Debating the Morality of the Free Market

Really? Is this your idea of the free market?

My commentary on environmentalism and the Eucharist (here) has generated some interesting responses. While most have been favorable some has been decidedly less so.Here is my expanded and edited response to one such critic who contacted me via social media.

In Christ,

+FrG

Dear …,

Let me say up front, I think the free market is only free to the degree that men and women are themselves truly free–that is to say, virtuous. It does seem to me though that want to define the argument in such a way that makes the free market inherently evil. You quote Pope Francis is support of this (“the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root”) but I’m not sure you and he are making the same argument. You only quoted a small part of the passage:

Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root.

If I understand him correctly, the Pope is arguing that social exclusion and economic inequality lead to violence and are the result of inequality of opportunity. He is not condemning the free market as such but, as he say at the end of the section quoted above “unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future.” He concludes not by asking us all to embrace voluntary poverty but rather the need to create wealth through morally good forms of economic development:

We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized (Evangelii Gaudium, 59).

In fact, I would guess that Pope Francis and I are probably closer on this point then are you and he. Continue reading

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Moral Witness Requires Clear Thinking on Environmental Science

Here’s the central point of my most recent essay for the Acton Institute:

Yes theology and science “have different points of departure and different goals, tasks and methodologies” but they “can come in touch and overlap.” For this convergence to be fruitful we must resist “the temptation to view science as a realm completely independent of moral principles.” Science can, and often does, serve as “a natural instrument for building life on earth” (Basis of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church). However when we limit ourselves merely to the findings of the natural, social and human sciences, we risk confusing expediency with prudence and diluting the Church’s witness.

You can read the whole essay here: Pebble Mine: Moral Witness Requires Clear Thinking on Environmental Science.

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To Lift Up the Poor, Must We Soak the Rich?

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Ross Douthat,

Before we talk about significantly expanding our investments in education, elementary and collegiate, how confident should we feel that our existing “investment” in the “future productivity” of the poorest Americans is reaping value-for-the-dollar rewards?

You can read the whole thing here: “To Lift Up the Poor, Must We Soak the Rich?”

h/t: Acton PowerBlog.

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My Essay at Ethika Politika “The Forgotten Good of American Individualism”

I have an essay up on Ethika Politika ((The Forgotten Good of American Individualism”). Here’s the summary and opening paragraph:

Recently, two Christian social critics—one Roman Catholic, the other Eastern Orthodox—tackled some of the problems that emerge from individualism in American culture.

 

Thomas Storck (“The Catholic Failure to Change America”) does so in light of the tradition of Catholic Church; his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah (“Secularism and Depersonalization”) looks at the same intellectual territory as an Orthodox Christian. While both men have done a good job in explicating the negative consequences of individualism for the life of the Church—both East and West—and the larger society, they left unexamined the opportunity for human flourishing and growth in Christian holiness, implicit in American individualism.

If you have a moment, please read the whole thing and maybe leave a comment.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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Corporate Culture, Corporate Conscience

The removal of “Brendan Eich, Mozilla co-founder and creator of the JavaScript programming language” should make us all very concerned. He was not pressured to leave for what he did but what he believes. Here’s the central point that Joseph Sunde makes in his post at the Mozilla’s Statement of Faith and the Altars of Conformity:

…amidst all the pooh-poohing of the baker, the florist, and the photographer — whose complaints actually are bound up in the activities at hand – those very same critics casually proceed to make people the central thing. As the statement of faith clearly concludes, it is Eich who is the aggressor, and Eich who must be removed. The peace and tranquility of the interwebs is at stake, and influential proponents of archaic institutions mustn’t be allowed to stand in its way.

This isn’t to reject out of hand the right–even the obligation–of corporation to shape their business around specific moral norms.

Business are culture-makers at the core, and thus, conscience ought to guide such activities, from the bottom to the top and back again.

At the same time, however

…one can’t help but suspect this is less about a distinct corporate conscience than it is about blind cultural conformity. But then one remembers that, in this case, conformity the conscience, and there’s not a whole lot more going on “up there” than a raw fear of that looming Idol of Egalitarianism.

The central “virtue” of conformity is loyalty, to follow orders and to think along with the group. Nothing, it seems to me, can be further from what is necessary for a dynamic and growing business. Much less is it compatible with a free people and the value of the person.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

 

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Sexism and Same-Sex Marriage?

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Kelly Bartlett (Public Discourse).

It’s one thing for two guys to love each other; it’s altogether different for society to endorse this union by granting these two men the status of marriage. A male marriage might not look overtly sexist, but what about the long-term effects? Redefining marriage grants men the legal right to deprive children of a relationship with their mother simply because she’s female. Because she’s “born that way.” What if this gender discrimination continues?

Obviously, two men cannot reproduce with each other, but in tandem with marriage comes the right to adopt. If a male couple’s adopted son meets and marries a like-minded guy whose dads commissioned him from a surrogate mother, then we would see an extended family bereft of not only mothers but also grandmothers. On both sides. Under current law in many states, this chauvinism can continue for generations.

Decades from now, young Marvin can trace his family tree and compare it with that of his pal Leroy. The latter has one mom and one dad, two grandmothers and two grandfathers, four great-grandmothers and four great-grandfathers. Leroy’s family tree is gender-integrated and balanced.

Meanwhile, Marvin lists two dads, four grandpas, and eight great-grandfathers. His family has fourteen men and zero women; it’s gender-segregated and devoid of wives, mothers, grandmothers, and their feminine love.

Of course, we know that babies can’t actually be nurtured for nine months in a test tube using IVF, no matter how many thousands of dollars we thrust at researchers. And despite millions in research, no scientist has ever generated a single ovum. Marvin had to have a mom or he wouldn’t be here. And his parents had to have mothers as well. It’s not that Marvin doesn’t have a mom or grandmothers in his ancestry. These women are invisible to Marvin, but they are real. They were intentionally excluded from his family precisely because of their sex. This man-made barricade is more harmful than the glass ceiling at work since it prevents children from accessing their own mothers.

Man caves are fun. Man family trees . . . not so much.

*****

To be fair, same-sex marriage laws grant women the same right to segregate family trees and the same power to deprive their children of fathers. But this doesn’t advance equality. That’s simply the debunked “separate but equal” argument in new, gender-segregated clothing. Again, I know too many dads and I honor my own father far too much to endorse writing them out of generations of children’s lives for the supposed crime of being born male.

Of course, same-sex marriage lobbyists can argue that the likelihood of entire branches being segregated by sex is slim. (I sure hope so.) Yet they dare not criticize the right to create gender-segregated family trees, because doing so would automatically refute their case. After all, redefining marriage is predicated on the theory that gender diversity is unimportant in marriage. Supporting gender integration would automatically plant them on the side of pro-gender marriage.

When confronted with Marvin’s ancestry, same-sex marriage activists can only applaud as they continue to support excluding either husbands and dads, or wives and mothers from homes. They consider this such an important benefit to society that they have persuaded judges or legislatures in sixteen states and a handful of countries to enact laws enabling gender segregation in families for generations.

That’s not marriage equality. That’s same-sexism marriage.

*****

As SSM advocates scatter seeds of gender alienation, we can focus attention on our collective family tree, which is inclusive and integrated. Every time you’re online reading an article that supports same-sex marriage, prune away the focus on homosexuality in order to shine a light on the roots of gender discrimination. Call attention to the fact that these are gender-exclusive unions. That they are missing one half of humanity. They deliberately deprive children of either a mother or a father. Their grandchildren will therefore lack either a grandmother or a grandfather. If they call it marriage equality, ask why treating the children of gays differently and banishing their mothers from the home is equality.

And when they refer to same-sex marriage, invite them to join the right side of history by rejecting sexism and supporting pro-gender marriage. Because gender matters to everyone, including homosexuals, as well as their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren . . .

– See more at: Gender, Discrimination, and Marriage | Public Discourse.

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When Tolerance Turns to Coerced Celebration

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Jennifer Marshall (The Gospel Coalition Blog).

The legal freedom to live and love according to one’s preferences does not imply that government should compel others to celebrate all relationships. The law should uphold the freedom to speak and to act publicly consistent with biblical beliefs about marriage.

*****

Tolerance means recognizing others’ right to refuse to celebrate what they don’t agree with. Religious liberty protections defending that right take nothing away from anyone. But compelling celebration certainly does.

Jennifer A. Marshall is director of domestic policy studies at Heritage Foundationwhere she also directs the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society. She is the author of Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the 21st Century. You can follow her on Twitter @MarshallJenA.

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