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The Tragic Triumph of the Welfare State over the Church

Posted by Tony Listi on December 29, 2008

church1By Will Herberg

ALONG with this overwhelming impact of the technological spirit on our culture, and therefore on our religion, we must take account of the effects of the Welfare State, of our Welfare Society, on religious attitudes in this country. Through the past century, the welfare services that ordinarily support human life in society have more and more passed over to the modern State, operating as a huge, centralized, bureaucratic, omnicompetent welfare agency. This has come as the culmination of the relentless secularization of life in the past four hundred years. In earlier days, through antiquity and the middle ages, into the sixteenth century, most of the welfare services that sustain life—taking care of orphans, jobless, old people, sick and incapacitated —were regularly rendered by family and friends within the scope and function of the Church, which was thus bound to the people by a thou- sand threads of everyday welfare interest. For the Amish people, this is still a reality today. In April 1965, wind and flood did wide damage in the midwest and destroyed many an Amish community. Groups of Amish people from the outside came to help their brothers rebuild their communities and their lives. On a TV news broadcast, a commentator noted: These days, when people are in trouble, there is one direction in which they look—to the federal government in Washington. But the Amish people don’t look to the federal government in Washington for help. They look to each other in their church.

That’s how it still is with the Amish people, but that’s how it was once all over in Christendom. I bring this forward not to encourage us to try to restore conditions long gone—that is a human impossibility—but to illustrate the profound changes that have taken place in recent centuries in our relation to religion and the Church.

With the deep and thoroughgoing secularization of Western society, the hopes and expectations of the masses of people have steadily been turning from Church to State, from religion to politics. This is a fact that no one, whatever his opinion or ideology, can deny, or has, in fact, denied. Consider how far this has gone in our own mass society, and our American society is only beginning to take its first steps in the direction of the Welfare State ; if you want to see a Welfare State in its full development, look at Sweden. But already in our own society people have been so stripped of their human bonds in Church and community that they are driven to look to the State for the most ordinary human associations and services. The State has not only become Big Father and Big Brother. It is actually brought to the point of having to supply to the forlorn members of the “lonely crowd” a State-appointed Good Friend. For, what is the modern social worker but a State- appointed Good Friend to the friendless denizens of mass society?

The modern State, in fact, becomes a divinized Welfare-Bringer. In the ancient world, the Hellenistic monarchs, and later the Roman emperors, prided themselves on being Welfare-Bringers (Euergetes, Benefactor), passing on the gifts of the gods to their subjects. They depicted themselves on their coins—the primary vehicle of State propaganda in those days which were without journalistic mass media, radio, or TV—as divinized figures holding a cornucopia, a horn of plenty, from which everything good is shown flowing to the grateful people. This is the modern Welfare State ; even some of the ancient symbols are being revived in cartoons and pictures. The omnicompetent Welfare State thus becomes the modern substitute for God and the Church, “from whom all blessings flow.”

Seen in this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why the Church as a religious institution has become more and more marginal in the everyday life of the people. The broad scope of its interests has become drastically narrowed by the galloping secularization of life. What does the Church do, what can it do, when the State takes over everything and comes to engage our deepest loyalties and emotions? Our religious feelings and religious interests have been more and more diverted from the attenuating Church to the expanding State. Is it any wonder that people are losing their interest in religion? They identify themselves religiously, belong to churches, and attend religious services, but for very different reasons (I have discussed this elsewhere) than once bound them to religion and the Church.

http://www.mmisi.org/ir/06_01_02/herberg.pdf

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Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Health Care, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Social Security, Socialism, Welfare State | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Left’s Flirtation with the Middle Class

Posted by Tony Listi on December 27, 2008

Historically, the political Left has hated and despised the middle class, the hated bourgeoisie of Marxist thought. Yet in our times, the Left has realized (or rather re-realized) the political suicide of openly denigrating the “mushy middle.”

The Left has always hated the middle class because it has always represented and been the chief obstacle to its utopia, its unconstrained vision, its establishment of heaven on earth. Going back to at least Aristotle, observant political scholars have recognized the stability that a middle class brings to society. But the Left is not interested in stability, far from it. The Left is interested in revolution, in transformation, in the creation of the New Man; in a word: Change, the very opposite of stability. Moreover, the middle class tends to be less vulnerable to demagogic appeals to irrational class envy or self-hatred. In general, the middle class has also been the guardian of traditional religion and morality from generation to generation.  From every angle, the Left has had every reason to attack the middle class.

However, it has been said that the first rule of politics in democratic or semi-democratic nations is to add and multiply, not subtract and divide. Of course, from a practical, electoral perspective, political leaders, if they are to stand for anything at all, can’t help but divide the public with their rhetoric and policy positions. No, it is not a question of whether a politician will divide the country but how and to what extent he will divide it.

And if the middle class (admittedly a nebulous term) represents a majority, if not a super-majority (as it almost always has in America), then any political movement cannot afford to alienate this class–if it cares anything for practical, electoral success, i.e. power.

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, and the Democratic Party have (re-)learned this lesson well. They campaigned as champions of the middle class, with the unending mantra of promising tax breaks for the lower and middle classes rather than the wealthy (Tax breaks for those who pay relatively little to no taxes?). This stance may work well politically under the current unfavorable economic conditions, just as FDR was successful in pushing his socialist-fascist policy agenda during the Great Depression. But as a matter of economic policy, it is unsustainable and not in the public interest. Conservatives and Republicans must powerfully communicate and demonstrate this truth the the American people.

When the American middle class re-awakens to this harsh reality, it will turn on the leftists, just as it did on Jimmy Carter. After that, it will only be  a matter of time before the Left’s natural hatred of the middle class re-emerges. The Left’s only hope is to weaken, corrupt,  or destroy the middle class before it re-awakens, or to patiently wear it down over time and enjoy the fruits at a later time. We conservatives must work to win over the middle class (or more of it) again. We must illustrate the economic harm that the Left is inflicting upon everyone. We must be in the fight for the long haul as well.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Culture War, Economics, Elections and Campaigns, Government and Politics, Intellectual History, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politicians, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Gospel According to Marx

Posted by Tony Listi on August 13, 2008

In the beginning was the Government, and the Government was with God, and the Government was God. All things came to be through Government, and without Government nothing comes to be.

Now Mary was with child, though she was not married to Joseph. And it came to pass during the reign of Herod that Jesus Christ was born out of wedlock in a Bethlehem stable (for Planned Parenthood had not been established yet).  Poor Mary and Joseph had sought shelter in many places, but the greedy Jewish innkeepers would not let them in. Three travelers from afar, from the distant national capital of Rome, came bearing gifts of universal health care, housing, and education.  And so they prospered as Jesus grew in enlightenment and diversity sensitivity.

As Jesus grew into a man, he saw so much suffering and poverty among his fellow human beings. He decided to become a community activist, the only way he would ever make a difference. And so one day as he was walking beside the River Jordan, he happened upon some fishermen. He began to talk to them about their wages and stir in them a zeal for economic justice. “Fishermen of Judea unite!” cried Jesus.

He befriended tax collectors and Roman officials as well and made them his disciples, for they were doing God’s work in resisting the bourgeoisie. “Let the proletariat with no purse, sell his cloak and buy a sword,” Jesus said. His ministry grew far and wide as he and his naked disciples went door-to-door demanding money from the wealthiest of Jews. Those who refused were threatened by the swords of Rome and easily surrendered their ill-gotten gain. And thus Jesus went throughout the land performing all manner of miracles, redistributing wealth to the poorest of people. The multiplication of wealth continued until 12 baskets full of coins were left over.

Jesus gathered the people around him and began to preach: “Blessed are the poor, for they deserve to be the kings of the earth. Blessed are those who cry, for government will comfort them. Blessed are the meek, for no one should be stronger or better than anyone else. Blessed are the peacemakers, for war is evil and should be outlawed.” The peace of Christ reigned throughout the land.

He then told them a parable. “The master gave five talents to three servants – to each according to their need. When the master returned days later, he found inequality among his servants. One had made another five talents. One had managed to hold onto his five. One had squandered his five in dissolution. So the master took five from the servant with ten to give to the one who had none. For to everyone who has more, more will be taken away. To he who has little, he shall receive in abundance.”

Now the religious establishment in the region, the Pharisees, was not happy about the revolution Jesus had been leading. They were cold-hearted and increased their power and wealth through the lies they told to the poor about morality and an afterlife.  So this group of bigoted, reactionary, hypocritical religious fanatics plotted to destroy Jesus.

But Jesus was intelligent and sophisticated. A certain disciple of his, Nicodemus, had infiltrated the Pharisees and informed him of their treachery. And in the dark of night, the disciples of Jesus raided the homes of the Pharisees and dragged them and their families onto barges from which they were sent down river to re-education camps in the desert.

With the land cleansed of all iniquity, Jesus performed one last wondrous deed. He gave all his followers eternal life on this earth through the power of science.

And so Jesus was elected emperor of the world forever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Just for Fun, Liberalism, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pope Leo XIII on Private Property, Wealth, Charity, Taxes, and Unions

Posted by Tony Listi on July 9, 2008

Alright all you liberal/socialist Catholics out there, I think it is time to reassess what the Church really believes about private property, wealth, charity, and other economic issues. Tell me what you think about the following citations from Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum (bolding mine).

Is there any doubt that the Church is on the side of conservatism?

To cure this evil, the Socialists, exciting the envy of the poor toward the rich, contend that it is necessary to do away with private possession of goods and in its place to make the goods of individuals common to all, and that the men who preside over a municipality or who direct the entire State should act as administrators of these goods. They hold that, by such a transfer of private goods from private individuals to the community, they can cure the present evil through dividing wealth and benefits equally among the citizens. But their program is so unsuited for terminating the conflict that it actually injures the workers themselves. Moreover, it is highly unjust, because it violates the rights of lawful owners, perverts the function of the State, and throws governments into utter confusion.”

Therefore, inasmuch as the Socialists seek to transfer the goods of private persons to the community at large, they make the lot of all wage earners worse, because in abolishing the freedom to dispose of wages they take away from them by this very act the hope and the opportunity of increasing their property and of securing advantages for themselves. But, what is of more vital concern, they propose a remedy openly in conflict with justice, inasmuch as nature confers on man the right to possess things privately as his own.

And owing to the fact that this animal [the human being] alone has reason, it is necessary that man have goods not only to be used, which is common to all living things, but also to be possessed by stable and perpetual right; and this applies not merely to those goods which are consumed by use, but to those also which endure after being used.”

There is no reason to interpose provision by the State, for man is older than the State. Wherefore he had to possess by nature his own right to protect his life and body before any polity had been formed. The fact that God gave the whole human race the earth to use and enjoy cannot indeed in any manner serve as an objection against private possessions. For God is said to have given the earth to mankind in common, not because He intended indiscriminate ownership of it by all, but because He assigned no part to anyone in ownership, leaving the limits of private possessions to be fixed by the industry of men and the institutions of peoples.

For this reason it also follows that private possessions are clearly in accord with nature. The earth indeed produces in great abundance the things to preserve and, especially, to perfect life, but of itself it could not produce them without human cultivation and care. Moreover, since man expends his mental energy and his bodily strength in procuring the goods of nature, by this very act he appropriates that part of physical nature to himself which he has cultivated. On it he leaves impressed, as it were, a kind of image of his person, so that it must be altogether just that he should possess that part as his very own and that no one in any way should be permitted to violate his right.” Hmmm, sounds like John Locke’s view of property and property rights….

And, after all, would justice permit anyone to own and enjoy that upon which another has toiled? As effects follow the cause producing them, so it is just that the fruit of labor belongs precisely to those who have performed the labor. Rightly therefore, the human race as a whole, moved in no wise by the dissenting opinions of a few, and observing nature carefully, has found in the law of nature itself the basis of the distribution of goods, and, by the practice of all ages, has consecrated private possession as something best adapted to man’s nature and to peaceful and tranquil living together. Now civil laws, which, when just, derive their power from the natural law itself, confirm and, even by the use of force, protect this right of which we speak. — And this same right has been sanctioned by the authority of the divine law, which forbids us most strictly even to desire what belongs to another. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his….”

Behold, therefore, the family, or rather the society of the household, a very small society indeed, but a true one, and older than any polity! For that reason it must have certain rights and duties of its own independent of the State. Thus, right of ownership, which we have shown to be bestowed on individual persons by nature, must be assigned to man in his capacity as head of a family. Nay rather, this right is all the stronger, since the human person in family life embraces much more….”

Inasmuch as the Socialists, therefore, disregard care by parents and in its place introduce care by the State, they act against natural justice and dissolve the structure of the home. And apart from the injustice involved, it is only too evident what turmoil and disorder would obtain among all classes; and what a harsh and odious enslavement of citizens would result! The door would be open to mutual envy, detraction, and dissension. If incentives to ingenuity and skill in individual persons were to be abolished, the very fountains of wealth would necessarily dry up; and the equality conjured up by the Socialist imagination would, in reality, be nothing but uniform wretchedness and meanness for one and all, without distinction.

From all these conversations, it is perceived that the fundamental principle of Socialism which would make all possessions public property is to be utterly rejected because it injures the very ones whom it seeks to help, contravenes the natural rights of individual persons, and throws the functions of the State and public peace into confusion. Let it be regarded, therefore, as established that in seeking help for the masses this principle before all is to be considered as basic, namely, that private ownership must be preserved inviolate….”

Therefore, let it be laid down in the first place that a condition of human existence must be borne with, namely, that in civil society the lowest cannot be made equal to the highest. Socialists, of course, agitate the contrary, but all struggling against nature is vain. There are truly very great and very many natural differences among men. Neither the talents, nor the skill, nor the health, nor the capacities of all are the same, and unequal fortune follows of itself upon necessary inequality in respect to these endowments. And clearly this condition of things is adapted to benefit both individuals and the community; for to carry on its affairs community life requires varied aptitudes and diverse services, and to perform these diverse services men are impelled most by differences in individual property holdings. Therefore, to suffer and endure is human, and although men may strive in all possible ways, they will never be able by any power or art wholly to banish such tribulations from human life. If any claim they can do this, if they promise the poor in their misery a life free from all sorrow and vexation and filled with repose and perpetual pleasures, they actually impose upon these people and perpetuate a fraud which will ultimately lead to evils greater than the present….”

Among these duties the following concern the poor and the workers: To perform entirely and conscientiously whatever work has been voluntarily and equitably agreed upon; not in any way to injure the property or to harm the person of employers; in protecting their own interests, to refrain from violence and never to engage in rioting; not to associate with vicious men who craftily hold out exaggerated hopes and make huge promises, a course usually ending in vain regrets and in the destruction of wealth….”

Therefore, the well-to-do are admonished that wealth does not give surcease of sorrow, and that wealth is of no avail unto the happiness of eternal life but is rather a hindrance; that the threats pronounced by Jesus Christ, so unusual coming from Him, ought to cause the rich to fear; and that on one day the strictest account for the use of wealth must be rendered to God as Judge….” The rich must account to God, not the State for how they use their wealth. Of course, it is easily seen how liberal fascists have trouble distinguishing between the two.

But when the demands of necessity and propriety have been met, it is a duty to give to the poor out of that which remains…. These are duties not of justice, except in cases of extreme need, but of Christian charity, which obviously cannot be enforced by legal action….”

But it must not be supposed that the Church so concentrates her energies on caring for souls as to overlook things which pertain to mortal and earthly life. As regards the non-owning workers specifically, she desires and strives that they rise from their most wretched state and enjoy better conditions. And to achieve this result she makes no small contribution by the very fact that she calls men to and trains them in virtue. For when Christian morals are completely observed, they yield of themselves a certain measure of prosperity to material existence, because they win the favor of God, the source and fountain of all goods; because they restrain the twin plagues of life — excessive desire for wealth and thirst for pleasure — which too often make man wretched amidst the very abundance of riches; and because finally, Christian morals make men content with a moderate livelihood and make them supplement income by thrift, removing them far from the vices which swallow up both modest sums and huge fortunes, and dissipate splendid inheritances.”

But, in addition, the Church provides directly for the well-being of the non-owning workers by instituting and promoting activities which she knows to be suitable to relieve their distress. Nay, even in the field of works of mercy, she has always so excelled that she is highly praised by her very enemies. The force of mutual charity among the first Christians was such that the wealthier ones very often divested themselves of their riches to aid others; wherefore, ‘Nor was there anyone among them in want.’ [Acts 4:34] To the deacons, an order founded expressly for this purpose, the Apostles assigned the duty of dispensing alms daily; and the Apostle Paul, although burdened with the care of all the churches, did not hesitate to spend himself on toilsome journeys in order to bring alms personally to the poorer Christians. Moneys of this kind, contributed voluntarily by the Christians in every assembly, Tertullian calls ‘piety’s deposit fund,’ because they were expended to ‘support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of orphan boys and girls without means of support, of aged household servants, and of such, too, as had suffered shipwreck.'”

Thence, gradually there came into existence that patrimony which the Church has guarded with religious care as the property of the poor. Nay, even disregarding the feeling of shame associated with begging, she provided aid for the wretched poor. For, as the common parent of rich and poor, with charity everywhere stimulated to the highest degree, she founded religious societies and numerous other useful bodies, so that, with the aid which these furnished, there was scarcely any form of human misery that went uncared for.”

“And yet many today go so far as to condemn the Church as the ancient pagans once did, for such outstanding charity, and would substitute in lieu thereof a system of benevolence established by the laws of the State. But no human devices can ever be found to supplant Christian charity, which gives itself entirely for the benefit of others. This virtue belongs to the Church alone, for, unless it is derived from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is in no wise a virtue; and whosoever departs from the Church wanders far from Christ….”

Therefore those governing the State ought primarily to devote themselves to the service of individual groups and of the whole commonwealth, and through the entire scheme of laws and institutions to cause both public and individual well-being to develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State. For this is the duty of wise statesmanship and the essential office of those in charge of the State. Now, States are made prosperous especially by wholesome morality, properly ordered family life, protection of religion and justice, moderate imposition and equitable distribution of public burdens, progressive development of industry and trade, thriving agriculture, and by all other things of this nature, which the more actively they are promoted, the better and happier the life of the citizens is destined to be. Therefore, by virtue of these things, it is within the competence of the rulers of the State that, as they benefit other groups, they also improve in particular the condition of the workers. Furthermore, they do this with full right and without laying themselves open to any charge of unwarranted interference. For the State is bound by the very law of its office to serve the common interest. And the richer the benefits which come from this general providence on the part of the State, the less necessary it will be to experiment with other measures for the well-being of workers….”

Rights indeed, by whomsoever possessed, must be religiously protected; and public authority, in warding off injuries and punishing wrongs, ought to see to it that individuals may have and hold what belongs to them…. The capital point is this, that private property ought to be safeguarded by the sovereign power of the State and through the bulwark of its laws. And especially, in view of such a great flaming up of passion at the present time, the masses ought to be kept within the bounds of their moral obligations. For while justice does not oppose our striving for better things, on the other hand, it does forbid anyone to take from another what is his and, in the name of a certain absurd equality, to seize forcibly the property of others; nor does the interest of the common good itself permit this. Certainly, the great majority of working people prefer to secure better conditions by honest toil, without doing wrong to anyone. Nevertheless, not a few individuals are found who, imbued with evil ideas and eager for revolution, use every means to stir up disorder and incite to violence. The authority of the State, therefore, should intervene and, by putting restraint upon such disturbers, protect the morals of workers from their corrupting arts and lawful owners from the danger of spoliation….”

[I]n the case of the worker, there are many things which the power of the State should protect; and, first of all, the goods of his soul. For however good and desirable mortal life be, yet it is not the ultimate goal for which we are born, but a road only and a means for perfecting, through knowledge of truth and love of good, the life of the soul….” Hmmm, I assume preventing the poor from stealing from the rich would be good for the souls of the poor, no?

Let it be granted then that worker and employer may enter freely into agreements and, in particular, concerning the amount of the wage; yet there is always underlying such agreements an element of natural justice, and one greater and more ancient than the free consent of contracting parties, namely, that the wage shall not be less than enough to support a worker who is thrifty and upright….”

But in these and similar questions, such as the number of hours of work in each kind of occupation and the health safeguards to be provided, particularly in factories, it will be better, in order to avoid unwarranted governmental intervention, especially since circumstances of business, season, and place are so varied, that decision be reserved to the organizations of which We are about to speak below….”

We have seen, in fact, that the whole question under consideration cannot be settled effectually unless it is assumed and established as a principle, that the right of private property must be regarded as sacred. Wherefore, the law ought to favor this right and, so far as it can, see that the largest possible number among the masses of the population prefer to own property. If this is done, excellent benefits will follow, foremost among which will surely be a more equitable division of goods.…”

[I]f the productive activity of the multitude can be stimulated by the hope of acquiring some property in land, it will gradually come to pass that, with the difference between extreme wealth and extreme penury removed, one class will become neighbor to the other. Moreover, there will surely be a greater abundance of the things which the earth produces. For when men know they are working on what belongs to them, they work with far greater eagerness and diligence.”

But these advantages can be attained only if private wealth is not drained away by crushing taxes of every kind. For since the right of possessing goods privately has been conferred not by man’s law, but by nature, public authority cannot abolish it, but can only control its exercise and bring it into conformity with the commonweal. Public authority therefore would act unjustly and inhumanly, if in the name of taxes it should appropriate from the property of private individuals more than is equitable.

Finally, employers and workers themselves can accomplish much in this matter, manifestly through those institutions by the help of which the poor are opportunely assisted and the two classes of society are brought closer to each other. Under this category come associations for giving mutual aid; various agencies established by the foresight of private persons to care for the worker and likewise for his dependent wife and children in the event that an accident, sickness, or death befalls him; and foundations to care for boys and girls, for adolescents, and for the aged….”

Inadequacy of his own strength, learned from experience, impels and urges a man to enlist the help of others. Such is the teaching of Holy Scripture: “It is better therefore that two should be together than one; for they have the advantage of their society. If one fall he shall be supported by the other; woe to him that is alone, for when he falleth he hath none to lift him up.” [Eccl. 4:9-10] And this also: “A brother that is helped by his brother, is like a strong city.” [Proverbs 18:19] Just as man is drawn by this natural propensity into civil union and association, so he also seeks with his fellow citizens to form other societies, admittedly small and not perfect, but societies none the less….” Brothers know each other personally. Societies are local, small, and intimate. How the heck can a Christian claim impersonal Big Government thousands of miles away in Washington, DC is brotherly love?!

Although private societies exist within the State and are, as it were, so many parts of it, still it is not within the authority of the State universally and per se to forbid them to exist as such. For man is permitted by a right of nature to form private societies; the State, on the other hand, has been instituted to protect and not to destroy natural right, and if it should forbid its citizens to enter into associations, it would clearly do something contradictory to itself because both the State itself and private associations are begotten of one and the same principle, namely, that men are by nature inclined to associate….” Hmmm, and what if government social programs destroy the will, initiative, and resources of private charitable groups by trying to assume to itself their functions and resources? Where will charitable groups get money if the State taxes the rich heavily?

Certainly, the number of associations of almost every possible kind, especially of associations of workers, is now far greater than ever before. This is not the place to inquire whence many of them originate, what object they have, or how they proceed. But the opinion is, and it is one confirmed by a good deal of evidence, that they are largely under the control of secret leaders and that these leaders apply principles which are in harmony neither with Christianity nor with the welfare of States, and that, after having possession of all available work, they contrive that those who refuse to join with them will be forced by want to pay the penalty. Under these circumstances, workers who are Christians must choose one of two things; either to join associations in which it is greatly to be feared that there is danger to religion, or to form their own associations and unite their forces in such a way that they may be able manfully to free themselves from such unjust and intolerable opposition….”

Finally, there are not wanting Catholics of great wealth, yet voluntary sharers, as it were, in the lot of the wage workers, who by their own generous contributions are striving to found and extend associations through which the worker is readily enabled to obtain from his toil not only immediate benefits, but also assurance of honorable retirement in the future. How much good such manifold and enthusiastic activity has contributed to the benefit of all this is too well known to make discussion necessary. From all this, We have taken auguries of good hope for the future, provided that societies of this kind continually grow and that they are founded with wise organization. Let the State protect these lawfully associated bodies of citizens; let it not, however, interfere with their private concerns and order of life; for vital activity is set in motion by an inner principle, and it is very easily destroyed, as We know, by intrusion from without.” Hmmm, sounds like the principle of limited government. Now, what political philosophy espouses this principle too??

It is clear, however, that moral and religious perfection ought to be regarded as their [unions’] principal goal, and that their social organization as such ought above all to be directed completely by this goal. For otherwise, they would degenerate in nature and would be little better than those associations in which no account is ordinarily taken of religion. Besides, what would it profit a worker to secure through an association an abundance of goods, if his soul through lack of its proper food should run the risk of perishing? “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?” [Mt 16:26] Christ Our Lord teaches that this in fact must be considered the mark whereby a Christian is distinguished from a pagan: “After all these things the Gentiles seek — seek ye first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all these things shall be given you besides.” [Mt 6:32-33] Therefore, having taken their principles from God, let those associations provide ample opportunity for religious instruction so that individual members may understand their duties to God, that they may well know what to believe, what to hope for, and what to do for eternal salvation, and that with special care they may be fortified against erroneous opinions and various forms of corruption.” Hmmm, could these errors and corruption be liberalism and its disregard for private property rights? Judging from the rest of the encyclical, yes!

Through these regulations, provided they are readily accepted, the interests and welfare of the poor will be adequately cared for. Associations of Catholics, moreover, will undoubtedly be of great importance in promoting prosperity in the State.” He means moral, religious regulations, not government regulations. The context is clear. Also, promoting prosperity is good! How else can we provide for the poor??

The foundation of this teaching rests on this, that the just ownership of money is distinct from the just use of money. To own goods privately, as We saw above, is a right natural to man, and to exercise this right, especially in life in society, is not only lawful, but clearly necessary. ‘It is lawful for man to own his own things. It is even necessary for human life.’ [Aquinas] But if the question be asked: How ought man to use his possessions? the Church replies without hesitation: ‘As to this point, man ought not regard external goods as his own, but as common so that, in fact, a person should readily share them when he sees others in need. Wherefore the Apostle says: “Charge the rich of this world…to give readily, to share with others“.'” [Aquinas; Tim 6:17-18] Correct me if I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look like Scripture says tax the rich and force them to share with others! It says that religious leaders, who are not to be political leaders, should encourage and command the rich to do so.

For, no matter how strong the power of prejudice and passion in man, yet, unless perversity of will has deadened the sense of the right and just, the good will of citizens is certain to be more freely inclined toward those whom they learn to know as industrious and temperate, and who clearly place justice before profit and conscientious observance of duty before all else….” Notice that the pope has faith in free people who know others intimately in community. Why can’t liberals do the same thing?

They are conscious of being most inhumanly treated by greedy employers, that almost no greater value is placed on them than the amount of gain they yield by their toil, and that in the associations, moreover, in whose meshes they are caught, there exist in place of charity and love, internal dissensions which are the inseparable companions of aggravating and irreligious poverty. Broken in spirit, and worn out in body, how gladly many would free themselves from a servitude so degrading! Yet they dare not because either human shame or the fear of want prevents them. It is remarkable how much associations of Catholics can contribute to the welfare of all such men if they invite those wavering in uncertainty to their bosom in order to remedy their difficulties, and if they receive the penitents into their trust and protection….” Hmmm, again, I don’t see any advocacy of Big Government. I see encouragement of private associations of Catholics (like at St. Mary’s).

First and foremost Christian morals must be re-established, without which even the weapons of prudence, which are considered especially effective, will be of no avail, to secure well-being.” What?! We can’t steal from the rich first and then be moral? What a shame.

“Let this be understood in particular by those whose duty it is to promote the public welfare. Let the members of the Sacred Ministry exert all their strength of mind and all their diligence, and Venerable Brethren, under the guidance of your authority and example, let them not cease to impress upon men of all ranks the principles of Christian living as found in the Gospel; by all means in their power let them strive for the well-being of people; and especially let them aim both to preserve in themselves and to arouse in others, in the highest equally as well as in the lowest, the mistress and queen of the virtues, Charity. Certainly, the well-being which is so longed for is chiefly to be expected from an abundant outpouring of charity; of Christian charity, we mean, which is in epitome the law of the Gospel, and which, always ready to sacrifice itself for the benefit of others, is man’s surest antidote against the insolence of the world and immoderate love of self; the divine office and features of this virtue being described by the Apostle Paul in these words: “Charity is patient, is kind…is not self- seeking…bears with all things…endures all things.” [1 Cor 13:4-7] Notice that it is the Church’s duty to promote the public welfare. Notice that the well-being of the poor is to come “chiefly” from charity. Notice that real charity requires “sacrifice [of the self] for the benefit of others,” NOT making others sacrifice for others.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Catholicism, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Religion and Theology, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

“Obscene” Profits and Salaries

Posted by Tony Listi on June 14, 2008

Well, well, looks like liberals actually do believe in the existence of something called obscenity. No, it’s not pornography. It’s not government financial support for disgusting and sacrilegious art. It’s not any of the vulgarities that characterize modern culture.

Profits and salaries are obscene! Of course! Money is obscene! How could we conservatives be so blind? Sure, one can know obscenity when one sees it.

The fact of the matter is that it is not any of government’s business how much profit any business makes, regardless of size and productive capacity. If workers at a certain company feel that they are not compensated enough or that their superiors are excessively compensated at their expense, then they are free to quit and seek another job where their talents are more justly compensated.

You see, the market works. It rewards companies that allocate their profits where such funds are most needed and deserved. A company headed by a CEO who takes a larger salary than is necessary or just is only hurting himself and his company. He is taking away funds that could be reinvested in the company to increase future earnings and maintain a competitive advantage over other firms. He is also driving good and talented people, human capital, away to other companies who will more justly compensate such people. Or at the very least (or worst?), the CEO is creating justified bitterness and complaining among employees who feel they are not receiving their fair share. This corporate cultural disruption can only hinder productivity and competitiveness.

The capitalist system works. We don’t need government stepping in and creating unintended problems.

But what unintended problems?  asks the naive liberal and statolatrist.

Glad you asked. Wealth creation (before it can even be distributed) is really a product of reinvestment of profits. The most successful and wealthy corporations reinvest their profits in human, technological, and various other kinds of capital. Thus the corporation uses its money to make even more money for all its stakeholders! Wealth grows at a rapid rate with such freedom to make wise investment choices.

Now what do you think happens when the government comes along and confiscates “obscene” or “windfall” profits from corporations? It stifles this wealth-creating reinvestment! It puts these corporations at a competitive disadvantage nationally and globally. Ultimately, it hurts the working man who depends upon the success of his employers and their ability to reinvest in him and his productivity.

What makes you think the government can more effectively reinvest the profits of companies within a particular industry or generally throughout the economy?!

You think that politician in D.C. knows anything about creating, marketing, and distributing a product or service? Hate to break it to you, but most of those politicians graduated from law school, not business school or the school of hard knocks. They are mostly lawyers who are talented in using the law to coerce others and steal the fruits of their labor. They are skilled in marketing of a certain kind (read: demagoguery), but they have no know-how in producing any great physical product. I’d like to see Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Kerry, and other liberals get oil out of the ground, refine it, and then distribute it worldwide! Last time I checked, they weren’t petrochemical engineers of the caliber that Texas A&M produces.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Economics, Energy, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Politicians, Socialism, Texas A&M, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Petro-Dictator Noriega Supports Higher Gas Prices

Posted by Tony Listi on June 5, 2008

Petro-Dictator Hugo ChavezEverything is bigger in Texas. But gas prices shouldn’t be. And yet that is exactly what Rick Noriega and his extremely liberal friends in the Senate would like to impose on Americans!

Noriega has expressed his support for a disastrous bill (S. 3061, introduced  by ultra-liberal Sen. Boxer, but entitled the Lieberman-Warner Bill) that would more than double the price of gas and electricity. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would impose “tens of billions of dollars annually” on you and me in increased prices. By other estimates, the bill would cost trillions dollars to the US economy in total. Yeah, kick the economy when it is down, Democrats! Does that sound smart to you?

Energy is the lifeblood of the American economy; tax it and you tax the economy causing it to shrink, cutting off economic opportunities to American citizens.

.

Noriega claims to want to help those struggling at the pump by raising the price of gas through taxes? Talk about incoherent! Yeah, tax our gas, that’ll make it cheaper for all of us! Why would we want to send this fool to the Senate to represent us? Senator John Cornyn is the sane, rational choice.

We Texans would be especially hard hit by this bill. We take pride in the size of our state and our wide open spaces, but if Noriega has his way, the long distances between the major cities of Texas (compared to other states) will become a burden upon the average citizen rather than a badge of pride. Gasoline gives us the freedom to travel, whether it is to visit family, conduct business, or make a new start. Noriega apparently doesn’t care about our families, our businesses, and our freedom to shape our own lives. He would rather sacrifice us and our dreams at the pagan altar of Marxism-induced hysteria.

Hugo Chavez, watch out! Looks like another socialist Latin American dictator wants to seize the energy industry in a government takeover. I always knew Comandante Noriega would live up to his name.

Posted in Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Elections and Campaigns, Energy, Global Warming and Environment, Government and Politics, Political Philosophy, Politicians, Socialism, Texas Politics, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Women and the Growth of Liberalism

Posted by Tony Listi on May 30, 2008

Very insightful article. Makes perfect sense: the more nurturing sex is more likely to think that the federal government can nurture its citizens as if they were children.

Just fyi, this doesn’t mean I’m in favor of repealing the 19th Amendment. Just means conservatives may have to work a little harder to educate women politically. Just means we need to show how the government cannot be nurturing but can be abusive when we try to make it  an instrument of nurturing. We need to empower women to look to themselves (and their private actions), not government, as the chief nurturers of society. We need to continue to strengthen the institution of marriage, so single women do not seek out big government, instead of faithful husbands, for love and security. We need to show married women how the federal government is a threat to children in general.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0%2C2933%2C358179%2C00.html

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indeed, she believes this year’s presidential campaign has shown that sexism limits women’s influence in politics. She claimed last week that “every poll I’ve seen shows more people would be reluctant to vote for a woman [than] to vote for an African American.”

It’s possible that Democrats are particularly sexist, but with women making up the majority of voters, one would think that politicians were ignoring women at their own peril.

In 2004, women made up 54 percent of voters. At least through early February of this year, women made up a much greater share of Democrat primary voters — accounting for between 57 and 61 percent of the vote in primaries and caucuses.

But whatever difficulties Clinton might be having, it seems that the policies adopted are much more important than who puts them into action, and the evidence indicates that women have long gotten their way.

Academics have for some time pondered why the government started growing precisely when it did. The federal government, aside from periods of wartime, consumed about 2 to 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) up until World War I. That was the first war in which government spending didn’t go all the way back down to its pre-war levels. Then in the 1920s, non-military federal spending began steadily climbing.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal – often viewed as the genesis of big government – really just continued an earlier trend. What changed before Roosevelt came to power that explains the growth of government? The answer is women’s suffrage.

For decades, polls have shown that women as a group vote differently than men. Without the women’s vote, Republicans would have swept every presidential race but one between 1968 and 2004.

The gender gap exists on various issues. The major one is the issue of smaller government and lower taxes, which is a much higher priority for men than for women. This is seen in divergent attitudes held by men and women on many separate issues.

Women were much more opposed to the 1996 federal welfare reforms, which mandated time limits for receiving welfare and imposed some work requirements on welfare recipients. Women are also more supportive of Medicare, Social Security and educational expenditures.

Studies show that women are generally more risk-averse than men. This could be why they are more supportive of government programs to ensure against certain risks in life.

Women’s average incomes are also slightly lower and less likely to vary over time, which gives single women an incentive to prefer more progressive income taxes. Once women get married, however, they bear a greater share of taxes through their husbands’ relatively higher incomes – so their support for high taxes understandably declines.

Marriage also provides an economic explanation for why men and women prefer different policies.

Because women generally shoulder most of the child-rearing responsibilities, married men are more likely to acquire marketable skills that help them earn money outside the household. If a man gets divorced, he still retains these skills. But if a woman gets divorced, she is unable to recoup her investment in running the household.

Hence, single women who believe they may marry in the future, as well as married women who most fear divorce, look to the government as a form of protection against this risk from a possible divorce: a more progressive tax system and other government transfers of wealth from rich to poor. The more certain a woman is that she doesn’t risk divorce, the more likely she is to oppose government transfers.

Has it always been this way? Can women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries help explain the growth of government?

While the timing of the two events is suggestive, other changes during this time could have played a role. For example, some argue that Americans became more supportive of bigger government due to the success of widespread economic regulations imposed during World War I.

A good way to analyze the direct effect of women’s suffrage on the growth of government is to study how each of the 48 state governments expanded after women obtained the right to vote.

Women’s suffrage was first granted in western states with relatively few women – Wyoming (1869), Utah (1870), Colorado (1893) and Idaho (1896). Women could vote in 29 states before women’s suffrage was achieved nationwide in 1920 with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

If women’s right to vote increased government, our analysis should show a few definite indicators. First, suffrage would have a bigger impact on government spending and taxes in states with a greater percentage of women. And secondly, the size of government in western states should steadily expand as women comprise an increasing share of their population.

Even after accounting for a range of other factors – such as industrialization, urbanization, education and income – the impact of granting of women’s suffrage on per capita state government expenditures and revenue was startling.

Per capita state government spending after accounting for inflation had been flat or falling during the 10 years before women began voting. But state governments started expanding the first year after women voted and continued growing until within 11 years real per capita spending had more than doubled. The increase in government spending and revenue started immediately after women started voting.

Yet, as suggestive as these facts are, we must still consider whether suffrage itself caused the growth in government, or did the government expand due to some political or social change that accompanied women’s right to vote?

Fortunately, there was a unique aspect of suffrage that allows us to answer this question: Of the 19 states that had not passed women’s suffrage before the approval of the 19th Amendment, nine approved the amendment, while the other 12 had suffrage imposed on them.

If some unknown factor caused both a desire for larger government and women’s suffrage, then government should have only grown in states that voluntarily adopted suffrage. This, however, is not the case: After approving women’s suffrage, a similar growth in government was seen in both groups of states.

Women’s suffrage also explains much of the federal government’s growth from the 1920s to the 1960s. In the 45 years after the adoption of suffrage, as women’s voting rates gradually increased until finally reaching the same level as men’s, the size of state and federal governments expanded as women became an increasingly important part of the electorate.

But the battle between the sexes does not end there. During the early 1970s, just as women’s share of the voting population was leveling off, something else was changing: The American family began to break down, with rising divorce rates and increasing numbers of out-of-wedlock births.

Over the course of women’s lives, their political views on average vary more than those of men. Young single women start out being much more liberal than their male counterparts and are about 50 percent more likely to vote Democratic. As previously noted, these women also support a higher, more progressive income tax as well as more educational and welfare spending.

But for married women this gap is only one-third as large. And married women with children become more conservative still. Women with children who are divorced, however, are suddenly about 75 percent more likely to vote for Democrats than single men. So as divorce rates have increased, due in large part to changing divorce laws, voters have become more liberal.

Women’s suffrage ushered in a sea change in American politics that affected policies aside from taxes and the size of government. For example, states that granted suffrage were much more likely to pass Prohibition, for the temperance movement was largely dominated by middle-class women. Although the “gender gap” is commonly thought to have arisen only in the 1960s, female voting dramatically changed American politics from the very beginning.

John Lott is the author of Freedomnomics and a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Culture War, Feminism, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Who is More Compassionate: Conservatives or Liberals?

Posted by Tony Listi on May 15, 2008

http://www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/excerpt.html

“The conventional wisdom runs like this: Liberals are charitable because they advocate government redistribution of money in the name of social justice; conservatives are uncharitable because they oppose these policies. But note the sleight of hand: Government spending, according to this logic, is a form of charity.

Let us be clear: Government spending is not charity. It is not a voluntary sacrifice by individuals. No matter how beneficial or humane it might be, no matter how necessary it is for providing public services, it is still the obligatory redistribution of tax revenues. Because government spending is not charity, sanctimonious yard signs do not prove that the bearers are charitable or that their opponents are selfish. (On the contrary, a public attack on the integrity of those who don’t share my beliefs might more legitimately constitute evidence that I am the uncharitable one.)

To evaluate accurately the charity difference between liberals and conservatives, we must consider private, voluntary charity. How do liberals and conservatives compare in their private giving and volunteering? Beyond strident slogans and sarcastic political caricatures, what, exactly, do the data tell us?

The data tell us that the conventional wisdom is dead wrong. In most ways, political conservatives are not personally less charitable than political liberals—they are more so.

First, we must define “liberals” and “conservatives.” Most surveys ask people not just about their political party affiliation but also about their ideology. In general, about 10 percent of the population classify themselves as “very conservative”; and another 10 percent call themselves “very liberal.” About 20 percent say they are simply “liberal,” and 30 percent or so say they are “conservative.” The remaining 30 percent call themselves “moderates” or “centrists.” In this discussion, by “liberals” I mean the approximately 30 percent in the two most liberal categories, and by conservatives I mean the 40 percent or so in the two most con­servative categories.

So how do liberals and conservatives compare in their charity? When it comes to giving or not giving, conservatives and liberals look a lot alike. Conservative people are a percentage point or two more likely to give money each year than liberal people, but a percentage point or so less likely to volunteer.

But this similarity fades away when we consider average dollar amounts donated. In 2000, households headed by a conservative gave, on average, 30 percent more money to charity than households headed by a liberal ($1,600 to $1,227). This discrepancy is not simply an artifact of income differences; on the contrary, liberal families earned an average of 6 percent more per year than conservative families, and conservative families gave more than liberal families within every income class, from poor to middle class to rich.

If we look at party affiliation instead of ideology, the story remains largely the same. For example, registered Republicans were seven points more likely to give at least once in 2002 than registered Democrats (90 to 83 percent).

The differences go beyond money and time. Take blood donations, for example. In 2002, conservative Americans were more likely to donate blood each year, and did so more often, than liberals. If liberals and moderates gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood supply in the United States would jump by about 45 percent.

The political stereotypes break down even further when we consider age: “Anyone who is not a socialist before age thirty has no heart, but anyone who is still a socialist after thirty has no head,” goes the old saying. And so we imagine crusty right-wing grandfathers socking their money away in trust funds while their liberal grandchildren work in soup kitchens and save the whales. But young liberals—perhaps the most vocally dissatisfied political constituency in America today—are one of the least generous demographic groups out there. In 2004, self-described liberals younger than thirty belonged to one-third fewer organizations in their communities than young conservatives. In 2002, they were 12 percent less likely to give money to charities, and one-third less likely to give blood. Liberal young Americans in 2004 were also significantly less likely than the young conservatives to express a willingness to sacrifice for their loved ones: A lower percentage said they would prefer to suffer than let a loved one suffer, that they are not happy unless the loved one is happy, or that they would sacrifice their own wishes for those they love.

The compassion of American conservatives becomes even clearer when we compare the results from the 2004 U.S. presidential election to data on how states address charity. Using Internal Revenue Service data on the percentage of household income given away in each state, we can see that the red states are more charitable than the blue states. For instance, of the twenty-five states that donated a portion of household income above the national average, twenty-four gave a majority of their popular votes to George W. Bush for president; only one gave the election to John F. Kerry. Of the twenty-five states below the national giving average, seventeen went for Kerry, but just seven for Bush. In other words, the electoral map and the charity map are remarkably similar.

These results are not an artifact of close elections in key states. The average percentage of household income donated to charity in each state tracked closely with the percentage of the popular vote it gave to Mr. Bush. Among the states in which 60 percent or more voted for Bush, the average portion of income donated to charity was 3.5 percent. For states giving Mr. Bush less than 40 percent of the vote, the average was 1.9 percent. The average amount given per household from the five states combined that gave Mr. Bush the highest vote percentages in 2003 was 25 percent more than that donated by the average household in the five northeastern states that gave Bush his lowest vote percentages; and the households in these liberal-leaning states earned, on average, 38 percent more than those in the five conservative states.

People living in conservative states volunteer more than people in liberal states. In 2003, the residents of the top five “Bush states” were 51 percent more likely to volunteer than those of the bottom five, and they volunteered an average of 12 percent more total hours each year. Residents of these Republican-leaning states volunteered more than twice as much for religious organizations, but also far more for secular causes. For example, they were more than twice as likely to volunteer to help the poor.

Surely Jimmy Carter would have been surprised to learn that the selfish Americans he criticized so vociferously were most likely the very people who elected him president.

© Basic Books – 2007″

The Statistics

http://www.arthurbrooks.net/whoreallycares/statistics.html

People who are religious give more across the board to all causes than their non-religious counterparts

There is a huge “charity gap” that follows religion: On average, religious people are far more generous than secularists with their time and money. This is not just because of giving to churches—religious people are more generous than secularists towards explicitly non-religious charities as well. They are also more generous in informal ways, such as giving money to family members, and behaving honestly.


Giving supports economic growth and actually creates prosperity

Many studies show that giving and volunteering improve physical health and happiness, and lead to better citizenship. In other words, we need to give for our own good. Cultural and political influences—and the many government policies—that discourage private charitable behavior have negative effects that are far more widespread than people usually realize.


The working poor in America give more to charity than the middle class

The American working poor are, relative to their income, some of the most generous people in America today. The nonworking poor, however—those on public assistance instead of earning low wages—give at lower levels than any other group. In other words, poverty does not discourage charity in America, but welfare does.


Upper level income people often give less than the working poor

Among Americans with above-average incomes who do not give charitably, a majority say that they ‘don’t have enough money.’ Meanwhile, the working poor in America give a larger percentage of their incomes to charity than any other income group, including the middle class and rich.


Plus
:

People who give money charitably are 43 percent more likely to say they are “very happy” than nongivers and 25 percent more likely than nongivers to say their health is excellent or very good.
A religious person is 57% more likely than a secularist to help a homeless person.
Conservative households in America donate 30% more money to charity each year than liberal households.
If liberals gave blood like conservatives do, the blood supply in the U.S. would jump by about 45%.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

A Beer Story: Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Posted by Tony Listi on March 21, 2008

The wealthy pay most of the taxes, so it should be no surprised that they get a larger percentage of the tax cut total back!  It is only fair. 

——

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
The fifth would pay $1.
The sixth would pay $3.
The seventh would pay $7.
The eighth would pay $12.
The ninth would pay $18.
The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.
So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. ‘Since you are all such good customers, he said, ‘I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’ They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).
Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

‘I only got a dollar out of the $20,’declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,’ but he got $10!’

‘Yeah, that’s right,’ exclaimed the fifth man. ‘I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!’

‘That’s true!!’ shouted the seventh man. ‘Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!’

‘Wait a minute,’ yelled the first four men in unison. ‘We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!’

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics, University of Georgia

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Economics, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Mandated Giving Doesn’t Come from the Heart

Posted by Tony Listi on March 11, 2008

My fellow Christians, take heed!

http://www.acton.org/publications/randl/rl_174article04.php  

By Robert A. Sirico

It seems that some Biblical fallacies never go away, especially as regards redistribution and the poor. Hardly a day passes when I don’t hear some version of the following: The Gospels speak clearly on the issue of the poor. They must be cared for. Special obligation falls to the rich who have the resources to care for them. This country has programs in place that are designed to do just that. Therefore, Christians have an obligation to politically support these programs.

The problem here is the slick move from personal ethics to public policy. What is required of us as individuals may or may not translate into a civic policy priority. In the case of the welfare state, it is possible to argue that it does great good (though I would dispute that). Whether it does or does not, however, a government program effects nothing toward fulfilling the Gospel requirement that we give of our own time and income toward assisting the poor.

The reason has to do with matters of the human heart. If we are required to do anything by law, and thereby forced by public authority to undertake some action, we comply because we must. That we go along with the demand is no great credit to our sense of humanitarianism or charity. The impulse here is essentially one of fear: we know that if we fail to give, we will find ourselves on the wrong side of the state.

Remember that the government has no money, no resources, of its own. Everything it has it must take from the private sector, which is the engine of wealth creation. If we can imagine a world in which there is no private sector at all, we can know with certainty that it would be a world of bare subsistence at best: universal impoverishment.

Wealthy societies today can afford to create large welfare states while avoiding that fate. But let us never forget the funds that make it possible do not appear as if by magic. They are taken from others without their active consent except in the most abstract sense that people might vote for them.

I cannot see how this method of redistributing wealth has anything to do with the Gospel. Jesus never called on public authority to enact welfare programs. He never demanded that his followers form a political movement to tax and spend. Nor did he say that the property of the rich must always be forcibly expropriated. He called for a change in the human heart, not a change in legislation. There is a massive difference.

There are other grave dangers in confusing the welfare state with personal charitable obligation. The more people hear that the welfare state discharges their moral mandate to give, the more these programs crowd genuine charity. “I gave at the office,” becomes the attitude. This is essentially what was behind the comment by Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol when he dismissed his need to be charitable. “Are there no poorhouses?”

There are further problems. The programs are not effective over the long term. They generate dependency and bureaucracy. They create upside-down incentives. But leaving all that aside, the core message here is that, from a moral point of view, they do not fulfill the criterion that the Gospels specify for generosity, which must come from within and cannot be imposed from the top down.

Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Posted in American Culture, Budget, Spending, and Taxes, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »