Robert Geroux is a political theorist and assistant professor of political science at DePauw University.
By this author
Dominic Preziosi has written an excellent post on the question of climate change and the question of potential futures, here. My post might be understood as an extended riff on issues raised there, as well as a continuation of a question I raised in an earlier blog, about religion and the anthropocene. I need to start with some initial ground clearing:
A full repeal of the ACA? Check. Cuts in food assistance? Check. Medicaid cuts? Check again. All these cuts add up in Ryan's mind to economic growth and a balanced budget. It boggles the mind.
I recently returned from an academic conference that examined conceptions of and responses to the Anthropocene. Many of you have heard this term already: it was coined over ten years ago by geologist Paul Crutzen to describe the impact that human beings are having on the deep structure of the globe. In geological time the Anthropocene is a mere eye-blink, a punctual supplement of maybe two hundred years. Human beings have altered the relative balance of the Holocene – the previous geological epoch, one that lasted ten to twelve millennia – in ways that we cannot foresee.
What happens when you adhere to a system of ideas that prioritizes the market as an arbiter of value? What happens when you repeat incessantly that the best, or perhaps the only measure of value arises out of commodification and exchange? Should it be surprising that in the world created around that commitment, certain other "core values" become endangered or maybe even extinct?
I just finished another Sirico essay, "Pope Francis without the Politics," printed first in the Detroit News, and now reprinted over at the Acton blog (http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2014/01/08/pope-francis-without-poli...). I understand the imperative behind pieces like this, but one grows tired of the constant, clearly procrustean attempt to fit Pope Francis’ critical vision into the libertarian/free-market box. Why? Here are some proximate causes:
The comments from my last blog entry turned in the direction of civil society and religion. We seem to be living in a new Gilded Age, an era of massive economic inequality with no apparent end in sight. Can the influence of religion – via the indirect influence of civil society – address and perhaps ameliorate this condition? I am pessimistic about this possibility.
As a complement to the excellent recent essays here on libertarianism, capitalism and religion, I wanted to make two very uncomplicated observations. What troubles me is the possible connection between the two; I think that without question a causal relationship exists, but I want to open matters up for discussion.
First observation: in economic terms, the United States is the most unequal of all industrialized nations. One could argue about the different ways of measuring this, but the pattern is clear, especially when one focuses on a measure like income distribution.
Here's something I learned today, from Joe Carter's entry over at Sirico's Acton Institute: the working poor "tend to make terrible economic decisions." Why? Because they “think about money differently than other economic classes.” For more, see http://blog.acton.org/archives/63344-think-money-like-working-poor.html#...
The market is an abstraction, a mobilized concept with a set of functions. In a contemporary turn of phrase, one of those functions is speaking “truth to power.” What power? The power of politics. What truth? This is a trickier question, but the heart of the idea of the truth of the market is that it exposes human beings “as they really are,” without all of the accretions of social norms, mores, customs and so on. This idea became prominent in the late eighteenth century.
For those of you interested in the libertarian "Tea Party Catholic" spin on Evangelii Gaudium, here's a short talk by Robert Sirico, accessible on the Acton Institute website:
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