What’s Wrong with the World

The men signed of the cross of Christ go gaily in the dark.


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

Sunday Verse


We will quietly undermine and sabotage
Your benighted laws, fellow citizens,
Then appear on the scene
As the disinterested lawgiver
To reform the failing laws;

We will introduce a poison,
Then act the part of the loyal doctor
With counsels of difficult but effective antidotes;

We will impoverish those among without a voice,
Enrich those whose wealth gives them leave
To whisper in our ear;

We will subject you to our factional will
With careful emollients of republicanism and tradition;

We will subvert to strengthen
Complicate to simplify
Emasculate to fortify
And baffle to bring clarity.

Your promises of enforcement?
We don’t believe you.

You must prove your fidelity to our laws,
Whatever you may think of them,
Before you come to us with reform.

You must demonstrate fidelity
To that which you do not hold in high estimate —
Enforce what you would not advocate,
Before you seek to remake it to your own ideal.

Show us real border security:
We will show you reasonable compromise on amnesty;
Show us stern deportations,
Show us stoicism in the teeth
Of the howls that will surely greet
Such difficult business,
And we will give you
Thoughtful intercourse on increased legal immigration.

Desist with your supplications to our enemies —
Defy the plutocrats,
Both here and abroad,
And we will show sympathy
For your political entanglements.

In short, treat us like citizens and not subjects
And we will have little difficulty with your leadership.

Comments (7)

treat us like citizens and not subjects

With respect to the Catholic political theory, what are the differences between a subject and a citizen?

As interpreted by the Reaction, the key and preeminent idea of the Catholic political theory is "Obedience to the legitimate authority". (the word "legitimate" is actually redundant,it is precisely the legitimacy that makes something a political authority).

If this be so, what can one say that marks out citizens among subjects?

Bedarz, read St. Thomas Aquinas "On Kingship". The way he has it, some people have the capacity to erect a ruler over themselves, others have had one imposed on them. To have a ruler imposed on you would, I think, make you a subject, without having the rights we normally ascribe to "citizenship". Going back to ancient Rome, most of the peoples were subject peoples, whereas citizens had special status - viz. St. Paul. I believe the distinction originated earlier still, in Greek states, as per the difference between full citizens and freemen (or slaves). At least in the history of peoples and governments, there was a recognized distinction between a subject and a citizen.

OK. Some people erect a ruler over themselves and others are imposed upon.
Though there is an interesting question of the difference between "a subject" and "a subject people" i.e. difference between an English subject of Queen Victoria and the subject population of British India.

But once the ruler has been installed, what does the Catholic political philosophy say about the distinction?. Are the peculiar "rights we normally ascribe to "citizenship"" grounded in the Catholic political philosophy or is there some other origin?.
Indeed, what are these rights of citizenship? You refer to Greek distinction between "full citizens and freeman". Is this freeman a "resident alien" ?

Or is it possible to mean by a subject as one that lacks the capacity to react upon his rulers? That is, subjects are those that lack political freedom?

Now, is political freedom an end of the state, as Belloc held (French Revolution)? And if so, the Catholic political philosophy must go beyond the advice of "Obey your Rulers". It did go, I believe, in 20C, with Maritain and that the Catholic Reaction in America is actually a throwback and not in full accordance with the Catholic doctrine?

I don't know why what the Greeks normally associated with "citizenship rights" would be expected to neatly fit with Catholic political philosophy - unless both of them are correct and valid expressions of the natural law. Is that what you are pointing at?

Let's posit some starting points.

(1) Man is an intellectual being. He can perceive causes and foresee effects. Further, the intellect is the most formal of all that is in man. Summa Theologica.

(2) God made man with free will. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. To set before him a choice requires that man have the ability to choose.

The appetitive powers must be proportionate to the apprehensive powers, as we have said above (Question 64, Article 2)...Wherefore it is evident that as the intellect is to reason, so is the will to the power of choice, which is free-will. (Summa Theologica)

(3) God made man with another kind of capacity, that of designing the means by which he achieves his end: God made man from the beginning, and left him in the hand of his own counsel. (Sirach 15:14).

(4) God made man social: "It is not good for the man to be alone." The first time God said of anything "it is not good".

(5) For many men to live together as a group implies a rule and thus a power of ruling - a government. “Where there is no governor, the people shall fall.” (Proverbs 11:14)

Now, man has an end to which his whole life and all his actions are ordered; for man is an intelligent agent, and it is clearly the part of an intelligent agent to act in view of an end. Men also adopt different methods in proceeding towards their proposed end, as the diversity of men’s pursuits and actions clearly indicates. Consequently man needs some directive principle to guide him towards his end.

To be sure, the light of reason is placed by nature in every man, to guide him in his acts towards his end. Wherefore, if man were intended to live alone, as many animals do, he would require no other guide to his end. Each man would be a king unto himself, under God, the highest King, inasmuch as he would direct himself in his acts by the light of reason given him from on high. Yet it is natural for man, more than for any other animal, to be a social and political animal, to live in a group...

If, then, it is natural for man to live in the society of many, it is necessary that there exist among men some means by which the group may be governed. For where there are many men together and each one is looking after his own interest, the multitude would be broken up and scattered unless there were also an agency to take care of what appertains to the commonweal. (On Kingship)

(6) The purpose law and of government is the common good. “Woe to the shepherds that feed themselves: should not the flocks be fed by the shepherd?” (Ezekiel)

I answer that, As stated above (Article 1), the law belongs to that which is a principle of human acts, because it is their rule and measure...Consequently, since the law is chiefly ordained to the common good, any other precept in regard to some individual work, must needs be devoid of the nature of a law, save in so far as it regards the common good. Therefore every law is ordained to the common good. (Summa, Treatise on Law)

(7) Except for Saul and David, God does not by manifest divine action designate the ruler.

(8) Because of (4) and (5), man is political. There must needs be a government.
(9) Because of (1) and (2), man is capable of foreseeing effects of his choices.
(10) Because of (3) and (9), man is by nature free to direct his own behavior except insofar as he is obliged to instead obey another authority (i.e. the government).
(11) Because of (6) and (10), the government is by nature limited in its capacity to direct man, only insofar as for the common good.
(12) And, because of (3) and (7), it generally belongs to man's agency that this man rather than that man is the ruler of a group.

I would suggest, then, that a citizen properly understood is one who is directed to the common good as in the way of an intelligent agent, by a ruler who rules intelligent men and directs them so as to enable them to be co- and sub-agents in the achievement of the common good. A "subject", if denoted _as_distinguished_from a "citizen" is one who is directed by a ruler in the manner of a slave, a child, or a fool, as one who is in some way incapable of self-regulating behavior under the _general_ direction of the ruler, and must be made to achieve the end not so much as a willing and intelligent co-agent, but as a tool or mere instrument, and thus does not "own" the end the same way.

Now the end which befits a multitude of free men is different from that which befits a multitude of slaves, for the free man is one who exists for his own sake, while the slave, as such, exists for the sake of another...“The Roman city, once liberty was won, waxed incredibly strong and great in a remarkably short time.” For it frequently happens that men living under a king strive more sluggishly for the common good, inasmuch as they consider that what they devote to the common good, they do not confer upon themselves but upon another, under whose power they see the common goods to be. But when they see that the common good is not under the power of one man, they do not attend to it as if it belonged to another, but each one attends to it as if it were his own.

Experience thus teaches that one city administered by rulers, changing annually, is sometimes able to do more than some kings having, perchance, two or three cities; and small services exacted by kings weigh more heavily than great burdens imposed by the community of citizens. This held good in the history of the Roman Republic. The plebs were enrolled in the army and were paid wages for military service. Then when the common treasury was failing, private riches came forth for public uses, to such an extent that not even the senators retained any gold for themselves save one ring and the one bulla (the insignia of their dignity). (On Kingship)

The ideal of government has a government treating its people as citizens who do and perceive that they do participate in the common good, and are directed thereto as sub-agents of their own good so produced. To the extent that the nation falls away from that ideal, either as the government fails to attempt that objective, or as the people fail to perceive that objective as pertaining to their own good, so far the people fall away from the ideal of "citizen" and become something less.

However, "subject" has a more general meaning that does not denote a falling away from the ideal of "citizen". For every person not God is subject to a higher authority, and this is by nature, for a created being is subject to the ordinance of the Creator ordaining its natural end for it in creating it with a given nature. This is true of angels no less than plants and bees and rocks, for the angels are subject to Him. In the divine economy, then, all things that are ruled by another are subjects. What we mean by the other sense of "subject", then, is a kind of subjection that is more like the subjection of brute nature to man and higher powers, i.e. "mere" subjects without reason or will, not the kind of subjection in which a man freely and willingly chooses (or ought to choose) to obey a ruler for the sake of the common good. Equivocating on "subject" in these separate senses will produce errors without end.

So, you hold that the citizen embodies a fuller perfection of the political nature of man than a "subject" who has more the idea of a slave, a child or a fool. Or an idiot in the Greek sense-one who holds to his private interest only.

1) This, by itself, does not argue for a republican form of govt rather than a monarchical form, does it? It would seem that even under a king, I can participate in the common good at a level appropriate to my station. But this Aquinas seems to dispute: (in your quotation) So is the perfection of citizenship realizable only in a republic?

2) Is this where the Whig-Tory dispute comes down to? Tory says that the Whig is pursuing an Utopia-- of a perfect citizen-republic and that there are severe disadvantages in the Whig program. It is better to just Obey our Rulers and not worry too much about citizenship.

This, by itself, does not argue for a republican form of govt rather than a monarchical form, does it?

No, it doesn't. True good government can obtain in either model. A king who rules in ideal conditions will rule so as to promote the participation of leading men as his magistrates (and as bishops), and the participation of the next most capable men as the leaders of all the intervening social entities, universities and businesses and hospitals etc., and so on down the line, each according to his capacity to participate. I.E. each according to his ability to perceive his place in the overall order and how he can further the good of the whole order by ordering and perfecting the good under his own care.

But this Aquinas seems to dispute: (in your quotation) So is the perfection of citizenship realizable only in a republic?

Read the quote in context. I don't think that's what he means, given what he says in other places. I think he is referring to concrete situations with people who have themselves been diminished, such as those who have been burned by having several bad kings, and are thus (by and large, as an average) unable to readily perceive a good king ruling for the common good is really achieving THEIR good. For, St. Thomas maintains in this treatise that the best form of government - in the ideal - is monarchy. But the best form of government for this people here depends on the virtues and defects of this people here. (As is likewise true of vocations: in the ideal, priesthood is a higher, more noble vocation than marriage. But for a given person who has certain vices and certain defects, marriage may be HIS most suitable vocation.)

St. Thomas also says that given man's fallen state, a MIXED form of government is best, one that utilizes features of monarchy, aristocracy, and "a polity" (which is his term for the non-abusive kind of government by the people, taking its name from the generic name for all of the forms of good government (the genus name standing in for the species name since all the other species in the genus have their own special names). Thus, he holds up for example the government instituted by God with Moses: Moses himself had powers like to a monarch. But he also raised up the 72 elders, men whose position was theirs by reason of their wisdom and virtue. Etc. And it is not a little due to this reasoning that the US government has features like to monarchy and features like to aristocracy while being at root a democratic republic. (Which isn't the same as saying it is the best form of government full stop, but something LIKE it may be the best form of government we can shoot for while men are fallen.)

Is this where the Whig-Tory dispute comes down to? Tory says that the Whig is pursuing an Utopia-- of a perfect citizen-republic and that there are severe disadvantages in the Whig program. It is better to just Obey our Rulers and not worry too much about citizenship.

I don't normally think in terms of Whig and Tory. And so I don't know whether I would end up being placed in one category rather than the other. In general, I sympathize with the goal of limiting government's powers by express limits (explicit constitutional constraints, for example), but I don't see that as an ideal, utterly perfect solution because all such written forms are themselves capable of being over- or under-strenuous, and of being over- or under-employed by defective men. When you have a king both wise and virtuous, limiting his powers might detract from the good he could otherwise achieve. When you have a king less virtuous, NOT limiting his powers by express rules might lead him to being too tempted by power toward corruption of his capacity. Is there a "perfect" solution?


Yeah, well, not gonna happen.

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