November 26, 2013

McCloskey for Pope!

James Pethokoukis posts a response from ThreeSources' Fave (or at least jk's) Deirdre McCloskey to Pope Francis's latest whack at Capitalism.

I'm going to lift it in its entirety -- sorry Mr. Brooks! You can click through for backstory and Jimi's introduction.

Friedrich Hayek, the modern master of what people in the USA call "libertarianism" and what others call "real liberals," once wrote an essay entitled "Why I Am Not a Conservative." He was not a conservative, nor am I or Robert Nozick or Tom Palmer or Donald Boudreaux or Ronald Hamowy or John Locke or Thomas Paine or (the Blessed) Adam Smith.

I am a Christian Liberal. That is, I believe on the one hand that in human affairs the best policy is to let people alone to exercise their creativity. Such creativity has made the modern world. We should take power away from the massive modern state, which so often follows the Other Golden Rule: Those who have the gold, rule. States are corrupted by the rich

But on the other hand as a Christian I also believe that as a spiritual affair we should love God and love God's creatures, that is, our neighbors as ourselves. (It is Jewish and Muslim law, too: Rabbi Hillel was asked to summarize the law and the prophets while standing one leg. His reply was: to love God , the commandments 1-4, and our neighbors, 5-10.) In consequence, unlike fatherly and unChristian liberals, I believe in helping the poor.

At a meeting libertarians/liberals last year in the Bahamas I expressed to someone what I thought was an axiom, "But of course we all want to help the poor." He instantly retorted, "No: only if they help me." It took my breath away. I want to help the poor, period, not only as part of an exchange ... And my liberal part adds to my Christian duty: Help the poor really, not by making them unemployable by raising the minimum wage, or uneducated by forcing them into public schools, or violent and victimized by outlawing recreational drugs.


UPDATE: Need we add a "Papal Encyclicals" category? An alert reader offers a link to this commentary by Rev. James Martin. Plus an admonition to be wary of accepting a WaPo summary of anything that concerns economics or Catholicism.
Evangelii Gaudium is difficult to summarize, so wide-ranging is it. Ironically, something that would at first appear to be a narrow topic -- how to spread the Gospel today -- offers Francis the latitude to address many topics in his trademark open style. The exhortation moves easily from a discussion on joy as a requirement for evangelization, to how "personal dialogue" is needed for any authentic invitation into the faith, to the difficulty of being a church when Catholics are "warring" against one another, to the need for priests and deacons to give better homilies, to an overriding concern for the poor in the world -- the last being a special concern of the Pope.

To that end, some will be surprised that Francis champions an idea that has lately been out of favor: the church's "preferential option" for the poor. "God's heart has a special place for the poor," the Pope says. But it is not enough simply to say that God loves the poor in a special way and leave it at that. We must be also vigilant in our care and advocacy for them. Everyone must do this, says the Pope.


I would refer his excellency to last week's Review Corner or perhaps Prof. McCloskey. Sometimes a little bit of trading in the back of thy Father's House can do more than alms.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at November 26, 2013 1:10 PM

"Help the poor" what? Eat for a day? Get a smartphone and a flatscreen TV? Not be poor?

I'm in if your answer is "c" but what if a poor man wants to be poor, likes being poor, doesn't want to be not poor? Isn't that a whole heckuva lot like helping Afghanis and Iraqis be democrats?

Personally I prefer to tell people, "If you like your socioeconomic status, you can keep your socioeconomic status. Period."

And I really do mean period, not semi-colon.

Posted by: johngalt at November 26, 2013 2:18 PM

I thought we might get a good argument going, but now you have me laughing too hard. Hahahahahaha -- that is a very good line.

How about: deeply want to improve the situation and opportunity potential of less fortunate. Say I want the public schools to be better even if I choose private (or have no children). Even less directly, I wish they'd use nickel DDT in Africa instead of $10 nets so fewer would get Malaria.

Or, in Professor McCloskey's case: establish respect for freedom and commerce that will augment opportunities for all. You against that, Champ?

Posted by: jk at November 26, 2013 2:42 PM

jg - In The Glass Castle Jeannette Walls, having grown up in poverty despite her mother having access to family wealth, recalls having a professor blow up at her in class for suggesting that not all street people are where they are because they lack resources. Some people just insist on believing that everybody can be lifted to some arbitrary level of non-poverty, if only we spend just a little more.

As for your foreign policy analogy... Every time Afghans or Iraqis make the news it seems like it's for abusing women and minorities while blaming their problems on somebody else and asking the US government to send them more of my money. I don't think they need anybody to help them figure out how to be Democrats, they seem to have it down pat.

Posted by: AndyN at November 26, 2013 3:37 PM

That's right Andy, and even spending just a little more doesn't satisfy the demand. Then they will call for just a little higher arbitrary level, or something else, to justify "just a little more" yet again. It's like the president learned yesterday while pandering to illegal immigration activists. At least some of them are still "very disappointed by what he said." Giving away the unearned is a tricky business.

And I'm against none of what jk enumerates. What I said above is meant to address the word "opportunities" vis-a-vis the word "all." While they exist for all, and can be expanded for all, there is no level of opportunity that will be seized by all. Nanny statists believe that free stuff meets that bar but even then, some will turn it down. So why harm the able by treating them as unable? The nanny statists just don't understand this basic trait of human nature.

And also, perhaps even more importantly, on the subject of "all" I want to attack Pope McCloskey's assertion that "of course we all want to help the poor." This is a false premise that justifies state redistribution in the place of private charity. I reject it out of hand. If someone only wants to help someone who helps him in return that is his moral right. (And if you raise your children the way you describe it is no wonder why they are neurotic and maladjusted.)

Posted by: johngalt at November 26, 2013 4:43 PM | What do you think? [4]