I mentioned Dorothy Day in passing in yesterday’s post. Specifically I named her as part of the Catholic pacifist-anarchist tradition. A couple of readers asked about whether or not Day was actually an anarchist, as they had always heard she was a socialist. I referred one reader to a short article on Day that noted her status as an anarchist, but I didn’t feel that was adequate.
By chance, my wife who is working on an unrelated research project about feminism, happened to pick up some books about Day at the library today. One of the books is The Moral Vision of Dorothy Day: A Feminist Perspective by June E. O’Connor. I thumbed through it and found the following passage, which I think provides a far more satisfying explanation of Day’s views:
Although she preferred the words libertarian, decentralist and personalist to anarchist, Day’s attraction to anarchism was an enduring one. With Peter Maurin and others, most notably Ammon Hennacy and Robert Ludlow, Dorothy Day sought fundamental changes in the structure of society by minimizing the presence and power of the state and by arguing on behalf of personal initiative and responsibility expressed in direct action.
Whether acting alongside of or in spite of Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day believed in the power of the person as the starting point for the good society. Day described anarchism as being “personalist before it’s communitarian: it begins with living a disciplined life, trying to be what you want the other fellow to be.” Day admitted that although one must assume responsibility oneself, the fact is that many others will not. When they do not, one must simply try to understand them, given their sufferings and their backgrounds, and accept them.
…Anarchists are not so much politicians or sociologists as they are moralists; their stand is not so much political and economic as it is spiritual and ethical.
[Well, anarchists aren't politicians at all, but this is still a nice observation about anarchism.]
One thing about Catholics is that, when it comes to partisan politics, they’re split pretty evenly. Only deeply ignorant people lump Catholics in with the “Religious Right” since about half of them are on the religious left. Many are admirably antiwar, and of course, there is even a nice anarchist pacifist tradition, in which one finds Dorothy Day or Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy.
Some Catholics, however, are absolutely terrible on issues of nationalism and war. This article below, written by a priest with whom I broadly agree on almost all theological and liturgical issues, was particularly tasteless. Fr. Zuhlsdorf, who is generally sound when writing about things that he actually knows something about, always ends up toeing the neoconservative line every time he ventures into foreign policy. Most clergy can be safely ignored when opining on political matters, and this case is no different. The text of his irreligious column is below with my comments in brackets.
Usama Bin Laden … Rest in… well… whatever… [How classy. Zuhlsdorf must have forgotten about Matt 5:44.]
by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf
Pres. Obama announced tonight, fairly late on a Sunday night, that Usama Bin Laden was killed a week ago, as it seems.
I am guessing that he made this announcement tonight, USA, time, so that people rising in other parts of the world would get the fresh news during the morning at the beginning of a week, as markets open, etc. Had it come at the end of the week, it would have been fodder for Friday evening Muslim sermons. [Because all Muslims liked Osama bin Laden, you see. This assumption that all Muslims support violence is at the heart of the neocon ideology. Always ignored is the fact that a majority of "Christian" Americans support the dropping of American bombs on Muslim women and children.] It still will be, but after several days.
Nevertheless I find the timing of both the event of his killing by a small team of US operatives in a fire fight and the release of the news interesting. One friend called me to opine that they actually found him at a Taco Bell in North Carolina and flew him back to Pakistan before… you know. [ho ho] Moreover, the President seems now to be ready to quote a standard of American patriotism, the Pledge of Allegiance, with its strong invocation of God, when for sometime he couldn’t bring himself to quote the Declaration of Independence [written by an anti-Christian Deist] correctly with its reference to a Creator who gives us our rights. [Yeah! Why can't Obama be more like Bush who once said that the Constitution "is just a goddamn piece of paper."] Color me cynical.
Voters in Madison, Wisconsin recently approved a measure asserting that corporations do not have constitutional rights.
The measure correctly asserts that only individuals have rights. But then it proceeds to state that corporations do not. This is collectivism at its finest. A corporation doesn’t act. People act. Although the “corporation” doesn’t have rights as an entity, each and every owner of the corporation does. The owners exercise those rights by having agents (the management) act on their behalf. When we speak of a corporation acting, this is merely an abstraction from the individuals involved. As Stephan Kinsella has explained, corporations are nothing more than a series of contracts enabling a large number of people to work together toward common goals.
This resolution, though purporting to support individual rights, is in reality opposed to such rights because it claims that these rights somehow disappear when the individuals who have them choose to use them in a coordinated manner.
There’s no room for violence in our political discourse? But politics is merely war by other means. Political discourse within the state inherently involves the threat of violence and is ultimately backed by it.
Reading Paul Krugman is like picking at a scab: You know you should probably just let it alone, but there’s pleasure in picking the Krugman rough redness. So you read. So you bleed. So you flick away the droplets and the clots.
I could hardly avoid his recent post, “Economics and Morality,” in part because the title mirrors an abiding interest of mine, and of many libertarians. There is a deep connection between economics and ethics. After all, one is the science of human action and transactions, the other is the art of prescribing for same. Frank Knight observed that the subject of economics was the same as that of Herbert Spencer’s Principles of Ethics: “acts adjusted to ends,” or, to put simply, Human Conduct.
Krugman offers no insights about the deep connections. Instead, he regurgitates old pabulum about the welfare state, and misunderstands the case for free markets. Again.
He begins with a concern: “[T]he right is winning economic debates because people believe, wrongly, that there’s something inherently moral about free-market outcomes.”
I don’t know if this is the case, in the real world. Perhaps I don’t follow enough “debates.” But, as I see it, market outcomes are not moral as such. It’s market processes that are. That is, non-fraudulent, non-coerced exchanges (trade) — no matter how much error there may be in them — are more moral processes than fraudulent and coerced processes. It’s the means that are important, here. Fixating on the ends leads you into traps like Krugman seems to rest his whole ideology upon.