Subsidiarity and the Social Doctrine

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money [to spend]." Margaret Thatcher

“Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” G. K. Chesterton

Subsidiarity in the Gospels

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Socialist Ideology

The socialist ideology can be summarized in twelve main points:

1. Metaphysical Egalitarianism
The foundation of the socialist ideology is metaphysical egalitarianism. This means that the idea of absolute equality is the fundamental assumption of the socialist view of man, society and the universe. All other principles of the socialist ideology stem in one way or another from this fundamental principle.

2. Atheism
The assertion of an infinite, omnipotent and omniscient God clashes frontally with the principle of absolute equality. It must therefore be rejected. Indeed, what greater inequality is there than that between the Creator and simple creatures?

3. Materialistic Evolutionism
Socialism holds that there is an obscure force from which we cannot escape that leads humanity step by step to higher planes of social and moral being. History is a progressive process of purification. Socialism − in its full-fledged expression of communism − is the end of this process. Although socialism is the inevitable outcome of the forces underlying social, political, cultural and economic life, we can accelerate progress and evolution through class struggle, cultural warfare, or legislation. In fact, every new fashion, school curriculum, artistic style, law, and the like takes us closer to the socialist worldview. Every effort in this regard is progress; every contrary measure is a setback.[8]

4. Secularist and Materialistic Worldview
In the universe, there is nothing but matter. God, the soul, and the next life are only chimeras. Thus, what matters is to seek complete happiness in this life. With the help of science, socialists hold that all must strive toward the largest possible amount of pleasure, and avoid any effort or suffering. As a result, all obstacles to happiness must be removed, be they religious, moral, cultural, or any other.[9]

5. Contempt of Religion: "The Opium of the People”
Karl Marx explained his contempt for religion in his famous expression that religion is "the opium of the people."[10] His faithful devotee Lenin also developed this idea: “Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze [or hard liquor], in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.”[11]

In other words, religion leads men astray from the present struggle because it promises them the prospect of a future life.

By preaching restrictive moral standards, religion hampers absolute freedom. Above and beyond this, religion has a transcendental character which is totally incompatible with science, progress and the material world.

6. Secular Messianism
Socialism is much more than an ideology. It has a messianic character, i.e., it offers a message of “salvation.” This is not eternal salvation, but merely temporal “salvation,” a “salvation” on this earth, achieved not by supernatural but human means.[12]

7. From the Idolatry of the State to Anarchy
Socialists teach that, at the present stage of human evolution, it is already possible to abolish private property, social hierarchy and the family. They seek to make the State the sole proprietor of all rights. This State, led by workers and peasants, will maintain complete equality among men. In the future, the universe and man will evolve in such a way that even the State will wither away.[13]

8. Ethical and Cultural Relativism
There are no absolute truths or revealed morals that establish immutable standards of conduct that apply to everyone, everywhere, and always. Everything evolves, thus right and wrong, good and evil depend on the socio-economic development of mankind.

9. Social, Political and Economic Egalitarianism
All inequalities, whether of wealth, prestige, or culture, are unjust in themselves. Socialists especially attack the system of wage earning in which an employer, based on the right of private property, “exploits” workers, demanding part of the product of their work as his profit when it should be entirely theirs.

10. Abolition of Private Property and Class Struggle
The Communist Manifesto defines communism as the abolition of private property: “The theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."The Manifesto calls for the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions: "Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!"

11. Hostility to Marriage and the Traditional Family − Free Love
Sexual intercourse is simply a physiological function, like any other.[14] Consequently there is no reason for restricting it to marriage.[15]This applies even less to the “present form of marriage” between one man and one woman which is monogamous and indissoluble.[16]

12. Education
Two questions and answers from Engels’ Communist Catechism illustrate well the socialist view on education.
“18. What will be the course of this [communist] revolution?

“(viii) Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost. Education and production together.”[17]

“21. What will be the influence of communist [socialist] society on the family?

“It [communism/socialism] will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage – the dependence rooted in private property, of the women on the man, and of the children on the parents.”
Written by Gustavo Solimeo

What the Popes say about socialism.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bad Medicine

“One clear change in recent years is the emergence of a factionalism that we’ve never quite known before in American history.

The Founders understood the dangers of faction, of course. Alexander Hamilton famously issued a warning against it in the ninth of the Federalist Papers, and James Madison worked on the answer in the tenth, where he defined faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

The solution, Madison thought, is representative democracy. Direct democracy, all the people voting on all the issues, is too likely to be swayed by the passions of the moment and the interests of small crowds: “A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.

Madison won that argument; representative democracy he wanted, and representative democracy he got. The dangers of factionalism didn’t thereby go away, however. A representative system, the interposition of elected officials and procedural rules between the people and the law, only dams up factional dangers—to the enormous frustration of those who gain what they believe to be popular mandates and then discover that they cannot simply do whatever they want. (Remember the angry columns this year by several liberal commentators, which said that the Senate’s filibuster rules are an unconstitutional outrage, when the election of Massachusetts senator Scott Brown cost the Democrats their sixtieth Senate vote and looked as though it might derail the health-care bill?) And when a great surge washes over the dam, factionalism is translated from a danger of the populace to a danger of the representatives.

The process by which this health-care bill came about has baleful effects throughout the American political scene. The banishment of the pro-life movement to one party will produce only ugly results, and although abortion is not, in itself, a religious issue, it parallels a faith divide in this country—a divide no one in their right mind should want echoed in the definitions of our political parties.

Meanwhile, the American populace, which strongly believes we cannot afford this, is angry at being ignored. The civility of the Capitol, such as it was, is further reduced. And representative democracy has taken a beating, perhaps even pushed down toward a system in which we are free only to elect the tyrants who will rule us until the next election. This bill was badly thought-through economics, badly constructed legislation, and badly conceived ideology. All in all, just plain bad medicine. But the worst of it may lie in the process by which it came about. Is this the manner in which we wish to be ruled?"
Joseph Bottum is editor of First Things.

The definition of a confederate republic seems simply to be "an assemblage of societies," or an association of two or more states into one state. The extent, modifications, and objects of the federal authority are mere matters of discretion. So long as the separate organization of the members be not abolished; so long as it exists, by a constitutional necessity, for local purposes; though it should be in perfect subordination to the general authority of the union, it would still be, in fact and in theory, an association of states, or a confederacy. The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government. Federalist 9
The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. A rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other improper or wicked project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it; in the same proportion as such a malady is more likely to taint a particular county or district, than an entire State. Federalist 10

Monday, April 12, 2010

The State Scores Again

"Let us set aside, for the sake of this essay, various questions concerning the recent health-care bill passed by Congress. We will concede the highly dubious proposition that it will hold down costs; that it will not add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt; that it will not lead to the queues and the rationing that plague the English and the Canadian systems; and that there were no other ways, involving the private sector, to bring health insurance to people who did not have it and who did want it. We will even set aside the sin of abortion and the pressure that will be brought to bear upon Catholic hospitals to provide what they cannot remain Catholic and provide.

What I want to suggest here is that the bill represents but a late stage in the transformation of the relationship between the individual and the state. To do this, I must insist on a fuller definition of the "political" than we have become accustomed to. We now consider politics to be the realm, principally, of national legislation, executive order, and court decision. But what is lost is the life of the polis itself, a community of free people who live together, celebrate together, work together, and provide together for the common good. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, who held a generally sunny view of the polis, the community is a natural outgrowth of man's capacity to reason: to participate in divine law by enacting measures in accord with the natural law, with an aim toward providing goods that embrace but also transcend the individual.

The Thomistic view of the polis underlies the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity, which asserts that communities closest to the issue at hand should be allowed the freedom to tackle it. That is not simply because they do a better job of it, as some conservatives insist. It is because the fullness of community life is essential to our being human. It is doubtful that the state, much less the federal government, is better at educating children than were the fully engaged American townsmen of old, who hired and fired their own teachers at will, and had a fairly clear idea of what their children ought to learn. But even if it could do the job well, its assumption of that role would take from the community one of the most important responsibilities it possesses. It would overstep its own zone of authority to usurp another. Supposing some state agency could, with wonderful efficiency, feed children and make them do their homework and put them to bed; still, its exercise of this role would rob from the people one of the great challenges and joys of life, the raising of children according to one's own best lights.

When Alexis de Tocqueville observed America, he saw a democracy, for the time being, both bolstered and buffered by free associations of people -- by families, community schools, churches, fraternities and sororities, beneficent organizations, and so forth. These made for a vital public life -- and were correctives against both the ambitions of the state and the radical individualism that democracy can encourage. There was still the strong sense that government at all levels was but the creation of free citizens, who possessed, in their families and in other associations, their own duties and even their own rightful giving of laws.

But what we have seen, in the last century and more, is the progressive centralization of power, allowing the functions and the authority of communities to wither and, paradoxically, freeing the individual from the constraints once imposed upon him by his neighbors, his church, his workmates, and his family. It is the strange collusion of a certain kind of libertarianism with a supine submission to the authority of the suddenly all-competent state. We see this clearly enough in the moves to approve same-sex pseudogamy. Two principles are at work. One is that the individual, unfettered from social constraint, can define for himself what a marriage shall be, in defiance of tradition and the obvious exigencies of nature. The other is that the state must sanction the definition; indeed, the state no longer recognizes marriages and families as societies that are prior to the state and that exercise claims for rightful self-governance. Instead, marriages and families will be the creations of the state -- and the power to define is the power to control.

The welfare state offers the individual a pact. It effaces the mid-level institutions that are so effective at old-fashioned political action -- that might build a school, for instance, and then see to it that the boys and girls in it were properly brought up to assume their roles as men and women of the community. It allows the individual the crucial freedom of the zipper. In exchange for that freedom, it assumes the role of benevolent patron, lavishing its largesse upon a community-free, unreliable, and undisciplined populace, who are now not the creators of the state but its clients, or wards.

The question, then, is not simply, "What system will most efficiently deliver health care to the most people?" I do not believe that it will help to nationalize medicine; but that is another issue. The real question is, "What traditions and laws best preserve the liberty of a people, not to do as they please, but to take responsibility for themselves and their communities, so that they will enjoy as fully as possible the human flourishing of the polis?" If we become beholden to the national government for our very health -- let alone for the education of our children -- what will be left for us to do but follow that government along tamely, conceding all matters to its purview?"

Anthony Esolen is a professor of English at Providence College

The Prophet Motive

"Why do more Americans go to church regularly than people in any other country in the world? It’s been that way for decades. Now, sociologists have started to look for explanations—and the most likely one applies the principles of free-market capitalism to religion. The free market, the argument goes, has permitted religious groups that adopt successful strategies to expand, and to do so at the expense of those groups that fail. In contrast, Europe—with its history of established churches, each holding a monopoly within its state—has been progressively secularized. This has resulted from the lack of competition in the religious marketplace, leaving declining, unattractive religions as the only options for potential believers. Because the new school of sociologists of religion has borrowed ideas from the rational-choice theories of economics, it has been dubbed the “rational choice” school."
"In the United States, then, religion actually grew with industrialization and technical advance—a fact that falsifies the claim that technological and scientific development must lead to religious decline."
"The market model of religious competition asserts that, when a religion enjoys a monopoly in a given market, its leaders, lacking the spur of competition, will not try very hard to make religious practice an attractive option. But when a competitive market in religions replaces a monopoly, not only will the spur of competition be present, there also will be a process of natural selection among religions, with the more attractive religions gaining at the expense of the less attractive ones. This is the model that the new school uses to explain American religious exceptionalism."
"Before the American Revolution, most of the American colonies had established churches, and Americans were not very religious. After the Revolution, these churches, no longer established, had to raise their game in order to compete for members. Churches that did not offer much to people shrank, and churches that were attractive grew. This competitive process made the average church more effective at getting members. This, in turn, led to a rise in religious practice in the United States throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In Europe, by contrast, churches maintained an established or quasi-established status until the twentieth century, which resulted in steadily diminishing attendance."
"The other claim of the supply-side model is more interesting and surprising: Religions succeed if they make distinctive and demanding requirements of their adherents."
"The supply-side analysis explains why, in 1945, at the close of the Second World War, Canadians were substantially more religious than Americans: Canadian churches were stricter. An example of Canadian Protestant strictness is the furor that erupted among Canadian Methodists at the time of the First World War, when it was made known that card playing was widespread among Canadian troops. A formative event in the history of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada was the arrival of priests fleeing the French Revolution. These men provided much of the clergy in Quebec and stamped the French Canadian Catholic Church with an outlook that was strict and conservative even by nineteenth-century Catholic standards. One might expect that such strictness will put people off religion, but in Canada the opposite happened: Strictness led to high religious observance, for reasons that the rational-choice theory explains. After the Second World War, however, Canadian Protestants and Catholics liberalized to a greater extent than did their Americans counterparts. As a result, Canadian churches had less to offer their members than American churches did, and the Canadian rate of religious practice fell below that of the United States—again, as the rational-choice theory predicts."
"The situation in Western Europe is parallel. There, the main event to be underlined is the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and the changes that were implemented in its name. The postconciliar changes (and, to a debated extent, the conciliar documents themselves) tried to erase, as far as possible, many distinctions between Catholics and non-Catholics. This involved the abandonment of strict rules and distinctive dress for clergy and religious, the replacement of a distinctive liturgy by one that resembled Protestant worship, the legitimation of dissent on moral teaching, and the downplaying of strict Catholic doctrine in religious instruction."

John Lamont teaches philosophy at the University of Notre Dame Australia.