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Friday, January 12, 2007

Our Enemy

I've been catching up on blogs and wanted to pass along a great post over at Lamb and Dragon on pacifism. When I grow up and am a real Worker I want to be like Nate. But seriously, I'll have to see if I really have anything new to add to the discussion because he puts it all out there so nicely.
Over at the Daily Eudemon, Eric has a write up on 'Our Enemy, The State,' by Albert Jay Nock. The book discusses government rule vs state rule. In his review of this political classic (which I added to the old Wish List) he makes these remarks. Italic is his, bold is mine.

1. State power comes at the price of social power. If the state will take care of something, then people won’t. As social power collapses, so does society. This is Nock’s best insight, and upon two minutes’ reflection, is so obviously true that I’m kind of embarrassed I’d never articulated the thought before. For years I’ve lamented that the welfare state kills charity, but I never reached the larger point: an increasing state gradually kills all social endeavors. [...]
2. There is a fundamental difference between the “state” and “government.” Government is good. State is bad. I agree with the latter assertion, but I’m still struggling with Nock’s idea of good government. It’s libertarian to the core: “Based on the idea of natural rights, government secures those rights to the individual by strictly negative intervention. Making justice costless and easy of access”; “the business of government [is to maintain] freedom and security.” Anything beyond that, Nock said, and the government starts to morph into the state. [...]
4. Perhaps the most timely part of the book is at the end: Chp. V, Part IV: “The Party System.” It’s easily summed up: If your country is ruled by a state, it doesn’t matter what political party is in power. Both parties are merely going to abuse the power for their own benefit. It’s inevitable. If you, like me, were optimistic after the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, consider reading this section of the book (I can’t find the book online, but it might be out there). You’ll understand why you, like me, were foolish back then and will better understand why the Pelosizing of Congress was inevitable.

Nock made these assertions in the 1930's at the same time Maurin was pushing Personalism and Distributism but yet we are still laboring under our flawed political system. People seem to be willing to pay more taxes, to fund more programs that pay people to do things that Christians should be doing as second nature in the first place; help the poor, treat workers fairly, respect natural resources, etc. How many investigative committees do we need to fund to figure out that regulations and special assistance programs don't help people love their neighbors? We don't need the state to help people, we just need the government to protect our rights to help one another. We can no longer count on any one party to help Catholic causes. We can only vote for individuals who can lead us away from the big government we've morphed into. People have accepted the lesser of two evils and now what do we have? I don't know if I'd go so far as to say we have an evil government but under who's influence do you think most of the "Catholics" in Congress are under?

"Thus it is that while they hold up to admiration the high authority of reason, and unduly elevate the subtlety of the human intellect, they fall into the just punishment of pride through ignorance of what is of more importance.
7. When the mind has thus been poisoned, at the same time the moral character becomes deeply and essentially corrupted; and such a state can only be cured with the utmost difficulty in this class of men, because on the one hand wrong opinions vitiate their judgment of what is right, and on the other the light of Christian faith, which is the principle and basis of all justice, is extinguished."

Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII promulgated on December 25, 1888.