of our homes and business.  If we see to it that people get medical care when they are sick, they are less likely to infect us. 

Therefore, consider that the origin of the welfare element of our nation's government is not compassion but irritation.  In order to avoid being irritated by the otherwise unavoidable presence of people who are suffering from lack of food, clothing, shelter, and, more recently, good health, we have been trying to find a way to eliminate these irritations in the most widely reaching way possible.

However, public programs that try to assure that the necessities of life are provided to poor people are thought of more and more as extravagent waste that encourages indolence rather than a system that protects us all from the effects of poverty.  It's as though we have lost sight of why the social programs have developed.  These programs are as much for the benefit of those who don't utilize them as they are for those who do.  They are not meant to make us feel good about ourselves, but rather to prevent us from feeling bad. 

we vnornm
7 years ago
Hi Marie,

I am grateful for your comments and interests, but today am going to ask that this pease be your only comment on this discussion. I don't myself want to get into an argument, nor do I want others to. I know many government workers who help then poor etc. out of a sense of compassion. With a broad comment above their good work is broghtn under unfair negativity.

Thanks for being understanding today and I look forward to our discussions on other topics.

best and amdg, bill
7 years ago
I quickly read the referred to article and the comments.  I, like some of the commenters to that article, think the article is muddled.  It has an agenda and when one has one, it often misses the point.


They cannot point the finger at George Bush since it would be hard to blame the excesses of the Celtic Tiger on him.  So they point it at unbridled capitalism.  I was in Ireland in July and August 2008 and all they talked about as they watched Irish Football was the Celtic Tiger.  No one who waited on us at a pub or restaurant in Dublin was Irish.  They were mostly Asians or from Eastern Europe.  The Irish had moved on to higher level occupations.  They didn't know it but they were blowing their rich uncle's bequeath to them in just a few short years.


There are many sources for the financial crisis and maybe Dr. van Ornum will pursue them over time.  One that has not been addressed and it is one of the main one but far from the only one is the leverage requirements for financial institutions.  Here is an article and a short video interview last week with a finance professor from the Stanford School of Business (Anat Admati) on Bloomberg where she says we are still playing with fire as the banks are just as leveraged as they were in 2007 and 2008.


http://baselinescenario.com/2010/12/04/what-jamie-dimon-won%E2%80%99t-tell-you-his-big-bank-would-be-dangerously-leveraged/


http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xfawgb_anat-admati-says-banks-should-incre_news 


The culprit is not necessarily capitalism but how it is channeled very often through government regulation. 
7 years ago
Just 3 relatively quick thoughts:

1. With respect to the America editorial, I find it very confusing.  It seems to aspire to, in different turns, a Jeffersonian agragrian "small" economy, a Puritan-esque "moderation" agenda, and financial doomsday scenario.  What does "modern expectation" mean: the government has been involved in high finance since the days of Hamilton & Bank of the US.  So do they rather the Jeffsonian agragrian model?  Curious for a Wharton grad to desire.  Second, with respect to a "rebirth" of corporate caretaking, what "golden age" of the American corporation are they aspiring to return to?  I can hardly imagine a time in 20th century capitalism in which the corporation has not been more "socially concerned" than now.  Perhaps I see this more because I am a corporate lawyer who has advised corporations with respect to Federal Securities laws disclosures requiring discussion of, among other things, climate change as well as dividends, directors, etc.  This, notwithtanding, most American workers simply want their 401ks to remain stable.  Overall I just find the editorial an unenlightening "mush".

2.  With respect to the Manzi piece, just 2 thoughts.  I think we need a demographic target of what "safety net" and welfare as it seems that (and I think Ross Douthat & Reihan Salam have made this case) what many see as "middle class" entitlements are largely gobbled up by upper middle class families.  Thus Paul Ryan's idea to require "means testing" is something I find interesting.  Secondly, I think its appropriate to ask with respect to welfare programs what the proper role of the FEDERAL government is, particularlay now as we see the long term fiscal health of this country is a threat to, among other things, the basic social safety net we have.  We just cannot keep spending and spending like we do, and it is simply economic fact that you cannot simply tax your way out of the hole (albeit I am not opposed to slightly higher taxes).  Unfortunately, I have found in my discussions (real & virtual) with liberals that both of these thoughts are met with howls and charges of racism, greed, ignorance, cold-heartedness, etc.
7 years ago
Dr. van Ornum,


You have bitten off a large amount to chew on.  There are probably a 100 different issues between the America article and the Manzi article that we could comment on.  I mentioned one above in response to the America article which has no meaning at all when considering the Manzi article.  The Manzi article alone could form a debate for months.


One thing that hit me from the Manzi article and relates to the America article is that we have an unemployment problem.  The rapid growth of the economy from 1980 to 2008 was fueled by technology and an unleash of entrepreneurs to exploit this new technology.  That is still happening but not to the extent that it was only 10 years ago.  One side effect of the technology is that the products it provides requires fewer and fewer people to make it happen.


In the past as technology led to more efficient farming and sent people into the cities starting as early as the late 1700's and continuing into the mid 20th century they were absorbed by manufacturing.  As the manufacturing economy became more automated we then transferred these people into the service economy which now dominates our economy.  But we are getting so efficient at what we do that we do not need as many in these service industries and these types of jobs can often be done by computers and other technology.  Just witness the automatic check outs on the internet.


The Kaufmann Institute which studies entrepeneurship estimates it will take the creation of about 50-100 new billion dollar companies each year to fully utilize the people we have and which will enter the work force.  This ability or inability to utilize the efforts of everyone could upset all the thinking  that Manzi so carefully laid out.
we vnornm
7 years ago
Walter,

Can you explain more about how the NIT would work? And also about the movie Precious, which I haven't seen?

best, bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
re: #4 Mr. JRC:

A main point: certain current government policies are encouraging the wrong kind of leverage in banks? So certain specific government regulations need to be changed in this area?

bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Jefff,

The Paul Ryan concepts appear interesting:


But the size of Ryan’s proposed voucher could be increased, to accommodate political realities, without doing violence to his overall vision of what government should be doing, and where it could be cut. And that vision is more appealing, I think, than many liberals are giving it credit for. What Ryan is proposing, ultimately, is a comprehensive blueprint for a conservative welfare state. A simplified tax code, consisting of a two-bracket income tax with a large standard deduction and a business consumption tax, would pay for a means-tested safety net, and a system of tax credits, risk pools and low-income subsidies would underwrite a free (or, well, somewhat freer) market in health care. In other words, Ryan would balance our books by shifting away from programs that shuffle money around within the middle and upper-middle classes — taking tax dollars with one hand and giving health-insurance deductions, college-tuition credits, home-mortgage deductions, Social Security checks and so forth with the other — and toward programs that tax the majority of Americans to fund means-tested support for the old, the sick, and the poor.
“If conservatives could design their ideal welfare state,” Paul Pierson has written, “it would consist of nothing but means-tested programs.” The Ryan blueprint doesn’t go that far, but it takes serious strides in that direction. Depending on how you fiddle with the tax rates and where you set the subsidies, his overall framework could be the basis for a welfare state that’s at once much smaller than the leviathan we’re headed for at our current rate of spending and more progressive in the way that it distributes spending and tax subsidies. It’s a conservative vision, clearly, and not a liberal one: It shifts much more responsibility to individual and families, overall, than anything most Democrats would be comfortable supporting. But in its broadest outlines, Ryan’s roadmap holds out the possibility of at least some common ground between the limited-government right and the redistributionist left — and long-term solvency into the bargain.
I note he is from Wisconsin, a state with a blend of conservatives on the farms and progressives is Madison. thanks, bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Mr. JRC #6

Perhaps Manzi can keep us going for a while and that might be a good thing. at least for me he gives a framework where we can roll up our sleeves and explore new ground and ask questions of each other. When folks are doing such "discovery" work together, maybe it encourages learning together rather than bac-forth arguing. We have a complex problem in front of us!

re: Kaufman Institute. do they disucss how many "smaller" combinations of entrepeneur companies will be needed (ie is 500 100M companies the same as 50 1B companies).

Do business schools encourage entrepeneurship? I seem to recall an article in the past week in NYT how many college grads are now trying to start their own businesses rather than work for an established corporation.

Maybe the servant in the gospel who settled with the Master's debtors (rather than burying the Talent) would be patron 'saint' of sorts?

Manzi uses education as a model for possible entrepeneurs. As I have mentioned elsewhere, many physicians/health care specialists are encouraging their own sons and daughters to avoid medicine because the "entrenpeneurial" possibilities have vanished due to the managed care/insurance monopolies. This does not bode well for the health care system as a whole. I wonder if there are ways to encourage entrepreneurs in healthcare to target underserved locations, poor, terminal AIDS, etc. etc.

7 years ago
I further note that Mr. Ryan is a Roman Catholic and is acknowledged by BOTH President Obama and David Brooks (who recently debated him at a fascinating debate at the American Enterprise Institute) to be the most intellectually formidable member of Congress today.  It is a lasting curiousity & disappointment to me that he gets scant mention by most "progressive" Catholic blogs who seem to think if they ignore him he'll just go away or who render such a caricaturized version of his Roadmap that they can easily dismiss him.
we vnornm
7 years ago
I just sent an email to Rep. Ryan and invited him to make a posting here concerning whether or not he sees his ideas as consistent with Catholic social teaching. I hope we hear from him!
I didn't know he was Catholic, thanks for letting me know! I wonder if he was taught by Jesuits? bill
7 years ago
Dr. van Ornum,

The Kauffmann Foundation did not elaborate on the study, just posting about it recently and mentioning what it would take to keep the economy growing.

http://www.kauffman.org/newsroom/new-kauffman-study-finds-as-few-as-30-new-billion-dollar-firms-can-significantly-accelerate-gdp-growth.aspx

Stanford has entrepreneur program in the engineering school.  Silicon Valley essentially started from engineering programs at Stanford and mainly due to the efforts of Frederick Terman.  Terman was instrumental in winning the Cold War and the research that flowed from Stanford funded and started Silicon Valley.  Here is their website for the entrepreneur program:

http://ecorner.stanford.edu/ 

The business school has a program too and a lot of the venture capitalist have come from Stanford

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/ces/ 

Yahoo and Google started at Stanford.
7 years ago
Paul Ryan went to public high schools and Miami of Ohio for college.
Kang Dole
7 years ago
Um, why was one person singled out to be excluded from this convo, when others who seem to share a proclivity for what might reasonably be termed excessive posting are not being held subject to the same standard?
Bill Mazzella
7 years ago
Google did a nifty thing by incorporating the Stanford practice of giving students or professors 20% of their time to devote to new products. This has helped Google grow rather than be mired in relatively few products like Microsoft. What is distinctly different about Google is that Google works to put the consumer first before everything, including profits. The preoccupation with shareholders in the recent decades has contributed to less products and less gain for the average person. In the long run as our present debacle now shows it has severely damaged the investor. Except for those at the top of the heap which has enraged the public. But Google while not perfect seems different. They have a motto: "Do no evil" which they do adhere to for the most part. The media that Google seems to have supplanted are wary of Google while they have imitated it in many ways. Google is different and bears watching. 

As far as Capitalism mitigating the destructive forces in human nature, more clarity is needed. Good laws do that which means sensible government interference. In recent years people like Bill Gates have branched out in an effort to remedy world poverty. It is certainly a mellowed Gates who destroyed such competitors as Netscape with his monopolistic system.

We now have the greatest gap between the rich and poor and in our history. So I would need help in understanding how capitalism is divinely sent. So this thread raises a lot of questions which might do better with a sharper focus. 

Overall we might ponder that the reason Francis of Assisi chose poverty was because all the wars have always been about greed. So if one renounced money this would lead to a better world. Francis might have been quite idealistic. But his plan might have a better chance than benevolent capitalism. 
Tom Maher
7 years ago
I have to agree with Jeff Landry comments about Paul Ryan.  In the new 112th Congress Representative Ryan will be the chairment of the House Budget committee which decides the priorities and portion of expenditure by the U.S. government.  He was also one the Republican memebers of President Obama Defecit reduction committee and had quite a very constructive ideas.  He is considered I have read an idea man that has detailed ideas on policy.  You would think that this kind of person would receive some mention especially in America's editorials on the subject Ryan talks about and is knowledgable in. 

After reading the comments that appear in America magazine I am greatly releived that Paul Ryan DID NOT go to Catholic high school or college.  I have never known or heard of anyone of any prominance in economic, finance or businsess come out of a Catholic college.  I know of many very distinguished economic and business leaderz who are Catholic such as Jake Welch  but none of them came out of Catholic colleges.  Catholic colleges just do not seem to distinguish themselves ll in economics,finance and business subject s but a loaded down with "social justice" theology which has no scientific basis.  So the student of Catholic colleges get to heard theology but are hear little or no  practicel arts and science.  Recent articles in America on "Catholic Economics" were a real worry.  When you mix economic science qith "social justice" philosphy you get both bad non-rigorous science and bad urealistic philosphy.  America magazine is loaded with utopian social philosophy and fantasy economics that comes out of Catholic colleges.   These "Catholic " solutions to serious policy of the nation just can n ot be taken seriously.  And thank goodness you never hear of them mentioned in public forums such as C-Span.  

Mercifully our national debate on
 economic ????????????????p?o?l?i?c?y? does not i?ncl?u?d?e? ??????????????????????????????m?u?c?h? "C?a?t?h?o?l?i?c? ????E?c??o?n?o?m?i?c?????????s?"????????????????????????????? ?or utopian social justice philophy ????t?h?a?n?k? ?g?o?o?d?n?e?s?s?.?
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we vnornm
7 years ago
Dear Mr. Abe R.:

Let's move forward. Do you have comments on the articles? tx. bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Dear Bill:

A good friend of mine has a bumper sticker 'Live Simply so that Others May Live." In many ways he embodies the Franciscan spirit of taking just enough of the Earth's resources for his family, treasuring simple activities like walks in the country with his friends, working just enough hours each week to meet the expenses. He grows alot in his own garden.

Is he contributing to the economy growth of the economy? Most definitely not. If everyone were like him, would the world be a better place? Yes, I have to think so, although I can't explain how this would effect the entire economy. In terms of the theorists, it would appear the economy might backslide...

I visited a Shaker community in the midwest last year and had a similar feeling. Yet the Shakers there are finding that there young people don't desire that lifestyle.

I'm not sure how any "system" can be viewed as divinely sent, and as one person noted, we seem to get into trouble when we start dealing with abstractions like "systems" which are complicated and merit further detailed and specifiic studies.

Catholic Worker, Quakers, Shakers, St. Francis, Dorothy Day, Missionaries of all kinds-their lives seem to show a better way that transcends the systems that those of us with academic bents construct and discuss.

I have to admit there is a partadox here that I don't undertand and can't put into words. And there is a saying "it is easier for a camel to ge through the head of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." And those who by chance of birth find themselves in a land gifted with greater natural resources etc. than other places have to do some serious thinking about how their life fits in with the entire planet, I think.

best, bill





we vnornm
7 years ago
Tom,

This is indeed interesting. I happen to have here a list of Nobel Prize winners who have been Members of the Papal Academy of Sciences here and while I find many in Physics, Physiology, and Chemistryn I don't find any in economics.

"Catholic Colleges do not seem to distinguish themsleves in economics, finances, business.." Hmmm.....

When I look at what Manzi is doing above, it seems to me that he is combining economic philoosphy as it exists in the real world with Catholic ideas of social justice. Improving and extending the health care system, providing safety nets...

..sayingn that "These 'Catholic' solutions to the serious problems of our nation just cannot be taken seriously" is one of those statements that indicts everything and provokes others to become defensive or counter attack...not helpful, to me at least. Please, try to tone down the generalities that lead us down the path of abstract name calling, ok?

Your observation that Catholic universiites are noit turning out leaders in economics, however, is a specific one where we can gather more facts and then see where this leads. I hope others can comment to this specific observation with more factual info. Perhaps others have info that suggests your obsrvation is not a true generalization; others may support it. With more facts, we might then say, "what's to be done about it."

thank, bill
Vince Killoran
7 years ago
This is all very familiar. Jeff et al. bemoan the fact- on a regular basis- that Catholic magazines such as AMERICA do not give Paul Ryan much attention.  Could you please provide references or links to interviews or articles where he has articulated how his faith informs his political identity?

For all the adulation he gets from conservative columnist I don't see anything fundamentally new in Ryan's warmed-over trickle-down "free market" views-certaibly nothing "Catholic."
we vnornm
7 years ago
Vince,

I haven't seen any articles about Ryan and his faith. I wrote to his press assistant and asked for a fifteen minute phone interview to ask him about this. If he doesn't respond, maybe this will tell us something?

Sorry if we're rehashing things. I was hoping we'd get into some of the specifics raised by Manzi. So maybe in trying to get out of the...er.....rut?.....we've all just fallen back in. Sorry. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

Do you see any possible links between Manzi's article and Catholic teaching?

best and amdg, bill 

 
we vnornm
7 years ago
Bill,

Many thanks. Right now I am in the middle of 20 things. I will study each of these and make a posting by tonight. 

Three collections....geesh.......

Thanks for taking the time to send these along. I will go over them. bill 
we vnornm
7 years ago
Hi Jeff,

I'm trying to split my ballot today, so to speak, as I usually try do to...more later..

I hope others weigh on on the "Catholic college" & "teaching of economics issue"

As i understand teaching, educators are encouraged (supposed to?) give both sides of issue to students so that students can make a choice.

if students are leaving Catholic universities ignorant of both sides of economics-or even worse-not knowing the basics of the field-is this not a problem?

any teachers/adminisgtrators at Catholic colleges/unversities among us today who wish to weigh in?????

more later...bill
7 years ago
''Catholcs advocating economic policy must be solidly grou7nded in tested, real world economic principles or as a significant voting block in this country they will do the country great harm by their ignorance of economics.''

- In fairness, much of the quantitative economic/public policy methodology I experienced in grad school is highly utilitarian, which can lead to a mechanistic view of human beings, and is quite contrary to basic Catholic moral reasoning.  So I do appreciate that Catholic thought tempers/challenges this utilitarian reductionism with a view of human dignity.  Its just that I have found in my experiences this tends to come out more as statements that we see lobbed in these comments everyday: ''corporations are just raping the country''; ''conservatives don't love poor people'' or ''conservatives just want poor people to die''.  Even more troubling in my experience is the attitude that middle class/upper middle class values and habits are evil.  So we were presented constantly with the Latin American ''struggle'' for liberation as the essence of what Catholics were called to do, and if you went on to become a middle manager at a busiess, or some other middle class job, you were selling out and just feeding the greedy machine.  I still recall vividly the day I ran into an old religion teacher soon after I had graduated from law school and taken my first job at a rather successful corporate law firm.  She looked at me at and said, in essence, ''well I guess you've totally sold out.''  No matter that I was proud to have economic indepdence from my family and supporting my new wife (and was getting paid more than any person in my family heretofore) or that I felt like I was helping small businesses.  I was not risking getting my head blown off in Latin America (not that she did either), so I was a sell out.  More than politics, I think this attitude has contributed to the defection among my classmates from high school and college from the Church because they see these statements and its totally divorced from reality in this country.  To me, its the equivalent of the Church's birth control teaching.  There is a massive silent defection by ignorance because the "teaching" is so divorced from reality.  The economy most middle class Catholics experience is not the economy most Catholic social justice teachings proclaim, i.e. usually a varied from of Latin America.
we vnornm
7 years ago
Jeff #29

The psychology programs in most Catholic universities also follow the quantitative trend of the field and I fear they also pick up the very un-Catholic philosophies that are common.

I suspect many students in Catholic colleges pick up on the disconnect you are speaking about. Their moms and dads are successful business people, often in small-family owned firms, and the college is certainly glad to have the tuition money, and some of the teachers who are funded by the whole cycle tear it apart. How much this happens I don't know but I think it happens enough that it is something to think about.

Yet at the same time I am certain there is a good proportion of students who see their parents involved in philanthropy and giving back to others and this is a force for the good.

But I must stop here...I'm starting to paint with the broad brush.

Stewardship-how resources and riches are used, not just the fact of their existence, appears to be an important factor.

When I was in grad school Loyola had a great program were a certain number of us joined the union each summer and became Chicago (CTA)  bus drivers. Hardest job I ever had in my life. This really helped to pay the bills and appreciate academia.

Thanks for your persepctives. bill
7 years ago
This is getting way off topic but I understand the frustration when I hear the term ''social justice'' used to justify certain political and economic approaches by certain members of our community.  I am sure that the conservatives like myself are looked at obstacles to what some consider the implementation of social justice.  However, I consider those policies associated with conservatism as much closer to real social justice than those proposed by the liberals.  Is it real social justice if a policy hurts the poor by forcing them or inducing them into a behavior or lifestyle that is deleterious to them and their families?  I can name several instances but to make a point, black Illegitimacy was 5% prior to the New Deal programs and 30% prior to the Great Society and is now 70%.  So was the New Deal and the Great Society programs for social justice with this group of people.  Both had heavy Catholic involvement.


The Manzi article is an intellectual argument for a set of policies that would be both socially just and consistent with conservative concepts.  The problem is that it may be too idealistic to achieve and it would also require massive financial improvements in the economy that would be necessary.  So we take short term stop gaps to solve our problems.  These stop gap programs have in the long run negative effects such as the illegitimacy mentioned above but also institutionalize the stop gap policies that are truly sub optimal and make them almost impossible to eliminate.  Getting rid of these policies and moving on to Manzi's idea would be a massive process.  It is hard to imagine how we would implement it.
7 years ago
I don't want to turn this into a "he said/he said" argument.  Ryan does NOT spend a lot of time talking about his faith in relation to his economic philosphy & he credits Hayek, etc. more than his Catholic faith for his economics; I see no problem with that, however.  My point with respect to America etc. is that their bloggers/writers generally bemoan the lack of ideas, etc. by the GOP & trumpet liberal Catholic politicians, and it would be nice to see some credence given to Catholic conservatives such as Ryan who is one of the most dynamic Catholic politicians today. 

Moreover, this dovetails nicely with the comment re: Catholic education that I have been ruminating on & came to respond to.  I'm generally sympathetic to the spirit of the point about Catholic education (although I don't endorse all the specific points made).  This i based more on my anecdotal experience of 16 years of Catholic (Jesuit) education rather than "fact".  Generally my point is that after my 16 years of Catholic education, I left what I considered a "liberal".  My exposure to economics and capitalism in general was primarily thruogh my "social justice" classes in high school which generally focused on very abstract notions of "everyone should be treated equally".  As I understand it, social justice says that charity is insufficient, but that the system itself needs to be changed.  For inspiration, we were all pointed to the Latin American Jesuits, liberation theology,etc. (without any discussion about the crucial differences between North & SOuth American).  All well and good I thought.  I can agree with this.  My first exposure to economics was in grad school at an Ivy League institution.  It blew my mind.  First, economics is highly empirical.  There is very few "abstract" argument.  I realized in hindsight that I had not real grounding in this discipline and that the impression I had formed of economics/capitalism was both highly superficial and totally inadequate.  That was the beginning of my "conversion" to conservative thought; I was thrilled primarily with the intellectual rigor - ideas were actually discussed and (vigorously) debated.  I did not encounter this same attitude with my generally very liberal grad school classmates.  Instead there was a certain "groupthink" mentality (all capitalists are just greedy; conservatives are dumb, racist, greedy, etc.).  So I think the point is that intellectual rigor is generally lacking in "social justice" theology classes that I think does not serve most Catholics very well in the public debate.  Even now reading Economic Justice For All there is a slightly embarrassing lack of actual economic data that is the lingua franca of economics & public policy today.
Tom Maher
7 years ago
Thank you Jeff Labdry for your personal witness to the lack of economic exposure in Catholic colleges while at the same time being saturated with thelogy based "social justice" advocacy on the economy.  This advocacey for "distributive justice" is not based on economic facts or history and often advocates ideas that have repeateedly failed.
This advocacy raps inself in the mantle of sacredness when in fact its actiist vasis concerned with certain precise economic outcomes such as distributing wealthby the agency of goverment is completely arbitrary and man-made and very much open to criticism, 

Ignorance of economics is a profound disadvantage as a citizen when so much of government policy making involves economics such as bugdets, taxes, financing public debt, maintenance of economic growth and job creation and the management of  safe public debt levels etc.  But such critical economic can not be maeningfully discussed without a decent grounding in economics..  One of the reason that these dialogues degenerate is their is no common references to proven economics principles or idedas or hazards to be avoided. For instance  Europe is showing us that too much public debt has a can cause national bankrupcy.  Too much deficit spending can bankrupt a country and create hugh social problems and including political problem for years. 

I would like to see Catholics be part of our economic solutions by ebing informed of the basic , tested real-world principoles of economics.  If you want to cure disease you emplye modern medical science not religous faith healing or primitive concepts of what disease is all about.  

Many of "social justice'" concepts ignore ecomomic concepts. They can be demonstrated to result in very bad outcomes be   For example many Catholic nations specifically Argentina have inflated their national economcy in order to provide more cheap services to their people.  The result in run away inflations whcih quicly led to long term economic depression.  Good interions: super bad results.  

Catholcs advocating economic policy must be solidly grou7nded in tested, real world economic principles or as a significant voting block in this country they will do the country great harm by their ignorance of economics.

Bill Mazzella
7 years ago
The question of economics, finance, money and the like when applied to Catholics brings up all kinds of paradoxes and contradictions. First, one might note that the RCC has the greatest money maker in the world established throughout the world. Which is seen in the Catholic parishes throughout the world. Not even Sears and Roebucks, Walmark and even Google has so widespread a presence. Even banks do not have that much cash accessible to them. Even with their creative late payment schemes.  At each of those centers (parishes) there is often more than one collection every Sunday. One Sunday I actually witnessed a third collection. Furthermore, you will never see your pastor more ardent, motivated and pushy than he is every year during the "Cardinal's Appeal" (now in NY the "Stewardship Appeal"). The church may not produce economists but her preoccupation with money is irrefutable. 

Getting back to the question in particular, one might note that Joseph Kennedy SR was certainly big in finance. He was commissioned by FDR to reform the finance system which Kennedy knew so well how to reform since he abused it as well as anyone. Kennedy was big on insisting that his children attend Mass which seemed more a cultural practice than a devotional one.

Some believe that the external downplaying of money by the church discourages aggressive behavior in the market by Catholics. But in general it seems difficult to ferret it all out or make sense of it. For what it's worth here are some tidbits on Catholics and economics: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2010/05/who-are-the-catholic-economists.html

 
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=40933392832

 
http://www.americamagazine.org/blog/entry.cfm?blog_id=2&entry_id=3661&comment=1#readerscomments

These may not be typical. I love the one on facebook where the group of Catholic economists state that their common interest is 'beauty.' 
we vnornm
7 years ago
Walter #28

One thing I like about Manzi's article is that it makes us aware that safety nets don't have to be forever and that recipient of them have certain responsibilities. So I like the idea of the government sponsoring someone to take a job where in combination the person can receive more money than being on the dole. AND...that there is a phase out time. So the beneficiary here is going to have to take a risk here that he/she can do better in the future.

I become a bit depressed when I drive through some lower-income areas where the are many government programs and see much obesity (Type II diabetes), run-down and dirty infrastructures where at the same time many able bodied people seem to be up and about although they are not working, and huge amounts of expensive electronic toys/games/wie screen televisions overflowing trash containers....it does appear we can reward "the dole"

You must have learned a great deal about human nature/motivation working in your field. bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Tom #27.

Point taken and understaood. Thanks! bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Jeff #25.

Point taken and understood. Thanks! bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
Bill #23

I went over to the site and I imediately see names like Peter Kreeft, George
Weigel, and the Acton Institute. Now I have read material from each and have learned a great deal. But I suspect that overall many readers here opt for a different interpretation of Catholicism where it intersects economics. As we strive to be ecumentical with other Christian faiths, and tolerant with other religions, it seems good to try to learn from the diversity within our own church. And there is indeed diversity!  :-)

I have heard that the Church is "land poor" and "art poor" and really does lack liquid capital. Having been to Europe and figuring out the immense costs of keeping some of those cathedrals/Vatican city stuff etc. going reinforces this.

amdg bill

we vnornm
7 years ago
david #31

Thanks for the clarifications...I am happy with people respecting each other and also thanks for pointing out there are more than two sides to everything. I had a differnt feeling from Manzi...kinda like, "Wow, here's a bridge between 'liberals' and 'conservatives'".....alas....maybe it is indeed hopeless   ;-(    but merry christmas despite this! bill
we vnornm
7 years ago
JRC #32

Again, as I noted to David, I got all excited when I read Manzi and thought he may be articulated a workable framework to "help the helpworthy" (okay, I didn't say social justice) while at the same time recognizing the reality of the economy. Perhaps I am just too naive.

merry christmas. bill
Bill Mazzella
7 years ago
However we slice it we have the words of Jesus which is the mandatum. Some 
may rationalize the eye of the needle but there is only one parsing of The Rich Man and Lazarus. Certainly, how we use our goods is paramount. But riches do tend to make us forget God.

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed."
'
7 years ago
Dr. van Ornum,


I agree with you that Manzi offers an interesting alternative to help the helpworthy.  I myself would love to find ways to do it and think that most conservatives would want similar outcomes.  All I was saying was that to effect real social justice, the policies must actually help these helpworthy without causing something much worse.  Too often people think because one takes money and throws it at something, that is a solution.  Too frequently these programs have secondary and third order effects that are quite negative.  Manzi is trying to avoid this.
Michelle Russell
7 years ago
Hi Bill,
I was finally able to read the full Manzi article and find that I agree with much of what he is saying, as a broad outline, and a general paradigm with which to begin.  I too believe, like Mr. Cpsgrpve has stated, that we cannot just "throw money" at a problem and must be reasonably sure of the possible outcomes of any social program which is begun to help those in need. 

My thought is that any safety net would want to provide a basic level, or quality, of life.  Of course, many could argue what that would entail, but basic in the sense of having enough food, decent (not necessarily new) clothing. healthcare when needed for illness/emergency/basic preventive care, etc... And just as there are different people, situations and environments, the construct of the safety net could be flexibly designed to fit into more than one situation.  The look of a safety-net-system in my small island community would, I would think, look quite different than a similar system in a large city.

I know this is short on specifics, but I am just beginning to look at these questions through the lens of the Manzi article.  But when reading it, I was reminded of 
2Thessalonians 2:6-12, with the foremost quote which came to mind: "when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat." (with the operative word being "willing").  And another thought - did Jesus say the government should take care of those in need of help?  And if not the government, then who?  Certianly, we are in a different world now, but as Catholics and Christians I do think we might give ourselves more credibility if we base more of our arguments (more openly) on a Biblical perspective.  

Thanks, Michelle 
we vnornm
7 years ago
Dear Bill:

Yes, the Rich Man has already gotten his reward. bill 
we vnornm
7 years ago
JRC,

Perhaps all of us who make suggestions for social change should adopt a version of the Hippocratic Oath: "Do No Harm".

That Law of Unintended Consequences seems to appear way too often.

bill 
we vnornm
7 years ago
Michelle,

It is  good I think to have Manzi as a paradigm and I think I'm going to use his criteria as new programs come our way.

It always struck me as important how St. Paul supported himself. In this way he could honestly preach (i.e. You FOOLISH Galatians). Can you imagine a letter from a pastor or bishop using Paul's honesty? They can't be as honest, because to do so would be to offend too many people and lose contributions. 

(So maybe we need a system of priests who work and whose support doesn't come from the Church so they can speak honestly? Now HERE'S an idea!)

In the area I live there are many crumbling infrastructures, much cleaning and beautifying that could be done, and a whole lot of conservation work that could be done. I suspect Manzi would be putting people to work here...

along one of our roads are beautiful stone walls and gigantic pine trees planted in a pattern..legacy of the WPA from FDR, who lived right down the road.

bill 
Michelle Russell
7 years ago
'(So maybe we need a system of priests who work and whose support doesn't come from the Church so they can speak honestly? Now HERE'S an idea!)"

Yes, actually, that is a great idea.  We had a priest here for several years who was a retired navy chaplain, was paid $50 (or some similar amount) each time he came over to say Mass at our church.  He owned his own home, eventually bought a personal aircraft so he could fly over each week; so he had a "life", paid bills, owned property, etc... (I didn't know this was an option for priests).  As a result, he had no problem speaking freely, and often did.  And he could connect more easily with the people in the seats because his life more closely resembled their own. 

Merry Christmas!  Michelle

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