What’s Wrong with the World

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What’s Wrong with the World is dedicated to the defense of what remains of Christendom, the civilization made by the men of the Cross of Christ. Athwart two hostile Powers we stand: the Jihad and Liberalism...read more

Gun Control and the Holocaust of the Particular

Unfortunately for those of us who would prefer to leave behind the moral preening caterwauling that followed upon the Supreme Court's decision in Heller, there are those who cannot let it go, and insist upon drawing our attention to the infantile tantrums of Europeans who know next to nothing about American history, law, and government. And who, apparently, pen, with apparent ingenuousness, such luminous analyses as this:


The Second Amendment states that the armed forces ought to be armed.

Allow your mind to absorb the penetrating critical interpretation of the Constitution: the Army should be... The Army! The implication must be, of course, that Eighteenth-Century Americans were so stupid - or positivist - that unless they stipulated in their Constitution that armies should be armies, some of them might assume that armies exist for those who like to wear snappy uniforms. Who knew that tautology was the veritable apex of textual interpretation?

While I do not wish to dwell upon this subject at any great length, it is worth noting, in connection with a recent display of grotesquely bestial conduct, which was precipitated by the refusal of a father to permit his adolescent daughter to suffer molestation at the hands of one of the glowering men depicted in the Star Tribune article, that not even the abolition of firearms can obviate the necessity, and imperative, of defense, whether of others or of self. By what principle of ethics should a lone man, attempting to defend his womenfolk, be left deprived of potential strategic leverage against their depravities? It will be said that security personnel and police exist for this purpose, but the success of such assaults proves only the obvious: that these public servants are neither omnipotent nor omnipresent.

It is worth observing, further, that none of the assailants was armed; their limbs were their weapons of choice - well, their limbs and the earth itself. So, it is not merely a matter of wishing for some candyland from which firearms have been banished - and prudent minds will shudder at the thought of what manner of government in the U.S. would be necessary to disarm the populace - but a question of what relation ought to obtain between the ordinary citizen and the predators among them. Once more, the notion that a relation of formal equality ought to obtain, such that ordinary people, not accustomed to aggressive action, should be compelled to confront barbarians long accustomed to such acts, upon an imaginary level field, is positively perverse.

This, however, leads to another line of thought. Those who have prated on about the Heller decision tend to be those who look askance at capital punishment, and, frankly, this troubles me. They apparently believe that there is something immoral and invidious in the notion of armed self-defense, which implies a certain level of acceptance of the exposure of the innocent to criminal violence - at least in, oh, any possible world short of the eschaton - and yet, when that violence occurs, maintain that "state-sanctioned violence" must never, ever, under any conceivable circumstances, be employed against its perpetrators. The overall impression is of a general indifference, if not towards crime-in-general, at least towards its particular victims. Yes, particular victims could have been preserved from harm, or afforded superior odds of evading serious injury, were they or their loved ones armed; but instead of these real, flesh-and-blood human beings, we are admonished to direct our thoughts and aspirations towards some hypothetical America from which firearms have been banished, and in which peace and concord, in consequence, reign. From the concrete victims of crime we are told to turn our attention to statistical abstractions, vague projections of reductions in the rate of violent crime that would, it is alleged, result from the prohibition of firearms - notwithstanding the manifest failure of such measures in other Anglo nations, such as Australia and the UK.

While I am certain that there exists a certain sympathy for the victims of crime, it seems rather abstract by comparison to the concrete sympathy for perpetrators, and the doctrinaire insistence upon defenselessness before them. At some point, this become, in fact if not intention, an acceptance of a holocaust of particular persons, to the end that some hypothesized future (utopian) state of affairs might be realized, a societal order from which structural violences, and implements of violence, have been removed. As someone who believes in such things as structural injustices, I cannot reconcile this with a Christian ethic. In fact, I find it inimical to a Christian ethic at a profound level. No structural injustice necessitates particular criminal acts; that is, no structural injustice entails that its victims cannot not commit specific sins. And no structural injustice deprives participants in the societal structure of the duty to defend those for whom they are responsible.

Comments (116)

There are tasers and pepper spray. Lethal response isn't the only way to practice defense.

Neither works very well against a horde (six to eight) of young men.

Wow, Willem Buiter's an idiot. I couldn't get through his first paragraph, and I doubt I could even if I agreed with him. Once again, Maximos, I am impressed by your ability to wade through cow by-product to write a post.

And Step2? You're reasoning doesn't work any better than Buiter's history.

Great post, Jeff. I really appreciate it.

The fact that thugs don't even need guns is self-evident. There is a wave of knife crime in England. So what do the English do? Tell the parents (I forget in which UK news article I was reading this) to frisk their children before they leave the house to see if they are carrying knives! Ah, yes, that will help. I'm sure that the knife-armed thugs who are going about killing people will happily surrender their knives to their parents when they frisk them. "What's that, Ahmed?" "Oh, it's a knife, Dad." "You're not supposed to be carrying one of those. You might _knife_ someone." "Oh, I never thought of that, Dad. I would never want to do such a thing, but it might sort of, y'know, just _happen_ somehow if I carry one of these around. Here you go." And magically, knife crime decreases in the UK as parents confiscate knives from their teenage kids. It's the same pattern as with guns. Evil young thugs do evil things, and the first thing the liberal mind flies to is the implements they happen to use. _Those_ are the cause of the problem, and if we can just get those away from people, all will be well. That the evil of the human heart might be the real cause, and that people evil enough to commit random acts of violence will find some way to do so even unarmed, never seems to occur to the liberal mind. It's...a kind of insanity.

That's a great comment, Lydia.

Spot. On.

Vox Nova and our Catholic Bishops are confused. Even the followers of Jesus were armed. He may have rebuked Peter who struck at the High Priest's servant (interference with his earthly mission), but it's not in the Gospels to be disarmed in the world.

"Those who have prated on about the Heller decision tend to be those who look askance at capital punishment, and, frankly, this troubles me."

What you are saying is that Catholic teaching troubles you.

I'm rather amused by the reaction to Buiter by the slaves of a Calvinist culture (and please, don't even try to pretend otherwise). Buiter's language my not be the most polite, but he accurately sums up how the rest of the world views America on this puzzling issue. And he has the virtue of being right. Here is the punchline: "The decision of the Supreme Court is not just wrong, it is evil. It will contribute to the ongoing dilution of the rule of law in the US, the growth of vigilantism, fenced, gated and caged communities, and ultimately the complete breakdown of any sense of community and society." Ironically, Buiter comes from a Dutch low church Protestant tradition. It is quite ironic that he is the one to note the breakdown of society and community, while the rest of you embrace Hobbesian liberalism, cultural Calvinism, and an embrace of the old neoscholastic error of a radical division between grace and nature, between natural and supernatural ends.

"notwithstanding the manifest failure of such measures in other Anglo nations, such as Australia and the UK"

What are you smoking? Just look at the different homicide and suicide rates between these countries and the US.

Oh, golly, MM is back. Do we really have to go through explaining to him again the nonsense about calling it all "violence" and on and on? Pointing out the difference between, you know, _bad people_ trying to _slaughter other people_ and _normal people_ trying to _defend themselves_, and getting it all blown back in our faces and realizing we're wasting our pixels. Might we ignore him instead?

The decision of the Supreme Court is not just wrong, it is evil.

You are free to argue it is evil all you want, but we have gone over and over and over this - based upon the Amendment itself, the decision is correct. Your problem is with the Amendment, not the Court's accurate interpretation of it.

I'm about as anti-Calvinist as they come, having repudiated all of that in converting from Protestantism to Orthodoxy nine years ago; but I will not tolerate this loose and sloppy employment of the epithet "Calvinism" for any rejection of a late-Twentieth century, European social-democratic ethic. When innocent people defend themselves against aggression, they are not pronouncing the aggressors reprobates, infallibly and absolutely damned,and themselves elect, the children of light, but - wait for it - defending themselves, and others, against illicit violence. Period. What any of this has to do with certain modern dualisms of nature and grace, I tremble to inquire, given the tendentious employment of "Calvinism" as a category of analysis.

The conflation of homicides and suicides by gun, and the comparison of American and European rates, has been addressed by Cyrus in our previous thread on this topic; I'd direct anyone interested to that earlier thread.

You can ignore me, Lydia, as I find arguing with proponents of the culture of death to be tedious and distressing. And yes, I'm looking at you, when you promote a greater use of the death penalty, and even propose utilitarian reasoning for doing so. This kind of debate reminds me of the long stressful arguments I used to have in grad school with my "pro-choice" friends on the issue of abortion. I would recommend you adopt a consistent ethic of life.

"Christians are called to cooperate for the defense of human rights and for the abolition of the death penalty, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against the human person in time of peace and in case of war. These practices are grave crimes against the human person, created in the image of God, and a scandal for the human family in the 21st century." -- Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

And yes, the kind of support for free availability of handguns on this blog not only violates the common good but is part of the culture of death.

Culture of death? The only culture of death implicated in this controversy is the one which seems predominant in certain urban enclaves in America, the one characterized by absent fathers, gang culture, the drug trade, the "stop snitching" ethic (sic), and the predilections of this culture and its apologists to ascribe responsibility to inanimate objects, rather than to those who willfully participate in evil.

[Buiter] accurately sums up how the rest of the world views America on this puzzling issue

Forgive me if I'm not much impressed by how the rest of the world views us, its puzzlement at American veneration of the principle of self-defense, or whether Buiter sums it up accurately or not; when he manifestly cannot do the elementary work of accurately summing up the Second Amendment of the US Constitution -- the document, mind you, which (in theory at least) binds the actions of our Supreme Court justices.

It's true that I attend a Calvinist church (or at least a church in the tradition of Calvinism), but mine would be a miserly intellect indeed were I to asseverate that my tradition alone affirms a right of self-defense.

It is quite ironic that he is the one to note the breakdown of society and community, while the rest of you embrace Hobbesian liberalism [and a host of other ills].

Of course Jeff is himself noting the breakdown of society and community, an instance of which is the Minnesota father beaten senseless by a pack of thugs for intervening in the molestation of his daughter. I will leave it to Buiter, the low-church man with all his adorable irony, to demonstrate how this example -- which could of course be buoyed by dozens of similar examples (read: examples where brutality is effected without the presence of weapons of any kind) -- relates to gun violence, or to the "evil" Supreme Court decision affirming the document to which each justice swore an oath of fidelity.

In short, how anyone could praise the virtue of a statement which summarizes the Second Amendment as stating "that the armed forces ought to be armed," is something of a puzzle to me. Its only virtue, so far as I can tell, is its demonstration of either (a) the folly of pontificating on a document you have not read or (b) the perfidy of misrepresenting said document in the service of ideology.

Carinal Martino is mistaken, to this extent at least: Christians are not "called to cooperate for . . . the abolition of the death penalty"; for it is not a "grave crime against the human person, created in the image of God, and a scandal for the human family in the 21st century."

MM is referring to some wording I used--and for which I have apologized--in a thread on Zippy's blog. There I spoke flippantly and loosely in a way that could have understandably been taken to imply that I believe in using the death penalty merely for utilitarian purposes (specifically, as a response to prison overcrowding). I do not in fact believe that the death penalty should be used for utilitarian reasons but rather for retributive reasons and have stated this, oh, two or three times now, by my count, in places where MM can read, but he keeps coming back to it and trying to excoriate and embarrass my blog colleagues with my horrible-ness. I can't help pointing out that if I'd been speaking in the presence of normal death penalty hawks, they would probably have known full well that I was originally using hyperbole and merely reacting to the odd (and still, to me, incomprehensible) use earlier in that thread of the bad conditions in our prisons as, somehow, an argument against the death penalty. I do stand unapologetically by my advocacy of an expanded use of the death penalty, however--for reasons of justice, for the reasons any retributivist gives for advocating the death penalty in the first place. I have made a recent comment to this effect (that more crimes than are presently met with the death penalty should in fact receive it) which Lawrence Auster has posted on VFR.

Maximos:

I use the term "cultural Calvinism" in much the same was as Cardinal George of Chicago, who once remarked that American society “is the civil counterpart of a faith based on private interpretation of Scripture and private experience of God.” In other words, it all boils down to the individual and to personal virtue, and loses the sense of communal redemption in Christ, restoring the lost unity of the human race.

Henri de Lubac puts in best: "“Protestantism, whether primitive or modern, Lutheran or Calvinist, orthodox or liberal, generally occurs as a religion of antitheses. Either rites or morals, authority or liberty, faith or works, nature or grace, prayer or sacrifice, bible or pope, Christ the savior or Christ the judge, sacraments or the religion of the spirit, mysticism or prophecy… but Catholicism does not accept these dichotomies and refuses to be merely Protestantism turned inside out. The splendid name of Catholic, that has been so fitting translated as ‘comprehensive’ a term ‘as welcome as outstretched arms, far-reaching like the works of God, a term of wonderful richness, filled with echoes of the infinite’, has not always been perfectly grasped even by the Church’s own children. Instead of signifying, in addition to a watchful orthodoxy, the expansion of Christianity and the fullness of the Christian spirit, it came to represent, for some, a sort of preserve, a system of limitations: the profession of Catholicism became linked with a distrustful and factious sectarian spirit.”

And of course, the culture of American discouse is full of divsions, with a derivative Calvinism not only promoting the individual but also a belligerant foreign policy as the world as divided between the good guys and the bad guys, us and them, the freedom-lovers and the jihadi terrorists (I see this blog also falls into the trap of what Abp. Diarmuid Martin of Dublin refers to as the error of defining a "war on terror" as a "war against the other" and viewing people as potential enemies, rather than another self). Cardinal Pio Laghi, the Vatican diplomat who tried in vain to dissuade Bush from launching an unjust and immoral war noted “something Calvinistic” in Bush's reasoning. For while Catholics also believe in sin and evil, they also believe in grace and redemption. I believe you will see clearly how this fits into American views on the death penalty, and indeed, the worship of a culture which allows every person the right to bradish a firearm against another, to punish the malefactor. But as Pope Benedict noted, true peace requires justice to correct economic imbalances and political disturbances thatgive rise to tensions within society. In other words, we must adopt the social dimension, not the individualistic one. We cannot accept a solution of fortified castles designed to protect those within from the enemy without.

Now, as an orthodox, I'm sure you appreciate de Lubac's attempts to restore the teachings of the Church fathers to their rightful place, even he had to attack some of the more problematic aspects of neoscholasticism to do so. “All infidelity to the divine image that man bears in him, every breach with God" he noted "is at the same time a disruption of human unity. It cannot eliminate the natural unity of the human race– the image of God, tarnished though it may be, is indestructible– but it ruins that spiritual unity, which, according the the Creator’s plan, should be so much the closer in proportion as the supernatural union of man with God is the more completely affected.” In this vein, he showed that the Church fathers saw original sin as a separation, a sundering, an “individualization”. Redemption is therefore a work of restoration geared toward “the recovery of lost unity– the recovery of supernatural unity of man with God, but equally of the unity of men among themselves.” In reality, "the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, a supernatural unity, supposes a previous natural unity, the unity of the human race....the same mysterious participation in God which causes the soul to exist effects at one and the same time the unity of spirits among themselves...we ought not to speak on man in the plural any more than we speak of three Gods.”

This is quite long, by I wanted to give you a sense of where I am coming from.

It is rather risible to be lectured on adherence to the "Culture of Death" by an Obama shill. It's risible and a bit insulting also to be blamed for social breakdown because I and those like me "cling to guns" in the face of the very disorder that his preferred set of order-and-authority-undermining policies have unleashed across the industrialized world. Blame the victim indeed.

I find arguing with proponents of the culture of death to be tedious and distressing.

I dunno, but for some reason things get fuzzy when I consider that this comes from someone who argues that voting for an infanticide promoter is somehow compatible with catholic teaching...

Of course, I agree with de Lubac. Where I disagree is in the ethical deductions that are being made from theological analyses such as his.

But as Pope Benedict noted, true peace requires justice to correct economic imbalances and political disturbances that give rise to tensions within society. In other words, we must adopt the social dimension, not the individualistic one. We cannot accept a solution of fortified castles designed to protect those within from the enemy without.

Absolutely. I would surmise that we would disagree, perhaps vehemently, regarding the reforms requisite to the redress of said imbalances and disturbances; nevertheless, a perusal of my archives here will demonstrate to the satisfaction of any open intellect that I am no individualist, and that I by no means neglect the social dimensions of anything. However, as I have stated, no structural injustices render specific sins necessary or legitimate; structural injustices do not obviate responsibility. Structural injustices are, at their maximum, occasions of sin, or proximate contributing causes of sin. And if Catholicism cannot be a merely turning inside-out of Protestantism, a mere reversal of the Protestant set of dichotomies, then the individual cannot simply be canceled out, in the sense of "adopting the social dimension, and not the individualistic one." The individual is not the fundamental datum of social analysis, or of political philosophy, but he is not dispensable; moreover, as we are treating of the defense of innocents, neither can families. There are goods which pertain to the individual, to the family, and these obtain within a nexus of broader social goods; but if we are determined to move beyond binary modes of thought, then the goods of the individual and/or his family when confronted by situations such as that described in the appalling Star Tribune report cannot simply be subsumed under the necessity of rectifying the wobble in the social dimension. Reconciliation, in other words, is a moral category, process, and state, and we cannot be reconciled to those who refuse to honour even the minimal social conditions of concord established in law, both while they are dishonouring those conditions by committing acts of unjust violence, and so long as they remain impenitent.

I see this blog also falls into the trap of what Abp. Diarmuid Martin of Dublin refers to as the error of defining a "war on terror" as a "war against the other" and viewing people as potential enemies, rather than another self.

I fully and without reservation regard Muslims as other selves, selves articulated and realized in and through the Islamic religion and the mechanisms of socialization that that religion engenders; selves, that is, expressed socially, as all selves must be, as unique instances of a religious and cultural tradition, which tradition is utterly inimical to that (or those) of (the lands formerly known as) Christendom. If, therefore, I am forbidden to notice the cultural and civilizational incongruities, wither the counsel of attending to the social dimensions of existence? We will be back to individualism in such an instance.

Go, Cyrus.

And I think Cyrus's comment points to a broader issue of what we might (humorously) call "underlying causes" of our social ills. While people should defend themselves because it is _right_, and while the state should execute evildoers because it is _right_, it is nonetheless simply a fact that if the social order is right in these respects, there will be a deterrent effect upon future evildoers. That is, while defense of the innocent shouldn't be undertaken as part of some utilitarian calculus, there is no getting away from the fact that a messed-up, liberalized society has major practical problems, including the fact that thugs do not have any fear of justice or of their victims' defending themselves and hence are emboldened to prey on the helpless.

Thanks, Maximos - "Infantile tantrum" is a perfect description of Prof. Buiter's remarks. Ignorance and arrogance make for a truly ugly combination.

More generally, any Brit has to have a lot of nerve to lecture any Yank, these days, about the "dilution of the rule of law" and the "breakdown of any sense of community." In the past few decades, Britain's relentlessly liberal approach to criminal justice plus harsh intolerance of the right of self-defense has been accompanied by an equally relentless increase in criminality and civil disorder. Except for homicide, which accounts for only a tiny percentage of all violent crime, the U.K. now surpasses the U.S. in virtually every category - an astonishing turnaround in a few short years.

There is an excellent Bureau of Justice Statistics Study covering the years 1981-1996, which I've long meant to blog about. By all accounts, things have gotten even worse in the U.K. since 1996, while things in the U.S. have more or less stabilized (but don't quote me on that - I'm still looking for good statistics on this).

I think the clash of interpretations that is apparent in this post and in the comment thread consists of something far deeper than what is immediately perceived. Maximos is arguing on a secondary, more superficial level. This does not mean that he is wrong, but that his approach to addressing MM is wrong. If Maximos wishes to refute MM (and I do not think that such a task is impossible), then he must penetrate beneath the secondary level to where MM is building the foundation of his case. Ethics and Catholic social teaching as he perceives and understands them constitute the core of MM's argument, upon which he layers the upper terrain of his final social and political opinion. Maximos fundamentally fails to reach the core, remaining on a level of conclusions, which ends up presenting us with nothing any more helpful than a juxtaposition of conclusions (that of Maximos and that of MM). The people who are supporting Maximos in this thread appear to have already held his conclusions prior to entering the fray, and rather than meeting the core of MM's argument, they remain on a superficial plane of reason. And those who think superficially, ironically, are the hardest to convince due to their refusal to exercise the full scope of their reason. Perhaps the most exemplary example of this sort of thinking is given in the following assertion: "It's not in the Gospels to be disarmed in the world." Wow.

IF MM's arguments are to be genuinely addressed and potentially refuted, then it will take more than blithe assertions about the nature of the military, American history, and spectating Europeans. Let's see some real ethical, theological, and philosophical discourse here.

Policraticus,

You could have said absolutely nothing whatsoever in far fewer words. Next time, give it a try.

I've already alluded to the deeper principles underlying my argument. It is scarcely my problem that this is ignored.

MM had an argument? Where? Where?

“All infidelity to the divine image that man bears in him, every breach with God" he noted "is at the same time a disruption of human unity. It cannot eliminate the natural unity of the human race– the image of God, tarnished though it may be, is indestructible– but it ruins that spiritual unity, which, according the the Creator’s plan, should be so much the closer in proportion as the supernatural union of man with God is the more completely affected.” In this vein, he showed that the Church fathers saw original sin as a separation, a sundering, an “individualization”. Redemption is therefore a work of restoration geared toward “the recovery of lost unity– the recovery of supernatural unity of man with God, but equally of the unity of men among themselves.” In reality, "the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, a supernatural unity, supposes a previous natural unity, the unity of the human race....the same mysterious participation in God which causes the soul to exist effects at one and the same time the unity of spirits among themselves...we ought not to speak on man in the plural any more than we speak of three Gods.”

Morning's Minion, and those who would find themselves in alignment with his philosophical position in these controversies, ought to articulate an actual argument, beginning with the above premise of reconciliation/restoration as a social imperative - a premise I fully accept as a theological postulate - and concluding with a demonstration that the diffusion of such redemptive graces necessitates disarmament. I'm not attempting facetiousness, or throwing down the gauntlet: when my wife and I have been menaced by representatives of America's urban abattoirs, we have not, in our attitudes, or in any of our qualities as persons embedded in American society, constituted the obstacles to reconciliation. Quite the contrary.

Let's see some real ethical, theological, and philosophical discourse here.

Well, one could start by laying down how rights coexist with duties, how both only exist within the context of relationships, and how the types of rights and duties that exist within relationships are governed by the nature of said relationships, and how all of these things are properly moderated by justice.

One could go on to argue that human solidarity and the relationships of father, husband, neighbor, citizen &c. give rise to certain duties to protect and defend others. And one could argue that those duties cannot be properly executed without some right to the tools necessary for a proportional response to unjust aggression against those one has a duty to defend. And, finally, one could argue that, for better or for worse, the existential facts of modern life require handguns to be included as tools for such a proportional response.

One could do that, but then one would be called a "Hobbesian" and forced into an ideological box that is foreign to one's political, ethical and philosophical sensibilities.

Exactly, Brendon. And one could throw in a riff on "male and female created he them" and on what the natural light reveals about the connection between that point and the duty of defense.

Brendon:

And one could argue that those duties cannot be properly executed without some right to the tools necessary for a proportional response to unjust aggression against those one has a duty to defend... And, finally, one could argue that, for better or for worse, the existential facts of modern life require handguns to be included as tools for such a proportional response.

You are aware of the fact that such 'tools' won't be limited to only those who would rightly defend themselves in those times of immediate danger and that, by the very same privelege, those who would commit such unspeakable acts of harm against the citizenry could (and do) likewise obtain such 'tools' to endanger the lives of innocents?

You are aware of the fact that such 'tools' won't be limited to only those who would rightly defend themselves in those times of immediate danger and that, by the very same privelege, those who would commit such unspeakable acts of harm against the citizenry could (and do) likewise obtain such 'tools' to endanger the lives of innocents?

I am. But laws that keep handguns out of the hands of those who would rightly defend themselves do not necessarily keep them out of the hands of vicious men. Vicious men have little regard for either the natural or positive law when it keeps them from doing what they want.

All I'm saying is that you are arming the very same people that you wish to defend yourselves against -- that's all.

Coming from a populace wherein gun violence is practically the norm at a daily, if not, weekly basis; it's not typically the case that the gunmen (be he lunatic or felon) obtained such means via extra-ordinary means.

It has been the case (especially with the former) that such means were obtained by conventional transaction at a local Walmart, for instance.

I note, again, as Maximos so well notes, that the men in the story he talks about stomped on this guy's head. There were just more of them than there were of him, and they didn't need guns, might not even have had them. Many, many other examples could be given of evil men harming the innocent with their hands, feet, with knives, etc., where it would have been a very good thing if their victims had been armed with a handgun and able to use it in defense of themselves or their families.

And whether bad guys _in fact_ obtain guns now from Walmart is irrelevant to the point that laws against guns in the very nature of the case give an edge to people who don't care about laws.

All I'm saying is that you are arming the very same people that you wish to defend yourselves against -- that's all.

In America, citizens have the constitutional right to keep and bear and that's just the way it is. I'm in favor of stiff background checks and waiting periods to purchase handguns. I'm in favor of limited access to assault weapons. But the citizenry cannot be categorically disarmed. Like it or not, it just can't happen. As the saying goes, "It's un-American."

And whether bad guys _in fact_ obtain guns now from Walmart is irrelevant to the point that laws against guns in the very nature of the case give an edge to people who don't care about laws.

So is the case wherein if ever abortion is made illegal (God-willing), folks who don't care about the law will still find the means by which to obtain it; yet, that doesn't mean that because of this, I'm apt to agree with the universal accessibility of abortion.

At any rate, it is indeed relevant since by such you are promoting the prevalance of gun (and gun violence) in addition to that obtained by illegal means.

What you have not considered (indeed, overlooked and neglected) is the fact that the availability of guns to individuals does actually go onto further the likelihood of gun violence since by such accessibility, who is to say that the potential defender might not, on the contrary, go on to become a potential murderer?

Have you even considered those murders wherein certain folks, who initially intended to utilize such a 'tool' (I'm using here the euphemistic convention applied by Brendon which perhaps was intended to mask the ugly reality) for defense, actually ended up using this very tool to kill certain people?

Mind you, such an occurrence is not limited to merely crimes of passion.

Guns are an "ugly reality"? Myself, Aristocles, I could get real tired, real fast, of your shudder quotes around "tools." Myself, I do not share this weird gun phobia that makes people talk in hushed tones about the idea of _encouraging_ gun ownership, like gun ownership is this horrible thing in itself. And again (again, again), the term "gun violence" is vague and deliberately designed to blur crucial distinctions. It's a phrase that should be banned by common consent in supposedly intelligent discussion of this topic.

And what a dreadful, insulting response to the point I was making about giving an edge to the lawless by the comparison to abortion. Really, really awful. Angering, in fact. Hello? Excuse me? What? Abortion is _intrinsically evil_. It is _murder_. It is horrifying evil. Self-defense is not. And God knows, just _owning a gun in case_ one needs to defend oneself is not intrinsically wrong. How can you even bring up such a comparison? I'm not even sure I should carry out any conversation on this topic with somebody who can even make such an analogy in such a context.

Consequentially, I consider the bare possibility that someone will murder somebody he wouldn't otherwise have murdered merely because he bought a gun for self-defense to be vastly, unspeakably overwhelmed by the *near certainty* that people will, in the future as in the past, defend themselves against horrible criminals (in some cases, for what it's worth, merely by threatening with a gun, avoiding all "violence" altogether). A murder is on the murderer's head. I do not believe the silly, anti-gun determinism that seems to imply that people get guns for legitimate purposes and then get possessed by some sort of Gun Demon that forces them to do murders they never would otherwise have done. On that man's head be it. I will not restrict citizens' ability to defend themselves from monsters in human form because of the possibility that some free and responsible human being might commit a murder with a gun he originally bought with good intentions. For that matter, I won't even restrict their ability to do that because of the possibility of _accidents_ with guns, which really are tragedies but do not outweigh the legitimacy and, indeed, the incredible importance of allowing citizens sufficient means of self-defense. All manner of accidents occur with all manner of dangerous things around the house. A gun is one of the things that it can be even more important to have around the house than kitchen knives or drain cleaner, and I'd sooner outlaw drain cleaner (of which children have also died) than guns for self defense.

I continue to be surprised that MM would go out of his way to praise such an illiterate and uninformed screed, written by someone who cannot spell, who knows nothing of the US Constitution or the American political system, and who thinks that the Founders of America wasted their time enacting a superfluous tautology. There are any number of informed liberal commentators that MM could have cited instead of singling out perhaps the inane commentary ever written on any legal decision ever.

What's more, MM specifically praises this quote:

And he has the virtue of being right. Here is the punchline: "The decision of the Supreme Court is not just wrong, it is evil. It will contribute to the ongoing dilution of the rule of law in the US, the growth of vigilantism, fenced, gated and caged communities, and ultimately the complete breakdown of any sense of community and society."
The US Supreme Court merely held that it's not OK to ban all handguns completely; but it specifically said that it wasn't interfering with a wide variety of gun regulations short of a complete ban. So Buiter's thesis here -- which MM praises -- is that unless handguns are completely banned, there will be a "complete breakdown of any sense of community and society." Good grief, what timidity and hysteria we have here.

In the vast majority of jurisdictions in the United States outside of DC, it's permissible to have handguns; indeed, in many states, you can get a concealed carry permit that allows you to carry handguns nearly anywhere. What is Buiter's evidence that all of those many jurisdictions have seen the "complete breakdown of any sense of community and society" -- particularly compared to inner-city DC? Zero. He has no such evidence, and there is none.

...such a 'tool' (I'm using here the euphemistic convention applied by Brendon which perhaps was intended to mask the ugly reality)...

It is not a euphemism. It is what guns in fact are. A tool is any object that is not an end in itself but is instead a means to some other end. A gun is a means to strike a target at a distance with some form of projectile propelled down a barrel via pressure. Therefore a gun is a tool.

Guns are an "ugly reality"?

The 'ugly reality' I was referring to here were the various acts of murders that have been (and is) committed due to the universal accessibility of guns.


I do not believe the silly, anti-gun determinism that seems to imply that people get guns for legitimate purposes and then get possessed by some sort of Gun Demon that forces them to do murders they never would otherwise have done.

It's not 'anti-gun determinism'; it's called 'the news'.

Also, it's not any superstitiously manufactured 'Gun Demon'; it's actually originally well-intentioned people who, even though they had initially intended the use of a gun for legitimate reasons, ended up committing terrible acts of murder either out of rashness or even emotional response or just pure stupidity or perhaps even a combination of these.


I'd sooner outlaw drain cleaner (of which children have also died) than guns for self defense.

Please don't compare a bottle of household cleaner to guns.

I dare you to make accessible to your child(ren) when he's furious with a fellow playmate a gun and let's see if that as opposed to a bottle of Windex could actually result in the greater fatality.

People commit terrible acts of murder out of stupidity? I'm not even sure, anymore, that you know what the word 'murder' means. It is not possible to commit a murder out of stupidity. Murder is the _deliberate_ taking of an innocent human life.

And Windex is not drain cleaner. Actually.

And normal, responsible people do not make either loaded guns, household poisons, or circular saws readily "accessible" to their children. People are expected to behave responsibly, in all sorts of areas of life, with their _tools_, which they have around for _legitimate reasons_. And if the citizenry cannot be assumed by Big Brother to be normal and responsible, then say goodbye to a free society and hello to a world in which you can expect to sit around screaming into your cell phone or running around the neighborhood looking for the nearest bobby, like they do in England, while someone you know or even love is getting terrorized or stomped to death. I hope you enjoy the Paradise of the presumed-to-be-irresponsible, infantilized, law-abiding citizenry.

It is not possible to commit a murder out of stupidity.

For me, murder is stupid.

There are only those unique instances when the taking of a human life can be found justified and acceptable. Those few instances include interalia war and (capital) punishment.

People are expected to behave responsibly... And if the citizenry cannot be assumed by Big Brother to be normal and responsible

That's just it -- such a right has armed the irresponsible in addition to the criminal, enabling many of the former to become the latter.

Universal accessibility to guns multiplies the possibility of gun violence not only with respect to equipping those who shouldn't have them in the first place; glorifying the Almighty Gun won't prevent violence; on the contrary, it just promotes it.

Mt 26:52: Then Jesus saith to him: Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.

Right. That's probably our biggest difference of opinion. I say, murder is evil. And it can't be evil if it is merely a result of stupidity. There's that denial of the true moral responsibility of the evil man rearing its head again. It's the guns that shoot people, the knives that stab people, and we shouldn't really have a visceral sense of the evil in the evil man, and hence consider it incredibly important to defend ourselves against him, because we should think of the poor fellow as...stupid. I call attention to that failure to understand evil and responsibility because I truly believe it is somewhere close to the heart of the anti-gun control movement and the whole liberal approach to crime and punishment.

Maximos,

Being a bit of a statistics junkie I went to the DOJ website to see what the chances are of being attacked by multiple strangers. I did not look at crimes where the offender is known by the victim, since that would make gun defense less likely. The rate for simple assault by two or more assailants was the highest, at 1.6 victims per 1000 population. Next was robbery at 1 victim per 1000. Aggravated assault was .84 victims per 1000, followed by rape/sexual assault at 0.05 victims. So it came to a total of 3.5 per 1000 population that more than one attacker would be confronted in a violent crime. Not as low as I would like, but it isn't nearly enough to go all Rambo either.

A woman doesn't need to be attacked by "multiple" men in order to be brutalized. See the story of, for example, the Columbia co-ed torturer (19 hours, and left her to burn to death over a slow fire lighted under a futon to which she was tied) that has recently been tried. Man, how I wish she'd been packing and taken him out. That she survived at all to testify against him is an astonishing tribute to her own courage and resource. (She got away by melting the electric cords with which she was tied over said fire.)

As for the points made by thebyronicman and SB, I do not care for positivist arguments, I only care about natural law reasoning. And I certainly could not care less about being "un-American".

As for those of you who do attempt natural law reasoning (Maximos, Brendon etc.), here is what I see as the main flaw in your arguments: the traditional right to self-defense cannot entail a radical dichotomy between those we wish to defend (family) and a distinct class of "other", the criminals, the enemy, the "representatives of America's urban abattoirs". This dualism attests to the deep cultural Calvinism in the US (even if you have rejected theological Calvinism, culture is harder to shake off). If we find that violence is pervasive in certain parts of society, our duty is to attack the problem at its source (I appeal again to Pope Benedict's exhortation). And it becomes most irresponsible to pour fuel on the flames, but promoting a libal gun culture-- I fail to see how this respects the common good in the particular circumstances described.

Getting past the dualism also means accepting that the availabilty of guns can contribute to death in a plethora of ways that would not in the case in their absence. There will always be crimes of passion, heated arguments that can lead to physical violence. With guns, this is far more likely to lead to death (and this is what the extensive research of Prof. David Hemenway of Harvard show to be the case, and why the US is off the chart in terms of homicide and suicide rates). Again, to ignore this is to close one's syes to a "there but for the grace of God go I" standpoint, and instead to create a neat but unrealistic division between the virtuous and the malefactors.

Just to pick up on Lydia and Steve's point about Britain, The Economist has a nice article on crime in Britain aptly titled, "Island savages," with a graph showing that England leads the U.S. in the per capita number of assaults/threats:

http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=11707636

As for the points made by thebyronicman and SB, I do not care for positivist arguments, I only care about natural law reasoning.

Well, you should enlist support to amend the Constitution and repeal the 2nd amendment then, since that is the only legal--and thus moral--way to allow for your interpretation of the prudent application of the principles of the natural law to current circumstances.

...the traditional right to self-defense cannot entail a radical dichotomy between those we wish to defend (family) and a distinct class of "other", the criminals, the enemy, the "representatives of America's urban abattoirs".

There are two ways to view this statement. The first is absurd. The second is not what I am speaking of and is thus irrelevant.

The first way is to say that there cannot be a radical dichotomy between those I am actually and immediately protecting and those I am actually and immediately protecting them from. This is absurd. A radical dichotomy actually exists. The two dichotomous groups are those innocents I am protecting and those who are actually attacking them.

The second way is to say that I cannot have some preordained group of "others" to whom I attach some kind of label that marks them as targets I must defend against. But I am not doing this, so it is irrelevant. Now, insofar as those I must protect are not being attacked, anyone is potentially in this group, but no one is actually in it. Certainly there are those more likely to be in it than others, but I cannot necessarily tell who that is. Insofar as the group "attackers" exists only in potentiality, they are not on my radar except insofar as I can prudently be prepared for them, prudently avoid places and situations where potential attackers are more likely to become actual attackers, and work towards enacting circumstances where it is less likely that anyone will become an actual attacker. This third thing is synonymous with "attack[ing] the problem at its source".

If you want to call me some kind of Hobbesian for saying that anyone is potentially an attacker, because it is synonymous with Hobbes "war of all against all," I would say that you're full of it. The fact that anyone is a potential attacker comes from the fact that all are fallen, thus all are capable of great evil. A virtuous man is much less likely to commit grave evil than a vicious man, but I cannot tell who is virtuous and who is vicious simply by looking at them. So instead I must be prepared for vicious men while trying to order society towards producing virtuous ones.

On statistics, I will only say that I do not think that it is really legitimate to compare the United States to European countries taken individually. To offer an honest comparison one must either compare each of the 50 states to all of the European countries or the United States to Europe as a whole. That is really the only way to compare like to like.

(I feel like the voices in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. "Hear 'im. 'e's talking like a book. You can't say fairer than that." And so forth.)

I second Brendon's comments.

I note, again, the deterministic overtones in MM's comments: Because we should think in terms of "there but for the grace of God go I," we should think of the guns as the problem rather than the people who use them. We should have such a fear of the crimes for which, we deem people are only partially to blame, crimes that these poor people (whom we think of as so much like ourselves) were caused to do by the availability of guns, that we should make guns unavailable for everyone. Moreover, when it comes to those to whom Maximos, I, and others refer to in negative terms, we shouldn't refer to them in those negative terms, because we should think of them as the victims of their culture. Hence, we should not consider them as completely responsible for their actions and deem them (according to their actions) as monsters against whom we need to be armed for self-defense and defense of others.

I have, myself, no problem at all with having a "dichotomy" between innocents--whether myself and my family or the family actually attacked--and people who first molest a 12-year-old girl and then stomp on the head of her father when he tries to stop them. And they weren't caused to do it by poverty, either.

MM didn't even attempt to answer my main point, which is that the claim he endorsed -- that the Supreme Court's ruling will completely destroy society and community -- is self-evidently ridiculous. There's absolutely no evidence suggesting that DC, with a ban on handguns, had a better functioning society or community than Texas or any of the many states that allow people to carry handguns. And it's rather startling that Buiter and MM -- both of whom purport to do economic research and who should be aware that empirical reality does matter -- are willing to make such absurd claims with no regard for whether they match the real world.

As for the points made by thebyronicman and SB, I do not care for positivist arguments, I only care about natural law reasoning.

Maybe you haven't caught on to this, but in America, we have a phenomenon called the "rule of law." In part, this means that judges are not empowered to enforce so-called "natural law principles" (none of which would validly require a complete ban on handguns in any event). Instead, judges are bound to follow what the Constitution says. You're arguing for the precise pattern of reasoning found in Roe v. Wade . . . "what we want may not be in the Constitution, but we think it's a good natural law principle, and so we'll shoehorn it in somewhere."

Policraticus,

You could have said absolutely nothing whatsoever in far fewer words. Next time, give it a try.

Nice try. More evidence of the inability to think deeply on the matter.

I've already alluded to the deeper principles underlying my argument. It is scarcely my problem that this is ignored.

Allusions are not helpful. Indeed, one can claim that whatever one writes "alludes" to something not explicitly stated. We're asking for an actual argument.

We're asking for an actual argument.

That this could be stated without the barest trace of irony is part of the problem, for we are still waiting for an argument expressly linking a handful of theological and/or philosophical postulates with a specific conclusion.

And I certainly could not care less about being "un-American".

*Sigh*. Speaking as someone more than willing to critique the history of his nation, and many of the myths, ideologies, and malevolent self-delusions of that nation, I find such comments enormously vexing. In fact, I think that such sentiments, stated with such categorical force, are another part of the problem: what I - most of us at this website, moreover - perceive in them is a contempt for particularity, historical, personal, ontological, and otherwise.

To use the phrase "universal accessibility of gun," and suchlike, in reference to the United States of America, is the kind of sophistry that fairly obliterates a man's credibility on this subject.

Policraticus asserts that we have not made an argument to his satisfaction; I fear we may just have to let him remain unsatisfied.

To my mind, more true arguments against MM's position have been left pristinely unnoticed, than have been made in its favor.

A few examples:

(a) How Supreme Court justices, on the strength of MM's speculations that Natural Law enjoins the proscription of all firearms, should be bound to falsify the oaths they took to the Constitution.

(b) How policies like the DC ban can, empirically, vindicate the the judgment that banning firearms prevents gun violence.

(c) How the potential that said policies, if expanded to encompass the entire country, might yield empirically better results, can comprise the substance of our reasoning for setting aside the potential for the necessity of self-defense.

(d) How the potential philosophical snare of falling into a "radical dichotomy," its roots in "cultural Calvinism," between attacker and victim, is so dangerous as to impel us to deny much of a dichotomy at all, between the principles of guilt and innocence.

we are still waiting for an argument expressly linking a handful of theological and/or philosophical postulates with a specific conclusion

Precisely right, Poli and MM -- we're still waiting for even a glimmering of an argument specifying how you get from A ("My interpretation of natural law suggests that guns should be restricted") to Z ("Supreme Court Justices who have sworn allegiance to the US Constitution, and who depend on that Constitution for their very existence and authority in the first place, should set aside their conscience and ignore what they believe to be the correct interpretation of that Constitution, and should instead rule in accordance with my interpretation of natural law.").

And I certainly could not care less about being "un-American".

That presents a real problem for you, then. But it's not my problem, it's yours. Keep your identity crisis to yourself, and away from my Constitutional right to keep and bear. For the longest time I never understood the militancy of the NRA people. I didn't grow up around guns. I've never owned one or discharged one, and likely I never will. But I'm starting to empathize with the man who says "out of my cold, dead hands."

Nice try. More evidence of the inability to think deeply on the matter.

Ah, Policratus, that's much better, thanks. More economy of expression in your pointless blather, you deep thinker you.

"I would say that you're full of it"-- the conclusion of Brendon's argument for me daring to notice an unhealthy whiff of cultural Calvinism in America. Here's a handy rule of thumb-- on many of the core economic, social, and cultural differences between the US and Europe, the former is coming from a Calvinist perspective. The "World Values Survey" shows that about two-thirds of Europeans view the poor as unlucky, whereas the same percentage of Americans view them as lacking in virtue. Americans of all types hang on to a Calvinst-inspired notion of American exceptionalism (Withrop-Wilson-Dulles-Bush) where America is ordained by God to spread freedom throughout the world (the more secular leave out the God bit, but that doesn't make the position any less Calvinist). At the heart is the dualistic division between them and us, the good guys and the bad guys. When the UK was plagued with evil and highly effective IRA terrorism, it did not declare a "war on Catholic fascism" and start bombing west Belfast. And yet, as many in the Vatican noted, this was the Calvinist-inspired American reaction to the events of 9/11. Likewise, the zeal for the death penalty comes the same source, as does-- my core point here- the refusal to countenance gun control in the common good.

You can mock Buiter all you like, and say what you like about me. But he speaks for the whole western world when they look at the explicable gun policies in the US --which is righly claims as "evil". Extrinsically evil, to be more precise.

"On statistics, I will only say that I do not think that it is really legitimate to compare the United States to European countries taken individually." Exactly the wrong approach. That would only work inm the presence of strict border controls between the states, which is why the only valid empirical litreture is of the cross-country varirety, and I have shown beyond the shadow of a doubt the relationship between gun availability and gun deaths. And, yes, there are violent tendencies in the UK, but its murder rate is far far lower than the US-- because of the lack of guns.

I've been avoiding getting into positivist arguments, but so many of you want to go down that line. Fine. In my original post, I quoted constitutional scholar Jack Balkin (SB chided me for quoting Buiter instead of serious legal scholars, and yet he was not so happy with Balkin;'s take either. Here is Balkin:

“Despite its long and occasionally dreary originalist exegesis, the Heller majority is not really defending the values of 1791. It is enforcing the values of 2008. This is no accident. Indeed, the result in Heller would have been impossible without the success of the conservative movement and the work of the NRA and other social movement actors who, over a period of about 35 years, succeeded in changing Americans’ minds about the meaning of the Second Amendment, and made what were previously off-the-wall arguments about the Constitution socially and politically respectable to political elites. This is living constitutionalism in action.”

The notion of a Supreme Court of pure tecnocrats implementing "rational" decisions is ludicrious. In Bush v. Gore, do you think anybody voted differently in this case from the way the voted in the presidential election? I don't think so. No, this Heller case was a reflection of personal judgements, biases, and ideologies-- which is one reason why I appeal to the natural law.

Why, why, why does MM think we care, or even should care, tuppence (to use a good British expression) about the opinion a bunch of Europeans hold on the subject of Americans and guns? Frankly, given European opinions on a whole suite of subjects, I'd worry that there was something wrong with my opinion on almost any subject of consequence if most Europeans agreed with it.

Here's a good rule of thumb, Lydia: if the position of the Vatican goes against prevailing European opinions, Europe is wrong. If the position of the Vatican goes against prevailing American opinions, America is wrong. I'm not promoting any ecclesiology here (I anticipate Zippy's response), I am proposing a rule of thumb that has the benefit of being right most of the time. You, on the other hand, are hanging on dearly to your nationalism, and all the cultural Calvinist baggage that goes with it.

SB chided me for quoting Buiter instead of serious legal scholars, and yet he was not so happy with Balkin;'s take either

Easy: Balkin is still wrong (if you haven't noticed that his constitutional positions are completely predicted by his politics, you aren't a regular reader), but at least he is well-informed, is capable of making a reasonable argument, and knows how to spell.

Actually, MM, I was just pointing out a crude bandwagon fallacy: "You crude Americans. Just _think_ of what all the Europeans think of you. Don't you feel silly, now?"

When I was a kid, I was always taught not to be swayed merely by the thought of "what people would think of you." That was called "just going with the crowd" or "giving in to peer pressure." Would that I had heeded the advice all the time.

So MM is apparently a legal realist. But then he expects others to take seriously an appeal to natural law as interpreted by none other than the unarmed prophets of the kingdom of darkness?!?

Here's a handy rule of thumb-- on many of the core economic, social, and cultural differences between the US and Europe, the former is coming from a Calvinist perspective. The "World Values Survey" shows that about two-thirds of Europeans view the poor as unlucky, whereas the same percentage of Americans view them as lacking in virtue. Americans of all types hang on to a Calvinst-inspired notion of American exceptionalism (Withrop-Wilson-Dulles-Bush) where America is ordained by God to spread freedom throughout the world (the more secular leave out the God bit, but that doesn't make the position any less Calvinist). At the heart is the dualistic division between them and us, the good guys and the bad guys.

Speaking solely for myself, I don't gainsay any of this, as a rough-but-ready generalization. I've little patience - probably negative patience, in that I needn't be confronted with an expression of the trope to reflect upon it and find it galling - with notions of American exceptionalism. I believe that fantasies of world-historical destiny are masks for grubby hegemonism, and that hegemonism is morally illicit. I believe, moreover, and have argued on numerous occasions on this site, that American political economy is, among other things, generating a cognitive/economic overclass, while gradually excluding ever-widening swathes of the population from any prospect of stable, dignified employment capable of sustaining a family; in consequence, while, as in all things human, it is not possible to exclude moral failings from the causes of the miseries of the poor - at least in the aggregate - a growing percentage of those causes are structural (whatever the present ratio may be, were it possible to form such an estimate).

Nevertheless, in circumstances necessitating self-defense, or the defense of innocent persons, the perpetrators of unjust violence are not, in the commission of those acts of unjust violence, unlucky, and to that degree deprived of moral agency. They are, to the contrary, in the commission of those acts, giving themselves over to evil, something that it is never necessary to do, something that it is always possible to resist. They may be the unluckiest persons of which one can conceive in their life circumstances and histories, but - to remain with the example of the malefactors in the linked account - commission of the crimes of sexual assault and attempted murder is not a stroke of bad luck, except for the victims. Those acts are simply evil. This is not to state that such persons are irremediably and irredeemably depraved, merely that their crimes are evil, and must be resisted during commission and punished proportionately after the fact.

MM's got some kind of Calvinist bug up his butt. It appears obsessive. He doesn't like "a faith based on private interpretation of Scripture and private experience of God," and then proceeds to inflict on everyone else his private interpretation of Catholicism and his private experience of the God of the Democratic party.

Lydia, this is the second or third time I've seen him accuse you of wanting to execute prisoners to relieve prison overcrowding, even after you've retracted it more than once. If he does it again, I hope you'll delete his comment. It's a minimally violent means of self-defense, in accord with natural law, and certainly less of a punishment than such a disturbed and dishonest person deserves.

"I would say that you're full of it"-- the conclusion of Brendon's argument for me daring to notice an unhealthy whiff of cultural Calvinism in America.

No, that was my preemptive response to being called "Hobbesian," since you so liked to toss that word at me left and right last time we went around on this issue. But if it makes you feel better, you're full of it when you call me Calvinist as well--though, since I am a strict Thomist on the question of predestination I am probably what most would call just shy of Calvinism within orthodox Catholic belief on that issue. But since we aren't discussing predestination, that's not really relevant. We are discussing culture Calvinism, the idea that we can divide society into some version of the saved and the reprobate. You have accused me of doing this. I have shown why you are wrong in doing so. Thus, insofar as you are calling me culturally Calvinist, you are full of it.

You are doing exactly what caused me to stop responding to you last time. I am not arguing for every American. I am arguing for myself. There is a chance that many Americans who agree with my positions do so for the wrong reason. Fine. But you are not arguing with them. You are arguing with me. You continually try to shove me and your other opponents into little, ideological boxes you have in your head, ones labeled "Hobbesian," "cultural Calvinist," "conservative," "the majority of Americans" &c. You apply these labels to your opponents instead of dealing with what they actually said. You must do that to be able to interpret "call[ing] me some kind of Hobbesian" as "daring to notice an unhealthy whiff of cultural Calvinism in America."

"You are arguing with me. You continually try to shove me and your other opponents into little, ideological boxes you have in your head, ones labeled "Hobbesian," "cultural Calvinist," "conservative," "the majority of Americans" &c. You apply these labels to your opponents instead of dealing with what they actually said."

First, I would never use the term "conservative" in the American context as pretty much all shades of opinion are based on some form of liberalism, twinged with ideosyncratic Americanisms. I prefer "pseudo-conservativism". Second, I do indeed see cultural Calvinism in the US as dominant, and your views on guns fit. You are angry because I accuse you of something you propose to oppose. Deal with it. I will go even further: your "arms race" views on guns is downright evil.

We get it. You think the private possession of firearms evil, and the position that such possession be regarded as a Constitutional right, requisite to the exercise of rights of self-defense, expressive of positivism and cultural Calvinism, both of which are also evil, auguring as they do the breakdown of all civility and the devolution of society into the War of All Against All. Once more, we get it.

What we do not get is why you believe that these specific conclusion follow from your premises. More argumentation, less calumniation, please.

First, I would never use the term "conservative" in the American context as pretty much all shades of opinion are based on some form of liberalism, twinged with ideosyncratic Americanisms. I prefer "pseudo-conservativism". Second, I do indeed see cultural Calvinism in the US as dominant, and your views on guns fit. You are angry because I accuse you of something you propose to oppose. Deal with it.

I am annoyed because you obviously do not understand how debates are supposed to work. Perhaps this is because you are so wrapped up in politics that you confuse the media-circuses we call "debates" with real ones.

A refresher course in basic argumentation:

1. Define your terms.

2. Demonstrate the truth of you premises.

3. Show that your conclusion follows from your premises.

4. To refute your opponent, show that they fail to consistently do 1, 2 or 3.

I would really appreciate if you would attempt to do 4, rather than label me a "Hobbesian" or a "cultural Calvinist" and have done with it. Not only do neither of these labels apply to me, at least not insofar as they are generally understood, but even if they did you would still need to refute my actual points.

Here are a number of things that are completely irrelevant to refuting my position: World War I, the current conflict in Iraq, the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, the presidency of George W. Bush, political economy. Not only are these issues irrelevant to my argument, but you have generally demonstrated that you have absolutely no idea where I stand on any of them. (For your edification: Stupid and probably unjust, stupid and unjust, bad, bad, anti-global-corporation and pro-small-business with an understanding that a moral economy requires real morality.)

I will go even further: your "arms race" views on guns is downright evil.

Do you deny any or all of the following and, if so, why? I will number them to make it easy for you.

1. A man has a duty to defend his family, his neighbors and his fellow man.

2. This duty gives a man the right to possess such tools as are necessary to offer a proportional response to any possible threats these people may face.

3. It is an existential fact that the possible threats to these people includes gangs, i.e. groups of individuals who band together to commit crimes and acts of violence, and men armed with guns.

4. The use of a gun is a proportional response to such threats.

Bonus question: Why does history show that governments who attempt to disarm their citizens are either totalitarian or sliding into totalitarianism?

I was on the verge of taking you seriously until this: "Why does history show that governments who attempt to disarm their citizens are either totalitarian or sliding into totalitarianism?"

Dear God. Yes, the governments of western Europe are sliding into totalitarianism! Australia is a brutal dictatorship! I wonder why the good citizens of these countries are so blind? Can you really not see the narrow Americanist nature of this statement? Can you really not see its individualist basis? Why do you think this kind of statement is inexplicable to non-Americans who live under idential democratic governments and enjoy the same set of "rights", broadly defined? To coin a phrase, it's the culture, stupid.

OK, so on your statements.

(1) Yes.
(2) No, this right be qualified by considerations of the common good. It would not hold if the evils that ensue from such a policy outweigh the good of defending your family. Extreme case: it would not hold in Mogadishu, where the correct policy would be to re-establish law and order, rather than arm each man as a vigilante. Present case: it does not hold in the US, given a level of gun violence that is off the charts by appropriate international comparisons, and the presence of communities racked by death at the hands of guns (and sorry, you are your brother's keeper), owing in part to historical social, economic, and racial injustices. You cannot add fuel to a bonfire, simply because you think it makes you safer.
(3) Yes.
(4) No, see (2). A national handgun ban is the correct policy response in the particular circumstances in the US.

"You think the private possession of firearms evil..."

Extrinsically, not intrinsically, evil. As with war, it depends on circumstances. And in the US, the circumstances lead one to the rational conclusion that the private ownership of handguns ought to be severely curtailed. That, in a nutshell, is my position.

When I think of it, the overlaps with just war teaching are pellucid, especially the "disproportionate evils" criterion.

"...racked by death at the hands of guns..."

As a wise man once said, there you go again. At the hands of guns. Right. The guns are the ones that have the hands, and are racking communities with death. Get rid of the guns, and the problem goes away. MM, you just keep holding up a mirror to yourself. You just keep demonstrating my point. You just do not get evil and responsibility.

"When I think of it, the overlaps with just war teaching are pellucid,..."

You may be breaking new ground here. However, the rest of us would feel a lot more comfortable though, if you could show us where the Church teaches the ownership of private weapons for the purpose of self-defense is evil. Absent that, your contribution to the Social Teaching of the Church may be limited to your novel assertion that an acceptance of abortion is buried somewhere in her understanding of Subsidiarity.

In other words, implicating the Church in your various, and seemingly endless political causes is fraught with self-deception and arrogance.

Dear God. Yes, the governments of western Europe are sliding into totalitarianism! Australia is a brutal dictatorship!

Let me define my terms. "Totalitarian" does not mean "brutal dictatorship." "Totalitarian" means that the government begins taking centralized control over all aspects of life. There is such a thing as "soft totalitarianism."

(2) No, this right be qualified by considerations of the common good.

Then so does the duty in 1. A man cannot have a duty to perform the impossible.

...rather than arm each man as a vigilante.

I notice you and other opponents of personal gun ownership really enjoy the false dilemma of "guns are banned" or "every man a vigilante." There is a difference between responding to an immediate threat and taking the law into your own hands by personally hunting down, judging and executing criminals. It should be clear that I am speaking of expecting probable trouble rather than going out and hunting trouble down.

...(and sorry, you are your brother's keeper)...

This is the kind of BS that makes me question either your honesty or your reading comprehension skills. Here's a question for you: Who wrote the two following quotes (emphasis added)?

One could go on to argue that human solidarity and the relationships of father, husband, neighbor, citizen &c. give rise to certain duties to protect and defend others.

A man has a duty to defend his family, his neighbors and his fellow man.

If you guessed "brendon," then you are correct.

Yes, I certainly care nothing for my fellow man and deny that I am my brother's keeper. How astute of you to figure me out.

(4) No, see (2).

You argued in response to 2 that a man did not necessarily have a right to proportional means of defense. Your arguments seemed to assume that guns were proportional, but that a right to possess them as proportional means of defense did not exist because the situation was such that allowing their use did more harm than good. Here you are saying that your argument in 2 actually demonstrates that guns aren't proportional. Which is it? If it's the former, then your answer to 4 should be yes. If it's the latter, your answer to 2 should be yes.

Lydia:

You just do not get evil and responsibility.

I am by no means arguing for MM's view; but with respect to my own on the matter, you still seem to miss the point that this sort of accessibility to guns have allowed the irresponsible (not to mention, the lunatic) in addition to the criminal to take advantage of such to the detriment of innocents.

Indeed, it has been due to such accessibility that has resulted in a greater proliferation of gun violence than in its prevention.

I remember a situation in the 'Shaw wherein there were households who possessed firearms for the purpose of 'self-defense'.

Needless to say, they were more than adequately equipped to meet the challenges of any number of gangbangers in the vicinity who would dare commit any similar acts of violence in their community.

However, do you really think that their possessing these firearms actually afforded them the kind of safety, protection, 'self-defense' that they sought these in the first place?

What happened instead at the time was an escalation of violence of sorts wherein several innocent people (children, infants even) ended up being killed as a result of the violent gun battle that ensued when these citizens decided to engage the lot of drive-by gang bangers.

But, that's the whole point, isn't it???

We should adopt this whole 'Wild West' theme and let every party fend for themselves and should several innocent people end up being killed; so long as the 'self-defense' Gospel is preserved and the Almighty Gun worshipped, who cares?

"As a wise man once said, there you go again." The man who said that was not wise. As well as being a laissez-faire ideologue, and a perfect exhibit of a Calvinist-inspired foreign policy (he even resurrected Winthrop's "city on a hill speech"!), his backing of numerous brutal regimes on consequentialist grounds led many Catholics in Latin America to suffer greatly.

"You just do not get evil and responsibility."

So says the Protestant.

"Absent that, your contribution to the Social Teaching of the Church may be limited to your novel assertion that an acceptance of abortion is buried somewhere in her understanding of Subsidiarity."

Excuse me? That is a lie. And I am the one being accused of calumny around here...

"As a wise man once said, there you go again." The man who said that was not wise. As well as being a laissez-faire ideologue, and a perfect exhibit of a Calvinist-inspired foreign policy (he even resurrected Winthrop's "city on a hill speech"!), his backing of numerous brutal regimes on consequentialist grounds led many Catholics in Latin America to suffer greatly.
Reagan's wisdom or lack thereof notwithstanding, it's not relevant. At to consequentialism, your argument at heart is a consequentialist one, is it not? "More guns = more deaths, thus, ban them" is nothing if not consequentialist.

Catholics don't believe in evil and responsibility, MM? News to me. But perhaps that wasn't the point of your gratuitous reference to my being a Protestant.

Gentlemen, please notice that we are being told that RR was "not wise" and was, basically, a disastrous president. I'm not out to defend everything he did in his presidency--I would not do that for any presidency--but I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that our resident leftist can't resist a swipe in that direction.

Aristocles, I do not buy your consequentialist argument. _Of course_ it's a terrible tragedy when innocents are accidentally killed. But it is far more than a tragedy, it is a monstrous evil, when innocents are tortured, raped, beaten, kidnaped, and murdered because they were undefended. Whether in the situation you give it "turned out to be worthwhile" that the victims had guns or not is a question I'm not in a position to answer in the concrete absent more information about the specific situation. But I certainly do not agree that the negative consequences of people's being permitted this means of self defense are such as to make it bad public policy for that means to be permitted. The mere fact that such accidents do sometimes occur does not support that sweeping conclusion.

And your putting of the phrase 'self-defense' in which I take it you mean to be scare quotes (though you should have used double quotes for that purpose) has not gone unnoticed. It is duly logged and noted that your response to references to self-defense is a typographical curl of the lip. But there have been plenty of cases where self-defense, yes, with guns, has been perfectly literal and extremely important. And there will be many more.

OK, Brendon, let me clarify. And as much as Kevin hates it, I think the just war analogy is appropriate (and for the record, I have not thought of this before, so there may be a few "kinks" to be ironed out). Key is the notion that "the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated". Far too often, those who defend war take a far too limited approach to this principle. For example, they will restrict the notion to simple body count. Two years ago, I engaged in some vigorous debate pertaining to Israel's war against Lebanon, which I argued (in line with the Vatican) that Israel's actions were gravely unjust. The defenses trotted out were that Israel was acting purely in self defense, and that its actions were proportionate (the death rate was kept under control). In reponse, I argued that the disproportionate evils were far broader and included the political situation in Lebanon, the emboldening of Hizbollah at the precise time it was being politically marginalized. Everything I predicted came to pass.

I think it's quite clear why I bring this up. I would argue that the free availability of handguns for "self defense" is-- in the present context-- a "disproportionate" response to any perceived threat, broadly defined, in the sense that it contributes to far greater evils in society than the good of protecting one's family. I think we could reformulate the just war conditions as "the unrestricted private possession of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated".

Cyrus: you misunderstand consequentialism. As defined by Pope John Paul, consequentialism "claims to draw the criteria of the rightness of a given way of acting solely from a calculation of foreseeable consequences deriving from a given choice." They key is "solely", and the problem lies with choosing evil so that good might result of it (e.g. Hiroshima). If the act you choose is not evil in itself, then it appealing to consequences becomes the correct way of making decisions. In this particualr instance, you argument only makes sense if banning guns is evil, and that is patently not the case.

"Excuse me? That is a lie. And I am the one being accused of calumny around here..."

Sorry for the confusion. It was your co-contributor, Campbell who came up with that one. Your objection to his nonsense was so muted, I didn't hear it. Could you repeat it here?

As for lying; you claimed the Irish Bishops issued a Pastoral Letter supporting the Lisbon Treaty and charged Catholics who voted against the treaty with "dissenting from Church teaching". When confronted with the actual Letter in which no endorsement was given, you neither apologized or recanted.

As for hosting a website that claims to be Catholic, you are doggedly remarkably fixated on American politics and apparently oblivious to the liturgical reforms, inter-religious dialogues, World Youth Day, and the excitement surrounding Rome's talks with the SSPX and the Anglican Communion. Very odd.

Kevin, don't waste your time; MM won't disagree with Campbell. Either Campbell has incriminating photographs of all his co-bloggers, or else they've sworn never to disagree with him no matter what idiotic concept he comes up with next. It's entirely fruitless.

Meanwhile, MM said: Dear God. Yes, the governments of western Europe are sliding into totalitarianism! Australia is a brutal dictatorship!

OK, so you recognize that it would be an absurd strawman if someone claimed that banning firearms = a brutal dictatorship. Do you really fail to see that it is an equal absurdity for Buiter to claim (in the statement that you specifically praised) that a state that FAILS to ban all firearms will see the "complete breakdown of any sense of community and society"? Come on. Guns have been legal in America for 200+ years. Where's the evidence that America has experienced that complete breakdown? More importantly, where's the evidence that cities or states that restrict guns (i.e., inner-city Washington DC) have a superior community to other cities or states?

I know you don't have an answer, of course, or else you would have come up with it before now. I feel compelled to point out, however, how wildly hysterical and un-empirical your assertions have been.

So says the Protestant.

As does this pagan, who finds it difficult to take seriously your appeals to Catholic doctrine.

SB, If Minion does not refute Campbell's claim and you add that to his enthusiastic support of Obabma, then it is safe to wonder where he gets the gall to accuse other Catholics of being Calvinists and cultural conformists.

Minion, a troubling pattern has emerged and I hope you correct it. Whether it be the European Union, voting for a pro-abortion zealot or gun control, you always present your case as one carrying the weight and authority of Church teaching behind it. This is intellectually dishonest, confusing to non-Catholics and spiritually dangerous.

"Sorry for the confusion. It was your co-contributor, Campbell who came up with that one. Your objection to his nonsense was so muted, I didn't hear it. Could you repeat it here?"

I do not defend, and have neve defended abortion on any grounds, not even the so-called "hard cases". Abortion is intrinsically evil. I can't be clearer than that.

"As for lying; you claimed the Irish Bishops issued a Pastoral Letter supporting the Lisbon Treaty and charged Catholics who voted against the treaty with "dissenting from Church teaching". When confronted with the actual Letter in which no endorsement was given, you neither apologized or recanted."

This one had me puzzled, so I went back to the record. I wrote a post here: http://vox-nova.com/2008/06/14/ireland-the-lisbon-treaty-and-the-church/, and commented on Maximos's post here: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2008/06/all_hail_the_irish_1.html-- I can only guess that the latter is what you refer to, since you comment in that thread. I note that I wrote critics of Lisbon were "out of tone with the Irish bishops". I most certainly did not claim Catholics were in dissenting for their vote on what is basically a procedural treaty. What in the world are you getting at? Plus, I never said that the bishops endorsed Lisbon-- they don't do that-- but they basically praised much of the treaty and neutralized much of the opposition. Read the tone of the letter and tell me the American critics are in line with it.

"[We] condemn unreservedly [those who attempted to influence the outcome by] “offering misleading or even patently incorrect advice or by introducing extraneous factors into the debate.”, they noted. A number of bishops noted separately (Martin, Smith) that abortion and marriage was not an issue, and condemned "self-styled 'Catholic' organisations" for saying otherwise. And the bishops praise the Lisbon treaty’s commitment to "full employment, social progress, a high standard of environmental protection, linguistic and cultural diversity, equality between men and women, social justice and protection, solidarity between generations, protection of the rights of the child, and to combat marginalization and discrimination."


"As for hosting a website that claims to be Catholic, you are doggedly remarkably fixated on American politics and apparently oblivious to the liturgical reforms, inter-religious dialogues, World Youth Day, and the excitement surrounding Rome's talks with the SSPX and the Anglican Communion. Very odd."

No, we focus on culture, society, and politics. I have a keen interest in liturgy, but it's not what Vox Nova is about. But if you want that, go look up my pictures from the papal Mass in Washington!

Whether it be the European Union, voting for a pro-abortion zealot or gun control, you always present your case as one carrying the weight and authority of Church teaching behind it.

But isn't that the point of his writing?

Kevin, I responded to you last comment, and this was "held for moderation". As for the "voting for a pro-abortion zealot", it would be exactly the wrong conclusion to say that Catholics cannot do this if they do not share in the intent (because it is not formal cooperation in evil). My position on this is decidedly "ecumenical" -- Catholics can vote for Obama or McCain or Barr or Nader or Screaming Lord Sutch or Nobody based on how they weigh up the various proportionate reasons. I am not the one trying to align the Church with any political party. But resisting the Republicaths on this one can rapidly become a full-time job!

But resisting the Republicaths on this one can rapidly become a full-time job!

I do think there is such a thing as a Republicath. I know a few personally, and thy are fairly well represented on FOXnews. I certainly hope you aren't trying to identify Maximos as one of these. That would be a laugher. Democath. Hey, that works too!

"I certainly hope you aren't trying to identify Maximos as one of these."

No I'm not.

Gentlemen: I don't think Maximos is Catholic. As far as I'm aware, Zippy is the only Catholic on this blog, which is a good thing (at least, in my p.o.v.).

In any case, I do find it strange (not to mention, deplorable) that both of you would actually attempt to align The Church (and its Teachings) with either one of these parties.

Minion,

"I do not defend, and have neve defended abortion on any grounds, not even the so-called "hard cases". Abortion is intrinsically evil. I can't be clearer than that. "

In between upbraiding "Republicaths" (and you won't find many here), could you find time for Campbell? So far, you've been too busy. I guess.

" I never said that the bishops endorsed Lisbon-- they don't do that-- but they basically praised much of the treaty and neutralized much of the opposition."

Then why did you say, in the very same thread, "I see dissenting from the teachings of the bishops extend beyond the U.S." What teaching did anyone dissent from regarding this Treaty?. And do note, the prolife community lead the charge against the treaty. But the Bishops were afraid if abortion was the dominant issue and the Treaty still passed, the prolife side would be greatly impaired under Bertie's regime.

Also, your selective quotes from the Letter omit the Bishop's concerns about the E.U.'s desire to belittle and neglect Europe's Christian patrimony. Again, this is a pattern in your argumentation.

"No, we focus on culture, society, and politics. I have a keen interest in liturgy, but it's not what Vox Nova is about."

What is Vox Nova about? It touts it's Catholicity, but often reads like a forum for politcal consultants in between jobs.

"I am not the one trying to align the Church with any political party."

Are you sure about that? Review your own postings and you might understand why one can draw that conclusion.


As far as I'm aware, Zippy is the only Catholic on this blog

There's a fair amount of evidence to suggest that Francis Beckwith is a Catholic as well.

"I certainly hope you aren't trying to identify Maximos as one of these."
No I'm not.

I didn't think so, but just checking.

Oh by the way, Minion in your battle with RepbliCath's, do you ever find your efforts constrained by gems like this;
"it would be exactly the wrong conclusion to say that Catholics cannot do this if they do not share in the intent (because it is not formal cooperation in evil)."

Wow, kinda takes the whole thinking with the Church obligation off the table doesn't it?

As far as I'm aware, Zippy is the only Catholic on this blog

And I vote for making Paul Cella an honorary Catholic.

There's a fair amount of evidence to suggest that Francis Beckwith is a Catholic as well.

I was thinking primarily of W4's principals out of which Zippy is the only Catholic (although some of his interlocutors might beg to differ -- I'm mainly referring here to comments made by Zippy's past opponents).

Also, don't you know that the rumor about Dr. Beckwith being Catholic is just that -- a rumor?! ;^)

"it would be exactly the wrong conclusion to say that Catholics cannot do this if they do not share in the intent (because it is not formal cooperation in evil)."

Look, I know I'll draw fire for saying this, but I think this is the sort of use of Catholic scholasticism that gives scholasticism a bad name. It just feels like a fancy lawyer's argument to me. Isn't this where they say the Jesuits went wrong? True, I'm somewhat of an anti-abortion zealot, and this is probably a weakness in my character. Intuitively I see a problem with too fine a self-consciousness of this distinction, if you get my meaning. It's a distinction, to my way of thinking, that is designed to recognize a particular mode of the intention/action relationship for the purpose of allowing grace for error, not rationale for error. My feeling is, in other words, that St. Thomas wouldn't be an Obama supporter, even though he might seek to provide relief for those Catholics who, out of ignorance, vote for him "in good conscience"--in other words, without the intent to formally support abortion culture--by invoking the formal/material distinction. The reasoning of the Obama-supporting Catholic philosophers of recent fame sounds far too knowing for my comfort. Too much causuistry, too much knowingness in the articulation of the position. MM is clearly highly intelligent and well-educated. But he sounds to me like he's outsmarted himself on this one. Also refer to Lydia's fine post from a few weeks ago on the meaning of a vote.

Also, don't you know that the rumor about Dr. Beckwith being Catholic is just that -- a rumor?! ;^

Yeah. Word is he'll be debunkning that rumor in his new book.

I think this is the sort of use of Catholic scholasticism that gives scholasticism a bad name.

thebyronicman,

Kindly refrain from condemning scholasticism due to the abhorrent actions of those who would misuse (even mutilate) it for their own twisted ends. It's endured enough injustice, thank-you, which some modern scholars (even secular ones) today (such as in the field of economics and science) are fortunately acknowledging and repenting from as a result.

I just want to speak up loudly here and say that Frank Beckwith is as much a "principal" here on W4 as anybody else. The only distinction around here is among the following categories: Paul Cella, who is editor, Todd McKimmey, who is our esteemed site owner, and the rest of us. Everything else--frequency of posting or whatever--is strictly ad hoc and informal.

"Wow, kinda takes the whole thinking with the Church obligation off the table doesn't it?"

Actually, this is fully in line with the USCCB document on the topic, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. I'll print the relative paragraphs below (since this also relates to thebyronicman's "Catholic scholasticism" point):

"Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so
important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper
relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes
a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s
intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal
cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s
opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other
important moral issues involving human life and dignity.

There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable
position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons.
Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to
advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental
moral evil."

It is basically double-effect in action. NOte that the document lists the following as intrinsically evil: abortion, euthanasia, ESCR, torture, racism, and attacking non-combatants in war or terrorism. See this post for more details: http://vox-nova.com/2008/07/10/more-on-double-effect-and-abortion/#more-2856

Morning's Minion:

Please do not attempt to use your gloss on this document to promote the devious type of PDE that's been typical of Obama Catholics who (as you have done so here) have gone to abuse and, not to mention, misinterpret the document for their own purpose.

Zippy had already dealt with the matter on his blog.

I'll let Zippy speak for himself, but he indicated in comments to my post that he has no problem with the underlying application of PDE to voting, at least at the level of principles (the reference is to an essay by Christopher Decker which I found compelling). Let me be very clear: serious Catholics may indeed vote for Obama. As I'm tired of pointing out, we went vthrough the same nonsense in 200 and 2004. Bush was seen as the superior candidate, based solely on rhetoric. After 8 years, we have no change in abortion, but a war that some estimates claim has led to a million deaths, and a legalized torture regime that has made war criminals of the administration. How far are you willing to go before admitting that something constitutes a grave proportionate reason?

But anyway, if you want to debate (and there's room for that), read the post.

Kindly refrain from condemning scholasticism due to the abhorrent actions of those who would misuse (even mutilate) it for their own twisted ends. It's endured enough injustice, thank-you, which some modern scholars (even secular ones) today (such as in the field of economics and science) are fortunately acknowledging and repenting from as a result.
I'm not condemning it, I am trying to do what little I can protect it's reputation, precisely due to the misuses you adumbrate. Same team! Same team!

Please reflect on;
"...not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental
moral evil."

I think that means you. For all your energy spent on neo-con Catholics, has it occurred to you, that you may be the flip-side of the same coin?

At any rate, let us know when you muster the courage or compassion to lecture your fellow contortionists at VN.

Just very briefly (I hope), since I am still intentionally AWOL, and yet Internet access is virtually ubiquitous even when time available to comment is not, and my name keeps coming up in this thread:

1) W4 contributor William Luse is also Catholic.

2) In my view it is possible in principle for pigs to spontaneously grow wings and fly, and it is also possible in principle to vote for a pro-choice politician for President licitly under double-effect. As I have observed any number of times, to much wailing and gnashing of teeth, in principle possibility is not even the same thing as actual possibility, let alone is it the same as actuality in a particular case.

It is not possible at all in my view to vote for Barack Obama for President with a properly formed, informed, and conformed conscience. Period. If someone votes for Obama, something is broken in my view: his understanding of the facts, the formation of his conscience, or his will itself. Which specifically is broken is impossible for me to say, of course, but I don't have to know specifically why the engine self-destructed in order to conclude that the plane is coming down right now.

3) Lets be clear: it is not, not, not a teaching of the Catholic Church that it is definitely morally licit to vote for a particular (or any particular) candidate X. It is entirely consistent with Catholic doctrine to conclude without reservation that it is impossible - for anyone - to vote for X without committing moral evil.

Therefore it is entirely possible within the framework of Catholic moral theology that when X=Obama, it is always morally wrong to vote for him, period. Double effect is not a license to do whatever you choose, as long as the act isn't intrinsically immoral and you can make your justification fit into a formula that looks like double-effect.

4) The licentiousness with which prudential judgments like the vote is treated is inconsistent with definite conclusions on other matters. MM has no difficulty concluding that the Iraq invasion, though indeed a prudential judgment and not intrinsically immoral, was definitely and without question morally wrong. (Neither do I, for that matter). "Prudential judgment" does not imply "morally acceptable as long as my intentions are good". Catholic Iraq war supporters have misused the moral theology of prudential judgment to force the conclusion that supporting the Iraq invasion was morally licit, as long as the right intention obtained: in a fit of postmodern pique, they insist that there is 'legitimate room for disagreement' in a case where both the pertinent facts and the principles involved are crystal clear. MM identically misuses the moral theology of prudential judgment to conclude that voting for Obama is morally licit, as long as the right intention obtains.

I don't see any reason at all why any Catholic, or anyone more generally, should take either position seriously either as an objective conclusion or as an accurate representation of Catholic moral theology.

Going back to your fondness for applying selective quotations in order to claim the mantle of the Magisterium for your pet causes, note; the Pope does not share your enthusiasm for the European Union;

"The Pope has rejected an invitation to address the European Parliament, amid Vatican alarm at what is seen as a drift towards militant secularism."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4369313.ece

"MM has no difficulty concluding that the Iraq invasion, though indeed a prudential judgment and not intrinsically immoral, was definitely and without question morally wrong.... MM identically misuses the moral theology of prudential judgment to conclude that voting for Obama is morally licit, as long as the right intention obtains."

You miss something rather basic here. The other group was actually defending the Iraq war, mis-using prudential judgment to do so. I have argued many times that a Catholic can certainly vote for an Iraq war supporter-- but in spite of, no because of, his position (and there's no bigger opponent of the Iraq war and occupation than me). I make the exact same argument with Obama on abortion. Zippy's position is principled, but let's have no doubt about whether it leaves: complete abstention from all elections, at least at the federal level.

devious type of PDE

With any sophisticated rational technique a great deal of subterfuge is possible, including a great potential for self-deception. I reckon a good lawyer could prove to me that black was white, but I'm still quite sure I know the difference. I listen to this argument from you, MM, and I know the truth is falling through the cracks of your reasoning. The Catholic Obama rationale is a cloak of legalism to protect an indefensible position. It's like Zeno's paradoxes, in terms of the effect it has. No matter how solid the case looks on paper, it just can't be right. I know that my hand is in front of my face right now. I know it.

After 8 years, we have no change in abortion, but a war that some estimates claim has led to a million deaths, and a legalized torture regime that has made war criminals of the administration. How far are you willing to go before admitting that something constitutes a grave proportionate reason?

Easy. I don't cast a vote for president this year. I punish both parties by depriving them of my consent to their presidential candidates. The Democrats I punish for their indefensible assault on human life, marriage, and the family. The Republicans I punish for their irresponsible foriegn policiy that has lead to the disaster in Iraq and their total fumbling of the responsibility to respond adequately to the terrorist threat in Afghanistan. Neither of them gets my vote. Sure, some Catholics will vote for Obama because they are invincibly ingnorant-they just don't know any better. They don't understand what our abortion culture is doing to us as a nation. MM, you may be one of these. But I also think there is a great chance that you are kidding yourself.

Otherwise, I don't see Abortion/Iraq as equivalent issues for this reason: Bush, in 2000, did not campaign on a platform of interventionism and preemptive "preventative" war, or torture. In 2004, well, he'd already invaded, and we hadn't the evidence of torture yet. Punish the Republicans all you want, but don't punish the whole country while you're in the process. We know what Obama stands for.

You miss something rather basic here.

Not at all. I made a direct comparison between two prudential judgments: supporting the Iraq invasion, and supporting Obama's pro-abortion candidacy. Your argument is akin to saying "it is morally licit to support the Iraq invasion, as long as one does not intend the injustice of it".

To badly paraphrase Archbishop Chaput from his letter on voting for Obama, good luck with that.

"I made a direct comparison between two prudential judgments: supporting the Iraq invasion, and supporting Obama's pro-abortion candidacy. Your argument is akin to saying "it is morally licit to support the Iraq invasion, as long as one does not intend the injustice of it"."

Not at all. I would say that it is morally licit to support a person who supports the Iraq invasion, not the invasion itself. By voting in such a way, you are not supporting the Iraq war. Voting does not amount to formal cooperation in evil, if you do not share the intent. You know that, and yet you obfuscate.

We can play all sorts of games with your apples and oranges comparison. Let's say A supports abortion and B supports torture. Who should you vote for? By your logic, neither. Because supporting A's pro-sbortion policy is no different from supporting abortion, and supporting B's pro-torture policy is no different from supporting torture. And since pretty much every candidate supports an array of intrinsically and extinsically evil policies-- well, mahybe it's time for a Habsburg restoration? :)

Zippy: Thanks for commenting here even in spite of your incarceration -- I mean, being AWOL!! All kidding aside, I greatly appreciated it!


thebyronicman: Sorry, thebyronicman -- although I meant what I said, the tone in those comments weren't exactly directed at you but more so toward those who keep insisting the scholastics were but those that merely mistook obscurity for relevance. It's not that I've heard enough the same old canard about the scholastics ever being obsessed with matters of such ridiculous nature as concerning "How many angels can be accomodated on the head of a pin?" (or whatever sordid variation thereof).

To be fair though, I guess if it weren't for such books as that written by Thomas Woods "How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization" wherein the accomplishments of the scholastics are actually mentioned to some detail (with commendations from even secular scholars), I perhaps would've likely ended up with the same amount of respect.

I would say that it is morally licit to support a person who supports the Iraq invasion, not the invasion itself. By voting in such a way, you are not supporting the Iraq war.

Right. In other words, you don't address the actual comparison between two prudential judgments that I actually made: a comparison between supporting the Iraq war and supporting the Obama candidacy. Rather, you change the subject to a different comparison.

Aristocles,

Roger that.

Guy, if you're not convinced that MM's debates aren't conducted in good faith, check this out: http://vox-nova.com/2007/12/03/why-the-right-opposes-universal-health-care/ MM posted a critique of a couple of National Review writers who had written, "a national health-insurance program that would irrevocably expand government involvement in the economy and American life, and itself make voters less likely to turn toward conservatism in the future." According to MM, this quote proved that opposition to universal healthcare was "cold calculating politics," and that "[t]his group hates universal health care for the same reason their predecessors hated the New Deal: it would be immensely popular, to the detriment of their laissez-faire liberal agenda."

Well, the National Review writer specifically responded to MM, saying, "That's not our argument. Rather, our argument is that even worthless and counterproductive bureaucracies tend to generate supportive constituencies, and that people often mistakenly think that the way to fix the problems they cause is to throw more money at them rather than to reform or abolish them. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which a national health care program was widely regarded as unsatisfactory but Democrats won elections by promising to give it more money."

At that point, what any decent honest person arguing in good faith would say is something like this: "Hmm, I must have misinterpreted those writers, and I'm sorry for attributing ill-will to them unnecessarily."

Not MM. One of his honest co-bloggers pointed out MM's misinterpretation, and asked, "Are you willing to concede that you were wrong about the quote?" MM's response: "No, I am not, Blackadder." He could never give a reason for obstinately insisting that the National Review writers really meant something that they had expressly disavowed.

We can play all sorts of games with your apples and oranges comparison. Let's say A supports abortion and B supports torture. Who should you vote for? By your logic, neither. Because supporting A's pro-sbortion policy is no different from supporting abortion, and supporting B's pro-torture policy is no different from supporting torture. And since pretty much every candidate supports an array of intrinsically and extinsically evil policies-- well, mahybe it's time for a Habsburg restoration? :)
Well, then, don't vote! It's really rather simple. If you can't wield temporal power without being corrupted by it, then the only answer is not to do so. The liberal Catholic project is founded in the dubious belief that the modern state with its indivisible sovereignty can be made to serve Christ, and that the administrative apparatus of government can become the means by which we become our brother's keeper. The result is always that the church serves the State, and Christ is not served at all.
Well, then, don't vote! It's really rather simple. If you can't wield temporal power without being corrupted by it, then the only answer is not to do so. The liberal Catholic project is founded in the dubious belief that the modern state with its indivisible sovereignty can be made to serve Christ, and that the administrative apparatus of government can become the means by which we become our brother's keeper. The result is always that the church serves the State, and Christ is not served at all.

Now we're talking some sense here. The refusal to cast a vote is not equivalent to disenfranchisement. I wonder if political activism is in some cases easier if you aren't voting, if you don't have an avowed allegiance to a party. You aren't bought-off and compromised. For all the noise the liberal Catholic Dems make about right-wing evangelicals and their Republican allegiances and identifying religion with a political party, they are guilty of the exact same thing. It's so obvious that they can't see it. If you are convinced that both parties are hopelessly, at least for the time being, so corrupted so as to be illegitimate partners in a Christian political alliance, then don't you have a duty to conscience to withdraw your direct support from the system all-around? This is not necessarily an abdication of public duty, but perhaps an even deeper engagement with it.

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