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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Culpable Ignorance/Stupidity

 A theological question which must be faced by Catholics is: What is the status of people ignorant of Christ’s sacrifice: damned, saved or limbo? The consensus, I dare to assert is: God’s Grace and Mercy are limitless – God loves all of his creation and wishes to share himself with every part of it. Their ignorance is not culpable.

A medical question which I, for one, believe has been answered is: is bleeding, appropriate for lots and lots of conditions? The consensus is “No!” Do we therefore condemn all who have ever recommended it? No. Their ignorance was not culpable.

An economic question, the answer to which History has revealed the answer is: do free markets or state control increase prosperity (particularly for the poor)? It is manifestly the former. Should we therefore condemn statists? I think so. Particularly when we observe that statists in power are characteristically forced to resort to violence and murder on a huge scale in order to maintain the Nazi/Socialist state. I think too that their apologists are culpable.

This goes somewhat against the formulation that Leftists think Rightists are evil; whereas Rightists think Leftists are stupid. My view is that, in view of the evidence, Leftist/Statist apologetics are culpably stupid.

You know,
At least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so...

Miserable, grinding poverty has been the lot of humanity (except for a tiny minority of powerful people) since forever. A horrible proportion of children died in infancy. Bad harvests and wars meant that the next meal was in doubt – and bad harvests and wars had always been on the horizon for most of human history. Even in good times disease killed thousands. Our ancestors for thousands of years suffered poverty which for most of us now in developed countries seems intolerable.

It is inconceivable that an eleventh century peasant would have even dreamt of “an end to poverty”. He knew that poverty was the lot of most of humanity.

Astonishingly, though, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Western Europe and North America began to “develop”. Sophisticated financial institutions made possible sophisticated means of production. Over a short period of time the poverty of our ancestors was replaced by societal wealth previously undreamed of. No, I would not like to work in a nineteenth century factory; but my ancestors chose to leave the land and move to the cities – because they believed that they and their children would live better. It turned out that their children lived much better and their grandchildren much much better. Specialisation, trade and industrialisation increased production. More production meant more wealth in society. More wealth meant a higher standard of living for nearly everybody. Child mortality began to fall. Societies imbued with better understanding of the causes of disease were able to provide ever cleaner air, ever cleaner water and ever more effective waste disposal.

During the early period of the industrial revolution government monopolies declined and craft guilds withered away. The entrepreneurs who succeeded made themselves rich, their products better and cheaper and their fellow citizens better off – the ones who failed simply failed.

Some entrepreneurs became extraordinarily rich. Some of them chose to found schools and hospitals.

The eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were the period in which the poor became less poor, in which luxuries previously enjoyed only by the rich became the birthright of ordinary people. In centuries gone by even the aristocracy did not enjoy the benefits ordinary people now began to expect. For most of history a very very small proportion of people rode in coaches and the poor walked. Since the mid-twentieth century the rich drive luxury cars and a poor man is someone who can only afford a second-hand Toyota.

State interference in, and control of, the economy have been conclusively demonstrated to produce stagnation and shortages. Which is the country you would least like to live in? North Korea? Yes, North Korea! The poorest people in South Korea would be envied by practically everyone in North Korea – except of course North Korea’s ruling elite. Socialist North Korea is probably the most extreme example of statism now in existence. And yet, there are millions of people in the West who proudly call themselves socialists. Millionaire filmmakers praise the tyranny and poverty of Cuba.

How is this to be explained? Statists, in spite of the evidence, cling to their wishful thinking fantasy of a man-made blueprint for heaven on earth. Maximum personal liberty within the rule of law comes much closer.
Anyone who cares at all about the welfare of the least advantaged should face the facts. Truly it has been said, “There’s none so blind as he that will not see!”

Culpable stupidity!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Sister Wendy

 I am a Catholic. I would very much like everyone to be a Catholic. My enchanting daughter-in-law is not a Catholic; but, of course, I would like her to be. I have refrained from bombarding her with links to my Catholic heroes: Fr Robert Barron and Peter Kreeft, to name but two outstanding examples. It’s not that their writings and speeches are too densely theological, but rather, that, being highly subjective myself, I can’t imagine that I would have been wrestled to the floor by these titans and captured for Catholicism. My route to the Church of Rome was not three theological falls or a submission. I sought these guys out, having already become a Catholic; and I am very glad I did.

So, my contribution to Catholic evangelisation has been feeble (at best) or non-existent (at worst). I like theology! But, I should have thought more about being a saint. Barron and Kreeft, I am sure, would agree. Saints, it turns out, are mightier warriors for the Faith than theologians, important though theologians are. The categories are not mutually exclusive.

It was atheistic Geoff who first drew my attention to Sister Wendy. He is a big fan. I was aware of her work (hat-tip to Newman and Baddiel). But she is an art critic and she has buck teeth (may I be forgiven)! It turns out that she is much much more.

I was astonished to receive an e-mail message from the daughter-in-law expressing her profound admiration and “enchantment” with Sr Wendy. I am sure that wise words on the subject of Art contributed to her admiration but I have every reason to believe that Sr Wendy’s manifest “goodness” was the source of the enchantment.

I am very grateful to Geoff and Carrie for having introduced me to a new heroine.