Do We Want a Business Model for Our Country?

Do We Want a Business Model for Our Country?

“Forget about the moral issues. Run the nation like a business”

With the nation polarized and unable to move forward, many people are suggesting that what our country needs is a business model for governing. Forget about the moral issues. Run the nation like a business and everything will come out all right. Find a candidate who gets things done in business and that person will do the same thing for America, Inc. You can’t argue with success.

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Such a pragmatic proposal definitely resonates with those who are fed up with government. People are tired of not getting things done. They don’t like running the country in the red. Getting the country on a spreadsheet is an attractive idea.
The problem is we don’t need a business model for governing. We already have one and it’s not working.

Our political system has always had something of a business model built into it. We already find in the literature of the Founding Fathers references to the nation as a “commercial republic,” a union of legitimate self-interest, aimed at providing progress, prosperity and security. American political rhetoric is full of economic references that hold progress and prosperity as the height of well-being. Anyone who strays from this narrative is quickly reminded, as was Bill Clinton in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid!”

If there is an image that corresponds to our political model, think of a thriving farm co-op or public corporation of shareholders. Citizenship is a kind of a co-op membership full of legitimate benefits with distributed risks, voting privileges, few liabilities, and plenty of entertainment. The key to keeping everyone happy is a robust economic order that ensures that members renew their membership with great enthusiasm.

However, this business model for governing depends upon two important pillars. The first is a great consensus to get along and smooth over differences, which is assured by the outward appearance of prosperity and the promise of the American dream.

The second pillar is a vague moral code that ensures some kind of order and serves as the foundation of trust and confidence that allows business to flourish and the rule of law to prevail. As long as these two pillars stand, the system works well.

But when the economic dynamo stalls or sputters over a long period of time, the glue of consensus no longer holds. When the vague moral code falls into decay, trust and rule of law disappear. What we are witnessing today is the breakdown of this cooperative business model.

That is why everything seems like a free-for-all. Everyone wants to blame the other for theSubscription11 failure of the co-op. Our elections have become like shareholder brawls where the officers are frequently changed. Opinion polls serve as quarterly earnings reports to which all scramble to adapt. Who wins is often the one who promises the most in the least amount of time. Americans are seeing a model that used to work so well now working contrary to their interests by not paying out dividends, but distributing uncertainties that cause anxiety, depression, and stress.

All this is reflected in the latest election cycle as candidates woo shareholders/voters with promises of change and benefits. We are again being subjected to the frenetic intemperance of sound bite politics, pandering to political correctness and media posturing. Like it or not, elections have become business ventures, more often decided not by who is the better candidate, but who can amass the largest war chest, employ the most mega data or engage in social media. Such razzle-dazzle elections are now a strange and superficial ritual that is exhausting the nation.

It’s not enough to run the country like a machine controlled by a spreadsheet. Without a consensus and a moral code, any business model becomes brutal and opportunistic, cold and impersonal, fast and frantic, mechanical and inflexible. Such models, whether industrial or political, all lead to bankruptcy.

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Question to Readers: Do You Build the Modern Bridge?

The video above is a very picturesque story of two Peruvian villages that get together every year for three days to build a bridge across the river separating them.

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The bridge is made of woven grass that is twisted into huge rope cables and then pulled across the river while smaller grass ropes are attached to make a long rope bridge with its own distinct character. The three-day affair is evidently more than just a building project; it is a cultural event celebrated with a festival and folk dancing. The villagers are very proud of their bridge since it costs nothing save the fruit of their hands and the grass on the land.

Replacing this bridge would be a fairly simple project for modern engineers. A grant from the central Peruvian government could supply the money to bring in laborers and cementSubscription3 trucks and build a permanent yet unattractive modern structure to replace the charming rope bridge spanning the river. The villagers would then no longer have to exert themselves in making the bridge and dedicate themselves to more productive projects.

But wouldn’t something be lost if this were done? Should technology be only concerned with efficiency? Or should technology be imbued with other moral and social values that add a human touch to things and provide unity to communities?

Questions to readers: What should be done in this case? Do you build the modern bridge?

What Napoleon Thought About Holy Communion

What Napoleon Thought About Holy CommunionIn an age of instant gratification, we are encouraged to forget about the most important things in our lives. Our rushed and hectic schedules demand our attention. We must have everything now, instantly, regardless of the consequences. It must be the latest and greatest, the biggest and the best version; it must be new and improved; updated to 5.0, 6.0 or even 7.0.

When we are caught up in the frenetic intemperance of our times, it would be good to stop a moment and reflect on those things that really matter. This is especially true of our Catholic Faith. All too often, we do not fully appreciate what our Faith has to offer. We do not, for example, realize what a great grace it is to adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and especially to receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

In moments of reflection, we should think about Napoleon. He was the emperor of France in the early nineteenth century. There was no glory he did not receive during his lifetime. Always victorious in war and adored by his men, he subjected huge parts of Europe to his rule. His life might be considered the apotheosis of all possible glory and joy.

Yet, he left the Church, persecuted the Church and lived a life that was ultimately unhappy. Indeed, it might be asked: What was his greatest joy?

In James Joyce’s book, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, there is a passage where Subscription5.3Napoleon tells his generals that the happiest day of his life was the day of his First Holy Communion. Beloc, in his biography of Napoleon, confirms this great happiness when he wrote: “His preparation for his First Communion he always remembered and that day stood out for him all his life.”

The Church is full of hidden treasures that we do not value as we should. One need not be an emperor to appreciate the Holy Eucharist; one need only be a Catholic.

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What Is the Economist’s Job?

What Is the Economist’s Job?

“the question of valuation that arises from the use of scarce means for the attainment of alternative ends.”

“The science of economics is concerned with the question of valuation that arises from the use of scarce means for the attainment of alternative ends.”

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“These ends the economist takes as final data, facts of human choice or preference. He accepts them as desired without questioning their desirability.”

“To the psychologist he leaves the investigation of why people choose these particular ends; to the sociologist, the relation of individual preferences to the welfare of the community; to the moralist and theologian, the determination of whether such ends are good or bad for the individual and evaluation of the consistency of these ends with higher ends of a spiritual nature.”

Taken from Thomas F. Devine, S.J., Interest: An Historical and Analytical Study in Economics and Modern Ethics, The Marquette University Press, Milwaukee, 1959, p. 120.

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Tradition: Why It Matters

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“Far from inhibiting progress, tradition reinforces guards and builds upon past achievements.”

Some people associate tradition with old habits that are carried down over the years. Tradition is fine for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but it has no real role in the modern world, which is constantly changing. Expanding tradition beyond sentimental occasions is considered restrictive to progress.

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Such people do not understand tradition. Theirs is a superficial view that fails to realize just how important tradition is. Far from inhibiting progress, tradition reinforces guards and builds upon past achievements. Tradition is that which prevents us from constantly starting over again.

Prof. J. Budziszewski defines tradition well by calling it “a shared way of life that molds the mind, character, and imagination of those who practice it, for better or for worse. It is a kind of apprenticeship in living, with all of the previous generations as masters, and includes not only ways of doing things, but ways of raising questions about things that matter” (J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2011, pp. 173-174).

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Dodd-Frank: Another Name for Socialism

Socialism_CitibankAs we sail on the choppy seas of a questionable economic recovery, we can look back upon a storm of our own making that has wreaked havoc upon our financial system. That storm is the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Enacted five years ago, the mammoth law of all laws to fix our financial system has only succeeded in leading us down the road to socialism.

This can be seen by looking at what Dodd-Frank has “accomplished” to date. Since 2010, some 1,341 commercial (usually smaller) banks have simply disappeared. By contrast, only two new banks were chartered in the same period.

This is not normal. Even in the worst of times, like that of the Great Depression of the ’30s, there was an average of 19 new banks chartered every year. Prior to the financial crisis, the market gave rise to nearly 100 new banks annually.

Of course, while small banks are getting fewer, big banks are getting bigger. This is another “accomplishment” of Dodd-Frank. It has led to the establishment of a financial system dominated by a few big banks and increasingly controlled by regulators.

The Dodd-Frank law mandated the implementation of a massive body of new regulations that requires an army of compliance officers from banks. While big banks had the resources to absorb this great weight, compliance overwhelmed the ability of many small banks. The problem is confounded by the fact the regulations themselves are ill-defined and ambiguous; regulators make their own rules as time goes on.

Moreover, those surviving banks deemed systemically important are subject to even more stringent regulations and capital requirements. On top of massive compliance obligations, Dodd-Frank goes yet further by embedding regulators or commissars inside the highest levels of firms where they even advise and monitor executives.

In such an atmosphere of insecurity and ambiguity, the financial system and consequently the economy as a whole is deprived of legal and regulatory certainty that is needed to return the economy to prosperity. Banks cannot fulfill their functions of employing capital where needed in an economy. The recovery has thus been choppy and unsteady.

Some might think it strange that a government policy that favors giant “capitalistic” banking institutions might be termed socialistic. In this case, it would seem that big government is favoring big business and thus pushing the “capitalist” agenda ahead. Such was the rant of Occupy Wall Street activists against the 1 percent.

Yet the concentration of gigantic banking blocs into the hands of a privileged few only favors socialism. This is because the industry becomes much easier to target. A few giant surviving banks become vulnerable targets to be confiscated or controlled by intrusive governments.Subscription5.2

By suppressing all intermediary leaders who might come to his defense, for example, the absolutist king prepares his own way to the guillotine. Likewise, when huge commercial banks devour smaller banks, they prepare their own way to socialist confiscation since it is much more difficult to confiscate a 1,000 medium-size banks than a single huge one.

Afterwards, when such blocs falter, as they often do, they are deemed “too big to fail,” and the government is already in position (indeed embedded in the CEO’s office) to be the only player big enough to bail out the ailing industry—and put it under its control. In this way, private property easily becomes collective property.

The evil genius of Dodd-Frank is that it did not directly destroy the smaller banks but rather created conditions whereby the bank establishment itself would have to destroy or absorb its own intermediary structures. The small banks themselves left the market to those better able to adjust to the government-created conditions.

Eerily similar is the way Obamacare is leading to the concentration of insurance and health care providers, or how Common Core seeks to override local and state intermediary educational institutions.

The strategy of Dodd-Frank and other schemes is not divide and conquer, but concentrate and conquer. The result is the terrible and looming threat of socialism.

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The War on the Culture War

Jakarta_RiotThe Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision mandating same-sex “marriage” nationwide is being heralded as the decisive blow in the nation’s Culture War. It is proof, pundits say, that Christianity is in decline and the massive reaction to the sexual revolution of the sixties has failed.

Culture Warriors are now being urged to bow to the inevitable by either giving in or fading away. Liberals everywhere are parroting the mantra that the Culture War is over because the sexual revolution cannot be undone. The nation needs to move on.

But is the Culture War over? Every war must have a winner and a loser. It is usually the loser that declares the war is over by surrendering. This is a very strange situation where the supposed victor is declaring the war over without the consent of the vanquished.

In fact, most social conservatives are responding undaunted by noting that they have weathered many storms and are prepared to continue the fight after the devastating decision.

Thus, the court’s decision does not mark the end of the war, but rather serves as an occasion to declare a war on the Culture War.

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The reason for this attitude is that the Culture War has always been both an embarrassment and a disaster for liberals. They expected no opposition to their program during the giddy days of the sixties. They adopted as their own the narrative of a movement that represented all minorities and freed all the oppressed. They were to liberate women and individuals from “oppressive” traditions and morality. They were to inaugurate a society where everyone could be what they wanted to be and do their own thing. They claimed to have the passion of youth to man the barricades against the moneyed business establishment and rebel against university curricula dominated by teachings of dead white males.

But the Culture War has shattered this narrative and turned it on its head. It is women and young ladies that swell the ranks of the pro-life movement and aging feminists that lead the pro-abortion charge. It was vibrant African-American preachers and parishioners, not mainline denominations that were so actively engaged in the recent fight against same-sex “marriage.” Today “doing one’s own thing” means conforming in lockstep to politically correct norms.

It is not “the people” that fund liberal causes, but Hollywood pseudo-elites, rich white liberal males or the tax-exempt foundations of dead ones. It is the moneyed establishment of Fortune 500 companies that cave in, grovel and lend (or perhaps sell) their full support to liberal causes, government mandates, and immoral lifestyles. It is the Little Sisters of the Poor that stand up to big government when it mandates contraception.

That is not to say that the liberals are defeated. They still hold huge chunks of the battlefield, but they no longer have a credible narrative. Likewise, one cannot say that social conservatives are defeated since they have won important battles and forced liberals off valuable moral high ground, especially in the abortion battle. The fact is that the nation remains polarized and neither side can claim victory.

The June 26th Supreme Court decision is significant because it signals a change in war tactics. The left was forced to abandon its false narrative as a democratic movement of the “people.” Having failed to convince significant sectors of the public to accept its agenda, it used the courts to brutally impose it upon a tired and divided nation.

And now it seeks to declare war on the Culture War by declaring it over. That is why the Culture War is more important now than ever before.

 

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Audio Book Sample: How Frenetic Intemperance Dominates Economy

51oXwMB-RcL._SL300_To understand the present crisis, we must now see why our cooperative union is failing. We believe the cause is found in an element of imbalance called frenetic intemperance that has entered into the dynamic economic system that is the centerpiece of our American model. This, in turn, has had an effect upon our corresponding way of life.

For an explanation of this frenetic intemperance, we invite you to listen to Chapter 2 in the audio-book edition of Return to Order.

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The Family Always Existed

The_Holy_Family_MurilloThere are those who believe that the family is a relatively modern invention and thus we are free to change or redefine it at will. They are wrong.

The truth of the matter is that the family naturally and spontaneously arises whenever human beings unite together in society. If someone were to try to invent the best system for fulfilling children’s basic needs and development, the answer would be the two-parent family. The family is not a social construct; it is an institution that corresponds to human nature and design.

Regarding the family, natural law expert Prof. J. Budiszewski writes: “No one invented it, no one is indifferent to it, and there never was a time in human history when it did not exist. Even when disordered, it persists. Members who are divided by disaster commonly undertake heroic efforts to reunite with each other. Only violence or strong ideology can abolish the family, and only small societies have even tried to abolish it; those which do try always fail or else retreat gradually from their aims” (J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2011, p. 98).

 

Knowing What We Can’t Not Know

41C9plab+FL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In a world where baby body parts are bought and sold and marriage has been redefined, it is urgent that we reaffirm that there are certain broad, moral truths that we can’t not know. It needs to be said and proclaimed. We all know that one should not murder. We all know that one should not steal or lie. These are all written on the human heart to the point that they cannot be blotted out. In other words, there are no excuses for not knowing. Many people may live in denial of these truths, but they nevertheless perceive the objects of their denial.

In this sense, Prof. J. Budziszewski’s book, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, is a refreshing oasis in a postmodern desert. This extremely logical and compelling work on natural law provides a much-needed refutation of the current assumption that moral truth is relative and even unobtainable.

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His central thesis is very clear: there is an unchangeable and universal moral code based on human nature that everyone generally knows. This set of moral truths, called natural law, is “a universal possession, an emblem of a rational mind, an heirloom of the family of man.”

Formulations of this natural law have appeared in every culture, among all peoples and in all epochs. By far the most well known is the Ten Commandments, which succinctly summarizes those self-evident moral truths that should govern human action.

Unlike mutilated natural law theories from the Enlightenment, Prof. Budziszewski takes a classical and Thomistic natural law perspective that embraces as a given the existence of a Creator and the need to give Him honor. He masterfully demonstrates this by calling up what he terms the “witnesses” of natural law: “deep conscience, the witness of design as such, the witness of our own design, and the witness of natural consequences.” The result is a spectacular intellectual artifice of crystalline logic and clarity.

However, this book is not a theoretic exposition of some ideal law that has little to do with the modern world. Quite the contrary, the author actually explains the present moral crisis through the prism of natural law. He answers the obvious question: Why do so many appear not to know that which they can’t not know?

Subscription11To answer this question, the author does not claim we all have an innate, detailed, and precise vision of natural law. He only says that we all have a general knowledge of basic moral truths. This knowledge requires constant development and nurturing. We must find the applications and reach the conclusions of this primary knowledge with the help of faith, tradition, culture, institutions, and moral education.

The problem with the modern world is that we have taken away so many of those institutions and means that normally help people apply natural law well. Moreover, we have adopted so many mechanisms of denial, sin, rejection, rationalization and “just plain bad living” that make living according to natural law onerous.

As a result, many fail to live inside natural law and are in denial of it. However, this denial only proves its existence since when we fail to live in accordance to our nature and design, we pay the price of misery and disaster. Driven by the guilt from our consciences, we are indicted and punished by what the author calls the “Five Furies” of remorse, confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification. These avenging modes of conscience are “inflexible, inexorable and relentless, demanding satisfaction.”

In a world where we are told we can know nothing, we need to be told what we can’t not know. The merit of What We Can’t Not Know is that it does this so well, and in so doing perfectly describes where we went wrong in our rebellious culture. For those who are seeking a return to order, this book is one that we shouldn’t not read.

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