Patrick J., Day of Reckoning, New York, Saint Martins, 2007, 294 pp.
Ron, Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom, New
York, Grand Central, 2011, 352 pp.
Michael, Trickle Up Poverty, New York, Harper Collins, 2010, xvi+365 pp.
Jr., Thomas E., Rollback, Washington D.C., Regnery, 2011, 232 pp.
It is becoming more and more obvious that the survival of the American Republic
and the freedoms which her citizens enjoy demands the scaling back of the
Leviathan state. This is a significant issue for Catholics as any alternative
to the Republic is most likely an impoverished totalitarian state, global in
scope, and quite possibly Islamic in religion.
All of the books mentioned above deal with the issue, although not from
precisely the same perspective. All are worth reading. There are a few
differences of opinion.
Starting alphabetically, Patrick Buchanan deals primarily with the military
issues of foreign policy. He decries the Empire which the U.S. have become,
while internally giving up its common culture. Chapter 4, Imperial Outreach
details our incredible number of foreign alliances, and questions whether or not
we need 700+ foreign military bases. America has troops everywhere except on
its own borders, incurring both great expense and the wrath of occupied peoples.
Over the years, Buchanan has come now to oppose free trade. His arguments are
cogent, but he fails to address the damage done by tariffs (like causing the
Civil War and exacerbating the Great Depression), and to suggest what might make
America a more competitive trading partner (like reducing taxes and
regulation). He alludes to Chinese manipulation of its currency, but fails to
note that such manipulation would be impossible if payments were made and
demanded in gold or silver. Indeed, he has little or nothing to say about the
Federal Reserve, the mortgage bubble, or government's creation or the boom and
bust business cycle.
Buchanan's treatment of the American Empire has to be read in conjunction with
his Introduction, How Nations Perish, a castigation of the way Americans
have allowed their culture to be undermined.
Michael Savage would agree with all or most of what Buchanan has to say about
the culture. “Borders, language, and culture” are the three factors above all
that Dr. Savage says define a nation. His plan for reform is the Tea Party’s
“Contract From America,” together with a number of more specific
recommendations, all of which are found on pages 301-309. He is more in favor
of foreign military intervention than the other three, and seems not to
recognize the destruction done to the economy by the Federal Reserve and the
issue of fiat money—the warfare state and central banking usually go together.
Buchanan's “list” is really his eighth chapter, “Day of Reckoning,” which
differs from Savage’s primarily in the former’s insistence that America
drastically reduce its overseas military presence and foreign aid. He too omits
mention of our monetary woes.
Ron Paul’s “list” is either the entire fifty chapters which discuss “50
Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” or “The ten principles of a free
society” found in the appendix. While in no way being irresponsible, Dr. Paul’s
contention can be summarized that for America to flourish once again, government
control in virtually aspect of human life must be vastly scaled back, or
eliminated altogether when it is not government’s constitutional business.
Paul is clearly pro-life, although he sometimes takes heat from Catholics on
this issue for his position that the federal government has little of no
justification for interfering in the States’ handling of the issue. He points
out that he federal arrogance of Roe v. Wade overturned the laws of fifty
States with no constitutional justification. He is adamant that any
law-making body must respect the rights of the baby just as it respects the
rights of the mother, and that government has no right to tax the unwilling to
pay for abortions. He makes a strong case that many of the moral arguments of
our time would be eased if government ceased giving one interest group the power
to coerce the others.
Tom Woods is always in close agreement with Dr. Paul, and His book, Rollback,
is written in a slightly more prescriptive style than Paul’s. None of our four
authors disputes the need for a strong national defense. Only Savage suggests
that it should be used to defend other nations’ borders, and all agree that our
borders must be defended. If I find any fault in Woods’ analysis, it is in his
blanket statement that the military has no need of “overkill” and doesn’t need
to be able to “annihilate the same city more than once” (p.96) While there is
something compelling in this, it must not be forgotten that the military must
defend the nation even if attacks are unexpected, and even if they originate in
unexpected locations. Sometimes a bit of “overkill” is required for the
generals to “get there the firstest with the mostest.”
Woods’ chapter seven is particularly important, admitting that a complete
rollback is politically impossible at the moment (p.171), but listing a number
of ideas that are gaining public acceptance, and which would go a long way
towards reversing the current crisis. Tom Woods seems to hit all the bases.
I was going to go see Atlas Shrugged, but I am not sure that I will. I
read the book 10-15 years ago, and know what it is. At that time, I understood
that Ayn Rand had a problem—that being that she had no guiding lights (the
Church). She tried to reason all moral problems, and that doesn't work without
guidance. Unfortunately, some folks never figure that out, so we end up with
abortions and pervert “pride.” I think it will be worth your efforts to address
this problem in a future bulletin. I'd suppose there will be many folks go see
the movie, and be misled. The story is fine, and understandable, talking
economics, but falls far short in morality. —G.D., Loxahatchee
I did not read Atlas Shrugged, and missed the movie. But I had a role in Ayn
Rand's courtroom drama, The Night of January 16th, when it ran for three
evenings at Bryant High School in New York, and I read two of her non-fiction
works, The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal,
so I understand the questioner's concern.
It is the belief of Catholics that, even without divine revelation, it is
possible for men to know that there is a God and to know some of His attributes
(natural theology), and to develop a general understanding of how He wants us to
behave (natural law). We can know God by His impact on the world around us, and
we can know His natural law by recognizing our duties toward Him and toward our
fellow creatures. The last seven of the ten Commandments can be intuited from
the behaviors necessary to make human society work. Simply stated, society will
prosper only if people are not beating, killing, stealing from, lying to, and
cheating on one another.
While she is quite correct in her economic ideas—most of which square well with
traditional Catholic social teaching—Rand's ethical ideas ignore both divine
revelation and natural law, in favor of selfishness, which she extolls as
a virtue. Her selfishness is not the enlightened self-interest
which many on the left identify with greed and selfishness—it is a consideration
of self almost in solipsism, the concept that only the one thinking
really exists and everything else is only his imagination. She has her
fictional character John Galt from Atlas Shrugged articulate her
You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social.
... For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who
claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it
belongs to your neighbors–between those who preached that the good is
self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached
that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth.
And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good
is to live it.
Ayn Rand (Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum, 2 February 1905 – 6 March 1982), grew up
in the throes of the Russian Revolution. She and her family were non-observant
Jews, who supported the losing faction of Alexander Kerensky, and suffered at
the hands of the Bolsheviks. She was able to emigrate to America, but was never
able to bring her family to her new home. In the U.S. she worked in a Marxist
filled Hollywood, and seems to have made the mistake of identifying government
with society. Although a staunch advocate of free enterprise, she failed to
consider that all of society is necessary for that enterprise to succeed and
prosper. Her morality and philosophy, which she called “Objectivism,” was
centered on hard working yet pride filled elite people who made the economy
function. She wrote:
The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that
just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end
in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and,
therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing
himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his
own self means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's
highest moral purpose.
It may not be immediately obvious but John Galt’s and Ayn Rand’s speeches given
above are propaganda—the sort of lying that contains mostly truth, but which
excludes an important alternative. Rand‑Galt simply “blows off” the moral
dimension, making it seem as though loving one’s neighbor for the love of God is
an unprofitable waste of effort, not even to be considered by rational men and
women. In reality there is nothing more in our enlightened self-interest than
doing whatever is necessary to insure our eternal salvation. To answer our
Lord’s question: it profits a man nothing “if he gains the whole
world, and suffers the loss of his own soul.”
It is difficult to envision a decent life without the love and mutual support of
family and friends. These are the building blocks of any society. And a great
deal of what is good in America—from the skyscrapers, suspension bridges, and
symphony orchestras to the abundant availability of affordable food, clothing,
and housing—depends on the labor, talent, and cooperation of a lot of people who
are not the intellectual elite; who are not the John Galts and Dagny Taggarts
of this world. It is hard to imagine a business in a free economy that is
unconcerned with reputation and customer good will. The society of such people
is not the repressive government of the Bolsheviks of Rand's native Russia, nor
of the Roosevelts in her adopted America. The entrepreneurs are, of course,
necessary, for few enterprises are auto-directing or self-financing—and the
entrepreneurs are worthy of praise and financial reward—but enlightened
self-interest suggests that all of the participants in enterprise deserve
respect and a share in what is produced. As Catholics we know that they are
“good and faithful servants,” hardworking children of God—but even without the
gift of the Faith they should be endeared to us by enlightened self-interest.
There is no contradiction between self-interest, a free economy, private
property and Catholic social teaching. The saintly Pope Leo XIII wrote:
5. It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor,
the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property, and
thereafter to hold it as his very own. If one man hires out to another his
strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is
necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends
to acquire a right full and real, not only to the remuneration, but also to
the disposal of such remuneration, just as he pleases. Thus, if he lives
sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in
land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and,
consequently, a working man's little estate thus purchased should be as
completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor.
But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains,
whether the property consist of land or chattels. Socialists, therefore,
by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community
at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would
deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all
hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his
condition in life.
It is sometimes argued that the free economy is remiss in not guaranteeing a
worker a “family wage.” What ought, in fact, to be considered is that the free
economy allows the employer to pay such a wage, and allows workers to
seek out such employers, while many controlled economies do not. Not too many
years ago in these United States you could find employers who paid the man with
a wife and children more than the single woman who did the same job. Today,
thanks to government and union control of the economy, such a thing is illegal:
The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be
given equal pay for equal work.... All forms of pay are covered by this
law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit
sharing and bonus plans....
And, speaking of unions, Leo XIII clearly envisioned the union as a voluntary
Catholic organization—one that provided a moral climate for joint efforts of
owners and workers to solve problems,, promoted divine worship and, and provided
Catholic education to its members. The members were to be free to break away
from any union that did not have these characteristics and form a new union of
Modern American labor law gives unions the force of government to compel
membership and dues payment, to exclude non-union workers from job
opportunities, and to exclude the possibility of forming a second labor
organization after the first wins a certification election. Government “looking
the other way” allowed sit down strikes and acts of violence that established
the unions in power and allowed them to win the ruinous pension and benefit
plans which have nearly crushed American industry. None of this would have
happened under a free economy.
While Ayn Rand's morals may have developed through erroneous reasoning, her
economics are not thereby tainted.