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November 13, 2013

What would happen if we left all social services to the church?

"Let the churches handle it" is a pretty common refrain amongst armchair Libertarians looking for a way to shift the costs of society off taxpayers and on to a private entity. But how would it really work? Is there any country on Earth that would be a model for this behavior? Yes, yes there is. Haiti. Haiti should not be the model for America’s future
What would it mean to do what they’re suggesting? What would it look like if we took government out of the picture, “liberating” health care, education and assistance for the poor from the hands of government and leaving it entirely up to the free market and to churches and private charities? As it happens, this is not a hypothetical question. We know precisely what this would look like because we have a model of precisely this kind of society: Haiti. Haiti, one year after the earthquake. Photo by Mario Tama via Bag News Notes. (Click for link.) Haiti is exactly the kind of society these folks are clamoring for. It’s a picture of just exactly what they want for America’s future. Haiti is, in a sense, an even purer form of this model. Here in America, after all, the private sector and private charities are still bound by government rules and regulations, so even if America’s government retreated from health, education and welfare, it would still “interfere” by enforcing all those rules about fraud, safety, liability, etc. There’s little such government interference in Haiti, where the private sector and private charities compete in freewheeling freedom. (“The Haitian government doesn’t even know how many NGOs are operating within its borders,” report Kathie Klarreich and Linda Polman. “No one does.”) American government also interferes by instituting all kinds of infrastructure and by artificially enforcing legal order through its police function. Those forms of government interference are far less intrusive in Haitian society. Haiti is also a sterling example of what it looks like when the binary notion of undifferentiated, exclusive public/private responsibility is put into practice. It settles our ongoing “debate” over the relationship between government and civil society. Some say government support is essential for the institutions of civil society — schools, businesses, hospitals, clinics, voluntary associations, families, clubs, libraries, etc. — to thrive. Others say the government is only interfering — that it should just get out of the way and “let the churches do it” or “let the private sector and the free market” deal with it. Haiti shows us what the latter idea looks like in practice.

November 10, 2013

Conservative Catholics angry that new Pope focuses on helping people, doesn't hate the gays

The new Pope is pushing a platform of love and mercy and common sense compassion and some conservatives really feel uncomfortable with it. Conservative U.S. Catholics Feel Left Out of the Pope’s Embrace - NYTimes.com
They were particularly alarmed when he told a prominent Italian atheist in an interview published in October, and translated into English, that “everyone has his own idea of good and evil” and that everyone should “follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them” — a remark that many conservatives interpreted as appearing to condone relativism. He called proselytizing “solemn nonsense.” They were shocked when they saw that Francis said in the interview that “the most serious of the evils” today are “youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old.” It compounded the chagrin after he said in an earlier interview that he had intentionally “not spoken much” about abortion, same-sex marriage or contraception because the church could not be “obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines.” Steve Skojec, the vice president of a real estate firm in Virginia and a blogger who has written for several conservative Catholic websites, wrote of Francis’ statements: “Are they explicitly heretical? No. Are they dangerously close? Absolutely. What kind of a Christian tells an atheist he has no intention to convert him? That alone should disturb Catholics everywhere.”

October 24, 2013

There is a pumpkin light that never goes out; or, watch John Darnielle clown on Christian propaganda

John "Mountain Goats" Darnielle is just the best, guys. William Caxton Fan Club • megacycles: Talking Pumpkins "The light shines...
"The light shines for one night only. By morning, it’s extinguished forever. God leaves you on the porch, because He wouldn’t want to just throw you away, having gone to the trouble of picking you and carving you, and besides, He feels genuine affection for you: you’ve shared a day together. But in His heart he knows: you’re going to rot out there. Maybe some neighbor kids will show mercy and steal you from God’s porch and then he won’t have to spray your remains off with a hose like He did last year. ‘Who am I kidding,’ thinks God to Himself. ‘I’m going to just let it decompose out there again. I am Who I am and I can’t throw away the pumpkin I carved even when there’s barely anything left of it. How did I get like this?’ No one answers. He is talking to himself again. An autumn wind whines lowly in the pines: November. Probably be a cold one this year. That’s what the Almanac says, anyway.”