Category: Individual Liberty

Feeling the Bern

Alvino-Mario Fantini, editor-in-chief of the The European Conservativeand Michael Severance, operations manager of Istituto Acton, co-wrote an op-ed for The Catholic World Report Are Pope Leo XIII and Pope Saint John Paul II “feeling the Bern”? The article was published yesterday as a concluding reflection on Acton’s April 20 Rome conference “Freedom with Justice: Rerum Novarum and the New Things of Our Time“.

The op-ed  summarizes some of the main moral theological and anthropological points expressed last Wednesday — especially those made by the theologian of the papal household Fr. Wojciech Giertych, OP. Fr. Giertych  reminded everyone present that Pope Leo XIII, the first pope in centuries not to have temporal power over the Papal States, did not have a state-centric approach to anthropology. Pope Leo, said Giertych, “insisted that by nature man precedes the state – and independently of it he has the right to provide for his own needs (RN, 7).” (more…)

As Americans face an increasing wave of pressure on religious liberty here at home, Christians around the world are enduring unprecedented levels of persecution.

According to We Stand With Them, a new group focused on “standing with those who stand with Jesus,” 100 million Christians were targeted for their faith in 2015, including a 136% increase over the previous year in believers who were killed for their faith. Last year was “the worst year for Christian persecution on record,” according to the group.

In a powerful new video, they aptly illustrate the situation:

As the narrator explains: (more…)

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” is the most famous quote by the English Catholic historian Sir John Dalberg-Acton. It also appears to be the overriding theme of the teaser-trailer for the new movie Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice .

The quote is even stated directly in the trailer in a voiceover (by actress Holly Hunter). Is it applicable in this context? Would Lord Acton agree that absolute power has corrupted Superman? I think he would.

That particular quote comes from a letter to Bishop Creighton in which Lord Acton explains that historians should condemn murder, theft, and violence whether committed by an individual, the state, or the Church. Here is the context:
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mass-incarcerationWith the 2010 publication of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Ohio State University law professor Michelle Alexander, the conversation about America’s exploding prison population singularly became focused on the intersection of race, poverty, and the War on Drugs. According to the narrative, the drug war disproportionately targets blacks in lower income communities as a means of social control via the criminal justice system similarly to the way Jim Crow controlled blacks in the early 20th-century.

The one problem with mass incarceration-as-Jim-Crow thesis is that it does not fit the empirical data. The drug war is not the reason that today we have nearly 2.5 million people incarcerated in this country. In the mid-1970s the U.S. prison population grew from about 300,000 to 1.6 million inmates, and the incarceration rate from 100 per 100,000 to over 500 per 100,000 largely due to violent crime, property crime, and rogue prosecutors. Drug policy changes would, therefore, have little effect on prison population rolls.

The first significant challenge to the Alexander thesis came from Yale Law School professor James Forman, Jr. In a 2012 article, “Racial Critiques of Mass Incarceration: Beyond the New Jim Crow,” Forman observes that drug offenders constitute only a quarter of our nation’s prisoners, while the violent offenders make-up about one-half. While sympathetic to the ways in which those living in poor black communities are more likely to end up incarcerated than those in middle-class black communities, it is simply not true that drug policy, targeted at blacks, is driving prison numbers.
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As the author of a book titled The Roots of Coincidence, Arthur Koestler would appreciate the coinky dinks of the past week. First, I finished re-reading Koestler’s two nonfiction works of 20th century European madness, Dialogue with Death and Scum of the Earth. One details the author’s imprisonment by Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and the other covers his incarceration by the French in the first months of World War II – and both are harrowing.

Second, last week I viewed Trumbo, Spartacus, and the Coen brothers’ latest cinematic opus, Hail, Caesar! Trumbois another Hollywood tale of how the Second Red Scare oppressed the creative caste of Tinsel Town, violated their First Amendment rights and ruined lives of people inherently better than you and I because of their entertainment industry connections or something. The title character of Trumbo was resurrected from Red-baiting ignominy by a screenwriting credit on the Stanley Kubrick sword-and-sandal epic Spartacus, which aired last week on Turner Classic Movies. Hail, Caesar! includes a subplot about bumbling communists in the final days of the Hollywood studio system. Oh, and back to Koestler: His first novel was 1939’s The Gladiators, which also told of the Roman slave revolt led by – readers already are way ahead of me here – Spartacus.

It’s been one of those weeks!

Let’s unpack this, shall we? Koestler noted in the 1965 reissue of The Gladiators that (more…)

anti-establishment-bernie-sanders-donald-trumpWith Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders outperforming all expectations in the current election cycle, much has been said and written about the widespread dissatisfaction with the so-called “establishment.”

“We’re tired of typical politicians,” they say. “It’s time for real change and real solutions. It’s time to shake up the system!”

Yet, as Jeffrey Tucker points out, blind opposition to the status quo, no matter how bad it may be, is not the same as supporting liberty.

The state power we oppose is not identical to the establishment we reject. You can overthrow the establishment and still be left with a gigantic machinery of legalized exploitation. All the agencies, laws, regulations, and powers are still in place. And now you have a problem: someone else is in charge of the state itself. You might call it a new establishment. It could be even more wicked than the one you swept away.

Indeed, it usually is. Maybe always.

Or, as Peggy Noonan recently wrote, considering the prospect of a completely dismembered GOP: “Something important is ending. It is hard to believe what replaces it will be better.” (more…)

Lastmilitary-draft December Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced he would lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a move that allows hundreds of thousands of women to serve in front-line positions during wartime. “This means that as long as they qualify and meet the standards, women will now be able to contribute to our mission in ways they could not before. They’ll be able to drive tanks, give orders, lead infantry soldiers into combat,” Secretary Carter said at a news conference.

Today, the top officers in the Army and Marine Corps followed that policy to its logical conclusion and told Congress that it is time for women to register for future military drafts.

The would be a radical change since, as the New York Times notes,

Selective Service laws have never required women to subject themselves to the draft and face the prospect of being forced into military service. The current version of the Military Selective Service Act requires that virtually all men in the United States between the ages of 18 and 26 register, most within 30 days of turning 18. That includes non-U.S. citizens living in the United States, such as refugees.

If we are going to have a military draft and women are eligible for combat (an idea I oppose), then it’s only fair that women be forced to serve alongside men. But perhaps it’s time we abolish the idea of military conscription altogether.
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