Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WWWtW-Watch #10: I Own, Therefore I Am

Dedicated to the proposition that it can happen here.

In his latest stab at profundity, Paul J. Cella, who moonlights as beadle over at WWWtW, has presented a scenario in which he purports to counsel a “correspondent” in How to Argue Against Socialism. We must admit that in so doing he does, indeed, descend to the depths.

In offering his sop of wisdom to this eager would-be disciple, Mr. Cella inadvertently discloses yet again that as a self-designated “Crusader” (Bwaa-ha-ha-ha!), he is--in heedless imitation of the Crusaders of old--out, not for the rescue of souls in captivity, but for the taking of plunder:

What I should like to recommend to my correspondent, who so boldly demanded how to argue against the Servile State which is Socialism, is this.

He should forget attacking Socialism because it doesn’t work (the politics of it), and begin attacking it on its own principles (the philosophy guiding it). Admittedly this is a greater burden on the intellect, but I believe my correspondent is up to the challenge. What he must demonstrate is that Socialism is evil even if it does what it says it will do; that to destroy the principle of private property is to amputate an irreplaceable part of what it means to be human, what it means to labor and create and be fruitful; in religious terms, that it is a heresy, an innovation that will annihilate, a revolt against the nature of man and the natural order of the world; in short, that it fails not because it doesn’t work, but rather it doesn’t work because it fails — fails utterly to reflect in any meaningful way the truth about Man and Society.

Let's examine the core of this remarkable pronouncement in isolation:

[...] to destroy the principle of private property is to amputate an irreplaceable part of what it means to be human, what it means to labor and create and be fruitful;

Setting aside for a moment the inconvenient truth that socialism per se does not proclaim as a goal the destruction of the principle of private property, what does Mr. Cella--who holds himself out as an exemplar of unquenchable zeal for the preservation of “what remains of Christendom”-- make of the words of Our Lord with regard to the concept of allowing the ownership of private property to become central to one’s life, and to one’s very self-image as a human being?:

Matthew 6:19-21: Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal;
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It might also be pointed out to Mr. Cella that “what it means to labor” is that Man has been cursed by God for his sin in the Garden to earn his living by the sweat of his brow. None of this, apparently, “speaks to Mr. Cella’s chest”; but it speaks to mine.

The name of Mr. Cella’s god is, evidently, I OWN THAT I OWN. Mr. Cella has clearly snatched at the offer made to Jesus Christ by Satan on the heights, and clings to it with a bitterness undiluted by such weaknesses as humility, brother-love and charity. Mr. Cella and his correspondent make a good pair, of the kind which Our Lord may have had in mind when He said, Leave the dead to bury the dead.

27 comments:

EdMcGon said...

The inherent problem is there was no such thing as socialism at the time of Christ. Any argument for or against socialism based on the teachings of Christ is doomed to failure, since Christ's teachings are about individual philosophy, not politics.

Rodak said...

The inherent problem is there was no such thing as socialism at the time of Christ.

Apparently you've never read Acts.

Rodak said...

Acts 4:

[32] And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
[33] And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
[34] Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
[35] And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
[36] And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus,
[37] Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

EdMcGon said...

Rodak,
Exactly where in your quote is there government involvement? Those were acts of individuals.

Also, I am still waiting to hear a quote from Christ which supports government altruism. If government is merely an extension of individual responsibility, then Christ's "render unto Caesar" comment would be a contradiction.

Rodak said...

Exactly where in your quote is there government involvement? Those were acts of individuals.

Those were acts that were commanded and enforced by the polity of the Christian subculture, headed by St. Peter. In the very next verses a man and his wife are struck dead for withholding some of their revenues and lying about it.
They were not "individual acts," except in the sense that when you pay your property taxes, it is an individual act.
Read the whole thing.

Rodak said...

Also, I am still waiting to hear a quote from Christ which supports government altruism.

A "kingdom" is a government. Christ's entire ministry was in "support" of the Kingdom of God, the founding law of which was love of both God AND your fellow manh. The latter included giving of what you possessed to those in need. This is exactly why the very first Christian community, headed by St. Peter, the man upon whom Christ "built his church," liquidated their assets and distributed the revenues throughout their community, as needed. You can deny it all you want, but that's how it was.

Anonymous said...

And in light of the international mess created by bankers and, domestically, idiot Republican policies, we might want to also re-evaluate certain actions of a man from Nazareth regarding money changing and temples. What say all you Republican individualists?

Do you really think that Jesus would find the whole concept of adjustable rates to be anything other than usury?

Finally, Rodak being more the theist than I, I do seem to remember a quote SOMEWHERE in that book about a "GOVERNMENT on his shoulders" ...

---MS

Rodak said...

Good points, MS. These jamokes at WWWtW think they're defending Jesus; but they're actually defending J.P. Morgan.
Send in the clones.

EdMcGon said...

Rodak,
You are talking about the acts of the early Christian church and it's followers, NOT the Roman Empire (which was the actual government of the time). Churches and governments are, and always have been, two different things.

A "kingdom" is a government.

But the "kingdom" Christ refers to is not of this world. To equate the kingdom Christ referred to with earthly kingdoms is to completely misinterpret Him.

The latter included giving of what you possessed to those in need.

The key there is "what you possessed". By using government to perform this duty, you are also giving what your neighbor possesses. By what right, religious or otherwise, do you do this? Christ NEVER said take from the poor to give to the poor, yet the cost of government is carried by the poor to a GREATER extent than it is carried by the wealthy.

Yet you want to use government to perform YOUR duty as a Christian?

They were not "individual acts," except in the sense that when you pay your property taxes, it is an individual act.

Do you understand the difference between a church donation and a property tax?

A church donation is VOLUNTARY in this world. Should you choose not to make a donation, nothing will happen to you in this world.

A property tax is MANDATORY in this world. Government has unlimited authority, up to and including the ending of your existence in this world, to collect the property tax from you should you choose not to pay it.

Both are individual acts, but both carry far different consequences in this world.

Rodak said...

Churches and governments are, and always have been, two different things.

Not true, of course. That's why we have the word "theocracy." The early Christians had effectively removed themselves from the governance of the Roman Empire. They were in the world without being of the world.

By using government to perform this duty, you are also giving what your neighbor possesses.

As was expected of Ananias and his wife. They didn't come through, and were struck down for it. If you belong to a polity, you have tacitly agreed to go along with whatever that polity decides.

Should you choose not to make a donation, nothing will happen to you in this world.

Tell that to Ananias. Apparently, in the Age of the Apostles, stuff happened to you in this world.
The point is not to block the attempts of the polity-at-large to use its combined resources to help the needy. Governments are organizational institutions that are able to do this (don't laugh) more effectivley than scattered individuals. Churches and other organizations also make efforts in those directions. But never in history has private charity been nearly so effective in meeting need as government. We have plenty of unmet need in this rich country with BOTH private charity AND government collecting and distributing food, money, clothing, housing...

EdMcGon said...

That's why we have the word "theocracy."

Rodak,
Am I to assume you want our government to be a theocracy?

Just because a government CAN be based on a religion does NOT mean the religion advocates such, nor does it make a theocracy a good idea.

The early Christians had effectively removed themselves from the governance of the Roman Empire. They were in the world without being of the world.

Wrong. they recognized the governing authorities of this world as appointed by God: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves." (Romans 13:1-2)

As was expected of Ananias and his wife. They didn't come through, and were struck down for it. If you belong to a polity, you have tacitly agreed to go along with whatever that polity decides.

They were NOT expected to steal from their neighbors to support the polity.

Governments are organizational institutions that are able to do this (don't laugh) more effectivley than scattered individuals.

When you "give" a dollar to the government, how much of it actually gets to the poor person? 85 cents? 50 cents? 15 cents?

When you give a dollar to a poor person, how much does the poor person receive? One dollar.

Explain to me how the government is more efficient?

But never in history has private charity been nearly so effective in meeting need as government.

Got any statistical proof of that?

However, I will grant you there are some VERY inefficient charities out there. But there weren't many private charities at the time of Christ, just like there weren't any republican governments.

Rodak said...

They were NOT expected to steal from their neighbors to support the polity.

Ed--It's taxation without representation that's tyranny. As I said before, if you choose to be a member of a polity, you accept what the polity decides to do.

When you "give" a dollar to the government, how much of it actually gets to the poor person?

I suppose you think that NGOs don't have any overhead?

When you give a dollar to a poor person, how much does the poor person receive? One dollar.

And when that dollar is gone, how much does he have? The government runs programs, not just one-time hand-outs.

Got any statistical proof of that?

I have the word of God on that: "The poor you have with you always." But, sure--you can look up the poverty, hunger, homelessness stats quite easily. Why haven't you and Moose, with your private distribution of dollars, cleaned that mess up?

But there weren't many private charities at the time of Christ, just like there weren't any republican governments.

Right. Which is exactly why the first Christian community pooled its resources and redistributed their personal wealth. Back to square one, Ed.

EdMcGon said...

As I said before, if you choose to be a member of a polity, you accept what the polity decides to do.

Rodak,
Of course. But that doesn't make it a government, or even something you can equate to a government.

I suppose you think that NGOs don't have any overhead?

Last time I checked, the Bible doesn't refer to NGO's as fulfilling your obligation to be charitable.

And when that dollar is gone, how much does he have? The government runs programs, not just one-time hand-outs.

And yet we still have poverty? Apparently, the government programs aren't working.

My point about the dollar was NOT about throwing money at the poor, but rather the most efficient way to get help to the poor. It's not government, and it's not charitable organizations. It is YOU. That is the message from the Bible.

On the "statisitcal proof" question, I wasn't asking for statisitcal proof of poverty. I was referring to your statement that private charity was less effective than government. Prove it.

There are few organizations as inefficient as government.

Which is exactly why the first Christian community pooled its resources and redistributed their personal wealth.

Note they redistributed THEIR personal wealth. They did NOT steal from others in order to redistribute within the community. Yet that is EXACTLY what you advocate doing.

Where do you think government gets it's money? From the people, rich and poor alike. To create your altruistic government, you take money from the poor to do it. You take money from "greedy" corporations, who turn around and pass their tax costs along to everyone, poor included. In other words, you let the poor keep less of their income while you make goods more expensive for them.

This is your solution to poverty? This is Christian?

Rodak said...

And yet we still have poverty? Apparently, the government programs aren't working.

No. They clearly need to be much enlarged and better funded.

There are few organizations as inefficient as government.

That's the conservative mantra, anyway.

They did NOT steal from others in order to redistribute within the community.

You keep calling taxation theft, which is disingenuous and doesn't promote a sensible discussion. You apparently don't mind being taxed for the war in Iraq, but you draw the line at feeding poor people.

In other words, you let the poor keep less of their income while you make goods more expensive for them.

I'm all for progressive taxation. It's the rich I would bleed.

EdMcGon said...

They clearly need to be much enlarged and better funded.

How can you justify spending more on a program which will NEVER eliminate poverty? As you quoted from God: "The poor you have with you always."

That's the conservative mantra, anyway.

Oh please. Like liberals don't scream about the inefficiency of government when there's a Republican in office. They just get the luxury of collective amnesia when it's a Democrat.

You keep calling taxation theft, which is disingenuous and doesn't promote a sensible discussion.

Our current tax system IS theft. If Social Security and Medicare taxes were used for their stated purpose, instead of other government programs, then I might tone down the theft argument. If the wealthy weren't able to shield all their tax burdens through various deductibles, I might buy your argument. If corporations weren't moving overseas to get away from this country's oppressive corporate tax burden, and taking good jobs with them, then I could see how you could argue we need to use our tax dollars to help the poor.

As long as our country's tax policies hurt the poor, it becomes absurd to say we should spend even more of the poor people's money on themselves.

I'm all for progressive taxation. It's the rich I would bleed.

There's neighborly love if ever I heard it. ;)

Rodak said...

How can you justify spending more on a program which will NEVER eliminate poverty?

Because it does not follow that since one can't eliminate the entire category "poverty" that one should not provide assistance in individual cases of poverty--which government programs can do.

Like liberals don't scream about the inefficiency of government when there's a Republican in office.

Liberals scream about lack of funding for, or elimination of, programs when conservatives are in office--not inefficiency--for the most part.

As long as our country's tax policies hurt the poor, it becomes absurd to say we should spend even more of the poor people's money on themselves.

The primary way that poor people are taxed is through sales taxes. I don't like those for that reason. The working poor are fairly well protected from work-related taxation.
I do agree with you, however, that the mechanations used by the rich to avoid taxation is theft. Business in general is theft, to the extent that businessmen are allowed to get away with it.
The merchants that Jesus kicked out of the Temple weren't necessarily any more crooked than the run-of-the-mill. "Buy low, sell high" is theft on the fact of it. Fuck the rich.

Rodak said...

If I saw a rich guy lying in the street on fire and he scream "Please piss on me!" I'd ask him "What's it worth to ya?"

EdMcGon said...

Because it does not follow that since one can't eliminate the entire category "poverty" that one should not provide assistance in individual cases of poverty--which government programs can do.

Rodak,
You're not answering my question, which was "How can you justify spending more on a program which will NEVER eliminate poverty?" I did NOT ask you to justify the program. I asked for your justification for spending MORE.

Liberals scream about lack of funding for, or elimination of, programs when conservatives are in office--not inefficiency--for the most part.

Which is where liberalism fails. They don't seek results, just more money.

The primary way that poor people are taxed is through sales taxes.

Wrong. The poor pay more of their income into Social Security and Medicare than any other group in the country. They are also the group that is least likely to live long enough to collect those benefits.

But regarding sales taxes, at least they are NOT regressive taxes like SS & Medicare.

Business in general is theft, to the extent that businessmen are allowed to get away with it.

How is business in general "theft"? A business provides a service or product which people want. If a consumer doesn't like the price charged, they can shop around.

Government taxation is more like theft. If you don't like a government's product or service, you can't exactly shop around for a better one. You have to pay regardless.

As for the rest of your rant against the rich, Christ did NOT say, "Love your neighbor, but only if he's not rich."

Rodak, I say this to you with the utmost sincerity and concern: Your hatred of the wealthy is poisoning your soul. You are welcome to dislike what the wealthy do, or what anyone does, but to despise them to the point of wishing their deaths...I worry for you. Hatred is not healthy, regardless of where it is directed.

Rodak said...

I did NOT ask you to justify the program. I asked for your justification for spending MORE.

If I have ten dollars and ten people to help, I can provide more help than I can provide if I have only five dollars. This does not seem like a difficult computation to make, Ed.

Which is where liberalism fails. They don't seek results, just more money.

That is just blatant, bigoted, bullshit and worthy of no further response.

They are also the group that is least likely to live long enough to collect those benefits.

As they are the group most likely to collect such benefits while still alive; and also the group most likely to have nothing else to live on, should they survive to collect it.

A business provides a service or product which people want.

Business spends billions on ad campaigns designed to influence people to spend money they don't have on gadgets they don't need. That is the major reason that so many Americans are living on revolving credit card debt, and doomed soon to crash. I don't deny that most people are bleating merinos. I only state that thieving businessmen take full, cynical and premeditated advantage of that fact to bleed them until they're dry and fiscally dead meat.

Government taxation is more like theft.

You vote for the people who levy taxes, Ed. If you don't like what they do, work to vote them out of office. Did the poor pay payroll taxes under Reagan? Do they pay them under Bush? Why do you blame this on "government" as if those taxed have no responsibility for it?

If you don't like a government's product or service, you can't exactly shop around for a better one. You have to pay regardless.

How would you fund the government, Ed? Or, would you just provide every person with a gun and a shovel and shut all government down forever?

As for the rest of your rant against the rich, Christ did NOT say, "Love your neighbor, but only if he's not rich."

Christ also did not say "Superman beats Batman." So what? Why don't you quote what Christ DID SAY about the rich. See if you can find one that is positive.

You are welcome to dislike what the wealthy do, or what anyone does, but to despise them to the point of wishing their deaths..

Actually, I wished them not dead, but fucked. Which happens to be what a lot of them spend their money on, anyway--do de name Eliot Spitzer ring a bell?

As for the one burning in the street, I'll piss on him for a price, as I said. He'd do nothing more for me. (I do appreciate your concern though, Ed. I guess you're not that rich, eh?)

EdMcGon said...

If I have ten dollars and ten people to help, I can provide more help than I can provide if I have only five dollars. This does not seem like a difficult computation to make, Ed.

Why not increase tax rates to 100%?

That is just blatant, bigoted, bullshit and worthy of no further response.

Hit a nerve with that one did I? A little too close to the truth for your comfort?

The fact is you don't care about results. Your beliefs are only an easy way to get out of your religious obligations. Admit it and move along.

As they are the group most likely to collect such benefits while still alive; and also the group most likely to have nothing else to live on, should they survive to collect it.

People who "need" Social Security only get back what they paid into it. And if the jobs they worked didn't pay much, they won't get much back either.

Are you truly trying to help the poor, or are you just propping up another failed government program?

You vote for the people who levy taxes, Ed.

There are 435 members of Congress, and 100 senators. Explain to me how I vote for all of them?

Did the poor pay payroll taxes under Reagan? Do they pay them under Bush? Why do you blame this on "government" as if those taxed have no responsibility for it?

Get off the partisan bandwagon. The Democrats are every bit as guilty as the Republicans.

As for the people being responsible, you'll get no disgreement from me. Generally speaking, people are stupid.

How would you fund the government, Ed?

The FairTax.

Why don't you quote what Christ DID SAY about the rich. See if you can find one that is positive.

I like how you avoided the question.

But Christ's comments were NOT about how YOU should treat the rich. It was about how God would handle the rich. Last time I checked, you ain't God.

Actually, I wished them not dead, but fucked.

So you want them to have sex? As you pointed out with Eliot Spitzer, they already are.

(I do appreciate your concern though, Ed. I guess you're not that rich, eh?)

Monetarily, not even close to rich. But I don't hate, or even dislike, the rich in general. Most rich people I've met or heard about were just hard working people. I've also met rich people I had no respect for.

Rich people are like any other socio-economic class. There's some good, some bad.

Rodak said...

Taken as a whole then, I guess that what your comments would indicate is that everything is just a neutral objective fact, and there's nothing to be done about it? Okay. That's easy enough.

EdMcGon said...

Rodak,
On a governmental level, there is nothing that can be done without negatively impacting the very people you're trying to help.

On a personal level, or even a community level, there's a lot that can be done to help the poor.

Rodak said...

On a governmental level, there is nothing that can be done without negatively impacting the very people you're trying to help.

Nothing? Food stamps, if you've got hungry children to feed is not nothing. A welfare hotel, if you're living in a car, is not nothing. I guess you'd have to define "nothing" for me, and show me the alternative to it.

That said, if the personal or community level help involves giving the person in need a job at a living wage, I agree with you. If not, "nothing" is a tough statement to support.

EdMcGon said...

Food stamps, if you've got hungry children to feed is not nothing. A welfare hotel, if you're living in a car, is not nothing. I guess you'd have to define "nothing" for me, and show me the alternative to it.

And how are these things paid for? By taxing the poor.

Taking from one hand and giving to the other is NOT a solution.

That said, if the personal or community level help involves giving the person in need a job at a living wage, I agree with you. If not, "nothing" is a tough statement to support.

The beauty of charity at the "local"/community level is that the people know the other people involved. Sometimes people need a proverbial swift kick in the rear more than a handout.

The problem with government "charity" is that government bureaucrats don't know, and don't care. They're just following the rules. If someone who needs help doesn't fit the rules, they're screwed.

Rodak said...

And how are these things paid for? By taxing the poor.

Oh, good. Then I guess that the rich will be able to stop grousing about all the taxes they have to pay.

Ed, your ideas are all idealistic drivel. People in the inner cities have tried, and failed, over and over again to police, capitalize, reform, upgrade their own areas. But, the sad fact is that, in the end, nothing plus nothing is nothing.

EdMcGon said...

Oh, good. Then I guess that the rich will be able to stop grousing about all the taxes they have to pay.

Once again, don't you realize how increasing taxes impacts the poor? Yes, the rich can afford it, and if you can create a means of taxation that ONLY impacts the rich, feel free.

I am NOT saying we shouldn't have taxes. I AM saying that the higher you make these taxes, regardless of where in our society you apply them, you will inevitably impact the poor.

People in the inner cities have tried, and failed, over and over again to police, capitalize, reform, upgrade their own areas. But, the sad fact is that, in the end, nothing plus nothing is nothing.

Explain Harlem then.

Private money (read: the "evil" rich) succeeded where government programs failed over and over.

Rodak said...

Explain Harlem then.

Harlem is being "gentrified." When Bill Clinton moves in, the poor are moved out.