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Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

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 »

“What causes poverty?” is the Wrong Question!

Posted by Tony Listi on April 10, 2008

Watch http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=poverty

“What causes poverty?” is the wrong question! The real, more useful question we should be asking ourselves is “What causes wealth?” If half the world lives on less than $2 a day, we should naturally ask “What happened to the other half?” From these better questions, we can seek solutions rather than people to blame.

The question “What causes poverty?” seems to imply that wealth is the status quo and poverty is somehow a deviation from that norm. But even a cursory look at history shows this to be a ridiculous premise. History is not the story of how some people become poor but how some people escaped from poverty, the real human norm, and thus became wealthy. I think this a crucial difference of paradigm between the liberal/socialist/communist/Marxist perspective and the conservative/libertarian perspective.

So what causes wealth? Capitalism; free, competitive, and international markets. But that is not all and maybe not even the most important element. Capitalism cannot exist without certain supporting institutions (governmental, financial, social, religious, etc.) and cultural norms that have developed in the West.

Posted in Africa, American Culture, Economics, Foreign Aid, Free Trade, Government and Politics, Liberalism, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Poverty, Socialism, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Myths Christians Believe About Wealth and Poverty

Posted by Tony Listi on March 12, 2008

Please listen to http://www.acton.org/daily/nowatacton_200709051337.php

1. The Piety Fallacy: Good intentions are all that matter. Piety is no substitute for technique. Good intentions are no substitute for good consequences. God holds us accountable for our intentions, but public policy should help people regardless of the nature of intentions. God asks us to love him with all our mind too, so he holds us responsible for the manifest consequences of our actions (something apprehended by the mind). (e.g. rent control, child labor)

2. The Freeze Frame Fallacy: Assuming certain trends or demographics will always stay the same. A single point in time and place is not representative of all reality. Things change. Life is not static. (e.g. population growth)

3. The Artsy Myth: Confusing aesthetics and economics; attributing ugliness or harshness to the free market. Such aesthetic judgments may be true, but such judgments should not be made in isolation, cut-off from economic realities. But poverty is not pretty either. Beauty is expensive; don’t punish the poor just so you have something nice to look at or feel good about something. Heed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physical needs come before aesthetics. (e.g. corporations like Wal-Mart)

4. Zero-Sum Game Myth: If I become rich, doesn’t that make someone else poor? The wealth of the First World causes the poverty of the Third World. Economics is not like chess, checkers, sports, or war. The free market (and free trade) is a win-win game overall, not a win-lose game, though not everyone ends up on top. Our GDP goes up over time and correlates to free trade. The pie is not static; it grows.

We are created in the image and likeness of God. God is a creator and so are we! We are his co-creators, and so there is nothing evil about business or production. Rather business people imitate the creative nature of God in providing goods and services.

Q&A: 
Bill Gates of all people should know how wealth is created and yet even he doesn’t get it. Rather than making the Third World productive, he would prefer to make the Third World dependent and thus permanently vulnerable to poverty.

Is all this talk about income inequality merely a reflection of the entrenched  materialism in our culture that in turn fosters envy and jealousy of others success and wealth? Most likely. One can reduce envy by making everyone poor (a possibility) but not by making everyone rich (impossible).

People who are taxed the highest give the least to charity. Conservatives give more to charity too (http://www.arthurbrooks.net/index.html). Compassion literally means “to suffer together.” It is hard to suffer with the poor using someone else’s money.

What is the moral relevancy of a person who becomes wealthy through free exchange? None.

Posted in American Culture, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Inequality Myth

Posted by Tony Listi on March 10, 2008

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=15682 

While figures from the U.S. Census give some substance to the fears of widening inequality and middle-class stagnation, the situation is not nearly as clear-cut, says Brad Schiller, a professor of economics at American University and the University of Nevada, Reno.

In its latest report, the Census Bureau tracked changes in incomes all the way back to 1967.  Two observations grabbed the headlines.

First:

  • The data indicate that the top-earning 20 percent of households get half of all the income generated in the country, while the lowest-earning 20 percent of households get a meager 3.4 percent.
  • That disparity has widened over time; in 1970, their respective shares were 43.3 percent and 4.1 percent.
  • These income-share numbers buttress the popular notion that the “rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.”

Second:

  • The median household income in 2006 was $48,201, just a trifle ahead of its 1998 level ($48,034).
  • That seems to confirm the Democrat candidate’s claims of middle-class stagnation.

Demographic changes in the size and composition of U.S. households have distorted the statistics in important ways, explains Schiller:

  • All the Census Bureau tells us is that the share of the pie consumed by the poor has been shrinking (to 3.4 percent in 2006 from 4.1 percent in 1970); but the “pie” has grown enormously.
  • This year’s real gross domestic product (GDP) of $14 trillion is three times that of 1970. So the absolute size of the slice received by the bottom 20 percent has increased to $476 billion from $181 billion.
  • Allowing for population growth shows that the average income of people at the bottom of the income distribution has risen 36 percent.

They’re not rich, but they’re certainly not poorer.  In reality, economic growth has raised incomes across the board, says Schiller.

Source: Brad Schiller, “The Inequality Myth,” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2008.

For text:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120511125873823431.html  

For more on Economic Issues:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=17

Posted in Government and Politics, Poverty, Socialism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Texas A&M: Collectivism or Community?

Posted by Tony Listi on February 8, 2008

Texas A&M University is truly unique among this country’s universities, especially among public universities. While every college student or alum has some affection for its alma mater, especially surrounding its sports teams, A&M creates a community and a spirit that is not dependent on sports or even rivals, though those elements are certainly not neglected. 

No government controls and regulates the Aggie Spirit (a useful, benevolent imitation of the Holy Spirit).  This spirit of service and charity is a tradition, a heritage that has been successfully passed on to each incoming freshmen class. There is an institution in place to teach and inculcate this spirit into the newcomers: Fish Camp. And if one didn’t go to Fish Camp, it is hard not to receive the spirit by cultural osmosis from those who have. The Aggie Spirit is a heritage with a noble purpose.

Aggies more than anyone should know the power of local communities or private voluntary associations to take care of their own with the addition of a little leadership and courage. This phenomenon plays out all the time within Aggieland, within the student body and its myriad of voluntary organizations.  Whether it is serving the local community at Big Event, or other community service groups on campus, or raising awareness and educating the student body on a variety of political issues like MSC SCONA and Wiley, Aggies know the power of freely given service and charity.

Student organizations, unlike government agencies and bureaucracies, do not tax former students and threaten them with audits and coercion. Student organizations do not threaten their members with fines or jail time. Rather, students respect what belongs to another Aggie (no matter how wealthy they are) but ask graciously for his or her generosity. Students appeal to the common spirit that binds all Aggies together and fellow Aggies respond in turn.

Consequently, it puzzles me when my fellow Aggies exercise their political privileges in favor of more federal government taxation, regulation, and intervention, which stifles service and charity. Government, as it is now, stifles leadership; indeed, it stifles everything that the Aggie Spirit represents and embodies. Why do so many Aggies abandon their heritage, their very spirit at the ballot box? Why do so many Aggies substitute collectivism for community?

Posted in Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Texas A&M, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Capitalism, Catholicism, Morality, & Poverty

Posted by Tony Listi on January 25, 2008

http://www.isi.org/lectures/lectures.aspx?SBy=search&SSub=title&SFor=Teach%20the%20Churches

This is a video of an excellent lecture by Thomas E. Woods.

No Catholic (or Protestant for that matter) should be ashamed of whole-heartedly advocating free market capitalism and limited government. Conservatism and perhaps even libertarianism to some extent are eminently compatible with Christianity.

Posted in American Culture, American History, Christianity and Politics, Economics, Foreign Aid, Government and Politics, Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Science and Religion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Catholic Priest Denounces Govt Interference in Charity

Posted by Tony Listi on January 4, 2008

Rev. Robert Sirico, President of the Acton Institute, takes on Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel during a Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing in 1995.

Posted in Moral Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics and Religion, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Solutions to Poverty

Posted by Tony Listi on January 4, 2008

Solutions to poverty – it starts with you. It is not the government’s responsibility to help people, its my responsibility. Its your responsibility. The solution to poverty starts with you. This is a counter-solution to the One Campaign, created by the Acton Institute.

Posted in Africa, Government and Politics, Poverty | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

The “Living Wage”: A Short-Sighted Effort to Help the Poor

Posted by Tony Listi on December 5, 2007

The claim that workers would benefit if retail businesses larger than 95,000 square feet within Spokane, Washington, city limits paid wages anywhere from 135 percent to 165 percent of the state minimum wage is ill-founded, says Carl Gipson, director of the Center for Small Business at the Washington Policy Center.

According to Gibson:

  • Most of the benefits of a living wage would go towards households that are not below the federal poverty line.
  • Living wage ordinances force the least skilled workers out of the labor market.
  • Economic evidence from other states shows there would be a net job loss within Spokane’s retail workforce.
  • Basing wages upon an employee’s need could drastically escalate labor costs.

“The idea of a ‘living wage’ is not a new idea, but our research shows it is a bad idea,” said Carl Gipson, study author and director for small business at Washington Policy Center.  “Proponents are attempting to impose price controls on labor in an effort to alleviate poverty.  It is a noble idea but one that is proven not to work. In fact, price controls will hurt those the regulation is intended to help.”

Source: “Mandated Living Wages: A Short-Sighted Effort to Help the Working Poor,” Washington Policy Center, December 3, 2007.

For text:

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/SmallBusiness/PRLivingWage.html

For study:

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/SmallBusiness/LivingWagePBText.pdf

For more on Minimum Wage:

http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=24

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Economics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Poverty | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Christianity and Politics of the Poor

Posted by Tony Listi on November 18, 2007

Christianity is not meant to save society! I challenge anyone to show me a verse to support this crazed notion. This world and this life is not meant to be saved; a new world and new life is the promise of Christianity. “Salvation” for liberals is either extremely materialistic (Marxism) or of base feeling (self-esteem brought about by non-discrimination no matter what or approval of all Difference). There is nothing high-minded about it at all from a theological perspective. Marxism is a perverse caricature of Christianity!

Yet so many Christians mistake Marxism for the tenets of their own faith. It frustrates me to no end! (Perhaps this is Hillary’s problem.) Commitment to caring for the poor is miles apart from “economic justice” as conceived by liberals! Christian charity is a virtue and thus a free choice of the free will. “Economic justice” is coerced taxation and redistribution based on envy, a vice according to Christianity. It is not justice at all. Charity is a duty placed on individuals and the Church and commanded by God. This is something we render to God, not to Caesar! There is no contradiction between being economically conservative/libertarian and being a Christian. In fact it is just the opposite: liberal Christians abandon their Christian duty to care for the poor when they demand government do it for them.

Jesus sure did have a lot to say about the poor, including “”The poor you will always have with you” (Matthew 26:11). Government cannot eliminate poverty! The War on Poverty was doomed to failure (and actually made things worse). Never once did Jesus say that the government should be the instrument by which Christians help the poor. His very example was one of personal service, not laying charitable duty at the feet of govt. Liberal Christians, Protestant and Catholic alike, are imposing their own political ideology onto the Scriptural text! ”We” as Christians, “we” as private individuals, “we” as civil society (as distinguished from govt) made up of a multitude of voluntary charitable and service organizations, “we the people,” should care for the poor. NOT “we” the govt.

Early Christians did NOT see their charitable work as a duty to the collective. They saw it as a duty to each child of God, to God himself. Christianity has social implications as does every religion, but they are secondary to the real message of the gospel that transcends earthly society. The economic justice of Marxism is nothing but legalized, yet still immoral, theft and thus no justice at all. Socialist solidarity is a perverse distortion of Christian love, which seeks the perfect balance between compassion and accountability. Social welfare is a perverse distortion of Christian charity.

As for Acts 4:32, it is a commune. But those Christians VOLUNTARILY joined the commune. It was not a political institution; it was a private religious organization. Moreover, I witnessed a Christian commune firsthand growing up: it is called a monastery. This biblical tradition is carried on in Catholicism, not Protestantism, as far as I can tell. Communism coercively reduces everybody to the lowly condition of a monk: poverty! But at least the monks get to voluntarily choose/vow poverty for the sake of God’s Kingdom. Sure, communism can work in America…if everyone is fine with being poor.

Posted in Catholicism vs. Protestantism, Christianity and Politics, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Poverty, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »