Sunday, November 30, 2008

Politics that we don't have to apoligize for

Let's talk politics, life, wealth and the Faith. In order of importance these would be listed as faith, life, wealth and politics. Faith is truth revealed by God; it includes things we can't understand because Gods ways are above ours. We can often validate the truths of our faith through studies of history, health and sociology, but some revealed truths are just that, revealed and not observable with scientific methods.

All the concrete things we like to call reality can be thought of as "just a thought in the mind of God" meaning that God, who wills us into existence, is the ultimate reality. This puts his creation into perspective. This means that his publicly revealed instructions for how we are to live should be given more respect than market research about "the bottom line". This also means that if in prayer, or private revelation, we discern a strong and consistent feeling, we would be crazy to ignore it and not explore it. Granted, private revelation, unlike public revelation is not guaranteed to be accurate.

As a created being, our life is important because it gives us an opportunity to know, love and serve God. While many people might pretend to agree with this they live as though consuming things and experiencing pleasure and the approval of their fellows is the pinnacle of meaning and reality. This is called atheism in practice or practical atheism. The hallmark of this mindset is the dismissing of revealed truth as not being based in real life, or the real world. What they are really saying is that the creation is reality and that the Creator is either fictional, unimportant or only important on Christmas, Easter, and disasters like September 11Th.

Next we should say why wealth is important. Just as our Catholic Faith can free us from being culturally or sexually enslaved and debased, the right type of wealth can free a man from the countless indignities faced by those whose only way of providing for their family is to offer their service for wages. True wealth therefore is owning the means of production. Either you are "the man" or you work for "the man". It is an article of faith amongst free-market enthusiasts that true freedom consists of the laborer being free to negotiate with the owner, but the laborer is only free to choose between the limited opportunities offered him, starvation, or welfare. Maybe a bit of cynicism about the freedom to bow to market dictates is called for here.

Much of the indignities associated with "working for the man" stem from the fact that the owners, managers, and office politicians are alienated from the regular employees. Our big business style is based on volume discounts, economies of scale, and a monopolistic thuggery that consists of scorched earth buying and borrowing. The problem with these scorched earth tactics is that in the process of destroying small businesses to gain market share, the big business may or may not destroy itself in the process, but it always destroys the family owned businesses. The family is cut lose from the dignity and security of ownership and meaningful production; its' members are no longer untied in purpose or in community as they must seek employment where it may be found.

It is capitalist collectivism. It is not the sine qua non of freedom; it is the gateway to socialism. The socialist used to see the family as a threat because the family supplied the services and stability that the socialist proposed should be supplied by the state that they hoped to run. The family is now largely broken down and separated from its' productive property. The state is always increasing its services, but it is hard to say who should have the credit. Did free-love destroy the family or did the free-market destroy the community? Either way we have definitely been liberated from individual responsibility and the collectivist state and the collectivist business system have assumed the responsibility and control.

So maybe if we put the immediate "bottom line" mentality aside and look at the long term we can see that the Popes were right to have been warning us about this for years. Then we wouldn't have to apologize for our politics

It's about life

I think a lot of what we argue about as politics we should instead talk about in terms of life. For instance, I was having a political discussion with my uncle about how our laws should be structured to maximize freedom for families by encouraging self sufficiency and decentralization. De-collectivizing and decentralizing production and control by creating sustainable self-governed communities of small businesses is the Catholic ideal of subsidiary.

He responded with fears about idealists using draconian measures to achieve these Utopian schemes, failures in the ability to supply our large population, rising costs, and road to Hell being paved with good intentions. Also he had doubts that anyone really wants to upset the status quo apple cart or, rather, our high standard of living.

The best answer to his questions - and by questions we always mean objections - the best answer is to use the example of Home brew. Home brewing is a great way to supply a necessity by making it ourselves.

Of course we don't make every ingredient from scratch; we have a community; we have civilization. Because it is not possible for me to grow the hops, grains, sugar and so forth I buy the kit from the people who are best able to supply these items.

But why not go one step further and buy the finished product? After all you can get cheap beer at the store for about 55 cents per beer, and beer almost of the quality I make for 75 cent - $1.75 per beer; the cost of production for each home brewed beer is 35 -40 cents not counting labor. Clearly the most efficient way to get beer is to buy it.

This is the beauty of being Catholic; you have the freedom to go either way. The Church advocates that "the means of production be as widespread as possible", but She makes no hard and fast rules about how we act on this principle. We do have to use discernment though, which is an understanding of how we are free to do the right thing.

It is up to us to look for ways that we can liberate our families and our communities from the consumerist and collectivist impulses of our mad system. We need to start with activities that we can enjoy and that either save us money or cost us little, and keep the means of production local and decentralized. Producing things by hand gives us a better perspective on the products themselves.

We have to avoid reactionary know-nothingness and apply the wisdom of the ages to the fallout of modern life. We have to ask for guidance with a willingness to follow it.