What makes for the common good? 22

We can usefully start with two quotations:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.
― Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Vol 1

Which is  a description of capitalism in practice. It is a beautiful system. Individuals provide goods or services that other people want and therefore pay for. The greater the demand, the more rewarding the provision, the more profitable the business. If the demand is too great for the labor of the provider to meet on his own, he can pay people to help him. How much he pays will depend on how much the employee contributes to the profit: his contribution must be worth more – twice or three times as much – as his pay to make him worth hiring.

I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
― Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Senator Marco Rubio does not agree with Adam Smith and Ayn Rand. He believes that the butcher, the brewer, the baker, must carry on their businesses as benevolent enterprises. And that we live to serve others.

He does not say so in as many words, but his opinions amount to those sentiments.

Which he writes about at National Review in an essay adapted from a speech he delivered at the Catholic University of America. We quote the greater part of his essay:

Large corporations have become vehicles for shareholders and banks to assert claims to cash flows, rather than engines of productive innovation. Over the past 40 years, the financial sector’s share of corporate profits increased from about 10 to nearly 30 percent. The share of profits sent to shareholders increased by 300 percent. This occurred while investment of those profits back into the companies’ workers — and future — dropped 20 percent. Last year, corporations on the S&P 500 spent more than a trillion dollars buying back their own shares. These are the largest corporations in the world collectively saying, “We don’t have anything to invest in.”

This is what it looks like when, as Pope Francis warned, “Finance overwhelms the real economy.”

A phrase that means nothing. But then, Pope Francis knows nothing about Economics. He’s  a “liberation theologist”  – an oxymoronic god-worshiping communist. And Rubio, the ostensible conservative, quotes him as an enlightening sage?

The world is full of enterprises to invest in. But Rubio wants the investment to be ethical according to his own judgment of what is ethically acceptable.

The result has been an economy whose architecture has been rapidly transformed. Despite three years of robust economic growth, millions are unable to find dignified work; they feel forgotten and left behind. We are left with a society with which no one is happy. …

An outright lie. In fact, unemployment is low –  lower than it has been for 50 years.

Rubio goes on to attribute a variety of “social ills” to there being “millions unable to find dignified work”:

The repercussions have extended far beyond the economy: a collapse in churchgoing and community institutions; a decline in marriage, childbirth, and life expectancy; and an increase in drug dependency, suicides, and other deaths of despair. We have condemned the next generation of Americans to be the first to enter adulthood worse off than their parents.

Diagnosing the problem is something we should be able to achieve across the political spectrum, though even that seems challenging at times. Ultimately, deciding what the government should do about it must be the core question of our politics.

Marco Rubio is a Republican Senator. But he he thinks like a Socialist Democrat – that the solution to people not going to church (an outcome of which, if it is true, we heartily approve of course), to a drop in births and life expectancy, to drug dependency, to suicides “and other deaths of despair” and to anything else worth clicking one’s tongue over that goes on in a population of over 330 million, lies with government.

We must start by rejecting the false choice our politics has offered us for almost three decades. First, our financialized economy …

He is alluding to the ways in which money can make money. When you are young and in the prime of life you work for your money; when you are old you let your money work for you. You own bonds and shares. Both the investors and the companies invested in, benefit. Companies get the capital they need to produce goods and services, investors get income and increase their capital worth. It’s one of the joys of capitalism.

Why that is a bad thing for the wealth and happiness or the morals of the nation, Rubio does not explain. Financial markets do not require busy hands, the sweat of the human brow; the physical toil he apparently considers “dignified” and which alone, in his view, brings the worker satisfaction. As if happiness were best pursued at the conveyer belt or the plough or the coalface or the anvil.

“Our financialized economy” was the undesirable result of government decisions, of “policy choices lawmakers have made in the past”. It makes for an undesirable “imbalance” which must be set right, he says:

[R]estoring a balance between the obligations and rights of the private sector and working Americans will require the attention of lawmakers today.

He quotes Pope Benedict (the non-Communist Pope) objecting to “the dominance of ‘largely speculative’ financial flows, detached from real production”.

He argues that money producing money is not good. That the production of material things is good.  That somehow “our financialized economy” has taken us away from a system which, while still capitalist, is geared towards community benefit rather than individual gain. (But which has never existed.) He calls it “common-good capitalism”. And he says we need to get it back.

What we need to do is restore common-good capitalism: a system of free enterprise wherein workers fulfill their obligation to work and enjoy the resultant benefits, and businesses enjoy their right to make a profit and reinvest enough to create high-productivity jobs, which is what I mean by dignified work for Americans. …

The butcher, the brewer, the baker must not give up slaughtering, brewing and baking, but must do it out of benevolence and not self-interest. They must employ workers in order to make them happy, not because their labor is needed by the employer.

It is also possible to reform the Small Business Administration to reinvigorate the legacy of business innovation that delivered Americans to the Moon 50 years ago. …

“Business innovation” did that? And it’s not doing it now is a result of … what? Losing vigor? Letting the financial markets become dominant?

We must remember that our nation does not exist to serve the interests of the market; the market exists to serve our nation. And the most effective benefit the market can provide is the creation of dignified work.

No, the market does not exist to serve the nation, any more than the nation exists to serve the market. The market is the nation serving itself.

His vision is communitarian:

Dignified work allows people to give their time, talent, and treasure to our churches, our charities, and community groups. It makes it easier to form strong families in stable communities and reinvigorates those institutions that bind us together as a people.

Because when you live with, worship with, serve with, or share a community with someone, you know him or her as a whole person. You may not agree with the person’s politics, but you have other commonalities that bind you together.

But when your neighbors are strangers, and all you know about your fellow countrymen is who they voted for, it is much easier to see them as the other.

He invokes the name of a famous Catholic in politics – a Democrat:

In 1968, Robert Kennedy decried the deep cultural sickness of his era that was “discouraging initiative, paralyzing will and action, and dividing Americans from one another, by their age, their views, and by the color of their skin”.

As Kennedy did in 1968, we must accept the indivisible tie between culture and economics, so that once again we can reclaim the motto on our nation’s seal: E pluribus unum — out of many, one.

All of which is, frankly, drivel.

E pluribus unum was chosen as the motto of the United States because many states united to form one new nation. It had nothing to do with communitarianism.

If and how we resolve this will not just define 21st-century America; it will define the century itself. Our future is not ours alone to decide. In China, we are confronted with a near-peer competitor on the global stage.

China is undertaking a patient effort to reorient the global order to reflect its values and its interests at the expense of ours — a global order in which the key industries and good jobs are based in China and controlled by them; in which the principles of freedom of religion and speech are replaced by what the Chinese call “societal harmony” …

Isn’t “societal harmony” the very thing that the Senator is arguing for?

… and in which the right to elect your own leaders and voice dissent is replaced by a totalitarian system that criminalizes protest and imprisons minorities.

Nobody here wants that (except perhaps the American Left, the professoriate, the mainstream media, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez).

An America in which no one is held back by his or her gender, skin color, or ethnic origin is no longer just morally right; it’s a national imperative.

And is not that the American reality (except in the universities where Asians are held back by Leftist administrations because too many of them are high achievers)?

For, in the words of the late sociologist Robert Bellah [a sociologist of religion who had been a Communist in his youth], the American tradition — the “transcendent goal” of our politics — renders sacred our “obligation to carry out God’s will on Earth.”

Let’s repeat that: our transcendent political goal is to carry out the American tradition because by doing so we sanctify our obligation to God. It makes no sense, even as a religious idea.

But Rubio asserts –

That is the task accepted by each generation before us. We are the beneficiaries of their sacrifices and achievements.

Now we must decide whether to accept the challenge of our time and author the next chapter in the story of the nation that changed the world.

How can we not? As we live and act the “chapter” of our time is being “authored” by us.  So – more drivel.

Senator Rubio’s “common-good capitalism” may be good Catholicism, but it is neither good capitalism nor conducive to the common good.

All who live in the same country have certain needs in common – such as roads, sewers, street lighting in towns, bridges, ports, the rule of law, military defense – so it is plainly reasonable for all to contribute to their provision and upkeep. There is no economic or moral imperative that one person pay for another person’s (other than his own natural dependents’) education, medical treatment, shelter – or survival. Because people in civilized cultures are generally humane, however, they help their helpless compatriots. As a personal choice, as voluntary activity, such giving is irreproachable. Charity is neither immoral nor threatening to the economy when it is practiced between consenting adults in private.

But Christian doctrine compelled material charity at the same time as it mercilessly punished dissent. And Christian morality became socialist doctrine. It shouts down Adam Smith, burns Ayn Rand, and inspires Senator Marco Rubio.

Adam Smith proves that the best way to serve our fellow man is to supply each our own needs by providing others with something they will pay for. That is the market. We do not have to love our grocer, only to pay him. As an economic system, it is capitalism. It does not need to be made more palatable with a condiment of sentimental togetherness.

Just as it is, it is good for us all.

Refugees 1

Now for a look at the thoughts of a leftist intellectual.

Hold your nose. It’s a junk-pile of sentimentality, self-congratulation, pious do-goodery, elitist classical allusion, and heavy emotion.

They are the thoughts of Joe Klein, writing at Time online. He is criticizing President Obama for not doing his job of governing. But would the way Klein thinks that job should be done be any improvement on Obama’s doing nothing?

Klein starts by saying:

It’s time to stop running away from the nation’s troubles.

He means that’s what President Obama should do – stop running away. He doesn’t go so far as to say that Obama had a hand in causing the troubles.

The trouble he turns to is the case of the child immigrants streaming illegally into the US from Central America. He calls them “refugees”. He paints a touching scene of what’s going on at the border.

A woman named Libby Casanova brings her four children to volunteer every day. She is a pathologist in the real world but does intake at the center; she’s the first person the refugees encounter. “Many of them start to cry when they hear the applause,” she says. “They are so grateful.”

What applause? Who are they who applaud Lily Casanova and her four children when they arrive daily to tend to the “refugees”?*

In Klein’s mind – and probably  in the mind of the charitable mother-of-four – the “refugees” are humble petitioners, overflowing with gratitude to their benefactors. It must make Klein feel good by proxy.

Never mind who applauds. Get the picture as Joe Klein sees it and would have his readers see it:

Casanova brought her children on the first day so they could see that not everyone was as fortunate as they are – and the kids insisted on coming back and volunteering every day.

Rosy-faced little Christian saints. Christian? Yes, a nun pops into the picture:

“This place is making the entire community stronger,” Sister Norma says. And there is an infectious spiritual joy in the air. As Sister Norma says, “Jesus did not say, ‘I was hungry and you asked for my papers.’ “

Pause to overcome nausea. Then on:

Barack Obama should see the Catholic Charities mission in McAllen. He should also have a town meeting with the Tea Party nativists who are so angry and threatened by the rush of refugees – 43,933 unaccompanied children alone since October – who began to appear from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

And here comes more criticism of Obama:

His job, after all, is to rise above the rancor and, well, lead. You don’t do this by making a speech to a favored audience. You do it by taking action, setting a personal example. All sorts of Protestant congregations are sending volunteers to Sacred Heart – perhaps he could encourage a Tea Party group to do the same. The President has gone to the scene of other human tragedies. He has acknowledged the suffering personally in the past.

What scenes of human tragedy has he gone to? Whose suffering has he acknowledged? Not the choking to death of Ambassador Chris Stevens. Osama bin Laden’s perhaps?

But not now, and you have to wonder why.

True political courage is near extinct. I saw the real thing for the first time on the night of April 4, 1968, when riots broke out across the country after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Senator Robert Kennedy decided to go into the heart of the Indianapolis ghetto – he was running for President at the time – and talk to the people. His aides and the local police pleaded with him not to do it. He was putting his life in danger, but he believed he had a responsibility to show up. He spoke for only five minutes, without a text – you can watch it on YouTube – and he calmed the crowd by quoting Aeschylus about the experience of excruciating pain that leads to deeper wisdom. Indianapolis was one of the few major cities that remained quiet that night.

There’s a lesson for us all. To calm a seething mob, quote Aeschylus at it. Calms it in minutes. 

Nowadays politicians are swaddled by their media consultants, who determine whether it is “safe” to be “courageous”. But acts of courage don’t come with a money-back guarantee. They are courageous because they’re potentially dangerous or, more likely, embarrassing. Courage’s reward comes subtly, in the form of trust as the public learns that a politician is willing to take risks to tell the truth. Obama is currently wandering about the country, trying to meet average people, but the choreography is more stringent than the Bolshoi’s. He said he didn’t want to go to the border because it would only be a “photo op” … on the same day his office published a photo of the President and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper shooting pool. Who choreographed that? …

The last bit makes sense. Why is a photo of the President playing pool okay, but one of him looking into smelly warehouses where heaps of diseased teens are awaiting charity from church or state not okay?

These are precisely the sort of things that Obama doesn’t seem to do anymore. There has been a skein of stories indicating he’s thrown in the towel. He’s so tired of head-banging with Republicans that he has taken refuge in late-night dinners with celebrities and intellectuals.

“Refuge in late-night dinners with celebrities and intellectuals”? Refuge from Republicans! Phew! Ya gotta feel for the guy! He’s a refugee too. Perhaps Lily Casanova and her rosy kids could visit him and cast their love-light upon him. And Sister Norma. And delegates from Protestant congregations.

Robert Kennedy did a lot of that too. But Kennedy never gave the impression that politics was distasteful, beneath him, as Obama too frequently does. Kennedy was all about passion; Obama seems all about decorum.

We haven’t noticed the decorum. We think decorum might be quite a good thing in a president. Klein doesn’t. He prefers and recommends passion.

He needs to go to the border – on a lot of issues. If he’s going to accomplish anything in the last two years of his presidency, he’s going to have to change his style, which will be near impossible for a man as entrenched behind his flacks-in-jackets as the President is. He’s right about photo ops. Enough already. But there are other “ops” – study ops, passion ops, conversation ops. He needs to do something dramatic to win back the country.

Oh no! Please not “something dramatic”! No more floodlit speeches among fake temple columns. No more apologizing to Islam from a platform in Cairo. No more healing the planet, calming the seas, walking on water! Let him sleep. Let him play pool. And golf. Let him dine with celebrities and intellectuals deep into the small hours of the morning. Wish only that the remaining two and a half years of his presidency pass without the entire globe going up in flames while he dines and plays.

 

* Apparently “the entire staff” of the “processing center on the grounds of the Sacred Heart Church” applaud each “family” as it arrives. We missed that in his second paragraph. Because we didn’t read it. It was a tough read and we shirked some parts of it. 

Posted under Commentary, liberalism, Progressivism, United States by Jillian Becker on Friday, July 18, 2014

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