Saturday, July 31, 2010

Your Socialist is Showing

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I confess to having deliberately committed the sin of Roosevelt.”

It’s a well-known fact that a basic litmus test for authentic conservativism is an undying devotion to supply-side Reaganomics. And it is also a well-known fact that all conservatives are required, by law, to abhor Keynesian economics (although most of us don’t know much about what Keynes actually said, he makes an effective dogmatic foil – like “Valdimort”). At least as a very simplified model, Keynesian economists focus first on the problem of solving demand, which means full employment and high wages to drive consumption. They believe that the government can and should use the monetary and fiscal instruments at its disposal to increase the “circulation rate” of money in the economy. In other words, they can take money from the market to give to an intern at the Treasury who will subsequently come up with some hare-brained scheme for how to put it back out into the market in a way that will have greater stimulative effects than had it just been left there, in the first place. We conservatives are having none of it.

So if that’s the case (and it is), why all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the wage effects of illegal immigration? What red-blooded conservative American cares? Apparently, the theory of anti-immigration conservatives is that, by increasing wages at the bottom of the ladder through decreasing labor supply, we will usher in an economic revitalization based on lottery tickets, pink plastic flamingos, and “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts. An interesting theory, but not one typically identified with pro-business conservative economic principles.

Most economists agree that lower labor costs redistribute wealth to capitalists, which is reinvested, as they would say, “more productively,” generating more jobs and more wealth for the country, as a whole. Or rather, I should say that it’s possible that they will reinvest this money. It’s also possible they will just pick up an extra mistress or two, or upgrade to the yacht with the helipad, or maybe build a secret lair inside of a dormant volcano on a tropical island. But I digress.

This wealth redistribution, of course, will be a difficult thing for those on the lowest rung of the wage ladder, but our response, as card-carrying free-market capitalists, should be a comforting pat on the hand while we patiently explain that it’s really in their best interest that they make less money.

“For your penance, you are to watch Knute Rockne, All American, and double the Christmas bonus for your maid, nanny, and gardener.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Concerned Citizens Brigade

“I’m just so afraid that, with the direction this country is headed, people aren’t going to take it anymore. Our country is headed for total chaos, and there will be bloodshed if something doesn’t change.” My friend was explaining to me why he was stockpiling ammunition in his basement, in preparation for the coming revolution. He didn’t seem to think this would be a bad thing.

I’ve noticed that my fellow conservatives seem to be greatly preoccupied with this apparently inevitable contingency. I think it’s kind of an interesting perspective. It’s morally neutral and legally convenient – they’re not actually advocating, at least explicitly, armed revolt. They’re just worrying about its imminent arrival. Just innocent bystanders, you understand. This seemingly objective observation regarding a future contingency, however, contains an implicit argument, which goes something like this:

  1. I would not be preparing for social implosion if there weren’t an imminent threat of revolution. I’m preparing for social implosion. Therefore, there’s an imminent threat of revolution.
  2. There would not be an imminent threat of revolution unless citizens had justifiable cause. There is an imminent threat of revolution (as demonstrated above). Therefore, citizens must have a justifiable cause for such action.

It’s a great argument, because it doesn’t really require any proof that such events are inevitable (or even probable), that the actions of the agent are reasonable or proportional to the circumstances, or that there is any basis for this righteous wrath of the populace. Kind of convenient, don’t you think? “I would not be wearing a towel on my head if I weren’t about to be abducted by aliens. I am wearing a towel on my head. Therefore I’m about to be abducted by aliens.” I suppose that if you can get enough people standing around fretting about what others are about to do, then this sort of becomes its own argument that something is about to happen, and maybe there’s a reason for it. Lunacy finds strength in numbers.

And this is the real purpose of the supposedly objective sentiments of concern, isn’t it? To draw attention to the intense dissatisfaction of others, and the severity of our circumstances, which, apparently, leave almost no option but armed revolt. There’s no objectivity about it. I wouldn’t mind if my fellow conservatives just came out and said, “We disagree with the policies of our government, so we intend to vote other representatives into office.” Fine, that’s an honest statement, and one with which I heartily agree. But these backhanded threats against our democratic institutions – that’s what I find really offensive. I’m not sure who should scare me more – the tyrannical government that is taking away our liberties, or the patriots who intend to win them back.

I could reason with my friend – encourage him to articulate his beliefs in a compelling manner, to gain the support of his fellow citizens, and to elect officials who will govern wisely and well. I’m just afraid, however, that someone will get fed up with his blustering, threats, and temper tantrums, and pop him a juicy one right on the end of his nose. Some people can only take so much.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welcome to contrendium

It could be said that conservativism, rightly considered, and Catholicism are one and the same. Especially on foundational moral values, such as the restriction of marriage to man and wife, sexual morals, the ordination of women, and abortion (all related to the theology of the body, I now realize), there are really no legitimate moral options. There is one position – the Church’s position. She has spoken definitively on these matters, and there is no room for debate or dissent. In these matters, the conservative position is the Catholic position.

Beyond these essential moral precepts, upon which Catholics and conservatives almost universally agree, there are also prevailing trends of thought and sentiment which ebb and flow as dictated by current events and circumstance. These matters are sometimes merely preferential, sometimes perceived as proximate to essential moral principles, and are often related to the virtues of prudence and justice; those habits which are a kind of wisdom pertaining to the sphere of action.

Contrendium is my “compendium of contradiction” regarding opinions on matters of this sort: contradiction between my actions and beliefs, contradictions between different facets of my beliefs, contradictions between myself and my fellow conservative Catholics, contradictions that I perceive in their various positions, and contradictions between all of these and a life and polity that is authentically Catholic. It represents an ongoing interior reflection about the practical application of my beliefs in daily affairs as a Catholic, a husband, a father, an American, and a businessman.

I welcome your comments. Please keep in mind that I don’t mean to be deliberately offensive in my remarks. I’m often playing the role of Devil’s Advocate, sometimes exaggerating for effect, and usually looking at the questions from various angles while I try to work it out for myself. Any harsh treatment for ideas you might hold is not indicative of contempt, but an attempt to put the idea through its paces. We all have different ways of clarifying our own thoughts. Mine is a meandering and rough path – that’s what Contrendium is all about.