Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Individualism in Sociology

Weber is important, because he reversed the approach to life that, from time immemorial, gave precedence (and power) to creeds. In Weber’s theory of religion, all forms of social authority can be traced back to the ecstatic, inner resources of personality. The charismatic renews culture in and through his magnetic personality. He is the Nietzschean superman who shatters ordinary limits and remakes our ideals. Creeds are simply dead reminders of powerful personalities.
-R.R. Reno

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Lamentable Anniversary for Colorado

This is the Fortieth Anniversary of the law which 'liberalized' abortion restrictions. The Rocky article is surprisingly focused on Catholics, revealing some of the chicanery that got this law passed:
[Governor] Lamm's measure passed easily in the House. But Bermingham said he and other Senate sponsors knew that Lt. Gov. Mark Hogan, a Catholic, would assign the bill to the State Affairs Committee - chaired by another Catholic - "and that would be the end of it."

So the bill's supporters arranged to have the measure waylaid by a sympathetic woman at the statute revision office in the Capitol basement - a required stop for bills moving from one chamber to the other - until a day when Hogan was absent. Then it was hustled up and quickly assigned to the Health and Welfare Committee, which Bermingham chaired.

Catholics in the state legislature are now the most predictable pro-abortionists in local politics. It's no wonder Archbishop Chaput's pro-life rumblings have sparked such outrage.

The article also focuses on the contemporary Catholic reactions to this bill. I find this interesting, since as I heard the story the archbishop at the time of this bill's passage was back east justifying his and others' dissent on contraception.

Saint Augustine Gets A Cartoon Treatment

Some contemporary imitators of School House Rock have made a video homage to Augustine's famous lines about states being bands of robbers writ large. The saint's own words, from Book IV of The City of God:
"Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a large scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention.

Alas, the cartoon plummets past Augustine's skepticism into full-blown cynicism. It sings: "There are Pirates and emperors but they're really the same thing." The Bishop of Hippo, being a wise man, recognizes the possibility of distinguishing between regimes of more and less injustice. But to reject any concern for justice, is to advocate a self-righteous apathy as indiscriminate and as wearisome as a common cold. One can then end up a priggish purist neutral between the fire brigade and the fire: regular combatants and terrorists are really the same thing, pirates and shopkeepers are really the same thing, emperors and voters are really the same thing. As the Vandals surrounded Hippo in Augustine's last hours, I doubt he thought them the same as Caesar.

Consistent cynicism is, happy to say, far too difficult to attain: the cartoonists' moralistic criticism of government abuse proves, at least, that they aren't despondent about justice in human affairs. Yet this is hardly a vote in their favor, for it means that they can't communicate their own thoughts with precision.

While humorous, the cartoonish anarchism on display in the short film lacks the thoughtfulness of good polemic. Augustine deserves better cartoon treatments, and many more of them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

On a personal note, my congratulations, prayers, and best wishes to my sister C. and her new husband B.!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Where Is Distributist America?

Over at the Cornell Society for a Good Time, Ambrosius writes about Distributism Today. For those of you who have not read much G.K. Chesterton or Hilaire Belloc, please understand that Distributism emphasizes the widespread ownership of economically productive property, for the sake of economic freedom, political liberty, and human happiness.

Like many of the happy few who have heard of Distributism, Ambrosius tries to identify the aspects of American life most appealing to the Distributist mind.
I myself believes America best exemplifies distributism in her entrepreneurial spirit. Distributist thought exalts the small proprietor, helping instill productive impatience among perpetual employees, thus spurring the drive to economic independence. One still senses these impulses in various areas of American life.

But I question Ambrosius' identification of Distributist America. He writes of the ownership society:

Right now, about half of all Americans own corporate stock, largely through retirement accounts and mutual funds. Major US employers — Wal-mart being the most notable example that I know of — provide their employees stock in the company for which they work, precisely because of the incentives that ownership offers that Belloc and the Distributists identified.

I do not think it is stock ownership that makes a society more distributist, but rather the ownership of one’s own home and especially one’s own business--that is, proprietorship. I doubt stock ownership as ordinarily practiced can be considered a part of or a step to a distributist society.

First, buying stock can be regarded as purchasing the productivity of other men, rather than laboring oneself. As I recall, Belloc’s The Servile State was particularly suspicious of systems where many work for the economic benefit of someone who does not work.

What’s more, wise stock investment is generally distributed across several companies or industries, leaving the owner little connected to–dare I say alienated from–the actual labor involved.

Further, employee ownership in America often results from last-ditch efforts to keep a foundering company solvent. Many times I have suggested to others the benefits of employee-owned corporations, and the name “United Airlines” would soon pass the lips of my listeners.

Even stock options are generally a white-collar phenomenon, and only available early in a company’s existence. I also doubt their effectiveness in encouraging responsibility in employees of large enterprises. An individual’s contribution to the worth of his company’s stock price will be minimal–perhaps not even one hundredth of one percent. If responsibility is encouraged, it is not rational self-interest that drives the success of such programs. Perhaps instead such success is driven by irrational self-regard.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Muslim Reflections on Carl Schmitt

via StumbleUpon, one Parvez Manzoor
reviews several Schmittian studies, The Sovereignty of the Political: Carl Schmitt and the Nemesis of Liberalism. In sum:

Karl Löwith cogently demonstrates that the political, and hence the existential, as a sovereign domain, as a norm unto itself, is 'meaningless' and cannot stand at the highest rung of the scale of human values - a conclusion with which no Muslim, indeed no believer, can disagree.

The author also makes an implicit rebuke of entirely politicized forms of Islam:

For Muslims, who find themselves at the receiving end of civilizational polemics, the lesson of Carl Schmitt is precisely the political nature of the world-order, the duplicity of its institutions and the sanctimony of its moral crusaders. Universalism is the mask that hides the countenance of hegemony and might is the right of the elect. Carl Schmitt's thought, an authentic product of Western self-reflection, opens up an intellectual space that allows us the luxury of indulging in counter-polemics. And yet, we must be wary of the polemical as well as the political. For the ultimate value that Islam stands for is not political but trans-political; the final aim of its mission is not the eradication, or subjugation, of its enemies, not the establishment of a universal state, not the sustenance of a global order of terror and economic exploitation, but the unity of man and peace in the city of humanity. Islam means sovereignty of the Transcendent and not of the political.

A Local Myspace Clone for Catholics and Other Christians

GodSpace is a Denver-based social networking site that has been developing nicely, though it has had its growing pains. Any of my fellow locals might profit by it, as it has been heavily advertised among young Catholics in the area. There are only so many viable social networks, though I wish them the best.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lessons for Life

Intense Leg Cramps are helped by moderate stretches.

When deprived of sleep, one's body will still try to dream even when one is awake.

Bursitis is a painful inflammation of sacs in one's joints, tendons, and muscles, sometimes caused by blunt force.

The human hip is an inadequate brake for a stalled car.

When pushing a stalled car up a modest incline, it is still the driver's responsibility to brake, not the one pushing.