Another misconception promoted by ['local-food'] activists is that the absence (or much smaller volume) of packaging material at farmers’ markets has significant environmental benefits, a notion that conveniently ignores the fact that food packaging has the dual advantage of protecting food from microbes and greatly prolonging shelf life. These advantages, in turn, significantly increase the probability of food being consumed instead of ending in a landfill or incinerator.
Steve Horwitz and Sarah Skwire have an essay at Bleeding Heart Libertarians that addresses what he characterizes as a classical mistake made by feminists in understanding the value of housework. He writes that like many others, feminists confuse “impressive work with important work.” He goes on to say that
Garbage collection may well not be impressive. Neither are diaper changing, gutter cleaning, grocery shopping, or any number of other icky, sticky, stinky, slimy and otherwise unpleasant jobs that keep humans healthy, safe, clean, and dry. But if no one is doing those tasks, humans don’t stay healthy, safe, clean, and dry enough to do impressive work–like designing skyscrapers, doing brain surgery, writing novels, and so on.
This however doesn’t mean that we are free to dismiss unimpressive work “as unimportant.” Rather Continue reading →
Remember the teacher’s voice in the Charlie Brown cartoons “Wah, wah, wah”?
That’s what I hear when I listen (most) clergy talk about economics and business. You know it’s not uncommon for clergy to hold forth about these matters even while professing no particular expertise on the subject. As a result what they usually offer is a pretentious muddled folly that seeks to justify itself by falsely claiming to be a brave prophetic stance. Continue reading →
The administration is defending this pledge with a rather slim reed — that there is nothing in the law that makes insurance companies force people out of plans they were enrolled in before the law passed. That explanation conveniently ignores the regulations written by the administration to implement the law. Moreover, it also ignores the fact that the purpose of the law was to bolster coverage and mandate a robust set of benefits, whether someone wanted to pay for it or not.
The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.
The president’s promise apparently came with a very large caveat: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate.”
I bring this up not out of partisan concern but because of the religious liberty issues raised by the Affordability Care Act and the administration’s own policies that seek to enforce as a matter of federal law a sexual (im-)morality that is contrary to both natural law and the Gospel. Worse still, however, is the (mis-)use of the authority of government to require that citizens become active collaborators in supporting policies that violate their consciences. Continue reading →
An interesting take by Ray Nothstine on the recent American budget crisis.
As our nation’s $17 trillion debt spirals out of control, and spiritual disciplines decline in the West, we need to face the reality of America’s inability to collectively sacrifice. Even the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg seemed to pass this year with scant attention, as if such extreme sacrifice is alien and distant to our way of life today.
After tracing out some of the causes and consequences of this he conclude by arguing on behalf of an idea near and dear to Orthodox Christians, the foundational role of asceticism:
To recapture a deeper sense of personal and political liberty, Americans must collectively embody sacrifice now. “Redemption comes only through sacrifice,” Calvin Coolidge once reminded Americans. Failure to sacrifice now will in the end require a different variety of sacrifice. It will be for and in the name of the state. That kind of sacrifice will prove more costly, and will come at the expense of our political and spiritual liberties.
While we can disagree about the various causes and solutions to the recent budget battles, we need to not lose sight of the fact that the way forward is not simply a matter of public policy but first and foremost virtue–both public and personal. We can’t, for example, cut government aid programs without also a greater commitment (both personal and from religious communities) to care for those in need.
As a pastor, I’ve been struck by the hostility, or at least suspicion, that some Orthodox Christians reveal in their discussions of private property. While there are no doubt many reasons for this disconnect, I think a central factor is a lack of appreciation for the role that private property can, and does, play in fostering human flourishing. It is through the wise and prudent use of our property that we are able to give ourselves over in love to the next generation and so give them the possibility of likewise transcending a purely material way of life through an act of self-donation. Economists Terry Anderson and Laura Huggins, in Property Rights: A Practical Guide to Freedom and Prosperity (Hoover Institution, 2009), are right when they remind us that while not a panacea, “property rights to oneself (human capital), one’s investments (physical capital), or one’s ideas (intellectual capital), secure claims to assets” and so “give people the ability to make their own decisions, reaping the benefits of good choices and bearing the costs of bad ones.” In part, I think the hesitancy among some Orthodox Christians to embrace a robust understanding and application of property rights reflects an uncritical reading of the patristic witness. I have in mind here specifically the homilies of St. John Chrysostom in which the saint is often critical of how some abuse their wealth. But as recent scholarship has demonstrated, his argument is more subtle than we might at first think. As with other Church fathers, Chrysostom is not a proponent of abolishing private property but of its morally right use.
As I say at the end of the essay,
…property rights are not a panacea – protecting and enhancing private ownership will not cure all that ails us personally or socially. Nor can we separate the exercise of our right to property from the moral law or, for Christians, the Gospel. But Orthodox social thought does I think allow us to make a convincing case that property rights are a key element of human flourishing, a necessary ingredient of a just society, and an aid to Christian ministry. Rooted as it is in human nature, it is also a right that can help us see the dignity of all members of the human family and of the ability that all of us – rich or poor, male or female, young or old – have to serve the flourishing of those around us, our society and the Church.
If you have a moment, I’d be grateful if you read the whole essay on Acton’s site.
Organization is an association based on authority, organism is mutuality. The primitive thinker always sees things as having been organized from outside, never as having grown themselves, organically. He sees the arrow which he has carved, he knows how it came into existence and how it was set in motion. So he asks of everything he sees, who made it and who sets it in motion. He inquires after the creation of every form of life, the authors of every change in nature, and discovers an animistic explanation.
The point here is not to suggest that social organizations arise apart from human beings. It is rather to say that social institutions are more complex than other human activities such as carving an arrow. As I mentioned in an earlier post (here), the challenge is allowing for a diversity of views and actions within the limits of the concrete community. What’s the moral harm in the top down approach that von Mises is criticizing? Just this,contrary to what I imagine deference to even legitimate authority (whether for technical or social or even theological reasons) doesn’t absolve me of my own obligations as a moral actor. The top down approach too easily allows me to abdicate my personal responsibility and to lose myself in what Heidegger calls the herd (or the “They”). Authority does have its role to play but as the guardians of the conditions that foster personal responsibility.
Authority is a necessary element of community life but it is not the source of that life. Put in more theological terms, authority serves love by protecting the limits within which love is possible. Even the wisest ruler can’t impose these conditions from above or outside. Rather the ruler’s task is to be attentive to those moments when the freedom love requires is threatened. It is only then that the ruler can, and must, intervene.