Irenic. Adj: favoring, conducive to, or operating toward peace, moderation, or conciliation. Notes from a Politics and Economics undergraduate just back from somewhere in the MidWest. "You said you were going to Ohio? Where the Hell's that?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two Divergent Themes in the MPs Expenses Row

The telepublic outrage at the revelations of British MPs' fraudulent expenses claims seems too earnest to be real but it's surely charming. It's certainly a pleasant distraction from the news that deflation is at record high and Standard & Poor's have put UK government debt on 'downgrade watch'.

Whilst the Daily Telegraph drip-by-drip release of these stories continues and before the anger in the country finds articulate expression (neither the BNP nor Esther Rantzen qualify in my opinion), I wish to address two themes of the public discontent that appear divergent.

The first cropped up at least two weeks ago when Andrew Lansley MP, Shadow Health Secretary, was roundly condemned by a television audience for having a job outside of Westminster. Apparently people were upset that he spent 12 days a year as a non-executive director of a small company. The message for aspirant MPs seemed to be: part-timers need not apply.

So apparently Joe Public wants the establishment of a full-time political class whose entire earnings would be funded by the taxpayer. Doesn't sound like the Joe Public that's angry with the frivolity and largesse of those expenses claims, does it?

However these two themes in the politics of envy that seems to thrive in recessions don't have to conflict. If MPs were already so wealthy that they didn't have to take directorships in the first place they could fund the job of representation out of their own pocket. What could be more public-spirited than that, especially in these hard times?

What is more, it usually takes a few years to build up a bit of cash so MPs would automatically have experience to boot. If some youth were desired we could insert those born into wealth and prestige to sit alongside the parvenus. Sound familiar?

Therefore I propose a temporary equilibrium solution to reconcile this apparently divergent public anger. Place a property and income restriction on all House of Commons candidates and, meanwhile, govern the country from the House of Lords.

Friday, April 3, 2009

What St Pius X and University of York students have in common

I encourage you to read this essay by James Kalb, introducing his new book "The Tyranny of Liberalism". Here's an extract:

Today all things are justified on the grounds that they help men get what they want. Those who recognize an authority superior to human purposes are seen as dangerous bigots who want to oppress others in the name of some sect or arbitrary principle. As a consequence, fundamental political discussion no longer exists. Politics today is divided between an outlook that presents itself as rational and this-worldly, and absolutely dominates public discussion, and a variety of dissident views that speak for goods higher than human desire but are unable to make effective their substantial underlying support. The conflict is never discussed seriously since it is considered resolved; the ruling liberal view is accepted as indisputable, while dissent is considered confused or worse.

I recently had a conversation with a non-Christian student friend of mine about the Catholic Church and General Franco. I mentioned that The Tablet supported the Generalissimo for a time and suggested the liberal catholics who now run that paper are ashamed of their publication's history. "Liberal catholics!", he interrupted, "surely that's a contradiction in terms?"

I couldn't but resist a broad smile when I heard those words. I wasn't chatting to an altar server outside an SSPX Mass centre here, just a plain old University of York student. I thought of all the ways liberals have tried to make the Church seem non-controversial since the Second Vatican Council: dissenting from Humanae Vitae, not speaking up about abortion, attacking John Paul II, womynpriests, rushing through marriage annullments, trendy sisters, "Justice & Peace" ... The list goes on. And on.

And yet! This ordinary non-Christian liberal student friend of mine thinks all these things are of no account. Furthermore, so does contemporary society. So do I: liberalism and religion are opposites. As long as Catholicism speaks to those higher goods beyond this world with which our rational politics of consumption cannot cope, as long as it preaches self-control in the face of hedonism, Liberalism will always regard it with distrust. No matter how hard the trendy sisters try.

St Pius X said "liberal Catholics are wolves in sheeps' clothing". Contemporary Liberalism agrees.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Evil Episcopalian: Priestess of the Culture of Death?

I saw this on Rod Dreher's excellent Crunchy Con. The Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts has appointed a new Dean, The Rev. Katherine Ragsdale. This is what she said in a recent sermon:

... When a woman becomes pregnant within a loving, supportive, respectful relationship; has every option open to her; decides she does not wish to bear a child; and has access to a safe, affordable abortion - there is not a tragedy in sight -- only blessing. The ability to enjoy God's good gift of sexuality without compromising one's education, life's work, or ability to put to use God's gifts and call is simply blessing.

Mr Dreher calls her "evil" but there is an opportunity for us to use God's grace here. We should be thankful that she, unlike most of her allies in the abortion industry, is so spine chillingly honest. These people wish to put the interests of the powerful - the educated, the employed, the able, the born - above those of the most vulnerable in society, the unborn. As simple as that. When the language of Christianity is invoked in the cause of this agenda by a senior member of the Episcopalian Church ... well, one wonders if the Anglican Communion is making even a pretense of being a Christian church anymore.