Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Catholic Exchanges's James K. Fitzpatrick on "Caring for the Least"

Thank you, Mr. Fitzpatrick! I have waited a long time for a consise and Catholic exposition on Catholic Social Teaching that does not demonize free marketers. He supplies what I'm looking for. Behold! A taste of his fruits:
My question is why Catholics who favor the social programs of the Democratic Party as a way of promoting social justice cannot give the same benefit of the doubt to those who think those programs do no such thing.

Why do they assume that greed is what motivates those who think we have been on the wrong track toward dealing with poverty since the days of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty? You would think liberal Democrats who have spent their lives arguing against closed-mindedness and for “dialogue” would be willing to accept that there are Catholics who are sincere in their conviction that there are better ways to promote social justice than by giving more money to Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton to spend.

Consider the following observations by Myron Magnet from the February 25th issue of The Wall Street Journal. Magnet is editor of The City Journal, a publication of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. The Manhattan Institute is a free-market think tank. But so what? If what Magnet says makes sense, it makes sense. Or, to be more precise, if a Catholic is convinced that Magnet makes sense, why accuse that Catholic of being a greedy Republican indifferent to the plight of the poor?

Magnet starts by agreeing with the Church’s teaching that we have a responsibility to care for those who genuinely cannot care for themselves. The man is no Social Darwinist: “Yes, we need a safety net,” he writes. “But we don’t need a European-style welfare state. What’s called for is the traditional American ‘opportunity society,’ as much a boon to the poor as to everyone else.” In other words, Magnet is offering not a way to escape our responsibility for social justice, but what he believes is a better way to care for the least of our brethren.
He expresses well what I've tried in my inadequite way to explain here. One does not need to be a welfare statist in order to seriously address the needs of the poor. One can exercise a preferential option for the poor by maintaining the economic growth that provides everyone with an equal opportunity to participate. A thriving economy produces jobs that benefit those who need them most: the poor!

Traditional supporters of social justice mistakenly claim that those in support of free enterprise, or capitalism, do not promote justice for the poor. They claim that their support for government intervention is doctrinal, rather than their prudential application of the doctrinal requirement to care for the poor. Of course, there are those unscrupulous people that will try to take advantage of any economic system. Even communists countries experienced corruption. That's human nature, not the systemic result of capitalism. The fact remains. People can care for the poor by wanting to provide an economy that alleviates poverty.

Having said that, I believe that government has some legitimate function to play in terms of assisting us all care for the poor. I just don't believe that the government must increase its size and reach--as in taxes and regulations--in order to play its just role. I don't see a European Welfare State helping the poor. I can believe that and not violate any Catholic Social Doctrine. The Foolables in the Social Justice business should try to be more honest and recognize this. Otherwise they shouldn't be surprised when suspicious Fools laugh them out the door. Catholic Social Teaching is not a Democratic party economic platform. Saying that it is over and over doesn't make it true. It does make orthodox Catholics that care about Life suspicious of Catholic Social Teaching. That is the tragic backfire of the social justice business' rhetoric. They flush away the very sympath that they try to generate.

Thank you, Mr. Fitzpatrick! Send more like, him, Lord. We need all the Fools we can get!