February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The modern environmental movement is grasping for a compatible economic system. That system is Distributism, but environmentalists and New Urbanists will never hear of it while it remains confined within the intellectual framework of Roman Catholicism. The Vatican provided its inspiration, but Distributism is for everyone. If our rhetoric does not reflect this openness, we deprive many of finding in Distributism its relevance to resiliency and sustainability.

Caelum Et Terra

When I first started reading Wendell Berry thirty odd years ago I had just returned to the Catholic faith. I was struck by how easily his ideas harmonized with the Catholic social teaching and distributist thought  I was discovering. In the early 90s I finally wrote Mr Berry and asked him about this; had he ever read the papal encyclicals? Or Chesterton and Belloc? He replied somewhat testily that no, he was not familiar with any of that. I sensed, as one might expect from someone raised as a Baptist in Kentucky, that he was somewhat suspicious of Catholicism and not quite comfortable being told that his ideas resonated with Catholics. (He has since gotten over that and has addressed Catholic conferences).

I relate that story because distributists need to be reminded that distributism is not “Catholic Economics”; it is not revealed truth, and it is not just for Catholics…

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February 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

For the past 20 years, Joe Schriner has been traveling around the country and taking the political pulse of the American electorate. From his experiences, he has developed a series of policy papers that reflect a common-sense approach to our nation’s most pressing issues. Joe is also an independent candidate for president of the United States. You can keep track of him at his website.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised that the insights Joe has found in the small towns of this great nation are very similar to the principles of Christian democracy. We send Joe our prayers and our support for what he is doing: bringing a fresh, genuine voice to the discussion of public policy — one that resonates with the political will of a citizenry that is largely ignored by the two-party duopoly.


This week I’ve been in touch with a representative from one of America’s newest political Parties, the Christian Democratic Party.  Headquartered in Roanoke, Virginia,  their literature explains that:  “Chrisitan democracy” is a political ideology that seeks to apply Christian principles to public policy.  In other words, in our current society that would look like a mix of conservative and liberal philosophy.  From the “conservative” side, for instance, they are against abortion and gay marriage.  Yet, in what would seem “liberal” to many, they are strong on social justice and environmental stewardship.  A quote:  “Regardless of whether one believes in global warming or not, we maintain that caring for the environment is a great personal virtue… We wholeheartedly support environmentally friendly policies.”  The Party’s platform is not only balanced, it’s a good reflection, I believe, of how the gospel message would relate to each contemporary issue of our times.  For more, see:  www.cdpunitedstates.webs.com

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How to Move Forward on Climate Change: Greenhouse Gas Emissions as a Negative Externality

February 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all,” was the influential conclusion of Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, The Tragedy of the Commons. The essay demonstrates how innocent actors, working individually in a commons, often bring ruin to themselves and others even while maximizing profit for their own self-interest. Hardin’s principle asserts that the concentrated benefits and diffuse costs inherent in the private use of public resources create unsustainable economic systems, insofar as they are dependent on the abundance and integrity of natural resources and environments. It has shed substantial light on the limitations of the theory in the tradition of 18th-century economist Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” which maintains that all self-interested economic action serves to benefit the system as a whole. Implied in liberal theory is the notion that self-interested action is necessarily self-regulatory, as a reasonable actor weighs personal costs and benefits in a manner that promotes sustained growth. The problem arises, however, when benefits are fully procured by the actor but costs are externalized to others — as is the case of private action in a commons. A major challenge to laissez-faire economics, then, is its failure to regulate what have been called “negative externalities” within systems. To avoid tragedies of the commons, adherents to free market capitalist systems must employ methods to make individuals accountable for the resource degradation that they cause and profit from.

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February 2, 2012 § 3 Comments

Why Christian Democratic policy must always be informed by the discoveries of the scientific method.


University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne has an interesting post over at Why Evolution Is True, which hits on something I care a lot about: science and religion.  Specifically whether they go together or not. Coyne mentions two posts from the New York Times blogs, one against naturalism and one in favor of it. Neither of them are very interesting in my opinion. But Coyne summarizes part of the second one (the one in defense of naturalism) thus:

Science wins because it works.  That’s a quote from Stephen Hawking, and Rosenberg, like me, agrees: we can ground a philosophical naturalism in the remarkable success of methodological naturalism in helping us understand nature, and the abject failure of any other methodology, especially religion, to find the truth…

This is called a false dichotomy. Pick two things, say they oppose each other, and that you must choose one or…

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January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Conservative, in the sense of being pre-Enlightenment.

Vox Nova

It is commonly thought that criticism of capitalism has its exclusive provenance on the Left, but in fact there is a long tradition of conservative unease with capitalism. Now, by “conservative,” I obviously do not mean that weird and contradictory stew comprised of obscure Austrian economic theories, the “objectivist” ethics of Ayn Rand, Wilsonian idealism, American messianism, and Dominionist/Dispensationalist theology. That’s the “conservatism” of radio disk jockeys like Rush and Glenn, of the Tea Party, and The Sage of Austin, Rick Perry. By “conservative,” I mean what Russell Kirk meant when he wrote that “a conservative is a person who endeavors to conserve the best in our traditions and our institutions, reconciling that best with necessary reform from time to time.”

Contrast Kirk’s definition of “conservative” with the claim of contemporary “conservative” Michael Ledeen, who trumpets the revolutionary “menace” of democratic capitalism, American-style: “Creative destruction is our middle name, both…

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January 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

The answer: yes.

Vox Nova

I’ve long said that the Republican and Democratic parties are two dead ends in the same blind alley. With respect to Democrats and Republicans writing or reading here, I can’t belong to either party, so odious are their respective defections from basic Christian morality and the authentic teaching of the Church.

Michael Stafford agrees with me. He’s a lawyer and columnist whose latest piece, “A Christian Alternative to America’s Broken Political Duopoly,” is well worth a read, regardless of whether you are a partisan or, like me, a wanderer.

Stafford’s money quote: “British theologian and political philosopher Phillip Blond correctly notes that, ‘the current political consensus’ in the United States is ‘left-liberal in culture and right-liberal in economics. And this is precisely the wrong place to be.’ It’s also the fundamental reason why Christians cannot be at home in either political party – the Christian vision of the social and…

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The Spirit of Distributism: What Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Have in Common

October 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

The recent events in Manhattan and in cities around the world are just the latest episode in a long succession of popular expressions of disenchantment with the global economic system. Earlier this year — in Wisconsin, London and Greece — it came in the form of opposition to government austerity. Last year the Tea Party exploded onto the scene. Critics of the status quo have variously levied justified attacks against the Federal Reserve, big banks, the nationwide welfare state, the two-party system and corporate lobbying, which has casted serious doubts on the sustainability of any of these institutions. Since the onset of the global economic crisis, there has been a growing sense from both the right and the left that the distribution of wealth is not just, that people are not free to chart their financial futures, and that economic misfortune is often the result of decisions made beyond one’s own control.

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