Thursday, July 28, 2011

Lincoln and the Confucians

Matthew Franklin Cooper has an extremely interesting post on his blog, "Matt's Existential Musings," discussing the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, the Confucians, and more! A really tremendous read.

Attack of the Zombie Ideologies

Michael Lind has an excellent piece over at Salon on the decaying state of both American conservatism and American progressivism. Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Destructive Cult

Paul Krugman has a great blog post on the Cult of Centrism that is ruining the United States. Definitely worth a read.  

The Human Cost of Austerity

The excellent Lord Keynes has another great blog post on the human cost of austerity in Latvia. A sobering but necessary piece.

The Blame Game

Conor Friedersdorf has written an excellent article for the The Atlantic that largely echoes my own opinions regarding the journalistic battles over the dreadful Norway attacks and whether certain writers should be chastised for their rhetoric. Definitely worth a read.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Thoughts On The Tragedy In Norway

As more details emerge about Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged perpetrator of Friday’s vicious terrorist attacks in Norway, I can’t help but notice how eerily similar some of his rhetoric is to some of the ideas floating around on the American Right, and not just the underground far-right. The wild claims that President Obama was somehow leading or abetting a Marxist/Islamist alliance to destroy Christian America were not just found on extremist neo-Nazi websites, but could be seen on Tea Party signs and heard on right-wing talk radio. 

Of course, none of this means that Tea Party members or avid listeners of right-wing radio host Michael Savage are going to go out and kill people. However, ideas have consequences, and it is important to be wary of certain ideas that threaten to dehumanize people. Before left-wingers start to gloat, it is also important to remember that the Left has also had its share of violent terrorists as well, and that the language of class war, taken too far, can also lead to violence. 

Politics has always involved strong language, and I would not want to see a “speech police” developed to quiet firebrands, including those who develop the conspiracy theories that often fuel (even if unintentionally) extremist violence. But the fact that so many people believe tales about a Marxist plot to take over the world, when Marxism as an organized, active ideology is perhaps at its weakest point in over a century, is just one example of how conspiracy theories can take one’s mind off of understanding the world from the standpoint of reality. Once we understand the world as it is, then hopefully we can change it for the better. As Pope Leo XIII advised: “There is nothing more useful than to look at the world as it really is — and at the same time look elsewhere for a remedy to its troubles.”

Red In Tooth And Test Tube

The July 21, 2011 Los Angeles Times opinion piece by Mary Ellen Harte and Anne  is pretty much what you would expect from the Malthusian elite. Malthusianism is one of those bad ideas that just won’t die. My guess is that, like many bad ideas, Malthusianism continues to live because certain very rich people find it an attractive vehicle for their prejudices while all the while declaring their prejudices to be nothing more than the "inconvenient truths" of science. John Médaille wrote an excellent blog post on the subject of Malthusianism back in 2008 and I highly recommend it as an answer to the likes of Harte and

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Don't Eat Your Peas

Michael Lind has a very good article on the “Pea Party,” the group of elitist, pro-austerity figures who unfortunately have a good deal of influence in the Obama Administration.  Definitely worth a read.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Guild Socialism and Media Reform

The wonderful Matt Smith with an excellent proposal for reforming the media along guild socialist lines, here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Emilia-Romagna Model

Joe Sarling at the Blue Labour blog has an excellent post about the cooperative economy of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Definitely worth a read.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Case for Radical Conservatism

Reading Danny Kruger’s review of the book The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox, I am reminded of the quote by economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who remarked that, “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.” To be sure, Kruger has some nice things to say about Maurice Glasman, Jonathan Rutherford and the Blue Labour philosophy they represent. However, Kruger’s admiration for Blue Labour only goes so far. For example, he chastises Glasman and Rutherford for failing to exorcise the egalitarian ghost from the Labour tradition, writing that because of its support for equality, “Blue Labour remains infected with the modernist virus.” Instead, Kruger argues that “true fraternity depends upon liberty, not equality.”

It is humorous that Kruger, in a later portion of his article, describes the Left as “unhistorical,” yet it is hard to find a more historically ignorant opinion than Kruger’s argument that equality is not necessary for the development of a fraternal society. The history of the extremely unequal nineteenth century and the violent social conflicts that it spawned should be enough to defeat Kruger’s argument. Indeed, we seem to be moving toward a recreation of the “Two Nations” social model, with a haughty upper class on top and a vast, degraded underclass on the bottom. The expanding differences between the affluent and the poor in terms of marriage and family life is probably the most obvious and egregious manifestation of the new bifurcated society that is being built.

Indeed, I would argue that it is impossible to support a viable form of conservatism without at least some support for egalitarianism (which, of course, should not be confused with a kind of drab, mechanical equality where everyone is exactly the same). For example, historians have argued that one of the major reasons why the
Vendée region of France did not explode into revolution in 1789 was because class differences were not as great as in the rest of France. Aristocrats continued to live in the region along with the peasants and the local clergy, unlike the rest of the absentee French nobility that gravitated toward Paris. More importantly, the old system of rights and duties continued to exist, creating a stable, integrated society.

By failing to recognize how vast inequality poisons social relations, Kruger and others like him risk recreating the conflict-ridden society that he claims Glasman supports. Indeed, if Glasman does advocate conflict between capital and labor, this seems to be out of a realistic appraisal of the current state of affairs under neoliberalism. Neoliberals have unfortunately created a situation where conservatives must be radicals because of how far we have allowed the market society to dictate our values. 

Kruger may claim, as so many liberal conservatives do, that his is the only “real” political position, but this is only true to the extent that his brand of conservatism is about protecting whatever special interests happen to be the most powerful at the moment. Conservatism must rediscover its radical soul in order to use the past to craft an alternative modernity, while always keeping in mind the importance of safeguarding the rights of the human person. Any other type of conservatism is just, as G.K. Chesterton put it, “... preventing mistakes from being corrected.”

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Life and Thought of Giuseppe Lazzati

It has been a while since I have written a new post on the Italian Social Catholics, but I have found an excellent article on the life and work of Giuseppe Lazzati by Piotr Kulczycki that is better than anything I could ever write. Please give Kulczycki's article a read and please forgive me for my laziness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Athanasius Wept

Kenneth C. Davis has an interesting piece arguing that the United States is not a Christian nation. I have to agree with Mr. Davis, especially since his article is a good example of why America should not be seen as the leading Christian nation in the world today. For starters, Mr. Davis himself seems confused as to what constitutes orthodox Christian doctrine. For example, Mr. Davis writes:

“No one can argue, as 'Christian Nation' proponents correctly state, that the Founding Fathers were not Christian, although some notably doubted Christ's divinity.” 

I would think that doubting Christ’s divinity would, at the very least, make one’s commitment to Christianity questionable. But then Mr. Davis makes an even more egregious error by lumping Mormons in with Baptists as Christian “sects.” While I am definitely not a theologian, Mormon rejection of the Trinity is just one of the many areas where the Latter Day Saint movement deviates tremendously from orthodox Christian doctrine as passed down throughout the centuries. This confusion about what constitutes basic Christian doctrine is very common in the United States, where Mormons, Unitarians, and a host of other non-orthodox groups get lumped in with Catholics, Orthodox Christians and mainstream Protestants. 

None of this is surprising given America’s history as a breeding ground for non-orthodox interpretations of Christian doctrine and the current lack of religious knowledge among even devout Americans reflects the sorry state of religious education in the country. While these issues may seem academic, they actually have important consequences for the country and the world. For example, it is certainly worth arguing that the belief that America is some kind of holy nation ordained by God to spread it ideals across the globe has helped to fuel American military intervention abroad. When combined with a general ignorance regarding the history of Christianity, you end up with the Iraq debacle and the devastation of the ancient Iraqi Christian community by forces let loose by our invasion. I won’t even get into the Christian Zionists and related End Times theologies, but I think we can see how these ideas can be problematic for America and the rest of the world. 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Joshua Holland has an excellent article about the bizarre American penchant for treating the Founders like prophets and the Constitution like holy scripture and why it makes no sense. Important and sobering words for all Americans to remember on this day.