Gregg has three competing stories to tell. First he wants to explain how a Catholic can responsibly defend limited government and the free market in accordance with Catholic teaching. This remains a crucial argument to make; since the 1980s, the welfare state has only expanded. As the financial and housing crises of 2008 show, many still look to government to control the economy, and bail out entire industries. Second, he wants to defend the substance of those teachings against both liberal Catholics and other sorts such as libertarians. Catholicism is not capitalism, and its defense of free-market exchanges and limited government is rooted in a certain view of the human person that is not the same as a secular liberal one. The Catholic view promotes human flourishing, but holds that flourishing must be consistent with the natural law and the ends of human life, such as the cultivation of virtue and the common good. Third, he wants to reconcile Catholicism specifically with the American form of republicanism. Gregg argues that the example of Catholics in America shows that the two are compatible, and that indeed the American experiment is consistent with the long tradition of Western liberty inaugurated by the Church.
As noted here last week, Obamacare is seen by some as an elitist system of health care, rather than the equalizing force it purports to be. This week, the news is that the nation’s unions aren’t happy with how Obamacare is shaping up for them, and the Obama administration is scrambling to find new ways to entice them to publicly support the Affordable Health Care Act.
Richard Trumpka, president of the AFL-CIO (the nation’s largest labor union), is saying that the Obamacare plan wasn’t thought through well enough, and is stepping back from fully backing the plan. He wants to see the 30 hour work week endorsed as full-time under the plan, mainly to help workers in industries like fast food. According to The Washington Times:
Critics of the law say the 30-hour cutoff has forced fast-food chains and other employers to trim employees’ hours to keep them at part-time status and avoid penalties tied to the law’s employer mandate, which requires companies with 50 or more full-time workers to provide health coverage or pay fines.
“That is obviously something that no one intended,” he [Trumka] said during a wide-ranging interview hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.
NRO’s Mark Steyn minces no words when it comes to his distaste for Obamacare: “a hierarchy of privileges,” he calls it, along with “crappy” and “inefficient.”
First, Steyn points out that it’s doubtful anyone has read the “comprehensive” health care act: it’s a thousand pages long. As he says, the problem with something so “comprehensive” is that “when everything’s in it, nothing’s in it.” But worst of all, it means whatever the government wants it to mean:
The Affordable Care Act means whatever President Obama says it means on any particular day of the week. Whether it applies to you this year, next year, or not at all depends on the whim of the sovereign, and whether your CEO golfs with him on Martha’s Vineyard. A few weeks back, the president unilaterally suspended the law’s employer mandate. Under the U.S. Constitution, he doesn’t have the power to do this, but judging from the American people’s massive shrug of indifference he might as well unilaterally suspend the Constitution, too. Obamacare is not a law, in the sense that all persons are equal before it, but a hierarchy of privilege; for example, senators value their emir-sized entourages and don’t want them to quit, so it is necessary to provide the flunkies who negotiated and drafted the Affordable Care Act an exemption from the legislation they imposed on the citizenry. Once again, the opt-out is not legal.
We know the government is listening, watching, gathering information. We know that we’re being told it’s all for our own good; after all, who wants to miss a possible terrorist attack? Sleeper cells, the Boston bombers, the haunting memory of 9/11 say all of this is necessary for our safety, right? Not so fast, says Peggy Noonan.
First, she reminds us that the NSA has – at least technically – only limited authority when it comes to spying on American citizens. Yet, it seems they are monitoring 75 percent of our internet traffic. And clearly, our privacy doesn’t matter a bit:
[A] finding was revealed that the NSA violated the Constitution for three years running by collecting as many as 56,000 purely domestic communications without appropriate privacy protections. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court slammed the agency for “misrepresenting” its practices to the court, and noted it was the third time in less than three years the government misrepresented the scope of a collection program.
At the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney writes (HT: The Transom), “When liberals talk about community, conservatives are too quick to raise the Gadsden Flag and shout, ‘Leave me alone!’” He goes on to examine “the reactions to catchphrases made famous by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton — ‘You didn’t build that’ and ‘It takes a village.’”
Despite the negative reaction from many conservatives, says Carney, Obama’s statement
in its full context, ‘you didn’t build that’ is true. Obama’s line began this way: ‘If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive …’
This is actually something conservatives frequently celebrate. Entrepreneurs often need investors and they always need customers.
I explore this dynamic at some length in my new book, Get Your Hands Dirty: Essays on Christian Social Thought (and Action). As I write in chapter 1, “The Human Person, Family, and Civil Society,” the dichotomy of collectivism/individualism is highly problematic: “The dynamics of community life, which are the source and school of civic virtue, are often cast simply in terms of the atomistic individual or the all-encompassing collective.”
I argue with respect to the “you didn’t build that” statement that “even though the president’s words here may have been designed to cater to a base more inclined toward collectivism, conservatives and independents should not respond by rejecting the kernel of truth contained in the president’s remarks.” I go on to examine the ways in which we are interdependent, in the context of the family, business, and the church.
As I conclude, “We shouldn’t let the president’s overemphasis on the government’s role in fostering and sustaining community lead us to abandon a more comprehensive, variegated, and richer vision of community and social life. A proper understanding of human community is a corrective to, not a symptom of, collectivist thinking.”
Asianews reports the toll from violence in Egypt over a mere three day period. Hundreds have been killed, but there is little doubt that Christian churches, businesses, and organizations have been targeted. Here is what Asianews is calling a “representative” list:
Catholic churches and convents
- 1. Franciscan church and school (road 23) – burned (Suez)
- 2. Monastery of the Holy Shepherd and hospital – burned (Suez)
- 3. Church of the Good Shepherd, Monastery of the Good Shepherd – burned in molotov attack (Asuit)
- 4. Coptic Catholic Church of St. George – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
- 5. Church of the Jesuits – burned (Minya, Upper Egypt)
- 6. Fatima Basilica – attacked – Heliopolis
- 7. Coptic Catholic Church of St. Mark – burned (Minya – Upper Egypt)
Astute Acton readers more than likely are aware already that U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has fired another salvo in the ongoing battle to silence conservative voices. Durbin joins our progressive friends in the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow – both involved in proxy shareholder resolutions that would force companies to disclose donations to nonprofits – in their attempts to declare lights-out on the American Legislative Exchange Council.
At issue for Durbin is ALEC’s draft legislation called the “Castle Doctrine Act,” based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. Apparently, Sen. Durbin doesn’t like either, in much the same fashion ICCR and AYS dislike ALEC’s stand on climate-change, genetically modified organisms, Citizens United and “Castle Doctrine.”
In his letter sent last week to right-of-center and free-market think tanks across the country, Durbin demands “yes or no” answers. The numbered questions below are lifted directly from the Aug. 6 letter sent to the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis:
- Has Center of the American Experiment served as a member of ALEC or provided any funding to ALEC in 2013?
- Does Center of the American Experiment support the “stand your ground” legislation that was adopted as a national model and promoted by ALEC?
A recent Boston Globe headline reads: “Marketing to millennials can be a tough sell.” The article relates the differing approaches of Campell’s, Lindt USA, and GE when it comes to marketing to Millennials, highlighting a general skepticism and indifference toward advertising in the target demographic:
For instance, marketing materials for GE’s Artistry series of low-end appliances featuring retro design touches, due out this fall, says it focuses on “the needs of today’s generation of millennials and their desire to uniquely express themselves.”
Lindt USA recently introduced a line of chocolates — they include Berry Affair and Coconut Love flavors — that are wrapped in vibrant packaging and are being promoted through social media.
And packaging for Campbell’s Go Soup, which comes in microwavable pouches with ingredients such as chickpeas, quinoa, and smoked Gouda, features photos of young people with thought bubbles. The sayings include cutesy snippets like “Make your momma proud” and “What’s kickin’?”
The idea is to hook millennials now and remain connected with them as they progress to bigger and more expensive products.
But marketing specialists and consumers like Volain question the effectiveness of that approach.
“My immediate reaction to targeted marketing is to picture a bunch of people sitting around in a room saying, ‘How can we get these people to buy these products?’” [Anna] Volain [a millennial] said.
While I am sympathetic to Volain’s sentiment here, I think something deeper is at work. There is an erroneous anthropological assumption that people of a particular, generic group must be homogeneous enough that all one needs to do is figure out the perfect calculus for appealing to their sensibilities, and they will be hooked on a brand for life. In particular, I think the problem is ultimately a Marxist error: assuming that one can perfectly categorize a whole group of people and then act on their behalf. (more…)
Undoubtedly, we live in an era where personal privacy is difficult to maintain. Even if you choose not to have a Facebook account or Tweet madly, you still know that your medical records are on-line somewhere, that your bank account is only a hack away from being emptied, and that cell phone records are now apparently government domain. But it gets worse.
Enter the Federal Data Hub, which will give the government access to “reams of personal information compiled by federal agencies ranging from the IRS to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration”, guarded and navigated by an army of “patient navigators.”
The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic,” Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute and Stephen T. Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor, wrote inUSA Today. No wonder that there are concerns about everything from identity theft to the ability of navigators to use the system to register Obamacare participants to vote.
Douglas Wilson has an interesting take on Detroit’s bankruptcy: “like a drunk trying to make it to the next lamp post.” Why this analogy? Wilson says we first have to understand that Detroit is inevitably in a defaulting situation; the question now is what kind of default.
The only thing we don’t know is what kind of default it will be. The only thing we don’t know is who the unlucky victim of our defaulting will be.
Government does not make wealth. If government has wealth, then this means it was taken. The only way that the government can acquire the means to pay its obligations and debts is by taking it. The only question left before the house is “who will they take it from?”