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Archive for the tag “christian”

The Planned Dependent Community

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“”Walmart didn’t kill the once-vibrant cluster of shops next to a railroad and a creek in the faded old coal town of Kimball, W. Va. — the disappearance of the mines had pretty well taken care of that already. But now that Walmart’s leaving, too, as one of 154 U.S. stores the company closed in January, the town might be snuffed out for good.”

This quote is from a Washington Post article on the circumstances some small towns were facing when Walmart recently decided to close 269 stores and lay off more than 16,000 employees. This prompted one reader of ours to ask how we can reach these types of communities. How can we present the idea of distributism to the people living in these situations as solution to their economic problems?”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Tactical Retreat: Frequent Flyer

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Tactical Retreat‘s latest sketch is entitled “Frequent Flyer” can be viewed below.

Owners vs. Workers: An Eternal Law of Nature?

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“A few years ago (November 2, 2013) The Economist magazine, that reliable organ of neo-liberalism that makes few bones about its idolization of material growth as the summum bonum of human existence and its consequent dismissal of anything, such as family life or cultural traditions, that might get in the way of such material growth, ran some articles about labor’s diminishing share of national income.

Over the past 30 years, the workers’ take from the [economic] pie has shrunk across the globe. In America, their wages used to make up almost 70% of GDP; now the figure is 64%, according to the OECD. Some of the biggest declines have been egalitarian societies such as Norway (where labour’s share has fallen from 64% in 1980 to 55% now) and Sweden (down from 74% in 1980 to 65% now). A drop has also occurred in many emerging markets, particularly in Asia.

Even these figures of 70% to 65% for the U.S. are misleading, for as the magazine notes in another article in the same issue, “among wage-earners the rich have done vastly better than the rest; the share of income earned by the top 1% of workers has increased since the 1990s even as the overall labour share has fallen.” So that, “the share of national income going to the bottom 99% of workers has fallen from 60% before the 1980s to 50%.” That is to say, the workers whose job title is CEO are gobbling up not just more money but a greater percentage of it.

All this is bad, opines The Economist, it’s politically dangerous “and it is producing a lot of predictably polarised debate.” Perhaps The Economist is concerned that such instability might derail the engine of wealth redistribution for the rich that doubtless is working well for so many of its readers. So what’s the cause and what can be done? The Economist calmly discusses certain explanations that have been offered – the “weakness of unions” for example – and rejects them, and suggests that “the likeliest culprit is technology” although “[s]ome economists also emphasize the role of globalization….” As for the remedy, well, let’s be sure that we “strengthen workers without ham-stringing firms. Growth, rather than employment protection is the priority.” Of course, “education and training” – that’s needed too. And don’t forget, a “cut in corporate tax rates” and “pension reform” [read: privatizing pensions and turning them over to the good people on Wall St.] and “more privatisation” generally. To its credit, The Economist does note that “income from capital…is often more heavily taxed” than labor income, and suggests that this difference be narrowed.

So here you have it, the world according to The Economist. What can a distributist say in response? In the first place, the fact that since about 1980 it’s been precisely the kind of neo-liberal policies which this magazine generally champions that have suspiciously coincided with the decline in labor’s share of income – this is never so much as suggested as a possible cause. Lower the corporate tax rate, lower taxes on the rich – these are still the neo-liberal catchwords and constitute nearly the entire economic program of many American politicians, despite the fact that doing so has produced exactly this kind of income inequality and been in part responsible for numerous broader social problems. Apparently it’s all because the rates haven’t been lowered enough. Eliminate corporate taxes, make the rich pay the same percentage of their income in taxation as the middle class – the flat tax – and, according to them, voilà, all our problems will be solved.

While no distributist I have ever heard of favors perfect equality of income or wealth, it is a fact that too great disparities of either not only lead to social problems, but are probable signs of injustice. The best way of eliminating such disparities is not via government transfer payments, necessary as those sometimes are, but through better access to well-paying jobs and the possibility of ownership of productive property.

Actually, for a distributist these two points, good jobs and property ownership, are not two separate issues, but the same thing – or at least should be. The defining note of capitalism is that some people will own the means of production and will hire others to work for them. (See Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, no. 100.) Even if such a division can in theory be just, a distributist wants to ask, Why must this be so? Why must there be this divide between owners and workers? Why cannot workers and owners be the same persons, either individually or collectively?

Under the capitalist model labor is always an expense for the owner. Even if an owner has the best of intentions to pay just wages (and one can wonder how often this is the case), there is always subtle pressure to reduce labor costs. Especially in an economic downturn, this is often considered the obvious thing to do. But consider an alternative model. A firm that is owned cooperatively by its workers will naturally face the same difficulties in a recession that other firms face. But instead of looking upon its workers as a expense to be lessened, the workers are themselves the owners, the ones who will decide the fate of the company, which is also the fate of themselves, their families, their children’s futures, and their communities. Whatever hard choices such a firm must make will be made with an entirely different set of priorities from a firm in which workers are simply an expense to be eliminated as much as possible.

There is no eternal law written in the nature of things that mandates the structural opposition of owners and workers. There is absolutely no reason why policies cannot be devised to promote widely dispersed ownership of productive property. It is doubtless true that not everyone is capable of managing even a small business well, but surely everyone is capable of being part of a cooperatively-owned enterprise. Today’s laws often favor concentrations of ownership in corporate hands. But there is no reason why these laws cannot be changed to promote producer-owned cooperatives and other types of small businesses. The activity of the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain proves that there is no reason why large-scale and highly technical industrial operations cannot be worker owned. Can an economy in which cooperatives and small businesses predominate be achieved overnight? Certainly not, but over time there is no reason why such an economy cannot be created. The obstacles to distributism are neither theoretical nor practical – they rather consist in the stubborn conservatism of those afraid to risk any change or, even worse, in the vested opposition of those who stand to lose their opportunities to exploit both their employees and their customers for their own gain. These are the chief reasons why more progress has never been made toward an economically just society.

There is no better way of ending than by quoting Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum, “The law, therefore, should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many people as possible to become owners” (no. 46).”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Tactical Retreat: Guilty Pleasures

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Tactical Retreat‘s latest sketch is entitled “Guilty Pleasures” can be viewed below.

Court Enjoins Army From Requiring Special Testing of Sikh Officer

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Singh v. Carter, (D DC, March 3, 2016), the D.C. federal district court, invoking RFRA, granted a preliminary injunction protecting religious rights of an Army officer.  The Army had ordered a decorated Sikh Army captain to undergo costly specialized testing with his helmet and protective mask to assure that his religiously required head covering, beard and uncut hair will not interfere with the functions of the helmet and mask. The court said:

At first blush, the challenged order appears to reflect a reasonably thorough and even benevolent decision by the Army to fulfill its duty of protecting the health and safety of this particular Sikh officer.

Yet, that is far from the complete picture. Thousands of other soldiers are permitted to wear long hair and beards for medical or other reasons, without being subjected to such specialized and costly expert testing of their helmets and gas masks. Moreover, other Sikh soldiers have been permitted to maintain their articles of faith without such specialized testing.

See prior related posting.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Putting nature on the rack

This is from edwardfeser.blogspot.com which you can find here.  This blog is written by Edward Feser who is a Christian philosopher who I have been recently introduced to who I think provides effective clear, sobering, and direct responses to the advance of secular culture.

__________

What was it that distinguished the modern scientific method inaugurated by Bacon, Galileo, Descartes, and Co. from the science of the medievals?  One common answer is that the moderns required empirical evidence, whereas the medievals contented themselves with appeals to the authority of Aristotle.  The famous story about Galileo’s Scholastic critics’ refusing to look through his telescope is supposed to illustrate this difference in attitudes.

 

The problem with this answer, of course, is that it is false.  For one thing, the telescope story is (like so many other things everyone “knows” about the Scholastics and about the Galileo affair) a legend.  For another, part of the reason Galileo’s position was resisted was precisely because there were a number of respects in which it appeared to conflict with the empirical evidence.  (For example, the Copernican theory predicted that Venus should sometimes appear six times larger than it does at other times, but at first the empirical evidence seemed not to confirm this, until telescopes were developed which could detect the difference; the predicted stellar parallax did not receive empirical confirmation for a long time; and so forth.)

Then there is the fact that the medievals were simply by no means hostile to the idea that empirical evidence is the foundation of knowledge; on the contrary, it was a standard Scholastic slogan that “there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses.”  Indeed, Bacon regarded his Scholastic predecessors as if anything too quick to believe the evidence of the senses.  The first of the “Idols of the Mind” that he famously critiques, namely the “Idols of the Tribe,” included a tendency to take the deliverances of sensory experience for granted.  The senses could, in Bacon’s view, too readily be deceived, and needed to be corrected by carefully controlling the conditions of observation and developing scientific instruments.  And in general, the early moderns regarded much of what the senses tell us about the natural world — such as what they tell us about secondary qualities like color and temperature — to be false.
So, it is simply not the case that the difference between the medievals and the early moderns was that the latter were more inclined to trust empirical evidence.  On the contrary, there is a sense in which that is precisely the reverse of the truth.

 

Where empirical evidence is concerned, the real difference might, to oversimplify, be put as follows.  Both the medievals and the early moderns regarded sensory experience as a crucial witness to the truth about the natural world.  But whereas the medievals regarded it as a more or less friendly witness, the moderns regarded it as a more or less hostile witness.  You can, from both sorts of witness, derive the truth.  But the methods will be different.

 

Hence, a friendly witness can more or less be asked directly for the information you want.  That doesn’t mean he might not sometimes need to be prodded to answer.  Even if he is honest, he might be shy, or reluctant to divulge something embarrassing, or just not very articulate.  It also doesn’t mean that everything he says can be taken at face value.  He may be forgetful, or confused, or just mistaken now and again.  A hostile witness, by contrast, though he has the information you want, cannot with confidence be asked directly.  Even if he is articulate, has a crystal clear memory, etc., he may simply refuse to answer, or may persistently beat around the bush, or may flat-out lie, seriously and repeatedly.  Thus, he may have to be tricked into giving you the information you want, like the Jack Nicholson character in A Few Good Men.  Or you may be tempted to threaten or beat it out of him, like one of the cops in L.A. Confidential would.  So, you might say that whereas the medieval Aristotelian scientist has a conversation with nature, the early modern Baconian scientist waterboards nature.  Hence the notorious Baconian talk about putting nature to the rack, torturing her for her secrets, etc.

 

Of course, this is melodramatic.  And to be fair, Bacon himself seems not to have put things quite the way commonly attributed to him (i.e. the stuff about torture and the rack).  All the same, the medievals and moderns do disagree about the degree to which the world of ordinary experience and the world that science reveals — what Wilfrid Sellars called “the manifest image” and “the scientific image” — correspond.  For the Aristotelian, philosophy and science are largely in harmony with common sense and ordinary experience.  To be sure, they get at much deeper levels of reality, and they correct common sense and ordinary experience around the edges, but they don’t overthrow common sense and ordinary experience wholesale.  For the moderns, by contrast, philosophy and science are likely radically to conflict with common sense and ordinary experience, and may indeed end up overthrowing them wholesale.

 

(This is not a difference concerning whether to accept the results of modern science, by the way.  It is a difference about how to interpret those results.  For example, it is a difference over whether to regard modern science as giving us a correct but merely partial description of nature — a description which needs to be supplemented by and embedded within an Aristotelian metaphysics and philosophy of nature — or whether to regard modern science instead as an exhaustive description of nature, and a complete metaphysics in its own right.)

 

The early moderns’ attitude of treating nature as a hostile witness — of thinking that the truth about nature is largely contrary to what ordinary experience would indicate — is one of the sources of the modern tendency to suppose that “things are never what they seem,” that traditional ideas are typically mere prejudices, that authorities and official stories of every kind need to be “unmasked,” and so forth.  Michael Levin has called this the “skim milk fallacy,” and I’ve often noted some of its social and moral consequences (e.g. here, here and here).  But these are merely byproducts of a much deeper metaphysical and epistemological revolution.

Church Fails In RLUIPA Challenge To Village’s Zoning Ordinance

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Truth Foundation Ministries, NFP v. Village of Romeoville, (ND IL, Feb. 26, 2016), an Illinois federal district court denied a preliminary injunction to a small congregation serving mainly African immigrants that found itself in violation of the village’s zoning code after it had spent over $50,000 expanding a building it was leasing for use as a church.  The court concluded that the church had failed to show a substantial likelihood of success in its claim that the town’s zoning requirements violate RLUIPA’s complete exclusion, unreasonable exclusion and equal terms provisions.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia: Help for the Helpless (featuring James W. Cushing!)

Hello folks.  As many of you know, I am a volunteer for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia; you can learn more about us here.  We help literally hundreds of people every year try and secure justice in the legal system through pro bono or low fee legal services.  We are always trying to improve our services, help more people, and be able to do more for the people we are already helping.

The Clinic’s monthly newsletter for June 2017 is out and, much to my surprise, I am featured in the lead article!  Although I do not really view what I do as particularly noteworthy, I am thankful, humbled, and honored by the recognition.  I hope that as the weeks and months progress, the Clinic can continue to grow and flourish in its service to those in need in the Philadelphia area.  Please continue to pray for us and donate to us your time, talents, and treasure as you feel led (if you want to give to our ministry, please see here).  Thanks to everyone who makes this vital ministry possible and thanks, above all, to God from whom all blessings flow.

 

Title IX Religious Organization Exemption Does Not Bar Retaliation Claim Against Catholic High School

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“In Goodman v. Archbishop Curley High School, Inc., (D MD, Feb. 26, 2016), a Maryland federal district court refused to dismiss a former high school librarian’s Title IX retaliation claim against the Catholic high school from which she was fired.  Librarian Annette Goodman reported to the school’s administration evidence that another faculty member was having a sexual affair with one of the school’s students. The school fired Goodman claiming that she delayed too long reporting her concerns to the school. Goodman says the firing was an attempt to deflect attention from the school’s indifference to sexual abuse.  The court rejected the school’s claim that Title IX’s religious organizations exemption requires dismissal of Goodman’s lawsuit, saying in part:

The position of the Defendants … is that Title IX’s religious organizations exemption bars any employment discrimination or retaliation claim against them if they define their actions as tenets of their religion. There is a noticeable lack of case authority supporting such a broad application of the religious exemption.

The court also rejected defendants’ claims that their rights under the First Amendment and RFRA would be violated by allowing the suit to move forward. ”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Prayer At School Board Meetings Governed By School Prayer Criteria

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School District Board of Education, (CD CA, Feb. 18, 2016), a California federal district court, in a 26-page opinion, held that invocations at school board meetings are governed by case law relating to school prayer, not by the line of cases on legislative prayer. Emphasizing that students regularly attend and make presentations at school board meetings, the court found the invocation policy unconstitutional, saying in part:

Because of the distinct risk of coercing students to participate in, or at least acquiesce to, religious exercises in the public school context, the Court finds the legislative exception does not apply to the policy and practice of prayer in Chino Valley School Board meetings.

The court also invalidated the Board’s practice of praying reading from the Bible and making religious statements at various points in school board meetings. (Court’s order).  FFRF issued a press release announcing the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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