Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cafeteria conservatism and the New Testament

The treatment of wealth and poverty in the New Testament fail to rule out all conservative positions as unChristian, but some versions of it strike me as unacceptable. For example, the ethics of Ayn Rand and the ethics of Christ simply can't be reconciled. Greed is not good.

You can't, as a Christian, say that the wealthy are wealthy because they deserve to be, or that a system that helps the rich get rich and allows the poor to get poorer is acceptable. Eric Cantor, for example said that he thought his role was to help the people on top stay there. That has to be un-Christian.

You can make the argument that helping the poor is perfectly good, but using the coercive powers of government to do so is to do it in the worst way. But it does seem that if you accept the laissez-faire argument, you can't turn around and back out of use the government to help your favorite industry. You can't oppose welfare and the support corporate welfare. I don't even know what disentangling the government from the economy would even look like. IF the government is going to help someone, it has to be the people on the bottom.

What I especially dislike is the kind of cafeteria conservativism that appeals to conservative principle so long as they serve the purposes of the big businesses that fund Republican campaigns. But that is what usually happens when you elect conservative candidates.

Watching the Republican debate last night, the argument seems to be that they kept arguing that markets have a regulating effect on economics, and on that account is should be preferred to government regulation. So, if businesses are profitable, they will create jobs. But, corporations are not national entities, they are international entities. And while workers' rights are guaranteed in America, they are not guaranteed in the Third World. At present, businesses have no incentive to create jobs in America. In fact the tax code actually supports outsourcing. So, as far as I can see, just letting capitalism run its course will NOT create jobs in America. Quite the reverse.

35 comments:

Crude said...

For example, the ethics of Ayn Rand and the ethics of Christ simply can't be reconciled. Greed is not good.

Absolutely, but come on. Who even attempts that? I'll bet you there are Christian objectivists out there, but I'll absolutely bet you they don't quite take that lady undiluted.

Likewise, plenty of "liberal" positions are unacceptable on Christianity.

I don't even know what disentangling the government from the economy would even look like. IF the government is going to help someone, it has to be the people on the bottom.

Only the most stern libertarians call for the complete disentangling of the government from the economy. And probably few of those - any form of taxation is an entanglement.

And why does it have to be someone at the bottom specifically? Why not general welfare - who benefits from building the roads? Not just the freaking rich, I assure you.

What I especially dislike is the kind of cafeteria conservativism that appeals to conservative principle so long as they serve the purposes of the big businesses that fund Republican campaigns.

Let me beat Ilion to the punch here: What you're describing above? That's not 'conservatism'. That's socialism. People seem to think that the government blasting money on welfare is liberalism, but the government blasting money on businesses is capitalism. Were the tea party people who were foaming at the mouth over bank bailouts a bunch of liberals?

At present, businesses have no incentive to create jobs in America. In fact the tax code actually supports outsourcing. So, as far as I can see, just letting capitalism run its course will NOT create jobs in America. Quite the reverse.

You sound like that diehard liberal, Pat Buchanan. And I am more than willing to admit that - while many conservatives will disagree with me - protectionism has its place.

Crude said...

By the way, just for comedy's sake.

"“If you look at the troubles which happened in European countries, this is purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society. I think the labour laws are outdated. The labour laws induce sloth, indolence, rather than hardworking. The incentive system, is totally out of whack.

“Why should, for instance, within [the] eurozone some member’s people have to work to 65, even longer, whereas in some other countries they are happily retiring at 55, languishing on the beach? This is unfair. The welfare system is good for any society to reduce the gap, to help those who happen to have disadvantages, to enjoy a good life, but a welfare society should not induce people not to work hard.”"

What said the above? Was it...

A) Rush Limbaugh?
B) Herman Cain?
or C) Some chinese communist ex-official?

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, I suppose the government can help everyone, and in the process help the poor as well as the rich.

The tricky issue in public policy has to be just where the point is where government helpfulness to the disadvantaged undercuts the work ethic. I think those who won't work shouldn't eat, but those willing to work should eat. The existence of a "working poor" who can't care for their families is an abomination.

The cafeteria conservatism I am talking about is what Republican politicians actually accomplish when they get in, due the influence of money in politics.

Thom Hartmann and Pat Buchanan agree on protectionism, even though one is on the left and the other is on the right.

Crude said...

The tricky issue in public policy has to be just where the point is where government helpfulness to the disadvantaged undercuts the work ethic. I think those who won't work shouldn't eat, but those willing to work should eat.

Shouldn't eat? I wonder if you mean that.

I also think this goes beyond work ethic. I regard the best solutions, at least the best ideal solutions, to these sorts of problems as social - and insofar as it's a social issue, government-as-solution is a radical mistake.

At the same time, I question what "care for their families" means. Feed them? Clothe them? Shelter them? I have sympathies there. Put all their kids through college? Alright, now I think we're into ridiculous demands, and an area which starts to seem suspiciously like Sony saying "Yeah, and they should all have PS3s too!"

The cafeteria conservatism I am talking about is what Republican politicians actually accomplish when they get in, due the influence of money in politics.

Granted, but in that case why are you even singling out Republicans? How's Obama's or the Democrats' track record on that front? How about that stimulus? No wealthy people or businesses benefiting grossly from that?

Victor Reppert said...

Yes, you can get cafeteria liberalism as well.

Sometimes I think people on the left dislike Obama almost more than Bush.

Where do you stand on campaign finance reform?

Crude said...

Sometimes I think people on the left dislike Obama almost more than Bush.

I'll believe that once I see anywhere near the amount of on-air jokes, protest moves, talk or merchandising. I think there's disappointment with Obama, but it's far more muted and is framed in terms of 'He's not left enough' rather than 'He's serving the same guys the Republicans are said to'.

Where do you stand on campaign finance reform?

I largely don't pay attention to it, since I think it's yet another power fight rather than a serious attempt at reforming politics. Rather like 'fairness doctrines' having little to do with fairness, all the PR aside.

Ilíon said...

Why didn't you call this "Strawman conservatism" and leave it at that? It would have been more honest.

amtheomusings said...

I can offer two reasons why I disapprove of the government taking on the task of "helping the poor;'

1) Non-aggressive moral obligations cannot be enforced through the threat of violence. But this has been gone over, and I think the point is well understood.

2) If the government coerces a dollar from me, that's a dollar I can't spend. But it's a truism that I can spend that dollar much better than the government, and I can also put that dollar to work helping the poor much better than the government. Hence I would prefer to spend that dollar myself, rather than have it forcefully taken from me.

As a whole, I think that this would result in less total dollars in our society being given to causes meant to help the poor, but this sum would be much more effective in helping the poor.

adc said...

Firstly Victor, if you believe that handing out political favors is something that is uniquely Republican, then there really isn't any point in discussing this topic any further. This happens on both sides, irrespective of party or ideology. Look at what happened with stimulus money. Spend on God Knows what to what end? In my town - they used it to build a suspension FOOTbridge over the freeway... And those construction "jobs" are now over.

Second, as Ilíon said, most the time when you are question Conservative ideas, it seems more like you are questioning a leftist portrayal of what conservatives think - rather than their actual principals. I would recommend reading Frederick Bastiat, particularly, The Law and/or Government.

In regard to Rand, I do think she misses the mark by calling greed good - but that is not the same thing as saying that greed cannot produce a good outcome given coercive force isn't used and rights are not trampled. The desire to turn a profit from an idea is usually what creates jobs. You can call the motive greed if you want - but what matters is the process and the outcome. Conversely - you can look at the well-intended motive for most social programs - to help people - but then see that the actual results don't achieve the goals of the program, often making things worse. When talking about social actions: In the end - does it matter what the intent of the Stimulus was? Does it matter what the motive for going into Iraq was?

The problem in society today is the acceptance that the user of Power and Force can achieve good - beyond defensive justice. J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a rather poignant series with this point as it's central premise.

Most of all though - I am not exactly certain what it means to be "Un-Christian?" Actually, I do -> To reject Christ, for your own "righteousness". But there is a vast vast difference between talking about how force should be applied in a society, and what it is to be personally "Christian."
I would not say that it is "UnChristian" to want to help the poor - but to do so through the use of force against another total stranger...? Is it "Christian" to single out a minority group of total strangers and target them specifically by legislation?

Jesus was concerned with individual hearts. What may be considered Christian virtues are not virtuos if they are mandated collectively upon faceless groups, under threat of violence.

J said...

For example, the ethics of Ayn Rand and the ethics of Christ simply can't be reconciled. Greed is not good.

Absolutely, but come on. Who even attempts that?


Like all of the GOP candidates in the running for President ? Flat taxers, rabidly anti-statist, union-busters, Galts. Mitt Galtney


While Miss Rand promoted a reprehensible philosophy, most GOP-TP types are to the right of her. Rand voted for JFK Iveread. She protested Nam at one point. Miss Rand did not approve of the US military machine or the extreme religious fundamentalists (ie, made fun of Reagan's moral majority). The aged Rand gave her blessing to Jefferson and Madison (ie, believed in limited rights of a sort, ala ...Nozick another of Feser's heroes: Rand probably not as nutty-right-wing as Nozick).


You're even beneath the Randian chandala, Crude

Ilíon said...

One thing I've noticed in the past few days about this 'J' is that *everything* he says concerning Christ and Christianity and the NT is false.

J said...

No, that's you, Idion. You're false-- not a christian, or even American. Just another confused, anti-statist libertarian joto.


See like JC and cleansing of the temple for starters. Or better, just join the Feser-Randians.

con usura

Ilíon said...

VR, in OP: "Greed is not good."

How is someone else's alleged greed any of your damned business?

How does someone else's "greed" -- whether the term is used to refer to real greed, or whether it is used to refer to the false "liberal" refefinition of the term -- harm you or anyone else?

It wasn't "greed" -- it wasn't citizens wanting to keep for their own use as much as possible of the fruit of their own labor -- which rounded up, stole the wealth they had created, and deported to the wilds of "Indian Territory" a significant number of my ancestors; it was government which did that -- it was democracy (and, in fact, it was Democrats!) at the behest of actual greed who did this. Yet, this actual greed was itself powerless to harm my family, it required government guns to round them up and steal their farms and homes and wealth.

And, just as Democrats of 170-180 years ago (in the life-time of my great-grandfather) were actually greedy for the wealth of others, and used the force of the US government to dispossess those people, so too, today's Democrats are actually greedy for the wealth of others, and seek constantly to use the force of the US government to dispossess those persons. Those Democrats used all sorts of false reasons and reasoning to justify their theft; but they were pikers compared to today's Democrats, for today's Democrats seek to turn reality on its head when they declare: "That you keep resisting our efforts to take from you what is your just proves how 'greedy' you are!"

Victor Reppert said...

I always like conservatism better in theory than I like what actually gets executed when people who are ostensibly conservatives have the power to do what they want.

Why call it a straw man when I am talking about what "conservatives" actually do when they follow the lead of the people who fund their campaigns?

J said...
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J said...
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B. Prokop said...

Amtheomusings wrote, "it's a truism that I can spend that dollar much better than the government".

Huh? How is this a truism? Sounds more like an opinion to me. Sometimes, it might be true; other times not so much.

The government can certainly spend a dollar on defense better than I could. Same goes for roads, infrastructure, police, emergency services, etc. Yeah, there are a few places where I might be able to do a better job than "the government", but then again, who's fault would that be? After all, I own the government. This is not Stalinist Russia. We the People rule ourselves in the USA.

(By the way, I just got home from a beautiful Veteran's Day service at my church. Said a prayer for my wife, who served in Iraq during the height of the fighting there. Made it home safe, only to die of cancer.)

steve said...

Since Eric Cantor is Jewish, Reppert's claim that Cantor's position is "unChristian" is unintentionally comical. Why would we expect a Jew to take a Christian position or NT position (even if we grant Reppert's tendentious characterization)? You might as well say John Rawls's distributive justice is "unChristian." That's a truism.

Victor Reppert said...

It might be worth pointing out that Peter Singer's position on infanticide is un-Christian, or Rawls' distributive justice is un-Christian, or that Cantor's views on keeping the people on top on top is un-Christian, if Christians are tempted to buy in on it.

Of course the next step is to explain why.

J said...

Rawls valued Kantian ethics to some degree--"the kingdom of Ends". While his writing is not specifically Christian, his conceptions of distributive justice are similar to some of the ...communitarian elements of the New T. (ie, "rich man/eye of a needle" however obvious).

Many modern conservatives lack any sense of History and tend to think of..like Obama or Hillary when considering Democrats. They should think of JFK ,Truman, Woodrow Wilson instead. What does the Philosophaster call that? Presentism or something.

Matt said...

"or that a system that helps the rich get rich and allows the poor to get poorer is acceptable."

What system are you talking about? The poor are getting richer too, just not as fast as the rich. Remember when you were a kid? How many outfits did the average person have? How many cars or telivisions were in their homes? The poor in America today live pretty well compared to the poor in the 60s and 70s wouldn't you say? If that is the case, why does it matter how far ahead the rich are pulling? As Christians should we say that the top should not be richer than others even if the bottom is getting richer?

If poverty is simply a relative measure compared to the top then Jesus phrase "the poor you will always have with you" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But statements about poor getting poorer purely in terms of relative income compared to the top don't seem to suggest helping the poor as much as punishing the rich. Maybe that is justified, maybe not, but at least that gets to what we're really talking about.

Perhaps because the rich have pulled so far ahead you could argue from a utilitarian viewpoint that they are a good resource to tap for aiding the poor, but statements about the poor getting poorer seem odd to me. In the mean time I will have to find out what is so bad about some people being really successful.

Crude said...

Like all of the GOP candidates in the running for President ? Flat taxers, rabidly anti-statist, union-busters, Galts. Mitt Galtney

Mitt Galtney. Wow. The guy whose health care program was the model for Obamacare, a mormon, is combining Christianity with Ayn Rand's philosophy.

And the GOP field is dominated by Randites. Let's see, a bunch of schmucks who alternately support bank bailouts, expanded international intervention or worse. Except Ron Paul, of course.

J, you are adorable. C'mon, call me something precious again! Be sure to have really, really poor spelling. Wait, I'll do it for you.

'Fesseir is a natzi also pope neocon villein crude'

There we go. I just out-J'd you. ;)

J said...

Romney...is combining Christianity with Ayn Rand's philosophy.

That's right Crudestein. Romney was known as the "job killer" in Mass.: anti-union, anti-govt. programs, pro-business. He plays sort of liberal at times-- to get votes-- but is not whatsoever. Member of an especially right-wing branch of the LDS (rumored white supremacist). Mitt. also likes L-Ron! The pre-papal Feser even blessed L-Ron IIRC. Or was it his crony Vallicella.

Anyone who thinks the individual mandate is some radical leftist proposal knows nothing about politics-- Romneytoid's actually sort of accurate when he says conservatives thought of it first--why make the plebes buy insurance! Now, that's nearly a ponzi scheme (and just held up by a conservative DC court). BO or Romney's HCR had nothing to do with the original reforms of Hillary or Leahy which had a public option. Now, reread that a few times for yr weekly lesson in democracy

J said...

Let's see, a bunch of schmucks who alternately support bank bailouts,

Was a GOP led plan, Crude the Mumbler. And bipartisan supported--out in Hayseedland aka flyover zone where you live,the Teatards may not have supported TARP, but in NY and CA the GOP did.

for that matter, Gingrich and Gramm brought about de-reg (with some help from Clinton)--ie,swaps, easier quals on loans, etc.--yet Newtski will stand up there and blame the nasty demoncrats for the very problems he created(eg,overturning the New Deal for one)

Crude said...

Was a GOP led plan, Crude the Mumbler.

Fantastic accusation, J. Guess what? I don't like most of the GOP, and I've said as much right here. Both parties are rife with problems.

Look at you. You're trying so hard to offend me, or argue against what you think my positions are and you miss... every... time. You've so far managed to troll arguably every other person in this thread by accident, except me. Because you, puto, just ain't very swift. ;)

Quick, start bashing Rush Limbaugh - maybe that will upset me! Be sure to use a random word to do it, like "duck" with more poor spelling. Again, I shall out-J you.

'curde you are a butler at the feet of that oversized waterfowl Rush Limbo'

Look at that. I'm like you on your absolute best day.

J said...

Crude-Hayseed, as with your hamfisted, ineloquent attempts at what you take to be philosophy,you know nothing about politics either. Stick to the Zig Ziglar

Ilíon said...

"There we go. I just out-J'd you. ;)"

Yeah, but try to put that on your resume.

J said...

Hey Idion perp--keep 'em coming, jew boy, you little confused peasant. Go back to yr Ayn Rand sites--even the RCC doesn't want you

Crude said...

Yeah, but try to put that on your resume.

Idiocy can lead to important careers, but I have no time to raise election money.

Oh man, did he just let loose with the anti-semitisms AND imply you were a wannabe Catholic? He's the gift that keeps on giving. :D

Ilíon said...

"Oh man, did he just let loose with the anti-semitisms AND imply you were a wannabe Catholic? He's the gift that keeps on giving. :D "

I don't bother with even looking at such bilge unless someone else directly or inadvertantly calls it to my attention. But yes, his sort -- leftist/socialist -- *would* vainly imagine that it's an insult to call me "Jew-boy". What? I'm supposed to be embarrassed or ashamed because some of my ancestors, going back 4000 years, were worshipping the Living God while his were worshipping wood and stone?

J said...

Non sequitur again, Idion the Village Idiot. Im not a socialist--- you're just an illiterate POS incapable of thinking.

And like Crude-seed (and Ed Feiser) you don't even read the RCC's official proclamations. Pope Ratzy has called for higher taxes on speculators and the wealthy. As did JPII, who condemned Bush's war and American imperialism in no uncertain terms. The RCC is not comprised of Roody Guilianis. They're european scholars.

Ilíon said...

By 'News' as Uncommon Descent: "... We’d add two things: The most dangerous temptation of power is the temptation to simply compel people to behave wisely and virtuously – even if one does happen to be right on the evidence. Also, such compulsion, whether nudge or shove, forms a deadly assault on actual wisdom and virtue which can only be acquired through the experience of making choices and judgements for oneself."

That is, even if you "liberals" were morally (and rationally) right -- and you're not -- on the whole "compassion" vs "greed" thingie, you favored approaches are always wrong, both from a ratinal standpoint and from the moral one.

amtheomusings said...

Prokop;

In relation to charity for the poor, such is when individuals are better suited to spend their money themselves. Some things that require the centralized coordination of the federal government (i.e. military, possibly roads) to achieve efficiently individuals just couldn't spend their money on in the first place; but even these functions of government are notoriously plagued by inefficiency and waste.

Hence the truism "the individual can spend their money better than the government."

Ilíon said...

Another way of stating the truism that "the individual can spend his money better than The State can" is this: "the individual can spend his time more wisely than The State can" -- the old saying that "time is money" has it exactly backwards; the truth is: "money is time"

Ilíon said...

VR: "I always like conservatism better in theory than I like what actually gets executed when people who are ostensibly conservatives have the power to do what they want."
As in? like, do you even one example that isn't goint to turn out to be:
1) politicians behaving as politicians tend to do, regardless of which wing with which they ostensibly fly;
2) "people who are ostensibly conservatives" -- that is, people who are actually "liberals" -- behaving as "liberals" and/or leftists;
3) people who are actually conservatives -- and thus "evil" according to the leftist puppet-strings which jerk "liberals" hither and thither -- behaving as conservatives; which is to say, the criticism and/or condemnation of them and/or their actions is likely just unhinged (and generally meaningless and/or intellectually dishonest) leftist talking-points;

What of what I'm trying to get at is to see whether there is a self-contradiction in your statement.

VR: "Why call it a straw man when I am talking about what "conservatives" actually do when they follow the lead of the people who fund their campaigns?"

For much the same reason that you used the word 'ostensibly' in the previous sentence and put 'conservative' in quote-marks in this one.