Posts Tagged ‘subsidiarity’

Today’s Menu: God And Mammon

August 26, 2012

Inside baseball on this week’s Moyers and Company that interests few but affects most. Bill’s guests were Robert Royal, editor of The Catholic Thing and founder of the Faith and Reason Institute (a tautology since reason assumes faith for the sake of consistency and cohesiveness though Kant argues we are hard wired that way!), and Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK (and the Nuns on the Bus). Context was provided by a mini documentary of the Nuns on the Bus protest of the “Ryan Budget”. For Americans this should have relevance since the Vice President is of the Roman Catholic persuasion (now, and to come). Who notices? Royal and Campbell both agreed that something is wrong, very wrong, and that the entire problem is complex, and huge. They even dared considering it as a global (and not purely American) phenomenon (Gasp! Who’d a thunk it?). What problem you ask? The growing income disparity and gap between incredible wealth and lack. According to Sister Simone 40% of Americans require some kind of gov’t assistance to continue to function (such as food stamps, children’s programs, disability assistance, etc.). This would be in keeping with the oft repeated statistics that over 40% of Americans have no net worth. She claimed this as “corporate subsidy” (allowing business to avoid any obligation or responsibility for the health and well-being of the workers it relies on to generate a profit- both through productivity as well as consumption). This was a pretty radical statement to make.  Hence, the immorality of the Ryan budget since it would hurt those in need while enabling the wealthiest (without the trappings of a bailout). According to Robert, this IS the problem. US poorest of the poor are better off than the poor in other parts of the globe and continued assistance has to be paid for by someone. The structure currently in place to pay for such is immoral- taking the earnings from where the wealth is and burdening the future generation with debt (there’s that Catholic thing again). To follow all the byzantine convolutions of the two arguments, tune in. But who notices?

What was very noticeable was the agreement of the two but the disagreement of the two that… Here’s where the thought gets complicated. Campbell immediately wanted to cut to the chase since, being a nun and all, the religious solution made perfect sense to her. We should have solidarity with our fellows and future generations in addressing the problem at hand, etc. Robert said this cannot be without abandoning the free market (and capitalism) that created this unique and wonderful country. And there’s the rub. Royal puts more faith in capitalism, as grounds for action and policy, than he does in his espoused religious faith (Christianity). He recognized no dichotomy in such a position, assuming it to be perfectly natural, and reasonable (why he founded the Faith and Reason Institute, I guess). After what we learned with Bruno Latour’s Iconoclast, his position is no surprise (the Reformation being as much about capitalism and bourgeois burghers as it was about corrupt religious practices and beliefs). The immediate agreement of the two with regard the nature and characteristic of “the problem” along with their polarity in regard any proposed solution highlighted the “unreasonableness” of his position- the dichotomy of the Christian faith and the Enlightenment foundation of capitalism. In solving a problem, all options must be considered. Insisting on the sanctity of specific bovines can be counterproductive in achieving a solution. If an MD doesn’t know the complete history of a patient (something is withheld by the patient as being “private”), if a mechanic isn’t allowed to assume the gasoline is bad, or a technician that the data provider may be awry, solving the problem becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible. Political economies all have their inconsistency. If that can’t be admitted, the problem only continues. The threat of a growing deficit may be what Royal focuses on, given his faith in the market, but a growing human resource deficit of a nation increasingly reliant on a working poor is what alarms Sister Simone. What was that line about serving God and mammon?

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