Catholic capitalist wealth redistribution I

After reading Getting Used to Thinking with the Church Takes Practice it was a bit of a challenge to separate out the invective against conservatives from the quoted papal teachings. I applied my rule of thumb with success though and thought I’d share both the rule and the application.

The rule is simple. The Pope is not usually an idiot; he’s surrounded by some of the better thinkers on the planet who have been managing to keep Catholicism intellectually viable for centuries through an awful lot of tumult; the words they use are often not used the same way as people local to me do and it’s wise to get your definitions straight before flying off the handle. And then there’s all that Holy Spirit miracle stuff but if you’re not a Catholic yourself, I don’t expect you’re going to find that last bit persuasive.

32. Lowering the level of protection accorded to the rights of workers, or abandoning mechanisms of wealth redistribution in order to increase the country’s international competitiveness, hinder the achievement of lasting development. Moreover, the human consequences of current tendencies towards a short-term economy — sometimes very short-term — need to be carefully evaluated. This requires further and deeper reflection on the meaning of the economy and its goals,as well as a profound and far-sighted revision of the current model of development, so as to correct its dysfunctions and deviations.

36. Economic activity cannot solve all social problems through the simple application of commercial logic. This needs to be directed towards the pursuit of the common good, for which the political community in particular must also take responsibility. Therefore, it must be borne in mind that grave imbalances are produced when economic action, conceived merely as an engine for wealth creation, is detached from political action, conceived as a means for pursuing justice through redistribution.

37. Economic life undoubtedly requires contracts, in order to regulate relations of exchange between goods of equivalent value. But it also needs just laws and forms of redistribution governed by politics, and what is more, it needs works redolent of the spirit of gift. The economy in the global era seems to privilege the former logic, that of contractual exchange, but directly or indirectly it also demonstrates its need for the other two: political logic, and the logic of the unconditional gift.

39. Paul VI in Populorum Progressio called for the creation of a model of market economy capable of including within its range all peoples and not just the better off. He called for efforts to build a more human world for all, a world in which “all will be able to give and receive, without one group making progress at the expense of the other.” In this way he was applying on a global scale the insights and aspirations contained in Rerum Novarum, written when, as a result of the Industrial Revolution, the idea was first proposed — somewhat ahead of its time — that the civil order, for its self-regulation, also needed intervention from the State for purposes of redistribution.

42. The processes of globalization, suitably understood and directed, open up the unprecedented possibility of large-scale redistribution of wealth on a world-wide scale; if badly directed, however, they can lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even trigger a global crisis. It is necessary to correct the malfunctions, some of them serious, that cause new divisions between peoples and within peoples, and also to ensure that the redistribution of wealth does not come about through the redistribution or increase of poverty: a real danger if the present situation were to be badly managed. For a long time it was thought that poor peoples should remain at a fixed stage of development, and should be content to receive assistance from the philanthropy of developed peoples. Paul VI strongly opposed this mentality in Populorum Progressio. Today the material resources available for rescuing these peoples from poverty are potentially greater than before, but they have ended up largely in the hands of people from developed countries, who have benefited more from the liberalization that has occurred in the mobility of capital and labour. The world-wide diffusion of forms of prosperity should not therefore be held up by projects that are self-centred, protectionist or at the service of private interests. Indeed the involvement of emerging or developing countries allows us to manage the crisis better today. The transition inherent in the process of globalization presents great difficulties and dangers that can only be overcome if we are able to appropriate the underlying anthropological and ethical spirit that drives globalization towards the humanizing goal of solidarity. Unfortunately this spirit is often overwhelmed or suppressed by ethical and cultural considerations of an individualistic and utilitarian nature.

49. What is also needed, though, is a worldwide redistribution of energy resources, so that countries lacking those resources can have access to them. The fate of those countries cannot be left in the hands of whoever is first to claim the spoils, or whoever is able to prevail over the rest.

Clearly, there’s a redistributionist streak here but within limits. As is proper for a religious leader the Pope isn’t outlining a five year plan and he’s certainly left himself plenty of wiggle in the specific definitions of what constitutes helpful, rather than counterproductive, redistribution. But is any of this compatible with capitalism, and even more specifically with modern conservative capitalist thought? I believe so.

In the law of the jungle, might makes right and the weak go to the wall. The rich can always buy might and use it to steal from the poor. When the law exists as a fair, even-handed tool that is there for all, it promotes redistribution at such a fundamental level that most people don’t even consider the redistributive effects of it, it’s bedrock foundational for the 1st world because you can’t get rich without it. Yet for a world church, this assumption of the availability of law would be a bad assumption. The rule of law is not everywhere the Catholic Church operates and the Church sees the problems that arise when the law is for the rich and not for the poor. In that sense, conservatives not only support redistribution, we often champion it. This is certainly not the only form of redistribution that conservatives are in favor of but for my part, I’ll be laying out my list in subsequent posts. For everybody else, I encourage you to do so in comments.

28 thoughts on “Catholic capitalist wealth redistribution I”

  1. Not much of anything here that I can disagree with. Which is why I am a modern American liberal.

    Modern American conservatism has always struck me as far more Randian than Catholic, both on ideological outlook and on psychological attitude.

  2. Joe Citizen – Please re-read the last sentence in the post. Now read your response. Does it respond, at all, to the request for adding redistribution methods that are approved by US conservatives? No? Then this is not the time or place for your conservative bashing. Also your Rand bashing is out of line too because as an atheist, she’s a bit irrelevant to a Catholic thread.

  3. TM,

    I will be brief. I have been asked to restrict my comments to a sentence or two, and that only rarely. Kinda hard to do when well-intentioned people ask me questions, or others attack me in a manner that invites response. But whatever, I am a guest here, so thats the way it is.

    I am not an expert on redistribution methods approved by US conservatives, though I am really looking forward to reading all about it. I am just noting that if you find the quoted positions to be roughly in line with your own beliefs, then we have an interesting situation where the two of us might have some broad agreements, though obviously coming from different directions.

    I meant no offense with my comments about conservatism or Randism – they are what they are, and most conservatives would embrace what I wrote with pride. Anyway, I should stop now, lest I cause distress…

  4. My first thought was that as usual the modern Papacy leaves itself open to Hijack by the Left. Comments prove it.

    The problem of course with granting the validity of redistribution by political action is that there’s no end to it, except for when the money runs out. And here we are.

    My family are very devout Catholics, I am not. For one thing the Church is led by befuddled weaklings. Look at Nolan. BHO – after publicly betraying and humiliating him – hands him a Golden opportunity to revive the American Catholic Churches flagging fortunes and Nolan…first postures then collapses. Pffoofle.

    I simply won’t respect an organization that won’t zealously defend it’s members, just as I don’t respect people who won’t stand for themselves.

  5. This is a rather limp attempt to try and demonstrate that conservative economic thought is somehow compatible with catholic socialism. You’re saying that if you squint from a long way away and hold the paper just at the right angle to the sun you can almost see that they support capitalism blah blah blah.

    No sir. They are telling you they believe in socialism and it’s their prefered model of economics. What you are doing is trying to lie on their behalf by convincing people they mean something other than what they said. Only the weakest of minds are going to be convinced by this sort of wordplay.

    I certainly hope that this is the last apology for socialism I will read on this blog.

  6. Mr Black,

    The Catholic Church does not believe in Socialism, it does not believe or teach it, it does not believe in government central planning. It believes in subsidarity – action at the lowest level which is the believer- and solidarity- with our fellow man.

    However as the Church is composed of very academic types speaking a particular cant to a fellow particular type of Holy Academic their arguments are so, so easy for collectivists to distort.

    And that’s where Rand has a valid criticism of Late Stage Christianity. Although she was IMO crazy.

    And we never got socialism’s apology for murdering over 100 million people as they enslaved a billion in Eurasia. Nor did we get an apology for socialists here for covering up the crimes as they were occurring and using our Freedom’s to advance the same class genocidal agenda.

  7. Mr TM you may want to explore Catholic Social Teachings by going to their own materials. The excerpts above are ripe for mischief.

    Yes, Karol Wojtyla…a socialist. Although he did make them tremble, and helped them to eventually fall.

  8. You seem unable to reconcile your own politics with that of the church, and so you make excuses for the church that bring them into alignment with your own wishes of what it is they should think. As I can fortunately read and speak english, I’ll just take them at their word that they seek worldwide redistribution of wealth and ignore the pleadings that they really, really don’t mean what they say.

  9. VSSC – Do you believe that the Homestead Act is socialist? I think it certainly is redistributive. I also think it is not socialist. For conservative Catholics to resist the socialist hijackers of Catholic social teaching it is useful to have a list of our own of non-socialist redistributive measures, things that we can point to and say here are positive things that we can do as government action but don’t have the negative effects of those socialist redistributions.

    Mr Black – Conservative political thought is compatible with the Church. Catholic socialism is something else entirely which actually falls afoul of the quoted items, all except perhaps #49. You may want to bone up on your english comprehension and what the actual effects of socialism are.

  10. @ TM – I am of the considered opinion our government is a criminal enterprise at all levels. This means that it’s bad policy to allow them to make any policy involving “redistribution” of money or any fungible goods. We can consider the merits of redistribution when we don’t have a criminal government.

    Which Homestead Act are you referring to? Which given the above Prime Opinion is a academic matter, but I’d have to see it.

    Once again you don’t go to the Outfit for money problems. Especially when it’s bankrupt, something the actual Outfit isn’t.

    A Progressive TM will attempt to hijack for Progre$$ive purpo$e$ any school of thought or organization he is allowed to interact with, which is why McCarthy, Cohn, HUAC, the Blacklists and frankly Harry Truman’s purges were excellent policies. They bought us enough breathing space so that we could avoid or at least postpone Civil and World War. Rent Seekers will always be with us, that they have their own righteous religion and fighting faith makes them more dangerous.

    Mr Black the Left is the State at Prayer. So pray there, instead of preying on other’s relationships with their God which have moved beyond manna and mammon. The Left has all their own portfolio of sacraments including their own Eucharist [abortion]. There’s no need to pester us in our talking to the Sky God, you have your own.

    Catholicism isn’t socialist, it just believes in Charity and helping one another including the poor.

  11. So, TM – if you are not quite ready to share your own list, perhaps you could at least mention the principles that you see that distinguish socialistic vs. non-socialistic redistribution.

    “Socialism”, as used in general parlance, and in this thread, is so ill-defined as to be utterly meaningless. It seems to include everything from a school lunch to Mao’s great leap forward, and a whole lot of stuff off to either side as well. It is used far more often as a cuss word, or as a means to shut down discussion, rather than to illuminate some point.

    So I think you are going to need do some considerable work defining the term in a manner that all the ranters would find acceptable. Or maybe it would be better to try to work around the term, and just explain your principles using well-defined concepts.

    Also, your use of “hijacking” to refer to how the “left” interacts with Catholic social teaching is pretty lame. The “classical liberals” – that historical movement that modern American libertarian/conservatives identify with – developed in pointed opposition to Catholicism. The libertarian disdain for the poor, or the less productive in society has always been in sharp contrast to Catholic teaching. If anything, it is modern American conservatives – deeply uncomfortable with the strident atheism of Rand, even though she champions pretty much the rest of their agenda – who are trying to reconcile their philosophy of greed and elitism with the inclusive and compassionate traditions of the Catholic church. Well, some of you are – clearly Mr. Black is an example of those who see no fertile ground there.

  12. Mr Black – If you haven’t figured it out, I’m seeking input on candidate strategies. The problem, in part, is that socialists are quite good thieves and meme promoters. The way that the Church is using the word is clearly different than the way socialists do it, which is why you see the guard concepts in the quotes above.

    #32 speaks against knocking out redistribution that would promote long-term development. Obviously that does not include socialist redistribution that promotes learned helplessness and economic destruction (the actual effect of much of the Great Society redistributions). #37 has a reference to the spirit of gift which doesn’t mesh very well with the bread and circuses politics of socialism. #39 can be viewed through the lens as a warning against sham capitalism, both in terms of cronyism and in terms of limiting market entry. All participating in the market is a pretty tough requirement. Most political systems get away from that fairly fast. #42 gives the game away entirely and is profoundly conservative in the american sense. Globalization *is* profoundly wealth redistributive in the Catholic sense but it accomplishes this through entirely free market means. And then there’s #49 which is still a puzzler to me as the economic conditions when you don’t have access to energy generally only come about when people have their economic capabilities suppressed by government or private action, generally not something that conservatives approve of.

    VSSC – You’re focused on the wrong level here, but perhaps I wasn’t clear. Any of the US historical examples, straight through to the present municipal homestead legislation would be fine to start your analysis from. It’s a strategy, not a particular law I’m looking for. You seem to be concerned that opening the door to redistribution will allow the socialists to gain new life for their disgusting little tricks. On the contrary, somebody’s got to wade in and reclaim the language for their little tricks to stop working. Giving them safe harbor in the use of redistribution is as dumb as US military strategy giving safe harbors in Vietnam.

    Joe Citizen – If you click back to the original article (yes, there’s a chain), you’ll find the list I’ve thought up so far in a comment there. It certainly is not complete. As for Catholic social teaching, it is what it is and does not fit neatly into classic liberalism or socialism. Liberation theology is a perfect example of leftist hijack. In my opinion we’re in the age of debating the economic version of the shape of the world. The free marketers have claimed the world is round and the socialists the world is flat, but the free market types have their own version of the parrallax problem and the Church is, rightly, demanding that they dot their Is and cross their Ts before the Church fully embraces what, for it, is a secondary question.

    The bottom line is that free market capitalism lifts people out of poverty. Objectively, it does it better than any other system out there on the available menu of economic systems. If a theology can be developed that celebrates the surpluses and uses them in a fashion that is the product of well formed Catholic conscience, the aims of the Church will be furthered and the socialist distributive justice attack will be neutered. The Church people seem to be doing their job, making room for the capitalists. But the capitalists have to do some lifting too, building memetic bridges between their language and the Church’s.

  13. “The free marketers have claimed the world is round and the socialists the world is flat”

    Well, in fact it most resembles an oblate spheroid.

    Which is actually right on point. There seems to be quite the impulse to oversimplify these issues – to try to impose fundamentalist versions of various economic approaches on reality, and on the discussion of reality. There is no pure socialism in the world. There is no pure capitalism. There is no pure economic system of any kind, nor can there be, given that there are historical, cultural, religious and political values that interface with economic practices everywhere.

    For example – just about everyone in the modern American political landscape accepts the value of free markets. The dispute is not between free marketers and socialist central planners, it is between free-market fundamentalists and those who recognize the need to regulate and supplement free markets. But we see, even in such an “intellectual” venue as this, the incessant urge to ignore the complexity of reality and of people’s actual positions, and to label and categorize in simplistic, black and white terms.

    I find it hard to escape the sense that so many on the right have been thoroughly intimidated by the strident voices on your side – the Limbaughs et al – that you are incapable anymore of having discussions that actually respect the complexity of the world and of your opponents.

    “The bottom line is that free market capitalism lifts people out of poverty.”

    I would say that the modern liberally-modified capitalism has done a far better job than laissez-faire capitalism.

    “Objectively, it does it better than any other system out there on the available menu of economic systems.”

    Well, objectively (and I am NOT saying that I support this kind of a system – I repeat I do NOT) the simple fact is that the largest and most rapid movement of masses of people out of poverty has been accomplished by the Chinese Communist Party over the past 30 years or so. They introduced a lot of free market capitalism into their system, but the system that has worked to yield these results is still very very far from your ideal.

  14. Joe Citizen – The oblate spheroid nitpick was annoying when I first heard it in middle school decades ago. It has not improved with age. The plain fact is that one can plot pretty clear trend lines depending on how much public (socialist) and private (capitalist) ownership in a system. The closer one gets to a purely socialist (i.e. government ownership of the means of production) economic system, the worse the system works. You can quibble and talk about ‘J’ curves but the larger point holds through on any reasonable best fit trend line that can be placed across the available data. The closer one gets to a purely capitalist (i.e. private ownership of the means of production) system the better the system works. Yes, there are both legal system issues (the rule of law) as well as cultural issues that also play a real role in the success of these systems. You may notice that we’re on a blog thread, not in academia. I’m not going to footnote my sources.

    Would you please look at the thread title? If Rush Limbaugh has ever covered this topic, I’d like to get a date so I can read the transcript. I don’t think it’s ever been done on conservative talk radio. Or at least I’ve never heard about it (there’s a lot of local conservative talk out there). Again, give me an example because without one how am I supposed to be intimidated into falling in and following the party line? There is no party line. I think that Limbaugh might be challenged and he might have something novel to add to the conversation but it isn’t something I’ve ever heard him opine about.

  15. Jeez TM, its not a “nitpick”. Its a means to illustrate the point that there is a lot of oversimplification in the characterizations used in these discussions.

    “The plain fact is that one can plot pretty clear trend lines depending on how much public (socialist) and private (capitalist) ownership in a system. ”

    Yes. One can plot out a series of points on a spectrum. That is kinda my point. It is not being done – rather one sees constant reference to the end points, as if anyone to my left, no matter where I stand, and no matter how far they are from me, is a socialist.

    “The closer one gets to a purely socialist (i.e. government ownership of the means of production) economic system, the worse the system works”

    And what relevance does government ownership of the means of production have in contemporary America? Ironically enough, the nearest relevant debate I can recall was when there was discussion about nationalizing the banks in the wake of the financial crisis. I seem to recall that Allan Greenspan – Mr. Fed (and a Randian) gave some support to a limited program of nationalization. Obama was opposed. Go figga.

    As for Limbaugh, I had no particular idea of his in mind that is directly relevant to Catholic concepts of redistribution. I mentioned him as one who has been a powerful force on the right for having an angry, close-minded, hostile attitude toward anyone who is not on the team – to the great detriment of political discourse in this country.

    Once again – I do wish to repeat – I am looking forward to your thoughts on this topic, not for the purpose of trashing them necessarily. I have had my own lifelong interest in this subject, not that I claim to have studied it seriously. I honestly do not see how libertarianism and Catholicism can be reconciled at the level of first principles, but I am willing to listen.

  16. “The closer one gets to a purely socialist (i.e. government ownership of the means of production) economic system, the worse the system works”

    My previous response to this particular idea of yours grew out of the previous point about the constant references to the end points, and perhaps you may feel that I ignored the major point of this statement.

    I disagree that this is a consistently valid formula. It certainly works for part of the spectrum – if you are at the “sweet spot” in terms of having the right amount of government involvement in the economy, and you then move toward more government, then yes, the system will work worse. But the same is true if you go in the opposite direction – toward too little government – that would also cause the system to work worse. The ideal is not on either of the end points.

    Freedom is not free. Freedom is not the state of nature. Freedom is secured by institutions – actually this statement, ironically enough, recounts what used to be a central principle of conservatism, back in the days before the nihilists took over the movement. The policing and regulatory functions that government secures in the marketplace adds to our freedoms in the same manner that cops on the beat and traffic regulations enhance our freedoms and reduce social frictions.

  17. Joe Citizen – I see that you seem to be lacking a working definition of capitalism as economic freedom within an ordered system of liberty. That means we’ve been talking past each other quite a bit. Capitalism, in general, is not anarchic. People advocate pro-capitalist reforms because they conceive the sweet spot as being less government based than present conditions. They are usually right.

    Capitalism does have a couple of anarchic theorists, but outside of Milton Friedman’s family, I can’t think of any right now. None of them are violent, and the practical chances of us getting “past the sweet spot” in terms of too much capitalism is virtually nil at this point. We are so past the point of the watchman state that it’s ridiculous to worry about getting beyond that. The political trend is almost entirely in the other direction with not even bankruptcy generating the sort of reforms that are needed to get us anywhere close to the sweet spot. Instead we get austerity driven societal breakdown where you’ve got inconsistently applied (due to lack of money) economically deadening rules which is not the same thing at all. Here’s an example. Greece and Romania both started setting up a modern cadastre (land registration) system at about the same time in the mid 1990s. Romania’s finished switching over and has been for some time and while it’s hurting, is nowhere near the same level of trouble as Greece is. Greece is still not finished even though it started with a tremendous number of advantages over Romania. This failure (and a host of like failures) is a contributing reason why Greece is in economic trouble because it’s too expensive to buy and sell land there and that impacts its economy.

    Are all people to my left socialist? No, I don’t think so. There’s a great mass of the muddled middle that tacks socialist/capitalist based on… well, I can’t really figure out why as it looks an awful lot like brownian motion to me. Unadulterated socialism is a horror movie, and like a cheesy one, socialist initiatives keep coming back from the dead. That’s got to stop because it’s doing real harm, not least of all to the poor and vulnerable of society who don’t have a lot of extra margin to take the economic hit.

    Libertarianism and Catholicism cannot be reconciled at the level of first principles any more than an automobile can be reconciled with bunny slippers at the level of first principles. They address two different things, though there are intersection points in both pairs. Between libertarianism and the Church there is economic policy and between the automobile and the bunny slippers there is the pedestrian cross walk. One can, in some sense, reconcile the pairs. But trying to do a first principle reconciliation is a fools errand and *not* what I am about. Please put that straw man out of your mind. It’s not on point.

    Back to Limbaugh, I don’t know his mind on the subject either, which is entirely the point. It’s ridiculous to raise the bogeyman of talk radio conformity when talk radio hasn’t covered the topic. Though now that I think on it, how odd that it hasn’t! I ought to start haunting the relevant radio call in shows on the subject, perhaps try to get on Medved.

    I would request you allow me to be polite to President Obama. The technical term for what he’s generally about carries very negative emotional baggage so I, and a host of people on the right, use the generic term for it, socialism. His regulatory agenda to puppet master entire industries into destruction counts. It is a polite gloss, though a necessary one in today’s america. But even tossing out the regulatory agenda, the setup of public providers of insurance and the partial purchase of the US auto industry are classic socialist initiatives that go well beyond the banking system.

    And to end up on a positive note, I agree that freedom isn’t free. Liberty is not license. Freedom is secured by institutions. What are the institutions necessary to secure freedom and where and how are they exceeding their charter and moving to reduce freedom? That’s the relevant discussion regarding the 90k governments of the United States. We could have a set of institutions that just secured freedom and I would be perfectly happy. Generally this is called the watchman state and we are well beyond that. I also note, as an important side issue, that the institutions that secure freedom are not necessarily governmental.

  18. “His regulatory agenda to puppet master entire industries into destruction counts.”

    Well, that is the rap we hear from the right all the time. Is it true?

    Here is the lede – link follows:
    “Obama’s White House has approved fewer regulations than his predecessor George W. Bush at this same point in their tenures, and the estimated costs of those rules haven’t reached the annual peak set in fiscal 1992 under Bush’s father, according to government data reviewed by Bloomberg News.”

    “the setup of public providers of insurance”

    what are you referring to here? Obamacare utilizes private insurance. There is not even a public option. It right in line with the plan originated in the American Heritage Institute, and implemented by Romney. Are they all socialists too?

    “and the partial purchase of the US auto industry are classic socialist initiatives that go well beyond the banking system.”

    No, because you well know that they made these purchases as an emergency measure to prevent what would have been the liquidation of the companies, leading to Depression-level effects throughout the Midwest (which is why, of course, Mr. Romney is going to lose Michigan and Ohio, and the election), the purchases were always intended to be temporary, and the have been, and there was no interference in the day to day running of the company.

    Oh, and Paul Ryan voted in favor of the auto bailout, as well as TARP. I don’t know where you place yourself on the political spectrum relative to Ryan, but it sure seems like these socialists are crawling out of the woodwork, eh?

    Thats 0 for 3 by my count…

  19. TM Lutas, that was a nice discussion but it is wasted on trolls. You can see that by the response. I have never seen a troll revert to a thoughtful interlocutor. They have a few things to say and run out of ideas pretty quickly. There are a few stock phrases, like Laissez Faire capitalism. We saw some of that, along with some crony capitalism (the railroads) in the 19th century. There is a useful debate on items like the federal reserve and the gold standard. I don’t think we will solve that but we may well see a defacto return to gold as the economy dissolves under Obama II. A hyperinflation close to Wiemar conditions toward the end is another probable outcome. I am deathly afraid of inflation having seen it in action in the 1970s with similar people in charge. At least Jimmy Carter had the sense to bring in Volker. I don’t think Obama does and the “wise men” who tutored Clinton would waste their time with this uneducated, overcredentialed fool.

    I am still cautiously optimistic but fatalistic about what happens. It is my children, three of whom voted for him, who will be affected. My grandchildren will live in a very different world, most likely, but I can’t do anything about that except vote for Romney and hope for the best.

    I am constantly puzzled by the economic ignorance of the left. I guess they go together. In medicine they call that a syndrome.

  20. Mike K – Why do you think the discussion is for Joe Citizen? It’s for you and the lurkers. I would be curious about your opinion of non-socialist, useful wealth redistribution in the sense that the Church is using it. #49 is a clue, I think, that they’re looking at on-the-ground results and not necessarily government policy.

    I would disagree with you about the syndrome label. That’s reserved, I believe, for when you don’t understand why it’s causing the symptom cluster.

    Joe Citizen – There is a reason that a number of bailed out companies are trying to get the government out of their business and President Obama is resisting them, including GM. Your fantasy world where Obama isn’t marching us in a socialist direction sounds great though. I wish I could live in it.

  21. I’m glad to hear that as I don’t think trolls appreciate such essays. They are ready with their talking points before you finish.

    Syndromes can exist when all the causes are known. I’ve been sitting here today reading and commenting on student write-ups. Sometimes they need to be reminded that something is part of the syndrome. They usually know more than I do about obscure causes, like auto-immune hepatitis. I had to ask one of them what it is. It is, of course, about five diseases we used other names for. One of them had a nice write-up of a liver transplant patient but had neglected to observe if she was jaundiced.

    Sometimes, I think that church folks are not as well educated in economics as they could be. Catholic countries in this hemisphere do not have a good economic record. Argentina was an exception but that ended with Peron.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your comments.

  22. ” Your fantasy world where Obama isn’t marching us in a socialist direction sounds great though.”

    Well, the good news is that its all true. I don’t know quite how you arrived at your position but one can hope that the fever will soon pass. Maybe with a bit of perspective you will look back with amazement at how you could fall into such (ahem) stuff.

    ” I wish I could live in it.”

    As the Zennies might say – you do live in it, you just have awoken to the fact yet.

  23. Joe C,

    So you have the earth as an oblate spheroid. One group claims it’s round, the other that it’s flat, and you can’t see that one of these approximations is far, far better than the other???

  24. Kirk,

    First off, they are both two-dimensional claims, and the true condition is three dimensional, so neither claim is even in the ballpark.

    But more to the point – neither free-marketers nor socialists actually make particular claims as to the shape of the earth. That was a metaphor that TM was using. You could have figured that out with his reference to the “economic version of the shape of the world”. Of course, he assigns the flat-earth position to the economic position he opposes, and the round earth position to that which he agrees with. Its not worth the effort to argue those assignments, since they really signify nothing more than his preferences. So I made a different point, arguing that the use of the metaphor itself (regardless of who was being praised or insulted by the assignments) was indicative of the over-simplification of the issue.

    I hope this clears things up for you.

  25. Oh, and Kirk, just to finish the thought. If forced to operate within the metaphor, I would assign the flat earth position to the more fundamentalist adherents of both philosophies, and the “round” earth position to the more sophisticated adherents of both. Flat-earthers are people who espouse dogmas that are resistant to the empirical realities of the world. Round-earthers are those who can learn and grow in response to their encounters with reality. But maybe I am horning in on someone else’s metaphor here, so lets leave it at that.

    I am leaving town this morning for a week or so, so please excuse me if I cannot respond to you, if you are wishing to discuss this further.

  26. Kirk – Bless you, I was going to leave that one alone for fear of drowning in stupid. Remember not to have a heavy meal prior to significant swimming.

    Joe Citizen – Historically and in the current thread, to claim the earth is round has always been and remains a 3 dimensional claim. If it were a two dimensional claim, it would be an elaboration of the earth is flat paradigm, stating that the flat Earth has no corners. It would not be fundamentally in conflict with a flat earth assertion.

    The parallax problem, just to head things off before you embarrass yourself further on this line of misreading me was the strongest argument remaining to geocentric defenders at the time of Galileo and a major reason why Galileo’s insistence that the Church change scriptural interpretation to the heliocentric option was condemned. Stellar parallax was finally observed in the field in the 1800s when the instruments caught up with theory.

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